I have finally gotten over my jetlag, losing my voice and the odd bruise to say we had a hell of a good time on the inaugural Balance river cruise!! Funnily enough I think most of those who joined us needed a holiday afterwards! We had a seriously fun time and I like to think we have redefined what river cruising is all about.
Firstly, for those reading this who joined us, a huge thank you for playing such a big part in making the cruise a success. You had such a great attitude, love of life and genuine openness and excitement towards my first foray into being “Deb AKA Cruise Director”
When I go on holidays it mostly looks and feels like warm summer days, somewhere surrounded by water, time out for yourself, plenty of good wine and food, golf if I can swing it, partying into the night on great cocktails, fab music and a boogie, relaxing in the sun, seeking out great restaurants, outings of discovery, service that makes you smile and importantly being with people whose company I really enjoy and who like to laugh.
Two years ago when we started to think about how we would design our Balance cruise, crafting it into something that reflected our sense of fun, entertainment and education, with people our own age, all I knew was that I wanted to instill a little of the things I enjoy most.
We had an inkling bringing along our top wellness expert Lyndall Mitchell would be a huge hit and she was. She had a core group of people who joined her every morning, up at break of day, stretching, yoga, meditations and connecting back into themselves with purpose….it was incredibly special. To sit quietly in meditation, overlooking a medieval cathedral is something pretty unique! There was even a hard core few who joined Lyndall for her morning run with her husband Scott…my knees are buggered, so I was happy to take a leave pass!
Sailing slowly down towards the French Rivera you travel through some iconic wine regions – it begs you to understand more about importance of the area. So getting my good pal, wine journalist Nick Stock on board was a key ingredient. I wanted to understand the history and see for myself where Burgundy, Beaujolais and French Rose comes from.
I wanted to try the different wines and come away with a greater knowledge so that I had more confidence next time I asked for the wine list. There is nothing Nick doesn’t know about wine, particularly French wines so we organised on-board wine tastings, he took some us to some exclusive vineyards off the beaten track and genuinely shared his love of the grape.
Entertainment has the ability to either lift a moment or dose it a dull pain. Getting the mix right is not always easy but we felt we needed to do something a little out of the Balance box and have some fun! Enter ‘Leave It To Diva’ Lesley Hancock. Lesley is a performance artist of the highest degree, she does cabaret, comedy and hysterical impersonations. No one had any idea what we had up our sleeve but as the evenings rolled on after dinner, we were visited by ‘Julia Gillard’ in her best Australian drawl & sequin jacket, Kath Day-Night popped in wearing her finest boating leisurewear for some silly Bingo.
The night Nick and I hosted “How to make the best Martini’… Pats joined us from Absolutely Fabulous…we tried to pry that Bolli out of her hands and hand her some Stoli…and it worked. She became the official taste tester and was a convert after one very dry and rather large Vodka Martini. Hysterical fun!
One very pleasant surprise was how divine the crew were, after being introduced to drop dead gorgeous Captain Julian, I thought Avalon handpicked the entire crew just for us! We got to appreciate how talented and funny these guys were the night of the ‘Crew Show’.
Some of you would appreciate every cruise puts on a ‘Crew Show’ and I had no idea what to expect, suffice to say their show was one of funniest things I’ve seen culminating in our head Chef stealing the Show with not only his French looks but a voice to match.
For me there was a couple of ‘pinch me’ moments… Avalon took the opportunity to film a television commercial while I was on the ship. The opening hero shot was to be filmed with a drone early one morning as we moored off the Pont Du Gard, in Avignon, one of the most iconic sites in southern France.
As I opened my bedroom curtains that morning around 6am, dawn was breaking, the river was still and the silhouette of the famous bridge was a breathtaking moment. I hoped everyone was up early to take it in the majesty of it. The other moment I loved was organising a golf game at a course I’d found not far from where we were docking at Viviers. A humble but beautiful course, on a perfect sunny day, with mates followed by a steak sandwich and a bottle of French to finish…I was in 7th heaven.
While I was getting to know some lovely people and checking in to make sure everyone was OK, I had to stop myself every now and then just to look around and appreciate the true beauty of where we actually were. Floating along the mirror like river, gazing out and admiring the impressive Chateau’s along the banks, the vineyards in the distance, the changing light from break of day to golden sunsets on the Skydeck, with drink in hand. I totally get why river cruising has become incredible popular, it’s so easy to fall into the easy, effortless rhythm of the day. Hope to see you on the next one XX