18 Avalon Waterways Avalon Vista River Cruise Reviews

I did not take this cruise to london and went west from budapest to amsterdam. it all started in budapest. i arrived one day early, just in case the luggage didn't appear on my british air flight from miami arriving on september ... Read More
I did not take this cruise to london and went west from budapest to amsterdam. it all started in budapest. i arrived one day early, just in case the luggage didn't appear on my british air flight from miami arriving on september 25. It gave me time to meet a friend who took me on a walking tour and we had the greatest sweet and coffee on this little side street. I stayed at the marriott hotel and had a view of a lifetime...facing the bridge and every famous building in budapest! the next day the meeting locale was at the intercontinental hotel, also on the river that separates buda from pest. i believe that the only negative of the entire trip, looking back at this point.. Was on the first day with avalon and took place at the get-together meeting at the intercontinental. the luggage was checked in and when i asked the agent in charge a question about the embarkation she said: "i can't answer your question...i am just here to check you in." she provided no happy "hello and welcome to avalon". This was quite disappointing as was the room where we met. there weren't enough tables and seats and no one met us from avalon. oh well...everything can't be great....maybe they will change this in the future. What made up for this poor beginning was the ship, the cabin, the dining experience, the entertainment, all of the superb service and we had a wonderful cruise director, sylvia, who lived just outside of amsterdam in the netherlands. The designer of the staterooms needs to be congratulated as well...all of the beds faced the sliding glass doors...you could see the sights by opening the curtains and then by opening the door. they provided all of us with a clear view of the countryside from your comfortable bed.. even the soaps and shampoo were superb...occitane... In the restaurant i always sat with the same waiter: pugi...what a super representative for avalon. Not that the other servers weren't great...but, pugi was the best. Have i praised this cruise too much? this is just the beginning. and i should mention that the shore excursions were great because they were geared for everyone. if a traveller had trouble walking, they could take the green gentle walk and even use walking sticks, or maybe the fast walkers would take the red guide for some great exercise as well as seeing the sites. i also was impressed with each guide on the excursions as headphones were supplied to everyone daily. Bottom line: i was never so impressed with a riverboat tour which travelled west from budapest to amsterdam. the avalon vista was spotless. what an experience. But i do have a second suggestion (in addition to the meet and greet at the beginning of the trip)...the gymnasium needs one more piece of machinery now that everyone is so into health and body. the best elliptical machine on the market is manufactured by lifefitness and it would complete the gym since they have all lifefitness machines already. viking does not even offer any exercise equipment or even a small room for exercise. i was told on the phone, when i inquired about an exercise facility: "our clients are older and don't want a fitness center!" i took total offense and hung up the phone. kudos to avalon again. they have the beginnings of a proper facility...now all that is needed is to enhance the exercise equipment experience by adding the elliptical which more and more people are now using. But,i should add that late at night while reading in the reading and lounge area...i had my cup of coffee and two cookies( the greatest fresh cookies). what's two cookies when i used the treadmill for one hour and did all of the walking on the tours. And finally, disembarkation was so perfectly planned, it was just like one of the large ocean liners. Bottom line #2: do i recommend avalon vista?...a definite yes. It's a great value for the money. The excitement you will experience will be happiness and decision you make as you plan your next avalon adventure somewhere else in the world. I am sold on avalon. and i thought that some of the other lines were okay. This is beyond okay...try it...you'll like it! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Avalon was highly recommended by friends, so we gave it a try...we were NOT disappointed! Our friends gave us some wonderful tips before our travel. We spent two extra days in Budapest and would have liked one more. The hop on hop off ... Read More
Avalon was highly recommended by friends, so we gave it a try...we were NOT disappointed! Our friends gave us some wonderful tips before our travel. We spent two extra days in Budapest and would have liked one more. The hop on hop off bus was a great way to see all we wanted to see. Embarkation was great. We met at the hotel and were bussed to our ship where our bags were waiting for us. Our cabin was very nice and the bathroom was fabulous....quite large for being on a ship! Everything was clean, modern, and wonderful. We wanted 'casual' and that's exactly what we got! We could have dressed up for dinner each night, but it wasn't required. The meals onboard were quite good and the entire staff was amazing! Sylvia, our tour director was the best. She arranged some VERY interesting and fun entertainment onboard as well as the wonderful shore excursions. We will DEFINITELY be back to Avalon!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Sunday, November 29, 2015 Vienna - Had arrived days earlier in Vienna to tour town on our own. Took our luggage to the Intercontinental Hotel (where is was securely stored) until several buses took us to the ship. Embarkation was a ... Read More
Sunday, November 29, 2015 Vienna - Had arrived days earlier in Vienna to tour town on our own. Took our luggage to the Intercontinental Hotel (where is was securely stored) until several buses took us to the ship. Embarkation was a breeze! Luggage already in our room - simply unpack (and store luggage under bed). Required emergency drill that everyone had to attend, then welcome by Captain and Cruise Director (Tony Campailla) and our first meal (nice selection) on the ship. Monday, November 30, 2015 Vienna – Since we had already toured Vienna, we took the tour bus into town in the morning for the “guided tour” and ditched the tour – some Christmas Markets shut down due to high winds. Had Sacher Torte and visited Museum. We then took the bus back to ship for lunch. After lunch, we took the bus to Schonbrunn Palace for the paid Excursion. It started raining on the way there and then the rain increased steadily in intensity. Christmas Market was shut down due to the extremely high winds (big disappointment as blogs stated this was one of the best Christmas Markets to attend). Since we had seen this palace twice before, we probably should not have pre-signed up and paid for this excursion and done it at the last minute. The inclement weather (heavy rain) ruined the experience. Lesson learned. Tuesday, December 1, 2015 Dürnstein – Unbelievably high winds. Had a walking tour through the small town with time to shop at the local stores. No Christmas Market. Saw the Blue Church. Melk – Since we had toured Abbey before, we walked the small town. Christmas Market shut down – only open for locals on weekends and evenings. Heard people from the Viking ship complain about this fact as they walked past us. Wednesday, December 2, 2015 Salzburg Excursion (Paid) - We took the bus ride to Salzburg. Had the chocolate pretzel and local sausages. Great Christmas Market and lots of great shopping (probably second best). Continued on with our growing Gluhwein mug collection. Lunch on own as bus took us to Oberndorf that afternoon to see Silent Night church. Then another short bus ride to a very small village, where two gentlemen sang Silent Night in the local church. Stollen and Gluhwein served up after the music in a courtyard. Bus ride back to the ship docked in Passau. Thursday, December 3, 2015 Regensburg – Another place we did not take the walking tour. Left before the tour groups and quickly found the Christmas Market. At 11 am, before tour groups arrived, we stopped at the Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen) and put in our order (utilizing the free meal coupon provided by Avalon). Similar the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” we had the waiter repeatedly say: “Not all inclusive!!” We each received 6 small sausages with sauerkraut plus a beer. There was a large bread basket with a couple dozen rolls. As we were leaving after the meal, the waiter ran after us. “How many rolls?” We had 3 total. Not all Inclusive meant 1 roll per person. We had to pay .90 euro for third roll. We reported this to Tony back at the ship who was saddened since Avalon paid the Old Sausage Kitchen for this experience. In the afternoon a bus took us to the Taxis and Thurn Palace for their Christmas Market. (Looking back it was the BEST Christmas Market!) Great shopping and outdoor firewood heat everywhere. (Tony personally took the group there and back.) Friday, December 4, 2015 Nuremberg – It was becoming quickly evident that the Christmas Markets were providing way too many opportunities for shopping. Tony let us know of 2 stores in Nuremburg that carried quality luggage. When we arrived that afternoon we took the tour bus into town and were dropped off near the train station. (As with these tours, we always asked the tour guide where the bus would be picking us up and at what time.) We found a very nice carry-on piece to make sure we could bring back all the goodies we found. The Christmas Market was incredible (would rate this third best of the markets). We walked and did some shopping. We were told to meet for the tour bus ride back at the “Golden Fountain” in the Market Square. Unfortunately, the “Golden Fountain” was completely covered with construction materials, so we made the assumption that it was the Fountain based on where we were at looking at the maps that Avalon had provided. (NOTE: Avalon provides very detailed and easy to understand maps of the cities we visited. Because of this, we could find many things on our own utilizing the map. Always took a second map along for reference and kept one for our memory book.) Saturday, December 5, 2015 Munich – Bus ride to Munich. Did the walking tour, then time on our own. Since lunch was not included we did the local Rathaus (basement) for a meal. Spent the short time we had in Munich mostly at this place. Markets were far too crowded due to it being a Saturday to do shopping. The walking tour included the Hofbrauhaus and the Glockenspiel (at noon). Again, not enough time on these excursions. This was also the large “turn-over” day on the ship – the first of two. In all we experienced 3 Welcome Dinners, 3 Farewell Dinners, and 3 “last suppers”. These large change-overs are very stressful. You just get to start knowing people and then you have to start over again with a new group. This second group was very loud compared to the first. Those we talked to whom had just arrived loved