Friday, May 22, 2020

In Praise of River Cruising

Alright. Enough belly-aching over pandemics, politics and isolation. I need to get away and show places we can no longer visit…for now.

Last November, we completed our fourth European river cruise. Since the May cruise through the Baltic capitals provided ample photo-sharing and story-telling opportunities, I will give this trip the same treatment, but first, the topic needs a general introduction.

I was unaware of this travel option until my in-laws invited us to join them on a trip up France’s Rhone River in 2006. This excursion was on the smallest boat of the four trips…only 43 passengers. The one dining room held all of us together as the staff served French cuisine and wines based on the regions we passed through.

The ‘Chardonnay’ in Avignon, France (22 April 2006)

I was sold from the get-go. European rivers have for centuries been the main arteries of travel, settlement and commerce. There is so much history and architecture to appreciate. Every one of the four trips highlighted Roman activities and remains. Of course, all is not pristine and unspoiled, but if you’re cruising past a cement plant on the port side, you can take a few steps over to the starboard side and appreciate what’s there…because in a few minutes, it will be behind you anyway.

The Iron Gates Gorge on the Danube River (10 April 2017)

Unlike flying or doing 70 on the interstate or a big cruise ship on the open ocean or even a train ride through the countryside, a riverboat is like a scenic walk. One can lounge on the sun deck as the landscape slowly scrolls by and you have time to enjoy what you see. The photographer is able to frame a picture and shoot it a few times if need be.

Parliament of Hungary, Budapest (5 April 2017)

Another neat thing about river cruising…These ancient towns were first-settled on the rivers. Therefore, you are often docked in the oldest, historic quarters. The sights you came to see are frequently within walking distance of the boat.

The vessels that run on European rivers are designed for their waterways, specifically the locks and dams that make the rivers navigable. Many dams are required to create the necessary water depths that allow commercial traffic to operate. Cruise boats are a small fraction of the vessels that use the rivers. These waters are the main routes to deliver products to and from the coastal seaports and central Europe.

In a Lock on the Moselle River (13 November 2019)

Apart from being flat-bottomed with shallow drafts (our last boat was 360 feet long but sat less than six feet below the waterline), the boats are practically inches narrower than the smallest lock they must fit through. Being floating rectangles, it also makes it easier to tie to one another when dock space is limited.

Friendly Neighbors, Cologne, Germany (28 July 2007)

River cruising is about where you are going. It’s particularly nice to be able to unpack your suitcase once and still be in a different destination every day.

This kind of vacationing is not for young families. The boats do not have kid spaces, night clubs, casinos or shopping malls. The ONE bar/lounge is the place for all the briefings, lectures and entertainment. Passengers are older, mostly retired folks so the crew is very attentive. From airport arrival to last departure, they take care of you.

Wertheim, Germany (1 August 2007)

Another enjoyable aspect of river cruising is that each stop (at least on the line we use – Grand Circle) includes a walking tour after which you are free to wander on your own. You can return to sights you were shown or venture further into the new town. Here in Wertheim, I elected to go to the castle fortress ruins on the high ground for a better view of the town, the Main River and our boat.

Coming next will be a series of posts from a trip down the Rhine River that began in Basel, Switzerland and ended in Antwerp, Belgium.


At 5:51 AM, Blogger Jack Vest said...

Now THIS I could go for. Those bigger river boats remind me too much of the huge liners towering over Venice's St. Mark's Square. Thanks for the intro.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Ted Ringger said...

Thanks, Jack. You're right. The sight of an ocean liner looming over the Grand Canal is incongruous to start with. The biggest river boat in my experience had 140 passengers. Much easier on the soul.


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