We considered a river cruise on Avalon on the recommendation of friends. We do not like ocean cruising, too many people, we like to see places and not spend days at sea. This seemed to suit our criteria. We spent 3 nights in Paris before flying to Vienna and we had booked into the Intercontinental Hotel for the night preceding embarkation. The hotel was nice but I can't say too much about it because we got there late at night and checked out at noon the next day. In between, the room was very comfortable, breakfast buffet extensive, ATM available in the hotel and in a good location to head out and explore the city whilst waiting for Avalon to take us to the ship. A tour desk was manned early in the morning to provide information on tagging and leaving luggage for safe keeping etc after checking out of the hotel and a room to wait with tea, coffee and water provided for cruise passengers. Quite a few gathered in the hotel bar to wait and this was a very pleasant environment to begin our cruise.
Embarkation was professional and slick after being transported through Vienna by motor coaches. The ship is clean, well maintained and comfortable. We had booked a stateroom on the Indigo deck which has a window and not sliding balcony doors. Were we sorry that we did not have a balcony, not at all. We found that we were not in our stateroom very often, we were either ashore or in the foreword or aft lounges enjoying a 180 degree view of the scenery and not just of one side. The bed was comfortable, shower pressure and temperature great, plenty of storage and it was great to kick the empty suitcase under the bed and relax.
I did the optional tour to Schonbrunn Palace. Well organised, and for those who went to that in the morning they could go on the included city tour in the afternoon and didn't miss out. In Durnstein we went on the included guided tour through the picturesque town and then headed off for Melk. The included tour of the abbey in Melk was good. In Grein, which was a small place we decided to go off on our own for a brisk walk and ended up at Greinburg Castle just on opening time. For €5 each we explored the castle long enough to give us time to make it back to ship before it's departure. Delightful morning. On returning back to the ship from tours there was tea or hot chocolate waiting.
Others on board had taken off on 2 optional excursions and there would possibly have been only 1/4 to a 1/3 of passengers left onboard. That is what we came for, the experience of gliding along the the river relaxing. It was exactly that with fewer people at lunch and in the lounges. Not that anyone got on top of each other when everyone was onboard, but it was nice. Next stop was Linz and we took off to explore on our own again armed with a map provided by Avalon. We saw another castle, explored churches, window shopped and generally soaked up the atmosphere of strange city. The people on the excursions met up with the ship in Linz.
Onto Passau. I did the guided tour on my own and window shopped in a very charming place on my way back to the ship. We did partake of afternoon tea this day and there were sandwiches, a very nice cake plus tea and coffee.
At Passau we disembarked and in lieu of going direct to Munich we took the optional excursion to go via Salzburg. This was worthwhile as Salzburg is quite charming and was an opportunity to try a cuisine of a different country. Our luggage came with us and we checked in at our hotel in Munich seamlessly.
The dining on the ship was good and the kitchen did well in what I can only assume is a cramped space. It's not fine dining and it's not what we expected. But the food was good and the crew attentive. My husband doesn't drink and a couple of glasses of wine with dinner is all that I want. So we didn't have a drinks package. The stateroom was cleaned and turned down everyday/night and a chocolate left on our pillows. We didn't use the lounge very much after dinner and so can't comment on the entertainment.
The fitness room was well fitted out and I did use it once, but the hours between 7am and 10pm did not suit and we grabbed every opportunity for brisk walking when ashore.
The Sofitel in Munich is a wonderful modern hotel, refurbished from being a former Post Office. It is next door to the main (I think) train station in Munich. Some would possibly say not in the best location but we didn't think so and after dining on 4 course dinners for the past 5 nights opted to try some fast/street food at the station. We had Bratwurst with mustard in rolls and Doner kebabs. The Doners were very good and we waited in line with Bayern Munich supporters to purchase these. If the locals think they are worthwhile lining up for, then that's good enough recommendation for us.
The breakfast at the Sofitel is one of the best that we've ever had all over the world. The room was great except we needed a few more days there to work out all the switches, being that modern. It was in a good location being only a short walk from the tourist/ shopping area. Included was a guided tour of Munich the next morning along the same lines as Vienna. The first part in a bus and then walking with a tour guide. This was good and even though we were only walking distance from the Sofitel, a bus was provided at 2 and 5pm for people to catch should they wish. I opted to tour the Residenz on my own that afternoon even though the weather was beautiful outside. After that we had a delightful late lunch at Ratskeller Restaurant in a central position of the tourist area. Next day was a long day visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, Oberammergau and Linderhof Castle. The countryside and attractions did not disappoint and we had a very, very good meal in Oberammergau when we stopped for a break.
We had not booked a transfer to Munich airport prior to the cruise and the Tour/Cruise Director arranged this for us. We and our luggage were picked up at the appointed time and taken by coach with 4 others to our relevant terminals. There was an Avalon representative who came with us to ensure that there were no hiccups.
All in all, would we recommend river cruising and Avalon. Yes very much so. Avalon were excellent, really couldn't fault anything. The passengers were mainly 55+ and US citizens. The younger couples onboard wouldn't have felt out of place though and mixed with the older passengers. The 2 dining nights at each of the cruise which were a bit more special, only required a collared shirt and pants other than jeans really. The only thing that we were sceptical about was whether we would like being in the company of others most of the time, but there was opportunity to be social and other opportunities for quiet time. We would do it again as it really was relaxing.