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Sail Date: December 2016
Right time / rather new cruise ship / Love the cruise director, loved the crew always happy, friendly and willing to do whatever to make the trip an experience!! The food portions were very good, not too large and plenty to eat. Sometimes ... Read More
Right time / rather new cruise ship / Love the cruise director, loved the crew always happy, friendly and willing to do whatever to make the trip an experience!! The food portions were very good, not too large and plenty to eat. Sometimes the food was locally focused and it gave you the opportunity to try something different and other options if you chose not to try something different. The nightly entertainment was good, but repetitive with the same music night after night. We did however have some different entertainers come on the ship 2-4 times during the trip. The weather was cold & gloomy but what do you expect for December in Europe. Wish we could of stayed longer in each village, city we toured just so much to take in. As a first timer river cruiser we will be back, probably in warmer weather to experience instead of freezing. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2016
I have been on several of Avalon river boat cruises, a return customer because I find the sevice and activities to be exceptionally great. After breakfast, I turned to pass the waiter my dishes, and he scolded me, "You are on ... Read More
I have been on several of Avalon river boat cruises, a return customer because I find the sevice and activities to be exceptionally great. After breakfast, I turned to pass the waiter my dishes, and he scolded me, "You are on vacation! Let me do that for you". I selected this tour specifically for the Christmas Markets. Yes, it is cold, and the days are shorter, but you quickly warm up back on the ship with warm drinks as you walk back on board. The entertainment was wonderful, and they really engaged the audience, sometimes pulling up passengers to assist in their presentation or show. The tour director was especially helpful to us personally when my husband became ill, finding a doctor in town who spoke english, calling the cab, and checking in on us. Perhaps my favorite reason for taking these cruises is that you port near enough most towns to walk into the town to take in the local scenery. The cold was an excuse to find another cafe to order a wonderful hot chocolate and pastry. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The stops were fascinating and culturally diverse. We loved visiting all 4 countries. We felt safe and enjoyed the experience. Our favorite stops were Basel and Prague. This was mainly because we experienced the market at night. Seeing ... Read More
The stops were fascinating and culturally diverse. We loved visiting all 4 countries. We felt safe and enjoyed the experience. Our favorite stops were Basel and Prague. This was mainly because we experienced the market at night. Seeing the city lights and the decorations at night was special. We wished we could have visited every stop after dinner. The ship was comfortable and accessible. We loved having the coffee machines available throughout the day. The staff was friendly and helpful. The staff in the dining room were friendly and attentive. We wished that we could have brought our own wine on board without paying a corkage fee. The buses were comfortable. The local guides were excellent. They were friendly and knowledgeable. We could tell they loved their countries and cities. The places we visited were exactly what we expected. We would do another Christmas market cruise in a couple of years. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We wanted to tour Europe without transportation hassles, This was our first river cruise after attending several ocean cruises. The cruise director was charming and excellent at explaining all options available to us. All of the service ... Read More
We wanted to tour Europe without transportation hassles, This was our first river cruise after attending several ocean cruises. The cruise director was charming and excellent at explaining all options available to us. All of the service personnel were pleasant and professional. They remembered our names and cabin number which indicated to us how much they enjoyed their jobs. The talent night that they presented was great and very entertaining. The cabin felt more like a hotel than a cruise ship. The food and service was excellent and the small size of passengers made it easy to get to know new people during the week long vacation. We liked the variety of going to several different cities along the Rhine and the view of the castles from the deck along with the panoramic windows within the cabin was very unique and appealing. In the future we look forward to attending similar cruises in other parts of Europe. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
Fantastic way to see the cities along the Rhine. Something was always planned so it was our choice if we just wanted to take an afternoon off. Every aspect of the ship exceeded our expectations. The crew was first class, food was great and ... Read More
