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(2023 - Winter/Spring Issue)


Sitting alone on the foredeck of our river cruise ship, as the autumn sun pushes away the early morning fog, a flock of crows swoops from the tree-lined banks, flying over golden wheat fields toward the distant blue hills. Wrapped in a fluffy fleece blanket and cradling a cappuccino, I’m happy and at ease in this Impressionist-like landscape painting. The stress of daily life is drifting away with the fog but I know other like-minded early risers will be joining me soon to share this fairy-tale setting.

Wellness on the Water

According to the Wellness Tourism Association, travel that allows the traveller to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of well-being, is the backbone to wellness travel. Modern cruisers now embrace active pursuits and companies have introduced special wellness programs to experience destinations in a healthy way.

One cruise industry specialist explains how river cruising is an excellent way to accomplish those goals, both mentally and physically. “It’s clear that small-ship cruisers of all ages are increasingly interested in active, health-conscious travel,” says Patricia Wu, Brand Director at Emerald Cruises Canada about the company’s active programming both on-board and in ports that help guests reach their goals while seeing the world in fun and unique ways.


Friendships are Born

One of the joys of our two-week European river cruise on board the new Emerald Luna was making new friends. The other delight was the pure pleasure of stretching our legs and breathing fresh air, with the added excitement of exploring a trio of Europe’s splendid rivers: Rhine, Main and the Danube that started in Amsterdam and ended in Budapest. As today’s travellers are interested in a safe, clean environment, with fitness activities and time spent in nature, our river cruise offered it all. Our cabins were immaculately maintained and sanitized and the ship itself was spotless from stem to stern. GenX and Baby Boomers like us, who make up two-thirds of the cruising public from ages 40 to 74, have a wide range of physical abilities. We were able to choose activities that fit our daily wellness goals, from gentle walking to high-intensity hiking. Moreover, we were surrounded by the natural world sailing on the water.

Getting to Know You

After two years without travel or socializing, my husband Wallace and I could hardly wait to be among the first passengers on Emerald River Cruises’s newest ship, which is the sister fleet of the luxe five-star line, Scenic Cruises. Although the Emerald’s mantra is casual comfort, every inch of this sleek, sophisticated river ship has been carefully considered, from the three-level mirrored atrium with its dazzling crystal globe chandelier, to the infinity edge pool with its retractable sunroof. That said, carry-on luggage and a limited wardrobe served us well for our European journey.

It was easy to mix and mingle with only 90 other guests on-board. We met our first new friends at the embarkation dinner. Connie and Greg, retired construction company owners from Florida, who have sailed ocean cruises, were on their first river cruise.

Breaking Bread Together

In the Reflections dining room with its floor-to-ceiling windows, each white-linen-draped table setting offers scenic views. A storybook of medieval villages floats past us as we dine. Views of half-timbered houses jostle for space by the water’s edge while church steeples point the way to vine-covered hillsides. Before long, we got to know our friendly dining room crew. A trip highlight was the captain hosting us at the captain’s dinner table. A third-generation riverboat captain and avid swimmer, Captain Vladimir shared that his daily morning swims at the ship’s pool cleared his mind to focus on the challenging job of navigating a river cruise ship, and helped him to lose 30 pounds!

Working it Out

Wellness is top of mind on the Emerald Luna, with a walking track on the Sun Deck, and a gym and spa on-board. I started some mornings with poolside yoga and Pilates classes led by wellness coach Nanad. He also helped Wallace work out his aches and pains with a soothing massage in the spa. Activity Director Thays organized circuits on the walking track, hikes to hillside castles, and riverside bicycle tours for people seeking greater challenges.

In Budapest, we loved our trip to the Gellért Spa Bath, a fantastical Art Nouveau thermal hot spring spa palace, where the indoor and outdoor pools are adorned with romantic statuary. We roamed from one turquoise porcelain ceramic-tiled pool to another under a two-story retractable skylight, dipping into the cool, then warm, then almost too-hot-to-bear mineral-rich water.

Tours de Force

The cruise tours are wide-ranging. In Amsterdam, we floated under bridges on a canal boat tour, passing million-dollar houseboats and tall, tilted houses standing shoulder to shoulder. In Slovakia, locals Zita and Frantisek welcomed us to their home in Cífer, sharing coffee and cake, before a tour of their abundant garden. There was always some free time in every port to sample a regional beer or go shopping.

When we returned home, we were astounded to find that we hadn’t gained a pound, thanks to all the walking tours, but we had gained some new friends. We were finally relaxed for the first time since the pandemic. It is proof positive that our cruise has been the perfect prescription for body and soul.

Insider Tip

EmeraldACTIVE tours are more physically challenging but rewarding, like a hike to the ruined castle of Durnstein with its views of the Danube.


DISCOVERMore tours offer select activities for an additional fee. Visit wineries and baroque palaces. A cruise highlight was a private chamber music concert in Vienna held in a restored palace.

Travel Planner

Discover the riches of Europe’s fabled rivers on-board a river cruise. Emerald Cruises offers a 15-day Splendours of Europe river cruise along the rivers Rhine, Main and Danube.  For cruise details and reservations see emeraldcruises.ca

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