Written by Rick Archer
Back in 2013 when
Marla told me she was thinking about scheduling our first-ever river cruise,
I could have sworn she was reading my mind.
Lately I had caught myself drooling
with envy every time the Viking River Cruise ad flashed on the TV
I laughed when Marla admitted that ad had the
exact same effect on her.
The scenes depicted in
the advertisement were beyond spectacular.
The beauty of the
scenery surrounding these great rivers was unparalleled by any other
trip I had been on.
I immediately said let's
go see the Rhine in Germany. Marla laughed. "No, we are
going to see the
in France first. I am doing the work, so I get to pick first.
If you behave yourself, next year we will do the Rhine."
I made sure to behave
This is one of
the most famous locations in Europe. This is the Valley of the
Rhine and that is Castle Katz. That sharp bend in the river is
the Rock of the Lorelei where legend has it that countless sailors
met their death due to the swift currents, the narrow passage and
the distracting song of the Rhine maidens.
River Cruise to Russia
Rick's 2012 Ocean
Cruise to Russia
The Tale of Two Maps
I didn't know much about
the differences between an ocean cruise and a
river cruise, so I asked my friend Russell Orr
to explain the differences.
chance, my friend Russell Orr had visited Russia about the same
time that Marla and I took our
Naturally every time I saw
Russell, I would
ask him about the river cruise he took to
Truth be told, as we compared notes, I found myself having a hard
time controlling my envy.
don't misunderstand. My 2012 cruise to Russia was an unforgettable
highlight tour. In particular, I loved Stockholm and I loved
Tallinn. It was a great trip.
what I really wanted to do was to see more of St. Petersburg. I
spent nine hours in St. Petersburg, most of it on a bus. Russell spent three days.
I spent no time in Moscow. Russell spent three entire days
there. Need I
ocean cruise gives you a wonderful look at the Big Picture, but will
frustrate you if there's a place you prefer to concentrate on.
A river cruise allows a person the luxury to focus directly on a
evening I asked Russell to talk about what it is like to be on one
of the long boats they use on the river. Russell's eyes lit
up like Christmas candles. I could see
the delight in his big smile.
Russell started his reply
by saying I could not even begin to imagine the joy of his trip.
Russell grinned as a memory flashed
across his mind and then he began to tell me a
story. I may get the details a little mixed up,
but here is the gist of it.
Russell said his favorite
a particular "enchanted evening"
spent dancing with his beautiful lady
Russell explained that the ship
had hired some Russian college students
during the summer to help run the show.
This was a great way for the young people to pay
for their education.
Russell said he had no idea Russians could be so friendly.
Unlike the dour old-timers who still bear the
scars of the Communist era, the young actually know how to laugh and
Russell said among the
enthusiastic college kids were two musicians who played every
instrument under the sun.
Each night the
duo would play their music
and each night Russell and Pat would get out and dance under the
stars. Russell added they were the only guests who actually danced.
Apparently there was a closed
circuit camera that was focused on the music area. This camera sent
a feed to every cabin so people could listen to the music in their
rooms if they wanted to.
Russell explained that the dance floor was situated right in front
of the musicians and their array of instruments. Apparently the camera's eye included
both the musicians and the dance floor as well.
One night as
Russell and Pat danced the night away, the camera caught their every
move… and neither of them had any idea they were putting on an
90 minute show for the
The next morning one
guest after another came by to thank them for providing such
wonderful entertainment. In fact, one guest
asked Russell if they were planning to do it again. They were
the hit of the cruise!
I am sure Russell and Pat were a little
embarrassed that their special moment was captured on
camera, but deep down I think they were tickled by the praise as
well. I asked Russell if the camera caught any smooching. He
grinned and blushed a little, then politely declined to answer.
I probably have no
business sharing such an intimate story, but it is so cute that I
could not help myself. 'Tis better to
share and ask forgiveness later!!
I have no doubt that
Russell and Pat made every guest on that ship wish they could dance
too. I always tell men they should learn the fine art of romantic
dancing. Chances like this river cruise come along too rarely in
life as it is. Why not make the moment perfect?
always say that Slow Dance and Romance go hand in hand.
Indeed, something pretty special happened on that river cruise. When
the couple returned to Houston, Russell asked her to marry him...
and Pat said yes.
A Very Select Group
From what I gather, the
river cruise adventure has many features that separate it from our
ocean experience. For starters, you are swapping
a massive ship
that carries anywhere from 3,000
to 6,000 passengers for a
slender ship that
carries a maximum of 190 very privileged
are comfortable with crowds and don't mind waiting in lines, then
trips on behemoth cruise ships might be fun.