Fantastic way to see the cities along the Rhine. Something was always planned so it was our choice if we just wanted to take an afternoon off. Every aspect of the ship exceeded our expectations. The crew was first class, food was great and the rooms were even better than the pictures. Even on a cold November day we still would open the sliding door a bit. This is a great way to experience the cities of Europe in a intimate setting. Not crowded at all. Dining room seating was your choice so we got to meet new people at every meal. With a limited amount of passengers you got to know the crew and they got to know you very quickly. We plan on river cruising again but along the Danube. My first choice would be Avalon Waterways. Everything was professionally handled from the time they met us in Amsterdam until our departure in Zurich. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
This is the best way to see several different places - no packing and unpacking involved The crew work very hard, and cheerfully, to make your week special, the service was excellent and the food was restaurant quality every time. ... Read More
This is the best way to see several different places - no packing and unpacking involved The crew work very hard, and cheerfully, to make your week special, the service was excellent and the food was restaurant quality every time. The ship is spacious and the lounge, dining room and bars were all well furnished and comfortable. Going late season we found the shore excursions a pleasure as nowhere were we crowded which was a bonus The standard of service was really excellent and without exception the crew were charming. We go on holiday to be with each other but did enjoy meeting others over dinner. The tours were well run and we really felt we got a feel for each place with local guides. Our tour director was excellent, amusing, helpful and pleasant whilst at the same time letting you get on and enjoy yourself, a credit to the company (thank you Valentin) I would unhesitatingly recommend them and indeed we are already looking at going on another river cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2016
Never did a river cruise and thought this one was best suited for a first time. Love the idea of wall length view which opens to outside for lovely breeze while cruising down the river. Excellent crew and the service was superb. Food was ... Read More
Never did a river cruise and thought this one was best suited for a first time. Love the idea of wall length view which opens to outside for lovely breeze while cruising down the river. Excellent crew and the service was superb. Food was delicious and good variety. Loved the small public space at back of boat on our level which I only think the folks on our level knew about. Great to have fresh coffee, cocoa and hot tea available 24 hrs a day not to mention great sweets like fresh donuts and muffins too! Really like the arrangement of rooms with beds facing the windows/sliding doors allowing you to lay in the bed and still see all the view. Enjoyed excursions and the guides knowledge of area and great food and pubs to stop at outside the ship/boat. Will do again, but need to save up some money first, thanks. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
What a wonderful experience for our first cruise. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary and retirement. Everything was simply perfect from the day we first stepped on the boat to our day of departure. The room was superb. The ... Read More
What a wonderful experience for our first cruise. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary and retirement. Everything was simply perfect from the day we first stepped on the boat to our day of departure. The room was superb. The layout allowed for rom to walk around the bed and the bed facing the full length windows was a treat. What impressed us the most was the high quality and spacious bathroom. Almost like home, well almost. The added feature of having an onboard laundry facility was simply perfect. The food was excellent three times a day and numerous after-hour lighter meals. Wine flowed easily each night. The "special chef" meals were a treat and featured fresh ingredients form the local villages. We even met our Chef in the village at his favorite bakery. It was great. We met many new friends as well. Lots of fun to be had. The excursions were well planned and the tour guides experts on their locale. We have already chosen Avalon for our next cruise in 2017 on the Danube. The last day was hard to leave but they made it easy. The luggage was carried to an awaiting taxi and loaded piece by piece. No cares no worries. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2016
We chose Avalon because of the superior recommendations we received from friends. Plus, we liked the fact the the Avalon ships were smaller and carried less passengers than several of their competition. We were looking for quality not ... Read More
