This is the only word any reasonable person could use to describe our river cruise on the Avalon Luminary.
My wife and I (in our 60s) flew into Paris an extra day in advance , almost 24 hours after departing from Sydney. This isn't the place to review the airline we chose, so I'll refrain.
The Hotel (Hilton Arc de Triomphe) was excellent, meeting all our expectations and living up to its 5-star rating. The room was very comfortable and quiet and the air conditioning did exactly as it was instructed to do. The (French) staff were all friendly and helpful and our lack of the French language was no problem. We stayed for 3 nights and would recommend the hotel to anyone.
An interesting coach sightseeing tour of Paris highlights was included and well worth taking. We also took the optional tour of the Palace of Versailles - what a fabulous place. It's so popular with tourists that it was inevitably fairly crowded and the pace had to be kept up during our visit. Despite the crush, it's a must-see. On our extra day in Paris, we took a private local river cruise on the Seine - what a wonderful way to see many of the sights the city offers.
VERY FAST TRAIN ("TGV")
This was our first experience of a very fast train, when we travelled from Paris to Luxembourg. We would never have imagined how quiet, comfortable and quick the trip would be, but it certainly was - and at 320 km/h.
LUXEMBOURG and TRIER (GERMANY)
Due to prior flooding in that area of Europe, the rivers were high and bridge clearance tolerances were low in some places. As a result, we joined the ship in Trier, instead of Luxembourg. My wife took the optional coach excursion back to Luxembourg and found it very interesting and worthwhile. From this point on, timings are a bit of a blur, so bear with me.
The Luminary exceeded our expectations in virtually every respect. The entire vessel was immaculate and stayed that way during the whole cruise. We were fortunate enough to have one of the 4 suites on the ship, which are somewhat larger than the other cabins. But apart from space, all the cabins were of high standard of presentation and facilities. The décor is understated elegance and the overall layout of the ship was obviously designed with the passenger in mind. There was no smoking anywhere internally, although outside facilities were available. As a result, all of the interior had a fresh appearance and certainly none of that 3-star "odour" you can find in some accommodations.
The entire crew, from the Captain all the way down the line, were exceptional. Their training was obvious, with "engagement" of passengers a clear priority. Crew members were from many different part of Europe and some from Asia, but without exception, they were friendly, obliging and spoke excellent English - not one sour face amongst them all. They were enthusiastic about their work and had a genuine smile for everyone. Obviously hand-picked for their skills and talent, the crew even performed a hilarious "revue" one night in the lounge and had passengers busting their sides with laughter. Our trip spanned "Halloween" and that day was themed accordingly throughout the ship. I can't speak highly enough of all the crew who made our cruise so enjoyable and fun.
Jerome Bertrand, our Tour Director, kept us thoroughly informed and ensured that the well-oiled machinery necessary for a successful cruise was kept running. It was obvious that he intentionally did a lot of his work in the background and avoided being "in-the-face" of passengers, but was always available to assist.
If you enjoy your food, you'll enjoy the fare on Luminary. The Chef is a real character who can cook up a storm and delight passengers with his enthusiasm and banter. The only complaint about the food ........ the waistline grew somewhat ...... but that's a small price to pay for great meals.
Much is already written about the beautiful towns and villages we passed through or stopped and visited along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. The balance was just right and shore excursions were easy and very enjoyable. To highlight any one in particular would be a disservice to the others.
This was the only disappointment of the entire trip - we didn't want to go home! Nevertheless, everything good comes to an end and the disembarkation and transfer arrangements in Amsterdam happened with a minimum of fuss.
Just do it ! You'll never regret it. Avalon river cruises, such as the one we took, are a relaxing, comfortable way to see delightful parts of Europe - and you only unpack your bags ONCE.