We travelled from Amsterdam to Basel on the Visionary from 6/24/ to 7/2/2012. The ship is new and we found that the upcharge for having a cabin with the highly touted panorama doors was worthwhile. The doors are actually a large slider so that 2/3 of your entire seaward wall can open to the water. This was our first river cruise, so we don't have any experience with which to compare, but we felt our expectations were very well met.
We spent several days in Amsterdam before the trip, stayed at the Movenpick and were charmed by both the city and the hotel. Given the chance, go for the concierge level at the hotel; you will get a room on one of the top 2 floors, the full breakfast (otherwise about 30+ Euro) and a lovely evening beer/wine and excellent hot and cold hors d'oeuvres from 5-7pm. Great service, very attentive.
We met our fellow passengers and cruise director, Sabina, at the Movenpick Hotel in Amsterdam to be shepherded to the ship, moored just next door. The staff of the ship was very well organized, all spoke English in consideration of the demographic. The passengers on our trip were all US, Canadian, UK or Australian.
Without detailing every stop along the way, each city included a walking tour of about 1-1.5 hours with a local guide. An "easy walker" group was available for those with mobility issues. We had earpieces so that one could wander quite a bit away from the guide and still hear everything they said. The walking tour gave some history and gave one a feel for the lay of the land. Following the walking tour there was generally some free time to further explore, shop or sightsee, another included excursion or the opportunity for an optional excursion. We LOVED that excursions were included and enjoyed all of them. We did opt out of one included excursion to explore on our own and some more experienced travelers seemed to do more of this than we did. We only did one optional excursion; I went on the winery tour while my husband napped aboard the ship one afternoon. I heard someone complaining loudly about it as they didn't enjoy it. I'm not sure what the fellow's gripe was, but he didn't think it was worth the cost. Although I am not a big fan of German wines I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, the tasting and the ambiance of the town. Excursions that involved coach travel were well organized and the coaches clean, comfortable and equipped with a guide who narrated as we drove.
Several days involved multiple stops in a single day and it means your time in one of the locations is limited. For example, the morning we were in Koblenz we had a walking tour at around 8:15am and left the town at 10am for the Rhine Gorge and Rudesheim, which didn't leave time to explore or shop. No way around this really I suppose; it just left us hungry to see more.
Onboard: We travelled with a small group of friends and agreed that the coffee machine in the stern lounge was a unanimous hit; GOOD latte macchiato, cappuccino, coffee, hot chocolate available 24 hours a day. Our steward was attentive but not intrusive. Food was abundant and good with a very nice variety of entrees at dinner and buffet breakfast and lunches with great variety. If offered, do not miss the German Cookout on the Skydeck, it was wonderful. Our unanimous concern...our ONLY concern on the entire trip, was that non-alcoholic beverages in the dining room at meals were slow to arrive, if they did arrive. Wine was poured very freely and your glass never empty BUT water, iced tea or coffee were generally not offered during the meal; you had to ask for it, which meant flagging down a very busy waiter as you are all seated for a single seating at the same time. Iced tea was particularly hard to get for some reason. Coffee and tea were usually offered at the end of a meal, just not terribly promptly. Again, this was our only complaint and I hope one that is easily resolved for future travellers.
Entertainment was fine but limited, though honestly, given the demographic (mostly 50-75, a couple of families with young adults and a single honeymoon young couple) this wasn't a big party crowd :) and many of us retired relatively early in order to be up and fed in time to leave for the 8:15-8:30 walking tour most mornings. So, if you are going primarily for night time entertainment, don't.
I would happily travel with Avalon again.