Prague and their Christmas market (we missed out on that experience). Sunday, December 6, 2015 Nuremberg – Attended the morning service at a local church. Everything in German. Were able to figure out hymnal and tried sing along in some places. Church was cold – somehow heat was being pumped under the seats to help warm us up though. Did some more shopping after the service and returned to the ship late afternoon. Monday, December 7, 2015 Bamberg – Took the guided walking tour, since we had a free beer gift certificate and didn't know the location. This was a mistake. Tour guide took us to a museum and offered people a chance to use the bathrooms. Over ½ hour (almost 40 minutes) was lost due this convenience for others. Tour guide quickly walked us to brewery to get gift bag. It contained beer and glasses; however, it did not contain the smoked beer. Just a regular lager. The whole point of Bamberg is their smoked beer. In hindsight, would have skipped the walking tour, forgone the free beer gift, and spent time at the Christmas Market (we only had less than ½ hour to visit it after the lost bathroom time). Tuesday, December 8, 2015 Wurzburg – Did not do the walking tour in the Residenz. Took the tour bus there, then walked on our own. Watched the Market’s slowing opening while at a local coffee shop. Then shopped that Christmas Market. Listened to a street musician play wonderful music. Later waited for the ship to arrive at the dock. We had learned the night before that the Danube had been running high and the Captain was racing ahead of the rising waters to get under bridges. If it had been one day later, we would have been put on a bus (and off the ship). To make Wurzburg excursion, they stopped at a small town and bussed us ahead of the ship. We were also delayed 4 hours due to a lock being broken just as we were leaving the Canal and entering the Main River. This put the trip behind for awhile. Waiting for the ship to arrive in Wurzburg (it was 45 minutes late) got us a little worried that we would miss out on the paid excursion to Rothenburg. Rothenburg Excursion (Paid) – Took the bus. Left the tour group once we got inside the wall (because again the Guide stopped first at a public bathroom for the group to use). Utilized the Avalon map to navigate our way around the place. Visited the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum (Avalon had provided everyone with a free entrance coupon). Store was extremely crowded and very long lines to check out if purchasing an item. We were able to walk part of the rampart wall above the city – that was a great experience! Needed more time to spend exploring this wonderful place! Near the church, we had a cherry flavored Gluhwein that was exceptional. Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Miltenberg – Wonderful town! Ship had to dock a long ways away (the ship was docked at the far end of the town well past the normal docking locations) and we had to walk through muddy construction area (work was being done to build up the shore to prevent flooding damage). Again, left before the tour groups and did our own thing. The town is very narrow and long – basically two streets running parallel to the river. If you stopped in one of three stores with an Avalon poster in the window, you received a free treat (like a piece of candy). Christmas Market here was also shut down. Another place where it is open at night and weekends for the locals. Many old buildings and simply a quaint beautiful little town! Half-timbered houses and cobblestone lanes made it very picturesque! Thursday, December 10, 2015 Rudesheim – Bus ride, then mini-train ride to the Musical Museum. The mini-train is a tractor pulling covered carts that hold a dozen people each. We again did our own thing and walked the Christmas Market rather than visit the Musical Museum. Wonderful little town! Had a full lunch with everyone from the tour group at the Rudesheimer Schloss with the “special coffee” for dessert. Great local band playing during the meal. This was the second turn-over of guests on the ship. We again had people suddenly leave that we were getting to know. Friday, December 11, 2015 Heidelberg – Since we’d been there before we decided to rest a bit and started packing items we had purchased. The ship left after people got on the bus to Heidelburg and we used the time to get organized. We did not stop in Speyer – instead we stopped in Mannheim and were able to walk to the old town (a bit of a maze even with the map provided by Avalon) that included walking under the train tracks through a tunnel. Another great Market! Another great shopping mecca. More great Gluhwein and sausages. Unexpected stop – but a very pleasant surprise. Glad we bought that second carry-on luggage! Saturday, December 12, 2015 Strasbourg – We docked on German side of Rhine (most likely Avalon did not want security issues being docked in France since the attacks earlier in the month in Paris). We quickly found out that crossing the Rhine on a tour bus was a lengthy experience due to border control being tightened in France. One lane traffic vs. three lane traffic. Delays in and out of Strasbourg put a crimp on time to do anything. In Strasbourg, pairs of Policemen every block. The Market place was simply overcrowded (again probably because it was a Saturday - just like Munich). If you tried to talk to some of the vendors in English, they would ignore you (some even rude). On the perimeter, pairs of French Army with submachine guns. We got back to the ship 30 minutes late due to border delays. Alsace Excursion (Paid) – Stopped at Winery owned by a local family. Sampled 4 wines. This excursion also included a stop to the very quaint village of Obernai. Again not enough time to explore due to short time provided during this stop (would have had less time available if we took the walk with the tour guide). Sunday, December 13, 2015 Breisach – Spent morning walking the town which sits on a high hill. Long walk up to the high point to get to the church and old town. Nothing open in town (Sunday). Great views of the Vosges Mountains in France and the Black Forest in Germany though. Colmar Excursion (Paid) – Bus trip. Took the guided walking tour. Beautiful town with not enough time to explore Christmas Markets. Would have loved more time at this place. Stopped at the Hansi Shop and had a small bite to eat and drink, then shopped for Hansi specialty items. Waited for the tour guide to walk us back to the bus. She walked too fast and many people in our group struggled to keep up. The walk itself was at least 12 blocks crossing busy traffic. The ride back was a bit better until we got to the bridge crossing the Rhine. Again, the lanes went from 3 down to 1 for the border inspection between France and Germany – delayed arrival to ship. Monday, December 14, 2015 Basel – 4:30 am wake up call. Bus left at 6:00 am and took 90 minutes to get to Zurich. We were on first group to depart ship (8 of us) since our flights were that morning. Provided with a cold boxed breakfast to eat on bus ride. Disembarkation was very efficient with colored ribbons to mark our luggage. PLUSES and MINUSES: - Tony Campailla is an exceptional Director! - Suppers at least two hours long - length of meal can get tiresome after a while. Some meal selections became repetitive during a two week trip. - Breakfast and Lunch selections all wonderful. Soups fantastic! Lack of local cheeses - could have had more selections made available. - Congestion at the serving area. Badly designed. People getting soup and bread coming from two directions to also get served hot food creates a constant traffic jam at lunch. - Tour Guides for off ship excursions were not the best at time management. - Room was had lots of light from full windows. Bathroom was very roomy. Beds comfortable. Small frig in room to store occasional food items bought in excursions. Never felt cramped - even watched 3 movies while we were underway. - Service was exceptional. From the front desk staff, to the bar, to the room attendant, to the wait staff - everyone. They made you feel very welcomed and cared for. - Excursions need about 2 more hours added to them to make them worth your while. - As stated, maps provided at front desk are excellent! Daily newsletter was also very well done. Nightly talk from Tony about the next day's events was entertaining. - Selection at bar was very good with half-priced happy hour almost every night. - No snow. Both a plus and minus. Would have made markets look more magical; however, walking was nice and easy without walking in slush. - St. Nicholas Day - they had everyone put shoes outside their cabin door and in the morning a special gift from St. Nick was in the shoes. - Passenger Turn-Over. Watch for trips where passenger turn-overs can take place. Usually Nuremberg and Frankfurt are two locations where this can happen in the trip. - Coffee machine in back lounge area with good selection of cookies. - Were told at the end of the cruise that Avalon was testing out new dinner service, new linens, new towels, etc. on this specific cruise. The silverware rolled too easily on the plate; however, the linens and especially the towels were were very soft. - Would we do this trip again and with Avalon? Absolutely! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Because of low water levels on the Danube, our trip was not up to our expectations. Avalon handled the situation very poorly. We called them before we left for the cruise and we were told that sailings were going as scheduled. They ... Read More
Because of low water levels on the Danube, our trip was not up to our expectations. Avalon handled the situation very poorly. We called them before we left for the cruise and we were told that sailings were going as scheduled. They actually knew at that time that other trips had been interrupted. Not only did we have to switch our boat once, but we had to pack up and move twice. From other reviews we were told that the Avalon crew was exceptional. We did not find that was the case. As a matter of fact, our cruise director had no personality at all. The crew was lacking smiles and I feel it may be because of the additional work that they had to do that week. We embarked in Budapest and attempted to sail to Vienna. After an hour and a half we were told by the river authorities that we had to turn around. We spent an additional 2 days on the boat in Budapest sailing nowhere. Avalon made another poor decision to sail the vessel into Hungry when they could've bussed us an hour and a half West. They did offer $500 refund and a free concert p/p. We feel that was totally inadequate. We were also unable to do some of the other extra excursions that we had paid for in advance and were hoping to do. Also, we never made it to Nuremberg. That was partially our choice because we did not want to spend a day bussing around for approximately nine hours! I would definitely think twice about doing another river cruise and certainly not with Avalon! I do have to mention that the boat was beautiful and the design of the rooms was lovely. Sorry we couldn't have spent more time sailing on the boat. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Having tired of Ocean cruising we turned to River cruising and enviously viewed the large luxury ships on the river, after more than a dozen most enjoyable trips, we decided for a change that a luxury river cruise was a way to stifle our ... Read More