We chose Avalon because of the superior recommendations we received from friends. Plus, we liked the fact the the Avalon ships were smaller and carried less passengers than several of their competition. We were looking for quality not quantity! The staff were amazing and a huge part of our enjoyment of the cruise. Excursions were great (except for the 'Butterfly experience'. Loved touring the adjacent castle and would like to have seen more of it. The Coffee house on the tour was mediocre. After we left the group there, taking the aerial tram to the awesome statue and view above the city was phenomenal. Would much have preferred to spend more time there than the coffee house. Our activities director was charming. She entertained and educated us on all we were going to see. The onboard entertainment was above average, but definitely did not play the dance music. Too bad... All in all, we are already planning our next excursion on the Danube with Avalon! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
We chose to book the Romantic Rhine cruise on the Avalon Tranquility II. We traveled in mid-late September and were glad we had heavy jackets, gloves, and knit hats, as we needed them on Mt. Pilatus and while on the deck when going ... Read More
We chose to book the Romantic Rhine cruise on the Avalon Tranquility II. We traveled in mid-late September and were glad we had heavy jackets, gloves, and knit hats, as we needed them on Mt. Pilatus and while on the deck when going through the Rhine gorge. We flew into Zurich a day early so we could take the optional Mt. Pilatus tour. This tour was worth the money as one gets to view the countryside from the high mountains. The tour also included a trip to Lucerne which was quite lovely. When we arrived at our ship, we were greeted by the crew and given our room keys. Our room was 207, and very nice with a sliding glass door that opens up to view the river. It is like having a room-wide balcony. The bed faces outward toward the river which seems to be very romantic. A wall mounted TV was included in each room, but we never did use ours. The bathroom was moderately sized, but did seem to be bigger than that of an ocean ships bathroom, and the shower was much larger than on an ocean cruise ship. Also include in the bathroom were under the counter, enclosed storage, bath amenities and hair dryer. Nice terry robes and house slippers were in the closet, along with other amenities. A European electric converter is highly recommended if you wish to charge many electronic devices. The meals on board did not have as large a selection as that of an ocean cruise, but one still had a nice selection of food. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet style, and dinner was to order. At breakfast, there was a nice selection of meats, cheeses, fruits, eggs or omelets to order, and different vegetables, local breads, and pastries. We were given a tour of the galley later during the cruise, and were amazed at the food that can be prepared in such a small galley. With the number of guests at around 120, it was easy to meet a lot of different people as seating was never defined, so one sat where they wish. In the evening, there is just one seating for dinner. Dinner dress for men was slacks. Evening entertainment on board ship was sometimes local talent, or the ship’s crew. There were no children on board, and the mix of people were mostly in the 60-70 year range. All day long in the library, cookies, muffins, coffee, tea, and cappuccino were available. Smoking is allowed outside, in the back of deck three. Outside on the sky deck , were many lounge chairs and even a small hot tub. We cruised from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam and I would recommend this routing for two reasons. (1) When going through the Rhine gorge, the sun will be behind you allowing for excellent photographs. (2) Even though you are going northward, you are going down river which allows the ship to travel faster and can even cruise when the river is at a lower level than it can when going upriver. For photographers, I took a DSLR and a 15-85mm lens, and a 70-200mm lens. The 70-200mm was too strong, even when shooting in the Rhine gorge, so it was left in the room safe. Our stops during this cruise included Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Mainz, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Cologne, and Amsterdam, with included tours at each location. Our tour guides all spoke excellent English and were very knowledgeable of their location. The tours were informative and you learned a lot about the city, its history, and local people. Each person was given a headset and the tour guide wore a transmitter, so one could hear what was being said even while in the back of a group. After each tour, time was given for shopping if it was desired. Many of the streets and alleys we walked were cobblestones, so good walking shoes are recommended. From the onset, we were given a folder with daily information sheets and maps of our next stops and information about each stop. These would be filed in the folder, making a nice remembrance of our cruise. Each evening in the lounge before dinner, our tour director would give an informational talk about the following day’s activities, where to meet buses, and information about the different tour groups. They even had a tour group for gentle walkers. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and fast. When leaving the ship during every port stop, each person was given a card with their room number and would return it when coming back on board. This lets the crew know who is still off the ship. When returning from a port visit, we were greeted by a crew member and given a warm refreshment towel and a cold fruit drink. The service by all crew members was top notch and if one had a problem and it was reported, it was addressed immediately. The Wi-Fi on board seemed to work very well and we were able to Face time our daughter back home. I believe Avalon does an outstanding job and their cruises are a great value for the dollar. We are already looking forward to our next Avalon cruise, but have yet to decide on which one we want to choose. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
My wife and I just returned from our very first river cruise on the Tranquility II. We sailed northbound on the Rhine, from Basel to Amsterdam. We were by ourselves but met many interesting people from the UK, Australia, Canada, and of ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our very first river cruise on the Tranquility II. We sailed northbound on the Rhine, from Basel to Amsterdam. We were by ourselves but met many interesting people from the UK, Australia, Canada, and of course, most were from the US. The meals were course after course of appetizing, creative and country-oriented flavors. There were four entrees that were always available. Breakfasts included made-to-order eggs and omelettes, lunches were also buffet style and offered a huge array of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and breads. Dinners were multiple courses with plenty of options. Happy hour was a great time and Stefano, our cruise director, was there to give us information about the next day. On board newsletter was great. The wait staff were efficient and friendly, quick to refill our wines, beer and sodas, and eager to get something special for us if we wanted. Avalon is known for their excellent service and we were not disappointed. All the crew on the ship were friendly and eager to help. I did not feel they were overburdened as on the larger cruise ships. They worked hard and did multiple jobs, but the ratio of staff to passengers was much better than on large cruise ships. They also got along well with each other - the crew entertainment night, which I normally do not attend, was an absolute riot! I really appreciated the attention to detail across the board, including activities and excursions and the ability to pre-pay gratuities. Stayed an extra night in Amsterdam and all the transfers and connections were seamless. My wife and I would absolutely go on another Avalon cruise. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Our travel agent selected it for us. She liked the company. We sailed on the most beautiful, new ship, the Tranquility II. Every detail was sparkling and clean. The ship was beautifully appointed and there was attention to every ... Read More
Our travel agent selected it for us. She liked the company. We sailed on the most beautiful, new ship, the Tranquility II. Every detail was sparkling and clean. The ship was beautifully appointed and there was attention to every detail. From candies on the front desk to refreshing face towels and juice to greet us upon our return to the ship from an excursion. The meals were course after course of appealing and country-oriented flavors. Breakfasts included made-to-order eggs and omelettes, lunches were also buffet style and offered a huge array of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and breads. Dinners were multiple courses with plenty of options. The wait staff were efficient and friendly, quick to refill our wines and sodas, and eager to get something special for us if it was our wish. We were always treated by the captain when we returned from an excursion. The organization of all 122 passengers was smooth and friendly. With a group of this size, it was easy to meet people more than once and actually refer to them as friends. Best experience EVER! Why would anyone want to go on a traveling city of thousands when there is this amazing, personable experience available? Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
General Info My wife and I sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II April 18 through April 25, 2015. It was a North bound sailing on the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Tranquility II was launched on ... Read More
