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12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start ... Read More
One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start planning. I first sent for brochures from several river cruise companies to compare intineraries etc. My friend and I have both travelled to Europe previously and wanted to go someplace new so we chose to take a Danube river cruise. I then met with a local travel agent who specificalizes in river cruises. She steered me away from Viking and helped me narrow our choices to AMA or Avalon. When she quoted out the price it was much higher than we had anticipated so we chose to watch and wait. By the fall of 2016 Avalon came out with a great sale - $1000 off per person + free air. That seemed too good to be true. I called the travel agent and we were booked within a few days! We ended up choosing this itinerary since it was short and we did not know if we would like river cruising. About a week after we booked my 27 year old daughter decided she wanted to go with us. She was able to get the single supplement waived and she booked as well. She could not get the single supplement waiver and free air but she was able to book on the same flights we were on so we could fly together. We all absolutely loved this cruise!! Everything about it was wonderful. It was a nice mix of small towns and big cities. We added a few days to the end of cruise and took the train to Budapest. We wished we had chosen a longer intinerary that included Budapest so we could stay on the ship. The ship: Our ship was the Avalon Passion. This was a new ship in 2016 and it was beautiful. Everything was sparkling clean and very tastefully decorated. The ship was actually much longer than I had anticipated. The rooms were spacious and that wall of windows was in the room was just awesome. We loved waking up in the morning and looking out at the river going by. The lounges, sky deck and dining room were equally beautiful. The age of passengers: Our sailing had a mix of American, Canadian, British, Australians, New Zealanders, one mom/daughter from India and two young ladies from Korea. I had expected mostly retirement age passangers but that was not the case at all. There was a real mix of 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s on up. I am in my early 50s and I felt like one of the older people on the cruise. There were quite a few mother/daughter pairs and several groups of younger women traveling together. We had a wonderful time chatting with everyone and hearing about everyone's travel experiences. Crew: I cannot say enough about how attentive and friendly the crew was. They went above and beyond on a daily basis. Our cruise director was Andrej (sp?). He was awesome. He was a kind person with a quirky sense of humor. His nightly port talks were always informative and entertaining at the same time. We added three days at the end of cruise and travelled on our own to Budapest. He gave us a Budapest map and recommended some sights and restaturants for us to see during our time there. So nice of him! Our server at dinner was Liza from the Phillipines. We sat in her section most meals since she was so nice and friendly. She got to know what we liked and we looked forward to seeing her at every meal. Valentin was the person who cleaned our room daily. He always had a smile on his face and left us a wonderful towel animal on our last day. Food: My friend and my daughter are both vegetarians and I am a "meat and potatoes" kind of person so it is not easy to find meals we all like. Avalon started their Avalon Fresh menu offerings in 2017 offereing enhanced menu options for vegetarians which sounded like a good fit for our group. Each one of us ended up loving the food!! It was so nice to have a floating restaurant with awesome food each day instead of searching around for a restaurant in each city. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with loads of choices. We loved the Belgian waffles and made to order omelets at breakfast. We loved all the desserts too. Dinner had several choices and none of us had any problem finding something we liked. We tried different wines each night and Liza just kept filling our glasses. In addition to the meals every day about 4pm was cake time with several different cakes to try. And...on the third floor was a lounge with cookies and cakes all day long. I have to admit - we visited the "cookie room" on more than one night about 11pm. Entertainment: We came on this cruise to sightsee at the various cities and were not expecing much in the way of entertainment. We did end up taking part in some of the nightly entertainment and it was really nice. Every night there was a piano player playing which was nice if you wanted to grab a drink or dance a little. One night there was a wine tasting demonstration which was perfect since we were sailing through the Wachau Valley past numerous vineyards. One night we had a singer/guitar player who played a mix of country and oldies. He was quite good and the dance floor was full for most of the night. The Australians were a bit rowdier than the rest of us and frankly made it so much more fun. I cannot think of anything I would change from this cruise. I can't wait to take another Avalon cruise. I am hooked! Read Less
65 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I ... Read More
We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I really wanted to help others thinking about taking this trip. This review is long, but I have broken it down into sections so you can skip to what interests you. First, it’s important to note that my husband and I have primarily gone on ocean cruises. We did take a short Riverboat cruise on the Yangtze though. Generally, this trip was very interesting and enlightening. The quality of the facilities and excursions were excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in visiting this area. I think that seeing the two countries from the vantage of the Mekong River was a great way to tie the trip together. It was an unforgettable journey! Passenger Composition: We were 31 people on the tour; mostly Americans, with around 6 Canadians, 3 from New Zealand, and 1 German (although 1 Canadian and 1 Kiwi were originally from Germany). Three of the men were former service men who served in Vietnam during the war. Most of the people