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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
The odd and personal stuff is at the end of my review, so if you want that jump to the bottom. First river cruise ever. I had been looking for river cruises for some time because I wanted a vacation that my husband and I could enjoy ... Read More
The odd and personal stuff is at the end of my review, so if you want that jump to the bottom. First river cruise ever. I had been looking for river cruises for some time because I wanted a vacation that my husband and I could enjoy with us having very different energy levels. River cruises fit that bill. Always someplace to walk, yet staying on board and reading and taking in the scenery works well too. Embarkation was at a nice Hotel in Brussels. We scheduled one pre-night at the hotel and the rate through Avalon was excellent. I noticed that pre-nights were no longer available as it got closer to to the date of the cruise. Hotel location was great - plenty of places to walk to and very centrally located. The actual embarkation process itself was slightly boring - waiting at a set time in a hotel conference room until everything was ready and then filing into motor coaches that would take is to the Impression. Luggage could be stored with Avalon at the hotel for hours prior to embarkation so those arriving without pre-nights could meet at the hotel, deposit their luggage, and then walk around for a few hours. It went smoothly. The ship, cabin, dining are just as described on the website. Everything is clean. Everyone is friendly and professional, yet informal and nice. It was worth it to compare cabin layouts between Avalon and competitors to see the arrangement of the beds. Beds facing the panorama window on the Impression were really nice and made the space feel very large. I also saw the cabins on the lower level that didn't have that type of layout, and they were fine also. I'll be going on another cruise later this year that is in a lower level cabin. The food is what you would expect - definitely good. Sort of like a Sunday Brunch at a nice hotel for Breakfast and Lunch, dinner is served to you by the staff. After dinner each evening the cruise director meets everyone in the lounge and talks about what is to come on the next day. The evenings sometimes usually had entertainment of some sort, usually a musician who played piano and a few other things, sometimes people danced. There was a shortage of male dance partners and a couple of the bartenders would occasionally fill it. A few evenings there is something else - one evening there were Dutch Cheese Hostesses who did an unusual dance and had a tasting of some strange liquor with cheeses. That was particularly odd but quite entertaining. Excursions - the ones I attended were great. Paced for any traveler, the passengers are broken up into one of (usually) three groups (passenger chooses which group) and went off with their guide. Guides are local to the area. Ports - all interesting. Be mindful that Brussels to Amsterdam is only two hours on an express train - useful information for planning your arrival and departure but also useful to realize that the cruise travels a short distance each night on an 8 day journey to someplace quite close. Now to get to the more personal impressions... What to expect in passengers: Ages 40 to 70, almost all couples, either husband and wife or two women traveling together, one younger woman traveling with an older friend. I don't think there were any people traveling alone. On this cruise all but one couple were white and English speaking. I found this alarming at first given that I come from Los Angeles. Being half of the only gay couple on board, I found the demographics to be out of the ordinary for me. I did grow a little tired of the "where is your wife" but no one got "strange" when I said that he's my husband and he's resting. Everyone was accepting and friendly. What to expect of the crew: the crew is made up of white professionals who are at least somewhat local to the area. Friendly and English-speaking. What to expect of the staff: The staff consisted of some of the most interesting people I have met, and they have very different lives from the passengers. Demographically, they are mostly in their 20s, maybe 30s, from countries that have fewer work opportunities. They will share about their lives if you ask and are genuinely interested, but there is a little hesitation. I was able to learn more on the last night of the cruise than on other nights, perhaps because I asked more questions, or perhaps because it was the last cruise of the season for most of these people and they were all about to head to their own homes, many of which were far away. I found the things I learned from and about the staff to be some of the most interesting things. From my limited exposure, I encountered people who are working the cruise as a means to earn money and then return for the winter to a home that they love where they have a live completely separate from their work lives. Some of them live beautifully simple and happy lives in their non-work world - lives that involve being on a farm and picking olives, seeing family, playing with their dog that they don't get to see while working. I was sufficiently happy with the staff, the Cruise in general, and how nicely things flowed that we'll be taking another cruise almost exactly one year later. Same ship and staff, different river and itinerary. There will also be a larger gay contingency (maybe 5 to 10 couples) on the upcoming trip, only because one of the gay travel agencies arranges for a group to be part of one specific cruise every other year and we thought it a great opportunity to improve on what was already a fantastic experience. Upcoming cruise is from Prague (or Nuremberg) to Budapest, September 2018. Don't know if I've missed anything, but if you have specific questions about my cruise experience perhaps there is a way for you to ask me. As for "value for money"... One factor in selecting this specific cruise is that it was a TravelZoo Special, and I did get a substantial discount. I am somewhat suffering "sticker shock" at my decision to pay for our upcoming cruise without the same substantial discount. But I guess I think it's worth it since I'm doing it again! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2016
Service was very good. Food quality and variety very good. Complimentary wine selections with dinner better then on other cruise lines. Many of the service personal an people at the front desk remembered your name after a couple of days. ... Read More
Service was very good. Food quality and variety very good. Complimentary wine selections with dinner better then on other cruise lines. Many of the service personal an people at the front desk remembered your name after a couple of days. The off the ship tour directors that did the half day and full day tours had great knowledge of the countries visited and made suggestions for shopping. Cabin size was larger then on other river cruise ships I have been on. Port talks were very informative and tour director friendly and knowledgeable. Embarkation was a quick process. A ship's representative met us at the airport and stayed with us till we arrived at the dock. Towels in the bath were soft and fluffy and bath products were of really good quality. And the gym has good equipment and more options then on other ships I have been on and there was also a Jazuzzi. This was my 5th river cruise and i would sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2016
Chose this cruise for the itinerary, but it was the people who made it really special. Every single person on the crew, from the housekeeping staff to the sailors, wait staff to front desk people, not to mention the cruise director and ... Read More
Chose this cruise for the itinerary, but it was the people who made it really special. Every single person on the crew, from the housekeeping staff to the sailors, wait staff to front desk people, not to mention the cruise director and maître d'hôtel, were absolutely wonderful. We've never experienced such a friendly, accommodating, fun staff anywhere. Food was fantastic also - such a vast array of choices, beautifully presented, and all delicious. Ship was beautiful, very clean and modern. Relaxed, casual atmosphere in the dining room and lounge, perfect for getting to know many other passengers. Great to have the option of the "gentle walkers" groups for shore excursions, along with complimentary walking sticks, bottled water, and audio sets to hear the guides. Appreciated the nightly newsletter "appearing" in our cabin each evening when we returned from dinner, listing the activities and schedule for the next day, along with historical or other interesting information about our destination, maps, and the weather forecast so we knew how to dress. Avalon would definitely be our first choice again. Read Less
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