For those who are interested, dailies from the cruise are posted at:
Air Travel: We were booked on Air France, but 3 of our four flights were on Delta. This led to some ... Read More
For those who are interested, dailies from the cruise are posted at:
Air Travel: We were booked on Air France, but 3 of our four flights were on Delta. This led to some confusion with seating, but we were able to go online to upgrade to Economy Comfort. The one Air France flight was from Paris Orly to New York. If you have TSA Pre, beware of foreign carriers since they generally don’t do TSA Pre, and you may have to endure long security lines on return to the US. Also, we found Orly to be a bad airport and will avoid it in the future.
Arrivals: We were greeted immediately at the Nice airport when we exited passport control. After a short wait for two other couples arriving on the same flight, we boarded a van and were transported to our hotel in Cannes.
Demographics: There were only 73 passengers on a ship that can accommodate 128 people. The group was fairly evenly split between Americans, Brits, Canadians, and Australians. Ages generally ranged from 50s to 70s.
Cabin service: The cabins were serviced daily. On arrival we requested that our minibar be cleared out so that we could store our own beverages there, and the request was quickly carried out. L’Occitane products were replenished as needed. Turndown service was provided each evening during dinner with the next day’s activity sheet placed on the bed.
Lounge: With only 73 passengers, the lounge was never crowded. Seating was comfortable, and décor was pleasant—somewhere between the rather stark décor on Viking longships and Uniworld’s often over-the-top style. The keyboard player was good and never“overpowered” the room. Bar service was generally quick and courteous. While Avalon is not fully inclusive, they do feature a happy hour every evening beginning about an hour before dinner time with all drinks half price.
There was also an afternoon tea with coffee tea and sweets served around 4:00 p.m. every day.
The Club Lounge at the rear of the ship had a coffee machine, along with cookies and pastries all day. It could seat as many as 30 people, but it was never crowded. It also housed the ship’s library with books and board games. It was a nice place to relax with a book and a coffee and perhaps to enjoy an afternoon nap.
Sun deck: The Avalon ships have one very nice feature—a split level sun deck. The area of the sun deck in front of the wheel house was a couple of feet lower than the main sun deck. The lower sun deck would seat as many as 30 people. This meant that even when the main sun deck was closed due to low bridges—we cleared one bridge with only 2 inches to spare—one could sit on the front deck and enjoy the scenery.
It’s worth noting that there were two additional outdoor seating areas. There was a very comfortable area at the front of the ship with glass barriers to shield passengers from the wind. There was also a smoker’s area the stern with seating for a few people, but even when there were no smokers, diesel fumes could be bad.
Restaurant: The restaurant was typical for a river ship, located close to the water level on the front of the ship. With the small number of passengers, seating was never a problem. Arrangements varied from tables for 2 to 6 people (although tables for two were very close to each other). Service was always good with complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner.
Breakfast: Again, breakfast was typical for a river cruise, with a large buffet set. Breads were purchased fresh each day in towns we visited along the river. In addition to the buffet items, there was a cook preparing omelets and eggs to order. One new item for us was a large section of honeycomb mounted so that its honey drained into a bowl. Guests could take the honey or cut of a section of the comb loaded with honey if they wanted.
Early- (6:30-7:00) and late- (9:00-10:00)risers breakfasts were served in the lounge.
Lunch: Again, lunch was the typical river cruise buffet. In addition to lunch in the restaurant, a reduced-menu lunch was served in the lounge. For a couple of days, the chef grilled (burgers, chicken, salmon) on the sun deck.
Dinner: Dinners were very good and the service excellent. We did not take advantage of Avalon’s special tasting menu that was served in the lounge. We did try a couple of the new Avalon Fresh vegetarian items from the Wrenkh brothers and found them very tasty.
Excursions: We took part in all of the included tours, although we did do a little free lance touring. In Lyon, I left the tour after visiting the Basilica at the top of Fourviere hill in order to visit the Roman museum just down the street (if you do this, remember that the museum doesn’t open until 11:00 a.m.). After about an hour in the museum, I walked back to the ship (2 miles) and got there in plenty of time for lunch. Also in Tournon/Tain l’Hermitage I totally skipped the tour and did a quick walk (about 1¼ miles one way) to the Valrhona chocolate factory and shop. If you’re a quick walker and chocolate fan, I highly recommend the shop (the factory tour gets mixed reviews). They have tons of free samples and when I checked out, the clerk stuck several extra items in my sack!
The only included excursions that involved bus trip were in Lyon and Paris, but most of the optionals involved a bus trip toand from the attraction.
Optional Excursions: Due to the fact that DW was recovering from a broken ankle and had only been walking unassisted for a week, we skipped all of the optional excursions except for the Pont du Gard. Friends who took more of the excursions spoke highly of some of the wine tastings and Le Baux and Perouges. The Nice tour didn’t get very good reviews.
Cruising Day: It’s worth mentioning that unlike most lines that end the northbound Rhone cruise in Chalon, Avalon continues up the Saone to the little village of St. Jean de Losne (population 1,200). We enjoyed this peaceful day of cruising (there were optional excursions as well) with a very nice cheese tasting on board in the afternoon.
Alcohol: We’re not wine experts,and we found the complimentary wine served at lunch and dinner fine. We usually took advantage of the nightly happy hour (bar drinks half price) to enjoy a drink before dinner.
Pre-Cruise: We flew into Nice, arriving around 10:30, and were promptly driven to Cannes where our room in the Carleton Intercontinental was ready. So we had a full afternoon and morning to explore the city (with limitations due to DW’s ankle). A bus left a t1:20 for Arles with a rest stop along the way, arriving at Arles around 4:30.
Post Cruise: After touring Beaune we were bused to the Lyon train station where we boarded the TGV for ashort trip to Paris. We were then bused to the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand—across the street from the opera. Since we’d done Paris bus tours, we did Paris on our own with trips to the Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, l’Orangerie, and other sites.Walking was challenging due to lots of streets being blocked off for filming of the new Mission Impossible movie, but we did get to see Tom Cruise whiz by on a motorbike!
Overall: This was another great Avalon cruise for us. Cruise director Tony and the entire crew made it fun, relaxing, and enjoyable. Read Less