Where do I start? As the title says, we feel that this was our best vacation ever! We've travelled quite a bit in the U.S., Mexico, & the Carribean as well as throughout Europe (London, Paris, Dublin) so we have some other nice trips with which to compare this one, but have never been on a cruise. From the moment we stepped onto the ship, Avalon Felicity's staff members went out of their way to make this a special memory for each & every one of the guests. (Actually, we had some trouble locating the ship due to some bad directions from our hotel concierge & Akos our Cruise Director came and met us himself in front of the Moevenpick and escorted us to the ship--impressive & we hadn't even boarded the ship yet!)
As soon as we boarded, we were handed a cold drink & our luggage was promptly taken to our cabin. We stayed in #105, which was one of the lower deck cabins with the small, raised-height windows. The cabin was very efficiently set-up (alot of built-in's, shallow shelves & luggage storage under the bed) and actually felt kind of spacious once the luggage was stored away. We did not stay in the room much anyway, so it was fine for us--the rooms with the french balconies are actually the exact same size but just have the added benefit of the full-length door wall where we had the small window. After we got settled, it was almost time for dinner so we headed upstairs for a before dinner drink & were surprised to find that it was "Happy Hour" in the lounge. Drinks (which were reasonable anyway--about $4 for a beer or a glass of wine) were half-price at this time. This was a nice touch & they would vary the time from day to day. They provided a ship's newsletter which would be placed in your room during the evening turn-down service while you were at dinner and would explain the next day's itinerary and provide helpful information such as the weather forecast and sites to see in whatever city you were visiting next--this newsletter would also include the scheduled time for "Happy Hour" & dinner. We very much enjoyed mingling in the lounge & meeting friendly & interesting people from all over the world.
The dinners were fantastic--you had a choice of 5 courses: starter, salad, soup, main & then dessert/cheese plate. Main course choices included several special regionally inspired main courses of the day or choices from the standard menu of main courses offered every day which included tenderloin steak, salmon, some type of chicken or a main-coursed size salad. The dinner waiters did an excellent job of getting everyone served almost simultaneously & nothing was too much to ask of them. We usually had James or Henry as our dinner waiters & they both provided top-notch service with a smile! The wine & beer flowed freely during dinner, too--thanks to Josef who always magically appeared before you took your last sip. After dinner, it was back to the lounge where Nick would play piano & sing while you enjoyed an after-dinner drink or two served by the very personable bartender Catalina. Mornings started on the early side onboard--early riser breakfast of pastries & cereal from 6-7am or a very nice buffet with an omelet station from 7-9am & then a late riser breakfast similar to the early riser offering from 9-10. Angie was our breakfast waitress most mornings & she always greeted us with a smile & 2 large glasses of water (we asked for larger glasses the first day & she always remembered from then on). We would usually get full enough that we didn't need lunch, but on the days we ventured into the dining room you had a choice of a buffet-style lunch (salad bar, fruit, soups, several hot selections & cold-cuts for sandwiches) or a choice of menu items. In the main lounge, a lighter lunch of warm sandwiches & snacks were available during this same time. Occasionally (twice during our cruise, depending on the weather) barbeque lunches were offered on the sky deck for a limited number of participants who signed up ahead of time. If lunch seemed too much after a big breakfast, coffee, tea & assorted donuts, muffins & cookies were available most of the day in the little lounge at the back of the ship.
The ship was kept exceptionally clean in general, but Ana who was our room attendant went above & beyond with how spotless she kept our cabin. One day we were rushing to get to the bus for the morning excursion & we forgot to put out the "do not disturb" sign until we could straighten up our messy room (clothes strewn about/makeup & toiletries all over the bathroom counter/etc). Upon arriving back at the ship mid-day, we were surprised to find our clothes folded, suitcases put back under the bed & all of the little bottles in the bathroom neatly organized. I found Ana so I could apologize for the mess & she just smiled and said "No worries--you are on vacation!" This "above & beyond" attitude was prevalant throughout the entire staff on the Felicity and this is part of what made this vacation so wonderful.
As for Akos, our Cruise Director he was the best! He was very good at his job--informative & organized and made sure we saw everything we were scheduled to see plus some. He always had extra maps of the city we were touring that day with important sites and the ship's location/bus pick-up location marked clearly on them. He gave excellent commentary for the excursions where there wasn't a guide & did a great job talking us through the Rhine Gorge area with about 3-4 hours full of information about the many castles & towns. The other factor that helped us mark this vacation as 'the best ever' were the people that we travelled with on the Felicity--what a fantastic group! We will remember all of them fondly & have exchanged emails so we can keep in touch. We hope to meet up with them again on another Avalon Cruise in the near future!