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why a viking river cruise just might save your marriage

Lois and Michael lifejackets

After 34 years of marriage, there are bound to be rough patches when every conversation seems to turn into an argument. When you pass each other in the kitchen without saying a word. When you spend most of the day – and sometimes the night – in separate rooms.

Unfortunately, it was during one of those patches last spring that Michael and I were finally offered a Viking River Cruise, the trip we’d been hoping for since I started travel writing. For years, we had drooled over the gorgeous commercials before every episode of Downton Abbey, picturing ourselves holding hands as we lazily floated down the Rhine or the Rhone, surrounded by magnificent scenery.

Now, all we could picture was being captive together in a small room in the middle of the water.

I knew that neither of us wanted to pass up this opportunity, though, and I remembered a friend of mine once observing that travel always seemed to bring Michael and me closer. So we booked the trip, which would take us through the South of France and end in Paris.

And a funny thing happened.

As we read about the places we were going to visit – Aix-en-Provence! Avignon! Arles! (and those were just the A’s) – we started to get excited. We would share interesting little facts we had picked up on Facebook and from friends, and we would text each other during the day just to say how much we were looking forward to the trip.

Lois and Michael sneakers with heart

According to a study done in the Netherlands, the simple act of planning a trip is actually a bigger happiness booster than the vacation itself so I was a little concerned that this feeling wouldn’t last.

But travel is unparalleled in its ability to literally take you out of your everyday rut and welcome you into a fresh new space. And a river cruise has some very specific features that are the equivalent of pushing the reset button on a long-term marriage.

Lois and Michael Viking River Cruise

For example, unlike the ocean cruises we’ve been on, where you can eat all your meals at a table for two if you want to, Viking offers only bigger tables so you’re forced to socialize. There are times in our lives this would not necessarily have appealed to us but it was perfect now.

If we had been sitting alone, I guarantee we would have ended up arguing talking about the same old subjects that were causing the rifts in our relationship. Instead, we met so many interesting people every single day, which gave us so many more interesting things to talk about, not just during meals but also when we were alone.

I’m convinced that the fact that there were virtually no decisions to make on our cruise was a huge factor in helping to bring us together. Instead of having to stress over where we were staying or what activities we should reserve – Is this hotel in a good location? Is this restaurant worth the money? – we could just eagerly anticipate everything Viking had already planned for us. This kept us on the same page and made our trip so much more relaxing. We participated in the excursions that were included and sometimes left the group to wander off on our own. Because the ship is usually docked within walking distance of the city, it’s easy to get back to it at your leisure.

Lois and Michael Aix

On the ship itself, we were treated like royalty. My husband is now a vegetarian and it’s become quite challenging for us to go out to dinner at restaurants we used to love. Every morning on our trip, though, he (and everyone else with special dietary requirements) was quietly offered a choice of dishes for the rest of the day, which he could customize to his liking. He never had to feel uncomfortable about finding something to eat at dinner because it had already been taken care of. This relieved his anxiety, which went a long way toward relieving our anxiety.

Back in our stateroom, we would talk about our day, the sights we saw and the people we met. We ooh-ed and ah-ed over the heated bathroom floor, the yummy-smelling toiletries and the veranda, where we could sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. We reconnected in a way we hadn’t in months. It’s hard not to feel grateful and awestruck – and romantic – when you get to watch castles and sheep and lush landscapes float by from your bed.

And, of course, Paris.

Lois and Michael Paris

Because the trip was so special and rekindled the spark that neither of us had made the effort to light for too long, we quickly planned another Viking River Cruise from which we recently returned. Yes, we took to heart the finding that it’s the planning that boosts happiness so dramatically.

Rather than try to relive our last trip, though – which is an impossible goal likely to lead to disappointment – we changed it up a little. This time around, we chose to cruise in the winter and head to Germany for the Christmas Markets. In theory, it didn’t sound as romantic as Paris in the springtime but it had been a bucket list item of ours for a long time.

And it was magical.

Lois and Michael Prague bridge

The Christmas Markets are something everyone should try to experience once in their lives. The little villages are adorable, everything is lit up and sparkly, and you feel like you’re in a fairy tale, with the Universe conspiring towards your happily ever after.

Lois and Michael Christmas markets

We bundled up, held gloved hands, drank hot chocolate and mulled wine, and got caught up in the joy of the season – and each other.

With spotty internet and no data plan, we were fully present.

That was only a month ago, and we’re already starting to think about our next trip. I’ve got my eye on the 23-day European Sojourn from Amsterdam to Bucharest because it’s the longest Viking River Cruise I can find.

Meanwhile, I’m considering putting a porthole in our bedroom.

Full disclosure: I’m not putting a porthole in our bedroom! Ha ha! Viking ships don’t even have portholes; they have floor to ceiling windows!


  1. It sounds like you’ve found your happy place…and that’s amazing! We are considering a river cruise in the fall, and I’m going to share this with our friends who we are traveling with. xo

  2. I love this! I am so glad your Viking Cruises was everything you hoped for and so much more! We are working on planning one and I agree the day to day planning has us so excited.

  3. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Aside from making my kids happy, I am never happier than I am when I am planning a trip!

  4. Oh we love to travel and are always making plans for our next trip too! Looks like you had an amazing time, beautiful photos. We’ve never been on a river cruise, but definitely something to look into.

  5. Your river cruise sounds amazing! Handsome and I have been wanting to take a river cruise for sometime now. I can’t wait to tell him about your experience.

  6. I love Aix. And those Christmas markets via Viking were terrific! We love Viking–heading to Portugal with them in May–and we’re bringing friends— and France in 2017, and we’re bringing friends. It’s a great way to travel.

  7. We love Viking River Cruises – so much that we’ve done three! And for the exact same reasons you love them. They took care of EVERYTHING from the moment we stepped off the plane, the docking spots in the middle of cities are fantastic, and we’ve met the coolest people on board. And we really appreciate that the destinations are the focus and not the ship. It’s fabulous to wake up every morning in a new place!

  8. Planning a trip is so exciting! I am glad that you two were able to have a good time on your Viking River Cruise- it sounds like it was amazing.

  9. I totally agree that ‘planning’ something- anything- is an important element in continuing the magic in an established marriage. Ben and I recently purchased an RV and shared our vision for what type it should be. Now we’re planning our adventures. We are also ‘planning’ what retirement will look like AND we have a trip to Europe coming up this June. I’m so into this planning ‘thing’ that I’m thinking about recreating ourselves again in a new state!

  10. Sounds like a must. What a great time to get away from everyday routine and spend time with each other. I have heard great things about this cruise

  11. A trip to Europe is on our bucket list. I would love a cruise, not sure hubby would. But this sounds like it was much needed. After 20 years here I know the rough patches very well

  12. I must say with my anniversary around the corner hubby and I could so use a vacay together. After 24 years we are getting to that point of spending more time apart then together.

  13. What a great story, so glad you and your husband were able to re-connect so wonderfully on this trip! I need to investigate these Viking Cruises a little more!

  14. This looks like a lovely trip. I’d do it for sure!

  15. Everything I’ve been hearing about these cruises has been lovely. It would be amazing to take one with my boyfriend on our first out-of-country trip together.

  16. Nice. You sound like you had an amazing time on your vacation.

  17. We went on a cruise twice in our marriage. I feel like we need to go every year!

  18. Those sound like those were amazing trips which really healed the rift which was beginning to form in your marriage. At least now you know how to keep the spark alive for both of you—plan trips then go on them!

  19. It is great to go somewhere with your mate. I am sure this type of getaway can rekindle romance.

  20. I’m envious! I wish I had someone with whom I needed to reconnect. So happy both of your trips were so wonderful. Brenda

  21. This looks like it would be a good time with the hubby!

  22. Looks like you had a great time. I love the photos and it sounds perfect.

  23. What a fun time! I would love to go do that some time.

  24. What an amazing cruise. Glad to hear that this brought you closer together.

  25. I agree with you about marriage – I feel it is one of the most important topics.
    Any great ideas are worthy of considering and I really like your cruise idea here!

  26. Ah…looks like a dream! I’ve always wanted to do one!

  27. I can’t think of a better way to rekindle a longtime love, Lois. Personally I would choose making memories over any material purchase, fun to plan, experience and relive. Cheers to the next 34, may they find the two of you planning lots of trips.

  28. I always love planning a trip. It is so exciting to do the research. The Viking River Cruise sounds like an amazing experience. I am so happy you were able to reconnect with your husband.

  29. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Both of your cruises sound divine and restorative. Every long-term married couple should indulge and reignite that flickering flame. Even short-term married couples!

  30. I’m really looking forward to booking a Viking cruise. My hubby said yes for sure so I know we are going to do it…we have a big event coming up in April so after that for sure! Love the pics and it looks like you both have discovered life’s sweet spot!

  31. A porthole in your bedroom! Haha! That visual cracks me up. Congratulations on 34 years of marriage… I can see the love in all those photos!

  32. You both look so happy in the picture. I am glad you got the opportunity to go on this trip together and reconnect.

  33. Paris has a Christmas market too! My mom and I did the same thing this year there…Hot chocolate and mulled wine…oh and crepes! Yum!

  34. I am thrilled that you are enjoying travel together. You two are so cute in your photos. (I still think a porthole would be a cool architectural feature. Conversation piece for sure!)

  35. You two crazy kids are still that – two crazy kids. Oh, this sounds simply divine and I am thrilled that you and MIchael got to enjoy all of it!

    Oh, the places I want to go to. Travel on, my friend!

  36. This is going on my bucket list and it’s getting checked off sooner than later! I just want to follow you around Lois, you have such an exciting travel schedule!!

  37. WOW…I feel like I went on this trip with you! Sounded so fab! I have never been on a cruise before. This blog made me think seriously about looking into a Viking Cruise ASAP!!!

  38. This sounds like a marvelous idea for a trip. So glad you had the chance to reconnect. You always seem so happy together in your photos.

  39. I love this so much. I actually text my own husband today about planning a small vacation today. I’ll start planning and anticipating it immediately! And I’m adding your cruises to my bucket list.

  40. Change of scenery is always refreshing. How very cool!

  41. I love the Christkindlemarkts of Germany and have fond memories of them. Like you, my hubster and travel well together. EXCEPT when he wants the window down on road trips blasting me the whole way.

  42. Magical. I have been through the very same thing, and travel makes everything better!

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