Arrived in Amsterdam on first day of cruise coming from Copenhagen where we had just completed an 11 day Baltic Sea cruise that day. With the long, expensive flights from the US, we decided to do the 2 cruises back to back. The dates worked out for us & I booked both over the internet directly with the cruise companies with no problems.
Avalon did great job getting our documents to us early and answering all my questions pre cruise. Arriving at the airport around 4:00 PM & collecting our luggage, we expected to see an Avalon representative holding a sign to transfer us to the ship. After walking around for about 10-15 minutes, we finally found the red & white object where they were standing; after the driver finished his coffee, we left for the ship, about a 20 minute ride.
At the ship, we got on immediately & went to our room with no further waiting. The ship is beautiful and the room was very comfortable with plenty of space for everything. The room seemed small with only had 2 small windows; when we booked in June, no balcony rooms were available. However, with the great weather, there were plenty of public viewing places so didn't spend much time in our room.
The ship ride was very smooth and our room very quiet. Beds were very comfortable.
Dress was casual during the day & dining room at night most dressed up a little more but no ties or sports coats. Saw a few men in tee shirts & shorts at night.
There are no activities on the ship as with large cruise ships, which didn't bother us as we do not participate in those anyway. Viewing the scenery along the river and the ports are the focus of this type of cruise and these did not disappoint. Likewise, there is no shopping on the ship and no photographers.
Entertainment in the evening is primarily a piano player which we listened to a few times. One night 3 local musicians were brought in & they were excellent. By evening after dinner & sightseeing all day, we were ready for bed as most days begin with the included walking tour around 8:30 AM.
Dining: The breakfast & lunch buffets offered a nice variety & food was good. Two days a bar-b-que lunch was also offered on the top deck outside but you had to signup the day before which wasn't made very clear so we missed the first; apparently they only had space for about 40 people, so if you weren't on the list, you couldn't have that.
Dining: Dinner was at 7 PM in the dining room, a sit down dinner with no other option. I was disappointed in the entree options several nights as well as the desserts at lunch & dinner. The brochure information makes it sound like there is a bistro on the top deck for casual dining as an option & there wasn't. Seven nights of sitting through a long drawn out dinner was too much after sightseeing all day. The unlimited wine & beer was nice & the service was great.
The self serve coffee, juice, cookies & fresh fruits in the Club Lounge all day were nice.
The ports were wonderful & beautiful cities. Some of the walking tour guides gave us a little too much history but most of the included tours were good and the headsets worked well. Nice to be docked usually right in towns where we could walk around. Really enjoyed the Rhine River gorge scenery but got tired of listening to hours of history over the loud speaker on the ship; for us, an occasional break would have been nicer as we began to feel like we were in a history class. At the rear in the Club Lounge, it is quiet (no speakers) but we wanted to sit outside at the front of the ship.
Rudisheim was charming & enjoyed the musical museum & included wine tasting. Really enjoyed the bus tour to the Black Forest area which also was included; very pretty & interesting.
We took the optional tour to Alsace for the wine tasting, plus got to see the beautiful countryside along the way. Would recommend this tour.
I would recommend this ship for this type of cruise if your primary focus is the ports & their history which they did very well. For us, the lack of evening dining options, plus the cost of a balcony room compared to the ocean cruise ships would be a factor in booking another river cruise. Also, if possible, we prefer to do our own sightseeing at the ports which gives us more options.