I’m truly fortunate to have shared my Mum’s 90th birthday and celebrate it in style on a Romantic Rhine river cruise with Avalon Waterways.
Deciding how to celebrate this momentous event wasn’t a difficult decision. A river cruise where Mum could discover many new destinations aboard a luxurious ship and be waited on hand and foot. Also, Avalon provide a home chauffeur service which makes for extremely stress-free travelling.
Unsurprisingly, Mum isn’t as mobile as she used to be but, overall, is well and has lost none of her interest in life. Following the death of my Dad in 2015 and 66 years of marriage, she found herself living alone. Like many women of her generation she had done everything with and for her husband, including all the caring during his battle with dementia, after which there was exhaustion, grief and loneliness. So a big 90th birthday celebration was something to celebrate!
Our cruise started in Basel, Switzerland and ended in Amsterdam. Our route took us through Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Mainz, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne and the famous stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its spectacular scenery and 40 castles. All the destinations include walking tours including a ‘slow walkers’ group. Without exception, the local guides were excellent and there wasalways additional free time to wander at your leisure – a perfect balance.
Our first night in the dining room did not disappoint. Avalon’s shared table policy is a great way to meet new people and we met a wide range of nationalities and interesting people. It goes without saying that food is a major feature on any cruise and all meals and regional wines were excellent.
The average guest age was 60+ with a few oldies and youngsters in their early 40s. Like us, quite a few guests had chosen their trip to celebrate a special occasion and Avalon definitely pull out all the stops to mark each event with birthday cakes, balloons, champagne etc.
Mum’s 90th birthday coincided with our arrival in Cologne. She had brought her birthday cards from home and over our customary pre-breakfast morning cuppa in bed she opened them all. I left her to have a leisurely morning whilst I went on the 2 hour walking tour of the city. I returned to find balloons and a Happy Birthday sign on our stateroom door and Mum stretched out on the bed surrounded by birthday cards sipping a glass of champagne, courtesy of Avalon. Happy 90th Mum!
At supper that night, surrounded by newly made friends, we had a wonderfully memorable meal. After dessert the crew paraded around the dining room holding Mum’s birthday cake aloft whilst we all sang Happy Birthday as she blew out the candles.
We retired to the lounge but were soon up on the dance floor. For someone in her tenth decade Mum danced with amazing vigor and with quite a few men – in another era her dance card would definitely have been full! I practically had to drag her off to bed ready for our final day in Amsterdam.
In the morning mist on a canal boat tour we silently glided passed quaint and decaying houseboats, beautiful 17th century merchant houses and churches and under ancient bridges. Later, the mist turned into brilliant blue skies and sunshine – a perfect end to our amazing trip. As we walked down the gangway for the last time, Pieter, Avalon’s Hotel Manager, said he hoped to be on board for Mum’s 100th birthday cruise. Now that really would be something.
By Chrissy Nasson, writer for Silver Travel Advisor