We have just returned from our first river cruise. We have done several Ocean cruises, but this was the first time on a river cruise. The timing worked for us and it seemed like a good company. I believer this was one of the earliest times of the year that they have traveled this route. The cruise started in Amsterdam. Some people went all the way to Bucharest in Romania, others ended in Vienna, and some, like us, began in Vienna. The first part from Amsterdam must be like all the brochures of beautiful Bavaria, castles and a blue Danube/Rhine. But the second half from Vienna goes through many countries which have suffered great devastation this past century. WW1 and 2, The Soviet occupation, the break up of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian wars, and the historical clash of cultures and religious among the various invading tribes. Historically its all very interesting and Avalon arranged wonderful shore tours with great guides. There were at least 4 bus' and one dedicated to those who had trouble walking. But one is in a 3rd world country. That came as a surprise to many on our ship. Its not the picturesque Danube many expected.
There are drawbacks to Avalon in my opinion and things future/potential passengers should be aware of. We were quite disappointed in the quality of the food. There was plenty of it, but quantity isn't quality. Breakfasts and lunches were excellent, but dinners left a lot to be desired. We were surprised at the boring cuisine. Vegetables were frozen, defrosted and served warmed up, mushy with no herbs of sauces to make them interesting. I happen to like eggplant which is a staple in the local cuisine. Not once did it arrive at our table fully cooked. Under done eggplant is not very good. Fish and meats were also cooked with little imagination and desserts tasted like they came from a mix. Coffee was beyond bad. Whether it was brewed and served at table, or from the "espresso" machine in the lobby, it was horrible. Next time, I'll pack a French Press, some of my coffee and use their hot water to make it. Its may be just me, but I like good food. We saw plenty of fresh vegetables in the local markets, and I'm sure they could have brought them in from Israel or ? So I think cutting the quality of the food must be a cost cutting measure for the cruise line.
Internet access was spotty at best. From Amsterdam to Vienna is was very good we heard. But not from Vienna on. They charge you for use and we bought a plan. But it hardly ever worked and they did not refund the money or just make that part of the cruise free Internet because of reception difficulties.
The Imagery was built in 2007, I believe. The ship has no balconies. You get a sliding glass door with a railing in front of it. You are asked not to hang out the window because going through locks space can be tight, and you are asked to keep the window closed when you have lights on so bugs don't enter. Screens do not seem to be an option. The views from the dining room are to the sides only. Its in the front of the boat, yet there are no windows allowing you to see the river ahead. Above the D.R. is the lounge. It too has a somewhat restricted view of the front scenery. There is no lounge or public area allowing you to view where we have been. Being on the "roof" of the boat and seeing everything is wonderful fun, but only if the weather permits.
If you are new to cruising, you need to figure tips. The drivers and guides on each bus tour are tipped a couple of Euros each. The cruise director is tipped 3 Euro per person per day. He really earns this, by the way. Staff is to be tipped 12 Euros a day per person which is then split among all the staff, both seen and unseen. Optional tours can run up to 50 Euros per person.
The staff was fabulous. Professional, smiling and helpful at all times. No complaints what so ever about staff. I would not do another river cruise. I found one dinner seating and only one restaurant to chose from boring and limiting. I prefer small Ocean going ships like the Oceania line. But what we saw on this trip was educational and sobering and a lesson as to what war in these modern times can do.