Weeks of pleading could not convince loyal AmaWaterways guest Arlene B. to budge on her plans to take her six grandchildren, three boys and three girls ranging in age from 16 to 27, on a Rhine River cruise – without their parents. “Their parents tried to bribe me,” said Arlene. “but I wasn’t having any of it. I wanted it to be me and my grandkids alone.”
With her grandchildren spread out across the US in Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, Maryland, and Connecticut, Florida resident Arlene does not get the chance to spend time with them very often. “The biggest impetus for me in planning this cruise was to have the six of them bond – and it happened. It was just a beautiful thing to watch.”
Anticipation and Organization
In the months leading up to their very first journey to Europe, 16- and 17-year-old sisters Brooke and Brynne were quite excited, but organizing travel from multiple states was no easy feat. Fortunately, technology brought all six cousins together on a conference call to discuss their choice of shore excursions – and Arlene left all the planning up to the children.
After a couple of “fierce debates,” 27-year-old Drew recalled that many of the cousins’ interests aligned. With the exception of one bike tour selected by siblings, the crew decided to stick together, reserving every excursion as a group to maximize their time spent with Grandma.
“I always had one or two grandkids by my side, looking out for me,” boasted Arlene. “I really didn’t expect to be with them as much as I was, but... it was 150% wonderful.”
On Board AmaLucia
The family arrived together in Amsterdam more than ready to embark on AmaLucia, the newest ship in AmaWaterways’ European fleet. The vessel's familiar layout, elegant décor, and warm and welcoming crew embraced Arlene right away. As their grandmother settled into her stateroom, the three girls and three boys headed off to their two shared staterooms to unpack.
Having experienced big-ship cruising before, Drew was delighted by the boys' triple accommodations in their twin-balcony stateroom (with both AmaWaterways’ signature French balcony and outside balcony) that enabled them to enjoy each change in scenery. “Being able to see things constantly instead of just staring out at a wide-open ocean, being able to put my feet up while sitting out on the balcony and watching the views go by – every town, every mountain, every castle – it was incredible.”
Especially amazing to all six young adults during their Captivating Rhine cruise was spending time up on the Sun Deck while AmaLucia passed through Germany’s Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its more than 40 historic castles, visible from the ship. “They were hanging over the edge,” remembered Arlene. “Two of my grandsons are history buffs and when the Cruise Manager told the tales of all the castles, they thought they died and went to heaven.”
Of course, dinner in the Main Restaurant was an incredible time for everyone to reflect on each day’s excursions and any mini adventures members of the group had on shore before the ship departed for the next port. The cousins loved indulging in regional cuisine, but one menu item rose above the rest. “My youngest granddaughter, Brooke, couldn’t get over the fresh-baked rolls,” recalled Arlene. “The servers figured out that we couldn’t deal with just two or three baskets of bread each night – we needed six or seven!”
Along the Banks of the Rhine
During their 7-night cruise, the family visited many fascinating destinations, from Strasbourg, where they united with distant relatives, to Cologne, with its impressive Gothic cathedral. Arlene favored the little old houses dotted throughout Riquewihr, France, but nothing stuck with Drew more than the ship’s visit to Rüdesheim, Germany. There, he was surprised and delighted by the spectacular display of local townspeople making their authentic Rüdesheimer coffee, during which they set brandy aflame in specially designed coffee cups.
“I cannot think of anything even remotely similar that you can experience in the states. It was like they were pouring liquid fire!” he raved.
Drew now feels river cruising trumps big-ship cruising as it allows people to visit more off-the-beaten path towns and immerse themselves in their rich cultural traditions. He also praised AmaWaterways’ choice of local tour guides, such as the gentleman used during the family’s excursion in Speyer. Proclaimed Drew, “He was wonderful, funny, and charming, and the tour felt more like an interactive learning experience.”
Drew also noted that river cruising was friendlier for teens and twenty-somethings who appreciate added time to explore on their own in port after their guided excursions or to go out in the evenings, when bigger ocean ships are typically already sailing to their next destination.
Where to Next?
The last night of the family’s river cruise, as they sailed towards Basel, Switzerland, Arlene’s grandkids told her they want to take another cruise together in two years. Not missing a beat, Arlene responded, “I’m in.”
Though the destination may not be as easy to choose as their excursions were during their pre-Rhine River cruise conference call, both the Danube River and Portugal’s Douro River have been floated around amongst the clan. However, one thing is clear: the destination does not matter as much as the company.
“Having the six of us together all in one room is something that hadn’t happened in five or ten years,” Drew concluded. “I feel like I was just playing with my younger cousins, and they were four and six, and then fast forward and I’m having a drink with one of them on the ship. It made me feel a little old, but I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world. I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”
“It was better than awesome,” agreed Arlene.
For more information on our Rhine River cruises, click here and contact your travel advisor to reserve your family river cruise today!