However, I will confess that at my age I feel more at ease with the
intimate setting. Apparently most of my friends agree.
like a small group. I get to see these
same people every day and I
have an entire week to get to know them. I might
even make a friend for life with an opportunity like this.
They say a cruise ship is
like a floating hotel. I say a river boat is closer to a floating
inn. Or maybe a very large yacht.
Another major difference between a river cruise and an ocean cruise
is the view.
ocean cruise, you spend countless hours staring out at the sea.
For people stuck in the city for most of their lives, this is a
welcome sight. That said, seeing the same vista day in and day
out grows old very quickly. You might find yourself glancing at
the water from time to time, but that's about it.
river cruise, there is actually something to look at it.
through the most beautiful countryside imaginable.
You will gasp at one precious sight after another.
only can you dine out on deck, every cabin has a river
view. Be it forests and vineyards,
farms and chateaus,
there will be always be something new to capture your fascination.
In particular, the European rivers feature awe-inspiring castles.
No matter where you are on the long ship, you can just sit
there watching the world go by. Sip your
wine and enjoy one of the happiest moments of your life as
rolling hills and
the ever-present green countryside
across your eyes in an endless tableau
of pastoral beauty.
No Days at Sea, No Tendering
There are no days at sea
when you sail down the river.
brings you to one
quaint town or precious little village after another.
Each day takes you to a new adventure.
Rhône River has served as the "Mississippi" of France for centuries.
Local farmers have used the river to transport their goods to market
for centuries. Furthermore, ships from all the Mediterranean
countries have long used its waters to trade with Northern France.
Consequently, there are existing docks at every town where our
longboat can pull up and drop you off instantly.
At each stop the
right in the center of the town.
It takes all of one minute to get
on or off the ship. You can stroll through the town in the morning,
come back to the ship for lunch, then head back out and explore some
more. You come and go as
you please. This is the right way to see the world!
For the 2014
Rhône River Cruise, Marla put us in a hotel near the river. We
simply walked with our luggage to the riverboat.
Now compare that to the
tedious "tendering" process common to the large cruise ships.
other trip I have taken, there is at least
one port that requires a smaller boat known as a "tender" to ferry
If you are given seven
hours at a port, two of those hours are completely wasted.
example, we recently used a tender in Belize on our Mariner 2013
trip. Our ship was parked over a mile off shore. I
estimate we burned at least an hour and a half traveling back and
always use a tender at Cayman. The huge lines mean at least
one hour in each direction.
Tendering means you get
to wait in line for half an hour to get on the boat. Then you waste
another half hour getting there to the island.
Then you have to turn around
and do it again in the evening.
There is no time wasted
on a river cruise. You don't spend half your trip at sea
don't spend half your day on a tender.
In fact, if you wish, on a
river cruise you can be busier with sightseeing than practically any
trip you have ever taken.
You Get What You Pay For
No one is going to deny a
river cruise is expensive. As with any premium adventure, you have
to pay a price for the privilege of having a
truly wonderful experience. I
learned this lesson in 2010 when
I visited the water park at Atlantis in the Bahamas for the
first time. I
made a very unusual discovery.
to the trip, I blanched when Marla said tickets were $130 for a
day's visit. That would $260 for the two of us. "No
way", I said. But Marla showed me the pictures and persuaded
night before our cruise ship stopped in Nassau, I asked several of
the passengers if they were going to visit Atlantis. Every
person said the same thing. "Nah, it's way too expensive."
estimate only a dozen people out of our group of 200 guests went that day.
That's a shame because
Marla and I ended having the time of our lives.
The rides were incredible and there were hardly any lines. The
place was not crowded at all.
favorite ride was the Lazy River. We had so much fun, we
stayed in those tubes for nearly three hours. Marla and I were
alone 80% of the time. It was an incredible experience to have
this remarkable playground all to ourselves.
when it dawned on me. You get what you pay for. Pay low
prices, get big crowds. Pay big prices, have more fun.
On a river cruise, you save time, you meet truly interesting people,
and you see the world in perhaps the grandest way possible.
St. Augustine famously
said, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only
the years I ran my dance studio, I completely ignored the rest of
the world. Then Marla introduced me to travel. On each
trip I learned a new reason why people value travel so much.
first time I saw Rome, suddenly the history of the Roman Empire came
alive. When I saw Turkey, I began to think of Noah's Ark and
the possibility the
and the melting waters of the Ice Age could explain the myth of the
When I visited Scotland, I developed a superior
understanding of the struggle between the Scots and the English.
