Embarkation. We arrived in Amsterdam two days before we were to board the ship. This allowed us to acclimate to the local time and to view the many sights Amsterdam had to offer. The Anne Frank House was especially moving. We toured the Van Gogh museum which was also great and made the obligatory trip to the Red Light District. Viewing only. We met the rest of our fellow passengers at a hotel chosen by Avalon and were bused to the ship. Boarding was well organized and completed quickly.
The Ship. Since this was our very first cruise we were a little concerned about the size of the cabin. The last time I was on a ship it was a US Navy destroyer escort were living accommodations were tight. Our concerns were eliminated when we entered our relatively spacious cabin. There was plenty of closet space and more drawer space than I have seen in many hotels. Our luggage fit easily under the bed. The floor to ceiling sliding glass doors provided a sense of openness that was wonderful. The bathroom was small but adequate and we were surprised to find shelf space behind the mirror; an old fashioned medicine cabinet. Again there was plenty of storage for our grooming aids and toiletries. The glass enclosed shower stall had a movable shower head and there was always plenty of hot water. The public areas of the ship consisted of a small lobby with the front desk, a large lounge area, a dining room, exercise room, computer room, and a very spacious top deck. Both the lounge and dining room have huge windows that allow for great viewing of the passing scenery. We were fortunate to have excellent weather during the entire trip so we spent the most time on the top deck. Since the Tapestry is only a couple of years old everything was clean and well maintained.
The Food. All meals were served in the dining room and there was no assigned seating. We enjoyed trying to sit with different folks at each meal and were able to meet many interesting people. The conversations were never boring. It seemed as though the passenger list was evenly divided between the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The food portions were nicely sized and there were plenty of choices. Wine was provided with the evening meals and the waiters did not allow your glass to get empty. I had a minor complaint with the buffet area at lunch being a little too crowded to easily maneuver with your hands full. We adapted.
The Crew. Everyone from the Cruise Director to the waiters and cabin maids were extremely friendly. Most were young people from Eastern Europe and they all spoke English.
Shore Excursions. At each port-of-call there was a local guide waiting to escort us and describe the local attractions. We especially enjoyed Heidelberg and Coblenz There were very few "optional" tours as most were included in the cruise. We did sign up for the optional tour of the Alsace wine region and had a wonderful time sampling the local wines.
Total Experience. We were completely satisfied with the river cruise experience. The cabin exceeded our expectations. The food and dining experience with our fellow passengers was wonderful. The cities and towns we visited were exceptionally beautiful. We have taken many bus tours of different parts of Europe but there is no comparison to traveling by boat. Not having to pack and unpack every day was liberating. We are already starting to plan another river cruise for the summer of 2009.