"Forget backpacking, I travelled Europe in style"

Albertina Lloyd, June 2014.
The full article is available in a number of press articles, including the Evening Telegraph and Evening Chronicle.

"Admiring the last drops of sunlight sparkling on the canals of Amsterdam, it is hard to believe that just two days ago I was sipping champagne as I watched the sun go down behind the impressive skyline of Cologne in Germany.

The idea of waking up in a different European country every day is something I’d always associated with backpackers on a Gap year. But those days are far behind me. Instead, we’re travelling in style on a floating luxury hotel.

River cruising is becoming more and more popular with UK holidaymakers, and as I watch the splendid views of the banks of the River Rhine drift by my cabin window on board the Avalon Poetry II, it’s easy to see why.

Going on holiday can be very stressful. You worry about getting to the airport on time, parking the car, losing your luggage - will you like the food at the hotel?

On this trip, however, a representative from Avalon picks me up from my front door and takes me to the airport, so that’s the first stress over and done with.

The next time I see my suitcase is in my cabin on the ship, just waiting for me to unpack and get changed for dinner.

And we’re not talking a dingy little cabin with a tiny porthole window and a folding door to the bathroom that you have to squeeze yourself into. I didn’t bring the cat, but I’m almost sure I could swing one in here if I wanted to.

And unlike sea cruising, drifting along the river feels pleasantly stable and smooth-sailing.

I could happily spend days relaxing here - quite literally an armchair tourist - as the sights of The Netherlands pass me by through the wall-to-wall sliding window.

As it is, with everything organised and looked after by the cruise director, the biggest decision I have to make is what day trip to go on tomorrow.

Every day, an enormous buffet is served on the ship, hot and cold, and no matter how much you had at breakfast, there is always something to tempt you.

There is a gym on the ship, with cycling and running machines and weights, but I never see anyone heading in that direction. I do see people in the hair salon though, getting their nails painted and their hair blow-dried.

Dressing for dinner is clearly a big deal, and even though the dress code is not formal every night, everyone seems to enjoy making an effort.

What a way to see Europe! It’s a sailor’s life for me.

> TRAVEL FACTS

:: Albertina Lloyd was a guest of Avalon Waterways (www.avaloncruises.co.uk; 0808 668 1190) on their eight-day Tulip Time cruise of Holland and Belgium. A departure on March 31, 2015 aboard the Avalon Expression costs £1,279pp, including flights, transfers, a door-to-door home pick-up service, a seven-night full-board deluxe cruise with wine served with dinner, on-board gratuities and included excursions.

:: Avalon Waterways’ newly launched ‘Suite Ship’ Avalon Poetry II will be sailing a range of itineraries this summer on both the Danube and Rhine, including the 10 day Paris, Moselle & the Rhine, 12 day Central European Experience, 11 day ‘Legendary Danube’ and 13 day ‘Blue Danube Discovery’."