When I went on the Titanic Cruise, I got so deeply in touch with the
tragedy that I felt like I practically knew the people who died.
saw Barcelona and Paris, I discovered just how beautiful a city can be.
When I saw the Panama Canal, I was incredulous at the magnificence
of the engineering accomplishment. Travel helps me learn so
much about things I never knew before.
Another quote about travel I like is from Mark Twain. "Travel
is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness... Travel helps
us discover we are a family after all."
visit other lands, I start to realize exactly what Twain meant.
Race, religion, ethnicity all begin to mean less. People all
want the same thing - peace, safety, health, prosperity. The
world becomes a much smaller place when you travel.
past 60. If you are anywhere near my age,
then you understand that time grows more precious every day.
People my age don't have a lot of time to waste.
waste time if you can afford not to??
Based on our Puritan
ethic, few of us allow ourselves the risk of high-priced luxury.
We have spent our lives denying ourselves the finer things in
life so we will have money at the end.
the cruelty of
aging is that despite our frugal ways, we have only a small ten year
window where we still have the health to see the world. Once our
health goes, travel will never be the same again.
is for living, not passively sitting at home waiting for the end.
Some of you
might agree we have reached the point in
life where we have earned the right to pamper ourselves.
say, there are no pockets in shrouds. You can't take it with
a river cruise is undeniably expensive, there are
savings in places we aren't accustomed to. There are
complimentary features that will certainly be appreciated.
example, there is complimentary wine served at every meal except
breakfast. You can have as many glasses of
wine as you wish (if you prefer
beer, soda or water, that is served free as well).
When Marla and I sailed
aboard the Azamara Journey for our Titanic cruise, the wine was
served throughout each meal.
Barriers fell quickly
thanks to the magic of the wine. Every night at dinner, the dining
room was animated with laughter and talk.
my favorite moments on that trip came when my brilliant
friend Bob and I talked deep into the night. Bob
was an expert on the Titanic. Thanks to our
wine-loosened tongues, Bob opened up. He told me
stories and angles I never knew before. I learned more about the Titanic that night than I ever
thought possible. Bob and I became friends for
life. I could see Bob again and restart the conversation in a
flash. There is something about wine that
helps get the party started.
A Cultural Experience
A river cruise differs
from an ocean cruise in that it gives you a fighting chance to
Don't get me wrong… I
like ocean cruises. But if there is one downside, it is the
superficial treatment that each port receives. A river cruise
differs from an ocean cruise in that it gives you
to walk around and learn.
On my trip to
our Oslo 2010 cruise, there simply wasn't enough time to even begin
to see the city. We had five hours total to explore. By the time
we reached the Louvre, we didn't have enough time left to go in.
We just stared at the windows of the most famous museum in the world
as I screamed with anguish. This isn't right!! And then it was
time to head back to the bus.
river cruise wishes to educate its passengers about the region of
the trip. Therefore,
in addition to
on board, each day there are several small-group
sightseeing excursions at EVERY port. You don't pay a dime.
The ship wants you to participate in the learning experience, so
these visits are complimentary.
way it works is effortless. In each new town,
Viking hires several guides who
will escort you through
the area. Since there 190
passengers, typically each guide takes a group of 30 with them.
provides an excellent walkie-talkie system in every cabin.
They call it a "Silent Box". In
the morning, you hang your receiver around your neck. When you meet your guide, they tell you which channel to tune
into. As you follow your guide through the area, even if you
are two hundred yards away exploring something interesting, you will
be able to hear the lecture through an ear piece. The freedom
to hear your guide and still be able to wander around is a delicious
The guide helps immerse
you deeply into the culture of the region.
example, when Marla and I took our
River trip in 2014, we saw French history come alive. France
is steeped in all sorts of fascinating ancient history. At different times
the Franks, the Gauls, the Greeks,
the Romans, the Vandals, the Goths, and the Moors have fought countless battles for control of this
farmland. One day we visited a winery, the next day a
cathedral, the next day some Roman ruins, the next day the Van Gogh
museum. You can learn so much about the country you visit!
our 2015 Rhine River cruise, we
spent an entire morning sailing through the Valley of the Castles, a 60 mile stretch of river where there is literally one
ancient castle every mile. That afternoon we visited one of
the castles and learned everything we ever wanted to know about
torture devices, chastity belts, plus the weak spots in medieval
armor in case we had a sword fight. We saw World War II battle sites, gigantic cathedrals,
the Black Forest, cuckoo clocks, windmills, German Oompah
Polka dance bands plus the unique "Heidi"-style architecture unique
to Old Germany.
river cruises pack a lot of adventure into one week.
