We just got back from our fabulous cruise on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. We sailed on the Avalon Affinity with 6 friends and everyone had a wonderful time. The crew was friendly and helpful and our cruise director Karolien was personable and always cheerful. She (and the crew) had to deal with a barge accident up river so they made last second arrangements for docking and bus transfers in the Rudesheim area and I thought it was all handled very well.
The food was excellent with a variety of choices at every meal. They even brought in a local chef for one evening's meal. There were 2 tables for 8 people in the dining area and we managed to get one of those tables every evening but one, so we enjoyed eating with our group. We got to tour the galley area and they perform magic in that small area getting the food out to all 138 of us.
Most evening's entertainment was Vesco at the piano but we mostly sat on the top deck and visited, enjoying the scenery. The included shore excursions with the local guides were great. They gave you a quick flavor of the town and then let you have an hour or so to explore. Karolien provided pretty good town maps each morning so you could navigate on your own. I had downloaded the iphone app "Planet Earth" so I had a more detailed map that I could access off line.
All the port stops were interesting and we particularly enjoyed the castle ruins of Heidelberg and the canals in Strasbourg. Unfortunately there was never enough time in each port, but that's the nature of this type of trip. You just have to come back on your own. The highlight of the trip had to be sitting on the top deck watching the castles, cathedrals and small towns on the Middle Rhine. Karolien did an excellent job narrating along this stretch of the Rhine river and I had downloaded Rick Steves' podcast about the castles so we could follow along. We had great weather that day and most of the trip. It sprinkled a little bit one day but I didn't need the umbrella I brought.
Our cabin was small but very functional with lots of storage and room under the bed for our luggage. The bathroom was very clean and nice. We were in Cabin 110 on the bottom level so we didn't have the big floor to ceiling windows that our friends did but since we booked this trip at the last minute, we were lucky to get a cabin at all. Somebody canceled the day I called. We didn't spend much time in our room except to sleep, preferring to be on the top deck.
I didn't do any of the optional shore excursions and didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Some of the group did a couple optional excursions and they said they were enjoyable. Both getting on the Affinity and leaving were super easy. When leaving, we just marked our luggage with a colored ribbon and set it in the hallway 45 min before we got on our bus that took us from Basel to the Zurich airport. Our travel agent had us purchase Avalon's transfer to Zurich, which was a good idea, since the taxi was very expensive. We did not purchase the transfer in Amsterdam, the beginning of our trip and that worked well since it was easy and cheaper to ride the Train from that airport to the middle of Amsterdam, where the ship was docked.
Tips: 1.We found that exchanging money with a Debit card at an ATM in the Amsterdam airport was easy and cheaper than buying Euros from my bank at home. 2.We used a credit card that didn't charge any foreign transaction fees when we bought our goodies and gifts to bring home. 3.We didn't need a "chip" in our credit card. 4. If you are buying something BIG, like an expensive clock or jewelry, you might consider starting in Zurich and ending in Amsterdam, if you want your VAT refund. You must exit through an EU country and Switzerland doesn't belong. 5. Don't over pack, it's a very casual cruise, although they did request the men wear long pants to dinner at night. 6. Upgrade your seats on the airplane, if you can... it's a l-o-n-g flight to/from the States. 7. We bought wine and beer on shore and brought it on board with no problems. We usually drank it with our friends on the top deck for "Happy Hour".