Since uploading pictures is still impossible, I thought I’d answer a question, “Should I take a river cruise?”
So, let’s start with the obvious: a VRC is not a cheap trip. There’s a reason most of the ads show more seasoned and heeled travelers (rather than backpackers) and show up on Downton Abbey (rather than the much better Another Period). Given how we typically travel (Hotwiring or Pricelining everything, staying at places like Miss Sophie’s), this trip pushed us out of our pricepoint comfort zone. But, at its mid point, we’d say, if you have the money and the time, do it!
Why? (Cue Hamilton’s “Ten Duel Commandments“)
1) The rooms are compact but full of smart touches that make them feel bigger–great storage, smartly designed bathrooms, warm lighting, comfortable beds, and lots of outlets. The heated bathroom floors, hot water and great water pressure, and lemony L’Occitane bath products get special marks, as does the constant flow of bottled water.
2) There’s fairytale magic in finishing a fantastic day, going to sleep in a cozy bed, and waking up in another remarkable city … literally outside your window. Only having to unpack one time makes a trip so much easier–seems like a small thing, but it’s great.
3) The pace of this cruise makes you relax. We’ve read, played Shanghai, Bananagrams, Scattergories, and more in the ship’s lounge, and napped. The notion of vacation as relaxation is foreign to us … but has been a nice change.
4) Watching the German countryside and the waters of the Danube flow by in floor to ceiling windows has been simply beautiful and awe-inspiring (truly, what we saw out those windows or from the deck every day looked just like the commercials!). Each glance up framed a glowing portrait and indelible memory accompanied by endless cafe au lait, hot chocolates, steamed milk, cookies and snacks. The very definitiion of pampered travelers.
5) The food was really, really good. The breakfast buffet was unbelieveable: omlettes, multiple kinds of sausages and bacon, oatmeal, muesli, housemade yogurts and granolas, fruits, meats, pastries and more. The dinner choices were broad and deep–always something new and always the option to order several of each. Crazy!
6) We would never have gone to most of these places if not for this trip. Would we have gone to Germany, maybe. I have already, but only to big cities: Munich, Frankfort. Regensburg? Passau? Never. But, their charm was undeniable; their cobblestone streets walkable and picturesque; their specialities delicious! We were wandering through history.
7) The service was excellent–servers are omnipresent without being annoying and gracious. In particular, our room steward seemed to sense the moment we went to breakfast and had our rooms ready by the time we returned. And, whatever they clean the rooms with smells lovely–a faint citrus that says, “clean!”
8) The included tours are given by local guides who inject their own personalities into the mix, which makes it different each time. They get you around the cities, seeing just enough, telling just enough, without exhausting you.
9) The feeling of being on the river, of cruising through history and time, of watching the play of the sun on the water, the gentle waves and currents created by the ship, of being the only boat there, is wondrous. Standing on the sundeck and searching the quiet countryside for villages, or catching ducks skittering acress the water making high frequency musical waves, or sailing under a bridge that seems close enough to touch is just cool beyond words. When we passed under the first bridge while sitting in the all-glass Aquavit lounge, Penn said, “Mom, your face just lit up with wonder.” It’s true.
10) The ship is small (170 passengers) but not claustrophobic. People are not on top of each other fighting for space or attention. There’s room to move and be on your own. Our family got to be with our family on this trip, which is what we wanted. We got to cluster around a table to play games and eat meals by ourselves. We wanted a family vacation, and while it’s clear others met new friends, we felt no pressure to socialize. It was lovely!
Bonus 11: We likely would have never gone to Prague without the impetus of this trip, and it was simply unbelievably amazing! If you can, go there!