Life is For Learning
thing I have learned on river cruises is that history comes to life.
Roman Empire is the perfect example. If you
like Roman ruins, Europe is the definitely the place to find them.
Roman influence completely blankets western Europe. Roman
ruins line every river.
Romans were incredible builders. Their
craftsmanship was so good that most of their structures are still
example, In Arles, France, there is a Roman stadium that was so well
built that they still use it to put on shows.
Imagine a structure built 2,000 years ago that still has a practical
Avignon is a beautiful
city on the Rhône River. Avignon is the perfect example of a
splendid place you can visit on a river cruise, but not an ocean
There is an amazing
castle in Avignon known as the "Pope's Palace". Avignon is called "The City of Popes",
but I had no idea why until my trip. During my visit, I
learned the history behind this castle.
Besides the castle, there
is the mysterious Bridge to Nowhere. The reason the
incomplete today is pretty amusing.
centuries this bridge has been rebuilt many times due to erosion and
flood damage. At this point, they have the technology to
complete the bridge, but they choose not to. Why not?
The bridge is too
low for a river boat to go under... so rather than raise the bridge, they found it easier
to leave one side undone. The unfinished bridge has become the international symbol of
You didn't know any of
this, did you? Neither did I. Travel is a dynamic form
As it turns out, many of
the great cities of Europe are inaccessible to ocean cruises...
but a river cruise is a different story.
The Danube River Cruise
is a perfect example.
Vienna and Budapest, two
of Europe's most amazing cities, are highlighted on the Danube
Would anyone care to
That's our plan for
River Cruises make a real effort to educate their
is a significant difference between ocean cruises and river cruises.
I have taken over 30
trips. Only twice
have I been on an ocean trip that attempted to teach me something about
where I was going - Panama
Canal 2012 and
Other than those two
trips, there has never
been any attempt whatsoever to educate the
passengers on the history and the culture of the places we visit. Why cut into valuable bingo time?
dramatically on a river cruise.
Our 2014 trip through southern France offered one history lesson after another.
example, thanks to the 2014 trip, I became very familiar
with all of Van Gogh's art as well as his life story.
Arles is a quaint village on the Rhône River.
Arles became the home of
Vincent Van Gogh towards the end of his
life (1888-1889). A
deeply disturbed man, Van Gogh began a steady descent into madness
during his time here. Remarkably, Van Gogh was very
prolific in his artwork during this dark period.
many of you know much about the Thirty Years War? This brutal
battle (1618-1648) changed the course of German destiny. The
war not only devastated Germany, it opened the door for the
Hohenzollern dynasty to take control and militarize the country.
This laid the seeds of war throughout Europe for the next three
hundred years. I never had any idea of the importance of this
war until I took my 2015 Rhine River Cruise.
History comes to life on a river cruise.
The Rhine River
Do you like castles?
Try the Rhine River.
I never saw so
many castles in my life.
During a visit to
Marksburg Castle, I also learned more about torture than I think I
wanted to know.
Apparently torture was
used extensively in the Middle Ages. Like I said, you learn so
much on a river cruise.
Do you like forests?
Try Germany's Black Forest.
It is an incredibly
Do you enjoy drinking
beer with friends?
Germany is a perfect
good place for that.
Wine too... there are
vineyards wherever you look.
You might learn some
very interesting things on nights like this.
Those girls told stories
that no man should ever hear.
So how did this happen?
Well, I was the only guy and I pretended I wasn't paying attention.
With their guard down,
their candor was unsettling. I discovered there is a side to
women I never knew existed.
Culture, history, adventure,
friendship, blackmail, torture...
that is what a river cruise is all about.
all sorts of pleasant
surprises about river cruises that
are not immediately obvious.
For example, there is no
such thing as "seasickness" on a long boat. The rivers are wide and
smooth. Waves and rapids
do not exist. The ship
simply glides through calm waters. If anything, the sailing has
less vibration than your average bus ride.
might read my story and conclude that I am knocking ocean cruises. There
is an old saying, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you".
