The India Ink night enveloped us as if doom was waiting for us in the pitch black dark. The
storm grew stronger. The waves crashed around us. Like a cork bobbing upon the water, our ship was tossed about the angry river. Lightening flashed before Jo-Ann’s eyes,
making blood red streaks rip across her closed eyelids. We heard a groan of agony, a shudder reverberated all around us, as the crunch sounds grew louder and louder. We are at Poseidon’s mercy now!
Really, it wasn’t like that at all.
I’m just being dramatic.
Yes, Percy you sure are, now tell everyone about our running aground experience as it really happened.
It all started August 5th as we began our 5 country Grand European tour along the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers.
During our 9 hour flight to Budapest, Hungary, Jo-Ann was so excited and also anxious I would act up. You see, when Jo-Ann feels stress even when it is positive stress, I tend to get active too, as stomas sometimes do. But, I was ready for the adventure and remained calm and quiet throughout the flight.
Good of me wasn’t it Jo-Ann?
Yes Percy, you were very helpful.
We embarked on the ship and were welcomed aboard by the professional with that personal touch staff, who over the 2 week river cruise made our experience top notch and first rate.
Our stateroom with a balcony for two became our cozy home, as we began our awe-inspiring adventure. We gently glided along the banks of the Danube.
Starting in Budapest, two cities that are riverside beauties to be sure, is Hungary’s enchanting capital, with the traditional hillside Buda on one side and the more modern Pest on the other side. The city lights dance on the Danube waters.
Our cruise itinerary featured one excursion in each port, with optional excursions available. Many were walking tours, and some via motor coach combinations. Many tours were often over uneven ground or cobblestones, some included ancient stairs and inclines. Thank goodness because we sure needed the exercise, the food on board ship was amazing, and we were likely to pack on the pounds. In fact food was our biggest concern, Jo-Ann has many food triggers that cause us distress. Jo-Ann’s many dietary restrictions include artificial food colouring, flavouring and preservatives. Natural food restrictions can be avoided, but the underlying artificial chemicals in processed foods are more difficult to identify and avoid. Anyone living with IBS, Crohns, and the various other gastric/intestinal ailments understand these concerns. Well, Jo-Ann and I did so well throughout the cruise, the cuisine was made from scratch food, the chefs creations were delicious, beautifully presented and every morsel an exquisite adventure.
From Budapest we continued along the river to Vienna, Austria. The “City of Waltzes”, Strauss and Mozart composed many of their finest pieces here. The architecture was graceful and it took our breath away.
Back on ship and moving along, from our balcony we were treated to eye candy as we sailed through the serene tapestry of terraced vineyards, forested slopes, by charming towns and castle ruins in Austria’s Wachu Valley. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in my opinion one of the most scenic stretches of the Danube. As we continued on our leisurely journey, we enjoyed grapevine terraced hills, and wine-producing villages that hugged the shore. This wine industry is their legacy that stretches as far back as Celtic and Roman times.
We arrived in Melk, Austria, and we were dazzled by the 900-year-old Benedictine abbey that overlooks the town.
Then onto Passau, Germany we sailed. Founded by the Celts more than 2000 years ago. Passau is one of Bavaria’s oldest cities. Know as the “City of Three Rivers”, it rests at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. Passau is also where two nations meet; it is here the German-Austrian border begins. Then to beautiful historic Salzburg, where certain scenes of the movie, “The Sound Of Music”, was filmed.
Next the river leads us to Regensburg, Germany. Regensburg escaped major damage during World War II, it is one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities. The oldest city along the Danube and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town’s NEUPFERRPLATZ Square is a cross section of history — having served as an ancient Roman gather place, a thriving Jewish quarter, and the site of Nazi book burnings.
Now coming upon the Main-Danube Canal, as far back as 1,200 years ago, Emperor Charlemagne contemplated connecting the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers so ships could travel the length of Europe. Today the canal is a 106-mile canal that cuts through rolling hills of north central Bavaria. The views were amazing.
Then, we arrived in Nuremberg, Germany. The 2nd largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg is filled with traditional half-timbered houses, and Gothic churches with intricate spires. Nuremberg is also infamous for its role in World War II, first as the site of Zeppelin Field’s Nazi rallies and later as the site of the war crimes trials at the Palace of Justice. Our guide in Nuremberg (with a history major), is a former basketball player, who is now coaching university basketball, he is 7 foot 2 inches, Jo-Ann and I thinks you’ll have a chuckle at the photo of us and the coach.
Gliding along we arrived at Bamberg, Germany. Founded in the year 902, Bombers is the remains of a medieval city, known for it’s smoked beer. Jo-Ann & I didn’t try the beer, a little too exotic for me to cope with.
As we continued to sail along the river we were surrounded by Franconian Vineyards, and then we arrived in Wurzburg, Germany. It is a major wine-making centre and has Germany’s oldest and largest vineyard.
In the evenings on board ship we were serenaded by local musicians as we cruised towards Wertheim, Germany. Situated at the confluence of the Main and Tauber Rivers, the dukes of Wertheim built a castle in this strategic spot in the 12th century, that still peers down upon the medieval town centre, and half-timbered houses from its perch.
Following along the Main and Middle Rhine, we sailed on one of the most picturesque stretches of this UNESCO World Heritage site. We admired splendid castles, quaint riverside villages, and steep vineyards that blanketed the hills.
Koblenz, Germany was founded more than 2000 years ago. With its cobblestone streets, wooden beamed houses that are adorned with flowers, ancient market square and medieval churches, we were reminded of the fairy-tale Germany of old.
