Apr 22, 2017

Have cane, will travel


Losing vision can be devastating, but I make the most of it!

I love to travel, and even though I cannot see many things I rely on my touch, smell, hearing, and inner feelings. Often people ask me why I want to travel if I cannot enjoy the sights. If you make an effort to spend some time in the world with your eyes closed, you will learn what you might miss by relying so much on your eyes.

That said, my husband and I have negotiated our annual vacations. Cruising has been an agreed upon mode of travel. He can go off on a bike ride, and I can stay on the ship where I feel safe and can entertain myself.

Recently we returned from our first river cruise with Scenic. We sailed on the Scenic Opal long ship from Amsterdam to Budapest and had the largest suite on the ship (one of my negotiation conditions).

Cruising in a luxury suite provides me with the most services and attention for my dollar, which is important since, with limited sight, I probably spend more time in my suite than the average traveler.

Having been picked up by our private car at the airport, we were taken directly to the ship. As we came on board, the crew, including the captain, hotel manager and cruise director were there to meet and greet us. You do not find this on the large cruise lines.

Our wonderful butler, Ratko Adjic, escorted us to our cabin. He would turn out to be our favourite person on the ship. Throughout our fifteen-day adventure, Ratko was always there for me.

He brought my cappuccino every morning at seven and drew my bath every night by ten. In between, he took care of everything I needed.

There was an excursion or two offered every day, all included in our cabin costs. In Amsterdam we took a tour of an old mill that still produces paint. At the end of the tour, Pete, the old miller, gave me a private tour of his wheel and storage room, letting me feel the wheel and its parts. He even gave me a sample of the champagne limestone he uses to make champagne-colored paint.

linda.jpg

In Koblenz we enjoyed a tour, dinner, and entertainment at the Marksburg Castle. It was amazing touring such an old castle and getting a feel for how people lived then. Not my idea of luxury! Take me back to my suite, please!

As we continued on our journey, we stopped in so many little German towns where beer and sausage seem to prevail. We enjoyed learning about the history of Germany and I liked seeing/smelling and feeling my way through the towns. We shared smoked beer in Bamberg and sausages in Nuremburg. We did not select tours with world war history—we chose the lighter side.

Back on the ship we enjoyed meeting other guests and sharing our experiences of life at home. We loved meeting all the Australians on the ship and plan to keep in touch with at least one couple.

dinner.jpg

The food was never-ending; breakfast and lunch were served buffet style with different selections every day. Chef Norman made sure we did not starve. The servers were gracious and attentive and had excellent attitudes. Paulo, who was new, was a bit nervous the first few days, but by the end of the cruise he was excellent. He even folded up my cane for me and was fun to interact with.

We were invited to sit at the captain’s table at the welcome dinner. The captain was a great host and he was very conscientious of his duties. We all drank wine while he had only ginger ale.

I was able to tour the wheelhouse/bridge and, unlike bigger cruises, it was open for all guests to stop by and see the operations.

Every night we were entertained by Antonio, who played the piano and had a few other tricks up his sleeve. We danced and had lots of drinks, all included in the cost of our trip, and had a fabulous time.

My favourite excursion of all was the private concert in Vienna. Richard, our cruise director, secured a front row seat for me and I was carried away by the amazing orchestra. There was opera and ballet as well. I was transcended to my happy place.

My husband participated in an 18-mile bike ride and was able to try out the electric bikes on the ship; after we returned home, he ordered one for himself. I guess he liked it.

All in all we had a wonderful trip, with first class services wherever we went. I felt I was treated like a queen. Although the excursions were excellent, the best aspect of the cruise for me was enjoying the ship and all its amenities.

We both enjoyed the journey so much we are planning to book another cruise with Scenic in 2020.

Article by Linda J Mascarenas-Colgan, The Blind Traveler