Not so. I am not disrespecting ocean cruises. As Marla constantly points out, an ocean
cruise is an extremely safe and cost-effective way to see the world.
are times when an ocean cruise makes complete sense. For
example, a cruise is the perfect way to see the islands of Hawaii.
Ordinarily, to see all the islands of Hawaii would require daily
transfers from island to island and new hotels every night.
There would be considered time wasted.
cruise ship is basically a floating hotel, it is perfect for Hawaii.
Likewise for Alaska and the United Kingdom. Using the ocean is
a very efficient way to visit these areas.
However, there are stunning places that are inaccessible by sea that can
be reached by river. Europe is the perfect example.
a river cruise is simply a more surgical form of an ocean cruise. For example, a
cruise ship might be able to go through the Panama Canal, but only a
longboat can sail the Rhine, the Elbe, the Danube, the Volga, the
Rhône and the Seine.
Now areas in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary become
accessible to one of the most comfortable forms of transportation
imaginable. Who would have ever thought a cruise trip could take you to
the Alps? Castles and mountains and forests are magically
placed right at your fingertips.
A river cruise allows you
far more time to
explore a city or a town than you can ever
imagine. After your morning tour, you
typically have all afternoon to tour the
something else you may not have considered. Have you ever
thought of using a bike to expand your reach?
Since the boat drops you
into the center of town, you can rent a bicycle in the plaza
and off you go. Imagine all the ground
you will cover. You can ride through
the streets of each village as far as your body will let you. Then when you get hungry,
head back to town,
drop the bike off right in front of the ship and hop back onboard.
How could that possibly be easier?
then there is the evening.
ocean cruise, I don't even think about a port at night.
On a cruise ship,
typically you need to get back on board at 4 pm so the ship can sail
hundreds of miles to the next port.
Danube Bend takes place on the first day of the trip.
Or perhaps we get back on
board early so the gambling casinos can begin to operate again.
Many times I have wished I could have dinner in town
at night and go to a nightclub
That becomes possible on a river cruise.
is always a major highlight of every day.
after dinner, you can usually go into town if you wish.
example, on the 2015 Rhine Cruise, one night our group went on a
beer pub crawl.
Another night our group went into town to dance the German Polka.
St. Petersburg on our 2012 cruise to Russia
was the perfect example of how frustrating an ocean cruise can be.
My word, here we were six thousand miles from
home. How cool would it be to have dinner with Marla and our
friends in this amazing historic city? Let's see what Russian food
tastes like and see what Russian nightlife looks like.
However that never happened. At 4 pm we were
hurriedly whisked back on board the cruise ship. Poof!
It was here and now it is gone. One
brief taste of the city and we had to leave.
Wouldn't it have been nice to see a performance of the Russian
Ballet? On a river cruise, the evening belongs to you, not the
In France, why not see the fabulous
French Can Can in person??
A river cruise is totally different. There is
no gambling, so the ship has no reason to rush you back on board.
Therefore the ship is typically moored right at
the edge of Central Square during dinner hour.
Why hurry? After
all, the next stop is just down the river.
For example, on the Rhône River cruise, the entire length of the
trip is only about 200 miles from start to finish.
That averages out to
about 30 miles per night. That explains why
the ship typically sails in the wee hours of the morning. Each night while we sleep, the staff
simply gets out their oars and paddles away.
The consequence of these
short distances is startling. Most evenings, the long ship stays
docked right at the pier so you can get off the ship at night and
have yet another adventure.
How about sipping some wine at a
sidewalk café with friends?
Imagine sitting there
under the stars with a breeze during a blissful April evening.
Maybe they will play French music while we sit. Will be the
Vie En Rose sung by Edith Piaf?
Or will it be La Marsellaise,
the French national song made famous in Casablanca
when the French loyalists defied the Nazi occupiers by singing over
the voices of the Germans?
Or perhaps you might just spend your
evening strolling around
an ancient Roman
fountain under the moonlight in the town plaza.
It doesn't get any better than this.
Even the caliber of the
crew is different. As Russell Orr explained to me, there is a warmth
and savoir faire to a college educated crew that
will always transcend what
you might be used to on an ocean cruise.
At the max, the ship holds
190 guests. With a staff of 45 people, that creates a startling
ratio of one staff person to four guests. As a result,
many of the crew learn your name.
For that matter, you may learn
some of their names too.
advantages to this sort of intimacy. Each waiter and each bar
person will know what beverage you
desire before your lips
even move. All you have to do is whistle. Or use sign language if
you are too exhausted by all the fun to speak. I recommend
pointing, the Universal language.
