In 2016, The Board of Trustees of Charles Wright Academy gave Robert a significant gift certificate as a retirement gift, to be used for travel. We decided to take a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest with Viking River Cruises, and apply the gift certificate to the cost of the (rather expensive) cruise. We knew we were not "cruise people," finding the idea of living the high life on a floating city in the ocean someplace to be anathema. But we thought that perhaps a smaller vessel (there were about 180 passengers on board) might prove to be to our liking.

We also decided to extend the trip at both ends. We spent extra days in Amsterdam, drove to visit Robert's 2nd cousin Anja Belemann-Smit (and her family) in Jever, Germany, close to the North Sea, stayed on for extra days in Budapest, and visited many of Robert's German relatives in and around Lüdenscheid, the family home of the Belemanns, Robert's maternal grandmother's family.

The hightlights of our trip were the time before the cruise in Amsterdam and Jever, as well as the time after the cruise that we spent visiting Lüdensheid. It was wonderful seeing Robert's German relatives again; the last time we had seen them was in 2003.

The cruise itself was somewhat of a disappointment. While we enjoyed not having to pack up every day or so and move to a new location, there were several aspects of the cruise that we felt were less than ideal. For example, we had expected to have a lot of time during the day to roam whatever city the ship had docked at. But, due to low water conditions, we often found ourselves arriving at our intended destination later than originally expected, and had to depart earlier, at times leaving only a few short hours in port.

We also felt that the food accomodations (for gluten-free, no red meat, and no garlic) were not particularly well done. And, nearly all the passengers were Americans, which was a disappointment to us. We don't feel that traveling to a foreign destination only to spend most of our time with fellow Americans is what traveling should be about.

We learned our lesson, and won't be taking this kind of cruise again.

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