were over 55, however, there was one younger couple. It was a very cohesive group. Avalon likes to think of their passengers, as it is a small ship, as a “family” and, in fact, it does start to feel that way. Tour Guides: We had a wonderful Avalon Guide/Manager the entire trip. Ho Huu Phiem is an incredibly organized, professional, knowledgeable and genuinely caring person who goes out of his way to make sure that everyone’s needs are addressed. He notices everything. This is so important and is one of the reasons the trip was so fantastic. Phiem is the Avalon representative on only the South-bound journeys. There is always another guide with the group as well, who is a specialist in the country you are visiting. Those guides were good, not great. The Riverboat: General: The Siem Reap is a small and well maintained boat. The Staterooms are all the same, the only difference is the floor you are on. We had #108 on the first floor. The layout of the room is beautiful. The bed faces floor to ceiling windows which open completely, you really feel like your whole room is a balcony. The linens are lovely, the bathroom is fairly large and there is plenty of storage. The boat is very clean and in fact, after walking around along the river (shore excursions), the crew takes your shoes and cleans them before you can enter the ship. The public spaces are very nice to gather in and there is room to sit on your own or gather and visit with new friends, both inside and outside. Crew: The Siem Reap has an incredibly wonderful crew who go out of their way to please everyone. If they don’t understand your request, they ask Phiem to help them, because they really want to do a good job. Food: With a mixture of both local and western choices for all meals, it would work for the most finicky or adventurous eater. I have a very touchy stomach and the chief would make special bland food for me. My husband, who has an iron gut always asked for a bowl of chilies to add to his food! We also had a Vegan and a Vegetarian; there were always choices that looked delicious for them as well. There were lovely baked goods and the tropical fruit choices were fantastic. Internet: I was really concerned prior to the cruise that I wouldn’t be able to access the internet. I know it’s a vacation, but there was an issue at home I needed to keep abreast of so I was worried prior to the cruise after reading Avalon’s information that said it was spotty and they may not have access. However, every day I was able to access the internet. Sometimes it wasn’t as fast as others, but I could get an email every day. The internet was generally available only in the lounges; however, those with Staterooms adjacent the lounge may have access. We were below and adjacent the lounge and most days I could access the internet from the Stateroom. Itinerary: I really enjoyed this itinerary. Because of the heat and humidity, Avalon generally had two – three hour tours; one early in the morning, then a break and another tour of the same duration in the afternoon. Having a break to rest and refresh was well thought out. The first two days of the trip were in Siem Reap with tours of several temple complexes. What an incredible site! I do think if you can arrive a day early than the official start date of the tour and sign up with an independent guide to see Angkor Wat at sunrise is well worth the extra time. The Avalon Tour goes after sunrise and I am glad I went to see that wonderful view of the temple at sunrise! The excursions on the Riverboat were fantastic. We went to different villages, on all different modes of transportation. We had an opportunity to engage with some of the people in the villages both planned by Avalon and spontaneous. One important note is that since Avalon is a small ship with only two stories, it can go down portions of the River that the larger ships like Viking and Ama Waterways can’t access. Therefore, there weren’t other ships visiting the villages we visited. Some of the excursions were difficult and made your heart ache for what man has done to man, but at the same time, you get a real flavor of the strength and endurance of the people. It was an experience that I am so glad to have had. Since it was very hot and humid, Avalon made sure that everyone had plenty of water and encouraged everyone to stay hydrated. Additionally, they frequently handed wet towels to refresh us. Dress: It was really all over the map. Some people were casual the entire time. Others dressed a little nicer for dinner. Really, you could do as you pleased. Laundry was available for a fee in the hotels and on the ship. It should be noted that it wasn’t inexpensive. For example, on the boat it was $1.50 to wash a T-shirt or ladies panties. Land Accommodations: Both hotels selected by Avalon were of very high caliber and were centrally located. Flight Arrangements: We arranged our own flights as when we compared prices with Avalon, we could do it for less money and the schedule we wanted. We did arrive a day and half earlier than the trip officially began. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise ... Read More
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise and balloons over the temples at Bagan...magical! · The sunset over the teak footbridge we viewed from sampans . · The children in the Monastery school doing the Hokey Pokey with a guy couple from our group. · The fire pit and local dance troupe on the sandbar at night. · The spectacular Buddhas and temples. · emotional experience with the founding Nun at the Nunnery. · The pass through the 2nd defile. · Sai entertaining and serving us great drinks on the ship We feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this amazing culture with informed tour guides and service oriented crew. While all the crew were so professional and helpful, we particularly want to acknowledge Mark and Dorothy Bauk. Mark kept the whole trip on track and was always willing to share a story and take care of our every need. He is an excellent communicator with a great sense of humor, incredibly competent, and a very likeable person. Dorothy is just a real sweetheart and a genuinely caring person….we so enjoyed our time with her on the trip. She is extremely intelligent, well organized, and has an incredible knowledge of the history and present state of the country. After we left the cruise and were spending our last couple days in Yangon, she went "above and beyond" by arranging for me to have a tailor made longyi and blouse, taking several of us jewelry shopping, and taking us out for dinner at an incredible restaurant on the lake. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