Having tired of Ocean cruising we turned to River cruising and enviously viewed the large luxury ships on the river, after more than a dozen most enjoyable trips, we decided for a change that a luxury river cruise was a way to stifle our envy. Flight arrangements were excellent. Airport arrival and pick up very efficient. Our Hotel in Vienna for two nights was a dream. All the tours were lovely and we had adequate time to do our own thing as well. Day three we set off by comfortable coach for Bratislava and our embarkation The arrival walk through the old town of Bratislava was very interesting but lugging a heavy bag for an hour in the rain was not a lot of fun. After a welcome drink and slick move to our exquisite cabin, and explanation of on board life and destinations, our first evening dinner was rather strange. The ship was barely half full with the result that it was difficult to find more than a small handful of passengers in any of the public areas. Total passenger list was 76 and we unfortunately lost two of those. There was none of the usual camaraderie we have encountered on other river cruises. Indeed every evening apart from two stalwart Australians we were the only people to attend the entertainment in the Lounge. Nikko tried hard but four people in a beautiful lounge built and equipped to accommodate 130 or so passengers, did not help the situation. The passengers mostly 60 plus were a mix of American, Australian, New Zealanders, a few Asiatic citizens, and a sprinkling of British. The Cruise Director did nothing to encourage guests to mingle and though efficient and correct to a point of strict school headmistress, she remained in her foyer seat and took no part in promoting on board activities. So no one used them. All the crew were extremely friendly and nothing, however small, was too much trouble. The air of politeness and welcome was apparent throughout the ship and the comfort and cleanliness first class. Every meal was a pleasure, all the excursions well chosen, informative and a delight. But we were so disappointed there was no atmosphere of a holiday at all. More a Marie Celeste situation prevailed. So it's back to the happy little ships for us in future I am afraid. I have waited a month before writing this review to allow a fair appraisal of the Cruise. If luxury, comfort, quiet relaxation are your thing the Avalon Vista is your ship, otherwise look to smaller ships with excellent entertainment, no overnight noisy travelling and port visits to rival the big boys. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Cabin 213, husband & wife sharing Bottom line for me– the cruise was great but I’m not a river cruiser. River cruises are more expensive than ocean cruises in general because they are small (numbers of passengers) and they include ... Read More
Cabin 213, husband & wife sharing Bottom line for me– the cruise was great but I’m not a river cruiser. River cruises are more expensive than ocean cruises in general because they are small (numbers of passengers) and they include most of the tours/shore excursions, sodas with lunch and sodas/wine/beer with dinner (varies by company). However – I prefer a more independent travel where I can pick and choose what I want to do, and most of the time I just want to explore on my own. But since I paid for the included tours of the river cruise, I hated to skip them (though we did a couple of times). Because of the where boats are told to dock, it’s not always possible to walk into town in each port – many would require a taxi if we wanted to go independent, or relying on the bus schedule of the ship. We opted for a Christmas Market from Nuremberg to Basel river cruise because my husband wanted a river cruise with German ports (he’s an avid homebrewer and wanted to sample many different German beers) and I love Christmas Markets in Europe but have not been to Germany. We flew to Nuremberg from the United States on Wednesday Dec 3, arriving Dec 4. We stayed at the Holiday Inn downtown, in a nice upgraded room that had a kitchenette. The hotel is within walking distance of the train station (that is how my stepfather arrived) or a short taxi ride from the airport. There were three of us who flew together (mom, husband, me) and we did have to get a minivan taxi at the airport because of my mom’s luggage. Well, ok, just because the three of us had too much for a small Mercedes taxi. Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, we shopped in Nuremberg – we made sure we went to the Christmas Market Thursday evening so we could see the lights as we knew we wouldn't have a chance to do that during the cruise (not in ports late enough). We also went to the train museum. On Friday afternoon, we took a taxi (ordered a large one for the 4 of us with luggage) and drove to the port. We arrived at 3:30 (Embarkation at 4pm) and were given our keys and shown to our rooms, while we gave the front desk our passports to process. Just after 4pm, the bus of through passengers (who started in Vienna) arrived from their day trip to Prague, and a little later, the rest of the passengers (who had opted for Avalon’s pre-cruise 2 day trip in Prague) arrived – including my in-laws. So we were a group of 6 traveling together on the cruise. My in-laws have done 5 river cruises on Uniworld but never a winter/Christmas Market cruise, and the rest of us had never done a river cruise. That evening we had our welcome reception and safety briefing. On Saturday, we did a bus/walking tour (included from Avalon) in Nuremberg. The Market was so very crowded – we were happy we’d had a chance to see it with fewer people. We were back on board later in the day and sailed for Bamberg before dinner. Bamberg was a Sunday so not much was open in the morning – the Christmas Market opened around 11, right as we were boarding the bus to leave town (after an included walking tour and a look at the nativity scenes in the Museum). I did have a chance to run through the market on the way to the bus and get my daily local wurst as well as a gluhbier. Husband had wanted to spend some time in a pub and was upset that the walking tour took up most of our time in Bamberg. After lunch on board we sat up on the top deck for a while during sailing. I’m sure it would be more fun (and there would be more people up there) during a summer cruise, but we had appropriate clothing and didn’t mind. On Monday, we were in Würzburg, where we had a tour of the Bishop’s Residenz (included from Avalon). The tour guide brought us down to the old town and the Christmas Market after the Residenz tour and we explored on our own until later in the day. We did not do the optional tour (extra $) to Rothenberg in the afternoon but had some beer, explored town, went to a grocery store for more local beer, and walked back to the boat along the river. Tuesday, Dec 9 in Miltenberg – the Christmas Market was not open on weekdays, so we had a tour of the town and then we went to a brewery (Faust) and pub for a couple of beers. We did eat our daily wurst – from a butcher shop instead of the Christmas Market, still delicious. We found a mini-mart near the river for a couple of beers and walked back to the boat along the river, outside the flood control walls. On Wednesday, we arrived in Frankfurt. 120 people were leaving the ship and everyone who was remaining (40 of us) were bussed off to Rüdesheim. Took about 40 minutes (terrible weather and no visibility leaving Frankfurt but it did improve). We had a tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum (included from Avalon) and then a Rudesheim Coffee (also included from Avalon) For the next couple of hours we explored the Christmas Markets and had our beers and wurst before getting back on our buses and heading back to Avalon Vista. Around 5 that day, 100 new passengers boarded for the rest of the cruise. (so, you could take this cruise in various length itineraries – Vienna to Nuremberg, Vienna to Frankfurt, Vienna to Basel, Nuremberg to Frankfurt, Nuremberg to Basel, or Frankfurt to Basel – not to mention pre- or post-cruise trips ;-) On Thursday, we were unable to dock where we were supposed to but instead were in Mannheim. So our option was to do a full day excursion to Heidelberg, or do a morning excursion to Speyer and an afternoon excursion to Heidelberg. We actually opted to stay on the boat in the morning and take the afternoon excursion to Heidelberg because we didn’t want to have so much time on buses. In Heidelberg, there was an included tour of the Castle but we skipped that. We took the bus with the tour group but told the guide we would be leaving before the tour started. We walked down the stairs from the bus drop-off at the Castle (the tour took the bus from the Castle down to the Old Town so you didn’t have to walk if you didn’t want to, but since we were skipping the tour, we did our own thing). We explored on our own for a few hours – this town is gorgeous and the Market was fun – before meeting the tour group & guide back at the bus to head back to the boat. On Friday we docked at Strasbourg, France. We did a walking tour (included) then had lunch back on the boat, then took the Avalon bus back to town and spent the afternoon walking/exploring on our own. Saturday we were in Breisach, Germany. The included excursion was a bus trip into the Black Forest and we didn’t want to get on a bus, so we walked into Breisach, up to the cathedral on the hill for the view. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the boat (and taking photos of our rafted neighboring boats). On Sunday, we disembarked in Basel, Switzerland. We spent the night in a hotel in Basel so we spent the afternoon exploring the Christmas markets and doing a couple of their walking tours (the town of Basel created 5 walking tours and has a brochure explaining them and signs around town to guide you in the right direction). Basel had our favorite Christmas Market of the trip – it was for children and had many huts of artisans plying their trade where kids could join in – blacksmithing, woodworking, baking lebkuchen, making natural decorations etc. Just lovely & the kids looked like they were having a great time. On Monday (very very early) we started our trip back to the US. As for the cruise experience and the boat, we loved Avalon and its suite ship, Vista. Our cabin (213) was a great size, well laid out with excellent storage. The way Avalon has its balconies on the suite ships are basically just huge sliding windows- so if you want a balcony experience, you open the window and sit in your cabin. But when the windows are shut (as they were for most but not all of our December trip!) you don’t lose any cabin space. We thought this design worked well and would likely choose this cabin layout over a true balcony. The bathroom is angled and the bed faces the windows directly, which is lovely. The bathroom is also well laid out, and since the shower has glass walls & a door, you don’t feel claustrophobic at all. Avalon Vista can carry 160 passengers. We were full for the first part of the trip but not the last segment – we never felt crowded when it was full but did notice a difference when it wasn’t full, especially in terms of dining room table space. We found the crew to be cheerful and helpful at all times (though many of the crew as well as passengers got sick with a respiratory illness so they were short-staffed on occasion). We were some of the only people (non-smokers) who spent time out on the top deck because of the weather, but also because we didn’t have very much daytime sailing where it would have been fun to sit and watch the landscape roll by. The other public areas were the Lounge (forward, with outdoor seating at the very front, as well as door & stair access to the upper deck), the aft lounge/coffee & pastry bar area, and the dining room. Breakfast and lunch were buffets (though there were some items you could order off the menu as well) and dinner was a la carte. The breakfast buffet had a good selection, but it was mostly the same things every morning and became a little repetitious (dinner and lunch varied more over the length of the cruise). There was an early and a late “continental” breakfast, and a light lunch, all served in the Lounge. There is a fitness center and a hair salon (not sure the hours) and the reception area/cruise director’s desk and internet computer area in the center of the ship where you enter/exit. We were rafted with other river cruises a couple of times and it’s not a hassle (do remember to close your curtains before bed because you don’t know what will be next to you when you wake up!) It is fun to walk through other ships to see their decorations, and everyone is friendly when you walk through. The upper deck on our ship has a hot tub, giant chess set, lots of chairs, tables & umbrellas (though none were up during our cruise, they – and the shade cover – would be very nice on a summer cruise!) We found the food to be quite good. Nothing was overly spicy (some things were somewhat bland) but if you are a picky eater, there are always “basic” options to choose from – steak, Caesar salad, salmon filet etc. I tried to pick local foods when they were offered (I travel to eat new things!). Avalon includes sparkling wine at breakfast (along with coffee, teas & juices), soda or juice at lunch, and then wine and beer at dinner (as well as soda, coffee & tea). The Lounge has a happy hour (usually 5-7, before dinner and during the port talks) and all drinks are half price – they had a very nice couple of local beers, and for ~2 euro, a great deal. There was music in the Lounge after dinner, but we usually didn’t stay up very long (very long, active days of touring!) We did have coffee in the Aft Lounge a couple of nights. There were usually some people playing cards in the Aft Lounge as well – they looked like welcoming groups, though we just chatted or read when we were there. I would not hesitate to recommend Avalon but I’m not sure I will be doing a river cruise again in the near future because I prefer to do my own thing.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I lived in Germany for 3 years when I was younger and have been dying to go back to the German Christmas markets ever since. A Christmas market river cruise has been on my bucket list for years, so I was thrilled when the opportunity came ... Read More
I lived in Germany for 3 years when I was younger and have been dying to go back to the German Christmas markets ever since. A Christmas market river cruise has been on my bucket list for years, so I was thrilled when the opportunity came up for me to take this trip. I have done probably a dozen ocean cruises, but this was my first river cruise. We began with two nights in Prague at the Hilton Prague Old Town. I can't imagine a better place to stay because we were within walking distance of two Christmas market areas. There were also some great local restaurants nearby. The second night we ate in an old 10th century cellar that had been converted to a restaurant. The food was good, and the atmosphere was excellent! We were bussed to Nuremburg to board the ship. I was so excited as I stepped on board because for the first time in a long time, I had no idea what to expect from this cruise. The ship was so tiny (which of course I expected) but very welcoming. They had done a fantastic job of decorating for Christmas, and we even had a lit Christmas tree out on the bow! We were in room 231, and the room was fantastic. It has the French balcony, so the entire wall is a window. I love the ocean, but it was a really neat experience to see the constantly changing scenery outside our room -- castles and vineyards and swans -- very different than ocean scenery! My one complaint about the room was that it occasionally reeked of cigarette smoke. I don't know if it was coming from the smoking area at the aft of the ship or the crew area that was just one room down from us, but there were times that it made me feel slightly nauseous. After the third occurrence, I mentioned it to the cruise director who blamed it on the ship next to us, but since that ship hadn't been there the first or second time we had the problem, that clearly wasn't it. Oh, one random complaint about the room: the tv had 8 different fireplace channels -- 8 different options for watching a fireplace on tv! -- but no music channels more recent than the 80's. :( I did, however, enjoy the German tv stations; they gave me a great chance to practice listening to the language and see how much I could manage to understand! Speaking of the cruise director though (Jean Loup Domart), I have to say he was amazing. I left my credit card in one of the Christmas market shops & didn't realize it until we were heading out for an excursion. Long story short, he found out about it and actually went to get my credit card while I was on the other trip! I would have thought that he was absolutely fantastic even without the credit card issue, but that just proved his willingness to go way above & beyond what anyone would expect and shows how much he cares about the passengers. I'm not going to go into detail on each port because that would take forever (and because until I get a chance to look back through my pictures, they're all kind of blending together in my head). But I will say that I would highly recommend this itinerary for anyone who is sort of a kid at heart and really just wants to experience Christmas every day. I was not at all let down by the Christmas markets and thoroughly enjoyed sampling all of the local foods & drinks and browsing the market stalls. We also visited some castles & impressive churches, so there's still plenty to do when you get tired of eating, drinking, and looking at Christmas trees. If you do a Christmas market cruise through Germany, the three things you must try are the Gluhwein, bratwurst (duh!), and roasted chestnuts. Oh, and in Prague, don't miss the honey wine and the trdelnik. If you see people eating something that looks like a hollowed out loaf of bread, believe me, you want one too! Onboard Experience: The food was very good. Better than I've had on any mainstream cruise line. Maybe not quite up there with Princess, but not far off. I never ate breakfast on the ship because I knew there would be plenty to eat for lunch & dinner (and because I didn't want to wake up at 7 am just to have time to eat -- the included excursions were mostly very early in the morning). I only ate lunch on board twice because we usually ate off the ship, but everything I did eat on board was great. I especially appreciated that wine was included with dinner! There was a happy hour almost every night offering half priced drinks. We definitely took advantage of that most nights, but you can't stray too far from what's on their drink menu. I tried to order a lemon drop martini (which I thought was an extremely common drink) and they had no idea what I was talking about. The server thought I wanted a regular martini (yuck!) with a lemon slice. So I reverted to a cosmo (which was on the menu) instead. Nightlife on board is pretty much non-existent. There was a guy from Bulgaria (I think) named Sergio who played a keyboard and sang 70s & 80's songs (with a heavy accent). That was, until a drunk woman kicked him off his station so that she could play while she & her friends belted out "Bohemian Rhapsody." When my husband decided to join in, I became thoroughly embarrassed and decided it was time to retreat to the room! (It was pretty funny, though.) Aside from a cuckoo-clock demonstration one night (which I didn't attend, but my husband won a beer stein there), that was it for nightly entertainment. On the one hand, it was sort of sad that there was nothing to do after dinner, but on the other hand, I really didn't mind too much because I knew we were in for another early start the next morning. To me, this is the type of cruise you do primarily for the itinerary rather than the on board experience. We spent as much time as possible out in the towns and mostly considered the ship a nice easy way to get from place to place, not the primary destination like it sometimes is with ocean ships. As for the excursions, I highly recommend the added excursion to Rothenburg. It's a very charming town that I remembered visiting when I had lived in Germany before, and I was so glad to have the opportunity for another visit. Most of the included excursions were great. The Bishop's Residence in Wurtzburg was amazing! But there was one that I felt was a waste of time (unless you're seriously into cuckoo clocks). I guess the ship has a deal worked out with this cuckoo clock store owner. He's the same one that came on board for the demonstration that one night. The excursion involved at least two hours on a bus (round-trip) to his store where we were given a free piece of black forest cake. Then we stayed at the store for an hour with nothing to do but look around this guy's shop. Yes, the clocks were impressive, but I had no desire to buy one or to spend my vacation time waiting in this guys crowded store. The cake was okay, I guess. I'm not one to turn down a free dessert. After the cruise, we had two nights at the Movenpick Zurich Airport. I wasn't quite as impressed here as I was with our hotel in Prague. There was nothing within walking distance, so you have to take the train in to town. Once you get into the main part of the city, there really wasn't much to do. There's an indoor Christmas market that could've been nice if it hadn't been so claustrophobia-inducingly crowded. So we left there to find a place for dinner as soon as we could wrestle our way back outside, but Zurich is so expensive that it took forever to find a reasonable place to eat. We had booked an independent excursion for the next day to visit the Lindt chocolate store, a cheese factory, and ride a cable car up a mountain. That trip was one of the highlights of our entire vacation. From up on the mountain, we could see Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, and the mountains that border Italy. There was this light shining down into the valley, and it was one of the most breathtaking things I've ever seen in my life -- right up there with the view from atop Capri. Anyway, in conclusion, I'm not in a hurry to rush out and book another river cruise. I do prefer the ocean cruise experience overall and probably could never afford to do another river cruise anyway. However, if I were planning a trip through Europe, I would definitely prefer a river cruise to just driving around. I love being able to see multiple places in one trip, and a river cruise is a great way to get to places that can be hard to navigate on your own. I would not hesitate to book with Avalon again, although I am still very curious about AMA and Viking and would love the chance to see how they compare. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Overall • Very nice trip with few negatives. • Many interesting sites and photo ops • Avalon cruise was very good – excellent facilities and very good service, several very good tours, but fair (relatively bland) food. • The ... Read More