If you don't want to go
into town, there is entertainment on board every evening.
there is a dance floor. No, it isn't large, so yes, you better
brush up on your small floor ballroom dancing.
Russell Orr's story is the perfect example... he
used his dance skills to romance his beautiful girlfriend throughout
remember to point out they are married now?
definitely suggest you take a
refresher course on slow dancing. Or for that
matter, anyone interested in the Danube needs to be in Waltz class.
There is another
difference that might completely take you off guard. For example, I
was startled when Marla said there is no "Formal Night". Huh? I
didn't believe her, so I asked again. Marla shook her head with
confidence. She was sure of what she was talking about. No Formal
Night! What part of "NO" don't you get, Rick?
Marla said that on
a river cruise, comfort rules over style. The ship
deliberately cultivates a relaxed, resort-casual onboard atmosphere
- leave the formal wear at home.
I found that very
curious. If there is any place on earth where people collect who
can probably afford to look prosperous, it would
be on board
one of these long ships. And yet they de-emphasize the chance to
show off. Very interesting.
I suppose you can always
cheat if you want to. If you want to look really good,
they probably won't tell you to go back to your room and wear
something less flattering.
be ready for dirty looks. After two river cruise trips, I can
vouch that most people could care less about dressing up.
"Comfort" really is the key word on a river cruise.
Something you might find unusual is that no photographers will
come to interrupt your meal. No more quick gulps of food so you can force
the fake smile.
Another thing you
won't see are dancing waiters and loudspeaker announcements at
Without constant interruptions
plus the copious amounts of wine, the
conversations can get very interesting at dinnertime.
A sublime pleasure!
the resurrection of the lost art
of communication, a river cruise
allows people an
extended chance to get to get acquainted
on a much deeper level.
there is something to be said for the hot tub experience, I don't
think "deep conversation" is one of them.
But if you are wandering
side by side through the streets of a precious
German town at night, you might
actually open up a little and bare your soul.
While we were on our
2013 Mariner cruise, at dinner someone asked Marla what was
her favorite cruise. Her answer surprised me. She said, "Our river
cruise in 2014."
I immediately chided
her. "Marla, you can't pick a trip you have
never been on as
Marla responded in
typical Marla fashion, "Don't tell me what to
pick. This trip is
something I have dreamed about for a long time. I love everything
there is about this trip. If I say it is my favorite, then just
take what I say and accept it."
did something pretty amazing on the 2014 Rhône River cruise - she
sold 20% of the available space on the ship.
To prove this was no
fluke, she turned around and sold 17% of the space on the 2015 Rhine
These impressive numbers are a validation of Marla's work. These
are expensive trips, no doubt. Therefore to have so many
people show this kind of confidence is a testimony to the confidence
her guests have in her work.
trip, this young lady had become engaged. However she had to
leave her fiancé back at home. One night she missed him so
much she started to cry.
Travel helps us discover we are a family after all.
one thing I can promise is that
we are always a family.
You can count on that.
matter where we go, we stick together on these trips.
An ocean cruise is a
wonderful way to develop friendships, but the river cruise
experience takes it to another level.
Danube trip promises to be a sublime experience
amazing how close people grow together on these long trips.
Marla and I had this
exact experience on the
2012 trip to Russia.
all shared so much warmth and laughter traveling together.
In Denmark, we stayed at
the same hotel. It was there that the girls
surrounded Marla with reassurance during my bizarre passport dilemma
(yes, I actually lost my
then another lady her passport too! Seven of us immediately
joined Velma on a swift walk through Copenhagen on a winding journey
in search of the missing passport. Our searcheventually led us
to a police station where our friend was reunited with her precious
said she would have had a heart attack if we hadn't been with her.
Considering my own drama, I understood.
moment was no exception. We stuck together throughout this
trip. We shared meals and went
strolling through the magical Tivoli Gardens. In
Finland, we shared lunch in the cellar of an intimate countryside
inn. In St. Petersburg, we drank vodka together in a huge
Russian dining hall. In Estonia, we drank
beer in a dark candlelit German biergarten.
We grew close. We
had an entire journey filled with special moments like these.
We banded together and became best friends in foreign lands.
Marla and I agreed the friendship is
what made the cruise to Russia special.
same friendship took place again on the
Rhône River in 2014 and on the Rhine River in 2015. It always
And it will happen again on
Danube 2016. We
will be side by side packing a lifetime of memories into this