Story written by Rick Archer
Organized by Marla Archer
Rick Archer's Note: In
mid-April 2014, Marla and I completed a river cruise up the Rhône
River of France that included a side trip to Paris on the way home.
You will definitely want
to read my story Watching the
World Go By. It completely captures the River Cruise
The article on the page
you are reading now gives a different slant. This story
is a somewhat tongue in cheek look at the
River Cruise itself. We will get to it shortly, but first a
look at my other stories.
On the final day of our
trip, Marla and I visited
the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris.
was without a question my favorite day of the trip.
Considering the great experiences I had on this trip, it doesn't
matter - I will pick Versailles as one of the great cruise trip
experiences of a lifetime.
If you get a chance to
read my story, you are sure to see why.
During my trip to
Versailles, our tour guide, a young man named Costigan, explained
the troubling story of Marie Antoinette in great detail.
Costigan made it clear
that the infamous "Let them eat Cake" story was completely
I had always thought
differently, so I decided to study about Marie Antoinette when I
returned to Houston after the trip.
As I researched Antoinette's story, I found that I was angry
at myself for spending the majority of my life in total ignorance
concerning Marie Antoinette's immortal phrase "Let them eat cake".
In trying to understand why the angry mob would cut her head off, I
assumed the woman was so mean and insensitive that she deserved her
cruel fate. So imagine how I felt when I finally discovered the
entire "Eat Cake" story was a complete lie meant to turn public
opinion against her.
This story had been fed to me by my history teacher when I
was at the impressionable age of 14. Judging by the sincerity with
which he related the story to our class, I have no doubt my teacher
completely believed the story himself.
I suspect if 20 people on the street with any knowledge of
Antoinette were asked, at least 16 would say they believe she made
the statement. It would be interesting to ask.
I have come to the
conclusion that well-placed lies and propaganda have enormous power.
For example, didn't someone once swear to us that Iraq had nuclear
This was our reason to
go to war with a country that had not attacked us. Has anyone
found one yet?
Antoinette did not deserve to be executed. She never committed
any crime. Nevertheless, she is an important historical figure
because she is the perfect example of what happens to a public
figure who doesn't pay attention to their public reputation.
The simple truth is that the majority of us are nowhere near the
people or issues we read and hear about through the media. We are
completely dependent on the accuracy of our news sources.
In addition, many people
are not trained to question everything they read or hear.
I think the American
people are fed a steady stream of lies and half-truths on a daily
basis. Call it "propaganda". But since few of us have any way to
disprove what is being said, these lies are able to develop a life
of their own and do vast damage.
This is the lesson of Marie Antoinette, a woman who never grasped
the importance of public relations. By allowing the myths about her
to stand unchecked, she paid a huge price.
If you agree with my point of view, I think you would thoroughly
enjoy reading my story of Antoinette's bizarre Necklace story. It is
the story of an event where the Queen did not do a single thing
wrong… repeat: NOT A SINGLE THING WRONG… nor did she directly
participate in the event, but nonetheless ended up with her
reputation so badly tarnished that it led to her death.
The story of Antoinette gives me the perfect opportunity to trot out
my favorite quote about travel.
Mark Twain once said, "Travel is fatal to bigotry."
His complete quote is even more impressive.
"Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our
people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome,
charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by
vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's
Amen to that. A good
example of Twain's quote in action would be my trip to France which
cured me of a lifetime misconception about Marie Antoinette.
And that in turn reminds me once again to always stay on my toes
anytime I run across a public or historic issue that doesn't ring
true. "Travel" teaches me to keep my eyes wide open. RA
April 13 - April 20,
April 13: Day
April 14: Day
April 15: Day
Avignon & Viviers
April 16: Day
April 17: Day
Vienne & Lyon
April 18: Day
April 19: Day
Burgundy Wine Tour & Beaune
April 20: Day
22: Day 09
River Cruise Overview Part I
begin our story of the river cruise with an anecdote
Back when I ran SSQQ, Marla and I stayed to a strict
schedule on every cruise - get to the departure city at the
last moment and come home immediately. I felt a need to keep
a close eye on my dance business.
Consequently we missed out on some great adventures because
often the cities from which a trip leaves are definitely
worth exploring. For example, on our 2005 Alaska Cruise, we
didn't spend any time exploring Vancouver, one of the most
beautiful cities in the world.
When Marla and I take our second Alaska cruise in June 2014,
we intend to go in to Vancouver early. We already have our
long walks planned through two different amazing city parks.
This extra time, after all, is one of the joys of being
retired and not having quite so much responsibility to deal
Putting this same principle into action for our 2014 Rhône
River cruise, Marla had us fly into Avignon a couple days
early. That way we could get settled in our hotel room, then
go out and explore this historic city ahead of time at our leisure.
Many people on our cruise agreed with Marla's philosophy of
getting there ahead of time. We had so many people on the
same plane… a dozen, I think… that for everyone's
convenience Marla rented a private bus to take us from the
airport in Marseilles to Avignon, a 45 minute drive.
Naturally as the bus got closer to Avignon, the excitement
mounted. At last!
Then a funny thing happened… everyone was disappointed to
see shopping malls, grocery stores, car lots… all the modern
stuff that may be necessary, but not particularly fun to
look at it. This was Avignon? Boring!
Finally one of the ladies in our group couldn't stand it
Our friend Sue exclaimed, "Gosh, Marla, when are we going to
see the cool stuff? All I see is a bunch of shopping malls."
No one knew what to say. I believe we were all thinking
the same thing; I know I was. I flew 5,000 miles to see this
suburban goulash? I can see urban blight at home for
Just about that time our bus passed an enormous 20 foot
The wall was endless. It stretched as far as the eye could
see. I immediately became suspicious about that wall. What
was hiding in there? After paralleling the wall for
about a mile, the bus turned into an entrance through the
Suddenly the medieval world of Avignon appeared out of
nowhere. Everyone on the bus gasped at the instant
transformation. We had just realized that this wall kept the old
part of Avignon thoroughly disguised from the modern world.
The moment we entered those gates, we had instantly gone
back in time 500 years to the Middle Ages. I have never seen
a more dramatic transition.
Sue began to smile. "Never mind, Marla, I think I see it
We all laughed. We agreed with Sue the first time and now we
agreed with her again.
That first experience was quite impressive. There was a
festival going on inside the Avignon old town. The streets
were so packed with people that the bus couldn't do better
than inch along at 2 miles an hour. We didn't care. The
throngs of happy people with their dogs and kids were
entertaining to watch. Everywhere I looked, there were
thousands of people milling about with smiles on their faces
on this perfect spring afternoon.
