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Avalon Illumination Review

67% of cruisers loved it
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Why Choose Avalon Illumination?

  • Custom-built to sail the Rhine River
  • Most cabins transform into "open-air" balconies
  • Alternative dining: top-deck BBQ and bistro fare

Avalon Illumination Overview

By Carol Sottili, Cruise Critic Contributor; updated by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Editor Rating

As new ships flood the river cruise market, each line has been one-upping the other with better bells and more whistles. Avalon Waterways' newest entry into the competition is the 164-passenger Avalon Illumination, the latest in the line's "suite ship" class.

In developing its “suite ships,” Avalon Waterways, part of the Globus family of brands, faced the obstacles that all ships plying the rivers of Europe must conquer: how to provide passengers with balconies and more public open space onboard, while dealing with European river constraints. (Think varying water levels, low bridges, narrow locks and tiny docks.)

So, how did Avalon Illumination and its seven nearly identical siblings rise to the challenge? Magnificently. Each Panorama suite features an 11-foot-wide, seven-foot-tall wall of glass that can slide to reveal a gaping, almost magical open-air expanse. When the doors are opened, take my word, you'll feel as if the entire cabin was outdoors.

Freed from having to set aside space for dedicated outdoor balconies, the 200-square-foot Panorama suites are 15 percent larger than many river ship cabins, allowing room in each for a queen bed, a small couch, table and chair. An innovative slightly curved wall leads to larger-than-expected bathrooms, with lovely marble floors. These are the most common staterooms onboard Illumination and it's no surprise that reaction has been positive.

Public gathering spaces have also been maxed out on the 443-foot-long, 37.4-foot-wide ship with four decks. In addition to the ship-long sky deck, there's a large indoor lounge, a smaller indoor lounge and an outdoor covered seating area in the front of the ship, perfect for open-air sightseeing on rainy days.

Interior design is contemporary chic, with lots of dark espresso woods highlighted with colorful modern art and deep orange rugs and furniture. Think Scandinavian rather than French Provincial. A French influence can be felt, however, in the high-quality L'Occitane bath products -- which sport a delicious lemon verbena scent.

The mostly Eastern European staff was generally efficient and pleasant, although not all spoke fluent English. Knowledgeable, English-speaking local guides led shore excursions (at least one daily excursion was included), and the excursions were enhanced with the use of wireless headsets.

While the ship markets almost exclusively to passengers from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, it retains some not-so-welcome European influences, including 220-volt outlets, mostly German-speaking TV channels and the euro as ship currency, which, because it is strong against the dollar, means higher gratuity and drink costs. But those are minor complaints.

Avalon Illumination sails on a selection of itineraries on the Seine, Rhine, Main, Rhone, Saone and Dutch waterways, which range from seven to 15 nights.

Avalon Illumination Fellow Passengers

The ship, which cruises the Danube River, attracts travelers from North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Passengers tend to be retired (or in the 60-plus bracket), and well-traveled.

Avalon Illumination Dress Code

Country-club casual is the order of the day. Leave the jeans and T-shirts, as well as the opulent evening gowns and tuxes, at home. At dinner, understated cocktail dresses and jackets (sans ties) are appropriate. Bring good walking shoes.

Avalon Illumination Gratuity

Euros are used on the ship. The line recommends three euros per passenger, per day, (about $126 per couple for the 14-day sailing) for the cruise director and 12 euros per passenger, per day, (about $504 per couple for the 14-day sailing) for the crew, which is divided among the personnel. It is also customary to give local guides one or two euros.

Next: Avalon Illumination Cabins
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Avalon Illumination Member Reviews

The boat was only a year old, it was wonderful, the crew was great, the food was 'ok', but I didn't really know what to expect. They had the same breakfast every morning, which is fine for me, not like i was expecting escargot or roast duck for ... Read more
My husband and I recently experienced our first cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. We loved it, our room was spacious and I was able to unpack everything and store our suitcases under the bed. I think having a room away from the back of the boat was ... Read more
A wonderful experience, despite low water levels making completion by boat a little uncertain - but we got through when other, older boats didn't. The boat had Avalon's wonderful new cabins with whole room being integrated with the balcony - bliss ... Read more
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Avalon Illumination Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
Public Rooms
Spa & Fitness
Family & Children
Shore Excursions

Sailing From

Amsterdam Budapest Istanbul Prague

Cruises To

Europe - All

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Avalon Illumination Deck Plans Avalon Illumination Cabin Reviews
Ship Stats
443 feet
CDC Score:
Not Yet Inspected
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