There is nothing like being ensconced on a riverboat for two weeks to get a real flavor of the countries you’re sailing through. River cruising is a world apart from cruise ships and their thousands of passengers living density to its fullest. There is a quiet serenity on those flat-bottomed boats that sets them apart from other forms of travel.
Passengers still face a daily routine with regimented meal times, off shore travels on foot or by bus and the nighttime entertainment and education. It’s a format that seems to work well with the senior crowds these boats attract. Most of the passengers are seasoned travelers and know the routine by heart. Conversations with any of them bring on an encyclopedia of world adventures.
The boat’s lobby is a grand pass-through where everyone comes and goes on their daily travels around the boat and off-shore. There is the usual merchandise for sale, the obligatory message board, a coffee maker in a corner and on-going front desk activities.
Our cabin was the standard size for river boats. It held two fold-down beds, a large picture window and adequate shower / toilet facilities. Over a fourteen-day period, it worked out well for a party of two.
Our port window was like a mirror to the world outside. Docked in harbor, it provided an ongoing Disney reel of swans, ducks and commercial river traffic floating by. Under route, it mirrored a continuing kaleidoscope of shore scenes, passing boats, harbor activity, and the pastel countryside sailing by.
In the spacious lounge area there were nightly port talks, the standard cocktail hour, entertain-ment after dinner, card-playing, a library, internet time and for many of the old men, napping in the afternoon.
Daily meals were always first class. The service was excellent and usually too much to eat. Mealtime was always the perfect time to meet new folks and share travel experiences.
The top of the ship was a superb spot for watching the countryside slowly go by. It was a quiet respite from the world around us and the daily onslaught of bad cable news and rude weather back home.
My ‘quiet time’ came each morning when I would nest in the lounge with my internet connection and peruse my world outside of the stem and stern. It let me escape the regimented group think and ponder future writing projects. And how very lucky I was.