Have you ever dreamt of going on a river cruise? I did, and I wasn’t disappointed. My first, a Rhine River cruise, was so pleasurable that I wanted to experience river cruising again. So my next cruise was through The Netherlands.
A friend and I flew to Amsterdam to board our riverboat and cruise the Ijssel, Rhine, and Lek Rivers and the Waal Canal.
Why river cruising? First of all, you only unpack once. Your riverboat, maximum 140-160 passengers, becomes your floating hotel. When not in your cabin with a full-size window or open-door balcony, you retreat to the window-clad lounge or go to the top-level sundeck to view the passing scenery of old farmhouses, small villages, industrial plants or river-crossing passenger ferries.
It’s fun to watch the amazing array of barges and other ship vessels that constantly pass by. (And don’t worry about seasickness. Your riverboat is propeller-run and hardly a ripple is ever felt.) Even while dining, you watch the world outside go by.
And, oh, the dining! A buffet breakfast and lunch and a four-course evening dinner with some of the best chef-prepared regional foods are included. My favorite dinner (as printed on the menu): mixed garden salad with ham, cheese, eggs and croutons; creamy pumpkin soup with roasted pumpkin seeds; grilled Norwegian salmon filet served with Hollandaise sauce, sautéed spinach, wild rice with caviar garnish; and chocolate soufflé with cherry sauce. Plus, all the coffee, tea, and wine you can drink.
Learning the history and culture of different destinations is what these itineraries are all about. All port-side tours are usually included with a choice of some optional excursions. Plus, some evenings, local entertainment comes onboard: traditional Klompen dancers, jazz singers, Shanty Sailor singers or maybe an educational talk by a local cheese farmer.
We first explored Amsterdam where the ship docked within walking distance of this very walkable city. I was amazed at the bicycles here and in all of The Netherlands. There are bicycle lanes throughout the country plus bicycle stop and go traffic lights. Fact: Amsterdam population, 750,000; bicycles, 650,000.
Every day we stopped and explored a different port: Volendam, with its colorful homes lining the edge of the Ijseelmeer Sea; Enkhuizen, with its open-air, historic fishing village; Schoonhoven, with its medieval town hall, housing a 50-bell carillon; Kinderdijk, with its 19 windmills designated as a UNESCO site. Most ports accommodate the riverboat right at the city or town’s edge so you just walk off the boat and right into town.
A visit to the 10-week spring flower expedition of bulb-growers is what a Dutch tulip tour is all about. Keukenhof Garden’s meandering walkways were lined with a variety of colorful landscapes featuring tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and more floral varieties in themed environments. Explore a Japanese garden, a Dutch work-shed complete with wooden shoes or wander through a Russian-themed area with giant chess pieces.
This cruise allowed us to experience many things “Dutch”—the art, canals, flowers, windmills, history, food—plus the experience of meeting fellow travelers from all over the world—and from all walks of life: an author, artist, jewelry designer, military surgeon, honeymooners, and our new friends from England who told us how to brew a proper cup of tea.
The experience of this second river cruise led me to write an article for my local newspaper. They had asked subscribers for travel stories. After publication, I approached the editor to do a monthly travel story…and I was hired and paid!
Now, I’m getting paid to travel! And you can bet, these two river cruises won’t be my last.
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