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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2009
My Wife and I took Avalon Waterways Romantic Rhine cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversery, cruising down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel this August. It was not only our first cruise it was the ships first cruise too. Well it ... Read More
My Wife and I took Avalon Waterways Romantic Rhine cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversery, cruising down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel this August. It was not only our first cruise it was the ships first cruise too. Well it was my first cruise if you don't count the trip across Lake Erie from Cleveland to Detroit that I took with my family in 1955 on the SS Aquarama. I had visited the Rhine before form the land side and wanted to share that experience with my wife during our river cruise. We were a little apprehensive about the maiden voyage but it turned out not to be a problem at all. The only thing that went wrong was our room safe did not have its battery installed so we could not lock up our valuables. That was quickly remedied by the ship's engineer. The first night's dinner service was a little slow but that just gave us more time to spend getting to know our dinner companions. It is a small ship with only 138 passengers and with open seating at every meal it is possible to get to know more than half the people on board if you don't dine with the same folks twice. With free wine at dinner and great companions it was tempting to linger over a meal. Meal service improved each night as the Maitre d' whipped his staff into shape. The wait staff was from Easern Europe, Indonesia, and China. Some of them started out clueless and managed to stay that way throughout the cruise despite Attila (his real name) the Hungarian's best direction. Just like on my sailboat, you have some crew that works out and some that doesn't. The food was very good and matched the region we were in. The only thing I got hungry for was simpler fare which we had the opportunity to sample when off the ship. Portions were not overly large like in the USA but you were well fed. The highlight of the meals were the salad dressings which were very light and always interesting. The only thing I would change is to lose the cake at 4:00 routine in favor of some extra time at happy hour or bigger glasses for the iced tea served when returing from a shore excursion. Iced Tea is the official (non alcoholic) drink of my home state of Texas and I have to commend the ship for doing a credible job with their brew, although not quite robust enough to stand up to a good piece of smoked brisket. The ship itself was very comfortable. We had a room on the bottom floor near the back. You would think it would be noisy but this ship has very little engine noise. The first day we pulled away from the dock and were moving before I realized it. Several passages are made at night and it was no trouble at all to sleep while underway. I found the top deck layout awkward. They had a hot tub in the forward section in front of the bridge. This meant anyone using that had to walk throught he lobby and past nearly everyone to get to it. This could have been better relocated aft with a seperate stairway near the back of the ship. I would also move the smoking section to aft of the bridge. I don't smoke. If you put the smokers at the front of the ship then the non smokers are downwind from them all the time. We ended going to the foremast part of the ship to try to get fresh air. We had the smallest stateroom on the ship and it had pleanty of space. We had more than enough room for our clothes, our empty suitcases slid easily under the bed. I loved being able to unpack only once during the trip. Beds were very comfortable. The room air conditioninig worked quietly. Our flat screen TV was good and offered a view from a foreward facing camera as well as a GPS display of the ships position and speed. Quite handy if you want to keep an eye on the helmsman's activiites. Our cruise was populated by many travel writers who were invited aboard to review the ship on its maiden voyage. I talked to many of them and they seemed to be enjoying their trip. I had a slightly different perspective from them because I paid to take this trip and I had no prior cruise experience. I have to say it was one of the best vacations I ever had. The pace was liesurley yet not boring. The people were interesting, the sites were lovely the service was good but not intrusive and I felt this Avalon cruise offered a great value for the money. Strasbourg - How the Germans would build a French town. Eat lots of pastry, have a french eclair for one hand and a pretzel for the other. Go to the cathedral and ask what time it is. Beware of beggars. Koln - Big Cathedral, interesting shops. Good place to take a stroll and find a sidewalk cafe to sit down and drink beer or wine. Koblens - Charming town. Take a walk down to the German corner to see big William  Heidleburg - Monster castle, great town to walk around. Only eat in restaurants with flags, sign of simple fare and low prices. Take the Philosopher's walk up the hill on the other side of the river. Rudesheim - Go to the Drosselgasse and dance the polka with the locals. Seigfreid's museum is unique. Try not to buy a cuckoo clock here. Get a hat instead. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We cruised on the Avalon Creativity in late September. We got really lucky and had fantastic weather. I absolutely fell in love with river cruising. It was awesome that any time you looked out the window or over the rail, there was ... Read More
We cruised on the Avalon Creativity in late September. We got really lucky and had fantastic weather. I absolutely fell in love with river cruising. It was awesome that any time you looked out the window or over the rail, there was something to see. You were always within yards of the nearest shore. All of the rooms on the ship were large compared with most of the ocean going ships. The bathrooms even had a decent size shower. We were a group of 4, so we had two rooms. We had a Jr. Suite, but the other couple had a standard room. The food was absolutely fantastic. One person in our group had some allergy considerations, and the kitchen always made sure that they had appropriate food that was just as good. One thing we really appreciated, was that the price of the drinks on board was reasonable. They also had happy hour each evening, where drinks were two for one. With all dinners, wine beer and soda were included. They only had one sitting for dinner, and it tended to take 2 hours... or longer if you liked. During this time the wine and beer were flowing freely. They were almost insulted if you declined a refill. Since we ultimately did not spend all that much money on drinks, and all the excursions are included in the price of the cruise, this is actually a pretty affordable vacation. Do be warned though, if you are into partying all night, and then sleeping till noon the next day, stick to the big ocean ships. They don't offer much in the way of entertainment, and by 11:00 it is pretty much down to sitting in the lounge for drinks. Most of the excursions are also quite early in the morning, and you do need to be at breakfast by 7:00 most days, if you were planning to participate. Due to the small size of the ship, however, by about day 3, people begin to know each other, and the evenings in the lounge and the happy hours start to turn into parties. I loved the intimacy of being in this environment. I do have to say though, that being in our early 40's, we did get labeled as the young people. That being said, the so called "older" crowd were no couch potatoes. Just try and keep up! I definitely did not feel out of place, and would go sailing with this group again in a heart beat. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2010
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ... Read More
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ago. Coffee, tea, juice and water along with fruit and cookies are available 24 hours a day in the back lounge. Each afternoon there is a coffee/tea and cake offering in the main lounge. There is a beauty shop on board. They added head massages to their list of offerings. I had mentioned on last year's survey that it would be nice to have someone who could give manicures on board. This year on the Creativity, Sandra was able to shape my nails and cuticles and then give a hand massage. Again, I mentioned on the survey that further nail service would be nice. We did not use the onboard fitness room as we were walking quite a few miles each day on the tour. The hot tub was on the top deck and was used by quite a few people. We boarded the Creativity after taking an optional trip to the Eifel Tower. It was so nice to see one of our bartenders from last year, Radu. Always nice to have a familiar face to greet us ... This trip had 123 passengers as I recall. The Creativity is a fairly new ship and its layout was familiar to us as we were on the Affinity's maiden voyage last year. I have been asked by several Cruise Critic members to talk about the included and optional tours. On the Paris to Normandy portion of Grand France there were two included tours most every day. You were given the choice of one or the other. Sometimes we made a good choice and sometimes we didn't ... here are the choices that we had for tours and optionals: Paris: There was an included sightseeing tour of Paris. In the afternoon there were two optional tours: Louvre and Versailles. Last year we took the Versailles tour and really enjoyed it. Those who took the Louvre tour said it was good but not much time to just stand and enjoy the artwork. In the evening there was an optional trip to the Moulin Rouge. We didn't go either this year or last year but those who went had a great time. Conflans: The included tours were a trip to the village where Van Gogh spent his last three months or St. Germain to visit the home of Josephine Bonaparte. We did the St. Germain trip and it was OK but wish we had done the other one as we heard good things from those who took it. Vernon: The included tours were a trip to Claude Monet's home and gardens or Chateau de Bizy which is a 'small Versailles' ... we did Monet and loved it. That evening there was onboard entertainment by Valerie and Alexis, which was OK but not a group