As it turned out, Marla had discovered a gem of a hotel for
us to stay at. Hôtel de l'Horloge was a marvelous
restored building located in the center of everything. I
think the word we all agreed on was "quaint". This quaint
hotel was right on the edge of the Old Town square.
What a view!! Cathedrals, trees, open air restaurants,
museums, carousels and countless people crossing the cobble
stone square in every direction. The architecture was all
middle ages. Too bad the people weren't in costume or we
would have had an instant Renaissance Festival on the
After we got settled in our room, naturally Marla and I
wanted to explore. We were joined by Larry, Marla's brother,
and his wife Roz as well as by Frana Banana and Marsha
We walked and we walked and we walked. Everything was so
pretty. We had gotten a map of the twisting, winding streets
at the hotel, so we had no fear of getting lost. But we got
lost anyway. There was no discernible order to the streets.
Hidden behind the age-old ramparts (means "big wall"), we were lost in a maze of narrow cobbled streets.
Not to worry, we eventually figured out where we were.
The women loved looking at all the shops as we wandered
along. Now temptation became our biggest problem. There were
French pastries and chocolate shops calling to us at every
After an hour of walking, for the first time I noticed a
tiny symbol for a boat on my map. Seeing as how the map
placed the boat on the Rhône River at the edge of the walled
city, surely that was where our riverboat would be docked
Marla had told everyone that our river boat was docked close
enough to the hotel that people could walk to the boat in
the morning and save the price of a taxi ride. But now Marla
was worried that maybe she had been a bit over-optimistic.
Looking at the map, the distance seemed further now. Marla
didn't want to set people up for an unnecessary ordeal. So I
volunteered to test the distance. I separated from the group
with the understanding we would meet back at the hotel for
While the rest of the gang headed back to the Hotel, I
wandered over to the location on the map where the boat was
supposed to be.
After passing through an opening in the protective Wall, to
my pleasant surprise, I saw a long, sleek riverboat docked
on the river about 400 yards away. I couldn't see the name
from this distance, but that had to be our boat. It sure
looked the same as the pictures I had seen of it.
It had only been 10 minutes since I left the group. I was
surprised at just how close our hotel was to the dock. Marla
had been right all along.
When she originally told me we were close enough to "walk"
to our boat, I raised an eyebrow. Marla and I have never
"walked" from our hotel to begin an ocean cruise before. No
fancy hotel in its right mind would be built next to a
massive ship complex.
But here in Avignon, the boat was located so close to our hotel
that this idea seemed doable.
As Marla had predicted, the hotel turned out to be about a
15-minute walk away. Back in the old days when people
carried their luggage, a walk this long would have been
unthinkable. But thanks to the brilliant idea of putting
wheels on luggage, this walk was no big deal.
I think the next morning eight or nine of us took advantage
of the convenience and walked to the ship, saving $15 and
getting some fresh air in the process. I enjoyed it because
it was an adventure. It was fun participating in the luggage
wagon train although some of the locals stared at us like we
You know, walking isn't such a bad thing. At the end of the
trip, I did it again. I walked from the boat to the train
station. Yes, I took my sweet time. And why not? I had four
hours between disembarking the riverboat and the train to
Paris. My walk took me 30 minutes. So what? I got more
exercise than anyone else and I saved another $15 in the
People ask why I walk so much. Wouldn't a cab be so much
easier? I tell them the truth - I could afford the cab, but
this is how I stay in shape. Walking more allows me to dance
It also allows me to enjoy exploring new places on cruise
trips, especially one like this Rhône river cruise where the
towns are so conveniently close to the docking point. At
several ports during the trip, I simply walked off the ship
and roamed around for a while. I enjoyed this feature of the
Meanwhile, I had begun to wonder what the ship was doing
here a day early. We weren't scheduled to board till
tomorrow. I decided to go in and have a closer look.
A highway running alongside the river separated the boat
from the wall. As I crossed the highway using a convenient
tunnel, I was naturally curious about our ship. Or was it a
boat? The ocean cruise people are very touchy on this
subject. To them, it is a ship. Don't call it a 'boat'!!
Considering the immense size of the modern cruise liners, I
am quite willing to agree with them on the ship versus boat
issue. However, as I stared at the Viking Hermod (named for
a Norse God), it seemed more like a boat to me. A long one,
to be sure, but a boat nevertheless.
The boat was situated at most about 400 yards outside the
walled city of Avignon. As I crossed the highway, I noticed
a crewman from the ship out on the sidewalk smoking a
cigarette. He didn't pay a bit of attention to me as I
passed. I idly wondered if he was in charge of security
because I didn't see anyone posted in front of the ship.
Now I was close enough to look through the windows from the
sidewalk. I noticed there were plenty of guests already on
board. My first thought was that some of the guests on our
trip had been allowed to come on a day early. If so, why
weren't Marla and I invited? Who are those people and what
are they doing there? Hmm.
I gave it some thought and realized this was the LAST DAY of
the trip for the previous week of guests. Now it made
sense. These people would be departing in the morning to
make room for our group. Now I figured it out. Unlike ocean
cruises that make a round trip voyage, a river trip goes
only one way.
To date, only my Panama Cruise trip had a similar feature.
We sailed out of Los Angeles and ended up in Florida. But I
imagine all river cruises are one way trips. These people
had boarded in Chalon a week ago in northern France and
headed south. Tomorrow we would board in Avignon located
near the Mediterranean Sea and head north.
By chance, I already had my Hermod ID tag in my wallet. It
wasn't part of any deliberate planning, but since I had it,
why not try to bluster my way on board and have a preview
sightsee? I couldn't see the harm of a quick peek, so I
walked to the ramp up ahead.
The ramp stretched about 30 feet from the boat to the
sidewalk. It was interesting to notice that the Hermod and the
Avignon highway were only about 20 yards apart. That would
certainly be convenient for the people arriving by taxi…
they could walk straight from their car to the boat.
That's when I imagined this unpretentious docking area under
the trees had likely been in use for the past 2,500 years.
Surely the use of this vital water artery dated back to the
days of the Roman Empire and earlier.
occurred to me that
the Walled City of Avignon was built where it was primarily
because it was located next to the Rhône.
I laughed at myself. Earlier I had thought it was a nice
coincidence to find the river so close to the Walled City.
Now I realized it was no coincidence at all. Duh.
Back in the 14th century, seven different Popes had ruled
the Holy Roman Church from Avignon. In fact, now that I
looked, there was the gigantic Papal Palace looming high
over the ramparts in the distance. I would get to visit this
enormous building later in the week.
Back in the days before cars and airplanes, I imagine they
used boats as the major source of transportation.
