Europe cruise and city stay, solo

By Phyllis Harlan
This item appears on page 44 of the March 2020 issue.

A month before my 83rd birthday, I left for a 3-week solo trip in Europe. It began with a 2-week river cruise out of Budapest (Aug. 8-22, 2019) and ended with a week’s stay in Amsterdam, the terminus of the cruise.

The cruise, “Grand European Tour,” was with Viking River Cruises (Woodland Hills, CA; 855/338-4546, vikingcruises.com).

Not counting my stay in Amsterdam, my total cost of $5,798 included round-trip international air from Oklahoma City, $367 for an air upgrade to comfort economy, a single supplement of $1,999 on the cruise and a past-guest discount of $200. I had paid for a solo cabin on the lowest deck but was upgraded at no extra cost to a lovely cabin with a French balcony.

The cruise fare included wine and beer at lunch and dinner as well as a sightseeing expedition at each port. The food was truly outstanding, the tours were well organized and interesting, and the ship’s staff was exceptionally friendly, helpful and caring.

I was the only solo traveler on the Viking Tir but was fortunate to quickly meet three wonderful couples, all of whom were world travelers and thoroughly enjoyable, interesting people. We would meet in the lounge after our days of touring and compare experiences before dining together in the dining room.

Evidently, word quickly spread that I was alone; many others asked me to join them for meals or touring experiences. While touring the bunkers in Nuremberg where art had been stored during World War II, I was having a problem seeing in the dark, as I have night-blindness issues. When I started to head back to the entrance, a young lady who was a fellow passenger offered me her arm to guide me through the dark areas. I was so grateful for her thoughtfulness, as this was one of the areas I had especially wanted to visit.

The scenery on the cruise, especially as we drifted along the Middle Rhine area in Germany, was spectacular and lulled me into total relaxation. Various tours for active hikers and bikers, as well as leisurely walking tours for those with mobility issues, were offered at every stop.

There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe the pleasures and fun of a river cruise.

My week alone in Amsterdam was also wonderful, though I didn’t have as much interaction with people as I did on the ship.

When my husband was alive, our hobby was touring the great art museums of the world, and Amsterdam was one of our favorite cities because we were especially fond of Dutch and Flemish art. The Owl Hotel (Roemer Visscherstraat 1, 1054 EV Amsterdam, Netherlands; phone +31 20 618 9484, www.owl-hotel.nl/en) had been my favorite place to stay.

Located in the Museum Quarter, the Owl Hotel is only a short walk from the great variety of restaurants in the Leidseplein. The hotel is quiet, has an elevator and serves a bountiful breakfast. The English-speaking staff is very helpful. During this trip, the cost per night for a single room was about 125 (near $139).

Amsterdam is a fantastic city, especially for a solo traveler. All of the sites are easily reached by public trams. They’re also easily walkable, and, for those so inclined, bicycles are readily available for rent.

I felt very safe in the evenings going out to dinner and returning to the hotel on my own.

PHYLLIS HARLAN

Oklahoma City, OK