Overall • Very nice trip with few negatives. • Many interesting sites and photo ops • Avalon cruise was very good – excellent facilities and very good service, several very good tours, but fair (relatively bland) food. • The rooms on board were as nice as expected – very nice bathrooms, very good bed, well equipped and nicely decorated. Avalon had the largest rooms of any of the river cruise lines during the April and May periods. We also liked the large sliding (French balcony) door. • The big 3 cities (Prague, Vienna and Budapest) are indeed must see places. Regensberg was also extra nice. • Vienna and Budapest are a minimum of 2 days. Should have stayed another day in Budapest, • Most of the included and optional tours were quite helpful in getting an overview of area and enabled us to go to many of the further away places. There was limited time inside several of the more important attractions. Other Comments • Cruising along Danube and Main was very enjoyable. There was plenty of exceptional scenery and interesting engineering sites such as the extensive lock system and dams. Cruising is likely the best way to view so many historic areas and well as more relaxing method of travel. • Water levels in parts of the Main were quite low and just barely passable. Several other ships cancelled travels north of Passau. Our Captain said there was less than a foot of clearance on the bottom. • Prague and Budapest airport where easy to navigate, with little hassle in processing and little unnecessary delays. Both airports were quite far away from the cities. • Prague was not bombed during the 20th-century wars, while Budapest and Vienna had much reconstruction of their older buildings. • Public transportation in Prague and Budapest was easy to use and quite good. The Metro however was buried quite deep and some escalators where extremely steep and long.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
I recently completed a 12 day vacation with Avalon, consisting of two nights in Budapest at the Intercontinental Hotel, one week on the Avalon Vista cruising up the Danube and the Main-Danube Canal, and three nights in Prague. Quite ... Read More
I recently completed a 12 day vacation with Avalon, consisting of two nights in Budapest at the Intercontinental Hotel, one week on the Avalon Vista cruising up the Danube and the Main-Danube Canal, and three nights in Prague. Quite simply, it was wonderful. The service on the ship was second to none and the entire trip was under the careful supervision of a wonderful Cruise Director, Hans Beckert. The included tours were all excellent, as were the optional tours. On board entertainment included superb classical musicians from the Bratislava symphony orchestra, a fascinating presentation about locks, wine and beer tasting demonstrations, and a hilarious Crew Night. Staterooms on Decks 2 and 3 have wall to wall windows that open all the way, a glorious way to watch the river go by (Deck 1 has small windows). The hotels in Budapest and Prague were excellent and the extra time allowed for an appreciation of all that they had to offer. In contrast, a day and a half in Vienna felt rushed. But river cruising is a great way to explore the smaller centres such as Durnstein, Melk and Regensburg. This is an adults only cruise and I highly recommend it for culture vultures. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Just got back from an autumn cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Passau - what an unforgettable experience! As a solo traveler, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I loved every minute of it. The Avalon Vista's decor is classy ... Read More
Just got back from an autumn cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Passau - what an unforgettable experience! As a solo traveler, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I loved every minute of it. The Avalon Vista's decor is classy and welcoming...I felt completely comfortable in every area of the ship. It has huge picture windows everywhere, so you never miss the outstanding views along the river. The common areas are spacious and don't feel cramped or noisy, regardless of how many people are there at one time. If I could have crammed my Panorama Suite into my suitcase and taken it home, I would have. The wall of floor-to-ceiling windows was amazing. The bathroom was spacious and beautiful, with a full granite countertop and lots of storage underneath. The L'Occitane bath products were restocked every day. The shower had fantastic water pressure and plenty of VERY HOT water (which is a high priority for me).The bed...well, there are no words. The fact that it faces out so that you have views out the window is incredible. And the bed itself is soooooooo comfortable. I don't know what type of mattress topper they use, but I slept like the dead every single night. You have both soft and firm pillows on the bed, and if you're not a duvet kind of person, there are regular blankets in the closet.The cabin steward kept the room spotless, turned down the bedding each night, and even left a chocolate on the pillow - the perfect ending to each perfect day! I liked the various breakfast times, which accommodate passengers, whether they like to eat early, at a regular time, or prefer to sleep in. The daily chances to try the delicious local dishes (or to choose more familiar items) is wonderful, and the (included) local wines and beers really enhance every dinner. The staff is attentive without hovering, and they go out of their way to please. The Cruise Director, Isabel, is a total pro who keeps the day-to-day program running like a well-oiled machine. I loved her dry German wit, and her narration as we cruised through the Wachau Valley was incredible. There is included sightseeing in almost every port, which gives a nice overview of the town so you know what you want to see more of during the free time that follows. From start to finish, Avalon does an outstanding job, and I recommend both Avalon AND the Avalon Vista wholeheartedly. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We didn't know what to expect for October 19-27 on the Danube but we lucked out and the fall colors were at their peak and absolutely stunning! The weather was in the 60s all week, too. I know no one has control of the weather but the ... Read More
We didn't know what to expect for October 19-27 on the Danube but we lucked out and the fall colors were at their peak and absolutely stunning! The weather was in the 60s all week, too. I know no one has control of the weather but the good weather sure added to the enjoyment. The Vista is just a year old and very nice. The staff was always cheerful and helpful. There were only 145 out of a possible 165 passengers and I'm sure that also helped. Our tour director was Mark and he was the Dutch epitome of Alistair in As Life Goes On, a PBS TV show. He seemed to be able to solve any problem. One elderly couple had an accident in Prague and the lady had to be hospitalized for a day or two. Mark arranged transportation, etc., for them to resume the trip. They could not say enough good things about Mark. Embarking and disembarking were effortless and went off without a hitch. The excursions were good. There was a daily one included at each stop and the guides, especially our guides in Bratislava and Budapest, were excellent. The exception being our guide in Vienna, who was just average. The two extra excursions we paid for were night ones - concert in Vienna and the night tour of the lights of Budapest. Both were well worth going on. The food was good - not spectacular. We found that the "healthy choice" of entrée at dinner made an excellent side dish for us (4) to share. No one batted an eye when we would ask for the extra entrée. Our cabin was on the bottom of the ship - without a full wall of windows. Our windows were neck level so we could see out a bit. The cabin was adequate. Could have used a bit more lighting as finding things in the cabinets was by touch only. Our cleaning girl was very sweet and a hard worker. Although they asked not to have your towels changed every day she would change them twice a day if we used them, Nice. the robe and toiletries were also a nice touch. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Last spring, my wife and I took a 15 day River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We booked the cruise through our travel agent  choosing Avalon based on their strong recommendation. We paid ... Read More
Last spring, my wife and I took a 15 day River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We booked the cruise through our travel agent  choosing Avalon based on their strong recommendation. We paid dearly for this trip and had high expectations for a peaceful high quality cruise down the Rhine/Danube. Well if you have read any of the other reviews for river cruises in Europe during June of 2013, you will quickly learn what happens when there are river water level problems. I'm not complaining about the fact that the flooding in Europe was beyond anyone's control. My disappointment is in the way that Avalon dealt with the situation. After an initial 4-5 days of river cruising as we had imagined, it became apparent that the river was very high and there would be problems ahead. Instead of telling the passengers the situation, Avalon chose to mislead us by promising a move to another ship further up stream where we could complete our cruise in style. In the meantime we began being bussed to the destination on the itinerary. In fact the alternative ship ended up being just a hotel along the route. Ultimately we were bussed from city to city, ship to hotel, hotel to ship until we hit most but not all of the requisite destinations (sum under water). Avalon never offered any other option to the passengers. Constant bussing spread a cold among the passengers to the point where most were sick a good portion of the trip. Avalon clearly had one agenda. Hit the destination promised no mater how poor the quality of the experience just to protect their revenue. In the end they offered a token refund falling far short of the quality lost. Since this experience, I have done some research about the river cruising industry and can offer the following cautions for those contemplating a trip like this. 1. The cruise lines have been building bigger and bigger ships to maximize revenue. 2. These big ships can only fit through locks, canals, under bridges, and shallow water under the best average conditions. 3. If water gets higher that average or lower that average at any point along the route, the ship will have to stop and wait for conditions to improve. 4. Once the ship stops, the cruise line will begin bussing you to reach the promised destinations so they can say they completed the trip as advertised. 5. In the end, the cruise line cares only about their revenue stream and will sacrifice your comfort and the quality of the experience. So if an expensive bus trip is your cup of tea, you should enjoy a river cruise. Just don't expect transparency or options should things go sour. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
