When I was a child we would stand on the Liverpool docks waiting for the Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey to come in and take us away for a day at the seaside, on the far distant shores of New Brighton. We may have only been going a few hundred yards across the river but it was exciting and more than a little scary. The ferry would lurch up to the docks and squish and slap against the huge tyres that protected the wooden dock as it eased into position.
Cruising the Greek Islands
When I grew up and discovered Greece, I also discovered Greek ferries, the magical workaday chariots that open up the wonderful Greek islands. On my first major backpacking trip I was at Piraeus for a dawn departure all the way to Crete, arriving at the harbour at Souda, near Chania, as the sun was setting and turning the sky from blue to pink. In other years, other ferries took me to visit dozens of islands. Each voyage produced that same open-eyed heart-fluttering excitement at crossing the wine-dark sea on a voyage to discover somewhere new.
Find cruises to Greece
Why, then, when I became a travel writer was I not immediately drawn to the world of cruises? Surely that’s the ultimate image of the travel writer – on a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise, sipping a martini prior to a 5-course meal? I was never drawn to cruises, however, having created an image of them as being 5,000 people cooped up on a ship. Not that I’d ever actually been on a proper cruise, of course.
A European river cruise along the Rhine
Experience is better than ignorance, and having at last been on a handful of cruises I know how important it is to choose the right one for you. Take the wrong cruise and you could easily find yourself cooped up with 5,000 people – if you’re like me you’ll want to take a more intimate voyage. My first cruise was a wine-themed cruise on a smaller ship with less than 1,000 people on board, so perhaps these days I’d choose something like Saga’s Jazz and Wine on the Rhine and Moselle, which includes a visit to Rudesheim where I went recently and drank some fabulous Rieslings.
Discover river cruises on the Rhine and her tributaries
Discovering the Danube
Choosing a cruise by theme or by the size of the boat is just as important as the destination. I’ve never been to Budapest so a Danube river cruise definitely appeals, taking in as it does two of central Europe’s other great cities, Vienna and Prague. Several years ago I cycled from Prague to Vienna, which was an exhilarating experience, but these days I think I’d save myself the saddle sores and do it the more comfortable way.
Discover a range of Danube river cruises
The River Nile
Apart from the Greek Islands, my other top choice would be the River Nile cruise. The boats are smaller and words can’t describe the elation of sitting on deck watching the life on the banks of the Nile pass slowly by in front of your eyes, like time-travelling back to Biblical days. I would sit facing the banks each day, planning to read a book, but the river banks were so entertaining the book always got discarded.
Discover a range of Nile river cruises
The ultimate cruise!
Although I’m still hoping for that ‘travel writer’ moment of sipping martinis on a Caribbean cruise, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that river cruises are more my thing. Given the choice, I’d opt for a luxurious cruise along some of Europe’s great rivers. Who could resist a cruise called Wine and Wild Horses of Provence, especially as it starts and ends in one of France’s finest cities and a long-time personal favourite: Lyon.
Find river cruises on the French waterways
Romance on the Rhine
My final recommendation would have to be a Romantic Rhineland cruise. In between those ferries to New Brighton and discovering the Greek islands, I went abroad for the first time in my life, as a 12-year-old on a school trip to Cologne and a cruise on the Rhine. We sailed past the Loreley Rock and visited the Drachenfels Castle, and somewhere along the River Mersey or the Rhine, a travel writer was clearly born. I guess cruises were in my blood all the time. I just had to get round to finding the right ones.
Take a look at a range of ocean and river cruises available from Saga,