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Life’s big moments are best celebrated with a trip! That’s my family’s philosophy, anyway. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries…all are worthy of a bucket list adventure. My husband and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, and we wanted to do something special to mark the milestone. A Paris to Normandy river cruise with Avalon Waterways was the perfect choice!

River cruises take you through the heart of a country, allowing you to experience its culture, history, and beauty up close. Ships are small, carrying less than 200 passengers. (Avalon Tapestry II holds only 128!). The dining experience features exceptional cuisine served in a relaxed atmosphere. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are included with meals, and most ships offer a complimentary happy hour each evening before dinner. A variety of complimentary excursions are offered at each stop along the river. All fantastic features, but it sounds like I’m reading straight from the brochure! Here’s the real scoop…

7 Things I Loved About Our River Cruise Vacation

1. Getting on and off the ship is as easy as walking through our front door. There were no long queues and no security checkpoints. When we arrived for embarkation, we simply showed our passports to the front desk, smiled for a quick ID photo as a couple, and that
was it! At ports along the way, we swiped our key cards at a kiosk, selected the button for “off the ship” and stepped out…and we did the reverse when we returned home. The processes couldn’t have been easier! We felt free to come and go as we pleased.

2. The river cruise vessel never felt crowded. With only 128 passengers and 40 crew, we never experienced a bottleneck. Our ship was thoughtfully designed to accommodate every need – indoor cozy spaces, outdoor relaxation, ample seating in the dining room to accommodate all guests in one seating, and plenty of options for visiting with new friends.

3. We had lots of choices for sightseeing. We enjoyed several active adventures – a power walk around Vernon one morning, a hike to ancient ruins one afternoon, a bike ride through a city. We took a few walking tours with excellent local guides who entertained and enlightened us with history and local legend. We toured beautiful cathedrals. We spent a somber day visiting D-Day sites. And we chose to explore on our own a few afternoons because it was easy to do so!

4. We could drink coffee and hot chocolate 24 hours a day! The Club Lounge was 4 doors down from our Panorama Suite, and we wore a trail between the two. Edward fine-tuned his coffee concoctions from the self-serve coffee machine. I was a purist and stuck with hot chocolate. And what good is a cozy drink without a triple chocolate chunk cookie? We may have eaten two or three (dozen). The Club Lounge was a great place to read, join a conversation, or play a game of Scrabble or cards….but mostly to grab an afternoon snack.

5. We didn’t feel rushed. The river was slow and so was our pace. We took time to relax when we wanted. We got out and explored when we wanted. We read books in the suite while we watched the countryside pass by our full wall of windows. We sat in comfy deck chairs and talked to fellow passengers while the ship passed through locks. We enjoyed leisurely meals. We unplugged from work and used our phones primarily as cameras.

6. There’s no motion of the ocean! If we hadn’t seen the scenery passing by, we would have never known we were moving.

7. It was about the destination and the people (not the ship). While Tapestry II was lovely and was a fantastic home for a week, the river cruise experience flows beyond the luxuries of the ship. It’s about exploring the history, culture, and cuisine of the destination, and it’s about getting to know people – the guides and locals you meet on excursions, the international crew who are eager to talk of their families and life in their home countries, and your fellow passengers. River cruises are perfectly designed to encourage relationships with friends old and new. We met many lovely people along the way and feel fortunate to have enlarged our circle during our journey.

Who’s the perfect candidate for river cruising? Friends traveling together. Couples. Extended family. Singles who want to travel with built in companions. Book clubs. Class reunions. Wine clubs. Church groups. Anyone!

Who’s the perfect person to help plan your next (or first) river cruise adventure? Your Joyful Journeys vacation designer.

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