I know it’s been a while since I composed a post. So I can’t wait to tell you what I’ve been up to. It’s been the holidays of course but right before that Calvin and I went on a wonderful adventure courtesy of Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours.
First let me say we’ve really never thought much about taking a cruise, preferring to have the freedom to choose what we want and explore on our own when we travel to a place we’ve never been before. BUT after this experience which I liken to an exquisitely prepared tasting menu, I would go again if it was an all-inclusive Scenic cruise. This cruise along the Rhine provided us with an introduction to a number of diverse destinations during the course of a single journey. It offered enough of a sense of each place that we could determine whether or not we wanted to return for a more extended stay. Our bookends were Amsterdam and Basel with stops in-between at Cologne, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, and Strasbourg. That’s four countries in one trip.
I really liked that this was a river cruise. That meant that the ship was small enough that intimacy could occur between the crew and guests and guests and guests if one so desired. The crew quickly remembered your name and your preferences. What was striking to me was how much they enjoyed each other and liked their work. It was also evident how much Scenic values the people who work for them as there were countless moments where their work was acknowledged by the heads of departments and the cruise director which allowed the guests to express their appreciation for the resulting outstanding level of service as well.
The lounge and the dining area with floor to ceiling windows were conducive to quiet relaxing or stimulating conversations and companionship whichever you preferred. One seemed so close to the scenery as we sailed at a pace where you could really take it in. Even more wonderful was the Scenic app. Downloaded to your phone it was literally your personal guide filled with information about the sights passing by as well as the cities we would be visiting.
Our cabin offered an enclosed balcony perfect for those times you might want privacy or engage in quiet reflection. Our bed was more than comfortable and our butler and housekeeper attended to whatever we needed including having pressed clothes for dinner or bringing coffee before breakfast. If you wanted to address any guilt you felt about taking advantage of the first-class gourmet meals there was also a state of the art fitness center, a wellness center and a heated vitality pool on the top deck. Blessed with good weather despite it being December, we spent a great deal of time outside.
Our fellow guests were well-traveled, had interesting lives and careers and were from all over the world. We had countless fascinating conversations at the dinner table or in the lounge meeting someone new every day. After a few days of getting to know each other, a group of published authors and a film producer had connected and organized an impromptu discussion about writing and screenwriting. Fully facilitated by the crew, it was an unanticipated bonus experience especially for me as I’m focusing on improving my writing right now.
What made this luxury in my estimation was the level of personal choice within the context of a planful itinerary and the providing of the necessary information to make those choices. One of my favorite times was before dinner each day when we gathered in the lounge and our incredibly engaging, wonderful, smart, organized and responsive cruise director Alex and the head of hotel, the head chef and the sommelier would let us know about the meal ahead and the choices we had about food and wine as well as a preview and introduction to the possibilities related to our next port of call. This was often a history lesson as well as a description of what we would be doing and what our options were. I learned so much more about the places and countries we visited than I would have if Calvin and I were traveling alone. Activities were offered at a variety of paces from active to more relaxed. You always had the option of venturing off on your own and if you so desire on an e-bike with a chef-prepared lunch box in hand. By the way one evening we did enjoy an actual 6-course tasting menu with paired wines during an intimate dining experience, Table La Rive.
While many were on this cruise specifically to visit European Christmas markets, our stop in every city offered us the option of connecting with a tour guide who would introduce us to the city generally, show us the markets, take us on tastings of local favorites and point out areas of interest.
The guides had many interesting anecdotes, frequently had a wonderful sense of humor and gave us just enough information. There were also enriched experiences like an evening concert to a palace and a visit to the Mercedes Benz factory
After the tour, we were free to explore on our own which Calvin and I took full advantage of presenting us with countless photo opportunities. We went out during the day and the evening; one night to a magnificent palace where we were treated to a private concert. Another night we had the off itinerary opportunity of going to Strasbourg on our own before the official tour the next day. When discovering so many people wanted to exercise this option our cruise director managed to somehow at such short notice conjure up a coach to transport us rather than having to take individual taxis. The beauty of a fully Christmas decorated city at night was an unanticipated gift. This is a great example of how during the entire cruise whatever you wished for seemed to magically happen.
I was so pampered and so taken care of, I began to worry about returning home to our rather minimalist self-reliant everyday life! Most of all I got to relax, do what I wanted at my pace, spend quality time with Calvin, see and learn many new things which have provided me with a new surge of inspiration and have a very long-delayed vacation.
There were so many memorable moments and so many photos that they just can’t be contained in one blog post. Images I captured and stories I heard will be shared in future posts and on-going ruminations. Ten days of a retreat from everyday life including travel was just right.
Thank you again Scenic for sponsoring this trip for both Calvin and me. Take a virtual tour of my ship by clicking on the link.
On a more personal note, I am especially grateful to Scenic USA for giving me the opportunity to visit Amsterdam for the first time. It’s a personal and special place for me as my grandfather was born there, my great-grandparents created a very special hotel and cafe there (which I got to visit and see portraits of them but that’s a story another day).
I think personal is a great word to end on because the entire experience felt like it was designed especially for me and exactly what I needed at this moment in time.
Have any of you ever been on a river cruise or were pleasantly surprised by trying a travel experience you did not think you might enjoy?