Surely any time someone in Rome wanted to visit the Pope in
France, they took a boat down Rome's Tiber River to the
Mediterranean, sailed along the Ligurian Coast (think French
Riviera) past Genoa, Monaco and Marseilles, and then sailed
up the Rhône and docked exactly where I was standing now. I
suppose the trip took two or three days. Not fast by
today's standards, but at least it was
I smiled. In Houston, I never get the idea I am walking on
historic ground. However, it didn't take much of an
imagination to see Roman soldiers standing in this very
spot. Serving under Caesar during
his conquest of Gaul, I would
suppose a number of legionnaires would be posted here to
guard their boat against barbarian attack.
Speaking of guards, I was suddenly snapped out of my
reverie. Now that I had reached the ramp, I realized it was
unguarded. Well, since there was no one to stop me, what the
So I walked up the ramp. To my complete surprise, there was
no one guarding the front door either. No one. No Roman
soldiers to protect Caesar, no Swiss guards to assure the
Pope's safety, and no one to protect the guests from me
This meant ANYONE could walk in, good guys, bad guys or
even a weirdo wandering waldo like me.
Any bum, wino, terrorist, robber, barbarian, Jack the
Ripper, or nosy tourist could board with complete ease.
I was indignant. What was the reason for this total
breakdown in security?
Now I stepped inside the door expecting an alarm or
something to go off. Maybe there was a person manning a
closed-circuit TV. I wasn't worried. The moment I produced
my Viking ID tag, I was sure anyone's concern would vaporize
But no one appeared to confront me. Oh well, it seemed like
I was free to walk about the ship, so I did.
The first thing I did was walk to the other side. The ship
is long, but it is also narrow. To my surprise, there was a
second riverboat docked on the other side. It was sitting
parallel to the Hermod. The ships were at most two feet
apart. These two boats were sharing the same dock. I
realized to get to this other boat, which was owned by the
Swiss river cruise line Scylla, its guests would have to
cross the Hermod. Now that was weird.
This open-door policy was disconcerting to say the least. I
really couldn't see Royal Caribbean letting Carnival
passengers use its ship in the same way.
Now I turned around and walked into the lounge. There were
about 20 people milling around having a drink. They all
seemed friendly enough. I noticed the men weren't dressed
any better than I was. Like me, the men had on jeans and
casual shirts. Marla had told me Viking encouraged casual
dress; these men had obviously taken the Viking philosophy
I remember being amused by this. While the ocean
liners sell a form of Titanic-style High Society with their
Formal dress nights, these river boats go the opposite
direction. Despite the fact that their guests are typically
very affluent people, a person who shops regularly at Target
or Walmart wouldn't feel out of place.
In fact, I had to raise an eyebrow at the clothes some of
these guys were wearing. What a bunch of old bums. There
wasn't a well-dressed guy in the whole crowd. If someone
asked my opinion… which people should because I have an
opinion on everything… I would say these were the kind of
old guys who have reached the point in life where they
didn't give a darn what people think of their appearance.
Well, good. I had accidentally worn the perfect camouflage.
I looked just like they did. What a coincidence.
Then I noticed all the men had grey hair... except for a
couple vain enough to color it. And most of them
had forgotten to comb their hair as well. Hmm, I had accidentally
developed the perfect disguise as well. Hey, I fit right
On the other hand, I imagine after a week of seeing the same
190 people day in and day out, they might notice a new face.
After all, on a cruise ship with 6,000 guests, one can
expect a certain degree of anonymity. But not on a river
After sharing 3 meals a day and 4 hours of daily excursions
with the same 190 people for a week, you would assume a new
face would stick out like a sore thumb, especially a
handsome one like mine.
And surely they would have noticed me if they were in a mood
to pay attention. No one cared. No one's suspicion was even
remotely triggered by my illegal presence. Good grief. As I
wandered around, I almost felt insulted. Had I become
invisible or something?
I walked around and couldn't even rate a glance. A terrible
thought crossed my mind. Maybe I wasn't as handsome as I
thought I was. Perish the thought.
Since the guests weren't interested in me, I decided to walk
around some more. I found a cappuccino self-serve spot
complete with cookies and croissants. Why not? It said
self-serve, so I helped myself.
I wanted to do at least one rotten thing before leaving, so
stealing a couple cookies was about the best my imagination
could come up with.
Eventually I gave up trying to get in trouble, so I walked
back off the ship. No one was there to say goodbye to me
"Cognitive dissonance" is a highfaluting term for the mental
discomfort an individual experiences when two contradictory
ideas butt heads at the same time. At this moment, I was
deeply cognitive dissonant.
I had been led to believe by my 30 previous cruise trips
that expensive cruise ships need to be guarded at all times
from attack by Jamaican drug dealers, Somali pirates, and
Jimmy Buffet deadheads looking for a free Buffet buffet.
Yet at this very moment, I was witnessing a dangerous
no-security situation. This very expensive riverboat which
carried a bunch of well-heeled passengers disguised as old
guys had no defense against an intruder like me. What gives here?
And that's when a strange thought raced through my mind. For
a moment there, I believed I had finally deciphered the river boat
security plan. By disguising these wealthy old farts as
Walmart-shopping bums, any burglar would see that robbing
these guys would be a waste of time and simply leave. What a
Only one problem - some of the women were wearing very
attractive jewelry. Oh no. Dead giveaway. Obviously a "guy"
had come up with this idea. There was a real flaw in
Truth be told, my scouting mission had raised my eyebrows.
I was an intruder and no one had a clue. No
guards at the door, no ID check, no metal detector, and a
laid back attitude.
This stood in stark contrast to what I am used to.
I am used to maximum security on the ocean cruise ships
equivalent to Texas prisons. I am serious. All cruise ships
have several armed guards at the entrance complete with
walkie-talkies and the kind of grim, frowning faces
typically associated with trigger-happy concealed gun
carriers in a grocery store... you know, the kind of people
who will shoot you dead if you accidentally pop a champagne
Not the Hermod.
As I wandered around the Hermod, based on
what I had learned today,
I could have
Zulu warrior on board
guys would have never known. [Sure enough, as it turned out, when I
boarded the ship the next day, they didn't check my
was amazed at the philosophy of actually trusting the
passengers. It blew my mind. But
that is what they did.
Ocean cruise ships clearly do not trust their passengers.
They take the opposite philosophy of Viking. And why
to say, the ocean cruise liners do have a reason to keep
their guard up. On 7 October 1985, four members of the
Palestine Liberation Front took control of the cruise ship
Achille Lauro off Egypt as she was sailing from
Alexandria to Port Said.
Holding the passengers and crew hostage, they directed the
vessel to sail to Syria and demanded the release of 50
Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. After being refused
permission to dock in Syria, the hijackers killed a disabled
Jewish-American passenger and then threw his body overboard.