Right time / rather new cruise ship / Love the cruise director, loved the crew always happy, friendly and willing to do whatever to make the trip an experience!! The food portions were very good, not too large and plenty to eat. Sometimes ... Read More
Right time / rather new cruise ship / Love the cruise director, loved the crew always happy, friendly and willing to do whatever to make the trip an experience!! The food portions were very good, not too large and plenty to eat. Sometimes the food was locally focused and it gave you the opportunity to try something different and other options if you chose not to try something different. The nightly entertainment was good, but repetitive with the same music night after night. We did however have some different entertainers come on the ship 2-4 times during the trip. The weather was cold & gloomy but what do you expect for December in Europe. Wish we could of stayed longer in each village, city we toured just so much to take in. As a first timer river cruiser we will be back, probably in warmer weather to experience instead of freezing. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Three years ago we took an Avalon cruise on the Rhine River and loved the experience. We decided to take the Christmas Market cruise on the Danube to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were not disappointed. Avalon does everything so ... Read More
Three years ago we took an Avalon cruise on the Rhine River and loved the experience. We decided to take the Christmas Market cruise on the Danube to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were not disappointed. Avalon does everything so very well. The ship was wonderful and beautifully decorated for Christmas. St. Nicholas even left us sweet treats on his feast day, December 6th. Speaking of sweet treats, we loved the traditional ginger cookies always available to enjoy. I am a cookie baker and the Executive Chef helped me with the recipe to bake at home. The staff, crew and Robert our cruise director were all exceptional. The Captain was very approachable and spent time answering passenger questions. I was fascinated by all the locks we traveled through and enjoyed the presentation on the topic. The ports were all special and unique. The food for was delicious. Evening entertainment was very enjoyable. We enjoyed the wine and beer tastings. We had perfect shore excursions and plenty of time to visit the Christmas markets. We met many nice people and will always treasure the memories made on this very special cruise. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We wanted to tour Europe without transportation hassles, This was our first river cruise after attending several ocean cruises. The cruise director was charming and excellent at explaining all options available to us. All of the service ... Read More
We wanted to tour Europe without transportation hassles, This was our first river cruise after attending several ocean cruises. The cruise director was charming and excellent at explaining all options available to us. All of the service personnel were pleasant and professional. They remembered our names and cabin number which indicated to us how much they enjoyed their jobs. The talent night that they presented was great and very entertaining. The cabin felt more like a hotel than a cruise ship. The food and service was excellent and the small size of passengers made it easy to get to know new people during the week long vacation. We liked the variety of going to several different cities along the Rhine and the view of the castles from the deck along with the panoramic windows within the cabin was very unique and appealing. In the future we look forward to attending similar cruises in other parts of Europe. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We had serious limitations as to the dates and the amount of time for traveling this year; we have always been intrigued by some of the former communist countries with a great past and their way back to democracy. While we were told that ... Read More
We had serious limitations as to the dates and the amount of time for traveling this year; we have always been intrigued by some of the former communist countries with a great past and their way back to democracy. While we were told that this trip went to places that were not that interesting, we found that, on the contrary, they were very different from other places and enjoyable in their own way. The cruise might not be at par with some of our previous cruises that went to Praga, Budapest, Amsterdam, etc., but the ship made for it. Brand new, the cabins were bigger and more comfortable that all the others in Avalon and Viking. There were 2 dinners that were spectacular with 5 course meals; all the others were very good. Tours were interesting and the price unbeatable. Highly recommended. The only negative was the lack of entertainment at night. Even the hiring of local artist in the different ports or a good DJ would had made a difference Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We had heard that river cruises were excellent. Love the smaller atmosphere and personal service. The embarkation and disembarkation were extremely easy, well planned and executed. Our cabin was beautiful and well maintained. We were ... Read More
We had heard that river cruises were excellent. Love the smaller atmosphere and personal service. The embarkation and disembarkation were extremely easy, well planned and executed. Our cabin was beautiful and well maintained. We were very pleased with the beautiful accomodations and views from our room. The dining experience was exceptional each and every meal. We would definitely return and highly recommend this experience to our friends. I loved the relaxed atmosphere and personal relationship we acquired with the staff and cruise director as well as the chef and serving staff. My husband has extreme shellfish allergies and the chef and head waiter personally sat down with my husband on the first day to review his allergies. Then each meal the head waiter or the chef would go over each menu to help my husband avoid any foods that might cause him concern. I found this to be exceptional service. Our shore excursions that were included with the cruise were very interesting and far exceeded my expectations. The tour guides were extremely knowlegable and friendly. We took one added tour, Paris by Night, which I found we could have skipped as it was a bit expensive and short. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
