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9 Avalon Waterways Avalon Illumination River Cruise Reviews

After numerous ocean cruises, we decided it was time to try a European river cruise and friends suggested Avalon. Choose the Blue Danube Budapest-Prague itinerary for mid-Oct based on the sites, included pre and post-cruise hotels, the ... Read More
After numerous ocean cruises, we decided it was time to try a European river cruise and friends suggested Avalon. Choose the Blue Danube Budapest-Prague itinerary for mid-Oct based on the sites, included pre and post-cruise hotels, the price of a Royal Suite and hopes for fall colors. Overall, we were delighted with the stay in Budapest and Prague, the included city tours and the awesome fall colors along the Danube. Biggest disappointments included the lack of any on-board amenities for a suite, mediocre food and entertainment, an egotistical Cruise Director, poor communications and policies before and during the cruise. Specifics include poor excursion policies, pricing where excursions booked on-line cannot be changed beyond four days prior to the cruise. After listening to the Cruise Director's on board review I met with him to request changes including canceling and adding some. While able to add excursions, he immediately disclaimed any association with pre-booked excursions and would not cancel. Find this very disappointing, frustrating so warn others not to book pre-cruise as there were always plenty, but pricey, openings. Also, unlike suites on ocean cruises, we did not have any on-board amenities. In fact, while we could get only a continental breakfast delivered they charged $2 pp! With 137 passengers we only saw the officers at the first and last cocktail receptions! Overall, think ocean cruises on small ships offers much more than river boats! Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
~ Avalon Illumination 2016 ~ Dear friends I hope to entertain you with this rhyming illustration Of our experience on board the good ship Avalon ‘Illumination’ We’d often talked about it but we had never cruised before ... Read More
~ Avalon Illumination 2016 ~ Dear friends I hope to entertain you with this rhyming illustration Of our experience on board the good ship Avalon ‘Illumination’ We’d often talked about it but we had never cruised before So in all our worldly travels we’d stayed firmly on the shore Unpacking just the once was something that really did appeal With destinations brought to us, and free wine at every meal! The downside might be the seniors who this way often choose to roam Which meant we might be boarding a sort of floating old folks home! The ship and our cabin was perfect, fitted out like a 5 star hotel When we cast off and sailed bidding Amsterdam farewell I could barely feel any movement such was the smoothness of the motion That’s because it’s a river, I’m sure it’s not like that on the ocean The restaurant and food was like a gourmet dining experience A printed new menu every night, of quality there was no variance The waiters got to know us and they knew best not to pass Our table before they’d brought the wine and re-filled up my glass We’re Brits but from across the globe we saw other guests had come Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis and there was also one Odd couple there from Turkey, with a blonde who never did a thing Except follow her friend around as if she was tied to her apron string Most often folks forget their cares when they go away on ships But there was a world event taking place that was on everybody’s lips I’m sure you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news That Trump became U.S. President when you were on that cruise! The first night we went down to eat we sat there quite at random Bob was to my left and we were quickly both in tandem Since our musical tastes were pretty much exactly corresponding As we talked yet more and the wine did flow we were obviously bonding He had a Fender Strat at home that he’d not yet learned to play When he told me he was left-handed I said “what really man? no way! Because I’m left-handed too and I’ve got my guitar on board We can make a start with mine and I’ll show you how to strum a chord!” So that’s exactly what we did and I got his fingers moving And though we didn’t have much time I could see he was improving It’s definite that Bob became my buddy on that cruise The more we talked, the more we found we were similar in our views One night we skipped a concert that we both thought would be boring Like kids playing hooky out of school we both went off exploring We found the only bar around and bought ourselves some beer We drunk with friendly locals and left with handshakes and great cheer. I knew that I could pass the time because I love to play guitar But I never dreamed I’d end up doing real gigs in the bar! Delyan the ship’s piano man, was also a very fine musician We found that we could play as a duo and give