The ship then headed back towards Port Said. After two
days of negotiations, the hijackers agreed to abandon the
liner in exchange for safe conduct. They were flown towards
Tunisia aboard an Egyptian commercial airliner. This plane,
however, was intercepted by US fighter aircraft and directed
to land in Sicily, where the hijackers were arrested and
later tried for murder.
While this horrible incident from 30 years ago is largely
forgotten by most people, I have no doubt the scars from the
experience have forced ocean liners to be paranoid ever
since. I am sure the events of 9-11 contributed to the
tension as well.
the ocean liners are so worried about security, they don't
just check once, they check twice!
On ocean cruises, I always have to go through two different
The process starts outside the ship. Usually they make
stand in a building or some perimeter point under a tent. The
guards are typically local people obviously selected due to
their innate tendency towards rudeness.
They make me take off my sunglasses to compare my face to my
ID badge. Then they make me take off my hat to be sure
there's no marijuana hidden in there. I hate taking off my
hat because usually my hair is disgusting. But what
choice do I have?
After the perimeter check, then we go stand in another line
to get back on the ship. This line is a little
quicker, but it still takes 5-10 minutes. I will be
honest... on certain days after some of the more vigorous
excursions, it tries my patience to go through this double
process. But I suppose it is necessary.
conclusion is that right now the river cruise industry is
still living in the Garden of Eden. They are able to
let their guard down because no evil has surfaced to date.
But let the right snake come along and the situation could
change in a flash.
worry someday there will be an incident on a river boat.
I certainly hope not. The river cruise approach is so
much gentler on the spirit. But in this crazy modern
world, it just takes one monster to change everything.
A good example would be the 2001 airline shoe bomber.
Here it is 2014 and the entire world is still taking their
shoes off at airports. Or we could have the riverboat
equivalent of the Achille Lauro story.
contrast in the riverboat strategy was the no-frills
approach. I have already remarked about the relaxed
dress code and the time-saving "trust" approach to boarding
Even something as simple as the ramp that led from
the sidewalk to the riverboat was different. It was boring. It lacked fan
fare. No trumpets. All we did was just walk up the ramp.
Not cruise ships. Oh, baby, trust me, cruise ships make
coming and going really special. There's usually a band outside
playing music. Mariachi bands, Reggae-Calypso steel drums or Scottish
bagpipes, you name it, it's a festive atmosphere.
They always take your picture at boarding time. This is an
exciting time for me because some local girl is typically
clad in an authentic low cut pirate outfit. This girl is
just dying to have her picture taken with me.
Considering her enthusiasm to be in a picture with me is so
intense, it is the highlight of my day.
Not this river boat. As I walk up the steps, no one is there to take my picture. I
cannot begin to share the depths of my disappointment.
This relaxed approach can get old really fast. How am
I supposed to feel important?
Another thing I miss are the boat tenders. There are no tender boats on a river cruise.
This is very upsetting because I love tender rides so much!
And I love standing in line waiting for them as well.
what is a tender?
on an ocean cruise they let you take a fun boat ride to and from the ship. A tender is a boat that holds 100-200
people; it ferries cruise passengers from the island or
mainland back to the ship docked a mile off shore.
problem is that some of the modern cruise ships are built
so large that the water at the pier isn't deep enough for
these behemoths to dock at shore. So they have to sit out in
This is a real break for the passengers. Now they get to
experience a Disney-style fun boat ride from ship to shore
and then another great trip at the end of the day from shore to ship.
And, just like at Disneyworld, the lines to get on these
tenders are very long. And that's the way it should be!!
Everyone knows the most popular rides have long lines.
cannot begin to express the disappointment I felt at the
thought that there would be no tendering on this trip.
The pain of this loss was palpable; my tender tender feelings were
Another baffling difference between the ocean cruise and the
river cruise is the check-in process. Believe it or
not, I never even checked in. When I entered the boat,
no one said a word to me. I was about to ask at the desk,
but a lady saw us and asked if we wanted to put our luggage
in our room. Marla and I stared at each other in shock
- typically we don't get our luggage on a cruise ship until
many hours later. But this was different.
Marla already knew our room number so the lady took us straight
to our room. While I unpacked, Marla went to check us
in. She was back in five minutes [one should note a
similar process on the Hawaii 2013 cruise took over an
asked Marla when we were going to get our pictures taken for
our photo ID. Marla shrugged. "I don't know, Rick, but I get
the impression they don't take pictures of the guests."
What?!?!? No ID picture?
First the lonely ramp. Then no one to take my picture.
Then no one at the front door. Then no check-in
procedure. And now I learn that no one will be taking
my picture for an ID badge.
my face wasn't even on my ID badge, anybody could pretend to be me. What if I
wanted to buy something?
Marla said they just write down your room number. OMG,
there's that trust thing again. Good lord, weren't
these boat people worried about anything? Apparently not.
This blew my mind
AGAIN. My cognitive dissonance was at a peak
level. Won't someone please check my ID badge for crying out
loud? Why even bother to give me one?
have to say my first experience of Viking was unusual.
Their approach to the cruise business was so radically
different than what I was used to that I found myself
shaking my head.
be honest, I liked what they did a lot. But I admit I was
surprised at how flustered I was by the differences.
Marla's 2014 river cruise along
France's Rhône and Saône rivers delivered everything exactly
as promised. This was our chance to relax and watch the
world pass by.
Every day after lunch Marla and I would go out to the front
From here we would view the tree-lined banks of the river,
the magnificent Alps in the distance, the rolling hills,
vineyards, châteaus, cathedrals, ancient castles, and
modern-day million-dollar estates. There was not a single
stretch during the entire seven day span where the view was
Sue, Eileen, Marla, Rick, Marsha,
Linda, Paula, Ann, Leslie, Fran, Roz, and Larry
As we drove up, we had no idea what
was hiding behind that wall
Once we got inside that wall, Wow!
What a beautiful place. I enjoyed watching the father
help his son blow a giant bubble
The boat symbol was not very
noticeable, but there it is.
red star marks where our hotel was. Look for the huge
Papal Palace at the top of the map. It was just down
the street. As for our boat, it was all of 600 yards
away from our hotel, less than half a mile.
Rolling the luggage from the hotel to the river boat.
Here is the restaurant where we had dinner
in the town square.
In the background notice the sign for 'Hôtel de
is a good view of the highway and the ramparts protecting
the Old Town
of Avignon. Notice how easy it is to get to the ship.
A taxi has just dropped some passengers. The ramp is
10 feet away. There is no luggage inspection and
check-in takes 5 minutes.
was my first look at our boat obscured by
the trees. Do you see anyone standing in front of the
can see some of the passengers enjoying the evening out on the Aquavit, an
outdoor deck perfect for viewing the river. Inside
those windows I could see other people milling about in the
see anyone watching the front door? Me neither.
