“This one here is my 19th cruise with CroisiEurope.”
Hearing those words, I stared in disbelief at the Parisian woman seated next to me. Did she really just say 19?! Here I was, fresh on my 9th cruise of the Photo Tour, thinking I was some kind of CroisiEurope veteran… but clearly, this woman had me beat with a CroisiDevotion that dates back to almost before I was born! She explained that her love affair with the company began 20 years ago on a cruise in the Netherlands, and now she sets sail every chance she gets. “When it’s all over, I want to know that I had no regrets”, she said with a smile. Soon, she was enthusiastically gushing about the Christmas cruise that she has booked for this December, and I sat there, mesmerized, soaking in her stories and experiences.
Frequently on this Photo Tour, I find myself meeting the most fascinating people. On my last cruise in Venice for example, I met two other CroisiEurope superfans: a daughter and mother duo who spoke with great pride and nostalgia about their cruising adventures. With a twinkle in her eye, the mother brought out her digital camera, showing me countless photos of her favourite cruise memories. She fondly referred to the crew of the MS Vasco da Gama as her adopted family, and informed me that their relationship was so strong in fact, that she has cruised with them four times, and even had the boat’s purser in attendance at a recent birthday party!
When I hear stories like this, my heart feels so delightfully full. Because I’ve been hopping from cruise to cruise so quickly for the past few months, I’ve almost forgotten how special river cruising is. Yes, I take the time to enjoy the food, the sights and the people, but I think part of me has lost sight of how river cruising for many passengers is their way of treating themselves and making the most of life. As I dwelled on that thought, I realized just how lucky I am to be on this crazy Photo Tour adventure. While it can be easy to take things for granted when you are on a 3 month vacation like me, I’ve been reminded today how important it is to stay grounded and thankful. That’s why I now hope to complete the rest of this Photo Tour with the same joy and excitement as my fellow passengers, alongside the recognition that each cruise is its own special experience.
So, in the spirit of never taking things for granted, let me tell you about my great day exploring Potsdam and Berlin:
Our morning excursion today took us to Cecilienhof Palace, famously the setting for the Potsdam Conference of 1945. It was here after World War II that the victorious powers (the US, the UK and the Soviet Union) met to discuss post-war issues such as peace treaties and the partition of Germany. Aesthetically, the outside is simple but charming. Built in the early 20th century to emulate the Tudor style of England, it contains a total of 176 rooms, alongside many courts and English gardens. Most fascinating of all however is stepping inside and visiting the well-preserved rooms once used during the conference. The significance of these events cannot be understated because the decisions made here had profound implications that would impact Europe drastically for years to come. Moving through the different rooms and exhibits (where sadly, photos were not allowed without a pass!), I couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild at the thought that I was standing in the same space as some of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. During our tour, I could feel history come alive as we moved through the palace accompanied by the witty commentary of our guide. She filled us in on fun anecdotes throughout the tour like, for instance, that each leader had his own special entrance for the conference room. During the bus ride home, I overheard countless passengers excitedly chatting about how fascinating the visit was, and I have to agree: it was a fantastic way to spend the morning.
After lunch on-board, we set off again in the afternoon with a visit to Berlin’s Botanical Gardens. With an impressive collection of over 22,000 plants spread across 43 hectares, this place is an absolute heaven for nature lovers. I had an amazing time exploring the gardens, marveling at the many colourful plants that I had never seen before in my whole life. As our guide explained, the initial goal was to simply “put the world in a little garden” and I would say that they’ve succeeded. With plants from all over the world clustered together, it could take days to fully explore and appreciate the garden in its entirety. As I lost myself among the lush green trees and winding paths, it almost felt like I had the garden all to myself… and I think most others felt the same. The more I ventured, the more I saw locals sprawled out on benches reading books, enjoying quiet picnics and taking romantic strolls through the greenery. Honestly though, it’s not tough to see why these gardens are a preferred escape for many Berliners.
After a lovely dinner and evening on board, I had the sad realization that in 3 short weeks, I’ll be home in Vancouver. It’s a bizarre feeling to think that this 3 month journey is almost over, and while I’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many memories, it almost feels like no time has passed at all. With time ticking down, I fully intend to appreciate and soak up every moment and opportunity that arises in the coming weeks. Let’s finish this Photo Tour off right!
Update you all soon,