I received so much helpful information on Cruise Critic before we sailed that I want to share our recent experience on the Avalon Creativity in hope of helping others with their decisions. What follows is a general review of our very pleasant journey.
Embarkation: We chose to fly to Paris independently so we could use flyer miles. We arrived in Paris, boarded an Air France bus to the Gare Montparnasse and took a short walk to our hotel,the Concorde Montparnasse. We chose the hotel because it was close to the Pullman Montparnasse where we would be getting the bus to the ship the next day. We dropped our bags at the Pullman around noon the next day and took the metro to the Notre Dame area. We spent the afternoon in the Ile St Louis, where we had a pleasant lunch and returned to board the bus for a short trip to the Creativity. Boarding was easy, and within a few minutes we were in our cabin where our bags were waiting.
The Creativity: We loved the ship! It's 3 years old and shows absolutely no wear. The cabin is not large, but very cleverly designed with ample storage space.
The front and back lounges are comfortable, and there are many areas to sit outside and watch the scenery go by.
Excursions: The included excursions were all quite interesting. Our first stop was Conflans,a relatively colorless village, but we enjoyed the tour of Auvers-Sur-Oise, and the story of Vincent Van Gogh. Vernon on the other hand was a beautiful little place and Giverny and Monet's gardens a must do. We loved Rouen and the included tour there. The highlight for me, and the reason we took the trip, was the excursion to the D-Day beaches. It was a very moving experience, made even more so by a fellow passenger who was an Omaha beach D-Day veteran. On the way back to Paris we stopped at Les Andelys, another pretty village, and heard the story of Richard the Lion-Hearted.
We didn't take many optional tours since we had been to Paris before, but did do the trip to Honfleur which is a beautiful spot and worth the extra money in our opinion. All in all, we were very happy with the excursions and the guides.
Food and Drink: Breakfast was fine although lacking variety. One can order the special of the day, and there are made to order omelets. Everything else is the same each day. Lunch was also a buffet, with a meat and pasta selection freshly made. On 2 days, an al fresco grill lunch was offered on the skydeck. We were able to do this once, and it was very pleasant. It was unfortunate that this was not offered more, as it was very limited and everyone did not get to try it. Dinner was a very nice experience, with usually around six courses. Any one course is not large, but we were always full by the end of the meal. The food was excellent, although to a real foodie it was not gourmet quality. That being said, we loved it. The chef used local products and menus, and the wine and beer were free-flowing. We never saw the bottom of our wine glasses.
The lounge was a fairly active place with nightly lounge type music, and happy hour two for ones each night at some point. A string quartet was brought in one night, we had a D-Day presentation, and there was a French pastry demonstration as well. Drink prices were fair in both the lounge and the mini-bar in our cabin.
Service: This was the area where the Creativity really excelled. In every respect service was top-notch. Our room was made up while we were at breakfast each morning and turn down service was provided during dinner. The waiters were excellent both in the dining room and the lounge. When we were up on the skydeck during happy hour, our waiter even found us up there and asked if we wanted anything (of course we did!)
The organization and execution of every aspect of the trip was truly fantastic. The boarding, meals, excursions, etc. were all carried off perfectly and demonstrated excellent planning and attention to detail. We loved sailing with Avalon and hope to do it again soon.
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