We just finished our July 3-10 Rhine River cruise with Avalon and really enjoyed the experience. A Felicity post cruise report started by TravelingLadyOhio includes a lot of additional information. That string can be found at:
We flew into Zurich 2 days early to adjust a little to the time change and toured on our own. We stayed at the Sheridan Neues Schloss Hotel using points. The hotel was reasonably located, allowing us to tour of Zurich by foot the first day. The highlight of our pre-cruise stay was the second day trip to Mt Pilatus/Lucerne. If you have an extra day, this is an easy excursion using the Swiss Rail system (including Mt Pilatus cog railway and cable car system). Lucerne is more of a casual town in contrast to the more stoic feel of Zurich. We felt the Zurich sight seeing trolley excursion was a waste of time and money - bad audio, redundant stops with a self-walking tour, and a driver who though he was in training for a Gran Prix.
Avalon used the Moevenpick as a central pre-cruise meeting place. The bus ride to Basel was uneventful all though it is interesting that you leave and re-enter Switzerland to get to the ship. The ship had a very efficient check-in process with bags delivered to our room in less then 30 minutes.
The ship is a vast improvement over the Artistry that we cruised on a couple of years ago. This crew really worked hard to make sure it was an enjoyable cruise for the passengers. Our room was well appointed with a large amount of storage space. We did request a top sheet for the bed since the duvet was too hot (they actually used two duvet covers as the sheet). We had a good mix of US, Australian, NZ, Canada and Great Britain cruisers that really added to the enjoyment of the cruise. Our cruise director was Robert Zieminski who kept thing moving and the passengers well entertained (especially with his coordinated shirts and shoes). This was his last tour on the Felicity since he moved on to the Panorama after our cruise.
We had no complaint with the ship's WIFI system especially at 15 Euros for the entire trip (Sheridan wanted 27 Euro's/day). We also used the ship's laundry services. Minimal cost and our items were returned in less then 4 hours.
The food was very good. Breakfast/lunch were buffet self-service, while dinner was a more formal set down affair. All dinners were 5-course with an entree of meat, fish or vegan. Wine was free flowing. Chicken and salmon was always an option.
Slacks and nice shirts were the dinner norm for men. Very few wore jackets even on Captains night. Similar dress for women - nice tops with slacks or nice, but not fancy, dresses.
The included tours at each stop were informative although it sometimes felt that you were drinking from a firehouse listening to the guides. The audio system used by the guides is below par especially for the hearing impaired.
We did the optional tour for a German dinner/show in Rudesheim. Mixed reviews of the evening - good food, free flowing wine that somewhat duplicated what you got on the ship. Even though we didn't take them, we heard some positive feedback on the Black Forest and Wine tasting optional tours. We did take the optional Red Light tour in Amsterdam. The tour took place after 9PM on a Saturday night. The area was extremely crowded, giving a somewhat uncomfortable feeling for us "senior" tourist. The tour was informative, yet somewhat depressing. Since you probably walk though the area during the day, you might consider just staying on the ship the last night.
Entertainment, as expected, was minimal compared to cruise ships. The crew talent show was a kick. In Coblenz, the La Strada trio gave a very nice pre-dinner concert. We had nice weather going though the Rhine castle region. We had down loaded a web site onto our IPAD that allowed us to get detailed info on each castle as we cruised by it.
We stayed 2 extra days in Amsterdam and toured on our own. After the ship's sponsored canal cruise we just wondered around the city dodging bicycles. We were impressed with Nieuwe Kerk and the Rijksmuseum as well as Ann Franke (pre-ordering tickets is a must). By the way, after you visit Anne Frank, go around the corner to visit the Roman Catholic Church of our Lady on Keizersgacht. It was one of the most impressive churches in the area. We also found out after we got back that we missed the Resistence museum which was featured on a Rick Steves show.
On Sunday we went to Delft via train with two other couples. It was a nice afternoon trip. I would suggest that one day is enough to tour Amsterdam - so if you have an extra day head out to some of the smaller villages like Volendam, Markem or Delft. We also discovered that American credit or debit cards are not accepted at either the Amsterdam train station self-service or agent ticket counters unless they have microchips. Bring Euros and be prepared to go to the ticket counters.
Bottom line we had a great time and Avalon met or exceeded all our expectations for this cruise. Given the right cruise itinerary, we would sail on them without question.