"Scylla" is the name of a Swiss riverboat company.
This ship was docked parallel to the Hermod. To get to
this boat from the shore, one would have to first walk
through the Hermod like I did.
appearances go, women seem to still care, but not the men
this picture as I wandered around the ship. As one can
gather, no one paid me the slightest bit of attention.
They had an intruder in their midst and they didn't care.
The Viking ethic of trusting the passengers was intriguing
to say the least. Compare that to the normal situation
on an ocean cruise. Here is a
picture of a drug-sniffing dog checking out the passenger
luggage before it is loaded on. Besides the use of the
dogs, many pieces of luggage are opened and inspected.
Leslie and Marla wheeling their luggage to the riverboat.
It is so much fun to take a tender!! Gosh, I missed
this special feature so much on our river cruise
Banana told me how upset she was that no one was taking her
picture upon arrival, so I helped her out.
That's Velma down there. She is already checked in.
Meanwhile Marsha, Leslie, and Eileen have just finished the
5 minute check-in
On top of
the world in Vienne. Notice the Rhone River below as it
curves through town.
Velma, Emily, Marla, Rick, Susanne,
Deanne, Judy, Bonnie top row/ Eileen, Ann, Linda, Paula, Meredith, Tom, Mike, Sarah, Roz,
Larry bottom row.
River Cruise Overview Part II
I had been
disconcerted by the Viking approach to security. This
was only the beginning.
There would be other disconcerting features that jarred my
mind. For example, the staff on this boat completely blew
the all-important life boat drill.
At first, I was happy when they announced the drill. It is
one of my favorite activities. At least, thank goodness,
they have a mandatory life boat drill on this riverboat.
Finally a display of professionalism. It was about time.
They told us to carry our life jacket all the way to the top
of the boat. Because I am an expert thanks to 30 previous
cruise trips, I knew something was wrong right from the
start. There was no one in an orange jacket and a whistle
stationed at the stairs to point us which way to go. Marla
and I had to find the way all by ourselves, but thanks to
our vast experience, we found the roof.
The drill was so boring. First some young lady checked our
cabin number, then she asked us to put our life jacket on.
Yes, she actually made us actually do it once. She wouldn't
even take our word for it that we already knew how to put on a life
jacket thanks to our vast experience.
After Marla and I demonstrated our competence, she smiled
and said we could leave. I was baffled. That's it? That's
all there is?
I felt so cheated. This process took 3 minutes tops.
Frowning, I couldn't believe it was over. The last time I
went through this on a cruise ship, I had to go to the
dining room and watch an elaborate 30-minute video on a
giant screen. Now that was an impressive way to run a
Now here on the river boat, I could barely
contain my disappointment at this pathetic 3 minute drill.
Everyone who knows me well knows the lifeboat drill is my
favorite part of every cruise trip.
Even worse, as I prepared to walk back to my cabin, I nearly
had a heart attack. There I was in the middle of the
staircase when it suddenly dawned on me that these
staff people had failed to show me where the life boat was.
This was serious.
I knew the Hermod was a new boat. This trip was only the
fourth trip the crew had ever taken. By forgetting to show
me where the life boat was, their lack of experience was
blatantly clear. Obviously this staff was deeply in need of
I excused myself from Marla and rushed back to the roof. I
looked everywhere. There was no visible life boat! Where did
these numbskulls hide it? Now that is criminal. Hiding a
life boat could cost lives!
Angry, I confronted some Swedish girl. "Where's the life
"I'm sorry, sir, we don't have one. Our boat has to fit
through tight river locks and go under low bridges. There is
no place to store a life
boat. I think we have a few inflatables downstairs
I was shocked. No life boat? What if there is an accident?
What if we hit an iceberg in the river? OMG, this was
another Titanic just waiting to happen! My life was in
The pretty blonde Swedish girl smiled. "Well, sir, if you
can't swim, then simply put your life jacket on and jump
overboard. You can come up to the roof if you wish to jump
from here or you can jump from a balcony if you have one."
The pretty girl paused, and then continued, "Typically the
shore is usually about 20-30 feet away. If you can swim, you
won't even need your life jacket. In fact, sometimes we are
so close to shore you might even be able to wade to safety.
However, no matter what you do, I apologize, but you'll
probably get wet. But at least you will be alive."
"What about hypothermia? Won't I freeze to death?"
"I imagine you will be uncomfortable, but even in the worst
cold weather at Christmas time, you have over an hour to
make it to shore before your body gives up the fight. If you
get your life jacket on properly, I suppose it will take
five minutes max to paddle to shore."
"What if the boat sinks?" I asked.
"I wouldn't worry about that. But even if that happens, then
the top of the boat will probably still be above water.
These rivers aren't as deep as you might think. In fact, now
that I think of it, you could probably just stand here on
the roof and wait to be rescued. That way you wouldn't have
to get wet."
Now the young lady just smiled at me. I suppose she was
curious what my next intelligent question might be.
"Are you trying to tell me there isn't much danger?"
She smiled. "No, sir, there isn't much danger. You might
lose your shoes in the water. That's something you can worry
about if you wish."
No security! No lines to wait in! No metal detector! No
decent life boat drill! And no life boat either!
What a shoddy operation.
Sad to say, these initial observations were omens screaming
to be noticed. They hinted at all sorts of troubling things
to come. Boy, was I right about that!!
One of the things that first attracted me to the river
cruise idea was the promise of daily excursions. And sure
enough, there were daily excursions. They were all free.
Viking advertised the various day trips as "learning
experiences". And in one town, Viviers, they had a spooky midnight walk as well.
We did not cross the path of a single soul the entire walk,
but I am sure I saw shadows moving on the perimeter.
And the weird trees were something out the Legend of Sleepy
It didn't help
that several black cats crossed our path. Complete
with a glowing full moon, the evening had a definite
Halloween feel to it.
noticed the people in our group were edgy and looking over
low into the microphone,
"Do not worry about the vampires, in this town they drink
red wine, not blood."
We were too
afraid to laugh.
am at the back of the ship. Do you see any sign of a
life boat? Well, neither did I.
shore here is probably 200 feet away. The river was at
its widest at the start of the trip. When we got
further north, it wasn't nearly as far to shore.
is an example of the distance to shore on the final day of
the trip. The shore here was about 30 feet away.
Fearsome Foursome... Paula, Ann, Linda, Sue
midnight stroll through the town of Viviers was seriously
However, in the
town of Arles, we did manage to have a very good laugh.
But first a little bit about Vincent Van Gogh.
