Travel by Water!

Many seniors can’t make the trips they once did due to various health problems. Does that mean we shouldn’t travel? No, the task is finding a trip matching your physical ability. In my case, I made many rigorous hiking and backpacking trips when I was younger. Arthritis in my back ended those activities, but I took my first river cruise a few years ago. AmaWaterways (Ama) was the company we chose to motor on the Danube from Bucharest, Romania, to Budapest, Hungary. Enjoying the company and that mode of travel, my wife and I recently completed a trip on the Douro River in Portugal with Ama.

Porto Portugal

So, how do these trips work? The structure of the trips is similar within Ama and from company to company, and I will use my trip to Portugal as an example.

We flew to Lisbon from Boston several days before the actual river trip to take part in a pre-trip from Ama, for which we paid extra. We stayed in the Intercontinental Hotel and, with the other people taking the pre-trip, went by chartered bus with our cruise director to visit different sites around Lisbon. There were probably 30-40 people on this portion of the trip, 84 in the river part. We hit it off with two other couples, an initial linking that turned fortuitous.

After several days in Lisbon, the group traveled by bus to Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal, where we boarded our ship, the AmaDouro. The vessel consisted of three levels of sleeping quarters, a large lounge, a dining level, and an outdoor deck with a swimming pool and numerous sitting areas. There was a health spa and a small gym on board.

Porto Harbor

Our room had a TV, queen bed, bathroom, storage areas, and a window. It was small but comfortable. River travel is very calm, and it was hard to tell when we were underway or at the dock.

A typical day for me would start around 7:00 AM when I would go to the dining room for breakfast. Due to COVID, we had to form a bubble with a small group of other travelers with whom we ate all our meals. Luckily, we had befriended the two other couples mentioned above, and it was fun to eat together. 

In regular times breakfast on river cruises is a buffet, as is lunch, but due to COVID, our waiter took orders and served all meals. There were numerous choices, from fruit to eggs to smoked salmon to various cereals. Some mornings the ship would be underway, and others at the dock. 

Usually, the ship would feature an excursion around 9:00 AM. On the Douro, several buses would take people to the designated site, such as a winery or castle. If walking were involved, the group would be divided depending on how fast people could walk. Lunch might be at the tourist site or back on the boat.

From 5-6, drinks were served in the lounge. Well drinks were free of charge, as was the wine served at lunch and dinner. The Douro River Valley is known for fine wines, so the wines were a real treat. 

Douro River Valley

The mindset of all the river companies is to please the customer and provide 5-star service. Dinner was always a choice of meat or fish, and other dishes could be ordered if one desired. At night there was typically entertainment in the lounge if wanted.

What are the rewards of river cruises? The relationships formed with new friends within a context of beautiful scenery, fine food, and fresh air make such trips meaningful and fun.

Numerous companies run river trips in Europe, Africa, and Vietnam. Check them out, and feel free to contact me with questions at: