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Sail Date: July 2019
We chose Avalon since we had sailed the Rhine with them 10 years ago and had a wonderful experience. We chose this Blue Danube cruise because it was 2 nights in Budapest, over night in Vienna and 2 nights in Prague. We had a first class ... Read More
We chose Avalon since we had sailed the Rhine with them 10 years ago and had a wonderful experience. We chose this Blue Danube cruise because it was 2 nights in Budapest, over night in Vienna and 2 nights in Prague. We had a first class experience again! Everything was phenomenal from the cabin to the food to the excursions we picked. We highly recommend all the excursions that have to do with food and wine both afternoon tours for tastings and evening tours for dinners and folk shows. We also ordered a basic Anniversary celebration package and it was wonderful. We had a special table in the dining room with 6 guests (folks we had met on the cruise). Our guests received beautiful invitations, our table was decorated, we had champagne and a cake and then our cabin as also decorated and we had champagne, flowers, candy and fruit in the cabin. All of which made this anniversary especially memorable. Avalon also came through with a free excursion to Salzburg and a free lunch in Regensberg when they were forced to change our itinerary due to low water on the Danube that prevented us from getting to Nuremberg. The speed with which they changed arrangements for 150 people some of whom were flying out of Nuremberg was amazing. None of the passengers could have asked for better customer service. Should we chose to do another river cruise it will definitely be on Avalon. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We chose this cruise based on location, dates and then were intrigued by the special itinerary around the Hapsberg Empire. Everything met or exceeded our expectations. The stateroom was beautiful and spacious, and the bed was very ... Read More
We chose this cruise based on location, dates and then were intrigued by the special itinerary around the Hapsberg Empire. Everything met or exceeded our expectations. The stateroom was beautiful and spacious, and the bed was very comfortable. Our favorite part was the panoramic operable windows - we used this multiple times to enjoy our "cruising time." The food, and especially the wine, was delicious. All the staff were knowledgeable, attentive and made us feel like valued passengers. Our cruise director, Tony Williamson, was just terrific - he really made it a special journey. We loved the variety of excursion options and enjoyed every one we did. There were many special activities or excursions that were unique to this itinerary. The daily briefings and the written itineraries were very helpful. My only negative feedback is about the embarkation process. The information provided about the specific docking location was not specific enough and there was no one at the dock to help provide additional information. We had to walk up and down the various docking locations along the Danube, dragging our luggage in extreme heat before finding the ship. Once onboard, everything was terrific and we had wonderful service. Surely, there must be a better way to board in Budapest. Also, while I downloaded the app and looked up some information ahead of time, it was not useful during the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
We choose this cruise line based upon square footage of staterooms and floor to ceiling windows. Also , we liked the smaller ship capacity. This was an excellent cruise from beginning to end. Staff from cruise director to housekeeping to ... Read More
We choose this cruise line based upon square footage of staterooms and floor to ceiling windows. Also , we liked the smaller ship capacity. This was an excellent cruise from beginning to end. Staff from cruise director to housekeeping to wait staff were professional and courteous. There was always a variety of hot and cold foods served daily. Although the overall quality of the food was good, not great, the dining experience was excellent. It was also worry free to have excursions paid for as well as wine service included in lunch and dinner. I only experienced Tea Time once, but that was lovely as well. I needed to see a doctor while on the cruise and the Cruise Director could not have been more helpful, and again professional. The nightly entertainment after dinner was always a fun way to end each evening. I would have loved to have taken advantage of the Recreational activities offered such as Zumba, Yoga and a bike excursions but was honestly too tired from the days activities. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
The cabin on the ship was very good.Lots of room.Great bathroom.Loved the sliding door to view the outside.The food was good and the service was very good.Not much entertainment.Unless you were in a port there was nothing going on as far ... Read More
The cabin on the ship was very good.Lots of room.Great bathroom.Loved the sliding door to view the outside.The food was good and the service was very good.Not much entertainment.Unless you were in a port there was nothing going on as far as activities,We did enjoy having bikes to ride .The tours and port stops were a lot shorter than we thought they would be.The guides were very good.We were disappointed in the tour of the Nazi parade grounds.very run down,weeds everywhere and not much to see.Not the fault of Avalon.Unlike the large cruise ships you do meet more people on a river cruise.We made some new friends..Glad we went,can check it off our bucket list.We probably would not do again because of the cost...Overall I think that the crew and everyone onboard does a great job.The Captain was very nice and would talk to you like a friend.If we were to go on another river cruise it would be with Avalon... Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We had done the Rhine river cruise last year and wanted to do another in a different part of Europe. This trip from Budapest to Nuremberg and via bus to Prague, did not disappoint, the ship and staff were excellent and could not have been ... Read More
We had done the Rhine river cruise last year and wanted to do another in a different part of Europe. This trip from Budapest to Nuremberg and via bus to Prague, did not disappoint, the ship and staff were excellent and could not have been better. We booked our own air travel to and from the cruise and getting to the hotel in Budapest and the airport in Prague were not difficult. The Cruise Director was at the Hotel in Budapest to greet us with information about our stay; his orientation briefing was excellent as was his service for the entire trip. The on-shore excursions were led by great tour guides that provided an insight to the sights in a detailed and complete manner. The tour guide for most of the excursions in Budapest, Oliver, was entertaining, knowledgeable, and above all, friendly! Another of particular distinction was Michael, who gave us an insight to the Weltenburg Abbey's design and history in a detailed manner without making is boring. The hotels that Avalon selected in Budapest and Prague were exceptional! Both were very well appointed with full service restaurants and bars. The rooms were superior or deluxe and had all of the amenities one would expect. We are looking forward to our next trip with Avalon! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
Bucket list trip to see Budapest & Prague for my wife & I, we have taken 4 ocean liner cruises but this was our first river cruise. We arrived in Budapest the day before the cruise started & we arranged for Avalon to transfer ... Read More
Bucket list trip to see Budapest & Prague for my wife & I, we have taken 4 ocean liner cruises but this was our first river cruise. We arrived in Budapest the day before the cruise started & we arranged for Avalon to transfer us from the airport to the hotel. The morning of our trip departure Avalon had a bus shuttle us & many other passengers from the hotel to the Visionary ship. Check in went smooth and we were very pleased with the cleanliness of the ship & our cabin. The daily Happy Hour (HR) was great with drinks 1/2 off, & the service during HR was excellent & since there's only (1) bar we were able to meet new people & make friends. Overall the dining was pretty good & the service was outstanding, the entire staff went out of their way to accommodate you. I loved the sauerkraut soup but that was the only soup I liked, if I had to give a bad grade out it would be for the soups, they all tasted like potato water, & the couple of nights we had seafood it was nothing special & the desserts could have been better. We tried different wines every night and most of them were very good. Shore Excursions were very good, of course some of the guides were better than others. It was a very busy day doing the included shore excursions in the morning & then going out on (3) of the optional afternoon excursions. It was so nice that Avalon had a "gentle walkers" excursion group for those that moved slower. It seemed like we stayed very busy getting up early for the morning excursions, attending the nightly next day info meetings during HR, then dinner was 7-9, so every day we felt like we were on a schedule. I would have liked more down time cruising on the river taking in the sites and I didn't like it that we couldn't sleep with the patio door open at night due to the bright lights from going thru the river locks & waking up docked to another ship right outside our window blocking any potential view. Unfortunately several people (12 that I know of) caught the chest respiratory bug that was going around, including myself and several people we met including my wife had to seek medical treatment & were bed ridden for a few days. Maybe adding another hand sanitizer station after you walked into the dining would have helped, but this is always a concern when you have 120 people plus staff contained on a boat. We stayed in Prague an extra day & also arranged for Avalon to transfer us from our hotel to the airport & again the driver was friendly & prompt. In summary it was a nice vacation and I would do another river cruise with Avalon now that I know what they’re about, they are very accommodating & much more personable than the ocean liner cruises. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
After wanting to try a river cruise for a long time, we finally joined with a group of friends for Avalon's Blue Danube Discovery. Trip began in Budapest where we had two days to explore the city before boarding the ship, trip ended ... Read More
After wanting to try a river cruise for a long time, we finally joined with a group of friends for Avalon's Blue Danube Discovery. Trip began in Budapest where we had two days to explore the city before boarding the ship, trip ended in Prague, where we had about a day and a half. Shortly after arriving we met Monika van der Drift, our Cruise Director, who was terrific and did a wonderful job from that moment until the very end- high praise for her! We cannot say enough good things about her. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smooth, and the ship's captain and crew were warm, friendly, efficient and professional. The Captain was open and engaging, and several in our group with ship-sailing experience from their military days enjoyed visiting the Bridge, and seeing how things worked, and were very impressed with his knowledge and skill in navigating the Danube. We loved our cabin, with its floor to ceiling windows, and efficient, functional layout- we have been on big cruise ships and this was by far, the most comfortable room and bathroom layout we have ever experienced- bed was also very comfortable. A+ for the room. Food was very good and we liked the option of eating lunch or dinner in main dining room or having a lighter meal on the first deck- this was particularly nice one evening when we cruised and watched the sunset over the Danube.Service was very good, we never had a problem, even when adding more seats to our dining table to accommodate some of our party-very graciously the dining room staff helped with this. Food was especially good for the two "special" dinners, the Chef's Dinner and even better, the Gala Farewell Dinner. Online DJ, Delyan, was great, and responsive to what he noticed passengers enjoying. We so enjoyed listening and dancing each evening. One evening a local ban, The Untouchables, came aboard to entertain, another evening it was The Bavarian Devils- both were terrific. There were also wine and beer tasting events, scheduled at a time that was convenient for those who wished to attend. There was a nice program of fitness activities with Ana, the Activities Director. Bikes are available on board, and many in our group took advantage of this. As for the ports, it was a nice variety of city and small town. I have a list of towns I want to return to. I will say, we were there during the heat wave hitting Europe this summer, which made for some really hot days of walking, but that is weather, and better than rain! We really appreciated the always- available water on those days. As for the excursions, there was a nice variety and you could select from both included and those available for an extra fee. Some of our favorites? Royal Waltz concert in Vienna was outstanding and almost made us forget the heat, trip to Cesky Krumlov, Nuremberg, Regensberg and Prague city tours.The wine pairing tour in Budapest also got rave reviews from those in our group. One unexpected treat was lunch on the tour of Nuremberg- much better than you might expect for a tourist group type meal. One not to repeat? Horse show and lunch in Budapest- this is much more suitable for young children, and not the Hungarian horse show you think you are going to see. We had looked forward to Schonbrunn Palace, but to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. We were given time to explore the extensive gardens, but no map to guide us so were worried we would not find our way back in time for the house tour. Lack of air movement in the Palace made things difficult in the heat. We did lose the last day of sailing as another ship (not Avalon!) had hit and damaged a lock, but we felt fortunate that we did not have more disruption because of this. Would we do this again? Absolutely, and we have been looking at options since getting home. It was a wonderful, wonderful vacation, thank you Avalon! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
Avalon river cruise is absolutely the way to go. Avalon is a first class river cruise line at very reasonable prices. The ship is beautiful, with glass french door walls that open to give you a view of the river, local towns and castles. ... Read More
Avalon river cruise is absolutely the way to go. Avalon is a first class river cruise line at very reasonable prices. The ship is beautiful, with glass french door walls that open to give you a view of the river, local towns and castles. This was our first river cruise and we traveled with 25 friends and family. Taking a river cruise with friends and family is the way to go, sharing every moment together with members of the group, yet always having the flexibility to wander off on your own. Food on the ship was outstanding, and the crew under the leadership of the Captain felt like an extension of our family. They operated like a well oiled machine.. They were all so cordial, joked, very attentive, and so helpful. Avalon's Cruise Director Monika was so knowledgeable and helpful. She was outstanding and quick to help find out information if needed. All the tours and activities were well organized. What we liked most about the river cruise was the ability to dock next to the town, and go for walks whenever you wanted and wherever you wanted. Avalon also was very considerate of the different type of travelers. If you were older and more limited in walking, they had a gente traveler arrangement and would provide the equivalent of a golf cart in some locations to help ease the touring. Then for those of us that were more active, we could take beautiful hikes, or use the bikes on the ship to go bike riding through the towns and local area. Plus they had the classical tours for the average traveler. Everything was so well thought out. Almost everyone in our group took the top cabin deck and found the views beautiful. At night we would sit on the top ship deck and watch the towns and castles go by all lite up. It was so smooth, like riding on glass. What a change from ocean cruises that are always so crowded and not smooth, plus you have to take tenders to get to the towns your visiting which takes time. If you are thinking about taking a river cruise, everyone in our group highly recommends Avalon. We are already looking at planning another river cruise with Avalon. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2019
The size of the staterooms and the appointments were amazing. I think the service was the best thing about the cruise. At every category of service the level was very high. You even got to know and speak to the captain on occasion. ... Read More
The size of the staterooms and the appointments were amazing. I think the service was the best thing about the cruise. At every category of service the level was very high. You even got to know and speak to the captain on occasion. Quality of the food and wines was outstanding. Almost all shore excursions were included and the buses and local guides were excellent. We docked next to several of the competitors ships on several occasions. We were surprised how "banged up" by comparison some of the other boats looked.. This is a minor point but the Avalon ships were maintained out the outside as well as on the inside. The front desk and cruise director were very organized and were available to the passengers. Changing shore excursions was not a problem and they had a variety of levels even putting those who did not wish to walk as much on one bus and striving to give them maximum exposure to the sights, with a little less walking. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
This was our first river cruise, though we've been on a number of ocean cruises, including the Star Clipper and Aranui. Our cruise director was very good, the ship was very good, and our stateroom was very good, though the view of ... Read More
This was our first river cruise, though we've been on a number of ocean cruises, including the Star Clipper and Aranui. Our cruise director was very good, the ship was very good, and our stateroom was very good, though the view of the river from the bed was 50% blocked by a wall (we opted for state room 312, the Royal Suite, and found this aspect of it very disappointing). My criticisms or suggestions would be the following: 1. While the food selection and preparation was excellent, the dining room was very noisy, particularly at dinner time, and seemed understaffed (the staff including 2 trainees . . . .). Avalon should consider 2 seatings and better staffing. 2. The daily bulletin should include the weather forecast for the day ahead. 3. On the "Tastes of Hungary Dinner & Wine Pairing" the gypsy music was overwhelming loud despite our request that it be softer and the music definitely wasn't gypsy (as the gypsys didn't compose My Fair Lady or The Phantom of the Opera . . . .). However, the gentlemen doing the wine pairing did a very good job, it was nice that our group had a room to ourselves, and the food was excellent. 4. Rather than leaving the arrival afternoon in Prague "free time", the city tour ought to have been done then, so that on the final day a full-day tour to the former concentration camp would be available. 5. The Nuremberg tour to the Hitler sites ought to have allowed far more time at the Documentation Museum. 6. The Sconbrunn Palace tour in Vienna ought to have allowed much more time at the site. 7. The City tour of Prague was nothing more than an hour at the Palace and being taken to the Market Square and given free time. Rather than do that, if we did the trip over again, we'd just buy a hop on/hop off bus ticket - see the same places and many more, for much less. 8. The last event we did, which was the Czech Dinner & Folklore Show in Prague, was excellent. The meal, drinks and setting were nice, and the performers 10+. Their music was authentic music from different areas of the country as it has evolved over the years, and they had an excellent ability to get the group excited and have us participate in the fun. While this is a review of the cruise portion of the trip, we also had the pre-cruise and post-cruise experiences in Budapest and Prague. The New York Palace hotel in Budapest was excellent, while the Prague Hilton was so-so. The included and optional excursions in Budapest were good. I've already criticized the included City tour in Prague, but the optional excursion to the concentration camp site was very moving (and far too short). All in all, no serious complaints. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Our travel agent recommended Avalon. The social director was excellent. Also Anna the activity director was fantastic. The small size allowed us to get on and off with ease. Smooth sail. Only 157 passengers. So convenient to return ... Read More
Our travel agent recommended Avalon. The social director was excellent. Also Anna the activity director was fantastic. The small size allowed us to get on and off with ease. Smooth sail. Only 157 passengers. So convenient to return to our cabin. Beautiful scenery and narration by the social director. Met many nice people from all over the country. Got together with some after disembarking in Vienna. While the breakfast, lunch, snack service were excellent, they cleared it up rather quickly and when you returned from a tour you had to rush to get a snack. The dinner service staff needs to be trained not to remove the bread basket and olive oil in the middle of dinner. The serving of coffee or tea was not served either at the proper time and sometimes not served at all. We enjoyed the hot chocolate and cappuccino machine in the lounge. The robes and towels were soft. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
Having traveled with Avalon before we have found this company provides the best quality experience in every phase of the trip. Last year 3 of us did the Danube cruise from Prague to Budapest. The trip this year we started in Budapest to ... Read More
Having traveled with Avalon before we have found this company provides the best quality experience in every phase of the trip. Last year 3 of us did the Danube cruise from Prague to Budapest. The trip this year we started in Budapest to cruise to Bucharest, Romania with the extension to Transylvania. Fantastic trip by with great excursions with local guides. With Avalon we are well informed every day and our excellent tour director made this experience relaxing and trouble free. Every member of the crew working as a team made every day perfect. The dining onboard is absolutely fantastic. Not only is the food great but menu items allow several choices. Great local wines are served from countries visiting. We especially enjoyed the fine wines from Romania. The dining room staff make you feel like the most important person onboard. We had a delightful young woman from Romania named Maribella who we will never forget. Even visited the bridge to chat with the captain and crew. They go out of the way to cruise with safety and to make sure you have great opportunities for taking photos of sites along the river. We are already booked for spring 2020 to cruise the Rhine River with Avalon! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
This cruise was magical on the Avalon Panorama, thanks to the wonderful, attentive crew, especially our tour director, István. Passengers were mostly Americans and Australians/New Zealanders in their 60s or later. The daily included tours ... Read More
This cruise was magical on the Avalon Panorama, thanks to the wonderful, attentive crew, especially our tour director, István. Passengers were mostly Americans and Australians/New Zealanders in their 60s or later. The daily included tours were usually morning gentle walking tours of the cities within a small radius of where the ship was docked. Optional included hikes up hill to local castles were also available. The extra tours were well priced, I thought, and were unforgettable. Avalon gave us all kinds of happy surprises, like local drinks as we sailed the Middle Rhein, local exclusive concerts, and special tours of sights along the rivers. The chef did an amazing job with local delicacies. This was the best dining I’ve experienced in 40 plus cruises. Quality local wines and beer plentiful at lunch and dinner. We sailed from Budapest after a full day there, and the night trip through the city was fantastic. In fact, the sailing schedule seemed to maximize our time seeing the best parts of the rivers. Our stops included picturesque and historical towns, including Melk, Dürnstein, Regensburg, Bamberg, Bratislava, Vienna, Nuremberg, Miltenberg, Würzburg, Rüdesheim, Cologne and Amsterdam, where we spent 2 days. István did a great job with the local guides, who were very informative and enthusiastic. If you paid attention, you’d have gotten a good course in Central European history. While my wife was on a Sound of Music tour in Austria, I took an optional tour to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and the guide gave us an extraordinary history of German/Czech relations over the centuries. I checked out their brand new cruiser bikes three times for scenic trips along the many bike paths along the river. Housekeeping was always friendly and punctual. We liked not being “nickel/dimed” into extra expenses. We were happy, however, to pay extra tips for the crew and tour leader at the end. Without describing each tour stop, I’ll just conclude that this is our best river cruise ever. Avalon has become our favorite river tour operator. István is worth his weight in gold. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
My wife's grandparents were from Amsterdam and it was a trip she thought would be enjoyable. As it turned out it was way better than that. The cruise was perfect from the basic(fabulous) food service to trips off the boat all was well ... Read More
My wife's grandparents were from Amsterdam and it was a trip she thought would be enjoyable. As it turned out it was way better than that. The cruise was perfect from the basic(fabulous) food service to trips off the boat all was well orchestrated too perfection. I can't say enough about the wonderful and helpful staff from the cruise director to the Captain and especially the dining staff and room staff.All were friendly and courteous and helpful in any way they could. The food was exceptional along with quantity there was definite quality. The coffee and cookies on the aft deck was a particular hang out for me as well. The sky deck was great for viewing the beautiful countryside and views of the cities as we entered or departed. We also loved the grill out day on the sky deck and did I mention the food was great. The sky deck area to the aft was great for walking off some of the food as well. We would definitely take another trip with Avalon after this wonderful trip! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We wanted to try Avalon after experiencing other river cruise operators. Overall, it was a relaxing cruise experience. Beautiful scenary and well organized. Great ship board cuisine. The variety and quality of food at all three ... Read More
We wanted to try Avalon after experiencing other river cruise operators. Overall, it was a relaxing cruise experience. Beautiful scenary and well organized. Great ship board cuisine. The variety and quality of food at all three meals were consistently outstanding. Overall service was very good, but after dinner coffee service was a bit inconsistent. Very smooth sailing, even though little day time cruising. Day tours were just adequate. Should improve embarkation experience - lenthy wait for room availability. Definitely need to improve communication on disembarkation transportation. We booked air travel directly through Globus, which resulted in an extended and inconventient air travel to the city starting the cruise and there was a lack of clarity and inconsistent written communication on disembarkation transportation to departure airport. Globus travel agent support prior to trip was below expectations for the costs for this 'luxury' cruise. We would have booked our own travel and transportation. This should not have been an issue and dampened our enthusiasm to return cruise with Avalon or to recommend them given the highly competitive landscape. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
Our cruise was a themed cruise, Beer Enthusiast, and started in Budapest ending in Prague. Our flights, to / from, were arranged through Avalon on Lufthansa. The connections worked out great without a lot of layover time. The transfer to ... Read More
Our cruise was a themed cruise, Beer Enthusiast, and started in Budapest ending in Prague. Our flights, to / from, were arranged through Avalon on Lufthansa. The connections worked out great without a lot of layover time. The transfer to the ship from the airport was very easy. The registration kiosk at the airport provided us with essential information and could not have been any nicer. Upon arriving at our ship, Expression, the staff ensured we were registered and situated into our room. The ship, only a few years old, was very well maintained and clean. The cabin we were given had a wonderful view. Traveling at night you could see the small towns as you passed through them. Yes the landscape is beautiful even at night. You pass through some locks on your excursion on the Danube. Waking up in the middle of the night to see the lock wall and rising in the lock was amazing. The food, Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks, was excellent. They had a great selection to satisfy any pallet. The lunch and dinner menus included specialty dishes from the country we were currently in. There was a snack station in the back of the boat offering coffee, tea, hot chocolate and juices, this was always well stocked and selection of cookies, pastries and muffins was excellent. The service at all meals was impeccable. A good selection of excursions were offered. The cities and towns we visited were deep in history and architecture. Many going back to the 11th and 12th century. The tour guides provided great information and were very personable. We started in Budapest, then went onto Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz, Passau, Regensburg and then onto Prague via coach. Now onto the Beer Enthusiast portion of the cruise. The Austrian "Beer Pope" Conrad Seidel was our guide. Conrad conducted an introductory tasting on board, two brewery tours (Vienna & Passau) and a dinner paring. When we were in various towns Conrad conducted pub tours. These were not scheduled excursions through Avalon so the travel (mostly walking) and pub cost were on you. This was a hidden gem in the cruise. Conrad provided additional insight to the various towns not just with his knowledge of the pubs but the local history and architecture. I ended up with a personal tour in Vienna and the added sites he showed me were only that a local could provide. Conrad offered a personal touch to his tours and offered great insight to the local history as well. There were two excursions by Avalon one in Vienna and one in Linz. Both conducted with Conrad. This was a great adventure as well taking us to various parts of Linz and Vienna we would not have seen otherwise. The group taking the tours all enjoyed themselves as well. A great time was had by all. The service, accommodations and experiences exceeded our expectations. We would not hesitate to go on another cruise with Avalon. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
My husband and I traveled with another couple for our first European River Cruise. I’d been wanting to do one of these cruises for years, so when the opportunity came up to go with our friends we jumped on it. It was less than three ... Read More
My husband and I traveled with another couple for our first European River Cruise. I’d been wanting to do one of these cruises for years, so when the opportunity came up to go with our friends we jumped on it. It was less than three weeks from the time we made the decision, to the time we were flying to Budapest! We decided to do five days in Budapest before boarding the cruise ship and four days in Paris after disembarking in Amsterdam. We are so glad we added the extra nights on both ends. Budapest is a fantastic city and Paris is more than I could have ever imagined! We were contacted by Avalon the day before we left the U.S. regarding the water levels on the Danube. Apparently, they were having issues and we were not going to be getting on the ship in Budapest, rather we would be transported by bus to Bratislava, Slovakia for our day tour there, and then driven to Austria to board a ship there, where the water levels were higher. They offered us the option to cancel the entire cruise if we wanted, for a refund, but we were already in Los Angeles (we live in Arizona) and the four of us decided to go anyway. We flew out of Los Angeles and on our flight out and on our return, we had a 24-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. Both times, we took an overnight bag on the plane (because our luggage was checked through) for one night in a hotel and stayed downtown at the DoublTree by Hilton, Old Town. It’s just a few blocks from the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It was literally a five-minute walk from the hotel! The location was great – close to shops, restaurants, and sights. On our flight to Europe, we arrived at night so we walked into the city for dinner, visited some shops (everything was open) and got to see the exteriors of the beautiful Hagia Sofia mosque, and The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque). They weren’t open to see the interior, but walking around the area was beautiful and peaceful and there were a lot of people out enjoying the evening. On our return flight to Los Angeles, we had another 24 hours in Istanbul, and because our flight left in the late morning so we visited the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market before we departed. It was a real treat to be able to include this short visit on our trip. When we arrived in Budapest, we checked into the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus for the five days before our cruise. The hotel was GORGEOUS! Located on the Pest side of the Danube, it was convenient to public transportation, shops, restaurants, etc. We did a lot of walking throughout the city, visited many sites on our own, and were thrilled to find so many fantastic restaurants! The tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building was outstanding, I’d definitely recommend adding it to your list of things to see! The ceilings are gold! We walked over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the Buda side and took the Buda Hill Funicular to the top of Castle Hill. You get a great view of the city from there! Once on the Buda side we visited Matthias Church, walked around the town and took lots of pictures. On some of our other days we went to the Gellért Thermal Bath (great experience!), walked part of Andrássy út (a boulevard dating back to 1872), shopped and had lunch in the Central Market Hall, my husband and my friend’s husband visited the House of Terror museum and found it extremely interesting and eye-opening!, we saw the Shoes on the Danube memorial, the husbands went to a Ruin Pub (Google it), we took the Budapest Metro (the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European continent!), we had lunch at the famous Gerbeaud Café (we should have skipped the lunch as it was so-so and just should have eaten dessert!). It’s really a great city and we’ll definitely go back. Through EatWith.com we booked a walking tour of a real Hungarian market - Bosnyák téri Vásárcsarnok - a place frequented by the locals, not tourists, and also spent the evening at the home of a local resident who cooked the four of us a meal using recipes passed down through his family. What a fantastic experience! Here are the restaurants we visited while in Budapest: ÉS Bisztró - at our hotel (Kempinski Hotel Corvinus), for dinner Fekete - for breakfast Madal Café - for coffee Börze – for lunch. Wonderful! Antré – for breakfast. Beautiful little place. Urban Betyár – for dinner. Fantastic!!! The night before our bus departure (which would have been the day we were getting on the boat but couldn’t due to the water levels), we changed hotels from the one we were already in (the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus) to the one provided by Avalon Waterways (the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge). The breakfast was fantastic, the staff was wonderful, and the lobby was nice, but the room was not so great. It was conveniently located near the Chain Bridge, and we were only there for one night, so it worked out just fine, but I would have been disappointed if we had to stay at the Sofitel longer than one night. The next morning, we lined up and got on the buses headed to Bratislava and Vienna. I actually enjoyed the bus trip because I love to see areas outside of the city centers. The buses were modern and comfortable, with experienced drivers. The guides provided narration as we traveled and pointed out sites we might be interested in. Bratislava was great. I would love to go back and explore more of the city. The old walls, the little shops, the cobbled streets. It was great for pictures and we enjoyed hearing the guide give us the history of the city. Make sure to buy some of the honey wine they’re famous for! We arrived in Vienna late afternoon that same day and boarded the ship. The Vista and its staff made a great first impression. The ship was gorgeous, well appointed, with beautiful lounge and dining areas, comfortable rooms, and plenty of places to relax and enjoy the view. The staff was friendly and attentive. Our room was directly across from our friend’s room, located at the very back of the ship. We loved being the last room in the corridor, as we had quick access to the rear lounge, most of the time having it all to ourselves! The 24/7 coffee machine was a big hit with us - lattes at any hour of the day! The tours of each town we stopped at started early, most of them beginning between 8:30 and 10:30 AM. This doesn’t sound early for a tour, but when you have to get up, shower and get ready and have breakfast before taking off, it winds up being a very early start to the day. The tours in all the cities we visited were informative, educational, and worth going on. Even with the walking tours, there was plenty of time to explore on our own once they were over. We did a classical music concert in Vienna, rode bikes (provided by Avalon!) in Dürnstein, Austria, visited the magnificent Benedictine Abbey in Melk (it’s a must see), opted to take the excursion to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic (another fantastic little city), went shopping in Regensburg, Germany, toured the Würzburger Residenz in Würzburg, Germany – a breathtaking 18th century palace boasting one stunning room after another, you will walk through the place with your mouth gaping open – a tour I would highly recommend, a walking tour of Miltenberg (the half-timbered houses are so Bavarian!, visited Siegfried's Mechanical Museum (a showcase of approximately 350 self-playing, mechanical music instruments spanning 3 centuries) in Rüdesheim am Rhein, Germany, marveled at the cathedral in Cologne, and then headed to Amsterdam for the final leg of our tour where we took a canal boat cruise, walked through the red light district, visited a diamond factory, saw wooden shoes being made, and toured windmills. After Amsterdam, we spent four nights in Paris and came back to do one last night in Amsterdam before flying back home. What a trip! The only negative thing I can think of regarding the cruise was the fact that most of the sailing was done at night. I understand not wasting cruise days for travel when they can travel at night when everyone’s sleeping and wake up in the next city on your tour the next morning, but the commercials and brochures and videos show couples watching the beautiful European villages go by while sipping wine on their balconies, and that’s just not the case. I would have liked to have more daytime travel. I also want to make a quick comment about the internet on the ship. I'm hopelessly addicted to the internet. I'm a blogger (www.salenalettera.com), I am active on Instagram, I'm a frequent emailer, and I like to read news and Google to my heart's content, no matter where I am in the world. And I have to say, the internet was great. I was able to do everything I needed to, there was only one service interruption, which was promptly fixed, and the front desk even loaned me a laptop computer because the tablet I brought with me was more difficult to blog from than I had anticipated. It was much easier to use the actual keyboard on a laptop. Several people have asked me about the weather this time of year. For me, it was perfect. I hate the heat so the cool temperatures suited me just fine. Some villages were quite cold, 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit, some days it was overcast, and a few days we had drizzly rain, but it didn't affect our experience negatively. My husband brought a fleece vest, several long sleeved shirts, and one of those super-thin but warm puffer jackets and all of that worked well for him. I just had a couple of thin sweaters, a few pashminas, and a long, duster-style sweater "coat" - not really a coat, just a heavier sweater material. I layered when it was cooler and was able to take things off as it warmed up. My only other advice....wear comfortable shoes. There is a TON of walking!!! I am overweight and out of shape, but I still walked an average of 5 miles per day. One day we did 6.7 miles!! The pace of the groups was easy to keep up with and if you're really challenged with walking, or use a cane, or just find it hard to keep up, they do have a "gentle walker" group you can join. It's the same tour, to the same places, just a little slower paced. The upside to all the walking? Even with all the eating I did, the desserts I had, and the lattes I consumed, when I got home, I was 13 pounds lighter! This was a fantastic river cruise and I'd recommend it to anyone. It was a great first-time river cruise experience. Can't wait to do another one! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
This cruise went along the waterways that my wife and I really wanted to travel on. From the time we checked in, the staff was friendly, professional, and provided attention to detail. All of our needs were met and the staff made it a ... Read More
This cruise went along the waterways that my wife and I really wanted to travel on. From the time we checked in, the staff was friendly, professional, and provided attention to detail. All of our needs were met and the staff made it a point to remember what our choices were so they could better anticipate what would make us happy. The excursions were great and we learned quite a bit about the different towns along the way. I met people on my trip, that I'll never forget and made new friends. The cabin was nice, clean, and quiet. The entire ship was clean and easy to maneuver through. The food throughout the day was delicious and plentiful. The service was excellent. There was live entertainment that kept the fun alive into the night. Overall, the entire cruise was amazing and I'd highly recommend Avalon Waterways to anyone who is considering river cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
Avalon delivered a top notch vacation and attended to every detail to give us a most memorable and stress free vacation. The hotels in Budapest and Prague were superior. The cruise director, Sabine, worked tirelessly to ensure ... Read More
Avalon delivered a top notch vacation and attended to every detail to give us a most memorable and stress free vacation. The hotels in Budapest and Prague were superior. The cruise director, Sabine, worked tirelessly to ensure everyone's concerns were properly addressed. Despite historically low water levels on the Danube, Avalon did everything they could to make our vacation pleasurable. Everything was well thought out to provide the best possible experience for all passengers. From the hotels, to the guided tours, to the ship staff, to the food and entertainment, to the cabins, all met our highest expectations. Our only disappointment would be at port as we were usually double docked along side another ship. We never got to enjoy the views of the port cities and had to keep our curtains closed most of the time. We have traveled on other cruise lines in the past and would definitely recommend Avalon to anyone considering a river cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
This cruise was to celebrate my retirement from teaching and my brother-in-law's retirement as well. We wanted to take a river cruise on the Danube. We had an excellent time with all of the excursions, the onboard entertainment. The ... Read More
This cruise was to celebrate my retirement from teaching and my brother-in-law's retirement as well. We wanted to take a river cruise on the Danube. We had an excellent time with all of the excursions, the onboard entertainment. The crew and wait staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome. They also made sure that our needs were met. Everyone always had a smile on their face when talking to the passengers. Our rooms were always clean as well as the ship's public areas. The food was outstanding. Every meal had so many choices to meet everyone's tastes and dietary needs. The dinners were exquisite choices all of which were delicious. The desserts were works of art. The entertainment provided was outstanding as well. In each region we visited, there was an evening show that was excellent. The off-ship excursions were full of history of the places we visited. I love history and my favorite place to visit was Salzburg. I would definitely take another river cruise in the future. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
What we wanted - cruising down the river with views from our balcony. What we got - bus trips and views of other ships docked cheek by jowl. The Danube has been in low water state for MONTHS apparently and so each cruise line has ... Read More
What we wanted - cruising down the river with views from our balcony. What we got - bus trips and views of other ships docked cheek by jowl. The Danube has been in low water state for MONTHS apparently and so each cruise line has restricted the number of ports of call and anchored for days in some, essentially just providing an hotel for the night and bus tours for the days. We were supposed to sail from Budapest to Nuremberg but ended up with less than half of that ( and mostly tied up at dock at that!) The ship, accommodation and staff were very good indeed, but we should have been advised months before we sailed that the brochure was a fiction! Not a happy cruiser! Apparently Viking passengers have been offered a 25% refund, no such offer from Avalon. To say we are disappointed is clearly an understatement Buyer beware, as this may continue in 2019 unless there are floods this winter. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
We booked aboard the Avalon Vista from Budapest to Nuremberg. We really had a wonderful trip. Due to low water levels our cruise had to be altered multiple times. Avalon handled these changes nearly seamlessly and bent over backward ... Read More
We booked aboard the Avalon Vista from Budapest to Nuremberg. We really had a wonderful trip. Due to low water levels our cruise had to be altered multiple times. Avalon handled these changes nearly seamlessly and bent over backward to ensure that we were happy. They went above and beyond. I don't remember hearing hardly any complaints. Our cruise director Istvan Pinter was wonderful. Calm, cool, collected, helpful, understanding and more. It can't have been easy to handle the logistics of all the changes. We may have had to take a bus in a couple unexpected places but the trade off was hardly a cloud in the sky! Beautiful, warmer than expected weather every day!! Not one rain drop. The Avalon Vista is a great ship. Clean, well appointed. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. Some of my favorite places on this trip were an unplanned outing to Bratislava, Slovakia; our excursion to the Bohemian town of Český Krumlov; and Durnstein. The food was generally amazing! There was only one day at lunch when I had a hard time finding something I liked. I am sure if I had asked they would have made me something as well. They were very good about that. All in all this was a great trip. Avalon is great and the Vista was great. I know there are other companies that cost a lot more, and I don't know why anyone would chose them over Avalon!! Our time in port and our excursions were wonderful! The only things I had any complaints about were I wish there had been a better beer selection on board (the WINE however was amazing) and I wish someone had suggested that some of us might like to ride a bike along the river instead of being on board for the shortest distance between ports (15 - 20 miles). Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
We left Budapest on October 5th and after a relaxing day of cruising, we arrived in Vienna around dinner time on the 6th. We were very fortunate to be able to navigate this stretch of the river; I believe that some cruisers had to be ... Read More
We left Budapest on October 5th and after a relaxing day of cruising, we arrived in Vienna around dinner time on the 6th. We were very fortunate to be able to navigate this stretch of the river; I believe that some cruisers had to be bussed to Vienna the next week. We enjoyed a day and a half in Vienna and when we boarded the Expression around 8:00pm on the second night, we found a letter outlining modifications to our itinerary that were being made due to low water concerns. In a nutshell, the changes (for the majority of passengers continuing on to Prague) were 1). Linz, Austria was substituted for Nuremberg 2). We were bused from Passau to Regensburg rather than cruising to Regensburg 3). We were bused to Prague from Passau not Nuremberg (same distance) Passengers were free to disembark and would be given a pro rats refund based on the number of days left in the cruise; I do not believe anyone took this option. We were given 30 Euros cash for our lunch in Regensburg since we could not return to the boat. Also, when docked in Linz, we were given the option of complimentary full day excursions to either Salzburg or Cesky Kremlov. Any one who had already booked these excursions was given a full refund. We felt that we were treated very fairly by Avalon for relatively minor changes in our itinerary and would recommend Avalon to others. We had taken a 3 day Avalon cruise two years ago, so we skipped the included tours in Budapest, Vienna and Melk but heard good reviews from fellow passengers. We were very pleased with our docking locations - right in town. In Vienna, Linz, and Passau we could stroll back to town after dinner since we were either overnighting or sailing late at night. Highlights of our trip were the Szenchenyi baths in Budapest, the Faust Cellars wine tasting in Budapest, a visit to a wine garden on the outskirts of the Vienna Woods, a Monet exhibit at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, high Mass at the Augustiner church in Vienna, sausage and beer at the Old Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg, and a tram to Postlingberg in Linz for spectacular views. Our particular tour included 2 nights pre-cruise in Budapest and 3 nights post-cruise in Prague. The Sofitel Hotel in Budapest was great, located right at the Chain Bridge with beautiful views and an easy walk to Parliament, St Stephen's Basilica, the Central Market, etc. The included breakfast was very good. In Prague, we stayed at the Prague Hilton which I would not recommend, Location was poor; it was separated from main part of city by a major highway. The neighborhood was a bit "iffy" - we would not have been comfortable walking around at night. Fortunately taxis and Uber's were plentiful and quite reasonable. Also, when we arrived (about 2 hours before. check in) our luggage was unloaded from the bus and just sat outside the hotel for 2+ hours. When we finally were able to check in, we went outside and retrieved our luggage, but there was no security and anyone could have walked away with it. Overall, it was an excellent trip. Food on the Expression was excellent; service was very attentive and the cruise director did a great job despite the challenges of last minute changes. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
This was a Danube cruise, Budapest to Nuremburg. Due to low water on the river, the ship discharged passengers just beyond Regensburg, busing those who were departing from Nuremburg and to Prague for those who had signed up for it. At ... Read More
This was a Danube cruise, Budapest to Nuremburg. Due to low water on the river, the ship discharged passengers just beyond Regensburg, busing those who were departing from Nuremburg and to Prague for those who had signed up for it. At this, we considered ourselves fortunate, because we heard that some other cruise captains refused to go on past Vienna. Ours did go on, although it was disconcerting to hear the cruise director offhandedly characterize our situation as "precarious." The Wachau valley, through which the Danube flows, is beautiful, and we had practically cloudless skies to appreciate it. The several little towns visited along the way bear enough resemblance to each other that they ultimately became indistinguishable and of marginal interest. The ship is comfortable and the staff outstanding. Embarkation and dis-embarkation were a breeze as were the excursion arrangments; Avalon's approach to organization leaves nothing to be desired. That cannot be said for life on board. Like most river cruises, there is little to do except to drink and socialize. Entertainment was practically non-existent, consisting of beer and wine presentations/sales and a talented local musical duo on one night. The fitness facility boasted perhaps three machines and some free weights. Surprisingly, we found the food to be quite ordinary--perhaps a bit better than one would receive on Royal Caribbean or Princess. Then again most travelers have learned to discount the poetry most lines summon to describe their usually pedestrian fare. Perhaps a third of the cruise passengers did go on to Prague, and here unpleasantness awaited. The cruise materials had promised lodging in one of two 4-star hotels located in the city's renowned center. Some weeks before sailing, we were advised by email that we would be lodged in a third hotel, which a quick glance at a city map revealed to be across the River Vistula in a working-class neighborhood perhaps an hour's walk from anything a tourist would wish to visit, with a rack rate of about $100 per night less than the downtown accommodations. Questioned about this, and how the arrangement met the company's contractual promise to provide "comparable" accommodations in the event that a hotel change became necessary, its representative offered the standard "nothing can be done" explanation. Upon arrival, our preconceptions were borne out. The hotel itself was fine, but entirely out of the way. The hotel does run a shuttle to the downtown, but it runs infrequently and only into the early evening. We and our fellow passengers became quite irate when, after a half-hour ride downtown, the shuttle deposited us in front of one of hotels that had originally been designated as our lodging. I brought this matter to Avalon's attention in a detailed email upon returning home and the company promised a full review. Six weeks later, it delivered a perfunctory response with a vague apology that explained absolutely nothing. Be advised. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2018
I had never been on a river cruise, and had never been to eastern Europe, so this cruise ticked all the boxes for a new adventure. Avalon did not disappoint. The boat was meticulous, I loved that my bed faced the river and I could open ... Read More
I had never been on a river cruise, and had never been to eastern Europe, so this cruise ticked all the boxes for a new adventure. Avalon did not disappoint. The boat was meticulous, I loved that my bed faced the river and I could open my sliding glass door fully, the bathroom was surprisingly big and the marble tile was an unexpected nice feature, the staff were exceptionally friendly, attentive, engaging, and helpful, the food and wine were outstanding (the soups, I'd book another cruise just for the soups! They should seriously make a recipe book just with the soups alone.), our cruise director Tony was delightfully funny and insightful, and our captain made the best of a very low river. No rain in Europe this year did cause our cruise to be adjusted as we went farther North, but Avalon went out of its way to make the adjustments equal or better to the original itinerary, including offering free excursions. Those travelling with me all agreed that the adjustments to our itinerary were better than the original and we were very appreciative at the effort Avalon took to make sure our river cruise experience was exceptional. The guides on the excursions were all very knowledgeable and friendly. The pace of some of the excursions was a tad slow, but as I was the youngest person on the cruise (40s), I understood the pace was designed for the overall group demographic (60s-80s). Would definitely book another Avalon cruise again! Read Less
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