a joint rendition They seemed to like what I was doing since most nights I did play In the club lounge at the rear of the ship as we went on our way We’d get some beers to drink back there and soon I would be strumming I’d take requests and play the songs to get everybody humming This trip we were told was being billed as a ‘Musical Themed Cruise’ But this was mainly classical music and not rock ‘n’ roll or blues But nevertheless I must confess they put some great musicians on And I even played harmonica on one bluesy type of song. Great acquaintances we did make with all those people that we met Bob, Betty, Chris, Jane, both Ron’s, Mary, Harriet Email addresses were exchanged with intent to try and keep in touch Looking back on it now I can hardly believe we ate and drank so much! So now the time has come to bring my little rhyme to an end We had the most fantastic trip and made some lovely friends Arrivederci, Bon Voyage, Ciao, Farewell and Adieu To those marvellous people that passed through our lives, We’ll fondly remember you Now to the Illumination’s, Captain, and all of your ship’s crew You delivered the experience and made our cruising dreams come true You were a credit to your company of that we can attest With the Avalon style and service we were thoroughly impressed So next time we go on a river cruise our loyalty will remain With the Avalon operation, since nothing else would be the same And for anyone planning such a trip we would heartily suggest That Avalon Waterways will do you proud, They simply were the best! C. Evans ~ 13th Nov 2016 Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Ship was new and lovely, very clean. Staff was attentive and helpful; service was very good. Housekeeping staff for cleaning our cabin was great, especially the young man assigned to us. Food was good - liked the daily variety. Optional ... Read More
Ship was new and lovely, very clean. Staff was attentive and helpful; service was very good. Housekeeping staff for cleaning our cabin was great, especially the young man assigned to us. Food was good - liked the daily variety. Optional tours we took were all great. The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest was great - good location, easy to get around, breakfast provided was very good and would recommend that Avalon continue to use. The Andel's by Vienna House in Prague was substandard in my estimation. We were there for 3 nights. One day we did not even get housekeeping service. The location was terrible - on the other side of the river and needed to take public transportation to get anywhere. Breakfast food was marginal, too. Location of hotel was in very marginal area - did not necessarily feel safe at night. Other Avalon cruises in town at the same time were lodged at Intercontinental Hotel near the Old Market. Why was our cruise not put up in that same hotel? That location was great. Overall, Avalon's selection of Andel's in Prague is the one overall factor that lessens the my review and satisfaction of the entire cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
The trip was great. We were on the Budapest to Amsterdam 2 week cruise in a category A cabin. Avalon Waterways looked after us very well and the accommodations were very good. We had 140 tourists on board and there were 47 staff to ... Read More
The trip was great. We were on the Budapest to Amsterdam 2 week cruise in a category A cabin. Avalon Waterways looked after us very well and the accommodations were very good. We had 140 tourists on board and there were 47 staff to serve us and operate the boat. Our suite was roomy. There were hanging lockers and drawers to hold all of our stuff. We emptied out our suitcases and they fit under the bed, out of the way. Unlike a bus tour, we didn't have to pack again until the last day. The room had its own bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower. The outer wall was floor to ceiling windows, one third of which slid open. The boat was very long (443 ft) and had a large dining room, lounges in the front and back, and a deck with canopies for the whole length of the top. I got lots of exercise because we were only allowed to smoke in the stern. The canopies, railings and deck furniture were collapsible for going under low bridges (high water). The captain's command bridge would go down using hydraulics when we were approaching low bridges. This happened quite frequently. There were continental breakfasts for early and late risers and a buffet breakfast in between. The chef would make you eggs of your choice or an omelette if you wanted. There were lots of fruits and cheeses as well as scrambled eggs, bacon and Nuremburg sausages. All of the food was tasty and well-prepared. Lunches were buffet style with lots of choices of hot or cold dishes. Suppers were served by the waiters and again had two or three choices. Wines were included and my glass was continuously refilled. One of the meal choices tended to be