that I would want to hear again. Rouen: There was a walking tour of the city in the morning and then two optionals in the afternoon: Homfleur and Calvados Distillery or visiting several Abbey's, which is the one we did (I graduated from a Benedictine University and wanted to visit a Benedictine Abbey) and we had a great time. Those who went to Honfleur said it was nice and that they enjoyed the distillery. We stayed in Honfleur while we did our own Normandy trip so I wasn't interested in going there That evening we had onboard entertainment from La Strada, which is a trio of violins and keyboard synthesizer who performed classical music. This was our third time seeing these performers and they just get better each time. We did purchase their CDs so that I can enjoy then here at home. Rouen: This day there were three included trips: Landing Beaches for the American Landing Beaches for UK and a Taste or Normandy which included the Bayeux tapestries. My husband did the American landing beaches while I stayed on the ship and relaxed. Everyone enjoyed their tours. Normally there would just be a trip to the American Landing Beaches but there were 20+ folks from the UK who were there especially to see the UK beaches as many of them had served in the military in World War 2. Les Andelys: The included tours were basically the same. One did a tour of the city and then went up the hill to the ruins of Richard the LionHeart's castle and then walk back to the ship or take the bus up and back from the castle and then tour the city. That afternoon we had a tasting of several French cheeses. We arrived back in Paris and those who only took the Paris/Normandy trip leave to go home and the others of us went on to the start of the second cruise. NOTE: This trip was affected by the Iceland volcano and a little over 100 of the folks had to find alternative ways to get home. Some of them decided to go along on the Burgundy and Provence portion of the trip and then leave the ship to get back to Paris for their flights back to the US. Just a quick word on the Creativity. It was a great ship with good staff. The food wasn't as good as what we have had on our two previous cruises and we were sure that the CD knew about it and also put it on our survey forms. We had a limited number of people on this cruise as the volcano prevented many folks from getting to Paris. I believe that we had just 51 of us on this portion of the trip. Then those who were continuing on the Burgundy and Provence trip were put in a small van and began our journey to Chalon. On our way there we went to Beaune to either do Burgundy Wine Tasting or tour the Hospices of Beaune (we did the wine tasting). There we met the others group who would be joining us on the cruise. Lunch was on our own. We arrived at the ship to find out that one of the waiters was also on the Affinity last year (Lazlo). Chalon: Walking tour of the town and then sail to Tournus where you could walk to St. Philibert Abbey (beautiful place). There was an optional tour to Chateau Cormatin which we did not do. Macon: No tour just cruising on the Saone. The weather was beautiful so we enjoyed Lyon: City tour which includes the painted walls and the Basilica ... can't miss the Basilica ... Lyon is a wonderful place to tour. Lyon: There were two optional tours scheduled but they wound up being put together which is going to the silk mills and then to the market. Afternoon there was an optional to the Beaujolais vineyards ... we didn't take either one but heard great reviews on both of them. Tournon: Walking Tour and then a little free time before going to Viviers where we took a walking tour through the city and then went up the hill to the Church/Convent area and had an organ concert at the church ... for those with problems walking, transportation was provided up and down the hills. My husband took the transportation but I walked. Avignon: Included tour of the town and the Pope's Palace. In the afternoon there was an optional trip to Pone du Gard and Uzes which we again did not take. Arles: City walking tour and then optional to St. Remy, Van Gogh and Nostradamus ... again we did not take the optional. We took the extension and wound up in Nice where we did take the optional trip to Monaco ... which was great!!! The Scenery is a little older than the Creativity and has had some updating. Rooms, service, etc., were great. The food was better than on the Creativity but as with most ships, there was too much salt in the prepared food. This was a fantastic trip. We were so fortunate to have Yvette Laurent as our CD. She is so pleasant, organized, and nothing seems to 'rattle' her. She did such a great job in helping those who were stranded in Paris, both those who booked their air, etc, through Avalon and those who didn't. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2011
Recently sailed on Avalon Panorama on its maiden voyage. Beautiful ship, well fitted out. The crew were fantastic. The food was simply delicious, plenty of choices and beautifully served. The cabins - or suites as the are called ... Read More
Recently sailed on Avalon Panorama on its maiden voyage. Beautiful ship, well fitted out. The crew were fantastic. The food was simply delicious, plenty of choices and beautifully served. The cabins - or suites as the are called - are roomy and stylishly decorated. The wide sliding doors are a great innovation - it is very relaxing sitting on the comfortable sofa and listening to the ship gliding through the water and watching the beautiful scenery on the banks of the river. Would highly recommend this ship to anyone - especially the Amsterdam to Budapest cruise which we were on - beautiful scenery and interesting ports of call. Couldn't fault any part of the cruise. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
The ship was everything it was advertised to be. We had a 300 sq ft Royal suite and it was very well designed. Breakfast and lunch was very good, but the dinners were so-so. The quality of the wine and beer with dinner was of good ... Read More
The ship was everything it was advertised to be. We had a 300 sq ft Royal suite and it was very well designed. Breakfast and lunch was very good, but the dinners were so-so. The quality of the wine and beer with dinner was of good quality. Personnel at the customer service desk were outstanding, as was the housekeeping lady. The waiters in the dining room were pleasant and helpful, except for a couple who acted like they were doing you a favor waiting on you. The Cruise Director (CD) was at times rude and arrogant. During the cruise we met some delightful gentlemen from California, and we were appalled when we told by them that the ship's Captain referred to them as queers. After 10 days into the cruise , the ship had engine problems, and we told at our daily 6:45 briefing to pack our bags and board buses in the morning. From a Royal suite to a bus and substandard accommodations, we felt like we were being herded around like a bunch of cattle. A good example of our Royal treatment was the Hotel in Amsterdam. There were no robes, no safe, an empty mini- bar, and the rugs were worn and stained. After one night we moved on our own to the Intercontinental Amstel Hotel. At least then we had some time in pleasant surroundings to erase the miserable times since we left the ship. Another unpleasant event was the baggage arrangement at the hotel in Cologne. When we arrived all the bags were placed in a room off the main lobby.We had to rummage through all the bags, find ours, and then get them to our room as best we could. After we found our bags we then were all jammed in the main lobby trying to hear if our name was being for our room assignment. This was an episode we will always remember. When we were getting ready to leave the ship we were told that our accommodations we be equivalent to what we had on the ship. Obviously, they weren't.After we left the ship, the Cruise Director acted like everything he did to accommodate the passengers was a big deal. It is interesting to note that the Cruise Director didn't seem to know much about anything until his daily 6:45 briefing in the cocktail lounge. So you were forced to go to the briefing to keep up on what's happening. I am sure the extra income Avalon made during the briefings was not a consideration in setting up the briefings. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
We had the most horrible travel experience of our lives on the Avalon Panorama Christmas cruise in December of 2011. From beginning to end, this trip was a nightmare. Avalon began by making a mess of our airline reservations. Had to pay ... Read More
We had the most horrible travel experience of our lives on the Avalon Panorama Christmas cruise in December of 2011. From beginning to end, this trip was a nightmare. Avalon began by making a mess of our airline reservations. Had to pay a penalty to cancel their airline reservations and make our own. When we finally got aboard the Panorama in Nuremberg, we were herded like cattle into the main room where we had to wait interminably to be assigned our rooms. This was after a very tiring bus ride from Prague to Nuremberg. When we were finally settled in our cabin, we found that the elevator didn't work on the ship, and we are both senior citizens and found it very difficult to get around on the ship because of this. We were promised ethnic food aboard and that never materialized. The food service was like a cattle call. It was impossible to order only one course and have it served in a timely way. After arriving at Regensburg, we were given a heads up that we might not be able to go down the river due to the water level. That is exactly what happened, and we were driven all over by bus and missed the ports we were promised and were at last driven to Bratislava, not on our itinerary, and not to Vienna where we were supposed to end our cruise. I had purchased several extra days in Vienna, and had also purchased tickets to the Spanish Riding School over 14 months before the tour. We had to leave the tour after being taken to Bratislava in order to be in Vienna for the performance we had so looked forward to. The tour director, Robert, refused to help us get an extra night in Vienna, so we had to telephone directly to the hotel and they extorted 259 euros for that extra night. Then they charged us an extra 100 euros to stay in the same room for the extra nights. Avalon knew in advance that we wouldn't be able to sail down the river. Other cruise lines informed their passengers before leaving their homes and gave them options. Avalon did not do this even though they knew we couldn't have the cruise we paid for. We had purchased travel insurance and could have recouped all of our money had we known in advance that we couldn't sail down the river. Avalon has refunded two days of our cruise, but that doesn't even begin to repay us for the terrible bus rides, loss of several ports we were promised, and their general uncaring about the passengers' needs. We spent most of the time on crowded buses and in my opinion were robbed of what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. My warning to future river cruisers is to book with anyone but Avalon. Viking informed their passengers ahead of time and I was told that other cruise companies did the same. Avalon did not!!!! Also, don't bother with trip insurance. I bought expensive trip insurance and tried to collect for the extra costs in Vienna due to trip interruption, and have heard nothing from the trip insurers. I feel that we were treated unfairly by Avalon and they have been giving us the runaround since we got back about what they were going to do to rectify this situation. A group of passengers on this cruise have been emailing back and forth, and the general consensus is that Avalon owes us four days worth of repayment due to the lost portions of our trip. They have told us that they need four to six weeks to "investigate" this situation. Why? They know what happened. Also, I was informed that those of us who wrote letters to Globus and Avalon would be treated differently from the rest of the passengers. Is this fair? I don't think so. My advice to any would-be river cruiser is to AVOID AVALON LIKE THE PLAGUE! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
As a solo traveller -- I am very careful as to the types of trips I take and places I visit. I must admit that the Christmas River Cruise with Avalon on the Panorama not only met my expectations by exceeded them. The adventure ... Read More
As a solo traveller -- I am very careful as to the types of trips I take and places I visit. I must admit that the Christmas River Cruise with Avalon on the Panorama not only met my expectations by exceeded them. The adventure started with a welcome dinner on Christmas Day at the hotel in Prague. I didn't know a should when I entered the room - there were a couple of vacant seats at a table that I asked to join and there met a couple from New Zealand (that I have since visited), and two gentlemen from the States -- that didn't know each other when they sat down at the table -- so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I was not the only solo passenger on the trip. After a day of touring through Prague -- a 4 hour bus trip took us to Nuremberg (It went by quickly). The ship was amazing -- my room delightful and the crew helpful, kind and courteous. The food was far above average and they had something for everyone. The age range was a lot lower than I expected -- there were several families on board -- complete with teenagers (that enjoyed themselves immensely) It was such fun at night -- the lounge was the place to be and I got to know the majority of the people aboard. Thank you Avalon for providing me a delightful way to bring in the New Year -- in fact, I have already booked my trip for next Christmas -- this year it will be from Frankfurt to Vienna (I wish it was from Zurich -- but that one isn't provided this year ....) I am also looking at the Avalon Cruise through Viet Nam. Gosh -- so many river cruises -- so little time..... Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
First of all, this was my very first river cruise experience. After studying for months different itineraries, river cruise lines, reviews, etc. I decided to go with Avalon for my first river cruise. It was better than expected. The ... Read More
First of all, this was my very first river cruise experience. After studying for months different itineraries, river cruise lines, reviews, etc. I decided to go with Avalon for my first river cruise. It was better than expected. The Avalon Panorama is a brand new river ship, it offers an interesting modern/elegant decor and ambiance. Mother nature even Embarkation process: it was easy and smooth. I spent 5 days in London, and then I flew to Basel and I did all the transfers on my own. Once I got to the ship, it seemed they were not expecting any passenger so early, but they were welcoming enough to smile and to help us with the luggage. A few seconds after, we got offered a glass of champagne. Reception Area: the lobby is simple, but elegant, the Christmas decorations were all over the ship. You were able to feel the Christmas Spirit right away, something kind of unusual to me. Stateroom: the stateroom was comfortable, quite and elegant, flowers and a water bottle on the desk, and a welcoming note laying on the bed. The size of the stateroom was appropriate, I would say bigger than expected. Bathroom: the bathroom was surprisingly comfortable and very well-designed, it reminded me to the elegant and spacious bathroom of the Azamara's Journey. I was not expecting so many nice amenities, including L'Occitane toiletries. Public Areas: the Panorama is an elegant ship, the interesting feature is that is quite modern at the same time. I've seen many pictures of different ships from various river cruise lines, but there is nothing similar to the Panorama, the carpet's colors, the curtains, the furniture and the artwork perfectly matched with the whole concept of the ship. The Library is nice, the lounge bar is bigger than expected. The elevator was not in service, it was decorated instead with Christmas presents and dolls. I guess that some people complained about it, as most fellow passengers were seniors. Food: the food was better than expected as well. Especially dinner, where you have a fair variety of main entrees, the food was quite good and they offer complimentary wine. Breakfast was abundant, different hot and cold choices, also you had complimentary champagne. Excursions: the excursions were excellent, the tour guides were knowledgeable and fun. The bust were brand new, very clean and in excellent conditions. The included excursions are one of the most attractive features of river cruising. The Christmas Markets are just magical and perfect. Service: I believe this is one of the strongest areas of the Avalon Panorama, even though the crew were very busy, they were friendly and most of the times had a smile on their faces. The Cruise Manager was very entertaining, he was not just friendly, but quite efficient at the time of recommending things to do, and when you needed to book an optional excursion at the last minute. Disembarkation: same process as the embarkation, very easy and smooth. I would definitely recommend the Avalon Panorama to my family and friends. River cruising is different from ocean cruising, it is a lot more low paced, enjoyable and you have the chance to meet nice people more in depth as most river ships have a capacity of 180 passengers or less. I definitely prefer river cruising to ocean/sea cruising. I would rate my overall experience as 9/10. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
This was our fourth river cruise and third on Avalon (fourth if you consider last year was a back to back). We were looking forward to celebrating Christmas and New Years in Europe as well as experiencing Avalon's newest ship. ... Read More
This was our fourth river cruise and third on Avalon (fourth if you consider last year was a back to back). We were looking forward to celebrating Christmas and New Years in Europe as well as experiencing Avalon's newest ship. Ultimately, the highlights were experiencing the wonderful city of Prague, making new friends and enjoying the view of the fireworks in Vienna from the Sun Deck. We did the pre tour in Prague and loved the city. The hotel was The Hilton, a nice convention hotel located a 20 minute from the center. We did not do the included tour and instead hired a personal guide who was wonderful. I would be happy to provide contact info if anyone is interested. Rooms at the hotel were large and modern and the staff very helpful. Breakfast was included and more than adequate. The bus ride to Nuremberg was uneventful and we arrived at the ship at five. The Panorama is a lovely ship. The design of the staterooms really maximizes space and views and the new beds are memory foam and very comfy. The new bathrooms are also lovely and we enjoyed the upgraded amenities. They have installed a very good in room entertainment system, and we enjoyed being able to listen to music or watch a late night movie in the cabin. Our cruise director, Jon Lupe, was the best we have had yet on Avalon and was both efficient and gracious. We saw some familiar faces aboard including Dan, the Hotel Manager, Johny in the dining room, Radu behind the bar and Peter, the dining room manager. Where the cruises really disappointed was the food. There was a noticeable cheapening in the quality and variety of food offered on this cruise compared to one year ago when we were very pleased with the food and wine served. Gone from the menu were rack of lamb, roast duck and the wonderful and flavorful fish dishes and soups. Instead we were served mostly bland and very small portions, much of which went uneaten. We were not the only unhappy customers when it came to the food served but everyone has different tastes and food is always subjective Wine was also cut off at the entrée, which was new from previous cruises. We were not sure if this was server related or a new policy. This was also a departure from previous cruises, as was the overall decrease in variety and quality of wine offered. I am also a big fan of cheese after dinner and looked forward to some of the excellent cheeses served previously. Both quantity and quality were noticeably less than in the past. We were aboard for New Years eve and the entertainment was quite a let down. Instead of music for dancing, the CD presented an hour long audience participation story telling. A group of us wandered across to the Vantage boat docked next door and watched as their guests enjoyed a live six piece dance bank and a table full of hot snacks. Vienna came to the rescue and many of us headed topside and enjoyed the truly spectacular fireworks display that lasted for forty five minutes. Another high point was Vasco, the houses musician, who grabbed a guitar and was joined by Dan one night for a rousing set of music. They were joined by two guests, one a pianist and the other a harmonica player and we all enjoyed a truly terrific impromptu jam session that was the best entertainment of the cruise. We all commented that we wished they had saved that for NYE. All in all, we found the ship beautiful with great appointments but were let down by the overall experience of the Panorama and hope it was just a random off cruise and not representative of fleet wide changes. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2012
We have arrived home after six weeks in Europe the first 2 weeks were cruising from Budapest to Amsterdam aboard the Avalon Panorama. Leaving Budapest April 25th 2012: We had arranged our own transfers from the Airport in Budapest due ... Read More
We have arrived home after six weeks in Europe the first 2 weeks were cruising from Budapest to Amsterdam aboard the Avalon Panorama. Leaving Budapest April 25th 2012: We had arranged our own transfers from the Airport in Budapest due to arriving 2 days prior to boarding. We stayed at the La Prima Fashion Hotel and were delighted with all aspects of this establishment we highly recommend it. We had a fabulous 14 days with the boat exceeding our expectations. Our cabin on the top deck was luxurious.The bathroom in our opinion is five star. The french balcony is some thing we would insist on in any future cruises it affords more room in the cabin and we were able to have the huge sliding door open most days. There has been some discussion about food and drink on the forum this led us to doubt our decision to book with Avalon, but we found the food and free flowing drinks at dinner were exceptional. We enjoyed the breakfasts and lunches equally along with the coffee bar in the rear lounge. We also enjoyed two BBQ Lunches on the top deck as sunny weather prevailed for almost the full trip. The crew did their utmost to make our holiday enjoyable with only a short time before they knew all our names. The Captain was always approachable when he wasn't busy skilfully guiding the ship into the many locks. Our cruise director "Andrew" was attentive and informative and on one occasion when the boat had been delayed during the night due to an electrical failure at one of the locks he organised buses to take us to Rudesheim, arranged lunch there for 150 guests all at short notice. This turned out to be one of the best days of the trip. The whole group joined in singing and at one stage a conga line was formed behind an impromptu band made up of passengers. There was entertainment on in the lounge bar almost every night it ranged from gypsy dancers to a one man band a string quartet and a solo Pianist while we didn't attend all of these those that we did were enjoyed immensely. The crew presented a show one evening this displayed yet more talent. Thanks to "AYU". for her Bali Dance !!!! but Cornel should stick to his day job. The cruise went far too quickly and we would recommend Avalon as a cruise company in particular Panorama as a fantastic Boat The small town and villages along the way were delightful and we took over 3000 photos.We won't go into too much detail, go and discover it for yourselves, but just a hint the beer in each place needs to be tried. A totally enjoyable experience. Was it worth the money? We feel that it was. . Where to next???? Start planning.!! Cheers Lyn & Pieter Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2012
We arrived in Paris early the morning of May 01....since boarding wasn't until later that after noon we were bused to the Montparnasse hotel where we could store our hand luggage. An optional trip to the Eiffel Tower was available but ... Read More
We arrived in Paris early the morning of May 01....since boarding wasn't until later that after noon we were bused to the Montparnasse hotel where we could store our hand luggage. An optional trip to the Eiffel Tower was available but since it was a holiday in France & would be crowded, we chose to walk to the nearby Gardens of Luxembourg and had a lovely time. We were later bused to the Creativity..The ship was very nice...we chose a french balcony cabin cat B as the only one below that on this ship was the water level deck..It was worth the upgrade..Even when it was too cool to open the door...the views were fantastic thru the full floor to ceiling glass door. The room was well appointed and clean..Comfy bed with a memory foam topper...small but adequate bath. First let me say that we can't say enough about how great our cruise director (Jean-Loup Domart) was..It would take up too much space in this review . Overall it was a fantastic trip ...great ports & tours....Special mention for the trip to Giverny to Monet's house..not to be missed....The food and service were very good & we enjoyed the French wines served with dinner. The passengers were a nice blend of Americans, Canadians, Australians & Brits. I think that makes Avalon more interesting than lines catering only to Americans. My husband did the Normandy beach tour & for personal reasons I chose the alternate tour of the Normandy countryside which was great. Due to high water levels we were unable to return to Paris by boat for the last day & spent it in Conflans. In the morning we were bused to either Paris or our next cruise on the Scenery ( see Scenery review for 2nd half) Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
14 Day River Cruise: Hungary-Holland PREAMBLE: After many a sea cruise, we finally did our first major River Cruise. We are two very seasoned travelers, both work paid and "on our own dime". In our late mid 60's, we have ... Read More
14 Day River Cruise: Hungary-Holland PREAMBLE: After many a sea cruise, we finally did our first major River Cruise. We are two very seasoned travelers, both work paid and "on our own dime". In our late mid 60's, we have been retired for over a decade (on average). Leslie does the photo work and I do the write-ups. We try to provide great detail of our trips and lots of pictures of the places we go. You will not find many pictures of us in the lot. This write-up is meant to share with our friends and family, help others who may consider a similar trip, to "payback" in some way the help we get from Flyertalk members to plan our trips and in some lesser way to entertain and inform those that for any number of reasons will not take such a trip. We have changed our format at bit this Report. Rather than do the trip chronologically, sneaking in various details of sideline issues, this Trip Report is in 5 sections. The content and extent of the coverage will vary based on my notes, time and both my interest and my perceived interest of the various readers. The sections will be clearly marked, so feel free to skip those that might not interest you. The pictures can be found by the link at the end of Report. The pictures were taken from buses (seat, window, wires, wrong side, weather, and etc. being factors). Others were taken as we walked in groups on tour, or from the boat as we cruised down the 3 rivers and one canal. The Sections include: 1) Ground Transport; 2) Flights; 3) Avalon Panorama River Boat; 4) Our Trip, from boarding to disembarkation; and 5) Pictures. We have tried to minimize the overlap and repetition. A note to those afraid of sea cruises or the "water", the river cruise described had no waves, feeling of boat movement nor should anyone feel "sea" sick. Further, the depth of much of the river was such that you could stand on the top deck and have water no higher than your waist IF the boat sank!!! Great alternative to sea cruises for those with such problems. GROUND TRANSPORTATION: We live in Escondido and flew out of San Diego Airport (SAN). Our flight departure was scheduled just past 6AM, so we were concerned about taking a regular shuttle to SAN. For a bit more ($200 total, RT with tip) we took ExecuCar. This assured us of a non-stop drive to the airport in comfort, with perhaps an upgraded driver (it was!). The driver had our schedule, was on time and did not break the speed limit (much). He handled the luggage and offered us water. We were questioned as to our temperature comfort a couple times along the route. Our pickup on the return was a worry for us. We do not carry a cell phone, so we could only hope the driver made the adjustments for picking us up on July 4. Our plane out of Washington, DC was late about an hour. We should have been back before the fireworks started, but because San Diego had the 18 second embarrassment show, we arrived as people were leaving and traffic was a mess. We were grateful our driver was well versed in the street options and we did not have to make stops for other riders! We usually do not pay the extra for this service. FLIGHTS: We booked our cruise with air included. During the 9 months between booking and the actual flight, the airline group (DL) we were originally booked with and the final flights (UA/LH) were changed. The time also changed from a comfortable departure from SAN of almost 9AM to just after 6AM. Our seat assignments on UA, I had made online, had been changed. The three hour "rule" for arrival would put us there before the door to the AP would even open? Even 2 hours was well before the UA counter was open. A couple of days before the flight, UA sent us an e-mail inviting us to check-in on line. I tried this several times, but to no avail. The system said there was a problem. We called UA with that information. They assured us that there was no problem, but we would have to check in with an agent and show our passports. Upon arrival (3:45AM) at the airport we went to the roped line and became first in line. Others joined us for the wait, as employees arrived and went into the back room. There was a separate area labeled for those who were going to check-in on the machines. At 4:20AM, someone came out and told us that we should move to the other line if we wanted to check in by machine, that the agents would not be out for a while. We did not move, all the others in line did. The employee asked us why, and we told him our story. He told us that the agents would not be out in time for our flight, and therefore we should now move to the other line as guest number 80 or so!!! From first!!! We stayed. The people in the other line started to go to the machines to check in. There was a lady helping those people, so I talked to her. She took our paperwork and handled everything. One bag each was free, as this was part of an international flight. TSA went easy. Got machine scanned and never touched. Our first leg was to Chicago (ORD). We had modest advanced boarding with my UA Explorer Card. The flight was 100% full and therefore left a little late. Those in the boarding area with "BIG" carry-ons were offered free checking at the gate! (that saved a lot of people $50 per bag). Many standbys were denied boarding. There was no food serviced on this leg, except for what you wanted to pay for. We brought sweet rolls to eat and used our 1-k drink tickets (from the past) to have some wine. Our layover in ORD was long. We took the time to handle our eye drops (glaucoma), and I switched from my contacts to my glasses. We also took the time to have some lunch," just in case". Our next leg was from ORD to Frankford (FRA), Germany. We were in aisle 41 (no recline). The woman in row 40, with three kids managed to make our space even smaller by reclining all their seats. We had two aisle seats in the center section assigned for us by Lufthansa. The two girls between us were part of a larger group and were up and down like yoyos, but pleasant otherwise. Two babies in our area took turns screaming thru most of the 10 hour flight. It was a miserable 10+ hours (oh, for the days of first class and business class seats!). Our FF points have been whittled down and the Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved ... Read More
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved with you and your cruise. The captain played his trumpet as we passed the Lorelei and the crew did a talent show which was such fun! The meals onboard were very good with a nice variety. One tip, check the breakfast and lunch specials each day before going to the buffet. Dinner was great. Six of us travelled together and were able to sit together without a problem each night. Wine at dinner was wonderful and we had more than our share. The included excursions were great. I was in a walking boot due to a foot problem but was able to keep up without a problem. You will receive earphones and a receiving device on each excursion. The guide then transmits the details of the excursion as you walk. This enabled all of us to hear without a problem and was excellent for my husband who wears hearing aids. My only regret was that we didn't have more "free time" in the cities. Our guides were fun and informative. I would strongly recommend the optional trips to Alsace and Colmar. For the small cost, these excursions really gave you a flavor of the area. Also, make sure you are on deck when going through the locks (at least one). We travelled through the Panama Canal on a "big ship" and enjoyed the locks. But on this small vessel, it is really "up close and personal", a real treat. I have three minor "complaints". The bar did not stock bourbon, only CC and Jack Daniels. But since the wine was so good, it really didn't matter. Rafting is a real bummer, but necessary evil. On the third day of our trip, I awoke and opened our curtains only to be looking at the vessel we had rafted with. This occurred 4 times for us so basically rendered our French balcony worthless. Finally, it would be nice to know a basic time for the itinerary. Example, we had a flight delay to Amsterdam (7 hours!). We arrived at 4PM versus 9AM on Sunday 6/10. However, from the brochure, I thought we had all day in Amsterdam on Monday. No, the boat left at noon so I only had 4 hours in Amsterdam. I would strongly recommend adding a day (minimum) to the front of your cruise. Post cruise, we spent 3 days in Lucerne. We all had a marvelous time with Avalon and I would recommend them highly. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2012
We travelled from Amsterdam to Basel on the Visionary from 6/24/ to 7/2/2012. The ship is new and we found that the upcharge for having a cabin with the highly touted panorama doors was worthwhile. The doors are actually a large slider so ... Read More
We travelled from Amsterdam to Basel on the Visionary from 6/24/ to 7/2/2012. The ship is new and we found that the upcharge for having a cabin with the highly touted panorama doors was worthwhile. The doors are actually a large slider so that 2/3 of your entire seaward wall can open to the water. This was our first river cruise, so we don't have any experience with which to compare, but we felt our expectations were very well met. We spent several days in Amsterdam before the trip, stayed at the Movenpick and were charmed by both the city and the hotel. Given the chance, go for the concierge level at the hotel; you will get a room on one of the top 2 floors, the full breakfast (otherwise about 30+ Euro) and a lovely evening beer/wine and excellent hot and cold hors d'oeuvres from 5-7pm. Great service, very attentive. We met our fellow passengers and cruise director, Sabina, at the Movenpick Hotel in Amsterdam to be shepherded to the ship, moored just next door. The staff of the ship was very well organized, all spoke English in consideration of the demographic. The passengers on our trip were all US, Canadian, UK or Australian. Without detailing every stop along the way, each city included a walking tour of about 1-1.5 hours with a local guide. An "easy walker" group was available for those with mobility issues. We had earpieces so that one could wander quite a bit away from the guide and still hear everything they said. The walking tour gave some history and gave one a feel for the lay of the land. Following the walking tour there was generally some free time to further explore, shop or sightsee, another included excursion or the opportunity for an optional excursion. We LOVED that excursions were included and enjoyed all of them. We did opt out of one included excursion to explore on our own and some more experienced travelers seemed to do more of this than we did. We only did one optional excursion; I went on the winery tour while my husband napped aboard the ship one afternoon. I heard someone complaining loudly about it as they didn't enjoy it. I'm not sure what the fellow's gripe was, but he didn't think it was worth the cost. Although I am not a big fan of German wines I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, the tasting and the ambiance of the town. Excursions that involved coach travel were well organized and the coaches clean, comfortable and equipped with a guide who narrated as we drove. Several days involved multiple stops in a single day and it means your time in one of the locations is limited. For example, the morning we were in Koblenz we had a walking tour at around 8:15am and left the town at 10am for the Rhine Gorge and Rudesheim, which didn't leave time to explore or shop. No way around this really I suppose; it just left us hungry to see more. Onboard: We travelled with a small group of friends and agreed that the coffee machine in the stern lounge was a unanimous hit; GOOD latte macchiato, cappuccino, coffee, hot chocolate available 24 hours a day. Our steward was attentive but not intrusive. Food was abundant and good with a very nice variety of entrees at dinner and buffet breakfast and lunches with great variety. If offered, do not miss the German Cookout on the Skydeck, it was wonderful. Our unanimous concern...our ONLY concern on the entire trip, was that non-alcoholic beverages in the dining room at meals were slow to arrive, if they did arrive. Wine was poured very freely and your glass never empty BUT water, iced tea or coffee were generally not offered during the meal; you had to ask for it, which meant flagging down a very busy waiter as you are all seated for a single seating at the same time. Iced tea was particularly hard to get for some reason. Coffee and tea were usually offered at the end of a meal, just not terribly promptly. Again, this was our only complaint and I hope one that is easily resolved for future travellers. Entertainment was fine but limited, though honestly, given the demographic (mostly 50-75, a couple of families with young adults and a single honeymoon young couple) this wasn't a big party crowd :) and many of us retired relatively early in order to be up and fed in time to leave for the 8:15-8:30 walking tour most mornings. So, if you are going primarily for night time entertainment, don't. I would happily travel with Avalon again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our ... Read More
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our waiters Thomas and Constantine . The cruise director , Dragan , was very obnoxious ,though many seemed to like him . The food was pretty good though , inevitably seemed repetitive . There were far too many "surprise" expenses for a cruise that implied that it was "all inclusive " . The included tours were uneven and the extra ones were overpriced and should not have been "extra" . The entertainment that was provided was very good with the exception of one talentless electric violinist . Although it may be conventional , I found the gratuities policy ( giving us envelopes and telling us exacly how much to tip everone including the cruise director ) offensive and we ignored it . We tipped those that provided us good service ( NOT the cruise director ) . We spent the same amount of money ( a bit more actually ) but giving it ,in cash , directly to those who deserved it . Our fellow passengers were suprising old . We expected that to some degree but at age 65 I didn't expect to be one of the youngest onboard . River cruising is nice but it is not a good way to see a place . You spend too little time on shore and you seem cutoff from local people and experiences . Avalon seemed too interested in getting extra money out of us at every opportunity given we were sold this cruise as "all inclusive " . We will probably do it again but I doubt if we will use Avalon Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2012
Avalon Vista Cruise Report July 22 -Aug 5, 2012 Budapest to Amsterdam by Ken Montgomery - Irvine, California The purpose of this review is to give details about this particular cruise (Avalon Vista - Budapest to Amsterdam) that are ... Read More
Avalon Vista Cruise Report July 22 -Aug 5, 2012 Budapest to Amsterdam by Ken Montgomery - Irvine, California The purpose of this review is to give details about this particular cruise (Avalon Vista - Budapest to Amsterdam) that are not available from Avalon or anywhere else. Half the fun of a cruise is the preparation & anticipation. The times that the Vista arrives and departs various river ports depends on the times the boat can get into various locks. Also, the various cruise boats coordinate their land visits with each other so they don't all arrive at the main feature of the port at the same time, so access to Tourist sites will also dictate schedule. Sunday - Day 1- Embarkation In Budapest We dropped the bags at Intercontinental Hotel between 2 & 3pm. There was a ballroom for our use until the buses were to take us to the boat at 3:45. There were no announcements or briefings prior to boarding the bus for the 5 minute ride to board the boat. You need to check-in at the Avalon desk in the lobby, but you could skip the ballroom experience and just visit the town and meet at the buses on the steeet at 3:45. All 140 passengers are welcomed with a short glass of iced tea and shown into the lounge. Once everyone is in the lounge they take groups of people 4 or 6 at a time to Reception for registration. You give them your passport and they give you the cabin cards and a porter shows you to your state room. Thats it! The luggage arrives in about 30 minutes. You can get your passport back the next day. You give them your credit card later in the cruise. At 6pm the safety drill is conducted followed by a introduction of the officers and a briefing by the Cruise Director. One not so great thing about River Cruising is "rafting". There are not enough dock spaces for all the cruise ships in most river ports. So, you'll often find another boat rafted to you and this, of course, wipes out your view for as long as you are rafted. In Budapest we had a "rafter" next to us the whole time we were in port. So half the staterooms on the Vista, had a great view of the stateroom on the other ship! Oh well, you can always go to the Sun Deck to see the view. All River Cruise boats on the Rhine & Danube do this. Monday - Day 2 - Budapest - Vista provided a free motor coach tour of the City which included a small amount of walking. It included drive-bys of many famous buildings, squares and monuments. We had 2 stops, one at Freedom Square and one at Castle Hill. The buses were first class and included an audio system do you could hear the tour guide even if you were a few hundred feet away, a great system. We returned to the dock at 11:30. In the afternoon, Vista offered two excursions for an extra fee. We took the Jewish History in Hungary tour. The tour lasted 3hr 45 minutes, which was 3 hours too long. Skip this tour, it's depressing and boring, lots of walking around the Jewish quarter and looking at old crummy buildings. The Great Synagogue was impressive, the museum was boring and the walk was a waste of time. At 6:15, we had 30 minutes of Hungarian Folk Music & Dance. The Vista left Budapest at 7pm on its way to noon docking in Bratislova. Tuesday Day 3. Woke up to cruising on the Danube. The river banks were mostly forest with an occasional house. Went through 1 lock in the morning during breakfast. 10 am briefing on optional tours for the rest of the cruise. You have to decide by 1:00pm today about the optional tours you want to take, which is difficult to do without more information. I will write reviews of these optional tours to help you decide ahead of time. One of the tougher decisions is the Linz-Passau optional tours. There are 3 tours that leave at 7:30 am from Linz. After discharging the passengers taking the optional tours, the Vista takes off on a 7 hour sail to Passau with 10-20% of the passengers remaining on board. Those passengers get a 1 hour guided tour of Passau at 4pm. The buses from the 3 optional tours arrive at the boat at 5 pm and the ship takes off. We have decided to stay on the ship and skip the optional tours. I'll let you know how that works out. 1:30pm - Tour of Bratislava Bus/walking. 2.5 hour tour. City highlights including the Castle. Easy Walking your of old town. The rest of the afternoon is on your own. A very good local entertainment program was provided after dinner in the lounge. The Vista left Bratislava at 11:45pm. Wednesday Day 4 Vienna We docked at 7:30am, some distance from the tourist areas. Our included City tour left at 8:15, returning at 11:45. The guide takes the group through St Stephens Cathedral, then they walk you around pointing out things and then you have about an hour of free time. After lunch we took the optional Schonbrunn Palace tour, leaving at 1:15, returning at 5:00pm. Photography is allowed on the grounds but not inside the palace. The 45 minute palace tour has very ventilation, thus it really gets warm inside, people were sweating profusely. Check your jacket at the coat check. There is also a 30 minute Strudel making demonstration where you get a cup of coffee and a slice of strudel. It rained in the morning, but cleared up in the afternoon. The Vista provides golf umbrellas at reception which are way better than the small ones we packed. After an early dinner (6pm vs the normal 7pm), we took the optional concert trip arranged for the various Avalon boats in Vienna. This place also lacks ventilation and it was very warm and stuffy even though the weather outside was cool & wet. (Guys, don't wear a sport coat and long sleeves, a nice golf shirt and slacks is fine). The concert was very good, featuring the music of Straus & Mozart. The performance was conducted by a 13 piece orchestra with 4 additional dancers & singers for various pieces. The boat departed for Durnsten at 11:45pm. Thursday Day 5 Durnstein & Melk Ship arrived in Durnstein at 7:30am, guided walking your of this small ancient village left at 8:30 lasting an hour. That left us an hour to further explore the town on our own. The boat left the dock at 11:00am for Melk. This is a beautiful stretch of the Danube. Melk - (day 5 afternoon) 2:45 pm - A very good tour of the Abbey including the most amazing Melk Church. Buses took us up the hill to the Abbey. Most people chose the 20 minute downhill walk thru the town back to the boat. At 6pm there was a Wauchau Valley wine tasting program with several generous wine samples. The boat left the dock at 7:30pm. Day 6. Friday Linz to Passau We arrived in Linz about 7:30am and the 110 people taking the 3 optional tours left the dock at 8:15 and the boat took off as soon as they were gone. About 30 of us stayed on the boat and had a very relaxed day looking at the ever changing scenery of the Danube. We went thru 3 locks. It was a great day to read, work out and answer your emails. The boat had to skip Passau as the water was too low for docking. We went further up the Danube and picked up the optional tour passengers at 5:30pm. The people pn the 3 optional coach tours all had a great day also We left right away for Regensburg, Germany. Day 7 Saturday Regensburg, GR Entered the Main Danube canal Arrived at 7:30. Took the optional tour of the Danube Gorge, a 4 hour coach and site seeing boat with a visit to the Weltonburg Benedictine, another beautiful church. The coach ride was 45 minutes each way. The Vista provided free guided walking tours of Regansburg in the morning and afternoon. The walking tour you to the City's near-by highlights and left free time for going back to the impressive cathedral vista gave each passenger a voucher for a snack of sausages, sauerkraut $ beer at a restaurant along the Danube. Its too much food for a snack, so sharing a plate works better. The boat left the dock @ 5:30 pm on the way to Nuremburg. Day 8. Sunday Nuremburg Spent last night and the first half of today cruising the Main-Danube Canal, going up locks until this morning when we started going down locks on the way to a 2pm docking in Nuremburg. In the morning we had an interesting presentation on the Canal, a project completed in 1992 that connects the Danube with the Rhine via series of locks and a man made trench connecting them. Boat docked at 1pm, not close to town. Included coach tour left at 2:00pm showed us the sights and left 30 minutes free time. Most stores closed on Sunday. Lots of community action to watch. Back to boat at 5:00pm, ship left at 5:30pm. At 6:00pm there was a free Bavarian beer tasting event on board. Went through lots of locks on the trip to Bamburg. Day 9 Monday Bamburg Arrived about 7am, the included your left at 8:45. Mostly a walking tour with 1 hour free time for shopping. The old town is a little hilly and the pavement is most cobblestones. Busses returned to the boat at 11:15. Their is good shopping in Bamburg and enough time for it. The boat left Bamburg at noon and entered the Main River heading downstream towards Wurzburg. We had a lecture in the afternoon about the European Union by a "lock Hoping Professor of History", from Regansburg, who gets on and off river boats at various locks and uses a portable bicycle to move between locks and to get back to his car. The afternoon cruise on the Main was beautiful. Day 10 Tuesday Wurzburg Boat arrived at 7:30. The included tour left at 8:30 am. The first stop was the Wurzburg Palace, called the Residenz. It has the most spectacular rooms. No photography is allowed inside the palace. A sort guided walk around the old town and then 45 min free time and you walk 15 min easy back to the boat. Day 11. Wednesday. Miltenberg Boat docked at 11am, 5 minute walk to tourist area. At 1:30 the included walking tour took place. The tour was 90 minutes, then you had plenty of time to climb up to the Castle and explore the town. Good shopping for a small town. Back to the boat by 5:45, the boat left the dock at 6:00pm. Beautiful sail down the Main. Day 12. Thursday Rudesheim am Rhein Arrived at noon- the included tour left at 12:45, back to the boat by 4:15, boat left the dock at 4:30. The included tour was a short bus ride to the Museum of Mechanical Music. From there you could take the chair lift ip the mountain to a gigantic monument celebrating the 1871 German Unification. The view from the monument is spectacular. The afternoon sail down the Rhine, is loaded with castles. This is the most interesting section of river so far. This is the time for your 200mm telephoto lens. The cruise director narrates this section of river. Day 13 Friday Cologne Arrived in the early morning. Included motorcoach tour left at 9:00 am. A short bus ride to theCologne Cathedral was followed by a 90 min walking tour ending at the Cathedral. You had free time to tour the cathedral and other parts of downtown and a 20 min walk back to the boat. The boat left Cologne at 1 pm, headed for Amsterdam. Day 14 Saturday Amsterdam Arrived 7:00 an, included canal tour left at 8:15am. This tour was followed by a Diamond Cutting Tour, concluding at about 11:00am. We walked an interesting 20 minutes back to the boat. After lunch we rented bicycles right across from where the boat docked (there are several possible docking locations in Amsterdam. The City is designed for bicycles, but it is easy to get lost. Just follow the signs back to "Central Station". They charged €5 for 3 hours, a good deal. Day 15 Sunday - Disembarkation You had to be out of your room by 9:00am and off the boat by 10:00am. Half of the boat used a transfer from Avalon and the other half took cabs to the airport. Reception will line up a cab for you at a time certain. You wait in the lobby with your bags and the cab driver comes onto the boat and helps you with the luggage. It cost about €50 plus tip to get to the airport and takes about 20 minutes. Vista Notes 1. There are several 220 outlets in the cabins, so bring your converter and a northern or southern Europe adaptor. 