One regret I have when looking back at my college days is that I never went on one of those epic, life-changing backpacking through Europe adventures. I know that even against the backdrop of the most majestic of European cities, I probably would have been miserable.
I can’t start my day without a warm shower and a cup of coffee, English is the only language I speak, and I have a terrible sense of direction. The idea of bouncing from hostel to hostel, packing and unpacking, sharing a room with ten strangers, and rushing to catch trains with all my worldly possessions strapped to my back sounds more like a nightmare than a vacation. I would have been that guy who spends the entire trip stressing about the things that could go wrong, only to find that I had missed all of Europe in the process.
A few years ago, I discovered there’s an equivalent to backpacking through Europe for adults just like me: the European River Cruise. It’s exactly like backpacking through Europe, except that it’s nothing like it at all.
At the end of a flight to Europe, you check into your hotel. The rooms have huge windows or balcony doors that let you take in the stunning scenery. There are fantastic restaurants, a rooftop deck, a spa, a fitness center, and Wi-Fi access in case you want to convince yourself there is work that can’t wait until you get back.
Only that hotel is a actually a smooth, steady ship. And it’s cruising past some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
I am not exaggerating when I say that the three river cruises I have taken in Europe have been some of the most relaxing days of my entire life. And I can’t wait to go on my fourth trip with Grand Circle Travel this December. It’s the thrill of exploration, combined with the charm of Europe and the magic of forgetting the stresses of home, work and life.
Imagine falling asleep in your bed in Cologne and waking up the next morning in that same bed in Amsterdam. Or drifting off after a beautiful day in Vienna only to wake to sunrise in Bratislava. Each day is a new adventure, in a new place. Each night, you fall asleep reflecting on the incredible day you had in a city you might never have thought to visit on your own. You wonder which will be the first story you’re going to tell your coworkers, family, and friends when you get back home.
The boats are small enough that you can make new lifelong friends if you feel like being sociable, but large enough that you can find a quiet chair to enjoy a book, undisturbed. There are no long lines to get on and off the boat. There are no crowds to push past to get to breakfast, lunch and dinner (all of which are included at no additional cost). There are no trains to catch (or miss!). There’s no checking in and out of hotels. The crew members speak English and the local guides in each town are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It’s the carefree convenience of an all-inclusive resort with Europe gliding slowly past your room.
For people who are wondering if a river cruise is too expensive or if this is the right trip for them, I have just two words: do it. Book it like it’s the only vacation you’re ever going to take. I guarantee that barely a month after you get back home, you’ll find yourself wondering how soon is too soon to book another.