General Info My wife and I sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II April 18 through April 25, 2015. It was a North bound sailing on the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Tranquility II was launched on April 2, 2015; this is was only the third sailing of the ship. This was our first river cruise. Overall, the cruise and the ship were fabulous. The crew and the service were fantastic…especially the cruise director, Karolien. We flew into Zurich a day early and stayed at the Avalon pre-cruise hotel – the Moevenpick Airport Zurich. (See my review on TripAdvisor dated April 28, 2015 entitled "Good Hotel; the Restaurant Service Needs Improving. Directions using S-7 to Zurich". The bus from the hotel left at 3:30 PM; we were at the by around 4:30 PM. We were escorted to our cabin be the staff. Our bags were delivered about 10 minutes later. The Ship The ship was beautiful. It was elegant, contemporary and comfortable. (In Amsterdam, we docked next to a Uniworld ship. I’ve always heard that Uniworld was top-notch. Looking through the windows of the public areas we could see crystal chandlers and ornate furniture. It looked like my grandmothers living room – no thanks). The layout of the ship is kind of a “split-level”. The main deck with reception and the main lounge is a half a deck down from deck 3 and half a deck up from deck 2 The dining room is a half a deck down from deck 2 and a half a deck up from deck 1. There are six steps between each of these decks. The only problem that I saw with the ship design is the height or rise of the steps. I believe that a normal step has about seven inches. My estimate of the steps on the ship was about a nine inch rise. Most of the passengers on the ship were older. (My guess is that the average age was about 72). You could tell many had hip and knee problems and had trouble walking on the excursions. People struggled to climbs the short stair cases. Yes, there is a small elevator; but, I never saw a passenger use it. Hygiene was encouraged on the ship. There is an alcohol-based sanitizer dispenser at the door that passengers are asked to clean their hands with upon returning from shore. There are two sanitizer dispensers one each side of the entrance to the main dining room which passenger are reminded to use before each meal. After a few days, passengers were complaining about dry skin. The cabin The cabin was beautiful, tasteful and very functional. There was a lot of hanging storage in the closet. There were also some shelves on the side of the closet where the safe was located. (I found the safe a little tricky. The first couple of times that I opened and closed it, it didn’t catch. I would come back the cabin and find the safe opened. Then I realized that I had to hold the safe closed with one hand and punch in the code with the other; and, then you have to wait to see the word “success” on the display. Otherwise, there was a good chance that the door didn’t catch properly). Drawer space was limited to three drawers in the desk and a very small drawer in each nightstand. Lighting in the room was great. The beds were high enough to store suitcases. There is a mini-bar on the left side of the desk. It is well stocked. There is enough room in the fridge for two or three small water bottles. Housekeeping checks the inventory each day. Be careful about removing items from the fridge to make room for your own things. You will be charged for missing items on a daily basis. Avalon provides two (one liter) bottles of water in cabin and replaces the bottles throughout the cruise…a nice touch. There are at least two ice machines – one by the entrance to the main dining room and one in the rear lounge on deck three. We requested that the bed be put together. There was a placard on the bed when we first arrived that, if you didn’t want the duvet cover, you could request a traditional sheet and blanket set up. I found the duvet too warm for me. So, I requested the sheet and blanket setup. The only problem is that they don’t have queen/king size blankets. There are two blankets in the cabin on the shelf above the safe in the closet. They are twin size blankets. Housekeeping laid the twin-sized blankets perpendicularly across the bed. There was no spread on top. It worked; but, it wasn’t pretty. Speaking of bedding, I read somewhere that Avalon uses TempurPedic mattresses. The mattress was the most comfortable bed that I had ever slept on. We both awoke with no backaches or pain. The pillows were great also. (Unlike the pillows in the Moevenpick). The HVAC system was very good. You just had to interpolate the Celsius marking for Fahrenheit. The room was always comfortable. The bathroom was large and beautiful. There is a storage area with shelves on each side of the sink. The wastebasket pulls of the center of the counter. There is a narrow glass shelf on the mirror. We really enjoyed the use of the provided bathrobes and slippers. The shower was very good. But, my wife wished that there was a seat or a step to aid in shaving her legs. One hint on the shower…when you first turn the shower on there is a button or detente that stops the knob. The shower at that point is a gentle spray. If you press the button down and continue to turn the knob more, you get a stronger spray. (It took us a half a week to figure that out). One nice touch in the bathroom