By Gerry Barker
MAINZ, Germany – Stepping off the plane in Frankfort, it was clear we had left Florida far behind. We had gone from the high 80s to the low 50s, trading swaying palms for trees in their full fall-foliage glory.
For us, this was a trip of firsts: Our first visit to Germany, and our first river cruise. We were excited to experience both.
Pam and I were here for Vantage Deluxe Travel’s “Heart of Germany” cruise aboard their ship, Ms River Splendor. Launched in 2013, it’s a state-of-the-art ship, eco-friendly and featuring all the latest hi-tech gear. At capacity, she holds 176 passengers and 46 crew.
This voyage had a special significance as well. Every year, through a program called “Vantage Heroes,” the company “strives to honor the quiet heroes among us whose lives have been dramatically affected by tragedy, loss and war.” On our cruise, there are 14 heroes among the 111 passengers. We’re looking forward to meeting them and finding out their stories.
After a short bus ride from the airport, we arrive here, a regional capital with roots back to the Holy Roman Empire. One of its most famous residents was Johannes Gutenberg, and we all know how he changed the world with his invention of the printing press.
So much to see, but this is a day to get settled and get acquainted with our home for the next eight days, plus recharge from the nine-hour flight.
We are warmly welcomed by the ship’s concierge, Maya, and soon thereafter our room is ready. Ours is a stateroom on the lower deck. It’s roomy enough, and features two windows almost at water level. The river boats don’t have the traditional balconies of the ocean-going ships (not practical for navigating the locks), but the larger suites do have a sliding glass door that let the outdoors in.
At the welcome reception and port talk later that day, one thing we already appreciate it is the more intimate environment; we’ve already made several new friends and enjoy the relaxed camaraderie this smaller setting affords. Also interesting is the vast majority of the people onboard are repeat Vantage customers — some of them have taken as many as 20 trips. That’s always a good sign.
After a leisurely dinner in the Compass Rose Restaurant, we end the first day in the Cabaret Lounge, where we enjoy guitar music and a glass of wine. Tomorrow we’ll dock in the 2,000-year-old town of Koblenz, located at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, where we’ll have a guided tour.
Sounds like a little rest is next on our docket.
Story and photo(s) courtesy Gerry Barker
Photo: Ms River Splendor docked in Mainz