The small town
of Arles in southern France is famous for its time as the
brief home of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.
genius led a miserable life. During his final two
years, Van Gogh moved to Arles. He hoped for refuge at
a time when he was ill from drink and suffering from
Once he moved to
the south of France, his art was influenced by the strong
sunlight he found here. His work grew brighter in color, and
he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that
became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.
Many art experts
say the best work of Van Gogh's life took place here in
Arles. Indeed, this was a very prolific period for
him. He drew many of his best-known paintings during
his two year stay. During our visit to the town and to
the mental hospital he later lived at, we saw many examples
of the various local places he used as backdrops for his
After years of
painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, Van
Gogh died in the fields outside the mental hospital from a
gunshot wound. His death is generally accepted to be
self-inflicted although no gun was ever found. Perhaps
he found someone willing to pull the trigger and put him out
of his misery.
Only 37 at the
time, Van Gogh's work was then known to only a handful of
people and appreciated by fewer still.
I noticed most
of the group shaking their heads in sympathy. What a
shame that this great artist had so few moments of true
happiness. Still, none of us wanted any part of his
destiny. He was the "Michael Jackson" of his day -
gifted, yet miserable.
We all agreed we
would far rather lead normal happy lives than die a
discontented genius haunted by mental demons.
Our guide Joanna
used her wireless microphone to talk about Arles and the
life of Van Gogh.
system worked extraordinarily well. Each night Marla
and I would charge our units at a charging station in our
room. The receiver unit had a strap we hung around our
neck and a small cord that allowed us to hear through the
The distance and
the quality was exceptional. I could hear Joanna speak
from at least 50 yards away.
An odd feature
of the wireless system was the ability to hear two people at
the same time. With one ear I could listen to the tour
guide. Then someone could ask me a question and I
could hear them perfectly well using my other ear.
That feature made it convenient for whispered conversations.
system led to a very unusual event during our visit to
Arles. A day earlier Marla had made a point to track
down Matthew, the program leader. Marla asked him if
he could put her SSQQ group together on the various
excursions if possible.
courteous and helpful man, said he would do his best.
At that point, Marla and I moved on to something else.
By the next
morning, I had completely forgotten about the conversation.
All I knew was that I was still tired from the long walk
Marla, Fran, Marsha and I had taken at Avignon the previous
ridiculous. We were just two days into the trip and I
was already pooped out. And judging from the
expressions, so was everyone else who got on the bus.
Trust me, these Viking people are serious about delivering a
Viking has a
marvelous bus set-up. It currently runs three
different ships on the Rhone River each week. In fact,
we passed the sister ship one day. Consequently Viking
has purchased an entire fleet of buses. These buses
travel up and down the highway that runs parallel to the
Rhone and are made available to any of the groups that need
a bus ride.
explained it can be complicated juggling the buses between
the three riverboats. Some stops required buses, some
stops didn't... those people could just walk into town.
The secret was to get the buses to which particular boat
needed a bus ride.
Whatever their system was, it worked just fine. We
never had a moment's wait when the buses were involved.
buses have the capacity to transport 190 guests, but not
everyone went on every trip so there were always a few empty
Each day we had three buses of 50-60 people. There six guides;
each tour group had 25-30 people.
We needed the
buses for our visit to Arles. As I got on, I noticed
several people from Marla's group were on the same bus with
us. Marla's group
numbered 30, but I only noticed 10 or 15 familiar faces.
Out of the sixty people on the bus, there were more
unfamiliar faces than there were familiar faces. So I
assumed the missing members of our group were on a different
bus and assigned to a different group. The bottom line
is I didn't give it much thought one way or the other.
After our tour
guide Joanna finished showing us the bull ring, she led us
through the streets of Arles to another location. It turned
out Joanna had brought us to a former hospital were Van Gogh
briefly stayed after he famously severed his own ear.
He was later moved to the mental hospital out in the
We were treated
to the view of a lovely courtyard. It was very pretty,
but I was a bit preoccupied. At this particular
moment, I had just realized that everyone
in this courtyard was part of Marla's group. Matthew
had confused me by putting two groups on the bus. When we got off the
bus, our group went with Joanna while another group went
with a different guide. I guess I was tired because it
had taken me over an hour to notice Matthew had done
exactly what Marla asked him to.
returned to Joanna. She explained that Van Gogh had
drawn a picture of this courtyard. Once I heard that,
my hand quickly reached to my pocket to pull out the camera.
I wasn't alone. I noted that everyone in the group
obediently pulled out their cameras and started taking
As we snapped
away, Joanna pointed out the likely spot where Van Gogh had
been sitting to paint the picture. She said there were
enough exact landmarks left to make an educated guess.
Now it occurred
to me this might be a nice opportunity to take a group
picture. However, Joanna was still talking. So I
pulled the three nearest people aside - Marla, Fran, and
Marsha - and asked them if they would quietly pass the word
to meet at the fountain area in the middle when Joanna was
My fear was that
we would be expected to leave immediately, so I wanted to
let people know in advance to meet in the middle.
I reminded each
lady to be discrete since Joanna was still talking and I
didn't wish to be rude. So my trusty lieutenants fanned
out among the crowd to begin the whispering campaign.
Five minutes later, Joanna concluded her talk.
That was the cue
everyone had been waiting for. At this point, the
entire group began silently walking from all different
directions towards the center of
the courtyard. As people strode to the center, the
blank look on their faces made them appear as if they were
under some sort of alien mind control. Joanna's eyes grew wide at our
behavior. The woman was completely dumbstruck;
her mouth dropped in confusion.
Without realizing her
microphone was still on, Joanna began to babble to herself
mostly in English, but partially in French.
Every one of us
could hear her speaking to herself in befuddlement.
"Mais oui, but what is this? What are they doing?
These people, huh, I think they are behaving in an organized
manner. Mon dieu, why are they collecting together?
Is there another voice here? Do these people know each
other? Is there another leader who is unidentified?
These people are surely responding to another authority.
What is taking place??"
By now, everyone
had reached the middle. We all stopped and looked at
Joanna who was freaking out like someone who has just seen a
flash mob assemble out of nowhere.
I will never
forget the look of astonishment on the lady's face. It took
Joanna more than a moment to collect herself. She had no
idea her entire group knew each other. We got a good
laugh out of her confusion, then explained what was going
Joanna was embarrassed once she realized the entire group
had overheard her furiously speaking out loud to herself in
consternation. The poor woman turned crimson red.
I think at first she thought we had played a practical joke
on her, that we were somehow trying to trick her.
However, once we
made it clear what had happened, she began to calm down.
It was a harmless misunderstanding. Joanna had no idea
we all knew each other. She was used to her guests
coming in pairs or foursomes, not large groups.