was that there were lights at the top of the mirror and another set of lights under to overhang of the counter for floor lighting. They made for a good night light. The only real problem we encountered was the toilet stopped working just after lunch on Monday. The problem was fixed by the time we returned from our afternoon excursion. The toilets work on a vacuum system and there was a problem (a loose fitting or something) with the system. Some passengers reported sporadic issues with the toilets prior to that. A word on cabin position…we were in room 210 on the port side of the ship. We felt that it was perfect. It was far enough away from the main lobby and not too far back that it was a hike to get to your cabin. I don’t really think that port or starboard cabin locations make much difference. There was scenery on both sides. Some nights we moored facing the river and some nights we tied up facing the town. (The only time that was really an issue was the night in Rudesheim. There are train tracks along the river. There were trains every four to five minutes all night long. My wife didn’t hear them; but, they kept waking me up. I’m not sure if we were on the starboard side it would have been any better. I really didn’t think that we would open the wall-to-wall sliding glass doors much. But, we had them open every day. It was a nice treat. Sail Away Shortly before 5:00 PM on Saturday, the cruise director came over the speaker system and announced that we were waiting for three passengers. I learned latter that the significance of that was the captain was anxious to get underway. There are 14 locks between Basel and Amsterdam. Nine of those locks are between Basel and the first port of Strasbourg. The time that it takes to get to Strasbourg depends on other river traffic using the locks. We made Strasbourg on time; but, we learned the next day that it took over five hours to get through one lock. There are some very low bridges leaving Basel and the crew had to drop the railings, and all the structures (including the captain’s bridge) to pass under the roadways. So, we were not permitted on the Sky Deck during the sail away. The safety exercise and ‘welcome aboard’ reception took place in the main lounge. Food The food at dinner was generally very good. There was a choice of two appetizers, two soups and two entrees each night. Plus there were three or four entrees that were always available. The soups were excellent. The only entrees that I had that were a little off were a veal roast that I thought was over cooked and a cod entrée that I thought was tasteless. Deserts were good. On the last night, neither of the main entrees appealed to me. So, I ordered the tenderloin from the items that are always available. It was surprisingly good. The first morning I was up early, so I tried the “Early Riser” (6:00 AM – 7:00AM) breakfast in the main lounge. It was juice, coffee/tea and pastries mainly. There may have been a cereal. I can’t remember. The full breakfast buffet usually runs from (7:00 AM until 9:00 AM) in the restaurant. My hint for both the breakfast and lunch buffets is to sit at one of the tables first and read the menu. There are always daily specials like eggs benedict, blue berry pancakes, etc. that you have to order from the wait staff. At lunch there is a sandwich special on the menu. The breakfast buffet had a little bit of everything. The only thing that I believe was missing was American cold cereals. There was Muslin and oatmeal; but, that was all I saw. There is bacon cooked two ways…soft cooked and crispy. And, there is always a chaffing dish of scrambled eggs. They had an amazing cook doing eggs to order. He had about five pans going preparing omelets, fried eggs, etc. Plus there were soft cooked eggs. My favorite breakfast item was the Belgium waffles. Again, you had to order them from the menu; they are not on the buffet. By the way…there is one menu per couple. So, you have to share. The lunch buffet usually had a meat dish plus a carving station, about four or five vegetables. There is a pasta station on the starboard side of the buffet line (looking forward) only. Don’t expect, Southern Italian, red-sauced pasta. It’s not there. It was mostly spaghetti or Linguine lightly dressed with something like a pesto, al Olio (olive oil and garlic), or something similar. Twice the menu listed gnocchi; I never found it. My wife and I are not fans for a full-hot meal for lunch. So, we usually opted for the sandwich. A “light lunch” was usually served in the lounge at lunch time. It was usually, soup or pasta and a sandwich. On a couple of occasions, they offered a “grill lunch” up on the Sky Deck (weather permitting). It consisted of grilled chicken, minute steaks, corn on the cob, salads, sausages, and burgers. They can only handle 20 passengers at a time (the number of tables) and you have to sign up for it. But, if they offer it, it is a nice change of pace. The ship also experimented with a dinner alternative that they called a “Bistro Dinner”. It was a tapas-style (small plates) meal held in the lounge. We never did