4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
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 ... 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
3 Helpful Votes
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
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
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
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014

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 ... 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.


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3 Helpful Votes
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 ... 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.

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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014


• 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 ... Read More


• 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.


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2 Helpful Votes
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.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013

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 ... 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.

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