Last week, I sailed along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers with Riviera aboard Geoffrey Chaucer. I was invited by Riviera to experience one of the line’s unique Solo Departures. As someone who often travels solo, I was curious to see what was different about traveling with other solos, as well as what Riviera does differently from the other cruise companies I have sailed with. This trip was definitely one for the books, so much so that I am having a hard time finding a way to capture the impact of my journey. Let’s start off with a few first impressions.
Solo Only Departures – My New Favorite Way To Travel
A unique concept to Riviera, the line offers solo-only departures, meaning that solo travelers can sail without paying a single supplement. Not only is the single supplement waived for every category cabin, there are no cabins available for double occupancy during these departures. This is incentive enough for many to book these solo itineraries, but the real appeal of these trips is the opportunity to sail with other solos and singles.
We were a small group of under 40 guests, the smallest group our Cruise Director, Peter, had sailed with. At first he was worried about a group size so small, he admitted to me, but we agreed that our group gelled well from the get-go. Peter did make sure to encourage us to include others at the beginning of our sailing stating “if [we] saw someone sitting alone, please go talk to them”.
I am often used to being one of the few, if not the only, solo travelers on a river cruise. Though some of the passengers on board were traveling with friends or in small groups, there was plenty of opportunity to co-mingle. Almost everyone on board ended up sitting with each other at one point or another through the sailing, and most of us became quick friends.
The “mix” of passengers on board, if you can call it that, was over 85 percent British. The rest of us were North Americans. In a group the size of ours, that means that only five of us were from North America. Riviera is a UK based travel company so those demographics came as no surprise, what did come as a surprise, though, is how much I enjoyed sailing with the Brits.
I don’t want to offend any of you but I am going to come out with it…Americans are not always the easiest group to travel with, and I say this as a proud North Carolinian. I found that when traveling with the Brits, there was far less complaining and fuss than there have been on other trips I’ve taken. This could be pure coincidence based on the group that I was traveling with but I found my fellow passengers to be extremely grateful and complimentary of the experience we were having – crazy, I know.
Your Vacation, Your Way
Another thing I liked about traveling with the Brits is that there seemed to be less coddling than usual. If you wanted to go on shore, use your card to swipe out and then back into the ship when you return. And if you’re not there by the time the ship leaves port? Too bad.
Though most of us tended to run to the dining room as soon as the doors opened (the food was really good, but I will get to that), I also appreciated the offering of flex dining times. There was a window every night and, so long as you made it within that time period, you could show up for dinner later if you wanted.
On the first day of our journey, Peter encouraged us to experience our vacation in the way that would best suit each of us: “If you don’t like a tour, leave it. It’s your vacation.”
Riviera includes one excursion in every port, with optional for charge excursions in certain ports of call. Peter was a great resource at our nightly port talks, giving us overviews of alternate suggestions as well as the cost of activities.
In most cities, I opted for the included tours. Even if I broke off from the tour, it was a good starting point to get me from the ship to what I wanted to see in town.
In both Boppard and Rudesheim, I took Peter’s suggestion and ventured up on the towns’ cable cars. They were inexpensive, around five to 10 Euros a piece, and provided gorgeous views of the region.
More Than Just Bangers & Mash
I can be tough to please when it comes to food and, while I loved traveling with the Brits, I was not looking forward to the cuisine that a UK-based travel company was going to serve us. Fortunately for me, and the four other North Americans on board, the food was a bit more globally inspired than I had originally anticipated.
I can say in absolutely honesty and certainty that the food on board Geoffrey Chaucer is the best food that I have ever had on board a river cruise ship. I was consistently blown away by the culinary team on board and was impressed by the variety in nightly menus.
The highlight of our culinary adventures was a dinner in the Bistro. By reservation only, guests can have dinner in Riviera’s alternate dining venue. The family-style set menu was really fun for us as a group of four, as we were all able to try everything on the table and talk about what we were eating. The Bistro is also open for lunch and has really (and I mean really) good hamburgers. There is other stuff on the menu, too, but the hamburgers are really hard to pass up.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with Riviera. I appreciated the friendly crew, the wonderful meals, the comfortable accommodations, and so much more. I can’t wait to share the rest of my impressions with you all, but for now let me share with you one last piece of advice.
The time to go is now. We’ve been saying this for a while now, but this trip really solidified it for me. Things can be scary in the world, in fact one of our tour guides stopped our tour in Cochem as a military plane flew past saying: “Don’t be scared. I know it’s easy to be scared during this time, but we are near a military base. Please don’t be scared.” Returning to Europe and beginning to travel again in the past year has made me want to put my fears aside. The rivers were so quiet because of the time of year, with our ship sailing at under half capacity. There are smaller crowds both on board and ashore. Life might get in the way sometimes, but there is no better time to travel than right now. What are you waiting for?
This article was originally published at River Cruise Advisor. Click for more content from Britton Frost and Ralph Grizzle.