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What Solo Travelers Have to Say About Grand Circle

At Grand Circle, we understand that people choose to travel solo for different reasons—whether they’re widowed, or married to someone who doesn’t share their travel interests, or enjoy exploring the world with their sisters, brothers, children, or friends, or just want to meet new friends. And for many, deciding to travel solo for the first time can be a very difficult step. That’s why we want to share stories from our travelers to give you peace of mind: Our solo travelers feel safe, welcome, and they enjoy a sense of camaraderie and friendship on their vacations with us.

Read what some of Grand Circle’s solo travelers are saying about their vacations with us …

By Rita Westerman, 11-time traveler, Westerville, Ohio

One of my interests has always been history—and the same was true of my husband, Curtis, who passed away in 2005. That’s one of the main reasons we have always chosen to travel with Grand Circle: the wonderful opportunities we have to discover all of the rich histories of so many countries around the world.

My husband and I have always loved to travel on Grand Circle’s River Cruises, but when I lost him in 2005, I was hesitant to continue traveling. However, my children encouraged me to go since I’ve always wanted to visit Germany and explore its historic gems.

Curtis and I always felt that large cruise ships really weren’t our cup of tea. When we went on our first River Cruise with Grand Circle, we realized how intimate and casual our experience aboard the ship was. The captain was always waving to us as we departed for our daily tours—and always greeted us upon our return. It was so nice and made us feel special. So I reserved my spot on Grand Circle’s The Great Rivers of Europe trip and began my very first adventure since Curtis passed.

When traveling to new places, I always try to visit as many different churches as I can: Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, and more. I think it’s fascinating to learn about the differences in religion, architecture, and history between these countries and the United States. I was quite surprised as I entered St. Kilian Cathedral in Würzburg, Germany and was met by a gigantic menorah. I turned and immediately saw the large crucifix at the front of the altar. I thought, “How can a menorah and crucifix be in the same church?”

After speaking with one of the cathedral ushers, I learned that the menorah and crucifix signify the beginning and end of Jesus’s life. And although I thought this sight was odd at first, it made perfect sense to me after chatting with the helpful usher. What a discovery!

I uncovered new and exciting treasures like this throughout my entire journey along the rivers of Europe—and I made sure I packed my days with as many opportunities as I could to find these hidden gems. My husband always said, “You have to go on all of the optional tours when you’re visiting a new place because you never know if you’ll be back.”

Heeding my late husband’s advice, I was sure to experience almost all of the optional tours on my Great Rivers of Europe trip.

And I took my husband’s advice one step further and pushed myself when other travelers in my group decided to take the easier road. When visiting Kelheim, my fellow travelers and I were given a tour of Liberation Hall. While most of the group opted to enter through the first level, I (along with another couple) chose to climb 266 steps to the top of the Hall—and what a view it was! I felt so proud that I was able to take that one extra step.

When I returned to our river ship, I was presented with a Class A certificate for accomplishing such a noteworthy task. It was such a special moment for me.

After my trip on The Great Rivers of Europe, I’ve continued to carry on Curtis’s legacy and have explored the diverse histories of many other countries. And, in keeping with tradition, I always try to experience every tour, unique adventure, and special moment each new destination presents to me.

One “Aha” Moment After Another in Old World Prague

By Joan Wicklund, 2-time traveler, Minneapolis, Minnesota

My son was in the air force, so he’s explored many exotic destinations around the world. When my husband and I retired, we decided we wanted to travel. So, we asked my son where he thought we should travel next. He told us that we needed to see Prague and Vienna. And so that’s where we decided to go.

Before our trip, I lost my husband unexpectedly. But since this was a vacation we were planning to do together, I decided I was still going to do the trip for the both of us. So, once I reserved my vacation, I chose to have Grand Circle match me with a roommate—and they helped me find someone pretty soon after I made my reservation.

