I initially was approached by my 89-year-old mother, who wanted to take one last trip before she would be unable. I offered to be her traveling companion, not realizing where she intended to travel. I had only been on one cruise prior, a ... Read More
I initially was approached by my 89-year-old mother, who wanted to take one last trip before she would be unable. I offered to be her traveling companion, not realizing where she intended to travel. I had only been on one cruise prior, a Caribbean Cruise, on one of the larger vessels. So when she mentioned she wanted to take a river cruise, I really had nothing to base it on.
My first overall impression, exhausting! Too much planned time, not enough free time. Having to set my alarm to 6:30 every morning of my vacation did not sound like my idea of a vacation. We were constantly being rushed from one event to another, catching buses, trying to keep track of tour guides in crowds. It rained our entire trip, and blue umbrellas were everywhere. We were constantly told to keep track of the 'blue umbrella's, that was difficult at best. Not being able to speak the language, not knowing where we were heading and keeping track of my mother, dressed in black, in a sea of black, was not good, when you lost contact with the blue umbrella guide! As for the knowledge of the guides, they were EXCELLENT. I would have preferred more time to explore rather than feel like we were in a race to get to one place to the next.
Our mealtimes were pretty much set in gold, so if you wanted to eat a lite-fare early and then later, this would not be the case. The restaurant area was small, and the buffet line was always crowded due to the time constraints. If you arrived late, a lot of the items were already picked over or gone. My mother, who uses a wheeled walker, had difficulty getting items onto a plate and then move thru the line. So after the first few days, I would quickly eat first, then she would arrive and I would gather her breakfast or lunch items. Dinner at least was sit-down, and we were served. But I must say, overall, I was not impressed with the menu items. Fish was always overcooked and dry. Portion sizes were OK, but I am not a big eater. Sometimes nothing really excited me at dinner, because we ate at 6-7 pm, and I am usually a late afternoon dinner person. Lunch had a lighter fare served on the deck. We started using that for our lunch, to avoid the crowds in the restaurant area. I was quieter, more relaxing, and the views good. The staff that worked this area were always attentive and polite.
Our cabin was in the 'cheap seats' as I referred to them. We booked late and very few options left. It was small, as expected, and since we really didn't spend a lot of time in it, it was adequate. The biggest problem we had was the diesel fumes that came in at night while going thru the locks. That was horrible. I finally complained about it after the 3rd night, and I was told the entire ship had that problem when in the locks, yet everyone I asked whose room was above the water line, said they never smelled any fumes. Either way, that was the worst. The beds were small, but OK, given the size of the room. I was surprised to find one night, that my sheets had been just flipped over when my mother had spilled something on the top of mine. It was tucked into the wall side, but the next morning when I noticed they had not changed them but hide the spill, I was surprised, to say the least. I get that this is not a big ship with many options, but clean sheets are expected for the price we paid.
The onboard entertainment was OK - I understand and was not expecting the big cruise events. We did not spend a lot of time listening to the shows. I did enjoy the Port of Call information for our next day's excursions. The seating was not very comfortable. Barrel chairs are not meant for long sitting. Not for relaxing and reading a book. Couches along the sides were not that great either. The tables were so close, it was hard to move around if you were stuck in the middle.
The Danube River was a surprise to me. I have never traveled to Europe and I guess I expected a lot more on the river. Many times looking out, I felt like I was traveling down the Wisconsin River in November. Cold, damp drizzle was a constant. The upper deck was pretty much closed. Yes, you could walk around the upper deck, but you had to bundle up. My mother never made it to the top. She was not able to climb the steps.
Which is another issue I had; Our travel agency said Avalon would be able to accommodate my mother given her handicap. While they did have an elevator, on several occasions it was not working. She had virtually no assistance getting on or off the boat. She is proud lady, who does not see herself as being handicapped, Several of the tour guides you could see were not happy having someone using a wheeled walker on cobblestone streets, with lots of stairs to climb. Many of them made comments that this tour would be difficult at best. I believe both Avalon and the travel agency should have informed my mother this trip would not be good for her. Or maybe they did, and my mother did not pay attention. Either way, it impacted my enjoyment of the trip.
The ports and shore excursions were OK - we did a few of the extras. They were OK too.
Would I do another river cruise? Probably not. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe having to watch for my mother impacted my enjoyment. I did find Europe to be an incredible place and would love to go back. It opened my eyes to something I had never experienced prior. The food, the smells, the COFFEE, were my favorite parts. I wished the weather had been warmer, less damp, more sunshine - all of which obviously affected my enjoyment. For me, it was an expensive trip - I don't really know if I got my monies worth. Read Less