We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II from Amsterdam on Saturday June 4, 2016. By we, I mean my wife and two sons, ages 27 and 25. We wondered about the weather as it had been raining like crazy in Europe as we arrived. Paris and ... Read More
We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II from Amsterdam on Saturday June 4, 2016. By we, I mean my wife and two sons, ages 27 and 25. We wondered about the weather as it had been raining like crazy in Europe as we arrived. Paris and Bavaria were flooding. The Louvre was closed! But for us, as we boarded, it was warm and sunny. In fact, it would be that way pretty much the entire time. It seemed we had avoided any high water problems—but more on that later.
We had arrived in Amsterdam two days earlier, and had stayed at the Ibis, which was located right next to the Central Station. Our first Avalon activity was a tour of Zaanse Schans, a traditional windmill village (optional tour). This took place before boarding, and we were to be at the Movenpick hotel by 1 pm. To get there, we had to walk along the river with our wheelie bags in tow. As we walked along, we realized that we were walking right by the boat. Would they let us on (it was hours early) to drop off our bags (and change into shorts as it was suddenly hot)? Yes! Our first interaction was one of relaxed flexibility—and this is how it was the whole time.
Zaanse Schanse was interesting—windmills, wooden shoe making, cheese making. I mean, windmills and Holland go together, right? The bus took us back to the ship and we moved into our rooms. Our rooms were in the lower level (submarine class), and were quite nice. Little tidbits are that the towels come in two colors (for us—white for her, brown for me), and there were robes and slippers, perfect for heading up to the (seldom used by others) hot tub. There were always two big bottles of water in the room for our use at no additional cost. The TV had a few channels of regular TV and like ten different fireplace channels! The bed was comfortable.
The next day was still an Amsterdam day, beginning with the included tour of a canal cruise followed by a guided walk back to the boat (or, you could choose a bus back, or a tour of a diamond facility with a bus back). That afternoon we explored Amsterdam on our own some more and set sail around 5 pm.
The next day (Monday) we sailed until around 3 pm. It was a nice little “sea day.” We docked in Cologne where we had a choice of included tours: a regular walking tour, or a walking tour of Jewish Cologne. Pro tip: The tour of Jewish Cologne includes everything the regular tour includes, and is just 30 minutes longer. While the tour of the town was interesting, the fact is that most of it was destroyed in WWII, so much of what is described are things that are no longer there. Except, of course, the main reason to go to Cologne—the magnificent cathedral. The tours all end there, leaving us free to explore it, and for us, to climb the tower (cost is extra)! 533 steps up a narrow winding staircase on a hot and humid day. My sons scampered up and I followed, a few minutes behind. Great views, nice to see the upper reaches up close, and a small sense of middle aged accomplishment.
Tuesday morning we had a walking tour of Koblenz. A cute little town, but all we could do was take the tour and get back on the boat for what was for us the highlight of the cruise: sailing the Rhine Gorge and looking at all the castles. We lucked into a warm sunny day and enjoyed the sights and the narration. Later that afternoon we docked at Rudesheim, where the included tour took us to the Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. I have to admit that the whole thing seemed hokey at first, but by the end I was completely fascinated. After dinner the four of us hit town with two others (a mother and her 29 year old daughter—so all of the under 30’s were out with us) for an evening in the local bars.
Wednesday morning we had a tour of Mainz that included a tour of the Gutenberg Museum—which was very interesting and you could also see some original Gutenberg Bibles. After lunch we were off to Heidleberg and a tour of the castle and of the town, with some time in town on our own before getting on the bus back to the boat. The castle there was another highlight for us.
Remaining on the schedule were stops in Strasbourg, Breisach and an end in Basel. Wednesday night we learned that all of the rain in Europe (but not on us) had finally caught up to us and that the locks upstream were no longer passable. So, the cruising part of our cruise would end in Strasbourg. We would stay on the boat each night, but no more sailing. Avalon handled this very smoothly, and all tours went off as planned except for those that had purchased the optional biking tours in Breisach.
Thursday in Strasbourg included a canal cruise, a walking tour and some town time on our own, during which we climbed another cathedral tower (only about 300 steps this time—piece of cake!). Strasbourg is a very nice town. That afternoon we took the optional tour to the Maginot line, which was also a very interesting and fascinating tour. It is a tour through one of the bunkers.
Friday was the included tour of the Black Forest. The bus simply picked us up in Strasbourg instead of Breisach. We chose the Cuckoo Clock option and frankly, this trip was a waste of time. The description led us to believe we would at least have a demonstration. Instead, we had a long bus ride to a cuckoo clock store where they spent an hour selling clocks, and then a ride back. Oh, and they threw in a piece of cake. The highlight was the bus ride, which provided interesting scenery. I spent the afternoon lying on the deck reading with one son, while my wife and other son walked around Strasbourg. Saturday morning Avalon provided a bus from Strasbourg to the Central Station in Basel, and we were on our own for four very nice days in Switzerland.
Avalon was excellent. The ship was very nice, and the staff was terrific. It was all very relaxed, and they handled the high water problems with grace and skill. The only place for improvement is that my wife and sons are vegetarians, and the vegetarian food, while tasty and well-presented, often lacked a protein. They worked with us on this and there was improvement as the trip went along, but this is an area that needs some work.
We had a great family vacation on the Avalon Tranquility II. Read Less