Just back from a Danube River Cruise on the new Avalon Vista, we are disappointed by the poor overall experience that Avalon Waterways delivers.
Budapest-Nuremberg. August 2012:
We boarded the ship in Budapest and were very impressed by this new ship, having cruised a lot all around the world , and on many river cruises.
The ship was docked next to the famous Chain Bridge, in the heart of Budapest, a short taxi ride from our hotel. It couldn't have been a better location.
The ship itself is impressive for a river ship, beautifully designed, with sleek lines and a tasteful, modern decor.
The main lounge is stunning, with panoramic floor to ceiling windows all around, and even better, there is an open deck lounge forward from where you can see everything. The Club Lounge located aft is also extremely nice and cosy, with drinks available at all times, but bad cookies.
Our Stateroom, #208 was just fabulous, with the famous floor to ceiling sliding windows (really great), lots of space, great closets and drawers all around; better than on many large cruise ships, good lighting and large beds.
The bathroom was especially great: Large, lovely decor with marble, good lighting, great L'Occitane amenities nicely replenished all along the cruise; and an extra large shower with a glass door and good water pressure. The best showers I have had in a long time.
The Welcome couldn't have been nicer, with crew and staff extending a warm welcome and committed to make you feel welcome.
Everything seemed perfect, ready for a great experience, but problems were lurking:
It turned out that the bedding looked much better than it was comfortable:
If the sheets are made of nice cotton as advertised by Avalon:
The pillows are made on 100% cheap synthetic fiber, hard like a rock, just like in the cheapest roadside motels along some remote highway.
We asked for soft, feather pillows (or pillows made of natural fiber) only to be told by both the housekeeping manager and the front desk manager that none were available, and that there was nothing they could or would do about this. That was the first big disappointment.
Giving it a try that first night; we developed quickly a pain in the neck and ended up the first night sleeping on folded bath towels! On a luxury ship!
Fortunately, we have friends living in Vienna, the next stop on the cruise, and we called them immediately, asking them to lend us two good soft feather pillows (filled with 100% natural fiber) for the remainder of the cruise.
Believe me, this was not a luxury or an indulgence.
But we had to ship the pillows back at the end of the cruise at our own expense and disturb our friends.
The duvet: Again Avalon touts its duvets. Unfortunately they are also made of synthetic of the cheapest kind.
We had to take out the duvets out of the sheet and replace them by the blankets provided, which were also of a cheap quality (76% synthetic) but we had to make do with that. However this was not pleasant.
Overall, the bedding was just not comfortable, and only our friends' pillows saved the day.
Overall the food was from mediocre to just plain bad, and this all along the cruise.
If a good selection of breads was always available at breakfast, including all the famous german breads, and the small good individual rolls; they were never available at lunch or dinner where only puny, mediocre little slices of plain bread were available.
The cookies were a complete disgrace: some were hard like a rock. I nearly broke a tooth on one, no kidding. They were especially bad and cheap in the Club Lounge.
All this while we were crossing countries famous for their cookies, breads and good food!
In fact, the food and the breads were so mediocre that we ended up looking for a bakery at each stop during the cruise, always finding one easily, and buying breads, cookies and cakes for dessert.
Never done that before on any cruise!
We also ate lunch or dinner ashore when we could, in order to have some good meals. Never done that before in my life!
Only one lunch, touted as a "German Lunch" was decent and interesting with some local specialties; otherwise the food was so plain, so mediocre, so disconnected from what was all around us that it was shocking and meals became a real bore when they could have been a great experience as the service and the design of the restaurant itself were extremely nice. The salads and buffets were especially mediocre.
This is a real shame, as Avalon could easily deliver a luxury experience as:
-The layout and design of the ship is innovative, impressive, luxurious and even stunning.
-The staff was extremely nice and helpful, always trying to make you welcome and comfortable (with what they had). Their training was impeccable, and they were providing great service at all times.
-The Cruise Director was extremely good and nice, doing a great job at all times without fail.
-The excursions were well organized, with interesting guides.
However, considering Avalon prices, the food and the bedding are not acceptable.
Overall, Avalon fails to deliver a good experience, and we are very disappointed.
It was a relief to find a good bed and good food in Munich where we stayed after the cruise.