2. Ship & tour departure times are amazingly on time. Timing is dicated by their reservation is the various locks the boat went through. If you miss your lock reservation, you might have to wait 2 or 3 hours for your next chance. 3. The Vista uses audio receivers and ear pieces when you are on a tour organized by Vista, so you can wander away from the tour guide and still here their comments. It seems like all River Boats use this system. All passengers on this trip were from English speaking countries. On board announcements were made only in English. There were no children on board even though this cruise was in July & August. A child would be really bored. The passengers ranged from 50 to 80, with 65 being the likely median age. More than half the passengers were from Australia & New Zealand and were the nicest people. Crew - The crew was great and they all worked 16 hour days or more. Even the Captain and 1st officer carried bags and did manial work as well as their own jobs, which they performed very well. 6. The Cruise Director Hendrick Jan Dadema (Netherlands) was outstanding, very organized, he is not trying to sell you things or direct you to a certain jewelry store. He works very hard and is never flustered. He has many funny stories about his 30 years as a tour guide. He has time for everyone and his desk is in the lobby, so you can always find him working on details of the cruise. 7. Laundry - no dry cleaning is available, but 24 hour laundry service is. The costs are typical cruise prices, underwear & t-shirts €1,5; shirts €2,50, socks €1,0. 8. Dress - during the day - shorts and casual shirts - dinner- pants and a quality golf shirt or other respectable shirt. Some guys wore sport coats for the Captain's Welcome Dinner, but not many. With laundry service, you can get by with 4 shirts for evening wear and 2 pair of pants. For day wear, bring several quick dry t- shirts and cargo shorts. Wash the t- shirts in the shower and let them dry. You will sweat thru these shirts daily as most of the old palaces have no ventilation and can be warm and there are big crowds of people. Wear a good pair of walking shoes as the cobblestones are tough on sandals. Leave the sport coat at home. One long sleeve dressy shirt is good to have. A jacket is needed at night while on the deck. Use the umbrellas provided by Vista while on your daily tours. 9. Food - the food is very good and it's very well presented. There is free wine with dinner. Breakfast & lunch are buffets, whereas dinner is served and is usually 5 courses. I didn't hear any complaints about the food. 10. Fitness Center - 4 cardio machines and a rack of dumbbell weights. There is a weight bench. The room has a TV & water bottles & towels. 11. Photography - this is great trip for photos, especially inside churches, which are quite ornate & often spectacular Some churches have good lighting, but most need shutter speeds that are below 1/20th unless you really push the ISO. I used a portable 5.5' high tripod where it wasn't too crowded and I had enough time to set up. Usually there was enough of both if you looked for it. A good time for these shots was during the lecture from the tour guide inside the church. 100 mm was about as long a lens as you'll need. You'll need a polarizer filter for bright outdoor shots. and for shooting inside the bus. Don't forget your remote shutter release for use with a tripod. The palaces generally had enough lighting for handheld shooting. 12. Coughing- many people got a cough on thus trip Many wound up going to a doctor for anti-biotics or even hospital stays. The Cruise Director seemed used to handling these cases. If you missed the ship you just took a cab to the next port or lock (which could be costly). 13. Port or starboard cabin? We had a port side cabin and since we traveled mostly northbound, we had afternoon sun shining into the cabin, which really heated up the room. Quite often we had to close the block - out curtains to keep the heat out of the room, which eliminated the beautiful view you paid for. If I had my choice, I would take a starboard side cabin on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise and visa versa. Boat comfort - this was our first river cruise after 9 ocean cruises. It was amazing how comfortable being on the river was. You hardly ever felt any motion, only when you nudged into a lock on dock. Overall impression - a wonderful experience in all ways, 5 stars. I'm glad we did a 2 week cruise, as the first 7 days went by so fast. The ports are amazing, a great mixture of European capitals with their palaces and splendor and big city action. The small ports offered a great glimpse into the Europe of 1000 years ago. Its amazing how well the old buildings have been preserved and restored. If you have any questions, email me at kentennis@cox.net Ken Montgomery Irvine, CA, USA Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
In the event it doesn't really matter what our expectations really were before setting out - whatever they may have been, they were well exceeded. A pre-embarkation night at a Budepest hotel was really useful to recover from a long ... Read More
In the event it doesn't really matter what our expectations really were before setting out - whatever they may have been, they were well exceeded. A pre-embarkation night at a Budepest hotel was really useful to recover from a long air trip and the one recommended (Intercontinental) was 5-star in all respects. Embarkation from there was straightforward and the vessel itself (Vista)- the newest in the fleet - has an entirely modern and functional style with a good degree of comfort throughout. The cabin was airy with a good balcony view, excellent bathroom and surprisingly useful storage space. Dining was a highlight with an excellent quality and variety of food - certainly expect to put on a kilo or two. Laundry service was very efficient but needed a watch on high costs - the bathroom became the norm for smalls. Onboard entertainment was generally mediocre but with the occasional outstanding exception. Shore excursions met the charter advertised and with plenty of walking to offset the food intake. The range [extensive] and cost [high] of optional additional excursions was a surprise but clearly designed to satisfy all tastes. This is a balancing act between increased prices for total inclusivity and letting passengers pick & choose. The Cruise Director did his best to satisfy all wishes all of the time [clearly mission impossible]. With only minor "niggles" [don't expect 100% web coverage], this cruise rated a worthy 5 stars! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2012
I received so much helpful information on Cruise Critic before we sailed that I want to share our recent experience on the Avalon Creativity in hope of helping others with their decisions. What follows is a general review of our very ... Read More
I received so much helpful information on Cruise Critic before we sailed that I want to share our recent experience on the Avalon Creativity in hope of helping others with their decisions. What follows is a general review of our very pleasant journey. Embarkation: We chose to fly to Paris independently so we could use flyer miles. We arrived in Paris, boarded an Air France bus to the Gare Montparnasse and took a short walk to our hotel,the Concorde Montparnasse. We chose the hotel because it was close to the Pullman Montparnasse where we would be getting the bus to the ship the next day. We dropped our bags at the Pullman around noon the next day and took the metro to the Notre Dame area. We spent the afternoon in the Ile St Louis, where we had a pleasant lunch and returned to board the bus for a short trip to the Creativity. Boarding was easy, and within a few minutes we were in our cabin where our bags were waiting. The Creativity: We loved the ship! It's 3 years old and shows absolutely no wear. The cabin is not large, but very cleverly designed with ample storage space. The front and back lounges are comfortable, and there are many areas to sit outside and watch the scenery go by. Excursions: The included excursions were all quite interesting. Our first stop was Conflans,a relatively colorless village, but we enjoyed the tour of Auvers-Sur-Oise, and the story of Vincent Van Gogh. Vernon on the other hand was a beautiful little place and Giverny and Monet's gardens a must do. We loved Rouen and the included tour there. The highlight for me, and the reason we took the trip, was the excursion to the D-Day beaches. It was a very moving experience, made even more so by a fellow passenger who was an Omaha beach D-Day veteran. On the way back to Paris we stopped at Les Andelys, another pretty village, and heard the story of Richard the Lion-Hearted. We didn't take many optional tours since we had been to Paris before, but did do the trip to Honfleur which is a beautiful spot and worth the extra money in our opinion. All in all, we were very happy with the excursions and the guides. Food and Drink: Breakfast was fine although lacking variety. One can order the special of the day, and there are made to order omelets. Everything else is the same each day. Lunch was also a buffet, with a meat and pasta selection freshly made. On 2 days, an al fresco grill lunch was offered on the skydeck. We were able to do this once, and it was very pleasant. It was unfortunate that this was not offered more, as it was very limited and everyone did not get to try it. Dinner was a very nice experience, with usually around six courses. Any one course is not large, but we were always full by the end of the meal. The food was excellent, although to a real foodie it was not gourmet quality. That being said, we loved it. The chef used local products and menus, and the wine and beer were free-flowing. We never saw the bottom of our wine glasses. The lounge was a fairly active place with nightly lounge type music, and happy hour two for ones each night at some point. A string quartet was brought in one night, we had a D-Day presentation, and there was a French pastry demonstration as well. Drink prices were fair in both the lounge and the mini-bar in our cabin. Service: This was the area where the Creativity really excelled. In every respect service was top-notch. Our room was made up while we were at breakfast each morning and turn down service was provided during dinner. The waiters were excellent both in the dining room and the lounge. When we were up on the skydeck during happy hour, our waiter even found us up there and asked if we wanted anything (of course we did!) The organization and execution of every aspect of the trip was truly fantastic. The boarding, meals, excursions, etc. were all carried off perfectly and demonstrated excellent planning and attention to detail. We loved sailing with Avalon and hope to do it again soon. If anyone has specific questions email me: massedtuck@hotmail.com Dave Tucker Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2012