I wasn’t really hesitant about the trip—and as it turned out, my roommate, Beulah, and I had a great time. We were able to adapt to each other and enjoy one another’s company. Beulah was traveling with her two friends, so I was not only able to meet them, but I also had a chance to interact with many others in my group—and I’ve remained in contact with several of them. They live all over the United States, including California, New York, and Wisconsin. And I even visited Carol and Peg from Wisconsin during a trip to their hometowns after we returned from the trip.

I had a better time on Grand Circle’s Old World Prague & the Blue Danube River Cruise than I thought I would. I was worried that I would be sad on my trip—since this was my first time traveling without my husband—but the history of Europe was so fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful architecture and art of the countries we visited.

I truly experienced one “aha” moment after another. St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague and St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna were overwhelming. I had two of the photos I had taken of each enlarged and they’re now hanging in my home. Each time I look at them, I remember all of the amazing things I saw during my journey along the Danube River.

Everything about the trip was amazing. The ship and crew were wonderfully accommodating, the meals were definitely a cut-above, my cabin was spacious and well-designed, and the Program Directors were intelligent, knowledgeable, and went out of their way to assist travelers with anything they might need. The cities we visited were truly architectural gems and presented unending opportunities for photos fit for enlarging. Budapest was magical at night, Cesky Krumlov was an eye-opener and a wonderful place to shop for local wares, and Prague was definitely not to be missed.

As a woman traveling on her own, I can honestly say that Grand Circle did a wonderful job of making me feel safe throughout my journey. I also enjoyed getting to know my fellow travelers. Our personalities really clicked.

I’m so glad I decided to travel on this trip for both my husband and I. I know he would have loved the beautiful sights and interesting histories as much as I did. But this trip also helped me learn that I can travel on my own and still have a wonderful time. I can’t wait for my next River Cruise with Grand Circle.

By Bud Slavin, 2-time traveler, Columbus, North Carolina

When my father passed away ten years ago, I began traveling with my mother, Margaret. I lived overseas for five years, so I’ve done a lot of traveling myself. I wanted my mom to experience the joys of travel as well, and our trips together allow her to get out and about and see new and different things.

One of the main reasons we chose to travel to Ireland is because our family is from there. Along with our connection to the country, the departure dates for Grand Circle’s Ireland trip also fell within the timeline I had off from work. Since I work for the government, I only have a small window for my vacation—so the timing was perfect.

One of the great things about traveling with my mom is seeing things through her eyes—even if it’s someplace I haven’t been before. It’s much like going to the zoo with a child. You’ve seen lions and bears before, but you get to see them for the first time all over again with someone who is incredibly excited about the new things they’re experiencing.

We discovered so many new things during our vacation to Ireland. For one, I was amazed that the country is an ever-changing landscape as you travel from one place to another. We began on the west side of the country, where we were surrounded by rocky terrain, and as we continued on our journey, we traveled through green fields, and eventually found ourselves in bustling cities. It was so beautiful.

My mom loved every minute of the trip, too. We celebrated her 82nd birthday while we were in Ireland. And although she didn’t vocalize this information to our fellow travelers, her “big mouth” son most certainly did—and the group serenaded her with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” on the bus. One of the women in our group even found a small flower shop during one of our stops and presented her with a beautiful bouquet of assorted flowers. She handed them to mom saying, “Everyone deserves flowers on their birthday.” Although my mother didn’t say it, that simple act meant so much to her.

But one of our favorite moments was a visit to a 300-year-old pub on our way to Dublin with our group. As we sat together and ate, surrounded by the locals, we all sang Irish ballads along with a man playing a guitar. There was something so special about sitting alongside our group members and having such a wonderful time. It was as if we were all Irish at that moment.

My travels with my mom allow us to spend quality time together that we might not otherwise have. Each new destination allows us to experience new things together—and it means so much that I’m able to share these special moments with her. I’ll never forget visiting Kylemore Abbey and walking into a chapel with mom. She later told me that she felt my dad’s and her mother’s presence with her while she was there. It’s moments like these that truly make our travels together worthwhile … and the reason we continue to explore the world together.

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