Avalon Imagery by MrPhotog My wife and I have been on many cruises with "cruise" ships. This was our first riverboat cruise and now ranks as our best cruise. Our cruise was 14 days in length, going from Amsterdam to Budapest. We traveled from JFK through Madrid to Amsterdam and returned home via Madrid from Budapest. Since we did our own pre-cruise and post-cruise arrangements, we also did our own plane reservations, in this case using frequent flyer miles. For our three day stay in Amsterdam, we used the CitizenM hotel at Schiphol as our hub. It was a great choice. After having dropped off our luggage on Sunday morning at the NH Amsterdam hotel (where we were warmly greeted with coffee and) we were off to the Ryksmuseum (very close by) and then to lunch at a very busy, entertaining Amsterdam plaza near the American hotel.
The Avalon Imagery was a beautiful ship. Our cabin at 170 sq ft, mid ship, middle deck with a french balcony was a perfect location. A very short walk (75 feet) and 1/2 flight of stairs to the restaurant or the lounge. The ship is kept in immaculate condition.
Breakfast was usually open at 7 AM but there was always something put out for early birds. Breakfast and lunch were both served buffet style, open seating for all meals. You could get omelets made to order, hard boiled eggs, bacon , eggs, bagels, lox, etc., etc., etc. Coffee was served at the table. Lunch was usually served between noon and 1:30 PM. Everyday there was usually one or two items hand-carved plus at least two hot buffet entrees. Plenty of interesting and tasty salads, two soup choices, several dessert choices, including assembling your own sundaes. Dinner usually had a choice of three entrees. Sometimes you were asked to fill out a preference sheet the night before but that mean you were restricted because your cabin/name was not "collected". It was just to give the chef an estimate on how many of which entree to prepare. A chicken breast or salmon entree was always available. I found the staff very agreeable to do something extra for you. For instance, there were at least two vegetarian (oriental type) dishes offered during the trip so I asked the waiter to put a chicken breast on top of the vegetarian dishes - no problem. The portions weren't large, but they almost always came around and offered more of the entrees and side dishes. I never left hungry. Surprisingly, and contrary to some other comments, I found the overall entertainment experience better than on the larger boats. Sure, there were no big production shows but unlike some of my cruises on larger ships, I never was bored (and then wound up in the casino). We had a violin soloist, a zither player, an 3 piece band which played American jazz music, a string quartet of four lovely, young ladies, a cooking demonstration, a talk on the European Union, and more. I could always sit outside the lounge, on the forward end of the ship, to watch an ever-changing, fascinating scenery.
The service on the ship was excellent. The staff was committed to making you happy, and you never felt that they were looking for tips.
The shore excursions provided usually were very good. Some local guides were better than others.
Disembarkation went very smoothly and quickly. Would I do this again? In the "blink of an eye"!!