We took the maiden voyage of the Avalon Affinity on one of their new cruises for the year, Windmills, Vineyards and Paris.
It was fantastic. I was a little hesitant after reading reports about other companies and their maiden voyages, but I am here to say that the launch of the Affinity and the tour were fantastic.
The Affinity is the newest ship in the fleet, holding 138 passengers. The Affinity officially launched in a formal ceremony on Saturday, May 9th.
1. From the entry doors, there is a reception desk and two computers for internet access.
2. Towards the front of the ship there is a lounge which is outfitted with comfortable chairs, sofas, and sturdy tables.
3. A short flight of steps up from the reception desk are the Royal Deck and Suite rooms.
4. At the end of the hallway from these rooms is a beauty shop and a small lounge where the coffee, tea, etc. are served 24 hours a day. This is also the location of the Early Riser and Late Riser breakfasts.
5. A short flight of stairs down from the reception area are the Sapphire Deck rooms.
6. A short flight of stairs down from the Sapphire rooms is the Dining Room. The buffet area is much better 'presented'. Two tables are set up for 8 people while the others are for 4 or 6 people.
7. A short flight of stairs down from the dining room are the Indigo Deck rooms along with a fitness center. The center has two bicycle-type machines along with a treadmill.
8. Top deck has a hot tub for 6. There are two areas that are covered by a canopy for those sunny days. There are more chairs, tables, and lounges than the Artistry had last year.
9. Staterooms are similar to the other ships. I found the bathrooms to be better thought out than on Artistry. The bathroom has more storage in the vanity area than on the Artistry.
10. All other room storage remains the same. I actually had a lot of room left over.
11. Elevator is located in the corner of each floor.
The ship and its furnishings are very attractive. The ship is maintained well during the trip. The floors are spotless. The dining room has good soundproofing.
When arriving back from touring, the staff meets you with a cold drink and a hand towel.
The maiden voyage had a few 'glitches' but nothing that caused anyone to be inconvenienced.
1. The elevator was not working for several days. The engineers worked on it to fix it as fast as possible.
2. The ship was scheduled to go through a large lock in Rotterdam. However, the lock wasn't working and what was left was a smaller lock. After several hours, the captain and the lock master agreed to give it a try using the smaller lock. The lock doors closed with only inches to spare. It was a great job by all the crew to recover from that.
3. The ship got 'caught' on a sandbar leaving Rudesheim. The captain was able to get the ship off the sandbar without any damage. However, this delay caused the scheduled events for the day to be delayed.
4. Due to delays at some locks, the tour busses picked up the group or delivered the group to a location other than where we were scheduled to depart or arrive. It gave us a chance to see other towns that we might have not seen otherwise.
These delays were handled very professionally by our wonderful cruise director, Isabel Heimann.
Our tour started in Amsterdam, where we met at a hotel and had an opportunity to meet some of our fellow travelers and to sign up for an optional tour to Zaanses Schans, which we took. After that tour, we were taken directly to the ship where our luggage was already in our stateroom. We freshened up, quickly unpacked, put our empty suitcases under the bed, and headed upstairs to the lounge. The stateroom is has so much storage that we didn't use it all, which is unusual for me.
Each day we stopped at a different port. Some cities offered optional tours. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the Netherlands, along with Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, and France.
Our ports of call were: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Gouda-Dordrecht, Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; Maastricht, Netherlands; Nijmegen, Netherlands; Arnhem, Germany; Cologne, Germany; Koblenz-Rhine Gorge-Rudesheim, Germany; Cochem, Germany; Bernkastel, Germany; Trier, Germany; Remich, Luxembourg; and Paris. France.
Optional tours included: Rijksmuseum; Zaanses Schans; Voldendam;
Brussels; Aachen - Aux Le Bains; Bonn; Excursion to a German Dinner; Battle of the Bulge - on the footsteps of General Patton; Excursion to Luxembourg; An evening at the Artists Quarters of Montmartre; Mona Lisa's Smile at the Louvre; The Palace of Versailles; Moulin Rouge Dinner & The Greatest French Cabaret.
The city tours were good for the most part. We were given headsets to use with our local guides, which worked out well. Unfortunately, we didn't use them in Gouda and only those in the front could hear.
The optional tours that we took were great. We took more of them than we had originally planned, but they were well worth the money.
The food was very good. The breakfast buffet consisted of fruit, cheese, bread, eggs (hard cooked, scrambled, and an omelet station), various meats, hot cereal, cold cereal, yogurt for example.
At lunch there were two soups each day. A change from last year is that there were two menu offerings each day in addition to the buffets. The buffet had two meats and one pasta vegetarian offering, along with a salad bar, cheese bar, and wonderful desserts.
Dinner had two standing menu items which were chicken or salmon. The meal consisted of appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. Each night there was plentiful local wine to go with the meal. I didn't have anything that I wasn't pleased with.
Evening entertainment consisted of a talk on diamonds, a trio playing classical music, the crew show and a play that Isabel put together with various members of the audience. What a lot of fun.
We took the bullet train into Paris. It was neat to see how fast the countryside passed by us. In Paris, we were taken directly to the hotel where a special desk has been set up to give us our room keys. The luggage had been sent by truck from the ship so it was delivered to our rooms shortly after we checked in. The hotel, Le Meridien Montparnasse, was very nice and located near the southern train station and the metro.
We took two of the optional trips, the Artists Quarters of Montmartre, and Versailles. Trips to the Louvre and Moulin Rouge were also included.
We stayed for an extra day and took the metro to tour Notre Dame, Arch de Triumph, and the Eifel Tower.
The tour was wonderful and we are already planning our next river cruise.