I was one of four friends who took took their first ever river cruise Avalon Waterways "European Splendor" in August. We made our own hotel arrangements in Amsterdam and did some local sightseeing before joining our fellow travellers for an orientation meeting with bus transfer to the ship provided by Avalon. Check in was simple and we had time to unpack and explore the ship before dinner.
The Imagery is four years old, with attractive, well maintained public rooms and very quiet operation as we seemed to float down the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
Our cabins (Sapphire deck) were well-appointed with a full length sliding window that offered wonderful views of the passing scenery. The bathroom had a good sized shower and modern fittings. Storage was adequate for our needs. However, we found Internet service expensive and intermittent.
The housekeeping staff were excellent. Service in the dining room was more uneven. One irritation was the slow coffee service at breakfast. In contrast,we found very generous wine and beer service at dinner. Meals were generally very good. With open seating, we had plenty of opportunity to meet other passengers or to sit as a foursome. Our fellow passengers were mostly 50-70+ aged couples, friendly and interesting people from a variety of countries- Canada, US, Britain, New Zealand and Australia.
We were fortunate to have an exceptional cruise director, Mark. He was well informed, well organized and kept a positive energy atmosphere throughout the trip. Avalon included tours with local guides at every port and most were very worthwhile although it became information overload after a week or so. We were pleased with the optional excursions we took-to Salzburg, the Czech Republic and the Royal Waltz concert in Vienna. The tour of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was too short and would be better to do on your own.
In summary, we found a river cruise to be a hassle-free and relaxing way for a small group of friends to share a wonderful travel experience. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again to see more of Europe.