~ Avalon Illumination 2016 ~ Dear friends I hope to entertain you with this rhyming illustration Of our experience on board the good ship Avalon ‘Illumination’ We’d often talked about it but we had never ... Read More
~ Avalon Illumination 2016 ~ Dear friends I hope to entertain you with this rhyming illustration Of our experience on board the good ship Avalon ‘Illumination’ We’d often talked about it but we had never cruised before So in all our worldly travels we’d stayed firmly on the shore Unpacking just the once was something that really did appeal With destinations brought to us, and free wine at every meal! The downside might be the seniors who this way often choose to roam Which meant we might be boarding a sort of floating old folks home! The ship and our cabin was perfect, fitted out like a 5 star hotel When we cast off and sailed bidding Amsterdam farewell I could barely feel any movement such was the smoothness of the motion That’s because it’s a river, I’m sure it’s not like that on the ocean The restaurant and food was like a gourmet dining experience A printed new menu every night, of quality there was no variance The waiters got to know us and they knew best not to pass Our table before they’d brought the wine and re-filled up my glass We’re Brits but from across the globe we saw other guests had come Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis and there was also one Odd couple there from Turkey, with a blonde who never did a thing Except follow her friend around as if she was tied to her apron string Most often folks forget their cares when they go away on ships But there was a world event taking place that was on everybody’s lips I’m sure you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news That Trump became U.S. President when you were on that cruise! The first night we went down to eat we sat there quite at random Bob was to my left and we were quickly both in tandem Since our musical tastes were pretty much exactly corresponding As we talked yet more and the wine did flow we were obviously bonding He had a Fender Strat at home that he’d not yet learned to play When he told me he was left-handed I said “what really man? no way! Because I’m left-handed too and I’ve got my guitar on board We can make a start with mine and I’ll show you how to strum a chord!” So that’s exactly what we did and I got his fingers moving And though we didn’t have much time I could see he was improving It’s definite that Bob became my buddy on that cruise The more we talked, the more we found we were similar in our views One night we skipped a concert that we both thought would be boring Like kids playing hooky out of school we both went off exploring We found the only bar around and bought ourselves some beer We drunk with friendly locals and left with handshakes and great cheer. I knew that I could pass the time because I love to play guitar But I never dreamed I’d end up doing real gigs in the bar! Delyan the ship’s piano man, was also a very fine musician We found that we could play as a duo and give a joint rendition They seemed to like what I was doing since most nights I did play In the club lounge at the rear of the ship as we went on our way We’d get some beers to drink back there and soon I would be strumming I’d take requests and play the songs to get everybody humming This trip we were told was being billed as a ‘Musical Themed Cruise’ But this was mainly classical music and not rock ‘n’ roll or blues But nevertheless I must confess they put some great musicians on And I even played harmonica on one bluesy type of song. Great acquaintances we did make with all those people that we met Bob, Betty, Chris, Jane, both Ron’s, Mary, Harriet Email addresses were exchanged with intent to try and keep in touch Looking back on it now I can hardly believe we ate and drank so much! So now the time has come to bring my little rhyme to an end We had the most fantastic trip and made some lovely friends Arrivederci, Bon Voyage, Ciao, Farewell and Adieu To those marvellous people that passed through our lives, We’ll fondly remember you Now to the Illumination’s, Captain, and all of your ship’s crew You delivered the experience and made our cruising dreams come true You were a credit to your company of that we can attest With the Avalon style and service we were thoroughly impressed So next time we go on a river cruise our loyalty will remain With the Avalon operation, since nothing else would be the same And for anyone planning such a trip we would heartily suggest That Avalon Waterways will do you proud, They simply were the best! C. Evans ~ 13th Nov 2016 Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Overall the river cruise was very good, it was just misleading in selling to us that all cabins are balcony, when in fact the level one was not. The several ports visited was more than what I expected. There was race discrimination ... Read More
Overall the river cruise was very good, it was just misleading in selling to us that all cabins are balcony, when in fact the level one was not. The several ports visited was more than what I expected. There was race discrimination on service especially the head of the dining or banquet including a female server. People were already seated and having their wine and were asked to leave and transfer to another table because this favored race came in. The hotel in Prague on their breakfast servers were also very rude. These people in hospitality industry should know how to treat with people of various colors of their skin!! The food was good and with just right serving amount, not too much and overwhelming. The cabin was clean all the time. The embarkation and disembarkation process were smooth. Being the first river cruise and comparing it to the regular cruises that we have experienced, it has its pluses and minuses. The broader tours are the big plus. Read Less
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