I’ve never gone on a cruise before because I’ve had recurring nightmares about all the things that could go wrong. In one nightmare I board the ship, and notice that the other passengers are wearing legionnaire’s hats, there are legions of them and they all have runny noses and a persistent cough. In another, the captain announces that we’ll be experiencing some rough weather due to the confluence of a hurricane, monsoon and tornado occurring directly above the ship. In a third, I am singled out of the audience during the staff show and forced to wear a blonde wig and dance with a French woman to the song, “Barbie Girl.”

But I finally went, on a river cruise up the Rhine, and thank goodness none of those nightmares came true. Except the last one. And now I’m appearing in the nightmares of others. I expected to be forced to walk the plank sometime on the third day.

I’m too cheap to travel first class, so we were in a small berth, more like a child berth, on a low level probably in between the boiler room and the cargo hold. We did have a nice big window, but it was right at sea level. You’d be surprised how many angry ducks there are on the Rhine river. We passed castle after castle, but we could only see into the basement. I could make out a dungeon, with a lot of torture devices, but it could have been a home gym.

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The castles were lovely but I don’t see why they were built at all. If the Normans, for instance, came over from Norm or wherever they’re from, and wanted to conquer our house, first they would complain about the driveway. Then they would raid the fridge, turn on the TV and ask, “Why does this couch smell like cat pee?”

We boarded the boat in Strasbourg, which is the biggest city in the Alsace region of France. An Alsatian is the same as a German shepherd, and that applies to all dogs and some humans. The next day we stopped in the wonderful little town of Rudesheim, overseen by the statue of Germania, which represents the unification of Germany. If you take the gondola up to the pedestal the views are breathtaking, although that might be the altitude.

We proceeded on up the Rhine, our cameras working overtime, along with our barmaids. Greg, one of the only other Americans on the boat, noted, “Castle, church, village. Repeat as necessary.”

On the fifth day, we reached our destination, Amsterdam. If you’ve ever been to this lovely city, and all went right, you probably don’t remember a thing about it. Or so you allege. There are so many ways to get yourself killed in Amsterdam, and all of them involve crossing the street. If you can maneuver in between the bicycles and pedestrians, cars and buses, the tram suddenly appears out of nowhere and you have to dive for cover. Don’t dive into the canal, because the traffic there is worse.

Then, we were off on the train to Berlin. We traveled the country of Hamburg and Frankfurt, and I got to thinking how nice it would be to get back to the States and get myself a hamburger or frankfurter. I dreamt of a REAL American breakfast. And by that I mean a Belgian waffle, French toast, a cheese Danish and an English muffin.

Say hello to Rick Melén at rlife8@hotmail.com.