We signed up for a pre-cruise stay in Istanbul where we stayed a the Ritz Carlton for 3 nights; a nice hotel with dark rooms (energy conservation) which made it difficult to read at nights. There was a small group so we got a good tour of the city which was very interesting and enjoyable.
From here we flew to Bucharest and checked in at the Hilton (Athenee Palace) for an overnight stay before we boarded the Imagery. The hotel was not the same class as the Ritz nor could it be called a good hotel; somewhat run down and not as clean as it should be. The free time in Bucharest was on a Sunday when most of the shops are closed so there wasn't that much to see.
We left Bucharest in the early afternoon on a bus that took us to Oltenita where we boarded the Imagery. The dock consisted of a graveled lot that could have belonged to a local farmer. There were no buildings, just a ramp used for boarding. We were greeted and quickly shown to our cabins where our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. Our cabin was extremely hot (80 degrees) and this was standard for the rest of the cruise even though the drapes were closed and the air conditioner set at maximum cooling.
The cruise was billed as an English speaking crew and for the most part, they did quite well. The only exception was the captain who needed an interpreter to translate his welcome which occurred on the last evening of the cruise.
The food was mediocre with lots of chicken and pork... beef was mostly found in stews. One option at dinner was a steak which was a loin cut. No premium cuts were served like prime rib or New York steaks. Breakfast and lunch were both buffets served in a crowded area at set times after which it was immediately removed. The quality was nothing exceptional.
Dinner was a sit-down affair and again nothing was exceptional. Tables were mostly 4 to 6 seats and jammed into a too-small room which was exceedingly noisy. Two menus (company policy) were allotted to each table which resulted in a little tension with the wait staff when they wanted your order, but the menus hadn't made it around the table yet... plus it's normal to meet and greet the people you're seated with. Menus were not too descriptive as to what was served. Ham was called pork loin... one dish came in a sauce that wasn't mentioned nor did the waiter know it was in a sauce... fillet of crayfish was listed but not served.
The wait staff made a strong effort to do a good job but lacked training and experience. Food was often set in front of you with an elbow in your face. You were asked to pass the food down the table because the server didn't want to walk to the end of the table. Salt and pepper shakers were removed before people started on their entrees.
Cleanliness in the restaurant was not good. The floor in front of the fruit buffet area was sticky for 3 days in a row. Clean plates were often gritty with food.
The cruise director hadn't mastered the the art of conveying information in English without it sounding like an order rather than an option. She appeared very friendly but when confronted with an issue (a torn suitcase damaged between the hotel and the departure dock), she was cold and unhelpful.
Several days included tours with bus rides to get to the site up to 2 hours, so we spent half the day on a bus. Looking at farming areas with field of corn and sunflowers grew old. One tour included a visit to a champagne producing facility which was really a health hazard. It was very unclean with mold, dirt, cobwebs and damp floors.
We travelled with friends who had been on the same cruise with Viking. They had also travelled on Uniworld. Their opinion was that both cruise lines were head and shoulders above Avalon... it wasn't even a distant third.