One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start ... Read More
One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start planning. I first sent for brochures from several river cruise companies to compare intineraries etc. My friend and I have both travelled to Europe previously and wanted to go someplace new so we chose to take a Danube river cruise. I then met with a local travel agent who specificalizes in river cruises. She steered me away from Viking and helped me narrow our choices to AMA or Avalon. When she quoted out the price it was much higher than we had anticipated so we chose to watch and wait. By the fall of 2016 Avalon came out with a great sale - $1000 off per person + free air. That seemed too good to be true. I called the travel agent and we were booked within a few days! We ended up choosing this itinerary since it was short and we did not know if we would like river cruising. About a week after we booked my 27 year old daughter decided she wanted to go with us. She was able to get the single supplement waived and she booked as well. She could not get the single supplement waiver and free air but she was able to book on the same flights we were on so we could fly together.
We all absolutely loved this cruise!! Everything about it was wonderful. It was a nice mix of small towns and big cities. We added a few days to the end of cruise and took the train to Budapest. We wished we had chosen a longer intinerary that included Budapest so we could stay on the ship.
The ship: Our ship was the Avalon Passion. This was a new ship in 2016 and it was beautiful. Everything was sparkling clean and very tastefully decorated. The ship was actually much longer than I had anticipated. The rooms were spacious and that wall of windows was in the room was just awesome. We loved waking up in the morning and looking out at the river going by. The lounges, sky deck and dining room were equally beautiful.
The age of passengers: Our sailing had a mix of American, Canadian, British, Australians, New Zealanders, one mom/daughter from India and two young ladies from Korea. I had expected mostly retirement age passangers but that was not the case at all. There was a real mix of 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s on up. I am in my early 50s and I felt like one of the older people on the cruise. There were quite a few mother/daughter pairs and several groups of younger women traveling together. We had a wonderful time chatting with everyone and hearing about everyone's travel experiences.
Crew: I cannot say enough about how attentive and friendly the crew was. They went above and beyond on a daily basis. Our cruise director was Andrej (sp?). He was awesome. He was a kind person with a quirky sense of humor. His nightly port talks were always informative and entertaining at the same time. We added three days at the end of cruise and travelled on our own to Budapest. He gave us a Budapest map and recommended some sights and restaturants for us to see during our time there. So nice of him! Our server at dinner was Liza from the Phillipines. We sat in her section most meals since she was so nice and friendly. She got to know what we liked and we looked forward to seeing her at every meal. Valentin was the person who cleaned our room daily. He always had a smile on his face and left us a wonderful towel animal on our last day.
Food: My friend and my daughter are both vegetarians and I am a "meat and potatoes" kind of person so it is not easy to find meals we all like. Avalon started their Avalon Fresh menu offerings in 2017 offereing enhanced menu options for vegetarians which sounded like a good fit for our group. Each one of us ended up loving the food!! It was so nice to have a floating restaurant with awesome food each day instead of searching around for a restaurant in each city. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with loads of choices. We loved the Belgian waffles and made to order omelets at breakfast. We loved all the desserts too. Dinner had several choices and none of us had any problem finding something we liked. We tried different wines each night and Liza just kept filling our glasses. In addition to the meals every day about 4pm was cake time with several different cakes to try. And...on the third floor was a lounge with cookies and cakes all day long. I have to admit - we visited the "cookie room" on more than one night about 11pm.
Entertainment: We came on this cruise to sightsee at the various cities and were not expecing much in the way of entertainment. We did end up taking part in some of the nightly entertainment and it was really nice. Every night there was a piano player playing which was nice if you wanted to grab a drink or dance a little. One night there was a wine tasting demonstration which was perfect since we were sailing through the Wachau Valley past numerous vineyards. One night we had a singer/guitar player who played a mix of country and oldies. He was quite good and the dance floor was full for most of the night. The Australians were a bit rowdier than the rest of us and frankly made it so much more fun.
I cannot think of anything I would change from this cruise. I can't wait to take another Avalon cruise. I am hooked! Read Less