Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ago. Coffee, tea, juice and water along with fruit and cookies are available 24 hours a day in the back lounge. Each afternoon there is a coffee/tea and cake offering in the main lounge.
There is a beauty shop on board. They added head massages to their list of offerings. I had mentioned on last year's survey that it would be nice to have someone who could give manicures on board. This year on the Creativity, Sandra was able to shape my nails and cuticles and then give a hand massage. Again, I mentioned on the survey that further nail service would be nice. We did not use the onboard fitness room as we were walking quite a few miles each day on the tour. The hot tub was on the top deck and was used by quite a few people. We boarded the Creativity after taking an optional trip to the Eifel Tower. It was so nice to see one of our bartenders from last year, Radu. Always nice to have a familiar face to greet us ...
This trip had 123 passengers as I recall. The Creativity is a fairly new ship and its layout was familiar to us as we were on the Affinity's maiden voyage last year. I have been asked by several Cruise Critic members to talk about the included and optional tours. On the Paris to Normandy portion of Grand France there were two included tours most every day. You were given the choice of one or the other. Sometimes we made a good choice and sometimes we didn't ... here are the choices that we had for tours and optionals:
Paris: There was an included sightseeing tour of Paris. In the afternoon there were two optional tours: Louvre and Versailles. Last year we took the Versailles tour and really enjoyed it. Those who took the Louvre tour said it was good but not much time to just stand and enjoy the artwork. In the evening there was an optional trip to the Moulin Rouge. We didn't go either this year or last year but those who went had a great time.
Conflans: The included tours were a trip to the village where Van Gogh spent his last three months or St. Germain to visit the home of Josephine Bonaparte. We did the St. Germain trip and it was OK but wish we had done the other one as we heard good things from those who took it. Vernon: The included tours were a trip to Claude Monet's home and gardens or Chateau de Bizy which is a 'small Versailles' ... we did Monet and loved it. That evening there was onboard entertainment by Valerie and Alexis, which was OK but not a group that I would want to hear again. Rouen: There was a walking tour of the city in the morning and then two optionals in the afternoon: Homfleur and Calvados Distillery or visiting several Abbey's, which is the one we did (I graduated from a Benedictine University and wanted to visit a Benedictine Abbey) and we had a great time. Those who went to Honfleur said it was nice and that they enjoyed the distillery. We stayed in Honfleur while we did our own Normandy trip so I wasn't interested in going there That evening we had onboard entertainment from La Strada, which is a trio of violins and keyboard synthesizer who performed classical music. This was our third time seeing these performers and they just get better each time. We did purchase their CDs so that I can enjoy then here at home. Rouen: This day there were three included trips: Landing Beaches for the American Landing Beaches for UK and a Taste or Normandy which included the Bayeux tapestries. My husband did the American landing beaches while I stayed on the ship and relaxed. Everyone enjoyed their tours. Normally there would just be a trip to the American Landing Beaches but there were 20+ folks from the UK who were there especially to see the UK beaches as many of them had served in the military in World War 2. Les Andelys: The included tours were basically the same. One did a tour of the city and then went up the hill to the ruins of Richard the LionHeart's castle and then walk back to the ship or take the bus up and back from the castle and then tour the city. That afternoon we had a tasting of several French cheeses. We arrived back in Paris and those who only took the Paris/Normandy trip leave to go home and the others of us went on to the start of the second cruise. NOTE: This trip was affected by the Iceland volcano and a little over 100 of the folks had to find alternative ways to get home. Some of them decided to go along on the Burgundy and Provence portion of the trip and then leave the ship to get back to Paris for their flights back to the US.
Just a quick word on the Creativity. It was a great ship with good staff. The food wasn't as good as what we have had on our two previous cruises and we were sure that the CD knew about it and also put it on our survey forms.
We had a limited number of people on this cruise as the volcano prevented many folks from getting to Paris. I believe that we had just 51 of us on this portion of the trip.
Then those who were continuing on the Burgundy and Provence trip were put in a small van and began our journey to Chalon. On our way there we went to Beaune to either do Burgundy Wine Tasting or tour the Hospices of Beaune (we did the wine tasting). There we met the others group who would be joining us on the cruise. Lunch was on our own. We arrived at the ship to find out that one of the waiters was also on the Affinity last year (Lazlo). Chalon: Walking tour of the town and then sail to Tournus where you could walk to St. Philibert Abbey (beautiful place). There was an optional tour to Chateau Cormatin which we did not do. Macon: No tour just cruising on the Saone. The weather was beautiful so we enjoyed Lyon: City tour which includes the painted walls and the Basilica ... can't miss the Basilica ... Lyon is a wonderful place to tour. Lyon: There were two optional tours scheduled but they wound up being put together which is going to the silk mills and then to the market. Afternoon there was an optional to the Beaujolais vineyards ... we didn't take either one but heard great reviews on both of them. Tournon: Walking Tour and then a little free time before going to Viviers where we took a walking tour through the city and then went up the hill to the Church/Convent area and had an organ concert at the church ... for those with problems walking, transportation was provided up and down the hills. My husband took the transportation but I walked. Avignon: Included tour of the town and the Pope's Palace. In the afternoon there was an optional trip to Pone du Gard and Uzes which we again did not take. Arles: City walking tour and then optional to St. Remy, Van Gogh and Nostradamus ... again we did not take the optional. We took the extension and wound up in Nice where we did take the optional trip to Monaco ... which was great!!!
The Scenery is a little older than the Creativity and has had some updating. Rooms, service, etc., were great. The food was better than on the Creativity but as with most ships, there was too much salt in the prepared food.
This was a fantastic trip. We were so fortunate to have Yvette Laurent as our CD. She is so pleasant, organized, and nothing seems to 'rattle' her. She did such a great job in helping those who were stranded in Paris, both those who booked their air, etc, through Avalon and those who didn't.