For me, the most important part about cruising has always been relationships. Whether it was hanging out with Charlotte, the director of the kids club on my first Carnival cruise, or meeting VC Andrews, the author of Flowers in the Attic, on Silver Whisper, I love meeting new people, and that is one of the reasons I love cruising so much.
There is such a mix of people from all over the world. I prefer small ships because they provide more of an opportunity to meet people than do large ships. On a river boat, among the smallest of vessels, you have more of a sense of community than on most ocean ships. When thinking about relationships I’ve formed in nearly 22 years of traveling, one trip always comes to mind: a Christmas cruise on AmaWaterways’ AmaBella in 2010.
When looking back on this trip, it’s not the ports of call that I remember. Yes, I can tell you the countries I went to — Germany, France and the Netherlands — but I can’t tell you more than one or two cities we visited. That’s not because I had no fun taking tours and visiting different towns, but because I was focused on who I was doing things with.
I remember watching fireworks in Germany on New Year’s Eve with Maddy, dressed up in our most sparkly outfits. I remember going on a boat tour with Karen and Maurine. I remember visiting a museum and then getting coffee with Karen, Monica and Jenny.
I remember singing in the lounge for Elmer and Gio. Of course, these are names that mean nothing to you as a reader, but these relationships are very real to me. I am still friends with the majority of these people on Facebook.
That is why river cruising is good for people like me. Not only do I get to take in sights around me while I cruise down rivers, which is enough in itself to make the experience worthwhile, but I get to know the people I am traveling with.
On a small ship, I continually run into the same people, which would never happen on a ship with a carrying capacity of 6,000. On our Christmas cruise my dad was traveling with his girlfriend at the time, so I was essentially a solo traveler. I did not once feel alone on the ship, because it was so easy to meet people to talk to. That’s the beauty of cruising in general, I have never heard someone come back from a trip without muttering the words, “I met someone who … ” at least once.
Even being at least two generations younger than everyone else on the ship, I was still able to form meaningful relationships. Karen, who is a nutritionist, was probably my closest friend on the ship, and I took an opportunity to interview her about how to eat well when cruising.
I love meeting people when I go out at home, but meeting them while traveling is truly something special. It gives a different experience. I am meeting people from different cities, states, countries, backgrounds, cultures, and of different ages. I am also experiencing another culture with someone for the first time, which is wonderful. I am learning about things with people. I remember on the Christmas cruise, there was a glassblowing workshop. A man came on and showed us all how he made Christmas ornaments, something that none of us knew how to do. So there we were, all of us from different origins, learning about something new together.
The Christmas theme added to the fun of the cruise, especially since certain people we were cruising with didn’t even celebrate Christmas. There was a Jewish couple who brought there children along. Karen is Jewish, and there was a couple from the Philippines who didn’t celebrate Christmas, so just learning about that alone was a new experience for them and for me.
There was something so cozy about celebrating the days after Christmas on a small ship surrounded by a community of people who used their differences to learn about each other. Those differences also gave a forum to talk about tradition and family values. By New Year’s Eve we all knew each other, and it was so nice to bring in the New Year with new friends in a new place.
River cruising is special to me because it gives me a platform to meet and learn about people, all kindred spirits on a voyage together. Every time I go on a small ship I feel so welcomed by the other people on it.
It is so nice to be able to have dinner with different people every night and to hang out in the lounge after dinner. The opportunities to have meaningful conversations are priceless.
I love to travel, and I think that it’s the best time to meet new people. River cruising, which takes place on the smallest ships, provides the perfect opportunity to do that. I can’t wait until my next one. Maybe I’ll see you there.