Our last German port was Cologne, Germany, with its intriguing mix of old and new. Cologne reveals its Roman heritage in its city layout and the ancient ruins lie scattered through the town. We enjoyed the 18th century Residence Of The Prince-Archbishops of Cologne, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
Almost at the end of our river cruise we continued to sail the waters of the Rhine and deep into the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta to enjoy the Dutch landscapes unfurl all around us. We were on our way to Kinderdijk, Netherlands, that boast the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands when our Grand European River Cruise came to a crunching halt!
I’ll tell it like it happened Jo-Ann.
Okay, take it away Percy.
The sun was rising promising another wonderful day of adventure. It was actually to be the last full day on the ship as we were to enjoy our last excursion to Kinderdijk Netherlands, and then during the night complete our cruise disembarking in Amsterdam, and then to be whisked to Schiphol International Airport to head home.
We were particularly excited to enjoy the 19 remarkably preserved 18th century windmills. Our daughter-in-law is of Dutch decent and we were looking forward to learning more about the tracts of reclaimed land from the sea achieved by the power of the windmills and dykes.
It was 6:15 in the morning, when through her closed eyelids as she lay in bed, Jo-Ann was aroused by lights flashing in the room. She opened her eyes and noticed the television on the opposite wall was re-booting. This is when the thought, “There must have been a power failure”, crossed her mind. Then, there was a loud crunch, a scrape, that was then followed by a second crunch. Mark, her hubby jumped out of bed, threw his clothes on and said, “Wait here, I’m going to check this out.”
Meanwhile, Jo-Ann made a mental note that the life jackets were stowed under the bed. Then it crossed her mind that the ships engines are powered by electricity and if there was indeed a power failure, the engines would have cut out as well.
Being that we were now on a very busy stretch of the Rhine River, Jo-Ann felt a ripple run down her spine, and I must say I had a little stoma burp. This is when she jumped out of bed and headed for the stateroom balcony. Throwing open the curtains Jo-Ann saw a stone piled break water, (a breakwater is a structure constructed on coasts as part of an anchorage protection from both weather and longshore drift), that was only about 8 feet from our balcony. “Oh, this is not good,” she thought. She then quickly dressed and then Mark returned.
“Well, we’ve run aground, the Captain has beached the ship,” he said very calmly. “Nothing to worry about right now, we’re okay. The boat had an electrical failure, the engines cut out, and the result was loss of control to maneuver the ship.” Thanks to our competent and fast acting Captain, he dropped 3 of the ships anchors, which caused our ship to swing around in a U-turn fashion, and to purposely beach us on the shore, opposite of the town of Reese. (Reese is a hamlet in the Nienburg District of Lower Saxony in northwestern Germany). This placed us out of the busy river flow, and so saving us from the danger of hitting or being hit by other ships on the river. Ja Kapitän, (Yeah, Captain)!
Jo-Ann and I left our balcony and went up to the upper sun deck, there we met most of our shipmates. Everyone was calm and filled with humour. The cruise staff were outstanding and helped any anxieties we might have been feeling at the time. There wasn’t a band playing, “Nearer, My god…”, on the deck, so we knew we were most probably okay and not sinking.
In fact, of course we did not sink. As the day wore on our Cruise Director Gary, kept us informed on the latest. He regretted we of course would not make it to Kinderdijk, we would not see the windmills. All the while River Security came aboard the ship, tug boats held vigil beside us, and a salvage barge was dispatched to locate our 3 anchors now laying at the bottom of the Rhine River, (lost due to the intense strain on the chains, as the boat had been travelling at a good clip the anchors had broken loose from the ship during the safety maneuver). Our ship wasn’t going anywhere until we had the 3 working anchors once again.
As the day passed the local German media arrived on shore, and I must say we were the stars of the shores. The town folk of Reese were curious and lined the wall on the opposite shore from us, I’m sure discussing our predicament. By mid-morning #1 of our anchors was located and delivered to our ship. By early afternoon #2 anchor was retrieved and delivered. Meanwhile, our cruise director was working the phones and announced to us, buses would be arriving on the opposite shore to drive us overland to Amsterdam. Then, we would all be placed in a hotel, with a small boat cruise of the Amsterdam canals later in the evening. We only needed to locate, retrieve or acquire a 3rd anchor. It would be then we would receive authorization from the authorities to be pulled off of the shore, and the Captain would maneuver the ship straight across the river to the opposite shore at the village.
This is what happened. With our 3rd anchor installed and working, a large container barge with full engines roaring pulled us off the shore, and our Captain deftly steered our ship to the opposite shore.
In our buses (193 of us and some cruise staff), we headed across the countryside to the hotel in Amsterdam, our Cruise Director had arranged for all of us to stay that night, together as a group. Now I must say, Jo-Ann wondered what hotel that accommodated around 200 people with only a few hours notice during the height of tourist season, would be like.
Well, need not have worried, as a few hours later our bus pulled up to the hotel in the heart of Amsterdam! Our hotel was as upscale urban as I’ve ever stayed in and our posh room was spacious and well appointed, we even had our own office. Our room was comfy, we were served a buffet dinner in the Grand Hall, and we embarked on our Amsterdam canal cruise. By the time we crawled into our beds later that evening, it had been another adventure on the rivers and canals of Central Europe. The following morning we boarded our plane, and headed back home.
As adventures go, ours was filled with all of the excitement, unusual experiences and it was peppered with a little danger, making the past couple of weeks an amazing and wonderful escapade indeed!
Shakespeare wrote the play, “All’s Well That Ends Well,” believed to be written between 1604 and 1605, and so if at the end everything isn’t all right, then it’s not the end.
Well, Jo-Ann we have ended this adventure, and all is well, now on to the next!
Thanks Percy, now that was how it really happened.