Jackie Blanchflower enjoys an all-inclusive river cruise with AmaWaterways
I no longer have a partner, but I love travelling, so will not let the fact that I am on my own stop me from seeing the world. On a few of my more recent trips, several people had spoken quite passionately about river cruise and what a good experience it had been for them as solo travellers. I liked the idea of being able to see as much of a country as possible in a short space of time and the opportunity to explore each destination in the comfort and security of a group.
I did quite a bit of research beforehand to ensure that I booked the right cruise for me and the name AmaWaterways kept cropping up. The fact that all the tours and excursions were included was the real hook. On previous holidays these were an additional expense and had turned out to be quite costly. The fact that they were included meant that I could choose to participate as much as I wanted to without the constant worry of the size of my bill at the end of the week.
It was a seven-night Lyon to Arles cruise and I loved every minute of it. I booked a package that included flights and transfers and, after being met in Lyon, I was immediately welcomed by Victor the cruise manager on AmaCello. I was made to feel so welcome – my luggage was taken straight to my room and I was shown through to the lounge where I was served a nice hot cup a tea and indulged in a few of the delicious cakes on offer. Within a few minutes of me sitting down other guests started to arrive and we introduced ourselves to each other and new friendships began to form.
On the first night Victor invited all the solo travellers to dine with him at his table. It was a lovely touch and a perfect way to meet the other solo guests and make new friends. Each evening there was new conversation at the table over dinner as everyone was talking about what they had experienced throughout the day. Some guests had taken part in alternative tours, so it was good to learn from them about what they had discovered throughout the day.
The complimentary tours and excursions were fantastic and so well organised. I discovered so many things that would have been impossible to do on my own, such as visiting an olive farm in Les Baux, red wine and chocolate tasting in Tournon, a trip to the Unesco World Heritage site of Pond du Gard near Avignon and wine tasting at a vineyard in Pays d’Or.
Before I went on a river cruise, I thought it would be incredibly structured and I might feel claustrophobic on board – both of which have since been proved wrong.
The ship was not crowded at all and the lounge was always a comfortable place to sit and relax. My cabin was extremely comfortable and spacious with so many amenities.
I was free to do as much or as little as I liked. The opportunity to be social is there, but equally it is just as easy to find peace and be on your own if that is your preference. One of my fellow solo travellers took out one of AmaWaterways’ complimentary bikes for the morning and went for a peaceful cycle on her own, along the banks of the Rhône which she said was simply stunning. I was quite envious and wished I had joined her.
What would I say to other solo people who are thinking about solo travel? Do it, do it, do it! I didn’t ever feel alone from the moment I stepped onboard. AmaWaterways made me feel so welcome and went out of their way to ensure that I was included in everything. I have made life-long friends and even met one of my fellow travellers for lunch recently to relive our memories.