local such as goulash, sauerbraten, etc. A vegetarian dish was also available. Appetizers were interesting and the soups and desserts were delicious Each day had an included trip ashore. Buses would take us to a spot where local guides would take us on an easy walking tour. We were provided with earphones so we could hear every word from the guides, even a little distance away. The guides were all knowledgeable and informative. We generally had time to shop or look around or we could return to our boat. There were also optional tours you could pay for. We only did one, a wonderful concert in Vienna. Although a lot of sailing was done at night, there was still much done during daylight hours. The Danube and the Rhine Gorge were beautiful and it wasn't until late in the trip that we started sailing by industrial sites. Every evening our tour manager would outline the plans and timing for the next day and a printed itinerary would appear in our room that night. After supper we generally returned to our room for the night. There was some entertainment after supper and we attended a few of these: the crew put on some skits, talks were given on the EU and the building of the Main-Danube Canal, and some local musicians were brought in to provide nice music. All in all it was a great way to travel. Both of us had rotten colds for part of the time and it was very nice to have our own room to go to to rest. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We booked this about 18 months ago to celebrate a milestone birthday. We had been told at that time that Avalon did a drinks package like most of the other lines, but when they eventually replied to my many calls and emails, they said they ... Read More
We booked this about 18 months ago to celebrate a milestone birthday. We had been told at that time that Avalon did a drinks package like most of the other lines, but when they eventually replied to my many calls and emails, they said they were no longer doing this. This was disappointing, as they only include wines, beer and soft drinks with dinner. 24 hours before we were due to leave we had a call to say that due to low water levels in the Danube delta, we would have to spend two nights in Bucharest instead of one and meet the ship somewhere else. They offered what we thought at the time was a reasonable amount of compensation, and in any case we were staying (we thought) at the Athenée Palace Hilton so how bad could it be? When we arrived at Bucharest my husband's luggage was missing. The airline said it would come on the next flight and they would deliver it. Then Avalon took us to the Ramada Plaza, half an hour out of the city in an area with no shops or restaurants. It was a dump. There was no power when we got there and it took over two hours to fix the problem. During this time the power was going on and off and an elderly lady in our group got stuck between floors in the lift. We refused to use the lift to our 7th floor room until they could assure us that the power was fixed. No refreshment was offered apart from a small bottle of water and some of our group had been travelling for over 24 hours. When we complained they eventually produced some tiny sandwiches and to glasses of tap water (which we had been warned not to drink) - but only for us. I felt sorry for the poor lady from the lift, who was very traumatised. Their attitude to this was poor. They tried to fob us off with a tale of the power outage being citywide and due to the high temperatures, but the people in the Pullman two minutes away said they hadn't had a problem. Our no smoking room stank of smoke. They did change the room but in the second one the safe didn't work and the lights blew with an almighty bang and the bedside light bulbs were not replaced. Breakfast was horrible and we had to be bussed for dinner to the Pullman down the road where the rest of our group were staying ( a MUCH nicer option, but even there the food was only average.) When my husband's luggage arrived early on the second day they refused to bring it up to the room. this was not by any means the 5* luxury we had paid for. Then they informed us that it would be a 315km (about 200 miles) trip to the ship. This is how I spent my birthday- 6 hours on a bus. It turned out that the ship was at Calafat, some 795km farther up the Danube than where we were supposed to start. Avalon had carefully forgotten to mention this! We had not been told that this was actually two cruises back to back so we had to get off the ship on the transfer day. We didn't mind too much because we went with those transferring to Vienna and had an extra afternoon there. It did mean that we had to suffer the lengthy life jacket drill again though. The public rooms on the ship are noisy. I get up early and had to suffer loud muzak in the lounge with my early morning coffee. They turned it down a little when I asked, but not off (and I was the only person in there at the time). During