it. So, I can’t comment on it. Service The entire staff was great. They always greeted you wherever they saw you. They were all pleasant and friendly. The people at the reception desk could not do enough for you. Service for the first and second nights at dinner was unbelievable. Your wine glass was never empty. (My only gripe was that the wait staff asked you if you wanted red or white wine before you had a chance to look at the menu and decide what you were having that night). Courses flowed like clockwork. On the third night, the dinner service was much slower. We talked about it with our table mates and one gentleman pointed out that it was the first night that they tried the “Bistro Dinner”. That meant that they had to pull wait staff (and split the kitchen) to serve up in the lounge. I don’t know if it meant anything, but that night I spotted Peter, the restaurant manager, at the reception desk and I mentioned to him that I thought that the service was much slower at dinner. He thanked me. They offered “Bistro Dinner” several more times. I never noticed slow service after that. Our favorite place on the ship was the bar. (Okay, I’m half Irish). There were a couple of stand-out crew members that handled the bar. First was the bartender – Aneta. She was fast and efficient; and, she knew what she was doing. Every day at happy hour they would have a drink special. One day it was Mojitos. I never saw anyone crank out drinks that fast. Plus she was sweet, personable and fun. After the first night, she had our room number memorized. The “class clown” of the cruise was a waiter named Iro (like hero without the “h”). He was also a lot of fun. I’ve read a review that knocked Avalon’s level of service because most of the crew is mainly East European. (In total, the crew represented 11 nations). I don’t believe that is true. I would rate the level of service an A+. Guidelines for tipping are included in your cruise documents. I found out while on the cruise that you can either pre-pay the tips or charge them to a credit card. If I knew that, I wouldn’t have gone to the bank to get extra Euros. We were talking to hotel manager (Mr. D) one day. He explained that, aside from the cruise director), all the rest of the crew splits the tips equally – from the officers down to the dish washers. Entertainment I wasn’t expecting much in the way of entertainment; so, I was pleasantly surprised. The on-board entertainer was a gentleman name Rumen. He played piano and accordion; plus, he did a little signing. One group of passengers from Australia really liked his Tom Jones songs and begged him to play them each night. We had a scheduled appearance of Armand and Margaux – a French Accordion team. (It may sound corny, but they were pretty good). One night, the cruise director arranged an unscheduled appearance of a violin trio. They were excellent. The crew show was funny and entertaining. There was a Happy Hour almost every day before the Port Talk and diner. Drinks were half price. It was pretty well attended. But, this wasn’t really a party crowd. Unless there was special entertainment, the lounge was pretty dead after dinner. There was a group of Australians, my wife and I and one or two other people. There is a flat screen TV in the room. I wasn’t planning on watching much TV; but, I would have liked to have caught up on world news. There were about eight English language news channels – all from Great Britain. Most seems to be focus on European business. The world could have been at war and we would not have known it. On the last day sailing from Cologne to Amsterdam, we had a lot of time to kill. I thought that I would watch a movie. But, the TV didn’t work. (It was fixed by that evening). I latter found out that many people problems with their TVs. They just didn’t work. In Cologne, the crew was seen bring about 10 new TVs on-board. The rumor was that some of the TVs that were installed during construction were incompatible with ship’s system. The only real use that the TV got was that housekeeping would turn the TV to one of the ten “fireplace” channel each night as the turned down the beds. The music selection on the TV was horrible. One category was called “Bar Selections 1 through 4”. On the other hand, the internet Wi-Fi service on-board was very good. You need to get a password from reception. I signed on once and remained connected throughout the cruise. The only thing that didn’t work was when I attempted to stream a movie. I don’t think that there was enough band-width. Excursions – Included When you arrive at your cabin, you are provided with and ear piece and lanyard. They are for wireless audio system used by the guides during the tours. Each excursion will have between three and five color-coded tours to break the passengers into more manageable groups. The system worked well; I was impressed by the quality and range of the devices. The “yellow” group seemed to have a high frequency of dead receivers. But, the guides usually have a spare receiver or two. The ear pieces, on the other hand, are painful. After about 20 minutes you are tempted