Saying goodbye is the hardest part of any good trip—especially when faced with the reality of having to go back home and make your own bed. On a good river cruise there are wonderful accommodations and great ports, but the thing that makes the entire experience is the people that are there. Without fun guests the cruise is boring; without a good crew the cruise is awful. Fortunately, the people that I sailed the Rhône with on Avalon were one of the most glorious groups of people I’ve ever met.
We’ll start with our cruise director, Gayle, from whom I shared a joke with you all a few weeks ago. Gayle is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and her Scottish accent (and attitude) make her even funnier. Guests were drawn not only to her lively and charming personality, but also by the fact that Gayle was everyone’s problem solver. She wrangled all of us for our excursions and helped us make last minute changes. In fact, when a paid kayaking excursion was cancelled due to weather, she was able to find and provide another kayaking opportunity available to everyone – at no extra charge. Perhaps everyone’s favorite moment with Gayle was when she went to a market in Arles and set up a picnic in the lounge. French bread and cheese? Yum! Say no more.
Gayle is a rockstar.
Our hotel manager, Laura, had a way of making people feel special. Before I left for the sailing, I applied for a job and I had to leave dinner for a phone call one night regarding my application. I returned to the table with the news I had gotten the position. Laura overheard from where she was standing and immediately brought over four glasses of champagne as a congratulations. She pays attention to the small details and her dedication to guests onboard is always apparent.
She also helped us decorate for an epic birthday.
The Lounge was the hub for social interaction. Valli and Valentina at the bar made the best cocktails that I have ever had on a river cruise. Honestly, I had given up on cocktails on river cruise ships for the most part and started settling for wine and beer, but Valentina’s enthusiasm for cocktails and creative recipes had me eager to try something new every night.
Nightly music inspired hours of dancing every night. The difference about this sailing compared to many others is that I was not the only one dancing for hours. In my last story about this trip I talked about Avalon’s Active & Discovery itineraries. The nature of these itineraries attract a more engaged, lively and adventurous traveler. The age group on this sailing was pretty average compared to the other river cruises I have been on, most guests in their late 50s to early 60s, but the older guests on board were extremely more mobile and fit than I have seen on other sailings. This created an energetic environment which allowed for so many laughs and so much fun.
The crew contributed to a lot of the fun, joining in on dances and jokes and making us laugh with stories. But they did something even more important than that – they kept us safe and made us feel comfortable traveling during an uncertain time.
Being able to go on this sailing in the middle of October was an amazing opportunity, but it was also scary. I was consoled by the fact that the crew was willing and able to take all the necessary steps to keep us safe and healthy.
Sailing on Avalon was like a little slice of heaven during such a difficult past couple of years. And, speaking of Heaven, I will leave you once again with a joke from Gayle:
Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police are British, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and the bankers are Swiss. Hell is where the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and the bankers are Italian.
This article was originally published at River Cruise Advisor.