the day there were particular groups who insisted on having loud conversations and there was nowhere quiet to read or enjoy the scenery other than our cabin ( where you only get half of the view.) The "entertainer" - a rather average pianist, played at various intervals during the day which just added to the noise. There were several other entertainers, including a rather poor classical group on the first leg and a good one after Vienna. We had a singer who sang show songs and a zither player, who we had seen previously with Viking. The guided tours were mostly fairly good, but there were a few times when the guides were so boring we left the group and did our own thing, On one occasion the guide in Bratislava refused to tell us where the meeting point for the bus was and insisted that we stay with her. This meant that we lost about two hours' free time seeing things we were not interested in as we had seen Bratislava before. The Amsterdam guide was equally poor but fortunately we already knew our way round and went off on our own as we were not relying on a bus. Avalon included some extra trips which you would normally pay for to make up for missing so much of the start of the cruise, but my husband isn't very mobile and in the 38 degree heat, climbing steps and slopes didn't appeal so we were quite happy to remain on board and see bits of the river we had missed previously. There was an excursion to the Danube gorge and Weltenberg Abbey which we enjoyed. Moorings were not always in the centre of things and at one point we found ourselves by a large scrap metal facility! I have known worse, however (with Scenic last year, when we were frequently in such places and miles out of town.) They sailed past Wertheim and bussed us 40 minutes back to visit the town - not sure why. Due to very low water in the Linz / Passau area, we had to keep sailing solidly for two days, often at walking speed with only 30cm of water under the ship, as levels were forecast to drop still further and they didn't want to get stuck (as a freighter did the following day). This meaant that we missed Durnstein and Linz, the only two stops we had not previously visited. Avalon did stop to drop people off for a visit, but then they spent 4 hours in the heat on a ferry with no air-con travelling through the Wachau valley, then visiting Grein. People who did this wished they had stayed on board like we did because they didn't enjoy such a long day. Food on board Illumination was disappointing. It was hardly ever hot and the breakfast buffet never changed. When we complained they said there were 64 items on it but I don't enjoy pickles, raw peppers, salads, soured cream and boiled rice for breakfast and got very fed up with the few hot items which were always the same. Lunch was a buffet. Salads were poor - mostly just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber with the odd mixed or dressed thing. They often served the same meat or fish for lunch and dinner and we had perch at least 10 times during the trip. The gala dinners were both the same. At dinner there was a meat choice, a fish choice (mostly perch or cod) and a vegetarian one. They seemed to buy in job lots of vegetables - first eggplant, which appeared at every meal except breakfast for the first 10 days or so, then carrots, then green beans. One of the starters was always Caesar salad (which everyone hated) and it was also available as a main course. Steak, chicken and salmon were available each day too. There were usually two desserts and cheese. Cheeses were largely of the rather rubbery tasteless sort but there were a few good ones like Roquefort. We grew very bored by the lack of variety after 3 weeks. Wines were average. On board drinks prices were steep, but there was usually a half-price happy hour before the port talk each evening, when they were more reasonable but still not cheap. A gin and tonic was over 4 Euros even at half price! On the whole, I wouldn't recommend Avalon. Their admin is poor and they don't seem to understand what British people want from what is a pretty expensive trip, especially compared to ocean cruising. They cater far too much for American tastes. I know they had to find hotel accommodation at short notice when the water levels were low, but they had been low for a while ) and I think they had left it until the last minute instead of having a Plan B for such events, which happen pretty regularly. In view of this, I don't think much of the compensation they offered. Had I known all this would happen at the Black Sea end, which was the main reason for doing the cruise in the first place, I would have cancelled. I wish I had! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
HOLIDAYING overseas with friends in 2013 we decided to put together a small group (total 6 - 3 couples ages 50 - 61) to embark on our much discussed European River Cruise. After a deal of research we chose Avalon Waterways as our Cruise ... Read More