to rip the thing off your ear. I thought that it was interesting that Avalon wanted the ear pieces and lanyards back at the end of the cruise. In general, the included tours were all very good and interesting. There is an “easy walking” group for each excursion. In Koblenz, we got drafted into an easy walking tour because there were too many in the “red” group and no one in the “white” or easy walker group. The tour leader was interesting. He was a college professor, a lawyer, an author and a poet. But, we only covered about a four square block area in Koblenz and he beat each location to death with way to much detail and his personal poems. In some cases, I’m not sure what the “easy walker” group bought you. At the Heidelberg castle for instance, all the groups had to climb a rather steep, cobblestone path up to the main castle level. My suggestion to anyone planning on any of these cruises is to start walking at least a mile a day a month before the cruise. You do a lot of walking. And, most of it is on cobblestone walkway. Walking on cobblestones is very strenuous. Personally, my favorite day was Speyer. We had the morning to ourselves to walk into town and explore. That gave me plenty of time to compose and properly frame photos. I didn’t feel rushed and I felt that we got a flavor for the town. We started walking around 9:00 AM. The shops didn’t open until 10:00. We were back on board by 11:30. The one tour that I could have done without was the visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rudesheim. It was corny and some of the music was way too loud – BRING EAR PLUGS. This was the only tour where I remember that they walked you through the souvenir shop to exit the building. After that, there was a short walk to the Rudesheim Schloss for Rudesheim coffee. (Coffee with Asbach brandy, whipped cream and chocolate). The sail through the Rhine Gorge was magnificent. Unfortunately, it was the coldest and windiest day we had on the cruise. A lot of people on the Sky Deck took blankets from their cabin to stay warm. Karolien narrated the trip, explaining each castle and point of interest, for over two hours. Excursions – Optional We did the Zurich City tour on our first day. I was mainly a way to kill time waiting for the bus to Basel and the ship. It was worth it. The Excursion to the Alsace Countryside was fun. We stopped at a small winery and tasted four (all white – this is mostly a white wine growing area) wines. Then we stopped and walked around the medieval town of Obernai. The tour guide (Terry) was very good. In Rudesheim we did the German dinner. It is held in the open courtyard of the same restaurant were we had the Rudesheim coffee early. It was like a wedding. There had to be 250 people there, including passengers from two Viking ships that were in port. The band played all types of music besides German. The lead singer did some Neil Diamond and Elvis songs. They encourage audience participation with a drinking game where five people lined up and drank Schnapps from cups mounted to a long board. And, there was a parade around the restaurant with audience members play instruments. The food was a fixed menu. It was salad, and a plate of four sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes, plus desert. There was white and red wine on the table. You probably could have asked for beer; but, no one in our group did. Would I recommend it…probably not? The town is an easy walk from the ship. (You do have cross train tracks). And, there are many restaurants in Rudesheim. We signed up for the Keukenhof Flower Exhibition. The timing was good; the flowers were in bloom and even the flower mosaic of Van Gogh was in full bloom. My issues with the tour were first, the crowds…attempting to enter the garden was like being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And second, the traffic getting out of the garden and back to the ship was frustrating. (We almost missed Happy Hour!) Fellow Passengers As I mentioned, this was mainly an older crowd. Most people were retired or semi-retired. There was only one couple from Brazil in their 30’s. They looked like they were bored out of their minds most of the time. I don’t know who recommend this cruise to them; but, they got some bad information. On the night we docked in Cologne (about 11:30 PM) they were waiting by the lobby door ready to go ashore. There were bars and clubs, within a couple of blocks of the docks. I guess they couldn’t wait for some real nightlife. Everyone was very friendly and everyone got along well. The hotel manager said that the passengers represented five nationalities. I estimate that they were British, Australian, Canadian, American and the couple from Brazil. Conclusion My wife and I loved this trip. We loved the ship, the crew and the fellow passengers. We especially loved the cruise director Karolien who made each day so special. One of her key phrases was “No panic, no stress” and that’s what this cruise was. I highly recommend Avalon, the Tranquility II and this cruise. Read Less
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