Rhine River Cruise on the Avalon Felicity
During the last week of July, we took an extended family trip on the Rhine River. My parents, sister, and I had such a great cruise two years ago on the Danube, that we decided our next one was to be on the Rhine. Besides, we had family along the route that we were interested in visiting as well. The four of us were joined this time by my cousin, her husband, and their friends.
After all my traveling around either on my own or with Miloš, I’m kind of not a fan of big groups, so I tended to opt out of the group tours that the ship had to offer. Instead, I preferred to explore the towns and cities on my own – going where I wanted to go and at my own pace. Here’s a bit of an overview and some highlights of all the great places we got to visit.
We flew into Zurich, Switzerland and had some time to explore the city. It’s very pretty, but honestly, after my visit to Basel last year (where the cruise officially starts), I think it would have been better to have that time to explore Basel. But we still had a lovely jet-lagged lunch at an outside cafe and marveled at how clear and blue the water was in the river. We were then all bussed out to Basel and taken directly to our ship.
Starting that night, and every night, we had excellent dinners. Always with a choice of soup, starter, entree, and dessert. Of course you always get unlimited wine and beer with dinner. My sister, Amy, and I enjoy getting dressed up, and we made a point of dressing up for dinner every night. It’s always fun to put on a pretty dress! (What can I say, I’m girly like that.) Of course, you are not required to get dressed up at dinner, we just like to.
However, the first night, being a bit celebratory, ended up with too much alcohol consumption on my part. After a certain point, I don’t remember much. I just vaguely remember getting back to my room, and crying about how much I missed Miloš, while everyone was trying to calm me down by reminding me that I’d be seeing him in a week. And the next day, some people told me how well I sang, as I apparently had shown off my opera skills for some people. Anyway, my condition led me to miss all of Strasbourg, France, as I lay in my bed feeling the after-effects of the previous night. (Hey, it happens.)
One of the really huge highlights for us was our visit to Heidelberg, Germany. I was so upset that it wasn’t longer! We only had a few hours in the afternoon, but we made it count. You see, my dad’s cousin Richard lives there with his wife, Edith. (Well, my dad and Richard’s moms were first cousins, so whatever kind of cousins that then makes them. Daddy had last seen him back in 1988 when he went over to settle my grandmother’s affairs after her passing.) Anyway, we made plans to meet up with them, and spend our time with them while in Heidelberg. It was truly a wonderful experience! They were so nice! We went out for beers and lunch and then walked around town. The town itself is just beautiful and charming, with quaint German buildings along the cobbled streets, and the castle ruins on the hillside above, all along the Neckar River. The day was also a great mental workout, as Richard and Edith don’t really speak English, so it was up to my dad, my cousin Dolly, and myself to be the ones communicating in German with them.
I was also happy to be in Heidelberg, as it’s the setting for the Romberg operetta, “The Student Prince,” which is the show that I’ve officially been in more than any other production in my performing career. Seeing the castle ruins up on the hillside over the Neckar River made me think of all the wonderful music I got to sing in that show. (Ah, good memories!) It was kind of sad to say good bye when it was time to leave and get on the bus back to the ship. I hope I’ll get back to Heidelberg sooner than later for another visit – Richard and Edith are super nice people, and it’s good to be connected to family that lives far away.
There was also a morning in Mainz – which was nice to walk around – it has a lovely cathedral and lots of shopping in the town area – although I have to say, it wasn’t one of the highlights – at least for me. Here are some pics from Mainz…
Rudesheim was also a nice stop – such a pretty little German town. I knew from Miloš that this town had good wifi, as we often talked from this point when he was working this specific route earlier last year. (During this particular cruise, Miloš and I were able to find several times to have some nice video chats, including when I was in Rudesheim. I skipped the guided tour so we could chat – we were pretty damn excited about our own vacation together that was coming up the following week.) Anyway, when I was done on the phone, I walked around Rudesheim for a bit on my own until I met up with my family not too long after. That night, while still docked in town, Amy and I went out dancing with our new fabulous friend Gary. I even met one of Miloš‘ old friends that he had worked with during a previous season! My sister and I didn’t stay out too late, and after having too much to drink the very first night of the cruise, I was really keeping my alcohol intake down anyway.
The next big highlight was cruising along the segment of the Rhine with all the castles! Now, I think that the part of me that is drawn to fantasy literature, is also the same part that draws me to castles. I used to get calendars with pictures of European castles when I was younger. (Nowadays if I get calendars, I stick with dragons or wizards, but I digress…) Let’s put it this way – we had four hours up on deck to watch as we sailed past castle after castle after castle. I put on my bathing suit to work on my tan and watched the exquisite scenery go by. It was fantastic!
The next day, we had the morning in Cologne. (Again, wish it had been more time.) I didn’t want to go out with the tour group, so Daddy and I ventured out on our own. I had but one request – I wanted to search for the lock Miloš and I put on the love lock bridge (the Hohenzollernbrücke) back in March. Just to see it again. I’m the sentimental type, what can I say. I SORT of knew where it was, and Daddy was super patient for the 20 minutes plus it took to find it. But I found it! 🙂 I made sure to take a pic of the entire panel this time for future reference. 😉
After that, we went to the cathedral and really explored the different areas around the inside of this amazing architectural achievement. I seriously just marvel with my mouth agape whenever I’m inside such a structure. I honestly can’t fathom what really went in to the construction – and how they have been able to last for so many centuries. Just wow!
There is a long sailing to get from Cologne to Amsterdam, our final destination. I was eager to see this city in the warm weather. (Not the sub zero temps from my February visit during the Disneyland Paris audition.)
That night at dinner (after leaving Cologne) the table for eight in the dining room was already snatched up, so Amy and I were left to fend for ourselves as the rest of our group found a six top to sit at. It ended up being a great situation! We sat with a mother and daughter who were on the trip together, and lo and behold, made some new friends! The daughter’s name was Anne, and she was close in age to my sister and myself. We had a grand ol’ time chatting and drinking through dinner!
The first morning in Amsterdam, we started with a canal cruise through the city. Earlier in the year, I hadn’t noticed all the houseboats around the city (lots!), so that was an interesting aspect to take in. There were just as many bikes out as in the winter. (I thought there would have been more in the warm weather, but it was the same. These people do not fear the cold weather when cycling around.)
Later that afternoon, Amy and I ventured out on our own – just wandering around the city. We didn’t feel rushed, as we knew we had an extra night in town after the cruise finished. (One of our biggest regrets two years ago was flying home directly at the end of the cruise. Staying an extra night in the ending city is well worth it.)
That night, we went out into the city with our new friend Anne, as she had a friend in Amsterdam who was going to show us around. (Our new friend Gary was also going to come along initially, but he had to back out, as he wasn’t feeling too great.) The four of us went out for some beer, then got a personal tour of the red light district. It’s rather sad actually – many of those girls are victims of the illegal sex trafficking industry – lured here under false pretenses – told they will be given other jobs, but then forced to work in the sex trade. Some are transgenders in the process of changing and working to be able to afford surgery. I just felt really bad for all of them. There was such a vibe of sadness, misery, and desperation every where.
Anyway, the four of us hung out for a little while longer, then Amy and I headed back to the ship in the pouring rain, while Anne stayed out to catch up more with her friend. By the time we got back to the ship, we were soaked to the bone. We had to use the hairdryer on our clothes and shoes so we wouldn’t be packing sopping wet items in our suitcase.
Early the next morning, it was our time to finish packing and get off of the ship. We weren’t rushing off to a plane at least, as we had a reservation in town at a hotel for the night. That way we could relax a bit more in town and see a few more things before leaving.
We left our things in the lock room at the hotel and went out to explore. All eight of us had lunch together, but then parted ways for the rest of the vacation. The four of us continued back to our hotel to get into our room. (Now that official check-in time had arrived.)
The next morning, my parents and sister flew back home to the USA, while I got a plane to Croatia to spend three weeks with Miloš while he took his vacation from his ship.
Here are some pics from Amsterdam!
Overall, the trip was great. We DID decide that we liked the Danube better, even though both were great cruises. (Another blog coming soon comparing both cruises, and why we preferred the Danube.)
Let me just add for those of you taking this kind of cruise or ANY kind of cruise – PLEASE remember that those super helpful crew members on the ship are working for several months straight, seven days a week, from early morning until late at night. (Except for their short vacations.) They are exhausted and overworked. Yet they are there providing you with everything you need for a great trip, day in and day out – all while being away from home and their loved ones. Show them a little extra kindness when you can.
Let me know if you have any questions or are interested in a river cruise yourself!