Blogger Andrea Brass recalls her back-to-back European river cruises

For Vantage traveler Andrea Brass, travel is more than just a desire, it’s an innate need. “Travel is my oxygen,” she says.

That may help explain why Andrea – who writes about her trips at her blog, Once Upon a Travelogue – has embarked on 18 different trips with Vantage. When she goes abroad, she does so not only to see the sights, but to connect with the people. “I’m always trying to make a human connection,” she says.

Andrea made plenty of them on her recent back-to-back river cruise. Starting in Antwerp, she boarded our Essential Holland: Tulips in Spring before continuing her journey from Amsterdam to Basel on Rhine Culinary Discovery. The added time allowed her to experience more of the continent and make the most of her time overseas, and she had a long list of highlights from the river cruises.

“The Keukenhof Gardens were splendid. I loved Bruges, and its medieval history – although the Belgian chocolate helped, too! Trier was definitely a highlight. I love being steeped in history. I like just walking through a town that has a heritage to it. Oh, and the home-hosted visits were lovely as always.”

It was that human connection (which Vantage travelers experience through our myriad Cultural Connections) that she was always seeking out. “I like feeling the ambiance of a place, getting a feeling for the people.” One of the ways she does the latter is to visit the places the locals do every day during free time. “I love grocery stores, to get a feel of what people are buying. Or going to cafes. One time, I even started talking politics with someone at a cafe.”

Andrea really appreciated the extra time that allowed her to set off on her own and explore. “I need that free time. Because I’ve traveled so much, I’m used to being on my own,” she says. She has a great interest in Jewish history in Europe, particularly the Holocaust, and was able to indulge that interest on her cruise. “I walked around a lot to see what kind of Jewish communities were there.”

The back-to-back river cruises gave her more time to unwind and ease into her surroundings, and it also allowed her to get to know the crew of her ship better. “I don’t have enough words of praise for all who worked on the boat,” she says. “I stayed on board for three weeks, so many in the crew became my friends. Not only was I always treated with respect and courtesy, but there was that extra something that made me feel cared for and an important guest.”

She gives an example: at the end of her cruise, the two members of the crew who had cleaned her room gave her a card and a box of truffles. “They said it was just for what I gave them as a passenger,” she says.

It’s just one of the reasons Andrea has traveled with Vantage so much in the past, and why she already has her next trip booked. “I really appreciate Vantage providing me a way to explore the world.”