First of all, this was my very first river cruise experience. After studying for months different itineraries, river cruise lines, reviews, etc. I decided to go with Avalon for my first river cruise. It was better than expected.
The Avalon Panorama is a brand new river ship, it offers an interesting modern/elegant decor and ambiance. Mother nature even
Embarkation process: it was easy and smooth. I spent 5 days in London, and then I flew to Basel and I did all the transfers on my own. Once I got to the ship, it seemed they were not expecting any passenger so early, but they were welcoming enough to smile and to help us with the luggage. A few seconds after, we got offered a glass of champagne.
Reception Area: the lobby is simple, but elegant, the Christmas decorations were all over the ship. You were able to feel the Christmas Spirit right away, something kind of unusual to me.
Stateroom: the stateroom was comfortable, quite and elegant, flowers and a water bottle on the desk, and a welcoming note laying on the bed. The size of the stateroom was appropriate, I would say bigger than expected.
Bathroom: the bathroom was surprisingly comfortable and very well-designed, it reminded me to the elegant and spacious bathroom of the Azamara's Journey. I was not expecting so many nice amenities, including L'Occitane toiletries.
Public Areas: the Panorama is an elegant ship, the interesting feature is that is quite modern at the same time. I've seen many pictures of different ships from various river cruise lines, but there is nothing similar to the Panorama, the carpet's colors, the curtains, the furniture and the artwork perfectly matched with the whole concept of the ship. The Library is nice, the lounge bar is bigger than expected. The elevator was not in service, it was decorated instead with Christmas presents and dolls. I guess that some people complained about it, as most fellow passengers were seniors.
Food: the food was better than expected as well. Especially dinner, where you have a fair variety of main entrees, the food was quite good and they offer complimentary wine. Breakfast was abundant, different hot and cold choices, also you had complimentary champagne.
Excursions: the excursions were excellent, the tour guides were knowledgeable and fun. The bust were brand new, very clean and in excellent conditions. The included excursions are one of the most attractive features of river cruising. The Christmas Markets are just magical and perfect.
Service: I believe this is one of the strongest areas of the Avalon Panorama, even though the crew were very busy, they were friendly and most of the times had a smile on their faces. The Cruise Manager was very entertaining, he was not just friendly, but quite efficient at the time of recommending things to do, and when you needed to book an optional excursion at the last minute.
Disembarkation: same process as the embarkation, very easy and smooth.
I would definitely recommend the Avalon Panorama to my family and friends. River cruising is different from ocean cruising, it is a lot more low paced, enjoyable and you have the chance to meet nice people more in depth as most river ships have a capacity of 180 passengers or less. I definitely prefer river cruising to ocean/sea cruising. I would rate my overall experience as 9/10.