I found myself
grinning over how we had inadvertently set the poor woman up
for the shock. Our
spontaneous and perfectly coordinated movement had taken her
totally off guard.
Joanna could not
for the life of her figure out what was going on. I will never forget her bewildered
look. No doubt she thought the ghost of Vincent Van
Gogh had turned us into puppets.
with the Fearsome Foursome, Sue, Linda, Paula, Ann.
Look how pretty they are together!! Great
is a Roman amphitheater. Considering it is 2,000 years
old, it is in marvelous condition. Our guide Joanna is
explaining that it is used as a bull fighting venue these
days. The picture is too small to see, but Joanna is
speaking into a wireless microphone and everyone in the
group is listening via their ear phones. The wireless
system worked to perfection. I heard the guides loud
has a fleet of buses that alternate between three different
boats floating along the Rhone and Saone rivers
walked right past this outdoor cafe in Arles.
of the Hospital at Arles by Vincent Van Gogh
A look at
Van Gogh's courtyard today.
the strange parade began, we were all spread out on the
sidewalk to the right. When 20 people wordlessly began
to walk to the center at the same time, Joanna was
SSQQ Flash Mob!!
Leslie, Donna, Eileen, Georgia, Fran, Marsha, Ann, Larry,
Roz, Velma, Emily, Marla, Rick, Sue, Paula, Linda, Bonnie,
Château des Baux
Now don't get me wrong; the Viking people did their job
well. Every day without fail there was another great excursion.
Some locations we walked to, other locations required a bus.
They were always prompt and they always delivered what they
promised. Their guides were excellent, the locations
But it was too much. And when I say "too much", they gave us
far too much for our money. It's like giving someone
too much turkey at Thanksgiving or too many presents at
Christmas. Viking should know better not to be so
excessive in its treats.
Do you have any idea how tiring it is to go on 7 excursions
in 7 days? I mean, really now. There is a limit to how much
education and experience a human being can take.
vineyards, Roman ruins, statues, gardens, art museums,
fashion districts, insane asylums,
sidewalk cafes, hilltop vistas, palaces, and even a
chocolate factory… it was just too much activity.
You know what?
I haven't even told you about Les Baux. Château des
Baux is a castle with a charming medieval village built
high atop a cliff in southern France. The chapel and
buildings in the mountain aerie are perfectly preserved.
Les Baux is an
exquisite paradise both above and below. From above,
one can see the beautiful estates on the valley floor.
The valley is
situated inside a box canyon. It is
surrounded on three sides by mountain walls, one of which
supports the castle. This box canyon affords tremendous
privacy and accentuates the beauty of the area.
Wherever the eye can see, there is nothing but beauty above,
below, and beyond.
From what I
gather, the castle atop the mountain is only a shell of its
former self. It was so powerful that King Louis XIII
decided he didn't want to take the chance of an enemy
gaining possession and establishing a power base in this
So he tore most
of it down. What a shame.
You want to know
something funny? I didn't even realize there was a
castle at this place until I wrote this story. Our guide never took us up there
and the shops on the level where we visited
obscured my view of the top. I noticed there were some trails
going up, but I assumed they led to some lookout point.
I was curious
about those trails,
of course, but the guide said time to go. Oh well.
My point is that
when given all the time in the world to explore a place like
France, there is never enough time.
And even when
given the time, I swear I didn't have the energy to
appreciate it all!! This was the trip where I learned
that it is truly possible to overdose on pleasure.
picture does not begin to do justice to beauty of the
valley. These homes were valuable estates with beautiful
landscaping. It is a real paradise down there.
Incidentally, that highway is elevated to preserve the
beauty. People in the valley don't even see the
picture was taken from the top of an imposing cliff.
To figure out where I stood when I took this picture, take
note of the chapel, the wall and the two thin trees.
Using these clues, you should be able to locate this
viewpoint in the larger picture below.
Whining and Dining
Go here, go there, learn this, learn that, see this, see
that, taste this, taste that. OMG. After a while, it became
such a blur that I could barely tell a church from a castle.
Just show me where I can sit down.
Here again, the ocean cruise people know what they are
doing. The human mind can only tolerate so much culture. By
interspersing an occasional port call with several
Bingo-filled days at sea, people have a legitimate chance to vegetate.
That's what I'm talking about.
I can imagine
the Viking business plan might appeal to intelligent people
with a deep thirst for knowledge, but count me out.
This trip made it obvious to me I am unable to absorb so
many powerful experiences.
The meals were another place where Viking really overplayed
their hand. They had the worst idea I have ever seen - a
neverending cascade of wine.
Can you believe they serve wine at every meal? And it's
free! They just bring it to you over and over and over
again. It gets so monotonous having all this wine to drink.
I suppose I could have turned it down, but that would not
have been polite.
I mean, seriously, half the fun of drinking alcohol at meals on a
cruise is "the Game". At each meal, some exotic Russian girl
will come to my
table and interrupt whatever I am doing so she can
persuade me in her deeply sexy foreign accent to buy a
drink. If I show any interest at all, she turns on the
I love having some sexy From Russia With Love lady come to my
table and beg me to buy a drink from her. "Oooh, Mister
Rick, Vould you like me to bring you some delishish Wodka tonight?? Wodka shot make you feel very gude inside."
Oh, Ekaterina, please say it again! It is always such
a treat to listen to her cool accent.
Not these guys. They make drinking boring.
The entire trip, they simply stuck the wine in front of our noses without
And the selection was pitiful. Instead of a huge wine list
of 100, our only choice was between white and red. Just 2
I definitely think it was wrong to serve wine at lunch time.
Viking was taking a terrible risk. What if the guests drank
too much and got a little fuzzy wuzzy in the brain if you
know what I mean? Some of us weren't exactly spring
Sure enough, too
much wine and every afternoon turned into rocking chair time
for some people. We all went out to the front deck and found our comfy
It was time for Marla and I to watch the world pass
by… trees and hills and bridges and water birds, beautiful
estates, mooing cows and friendly cyclists waving to us from
shore… so idyllic!!
But soon enough people began to doze. Maybe I was one of
them. All this beauty and
here I am sleeping. Pathetic.
When I awoke,
I felt so cheated. It's like paying good money to see a
movie and sleeping through it. I blame the Viking people for
giving me that wine at lunch. This was their fault. They
made me miss seeing those cows.
Not an ocean cruise. They make people pay for their booze at
lunch time! And that's the way it should be. No naps for
their customers. They want their people to stay awake so they can
gamble or play afternoon bingo!!
That reminds me - there was
no bingo on this trip. What a rip!
Gosh, I cannot begin to
say how much I missed the daily bingo announcements telling when the next bingo game was coming.
