While very experienced ocean cruisers this was my wife’s, mine and our traveling companion’s first river cruise. We chose the Avalon Poetry II because of the itinerary, it being a suite ship and the overall good reviews of Avalon. Avalon did not disappoint and provided a most wonderful river cruise/tour experience.
This cruise tour originated in Paris, sailed the Moselle, Rhine and Main, and finished in Prague. We chose to add 4 pre-nights in Paris to the 2 nights included in the cruise tour and 2 additional post nights in Prague to the 2 included in the cruise tour.
After an uneventful flight from the U.S. to Paris we were greeted by a driver prearranged by Avalon for transfer to our hotel in a modern minivan. Arriving at the Hotel du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe Paris around 10:00 am we checked in and surprisingly given our rooms. After a quick trip to our room to freshen up we embarked on our 6 night stay in Paris. On day 4 our cruise director Jerome appeared as scheduled and provided the information required for the remaining part of our cruise tour. The Hotel du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe is an outstanding 4-5 star hotel with very nice accommodations and located close to 2 metro stations as well as the Arc de Triomphe. The hotel staffs were great, polite and helpful in every respect. A very good buffet breakfast was provided each morning included in the Avalon cost. On day 3 a large number of passengers for both this cruise and others appeared so the ambiance of a nice quite beautiful hotel changed slightly but the service remained outstanding.
On the morning of day seven we left our luggage outside our hotel room, ate breakfast, boarded the buses to the train station, given train tickets and boarded a high speed train to Luxemburg to join our river boat the Poetry II. Embarkation was painless, the 100+ passengers were magically quickly checked in. We found our luggage in our stateroom, opened the panoramic sliding glass windows to the river outside and unpacked finding the storage space more than ample. That evening we had our first of many fine meals aboard the boat.
During this cruise Avalon did not disappoint. The ship is new and immaculate. The stateroom is as good as or better than any I have had on any ocean going vessel and the bathroom is one that most would love to have in their own homes. The ship’s architect is a genius as I believe the stateroom layout with the panoramic sliding glass windows cannot be improved upon. The ships modern interior design was pleasing on the eye at every turn. The ship’s crew was professional, friendly, helpful, engaging and just plain pleasant to be sailing with. It was clear that everyone from the captain on down was committed to providing the best river cruise experience possible. The breakfast and lunch buffets were marvelous and the evening meal was nothing less that the best fine dining with a small but reasonable selection to choose from. I was more than pleased with every meal served and I must note our wine glasses never went dry.
I was clearly wowed by this ship and crew but some constructive criticism is also warranted. First and foremost is the provided entertainment. I was not expecting ocean cruise type entertainment but I was underwhelmed. While the onboard musician was clearly talented and catered to the musical preference of the majority of the passengers his nightly entertainment quickly became repetitive. Avalon easily could have brought a variety local talent onboard for several nights of this cruise even if just for a short performance. Also as this cruise spent many waking hours on the river more daytime activities such as port lectures, local talent etc. could and should have been provided. Although watching the scenic landscape of the river pass by was soothing to the soul some other activity of any other sort would have been appreciated by this passenger. Second was the length of shore time provided at the various ports of call. With one exception we had at most 4 hours in each port, after the average 2 hour provided tour little time was left for exploring. I would have loved to have been able to sample local cuisine at numerous ports but if you took the provided tour there simply was not time to do so. Somehow Avalon should increase the shore time on this itinerary by 1 to 2 hours per port.
Finally a few comments regarding our tour director Jerome. He clearly knew his job, worked hard and provided the required information each day regarding getting on and off the ship. He was clearly busy doing whatever it was he was suppose to be doing but the result was that he appeared to be all business. More like a manager than an engaging cruise director. My suggestions for him would be to try to learn the names of as many passengers as possible, engage them in conversation, chit-chat. Possibly have a cruise directors table at dinner and dine with the passengers. I would have preferred him to be more engaging although others on the cruise clearly liked him more than I. Finally on one occasion he was clearly less than honest with me, our printed itinerary from Avalon stated a stop in Koblenz. We didn’t and instead berthed in Boppard that evening, when I questioned him as for the reason he told me Koblenz was never on the itinerary. I should have showed him the travel document provided by Avalon but let it go. I am sure there was good rationale for the change and Boppard was nice to walk around after dinner but I do not understand why he was not more forthright with me.
Disembarkation in Nuremberg and transfer to Prague went smoothly. The accommodations in Prague, The Prague Intercontinental, was a nice 3 star hotel centrally located among everything you would want to see in Prague. The included city tour from Avalon provided a nice overview of the city orienting us well for the remainder of the stay there. Our transfers to the airport at the end of our stay went smoothly and as promised by Avalon to begin an uneventful trip home.
My wife and I where more than pleased with every aspect of this cruise tour provided by Avalon. Will I sail with Avalon again, absolutely and preferably on one of their suite ships. Would I recommend them to a friend, again absolutely. Thank to Avalon for providing a great experience for a first time river cruiser.