This was our first river cruise, and we absolutely loved the concept. We sailed from the Black Sea to Amsterdam and would definitely do it again, but never with Avalon. There were many good things about this cruise; the crew was amazing, the food excellent, and the land tours very good. Gliding down the river is a wonderful way to travel. But our trip was spoiled by an intestinal virus that the crew was clearly unable to handle. They tried to down-play it, telling everyone that it was only a 24 hour variety, and it would pass quickly. However, it was much worse; my wife had it for five days between Belgrade and Vienna, and missed all the tours and cities in between. We found out later that there were numerous other people who also missed most of the trip due to this illness. We were also told by one of the crew members that the entire crew had also been ill prior to reaching Vienna. The day before reaching Vienna, everyone was ordered off the ship in Bratislava for the day so the ship could be disinfected prior to the new group of passengers boarding in Vienna. Other than closing the public restrooms and encouraging those not feeling well to stay in their cabins, this was the first concrete action taken, and the first admission that there was a real problem.
We never saw any medical personnel on board until we reached Vienna. At that point, I informed the cruise director that since my wife's condition was getting worse we were leaving the tour early so that she could get medical attention in Vienna. He informed me there was a doctor on board to treat another passenger, and offered to have him see my wife. She saw the doctor, and he gave three prescriptions which helped her tremendously, so we elected to stay on the cruise. She never recovered completely, but she was able to go on the rest of the tours. The doctor also gave me a bill for $320, and asked for immediate payment before he could leave. We're still trying to get that back from the insurance Avalon sold us, along with the $111 the prescriptions cost, but we've heard nothing back from Avalon or the insurance carrier.
After we left Vienna, the cruise director informed everyone the illness was over and all the public areas were open again. He was wrong. Two days out of Vienna it hit again, and we went back into virus prevention mode for the rest of the trip. This time I got it, and we missed two more days of touring. Others we spoke with missed many more days than we did. This was not a minor incident, it was a full-blown outbreak.
When we weren't chained to our room, we loved this trip. The tours were excellent (except the Salzburg excursion - don't waste your money!), the food outstanding, and the crew was wonderful, especially Kristina the hotel director and Mark the cruise director. If it hadn't been for them, we would have definitely left the ship early. But the fact that once the outbreak started no medical personnel were brought on board, the extent of the outbreak was downplayed, and the crew were obviously the carriers is all very disturbing. We feel that Avalon did not take this event seriously, and did nothing to prevent it from spoiling what should have been the trip of a lifetime for us and numerous others. As soon as it became apparent that they has a serious problem a doctor should have been brought aboard and taken charge of seeing that it did not become the larger problem than it eventually became. At the very least, the crew should have been treated so that the spread could be minimized. Avalon did nothing, and despite our filing letters of complaint, we've heard nothing from them in the way explanation on why they did not react to what turned out to be a serious problem.
The concept of river cruising is wonderful, especially in Europe, and we plan to do it again very soon. But we will never again go on an Avalon cruise. The cruise was organized very well, but Avalon is obviously not concerned with their passengers once the cruise starts. There are many other very good river cruise companies out there, and we encourage anyone looking into a river cruise to look into those other companies.