This was our first river boat cruise. We chose Avalon because they were recommended by friends and we were not disappointed. Not having been on any other river boat, I do not have any comparison but I will say the Vista was a wonderful ... Read More
This was our first river boat cruise. We chose Avalon because they were recommended by friends and we were not disappointed. Not having been on any other river boat, I do not have any comparison but I will say the Vista was a wonderful ship. We sailed from Budapest to Amsterdam August 4 - August 18. This trip far exceeded our expectations. The rooms were much smaller than in a cruise ship, but very comfortable and the bathroom is gorgeous. The bed faced the huge sliding glass door which made it nice for view in scenery if we were in our room relaxing. The cruise director, Helmet, did an excellent job each night detailing the excursions (both included and optional) and sharing bit of interesting information about the ports for the next day. We took every included excursion and a few of the optional excursions. Helmet was always around during the excursions to answer questions and give directions. We thoroughly enjoyed every one of the excursion, we found them fun and with enough variety to be interesting. Yes, there were a lot of churches and castles. All of the crew members were very friendly, professional and helpful. Our waiters Ginda and Micheal were attentive and made us feel special (isn't' that why we take cruise so that for a few days we can feel very special - Ginda did an exceptional job of doing just that). Food was very good! Breakfast buffet was similar each morning, but enough variety that it did not get boring. Sparkling wine and a variety of juices were available each morning, which meant you could have a mimosa. The lunch buffet was different every day offering both some delicious and different hot and cold soups. The carving station offered excellent selections of meats and although I did not eat any pasta, the offerings all looked delicious. If you are not a buffet person, you can choose items from the menu that will be served to you by your waiter. If you are a light eater, there was a lunch served at the back of the lounge, usually consisted of soup, small sandwiches and salads and of course a desert. The dinner menu each night was different and again the food was excellent and included a choice of white and red wine. Did I mention the deserts - YUM!!! Each evening we had some sort of entertainment. Although the entertainment cannot be as expansive or as elaborate as the entertainment on the cruise ships, we found entertainment varied and very enjoyable; a nice way to end the day. Would we take another river boat cruise, yes if we liked the itinerary? Would we sail with Avalon again - definitely!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
My wife and I had Cabin 220 on the Avalon Vista.This cruise is expensive & we were disappointed that our cabin noise was never rectified.We did not sleep well. The noise sounded like it came from the timber fittings installed ... Read More
My wife and I had Cabin 220 on the Avalon Vista.This cruise is expensive & we were disappointed that our cabin noise was never rectified.We did not sleep well. The noise sounded like it came from the timber fittings installed (wardrobe,bedhead,drawers etc.) but I may be wrong.I reported it twice to reception but was never told what was done about it.After the first time I complained I asked the cruise director what was done about my complaint & he said the person responsible has looked at it & I will send him again to look at it. The noise continued & we gave up. The noise sounds like timber rubbing & stretching against other timber it sounds like a creaking & screeching & on 3 nights a drumming noise.Our friends had 2 cabins nearby & they said they had similar noises but they did not complain.Maybe we are lighter sleepers. There are 68 locks on the river but the noise from the cabin bothered us much more than the noise of using the locks.Perhaps Avalon should check if further complaints are made about cabin 220.Apart from this noise the cabin is big enough,modern,clean,comfortable bed & pillows.Flatscreen TV with a range of good movies.Bathroom was lovely & big enough. On the positive side this is a beautiful ship on a beautiful river.The large lounge room with big glass windows was a delight.The dance floor at night was always used and our one-man band musician played lovely dance music.The ship sails smoothly & there is no noticeable movement.There is also a small lounge area at the back of the ship seating perhaps 30 people,with a coffee machine,biscuits,fruit,fruit juices etc. Ship's entertainment was mostly good. The 4 girl string quartet from Bratislava,the Oomp-Pah-Pah man,the zither music we really enjoyed. The embarkation procedure was faultless. We met at the Intercontinental Hotel at Budapest & mixed with other passengers in the lounge.After one or two hours we were bussed to the ship. As we entered the ship we were welcomed by the Captain & his senior crew. Avalon excelled with it's choice of tour guides;they were all excellent, informative & amusing. Durnstein was a pretty village & we enjoyed walking around it.This is what we enjoyed most about this cruise walking around lovely villages with our friends. In Melk the abbey was amazing but after seeing 5 or 6 rooms in the building I had had enough. Passau we walked & shopped after our included walking tour. Regensburg we had a lovely German sausage & sauerkraut lunch in a restaurant with one of the friendly local residents. In Wurzburg the Palace was absolutely magnificent.We did not expect this.It's done in a Palace of Versailles style but on a smaller scale.We bought some nice clothes for my wife in Wurzburg. Miltenberg was another nice village to walk around. In Rudeseheim we visited Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum.This was a highlight and is a "must see". My wife & I walked & shopped but our friends who went to a coffee making session that the ship arranged said it was very good. Back on the ship in the afternoon we went on a cruise down the Rhine Gorge.This was spectacular with many castles. Cologne we felt was a more commercial type city rather than the type of lovely village we grew to love.However it was the best for shopping & the prices seemed very good. We arrived in Amsterdam to complete our cruise & were given a tour of the inner city and a boat trip of the canals. Both tours were excellent.We stayed a few more nights in Amsterdam ( at our own expense)& went to a diamond cutting exhibition,red-light district & shopped. The food on board was good although a little too salty for our taste.But the wine served at dinner was not very good & not much was supplied anyway.You could buy a bottle of wine but it was about 38 Euros.However the lovely French wine in the cabin's mini-bar was only about 2 or 3 Euros for a small bottle & we used that a few times. Breakfast was pretty good & had everything you wanted with eggs cooked to your liking. The Happy Hour preceded dinner & cocktails were cheap & good.This was a lovely meeting lounge. Overall a lovely cruise,with friendly staff on one of the world's magnificent rivers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Just back from a Danube River Cruise on the new Avalon Vista, we are disappointed by the poor overall experience that Avalon Waterways delivers. Budapest-Nuremberg. August 2012: We boarded the ship in Budapest and were very impressed ... Read More
Just back from a Danube River Cruise on the new Avalon Vista, we are disappointed by the poor overall experience that Avalon Waterways delivers. Budapest-Nuremberg. August 2012: We boarded the ship in Budapest and were very impressed by this new ship, having cruised a lot all around the world , and on many river cruises. The ship was docked next to the famous Chain Bridge, in the heart of Budapest, a short taxi ride from our hotel. It couldn't have been a better location. The ship itself is impressive for a river ship, beautifully designed, with sleek lines and a tasteful, modern decor. The main lounge is stunning, with panoramic floor to ceiling windows all around, and even better, there is an open deck lounge forward from where you can see everything. The Club Lounge located aft is also extremely nice and cosy, with drinks available at all times, but bad cookies. Our Stateroom, #208 was just fabulous, with the famous floor to ceiling sliding windows (really great), lots of space, great closets and drawers all around; better than on many large cruise ships, good lighting and large beds. The bathroom was especially great: Large, lovely decor with marble, good lighting, great L'Occitane amenities nicely replenished all along the cruise; and an extra large shower with a glass door and good water pressure. The best showers I have had in a long time. The Welcome couldn't have been nicer, with crew and staff extending a warm welcome and committed to make you feel welcome. Everything seemed perfect, ready for a great experience, but problems were lurking: Bedding: It turned out that the bedding looked much better than it was comfortable: If the sheets are made of nice cotton as advertised by Avalon: The pillows are made on 100% cheap synthetic fiber, hard like a rock, just like in the cheapest roadside motels along some remote highway. We asked for soft, feather pillows (or pillows made of natural fiber) only to be told by both the housekeeping manager and the front desk manager that none were available, and that there was nothing they could or would do about this. That was the first big disappointment. Giving it a try that first night; we developed quickly a pain in the neck and ended up the first night sleeping on folded bath towels! On a luxury ship! Fortunately, we have friends living in Vienna, the next stop on the cruise, and we called them immediately, asking them to lend us two good soft feather pillows (filled with 100% natural fiber) for the remainder of the cruise. Believe me, this was not a luxury or an indulgence. But we had to ship the pillows back at the end of the cruise at our own expense and disturb our friends. The duvet: Again Avalon touts its duvets. Unfortunately they are also made of synthetic of the cheapest kind. We had to take out the duvets out of the sheet and replace them by the blankets provided, which were also of a cheap quality (76% synthetic) but we had to make do with that. However this was not pleasant. Overall, the bedding was just not comfortable, and