HOLIDAYING overseas with friends in 2013 we decided to put together a small group (total 6 - 3 couples ages 50 - 61) to embark on our much discussed European River Cruise. After a deal of research we chose Avalon Waterways as our Cruise provider and the AVALON ILLUMINATION as our ship. Travelling from our home in Australia to Budapest, we spent a couple of days sightseeing before embarking on our chosen ship. Arriving on board this near new ship, we were immediately impressed with the friendliness of the crew, the cleanliness of the ship and the efficient way our luggage was slipped into our Stateroom where we received a guided tour by our Stateroom Stewardess. OUR STATEROOM was extremely well appointed, extremely comfortable bed, 5 Star bathroom and amenities, and a full width Balcony Panorama Sliding Window. We found plenty of storage space in the wardrobes, desk drawers, bedside table drawers, numerous electrical power points and WiFi, flat screen TV, refrigerator, and very comfortable chairs, fully adjustable air conditioning. Our Stateroom number 203, on Sapphire Deck (2) was only a few short steps from the Restaurant, the Guest Relations and Cruise Director's office, and the Main Lounge. Many activities and tours were included in our price, however, there were also numerous optional excursions which we could add, most of these we felt were very reasonably priced. Our "Port Talk" each evening with our Cruise Director painted the picture of the plans for the next day, and usually a day or too after that as well. Our "Cruise Director" was nothing short of brilliant, friendly, approachable, with many years of experience with Avalon/Globus - extremely knowledgeable and spoke 5 languages fluently. All the tours and excursions we undertook ran on time and were well worth the $$, local guides were generally very good with some of them absolutely first class, very friendly and fun to be with. DINING.... what can we say, but high quality all the way, our table service Wait Staff were fantastic and had great memories for what types of food and drinks we preferred. The menu varied each Lunchtime and Dinnertime, with a few standard features each day. Evening dinner usually ran to 4 courses, sometimes 5, and luncheon was usually a well stocked Buffet with some special orders available. Breakfast was another well stocked Buffet meal, with special menu orders available, as well as the usual "Egg Chef" for eggs as you desire. ENTERTAINMENT: On board general entertainment was provided by a musician in the main Lounge, with local artists coming on board from numerous ports - music, lecturers, wine tasting, beer tasting etc., generally all good fun. DISEMBARKATION: AMSTERDAM - a very disappointing day as we were quite sad that the Cruise had come to an end and we were saying farewell to some quite good friends we had made amongst the Crew during the last 14 days. IN SUMMARY: YES we would Cruise with Avalon Waterways again in the future, YES, we would recommend Avalon Waterways to our friends & family, we found the Cruise to be value for money and given the quality of the Ship, service, food and facilities we were very pleased to have made our original choice to travel with Avalon Waterways. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
After 3 days in Prague we were supposed to board the ship at Nuremberg for a cruise to Budapest. However, at the last minute we were advised that the river was too low and we would have to be transported by bus to Passau. As a result we ... Read More
After 3 days in Prague we were supposed to board the ship at Nuremberg for a cruise to Budapest. However, at the last minute we were advised that the river was too low and we would have to be transported by bus to Passau. As a result we missed out on two of the seven days cruising we had looked forward to. We were later told by a member of the Avalon staff that this situation is not unusual as the Main River is often low in June. The boat was very nice, the food was excellent, the service provided by boat staff was excellent. However, we were very disappointed by the loss of those two days cruising. In our opinion we had paid top dollar but for two days we were provided with a mediocre product. We did not get what we had paid for. Avalon staff told us that they do not compensate passengers for this loss. Our advice - research the river you will be travelling on with respect to how often it is not navigable during a certain month of the summer. One last note. Do not take a river cruise if you like to eat by yourselves. There are no tables for two. You will have no choice but to eat with others, some of whom are delightful, others less so.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
All my friends do Viking so I liked being different and felt that Avalon was a step up. The ship was new and very pretty. Unfortunately we rafted to Tauck and Uniworld and saw a big difference in décor. For example when the US was playing ... Read More
