My wife and I had a wonderful time on the Avalon Scenery cruise on the Soane and Rhone Rivers and would highly recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the lovely scenery, the medieval towns, the lush vineyards in the company of a terrific crew and staff. The only jarring note was the painfully loud dining room, which others have mentioned. It desperately needs more sound dampening. Part of the problem is likely caused by the average age of the voyagers, which I would peg at about 70. So there might be some hearing issues that contribute to the loud voices. In any event, a quiet, relaxing dinner on board the boat was impossible. If it was not for this, I would give the trip five stars.
Our trip started in Paris at the Pullman Montparnasse. It is not a typical Parisian hotel, but, for our purposes, it was more than adequate. The breakfasts buffets were staggering in their breadth and quality. The rooms were clean, and, best of all, the location is a couple of blocks from the Montparnasse Metro Station. We arrived a day early and found this a great location for exploring Paris.
After a couple of days in Paris, we left by bus to embark on our boat. The rooms on the boat are small but are very well designed. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of storage. The bathroom is small but fine and very clean. We loved having the floor to ceiling windows in our cabin. We saw many other tour boats with much smaller windows. The beds were quite comfortable.
The food on the boat was wonderful. Not five star French food, but very well prepared and quite a good variety at all meals. Good quality wine was freely poured at dinner, which might also have contributed to the noise factor. You had your choice of a light lunch or a full lunch; we were never disappointed with either.
One common complaint that we heard was about the woeful wifi. It was spotty in our cabin but completely unavailable in others, and not ever available in the coffee lounge in the rear of the ship. There are only two computers for general use and even there the internet connection there was often questionable. This needs to be improved.
The staff on the Scenery was simply terrific. Everyone was always accommodating, always with a genuine smile. The tour guides were all well prepared and insightful. Their English was quite good and they were filled with entertaining information about all of the stops whether it was a vineyard, a castle, a cathedral or a medieval village.
We enjoyed all of the excursions. We had not realized how many Roman structures still exist, nor did we know that there are a number of towns that retain much of their medieval character. Fascinating! I recommend the wine tastings which were all enjoyable and educational although none of the wines was really special. And do not miss the paid excursions to Pont du Gard and the medieval village of Les Baux.
Don’t let the noisy dining room stop you from taking this trip on Avalon; you will never forget it.