Here's another thing I didn't like about the wine. I didn't
trust it. Normally when I drink too much wine, I get a
headache. I didn't get a single headache on the trip. Not
one. Trust me, I tried as hard as I could to get a headache.
That's how I know when I have been drinking too much.
But this wine
didn't stop me from drinking one time. I came to the
educated conclusion there was something wrong with the wine
they used. What other explanation could there be?
Another thing that bothered me about the wine was the
endless conversation. You have no idea how much people begin
to talk when they have had too much wine. It's terrible.
Many of these conversations made me
uncomfortable. I couldn't
believe it. Due
to those daily overdoses of vino, people began to open up to
me. They told me their life stories. They told me personal
stuff that seemed to matter to them. Good lord, I had to
remember how to listen!! It's been so long. When was the last time I had people tell me
sensitive things about their lives
on a cruise trip? Probably never.
I so much prefer superficial conversation on ocean cruise
trips. I like to talk about how calm the water is and the
temperature outside and which beaches have the most sand.
Otherwise I risk getting emotionally involved with people
which can lead to friendship. Not me. No friendships. I
don't want any lingering attachments when I return home or I
run the risk of missing people.
Here's another thing. There was too much laughter. Oh, it
I have never heard so much laughter on any cruise trip.
Never. It was awful.
One of the beauties of an ocean cruise dinner are the
constant interruptions. There is an endless stream of
distractions. First there are the pretty drink girls
who drop by the table to sell their Wodka. Then there
are the photographers who make everyone
at the table smile with their mouths full of food.
Then come the
dancing waiters, a real crowd pleaser. And to top it off,
there's Mr. Zee the Maitre Dee who babbles over the
loud speaker at every meal to ask if everyone is having a
great time. And of course the real highlight is listening to
all those foreign waiters singing Italian love songs off
The neat thing
about these distractions is that they suppress intelligent
conversation. I appreciate this immensely.
Gee whiz, there was not a single
interruption at dinner time on this river cruise!
Trust me, I paid attention. I notice these things.
When the conversation got a little serious for me, how I
longed for Mr. Zee the Maitre Dee to make some sort of
announcement and ruin the train of thought.
But no luck.
The waiters poured the wine and served the food and left us
alone. I barely knew how to behave when the conversation
ceased to be superficial.
For seven straight days, there were no interruptions. It was awful, just awful. The
people at the table just kept talking and talking and
talking and I had no choice but to listen.
And you know what
People cried. I am completely serious. Sometimes it was
sorrow, sometimes there were tears of happiness. At some
point or another, practically everyone at the table cried
about something right in front of everyone else.
I was so disgusted to see these people let down their guard
like that. Surely you understand what I am trying to say.
Let that be a lesson to all of you.
Without interruptions, there is always a risk that the
conversation might become much too deep or much too fun.
It might not happen the first night or the second night, but
when this kind of behavior is allowed to take place for 7
straight nights, the table begins to function as if it was a
"family". Is that just not the worst thing ever?
know the reader completely agrees with me.
Basketball coaches have a great solution to this problem.
When the other team is playing well, a time-out interrupts
the momentum. The more interruptions, the harder it is for a
basketball team to get into any kind of rhythm.
Same thing with conversations… on an ocean cruise, every
single interruption completely kills the conversation. I
Interruptions allow all ocean cruise conversation to
remain superficial… beautiful! This is exactly what I
prefer. No crying, keep the laughter under
talking about personal stuff.
Why would anyone want to get to know someone better on a
vacation? Like I said, that risks making friends. We
wouldn't want that, now would we?
I have to admit something. I came dangerously close to
becoming fond of the people I shared this trip with. I am
still shaking my head over this close call.
I did not like this river cruise at all. In
conclusion, let me review the mistakes on the Rhone cruise:
Not nearly enough time wasted standing
No one to insist on taking our
Too many excursions, too much
Too much wine
Too many nice people
Too many deep
Far too much laughter
Smooching and crying in public
nearly enough interruptions
Even though we were not attacked, the
security was terrible
I disliked this trip so much that I cannot believe Marla
was able to persuade me to take another river cruise same
time next year. That's right, we are going to do it
all again on Germany's
Rhine River Cruise
I am already worried. These Viking people ruined my Rhone
trip by giving me too much to do. And now it looks like the
same awful thing will happen on the Germany trip:
The Swiss Alps, the mighty Rhine River, the Black Forest,
the beautiful French town of Strasbourg, Castles on the
Rhine, the ominous misty Rhine Gorge, Lorelei
maidens, Polka Dancing and Beerfest to German Oompah bands
in Rudesheim, plus a grand finale of windmills, tulips and
canals in Amsterdam.
It looks like this
trip to Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands has
the same kind of "fun exhaustion"
written all over it as the Rhone trip. I am already dreading this trip.
don't know if I have the strength to handle another intense
vacation. Vacations are not supposed to tire people out.
These Viking people obviously haven't learned that.
They give their guests far more benefit than their customers
Why people keep
coming back for more is a mystery to me.
Deanna, Bonnie, Velma, Sue, Linda, Marsha, Fran
see what is in those glasses on the table? Wine.
Do you see those smiles? They're feeling fine.
see these ladies doing anything? No. They should be doing
something useful like gambling or playing bingo. But
instead they are just sitting there wasting their time
having a great conversation
giggling, goofy grins are the perfect example of what too
much wine does to people. In my opinion, it makes them
Georgia and Donna. More wine, more smiles. You
get the picture?
Lee, Diana, Jim. More smiles, more wine.
and Shan. More wine. Draw your own conclusions
at that wine. Good grief, they couldn't even drink it
all! These goofy women acted like they have known each
other their entire lives.
truly understand the terrible effect of too much wine, let's
use Larry and Roz, my brother in law/ sister in law. Here
they display an excessive amount of laughter. The
danger of too much laughter is well documented. You
can split a gut if you aren't careful.
Another danger of too much wine were excessive public
displays of affection like these. I made Marla take
this picture because I couldn't stand it. For me, this
was too much. In polite company, people do not smooch
at the dinner table. I had to look away.
embarrassing. I suppose maybe I had a little fun on this
trip, but there are
serious consequences to fun.
example, this stupid trip made me
like Emily. And now I miss her. I object to situations
that make me vulnerable to any feelings.
look at me. It has been over a month since we
completed this trip and I still think about it every day.
This is completely wrong.
When it comes to cruise trips, I prefer to love them and
leave them behind. Not this trip. I got
and Emily had never met before this trip. Now look at
them going boo hoo hoo in each other's arms. I can
only shake my head.
picture tells a story. I tried as hard as I could not
to get close to anyone and I failed miserably.