I knew I was truly on vacation when early one morning, waking up in my cabin on the brand new AmaWaterways ship, the AmaSerena, I looked out on the Rhine River as we cruised by some small village in Germany, and it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what day it was. It wasn’t like “Is this Saturday or Sunday?” I didn’t know if it was Monday or Sunday and any day of the days in between. I thought back to our departure for Switzerland. After two days in Zurich and two more in Lucerne we’d boarded the AmaSerena in Basel and that’s where I set aside such things as days of the week. After a few minutes spent trying to figure it all out, I shrugged and let it go. Our cabin was splendid ( a surprise upgrade to a suite!) The ship was new and elegant and intimate. What did it matter what day of the week it was?
Isn’t it unfortunate that it is so rare that we can so completely check out of work and all the nagging little worries of home and totally disappear into a trip? I can’t remember the last time I was so completely detached. Apart from checking my email twice a day and responded to occasional “Having fun? texts from our children, my husband and I were on a real vacation. We’ve been married a long time and we’ve raised four children. But our four days in Switzerland and the week-long Rhine cruise was probably the longest time we’ve spent together—just the two of us—in decades.
Travel agents will tell you that European river cruising is the most popular form of travel these days. Every year new ships set out on the rivers of Germany, Switzerland, France and other destinations. And with good reason. Once you board the a river cruise ship every little thing is taken care of for you. All you’re expected to do is relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Each morning we woke to a big breakfast, toured another beautiful city in the afternoon and then came back to the ship for a gourmet dinner with the new friends we’d made. Ours was a wine-themed cruise--something AmaWaterways does well-- and each day Christopher Silva from St. Francis Winery educated us as he poured.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing about getting away can be the actual escape. There’s work to finish, pets and kids to make arrangements for, and all the details of the house that need to be attended to. Then you have to deal with crowded airports and long flights. Often, by the time we get to where we’re going, it takes a few days to unwind enough to actually begin to enjoy the trip.
Over the years, I’ve learned that how we travel matters as much as where we go. There is not much in the world as wonderful as a good travel experience, and my week with AmaWaterways was one for the memory book.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons”