"I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did;
but people will never forget how you made them feel."
- Maya Angelou, 1928-2014
I'm writing this a couple of days before you actually read it. It seems hard to believe that by then I'll be on the last day of my 15-day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. In fact, as I type, we have just set sail from a small town named Durnstein on the Danube heading for Vienna.
Earlier this evening we had quite a bit of excitement. After dinner, a group of musicians arrived to entertain us. Some of the guests were in the lounge, others in their rooms, a few getting ready to go ashore one more time for a walk around a beautifully lit castle and I was catching up with a dear friend by phone. Suddenly, there was a commotion and our captain ran up to the top deck. Within moments, he was back down and asking everyone to come into the entry/reception area and the emergency alarm system went off. A few minutes later, some emergency crews arrived and we were calmly, but urgently led off the boat and told to stay 500 feet away. In the end, we were outside for about a half hour. Apparently, a barge that was being towed down the river broke off and could have headed right toward our ship if the right measures hadn't been taken.
Through it all, I wasn't worried because I have been incredibly cared for by everyone on this boat since I first set foot on it. Let me tell you a little bit about what it's like to sail on a river cruise with Avalon Waterways and how they make me feel ...
Since there are only a little over 100 guests on board, there is an immediate feeling of comfortable intimacy. It feels like every single one of the crew likes their job and goes out of their way to make you feel welcome. Many of them knew my name within 24 hours and all the servers in the dining room immediately learned that I prefer water as my beverage of choice, with no ice and lemon wedges. As soon as I would choose my table for a meal, a glass of water and a plate of lemons would magically be at my setting. In the morning, my cappuccino would appear by my plate.
The stateroom was cleaned and tidied up while we were at breakfast. This same service was repeated during dinner and the tv screen with a fireplace and music left on to greet us whenever we headed back near bedtime.
While we did a lot of our sailing at night we also did some during the day. I found it incredibly peaceful to slide along the water with a grace and elegance that I couldn't even have imagined before. Watching the scenery change as we flowed along, sometimes seeing people on the river banks who waved to us, and taking pictures of castles, cathedrals, and sweet little churches was so relaxing, soothing, and restful.
When we docked, there would be land excursions. Sometimes we would walk right into a town and have a guide show us the highlights and explain the history and then, we would wander. Other times we would take busses to a town or two, usually within a 20 minute ride. One day we drove 90 minutes and spent the whole day in another country -- the beauty of cosy Europe. Once in a while, we would leave the river boat in one town and catch up with it in another.
Every evening, our cruise director would tell us what was scheduled for the next day and give us some background on where we were going. He always made it amusing and interesting so we really looked forward to the next stop.
No matter what their job was, if a crew member saw you, they smiled and greeted you. One night, they put on a talent show and we laughed our way through several skits and sang along with some talented musicians who we thought were simply attentive waiters.
I am in awe of the amount of organization that had to go into this cruise while the whole thing seemed to flow organically and without a hitch. I know that we were blessed with an exceptional group of people from England, New Zealand, Australia, and a few from the US. I also am aware that we had incredibly good weather, especially since a lot of Europe has been troubled with rain and flooding. I am grateful that all went so well and I am also "hooked" on river cruising, especially with Avalon. I'm already looking at a possible itinerary for my next one because I like the way they make me feel.
I mentioned before that I am entertaining the idea of putting together a group that might want to sail away with me for a "Mindful Meander" next year. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you.
Also, if you haven't seen my Facebook postings, including almost daily videos, check them out HERE for more details of this amazing journey.