All my friends do Viking so I liked being different and felt that Avalon was a step up. The ship was new and very pretty. Unfortunately we rafted to Tauck and Uniworld and saw a big difference in décor. For example when the US was playing Germany in soccer one of these ships had big TVs set up in the lounge just for that night (I asked) and many were watching. We went aboard our ship and not a creature was stirring. The food was OK, the cleanliness was fine. A special food and wine pairing one had to sign up for was run by the staff who as it turned out just served and couldn't tell us any information on what was being served and also couldn't get the plates away from us fast enough. My table of six found it laughable but sad. This was unlike the professional beer tasting they did earlier. Also, in my many years of cruising I have always done room service for breakfast. This was available with a very austere menu of almost no choices plus the notation that a service would be added- something I have never come across before on my many cruises from Azamara on down. They never left a breakfast menu after that! We had one tour guide for 140 some people- not enough of Tony to go around but he worked hard. We did a Grand Circle a year ago with 100 people and three full time guides on board. Also, in the restaurant they were understaffed. I noticed that just one waiter, one night when we ate by ourselves and I had time to observe, took orders and delivered all the entrees on my side of the boat. The second waiter poured the wine. Worst of all was when we arrived and were told to go into the bar to order a drink- which I did. When I was asked my room number I incredulously asked if I was going to be charged. When told yes I glared and walked away. We had just come from at least a three hour bus ride passing Nuremberg because the river was closed to traffic and we needed to board at Passau. This was only nature's fault but I expected more than the raspberry juice I was told was complimentary! Not the normal welcoming on any ship. The entertainer on board most nights was very non engaging. The optional tours we took were good. I was disappointed from the expectations I had for this cruise to mark our 40th wedding anniversary. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Both my husband and I are disable. We can only walk short distances, very short. So we purchased two "Travelscoots" These are the smallest mobility scooters. They are only 28 lbs and can fold up into a size of a umbrella ... Read More
Both my husband and I are disable. We can only walk short distances, very short. So we purchased two "Travelscoots" These are the smallest mobility scooters. They are only 28 lbs and can fold up into a size of a umbrella stroller. These are highly rated by owners that traveled around the world. We have traveled on 40 plus "big" ship cruises, but never a river cruise, so this was a test..We took the AVALON illumination maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Vienna, 13 days, with walking tours everyday offered with the booking. I was so impressed with the entire crew and the Captain. Avalon had no problems with our scooters. Since we were able to walk throughout the entire ship without any problems, we never used our scooters aboard, This ship had an lovely elevator, but we did not need to use it. We choose the first cabin #201, which was close to all the public area, lobby, lounge, dinning. No problems. Our cruise director recommended the "gentle walking" tour daily and alerted each tour guild of our use of the "travelscoots". If the tour started with a bus ride, arrangements were made to transport our scooters in the bus storage, and every bus driver helped us on and off the bus. Avalon had the scoots ready in the lobby of the ship for us. Avalon crew carried our scoots on and off the ramps, Once our ship was alongside another ship, Avalon crew carried our scooters thru the other ship too!! The Captain was very, very friendly. He was always around and about the ship, greeting all the passengers with a personal warm manner. The crew was very attentive, the meals were delicious, the walking tours were daily. We took some excursions too. One was a all day trip to the lake region by bus and stops at three villages. Our "travelscoot" came along. Scooting up hills, thru cobblestone villages were no problem with these scooters. We had a wonderful time, THANKS to the Avalon captain and crew, they made the difference...I really recommend AVALON to any disable traveler...be sure to use the Travelscoots too!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
Avalon Illumination Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.7
Dining 4.0 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 2.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.3
Enrichment 4.0 4.2
Service 4.0 4.7
Value For Money 5.0 4.3
Rates 3.0 N/A

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