only our friends' pillows saved the day. Food: Overall the food was from mediocre to just plain bad, and this all along the cruise. If a good selection of breads was always available at breakfast, including all the famous german breads, and the small good individual rolls; they were never available at lunch or dinner where only puny, mediocre little slices of plain bread were available. The cookies were a complete disgrace: some were hard like a rock. I nearly broke a tooth on one, no kidding. They were especially bad and cheap in the Club Lounge. All this while we were crossing countries famous for their cookies, breads and good food! In fact, the food and the breads were so mediocre that we ended up looking for a bakery at each stop during the cruise, always finding one easily, and buying breads, cookies and cakes for dessert. Never done that before on any cruise! We also ate lunch or dinner ashore when we could, in order to have some good meals. Never done that before in my life! Only one lunch, touted as a "German Lunch" was decent and interesting with some local specialties; otherwise the food was so plain, so mediocre, so disconnected from what was all around us that it was shocking and meals became a real bore when they could have been a great experience as the service and the design of the restaurant itself were extremely nice. The salads and buffets were especially mediocre. This is a real shame, as Avalon could easily deliver a luxury experience as: -The layout and design of the ship is innovative, impressive, luxurious and even stunning. -The staff was extremely nice and helpful, always trying to make you welcome and comfortable (with what they had). Their training was impeccable, and they were providing great service at all times. -The Cruise Director was extremely good and nice, doing a great job at all times without fail. -The excursions were well organized, with interesting guides. However, considering Avalon prices, the food and the bedding are not acceptable. Overall, Avalon fails to deliver a good experience, and we are very disappointed. It was a relief to find a good bed and good food in Munich where we stayed after the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our ... Read More
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our waiters Thomas and Constantine . The cruise director , Dragan , was very obnoxious ,though many seemed to like him . The food was pretty good though , inevitably seemed repetitive . There were far too many "surprise" expenses for a cruise that implied that it was "all inclusive " . The included tours were uneven and the extra ones were overpriced and should not have been "extra" . The entertainment that was provided was very good with the exception of one talentless electric violinist . Although it may be conventional , I found the gratuities policy ( giving us envelopes and telling us exacly how much to tip everone including the cruise director ) offensive and we ignored it . We tipped those that provided us good service ( NOT the cruise director ) . We spent the same amount of money ( a bit more actually ) but giving it ,in cash , directly to those who deserved it . Our fellow passengers were suprising old . We expected that to some degree but at age 65 I didn't expect to be one of the youngest onboard . River cruising is nice but it is not a good way to see a place . You spend too little time on shore and you seem cutoff from local people and experiences . Avalon seemed too interested in getting extra money out of us at every opportunity given we were sold this cruise as "all inclusive " . We will probably do it again but I doubt if we will use Avalon Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Avalon Vista Cruise Report July 22 -Aug 5, 2012 Budapest to Amsterdam by Ken Montgomery - Irvine, California The purpose of this review is to give details about this particular cruise (Avalon Vista - Budapest to Amsterdam) that are ... Read More
Avalon Vista Cruise Report July 22 -Aug 5, 2012 Budapest to Amsterdam by Ken Montgomery - Irvine, California The purpose of this review is to give details about this particular cruise (Avalon Vista - Budapest to Amsterdam) that are not available from Avalon or anywhere else. Half the fun of a cruise is the preparation & anticipation. The times that the Vista arrives and departs various river ports depends on the times the boat can get into various locks. Also, the various cruise boats coordinate their land visits with each other so they don't all arrive at the main feature of the port at the same time, so access to Tourist sites will also dictate schedule. Sunday - Day 1- Embarkation In Budapest We dropped the bags at Intercontinental Hotel between 2 & 3pm. There was a ballroom for our use until the buses were to take us to the boat at 3:45. There were no announcements or briefings prior to boarding the bus for the 5 minute ride to board the boat. You need to check-in at the Avalon desk in the lobby, but you could skip the ballroom experience and just visit the town and meet at the buses on the steeet at 3:45. All 140 passengers are welcomed with a short glass of iced tea and shown into the lounge. Once everyone is in the lounge they take groups of people 4 or 6 at a time to Reception for registration. You give them your passport and they give you the cabin cards and a porter shows you to your state room. Thats it! The luggage arrives in about 30 minutes. You can get your passport back the next day. You give them your credit card later in the cruise. At 6pm the safety drill is conducted followed by a introduction of the officers and a briefing by the Cruise Director. One not so great thing about River Cruising is "rafting". There are not enough dock spaces for all the cruise ships in most river ports. So, you'll often find another boat rafted to you and this, of course, wipes out your view for as long as you are rafted. In Budapest we had a "rafter" next to us the whole time we were in port. So half the staterooms on the Vista, had a great view of the stateroom on the other ship! Oh well, you can always go to the Sun Deck to see the view. All River Cruise boats on the Rhine & Danube do this. Monday - Day 2 - Budapest - Vista provided a free motor coach tour of the City which included a small amount of walking. It included drive-bys of many famous buildings, squares and monuments. We had 2 stops, one at Freedom Square and one at Castle Hill. The buses were first class and included an audio system do you could hear the tour guide even if you were a few hundred feet away, a great system. We returned to the dock at 11:30. In the afternoon, Vista offered two excursions for an extra fee. We took the Jewish History in Hungary tour. The tour lasted 3hr 45 minutes, which was 3 hours too long. Skip this tour, it's depressing and boring, lots of walking around the Jewish quarter and looking at old crummy buildings. The Great Synagogue was impressive, the museum was boring and the walk was a waste of time. At 6:15, we had 30 minutes of Hungarian Folk Music & Dance. The Vista left Budapest at 7pm on its way to noon docking in Bratislova. Tuesday Day 3. Woke up to cruising on the Danube. The river banks were mostly forest with an occasional house. Went through 1 lock in the morning during breakfast. 10 am briefing on optional tours for the rest of the cruise. You have to decide by 1:00pm today about the optional tours you want to take, which is difficult to do without more information. I will write reviews of these optional tours to help you decide ahead of time. One of the tougher decisions is the Linz-Passau optional tours. There are 3 tours that leave at 7:30 am from Linz. After discharging the passengers taking the optional tours, the Vista takes off on a 7 hour sail to Passau with 10-20% of the passengers remaining on board. Those passengers get a 1 hour guided tour of Passau at 4pm. The buses from the 3 optional tours arrive at the boat at 5 pm and the ship takes off. We have decided to stay on the ship and skip the optional tours. I'll let you know how that works out. 1:30pm - Tour of Bratislava Bus/walking. 2.5 hour tour. City highlights including the Castle. Easy Walking your of old town. The rest of the afternoon is on your own. A very good local entertainment program was provided after dinner in the lounge. The Vista left Bratislava at 11:45pm. Wednesday Day 4 Vienna We docked at 7:30am, some distance from the tourist areas. Our included City tour left at 8:15, returning at 11:45. The guide takes the group through St Stephens Cathedral, then they walk you around pointing out things and then you have about an hour of free time. After lunch we took the optional Schonbrunn Palace tour, leaving at 1:15, returning at 5:00pm. Photography is allowed on the grounds but not inside the palace. The 45 minute palace tour has very ventilation, thus it really gets warm inside, people were sweating profusely. Check your jacket at the coat check. There is also a 30 minute Strudel making demonstration where you get a cup of coffee and a slice of strudel. It rained in the morning, but cleared up in the afternoon. The Vista provides golf umbrellas at reception which are way better than the small ones we packed. After an early dinner (6pm vs the normal 7pm), we took the optional concert trip arranged for the various Avalon boats in Vienna. This place also lacks ventilation and it was very warm and stuffy even though the weather outside was cool & wet. (Guys, don't wear a sport coat and long sleeves, a nice golf shirt and slacks is fine). The concert was very good, featuring the music of Straus & Mozart. The performance was conducted by a 13 piece orchestra with 4 additional dancers & singers for various pieces. The boat departed for Durnsten at 11:45pm. Thursday Day 5 Durnstein & Melk Ship arrived in Durnstein at 7:30am, guided walking your of this small ancient village left at 8:30 lasting an hour. That left us an hour to further explore the town on our own. The boat left the dock at 11:00am for Melk. This is a beautiful stretch of the Danube. Melk - (day 5 afternoon) 2:45 pm - A very good tour of the Abbey including the most amazing Melk Church. Buses took us up the hill to the Abbey. Most people chose the 20 minute downhill walk thru the town back to the boat. At 6pm there was a Wauchau Valley wine tasting program with several generous wine samples. The boat left the dock at 7:30pm. Day 6. Friday Linz to Passau We arrived in Linz about 7:30am and the 110 people taking the 3 optional tours left the dock at 8:15 and the boat took off as soon as they were gone. About 30 of us stayed on the boat and had a very relaxed day looking at the ever changing scenery of the Danube. We went thru 3 locks. It was a great day to read, work out and answer your emails. The boat had to skip Passau as the water was too low for docking. We went further up the Danube and picked up the optional tour passengers at 5:30pm. The people pn the 3 optional coach tours all had a great day also We left right away for Regensburg, Germany. Day 7 Saturday Regensburg, GR Entered the Main Danube canal Arrived at 7:30. Took the optional tour of the Danube Gorge, a 4 hour coach and site seeing boat with a visit to the Weltonburg Benedictine, another beautiful church. The coach ride was 