Because the main focus of river cruising is on ports of call, you won't find a lot that will convince you to stay on the ship while docked. Instead, shore excursions (included in the cruise fare) are offered -- sometimes more than once per day. On our sailing, we toured museums and other local landmarks in the off-the-beaten-path towns we visited. During our cruise in The Netherlands, we saw fields of colorful tulips, checked out the world's oldest planetarium, witnessed cheese being made and auctioned, and learned tons about the local history and culture. Guides were knowledgeable, friendly and spoke fluent English.
Note: Despite the high-tech feel of our onboard card/room key, the staff's only method of keeping track of who's ashore and who's back onboard while in port is a series of laminated paper cards with room numbers printed on them. If you forget to pick yours up before leaving the ship, nobody will know you're gone. Likewise, if you forget to turn your card in at the desk when you arrive back after an excursion, they'll think you're still in port, checking out the souvenirs.
As shore excursions begin early and are often tiring, nightlife isn't very popular onboard. That said, one night, Avalon offered after-dinner entertainment in the form of a Genever (alcohol similar to gin) and cheese tasting, hosted by local experts. Another night, an outstanding trio of local string musicians played everything from classics to gypsy music. Both events were well attended. On all other nights, evening entertainment consisted entirely of live piano music in the main lounge.
The main lounge, used for pre- and post-dinner drinks, alternative dining, and nightly entertainment, is located just forward of the reception desk. With its panoramic windows, it's bright and airy, despite darker furnishings of brown faux wood and chairs upholstered in deep red and gray. Various couches are also scattered about, boasting either red vinyl or stripes of red, black and gray chenille.
The main lounge is home to the ship's only bar, accented with red leather bar stools and a cream-colored marble countertop. Two beverage menus are offered -- one for wine, beer and drinks like juice and soda, and one for mixed drinks. The first list offers a variety of white, red and rose wine from Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. Per-bottle prices range from 27 euros for a French rose to 180 euros for Dom Perignon Champagne; by the glass, you'll pay 3.80 euros. Mixed-drink items from the second menu range in price from 3 euros to 14.50 euros, but most hover around the 5- to 7-euro range.
On select "movie nights," movies are shown after dinner on the flat-screen TV in the ship's secondary aft lounge on Deck 3.