We booked and paid for our tour through our local travel agent in September 2012, almost a year before the event. She told us that if we logged on to the MyAvalon site when we got home we'd get a full itinerary and a list of optional tours we could take in each of the cities we were to stop in. When we got home, however we learned on the website that the itinerary and optional tours wouldn't be posted until the end of December. Disappointed we nonetheless waited. At the end of December we logged on again and learned the full itinerary and a list of optional tours would not be posted until the end of January. Come the end of January the website now said these things would be posted at the end of February. At the end of February it was once again the same story - they would be available at the end of March. At the end of March we were very surprised to find they'd posted this information, but were also horrified to learn that on some days the only thing that was listed as an option was an event we had to pay extra for - generally speaking these events were also out of the town where we'd be making our port call.
Disappointed once again we got busy booking our own tours for these days meaning we were spending an additional $650 over and above the tour, airfare and trip insurance. On three occasions to book these private trips we required information from Avalon - the time of arrival and departure at the port or the place we'd be docking, and other minor details. This is when we first learned that learned that Avalon's Customer Service people didn't answer their email. It required no less than 9 emails interspersed with phone calls (3 I think) that also went unanswered to get an answer to this first question. The other attempts to contact Avalon although bad weren't as severe, but they should never be bad.
As the time of the tour neared one of the tour guides we'd booked for a tour of the city of Budapest (where the website offered no events other than out of the city) contacted us to ask where we'd be docking in Budapest. Two emails and three phone calls to Avalon got us a response, "Why are you booking a tour of Budapest when we're giving you one free?" I had their website up while I was on the phone so I could read what the site said about Budapest - our only option discussed was to go on a trip (for additional money) outside of Budapest. The agent told me I must be IGNORANT and asked if I hadn't ever taken a cruise with a line of the caliber of Avalon. I was flabbergasted! "Ignorant!" My husband and I had taken other tours and they'd given us full information! Additionally I was taking an expensive vacation for which I'd paid cash and she was probably making about minimum wage answering the phone.
When we arrived in Prague Avalon had a table set up in the lobby where one of two women from Avalon were sitting the majority of the day to answer questions. Unfortunately the questions we asked resulted in false information. We were told, as an example, to hang onto our Czeck money until we got to Germany where we'd get a better exchange rate. In fact we had trouble unloading it in Germany! We were also told that our ship would have an ATM aboard it, but that it only had Euros, which of course would not cover Hungary. The truth of the matter was that there was no ATM on board at all.
So far Avalon was off to a real bad start! When we arrived on the ship (which was quite lovely) we learned that other tours not mentioned on website were included but all the website discussed in most cases were the optional tours you could take for an additional fee. To me it looks like this was done to get us to take those optional tours and provide Avalon with more money. As we'd already paid for the private tours me booked ourselves in full we felt obligated to stay with them. They were, to be frank, far more exciting than the ones Avalon offered. We went hot air ballooning, Segwaying and other fantastic stuff - all paid for out of pocket. That's a lot more fun than four hours of watching people in traditional dress doing a traditional dance.
The ship and the crew were amazing for the most part. The meals great - our room always perfect - and the crew delightful. However, things beyond the crews immediate control were not so good. The WiFi was broken and had been for a while. The two computers that they offered for all the passengers to use (146 passengers I think) were so slow that it took us 19 minutes to open a short textual email. Probably irrelevant to all of this were the 6 postcards we paid for them to mail for us (one Euro each). Not one of the six was received, and this is being said roughly a month after they were mailed.
We are in the process of booking our next tour (again a river cruise - what a wonderful way to travel!) and it will not be with Avalon.