I was assigned to sail solo on my first-ever river cruise two months ago, and I immediately cringed. Sure, I’d get to see some of Europe, but I’d also be the youngest passenger onboard Avalon Waterways‘ new Avalon Vista, surrounded by lectures that would make me feel like I was back in college. What’s a big-ship girl to do without a nightclub and a pool and a rock-climbing wall? Won’t I be bored? And what the heck is so special about Avalon’s “open-air balconies” that everyone’s been yapping about, anyway?
As it turns out, I was wrong about most of my assumptions, and there’s a lot that’s special about said balconies, which feature 11-by-7-foot sliding-glass doors — and entire wall of the cabin — that turn the space into something of a verandah. On the last morning of the sailing, I ate breakfast in bed while a cool breeze blew in as we drifted past windmills, cows and occasional groups of startled fishermen. Despite the chilly weather, the sun was so warm that I quickly found myself in a chair, in my bathing suit, reading and working on my tan without ever leaving my cabin. Basically, it was the most serene and relaxing four hours of the trip.
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