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Ruffin’ it on the Rhine

A Multigenerational Cruise Story

Hans Christian Andersen once said, “To travel is to live.” A sentiment I truly share. However, I gather the famous fairytale author never hit the road with his parents, siblings, in-laws and teenage children – all at the same time.

We’re the Ruffs. Some by birth, some by marriage, others just guilty by association. We love to travel, we love to experience new things, and on most days, we even love each other. 

Several years ago on my first Avalon Waterways river cruise – a romantic getaway along the Seine from Paris to Normandy – I marveled at the ease of river cruising, the endless inclusions, and the freedom each passenger had to tailor their vacation to their own interests, I began to wonder, “What if the whole family went on a river cruise? 

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In June, we took the plunge, hopped on a plane and boarded the Avalon Expression to set sail along the Rhine River from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. The players – one Golden Ager, three Baby Boomers, one Gen X-er, and three Gen Z-ers spanning from high school to college age.

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With passions among the group ranging from history, art, architecture and music to food, wine, beer and more beer, the Rhine was a logical choice for our adventure. Our itinerary promised fairytale castles, ancient fortresses and cathedrals, a dizzying number of UNESCO World Heritage Sights, plus hillside vineyards and beer gardens galore.

This particular itinerary, an Avalon Active & Discovery cruise, was also appealing due to its variety of excursion choices. With everything from easy strolling tours to hands-on painting and cooking classes to invigorating hiking, biking and kayaking tours, Avalon Active & Discovery did not disappoint. There was truly something for everyone. Even better, most of the excursions were included in the cruise price. 

In addition to the rolling vineyards that produce the dry, crisp Rieslings, the charming villages with half-timbered homes and the bustling cities with both ancient and modern energy, I witnessed something truly spectacular on this vacation – my teens experiencing the world in their own way. 

They were eager to explore each port, and with Avalon’s free AvalonGo app full of maps, tips and local favorites, I could let them wander without worry. They returned from their outings with exciting recaps of record stores, candy shops, art museums, cafes and even pubs.


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Evenings on the ship reminded me of a bygone era, when families gathered in cozy parlors for pre-dinner cocktails and conversation before moving to the dining room for a multicourse feast. 

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  • Our group met nightly for Happy Hour in the Panorama Lounge to delightfully discuss the day and eagerly plan the next. 
  • Sometimes we all dined together in the Panorama Dining Room, other times the couples in our group would duck out for an intimate dinner for two in the ship’s Panorama Bistro. 
  • And with no strict seating times, we could dine as we pleased.

It should also be noted, that even with teenagers in the group, there was not one complaint about the cuisine. Everyone enjoyed local specialties, familiar foods and a creative menu that catered to every taste and dietary restriction.

While the number of passengers on an Avalon river cruise ship is small – ensuring an ideal guest-to-crew ratio and ease in meeting other passengers – the rooms are quite spacious with beds that face wall-to-wall windows, an Open-Air Balcony and the scenic passing views. Grandmother and granddaughter even successfully shared a stateroom – a Panorama Suite with plenty of room to store multiple suitcases, a CPAP machine, an entire aisle of drugstore cosmetics and a teenage girl’s multiple outfit changes per day. Worth noting, too, was the ample number of outlets and USB chargers in the room that both demanded.

In the end, we discovered, delved, devoured and danced. 

Can multiple generations successfully river cruise together? Yes! Would this crew do it again? Absolutely! Asked to sum up the experience in one word, members of the group offered the following adjectives – relaxed, encompassing, pampering, easy, amazing, beautiful, and my personal favorite, “brewtiful.” Próst!

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This is a guest post by Beckham Ruff, a travel-loving freelance writer based in South Carolina.