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The River Cruise Experience


Written by Rick Archer
May 201

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 screen.

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 Rhône river 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 myself.

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.

Russell's 2012 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.

By chance, my friend Russell Orr had visited Russia about the same time that Marla and I took our Russia 2012 Cruise

Naturally every time I saw Russell, I would ask him about the river cruise he took to Russia.  Truth be told, as we compared notes, I found myself having a hard time controlling my envy. 

Please 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. 

But 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 say more??

An 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 region.

One 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 moment was a particular "enchanted evening" spent dancing with his beautiful lady friend Pat. 

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 smile. 

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 entire ship!

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?  

I 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 guests. 

If you 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.

I 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.

On an 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.

On a river cruise, there is actually something to look at it.  You will literally float through the most beautiful countryside imaginable.  You will gasp at one precious sight after another.

Not 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 moves 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. 

Each day brings you to one quaint town or precious little village after another.  Each day takes you to a new adventure.  

For example, the 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 boat docks 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.  On every other trip I have taken, there is at least one port that requires a smaller boat known as a "tender" to ferry you onshore. 

If you are given seven hours at a port, two of those hours are completely wasted.  For 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 forth.

We 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 and you 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

The Atlantis

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 experienceI 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.

Prior 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 me.

On the 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."

I 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.

Our 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. 

That's 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 one page."

During 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. 

The 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 Black Sea and the melting waters of the Ice Age could explain the myth of the great flood.

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.

When I 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."

When I 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. 

I am 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.

So why 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. 

However 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.

Life 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.   As they say, there are no pockets in shrouds. You can't take it with you.


Complimentary Wine

While 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.  For 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.

One of 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 beforeI 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

Complimentary Excursions

A river cruise differs from an ocean cruise in that it gives you a fighting chance to really explore. 

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 enough time to walk around and learn.

On my trip to Paris on 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. 

A river cruise wishes to educate its passengers about the region of the trip.  Therefore, in addition to free lectures 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.

The way it works is effortless.  In each new town, Viking hires several guides who will escort you through the areaSince there 190 passengers, typically each guide takes a group of 30 with them.

Viking 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 treat.

The guide helps immerse you deeply into the culture of the region. 

For example, when Marla and I took our Rhône 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 precious 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!

During 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.

These river cruises pack a lot of adventure into one week.


Life is For Learning

One thing I have learned on river cruises is that history comes to life.

The Roman Empire is the perfect example. If you like Roman ruins, Europe is the definitely the place to find them.

The Roman influence completely blankets western Europe.  Roman ruins line every river.

The Romans were incredible builders. Their craftsmanship was so good that most of their structures are still standing today. 

For 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 use. 

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 cruise.

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 bridge remains incomplete today is pretty amusing.

Apparently over 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?  Tourism!!

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 the city.

You didn't know any of this, did you?  Neither did I.  Travel is a dynamic form of education.

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 Cruise. 

Would anyone care to Waltz??

That's our plan for Vienna.

River Cruises make a real effort to educate their passengers.

This is a significant difference between ocean cruises and river cruises.

I have taken over 30 ocean cruise 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 Titanic 2012.

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?

That changes dramatically on a river cruise.  Our 2014 trip through southern France offered one history lesson after another.

For 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. 

How 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 beautiful area.


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.

Parting Thoughts

There are 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.  

People 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. 

There 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. 

Since a 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. 

To me, 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 surroundings

Here's 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?

And then there is the evening. 

On an 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. 

The famous 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 afterwards. 

That becomes possible on a river cruise.

Dinner is always a major highlight of every day. 

Then after dinner, you can usually go into town if you wish. 

For 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 cruise ship.

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 sad La 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 nameFor that matter, you may learn some of their names too.

There are many 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. 

Yes, 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 the trip. 

Did I remember to point out they are married now? 

So, yes, I 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. 

Just 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 dinner. 

Without constant interruptions plus the copious amounts of wine, the conversations can get very interesting at dinnertime. A sublime pleasure!

Due to 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.

While 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 your favorite."

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."

Marla 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 River cruise. 

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. 

Just days before the Rhône 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.

The one thing I can promise is that we are always a family. 

You can count on that. 

No 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.   The Danube trip promises to be a sublime experience indeed

It is amazing how close people grow together on these long trips.  Marla and I had this exact experience on the 2012 trip to Russia.  We 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 passport!)

And 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 passport.

Velma said she would have had a heart attack if we hadn't been with her.  Considering my own drama, I understood.

This 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. 

That same friendship took place again on the Rhône River in 2014 and on the Rhine River in 2015.  It always happens. 

And it will happen again on Danube 2016.  We will be side by side packing a lifetime of memories into this journey. 

Rick Archer
June 201

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