45 minutes each way. The Vista provided free guided walking tours of Regansburg in the morning and afternoon. The walking tour you to the City's near-by highlights and left free time for going back to the impressive cathedral vista gave each passenger a voucher for a snack of sausages, sauerkraut $ beer at a restaurant along the Danube. Its too much food for a snack, so sharing a plate works better. The boat left the dock @ 5:30 pm on the way to Nuremburg. Day 8. Sunday Nuremburg Spent last night and the first half of today cruising the Main-Danube Canal, going up locks until this morning when we started going down locks on the way to a 2pm docking in Nuremburg. In the morning we had an interesting presentation on the Canal, a project completed in 1992 that connects the Danube with the Rhine via series of locks and a man made trench connecting them. Boat docked at 1pm, not close to town. Included coach tour left at 2:00pm showed us the sights and left 30 minutes free time. Most stores closed on Sunday. Lots of community action to watch. Back to boat at 5:00pm, ship left at 5:30pm. At 6:00pm there was a free Bavarian beer tasting event on board. Went through lots of locks on the trip to Bamburg. Day 9 Monday Bamburg Arrived about 7am, the included your left at 8:45. Mostly a walking tour with 1 hour free time for shopping. The old town is a little hilly and the pavement is most cobblestones. Busses returned to the boat at 11:15. Their is good shopping in Bamburg and enough time for it. The boat left Bamburg at noon and entered the Main River heading downstream towards Wurzburg. We had a lecture in the afternoon about the European Union by a "lock Hoping Professor of History", from Regansburg, who gets on and off river boats at various locks and uses a portable bicycle to move between locks and to get back to his car. The afternoon cruise on the Main was beautiful. Day 10 Tuesday Wurzburg Boat arrived at 7:30. The included tour left at 8:30 am. The first stop was the Wurzburg Palace, called the Residenz. It has the most spectacular rooms. No photography is allowed inside the palace. A sort guided walk around the old town and then 45 min free time and you walk 15 min easy back to the boat. Day 11. Wednesday. Miltenberg Boat docked at 11am, 5 minute walk to tourist area. At 1:30 the included walking tour took place. The tour was 90 minutes, then you had plenty of time to climb up to the Castle and explore the town. Good shopping for a small town. Back to the boat by 5:45, the boat left the dock at 6:00pm. Beautiful sail down the Main. Day 12. Thursday Rudesheim am Rhein Arrived at noon- the included tour left at 12:45, back to the boat by 4:15, boat left the dock at 4:30. The included tour was a short bus ride to the Museum of Mechanical Music. From there you could take the chair lift ip the mountain to a gigantic monument celebrating the 1871 German Unification. The view from the monument is spectacular. The afternoon sail down the Rhine, is loaded with castles. This is the most interesting section of river so far. This is the time for your 200mm telephoto lens. The cruise director narrates this section of river. Day 13 Friday Cologne Arrived in the early morning. Included motorcoach tour left at 9:00 am. A short bus ride to theCologne Cathedral was followed by a 90 min walking tour ending at the Cathedral. You had free time to tour the cathedral and other parts of downtown and a 20 min walk back to the boat. The boat left Cologne at 1 pm, headed for Amsterdam. Day 14 Saturday Amsterdam Arrived 7:00 an, included canal tour left at 8:15am. This tour was followed by a Diamond Cutting Tour, concluding at about 11:00am. We walked an interesting 20 minutes back to the boat. After lunch we rented bicycles right across from where the boat docked (there are several possible docking locations in Amsterdam. The City is designed for bicycles, but it is easy to get lost. Just follow the signs back to "Central Station". They charged €5 for 3 hours, a good deal. Day 15 Sunday - Disembarkation You had to be out of your room by 9:00am and off the boat by 10:00am. Half of the boat used a transfer from Avalon and the other half took cabs to the airport. Reception will line up a cab for you at a time certain. You wait in the lobby with your bags and the cab driver comes onto the boat and helps you with the luggage. It cost about €50 plus tip to get to the airport and takes about 20 minutes. Vista Notes 1. There are several 220 outlets in the cabins, so bring your converter and a northern or southern Europe adaptor. 2. Ship & tour departure times are amazingly on time. Timing is dicated by their reservation is the various locks the boat went through. If you miss your lock reservation, you might have to wait 2 or 3 hours for your next chance. 3. The Vista uses audio receivers and ear pieces when you are on a tour organized by Vista, so you can wander away from the tour guide and still here their comments. It seems like all River Boats use this system. All passengers on this trip were from English speaking countries. On board announcements were made only in English. There were no children on board even though this cruise was in July & August. A child would be really bored. The passengers ranged from 50 to 80, with 65 being the likely median age. More than half the passengers were from Australia & New Zealand and were the nicest people. Crew - The crew was great and they all worked 16 hour days or more. Even the Captain and 1st officer carried bags and did manial work as well as their own jobs, which they performed very well. 6. The Cruise Director Hendrick Jan Dadema (Netherlands) was outstanding, very organized, he is not trying to sell you things or direct you to a certain jewelry store. He works very hard and is never flustered. He has many funny stories about his 30 years as a tour guide. He has time for everyone and his desk is in the lobby, so you can always find him working on details of the cruise. 7. Laundry - no dry cleaning is available, but 24 hour laundry service is. The costs are typical cruise prices, underwear & t-shirts €1,5; shirts €2,50, socks €1,0. 8. Dress - during the day - shorts and casual shirts - dinner- pants and a quality golf shirt or other respectable shirt. Some guys wore sport coats for the Captain's Welcome Dinner, but not many. With laundry service, you can get by with 4 shirts for evening wear and 2 pair of pants. For day wear, bring several quick dry t- shirts and cargo shorts. Wash the t- shirts in the shower and let them dry. You will sweat thru these shirts daily as most of the old palaces have no ventilation and can be warm and there are big crowds of people. Wear a good pair of walking shoes as the cobblestones are tough on sandals. Leave the sport coat at home. One long sleeve dressy shirt is good to have. A jacket is needed at night while on the deck. Use the umbrellas provided by Vista while on your daily tours. 9. Food - the food is very good and it's very well presented. There is free wine with dinner. Breakfast & lunch are buffets, whereas dinner is served and is usually 5 courses. I didn't hear any complaints about the food. 10. Fitness Center - 4 cardio machines and a rack of dumbbell weights. There is a weight bench. The room has a TV & water bottles & towels. 11. Photography - this is great trip for photos, especially inside churches, which are quite ornate & often spectacular Some churches have good lighting, but most need shutter speeds that are below 1/20th unless you really push the ISO. I used a portable 5.5' high tripod where it wasn't too crowded and I had enough time to set up. Usually there was enough of both if you looked for it. A good time for these shots was during the lecture from the tour guide inside the church. 100 mm was about as long a lens as you'll need. You'll need a polarizer filter for bright outdoor shots. and for shooting inside the bus. Don't forget your remote shutter release for use with a tripod. The palaces generally had enough lighting for handheld shooting. 12. Coughing- many people got a cough on thus trip Many wound up going to a doctor for anti-biotics or even hospital stays. The Cruise Director seemed used to handling these cases. If you missed the ship you just took a cab to the next port or lock (which could be costly). 13. Port or starboard cabin? We had a port side cabin and since we traveled mostly northbound, we had afternoon sun shining into the cabin, which really heated up the room. Quite often we had to close the block - out curtains to keep the heat out of the room, which eliminated the beautiful view you paid for. If I had my choice, I would take a starboard side cabin on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise and visa versa. Boat comfort - this was our first river cruise after 9 ocean cruises. It was amazing how comfortable being on the river was. You hardly ever felt any motion, only when you nudged into a lock on dock. Overall impression - a wonderful experience in all ways, 5 stars. I'm glad we did a 2 week cruise, as the first 7 days went by so fast. The ports are amazing, a great mixture of European capitals with their palaces and splendor and big city action. The small ports offered a great glimpse into the Europe of 1000 years ago. Its amazing how well the old buildings have been preserved and restored. If you have any questions, email me at kentennis@cox.net Ken Montgomery Irvine, CA, USA Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
In the event it doesn't really matter what our expectations really were before setting out - whatever they may have been, they were well exceeded. A pre-embarkation night at a Budepest hotel was really useful to recover from a long ... Read More
In the event it doesn't really matter what our expectations really were before setting out - whatever they may have been, they were well exceeded. A pre-embarkation night at a Budepest hotel was really useful to recover from a long air trip and the one recommended (Intercontinental) was 5-star in all respects. Embarkation from there was straightforward and the vessel itself (Vista)- the newest in the fleet - has an entirely modern and functional style with a good degree of comfort throughout. The cabin was airy with a good balcony view, excellent bathroom and surprisingly useful storage space. Dining was a highlight with an excellent quality and variety of food - certainly expect to put on a kilo or two. Laundry service was very efficient but needed a watch on high costs - the bathroom became the norm for smalls. Onboard entertainment was generally mediocre but with the occasional outstanding exception. Shore excursions met the charter advertised and with plenty of walking to offset the food intake. The range [extensive] and cost [high] of optional additional excursions was a surprise but clearly designed to satisfy all tastes. This is a balancing act between increased prices for total inclusivity and letting passengers pick & choose. The Cruise Director did his best to satisfy all wishes all of the time [clearly mission impossible]. With only minor "niggles" [don't expect 100% web coverage], this cruise rated a worthy 5 stars! Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Avalon Vista Ratings
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