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I've often heard about the growing popularity of river cruising over the years, but as a first timer, I had absolutely no idea what to expect; that is until I boarded my very first riverboat in France for a trip down the Rhone.
I’d imagined a small confined cabin space on a very slow moving boat with nothing but an older, coupled up crowd and no hard liquor. I envisioned things like tea, soft drinks, or just a selection of expensive bad tasting wines. As far as excitement goes I imagined some boring little board games, a complimentary stream-pix selection and Netflix for a bit of entertainment. BOY WAS I WRONG! I mean that in a very exciting way!
First, there are lots of European cruises to choose from depending on your interests. When you envision it, think fairy-tale castles along the Rhine, Romantic waltz down the Danube or even windmills on inland waterways from Amsterdam to Basel. Those all sound extremely entertaining, right? Well just to inform you, the boat was unexpectedly wonderful beyond measure! At first glance riverboats are long, lean and flat bottomed. They kind of remind you of a ferry that cargo's to and from without attracting too much attention. Actually, you encounter a beautiful red carpet reception which embodies the grace of another era. That among many more dazzling details is what leaves you with an immaculate first and last impression.
As I walked up the gangplank and boarded the custom designed Swiss Emerald, I entered a handsomely decorated lobby with elegant baccarat crystal chandeliers amidst perfectly etched glass, brass and marble; akin to what you'd expect to see in a five-star hotel. The only difference would be that its floating on a beautiful river.
Almost immediately I was greeted with a complimentary cocktail from the bar while being constantly reminded that there would be more where that came from (unlimited access) for the entire time on the cruise! Hennessy being my absolute favorite alcoholic beverage, I was able to quickly indulged while being totally relaxed. The staff provided impeccable, attentive service anticipating pretty much all of my needs before I did!
Due to this being a complete solo trip, I didn't reserve the biggest suite on an upper deck. Instead I had a veranda on the lower deck which was big enough to serve its purpose (just for sleeping), but was very elegant. Whenever I emerged from my suite, I was greeted with the same wonderful enthusiastic staff members that welcomed me aboard. The food menu was absolutely gorgeous! There were plenty of beautiful, locally inspired dishes that were served like lamb, prime rib, and fried mashed potatoes to name a few. There were also some of the most beautiful desserts I've ever tasted as well. Each day I awoke was like heaven on Earth. I dreaded leaving, but like they say all good things must come to an end. That experience is one that I'd recommend everyone to have at least once in a lifetime. I most definitely plan to go at least once a year.
- Marketa Montgomery
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