Why these Grand Circle travelers are about to embark on their fifth trip along the Rhine, Main & Danube
By Hugh Foster, 18-time traveler & Vacation Ambassador, Reston, Virginia
My wife and I have decided that there’s no finer way to spend a vacation in Europe than by embarking on one of Grand Circle’s River Cruises. We have now made 18 trips with Grand Circle (16 of which have been River Cruises)—but our favorite is The Great Rivers of Europe River Cruise. In fact, we like this trip so much, we have traveled on it four times since 1998—and we are about to embark on it again this summer for the fifth time.
Repeating a River Cruise is never boring: There are always new places to explore, new museums and churches to visit, new shops to browse, new restaurants and cafes at which to sample local fare, and new friends to meet. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time during a stop along the way to see everything there is to see the first time. No matter how many times we visit a city, town, or village, there always seems to be something new we haven't seen before.
Rune and Hugh Foster at the Niederwald Monument, overlooking Ruedesheim and the Rhine River, during their first Great Rivers trip.
The Great Rivers of Europe River Cruise has never been tiresome to us. The itinerary, for one, has been changed several times. The river ships no longer stop in Grein and Dürnstein, Austria or Ruedesheim, Germany, but instead, stops in Dietfurt, Miltenberg, Riedenburg, and Frankfurt, Germany have been added.
We usually accompany our group during walking tours when we are visiting a town for the first time, but on subsequent visits, we step out on our own with the help of a good map and some advice from our Program Director. By doing this, we can return to some of the places we didn’t have enough time to explore completely during our first visit, or we keep finding new places to visit to broaden our understanding and appreciation of the people and their local customs. And, (I have to admit) my wife Rune always finds new stores to shop in!
Rune with a friendly organ grinder and his monkey in Koblenz, Germany.
We have many wonderful memories of our trips on the MS River Adagio and Grand Circle’s other river ship fleet. One of these special moments occurred during our very first trip with Grand Circle in 1998. It has remained with me through the years—especially since I now know it wasn’t unique, but has happened many times since.
When we arrived at our ship docked in Amsterdam, many crew members were there to help carry our luggage on board. An older officer with stripes on his sleeves took our two bags and cheerfully carried them aboard. Later, I asked the Hotel Manager who carried our luggage onto the ship. He told us with a smile, “That was Captain Liemberg. He always likes to help us.” Where else would you find the captain of a ship lugging a passenger’s bags up the gangway? But it just goes to show you how different the crews of the Grand Circle river ships are from the crews on the huge cruise-liners, which ply the oceans. It’s also why we enjoy spending time on River Cruises with Grand Circle—the crew makes you feel like family and goes out of its way to do everything possible to ensure that your cruise will be an enjoyable and unforgettable vacation.
In the rose garden behind the Neue Residenz in Bamburg, Germany.
Another event, which I will always remember, happened aboard the MS River Adagio during our fall cruise in 2006. A few days before we were scheduled to depart, we received word that my older brother and avid world-traveler, Ron, was fatally stricken while traveling through Vietnam, and passed away. The family planned to have a memorial service for him while we were scheduled to be on our cruise. We were just about to cancel our Great Rivers trip, but Ron's wife and children told us that Ron, who enjoyed traveling the world as much as we did, would have wanted us to make our trip (and convinced us not to cancel our plans). So Rune and I traveled as planned. We made arrangements to honor his memory on the same day that his memorial service was being held in New York. While we were cruising on the Rhine River near the Ehrenfels Castle, we placed a wreath upon the waters of the Rhine.
Hugh pauses briefly to lay a wreath on the waters of the Rhine River in memory of his older brother.
During each of our Great Rivers cruises, every time we pass or stop in the town of Dürnstein on the Danube River in Austria it brings back special memories. Rune and I were married in Vienna in 1960 and we spent the first few days of our honeymoon in Dürnstein at the Hotel Richard the Lion-Heart. The blue Baroque church on the banks of the Danube sets this town apart from others in the Wachau Valley. Dürnstein provides many charming, old buildings, narrow lanes, and walks along the river banks—and many wine shops to stop and sample local wines.
On the deck of the MS River Adagio approaching the village of Dürnstein, Austria, on the Danube River.
But one of the best parts about repeating a trip is traveling on the same award-winning river ship. We have traveled on the MS River Adagio eight times now—and will return to this river ship this summer for the ninth time. It is really a magnificent ship with an excellent crew and a wonderful way to spend almost two weeks of your time. We have gotten to know many members of this crew and when we arrive back each year, we are greeted like long-lost members of the family. Everyone, from the Captain to the cabin attendant, goes out of their way to make your time on board something special indeed.
We feel that a European River Cruise is just about the best vacation one could possibly have—especially on the magnificent and well-maintained ships of the Grand Circle fleet. Every ship has its own personality and offers the very best in accommodations, food, and service. We especially enjoy the longer 14-day cruises that provide more time to get to know your crew and your fellow passengers. Who could ask for more: delightful hotel-like accommodations that travel with you as you cruise the rivers of Europe.
Enjoy the historic sights, charming villages, and picturesque countrysides of the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria on our Great Rivers of Europe River Cruise.