River cruising opens up a new world of delights

Unpack once and enjoy the passing scenery.
Unpack once and enjoy the passing scenery. Contributed

SAILING serenely along inland waterways flanked by a kaleidoscope of constant changing scenery is completely different to ocean cruising.

Judging by the extraordinary growth of the river cruise industry, thousands of people love the experience.

You have only to look at Scenic's 2016 Europe River Cruise program to see the expansion of itineraries to include countries such as Russia and Portugal to back up established cruises in Europe.

For me a cruise along the Rhine during a hot European summer was a highlight among all my many travel experiences.

The long, sleek ship with floor-to-ceiling windows provided the VIP seat for the theatre outside: river banks dotted with charismatic houses and charming church spires, lush vine-covered slopes ascending to clear blue skies, and romantic castles lording it over Hansel and Gretel homes.

There was never a moment where the passing scenery did not offer some delightful glimpse into charming European riverside life.

All this and the luxury of unpacking just once in a spacious suite with balcony and an attentive butler on hand who always appeared extraordinarily happy to see me and rush to fulfil my summons for another bottle of champagne.

Then there was the eating. So much of it. Each meal was a celebration.

From eggs benedict and seductive pastries in the morning to innovative salads and pastas at lunch, to dainty cucumber sandwiches in the afternoon, all leading to dinners that were never less than five gourmet courses presented with flair and endless bottles of local wines.

In each destination, the ship stopped in the very heart of town where local guides waited to walk us through their local haunts.

In the evenings, the after-dinner entertainment was relaxed, friendly... no Las Vegas-style shows or bingo.

Going through the locks was a mini adventure, watching the ship go down and down, then up to river level again before sailing ahead to more promise.

A policy of all-inclusive costs including gratuities and local guides meant no concerns of additional costs.

It was a relaxing yet invigorating holiday, one that opened our eyes to new experiences and gave us insight into so many pretty towns across Germany we would never have otherwise experienced.

Now, we look forward to sailing on other iconic rivers with Scenic including the Danube, the Mekong, the Irrawaddy, and the Seine.

The choices are dazzling in variety and destinations.

Topics:  ann rickard cruise ships opinion

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