I can't say enough about the service on the Avalon Creativity. Every member of the crew had a "can do" attitude; went above and beyond to ensure an exceptional guest experience. I do not believe that the word "no" ... Read More
I can't say enough about the service on the Avalon Creativity. Every member of the crew had a "can do" attitude; went above and beyond to ensure an exceptional guest experience. I do not believe that the word "no" was in any one's vocabulary, I have experienced good service on other cruises, but this exceptional service came from everyone, everyday, consistently. It was amazing. The Captain and Cruise Director wished us a nice day every time we left for an excursion, and welcomed us back every time; the cabin crew wished us a good day each and every morning; the waiters were all funny and efficient; the front desk staff never stopped smiling; the bartender was friendly and went out of his way to get us what we needed; the entertainment was excellent; the food superb, even the buffets were excellent. The desserts were great and the free flowing wine at dinner was a nice touch. This crew loves what they do and it shows. They are obviously led by an outstanding leadership team. The ship itself was comfortable, clean and up-to-date. The amenities were very nice. The only drawback - we are used to mini-suites on big cruise ships and this room was small in comparison. We were in the P category which is a pretty good upgraded cabin. We could open our sliding glass door which is floor to ceiling. There aren't balconies on these ships, but the top deck makes up for that. I think that Avalon cabins are actually bigger than other river cruise ships, so can't imagine what those are like! The excursions were led by knowledgeable, easy to understand guides. Every bus we got on was spotless and appeared brand new. The only excursion that I could have skipped was Malmaison, as it had been refurbished and there was little that was authentic. Normandy was amazing. The other ports interesting and worthwhile. The big drawback - we arrived in Paris around 8am. The representative from the line met us and was very nice and helpful. The chartered bus took us to a hotel, because you can't board the ship until 3:30p, and we hung out in a hospitality suite at the hotel. The suite had water, coffee and tea. No food was offered. We ventured out on our own to get food and to visit a fantastic, ancient cemetery in the neighborhood. Be sure to get the map and go to see this. It made for a long day considering we flew all night and had to hang out until the bus took us to the ship at 3:45p. People were sleeping on the sofas in the lobby of the hotel. Some chose to take an excursion to the Eiffel Tower for an additional $30pp fee. My suggestion is that they offer food to their guests and include a free mini tour around Paris. Hanging out that long to get on the ship, after such a long flight from the States was not a good first impression. Overall, I would recommend this ship and Avalon to anyone. We will sail with them again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2012
Just back from a Danube River Cruise on the new Avalon Vista, we are disappointed by the poor overall experience that Avalon Waterways delivers. Budapest-Nuremberg. August 2012: We boarded the ship in Budapest and were very impressed ... Read More
Just back from a Danube River Cruise on the new Avalon Vista, we are disappointed by the poor overall experience that Avalon Waterways delivers. Budapest-Nuremberg. August 2012: We boarded the ship in Budapest and were very impressed by this new ship, having cruised a lot all around the world , and on many river cruises. The ship was docked next to the famous Chain Bridge, in the heart of Budapest, a short taxi ride from our hotel. It couldn't have been a better location. The ship itself is impressive for a river ship, beautifully designed, with sleek lines and a tasteful, modern decor. The main lounge is stunning, with panoramic floor to ceiling windows all around, and even better, there is an open deck lounge forward from where you can see everything. The Club Lounge located aft is also extremely nice and cosy, with drinks available at all times, but bad cookies. Our Stateroom, #208 was just fabulous, with the famous floor to ceiling sliding windows (really great), lots of space, great closets and drawers all around; better than on many large cruise ships, good lighting and large beds. The bathroom was especially great: Large, lovely decor with marble, good lighting, great L'Occitane amenities nicely replenished all along the cruise; and an extra large shower with a glass door and good water pressure. The best showers I have had in a long time. The Welcome couldn't have been nicer, with crew and staff extending a warm welcome and committed to make you feel welcome. Everything seemed perfect, ready for a great experience, but problems were lurking: Bedding: It turned out that the bedding looked much better than it was comfortable: If the sheets are made of nice cotton as advertised by Avalon: The pillows are made on 100% cheap synthetic fiber, hard like a rock, just like in the cheapest roadside motels along some remote highway. We asked for soft, feather pillows (or pillows made of natural fiber) only to be told by both the housekeeping manager and the front desk manager that none were available, and that there was nothing they could or would do about this. That was the first big disappointment. Giving it a try that first night; we developed quickly a pain in the neck and ended up the first night sleeping on folded bath towels! On a luxury ship! Fortunately, we have friends living in Vienna, the next stop on the cruise, and we called them immediately, asking them to lend us two good soft feather pillows (filled with 100% natural fiber) for the remainder of the cruise. Believe me, this was not a luxury or an indulgence. But we had to ship the pillows back at the end of the cruise at our own expense and disturb our friends. The duvet: Again Avalon touts its duvets. Unfortunately they are also made of synthetic of the cheapest kind. We had to take out the duvets out of the sheet and replace them by the blankets provided, which were also of a cheap quality (76% synthetic) but we had to make do with that. However this was not pleasant. Overall, the bedding was just not comfortable, and only our friends' pillows saved the day. Food: Overall the food was from mediocre to just plain bad, and this all along the cruise. If a good selection of breads was always available at breakfast, including all the famous german breads, and the small good individual rolls; they were never available at lunch or dinner where only puny, mediocre little slices of plain bread were available. The cookies were a complete disgrace: some were hard like a rock. I nearly broke a tooth on one, no kidding. They were especially bad and cheap in the Club Lounge. All this while we were crossing countries famous for their cookies, breads and good food! In fact, the food and the breads were so mediocre that we ended up looking for a bakery at each stop during the cruise, always finding one easily, and buying breads, cookies and cakes for dessert. Never done that before on any cruise! We also ate lunch or dinner ashore when we could, in order to have some good meals. Never done that before in my life! Only one lunch, touted as a "German Lunch" was decent and interesting with some local specialties; otherwise the food was so plain, so mediocre, so disconnected from what was all around us that it was shocking and meals became a real bore when they could have been a great experience as the service and the design of the restaurant itself were extremely nice. The salads and buffets were especially mediocre. This is a real shame, as Avalon could easily deliver a luxury experience as: -The layout and design of the ship is innovative, impressive, luxurious and even stunning. -The staff was extremely nice and helpful, always trying to make you welcome and comfortable (with what they had). Their training was impeccable, and they were providing great service at all times. -The Cruise Director was extremely good and nice, doing a great job at all times without fail. -The excursions were well organized, with interesting guides. However, considering Avalon prices, the food and the bedding are not acceptable. Overall, Avalon fails to deliver a good experience, and we are very disappointed. It was a relief to find a good bed and good food in Munich where we stayed after the cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
Arrived in Amsterdam on first day of cruise coming from Copenhagen where we had just completed an 11 day Baltic Sea cruise that day. With the long, expensive flights from the US, we decided to do the 2 cruises back to back. The dates ... Read More
Arrived in Amsterdam on first day of cruise coming from Copenhagen where we had just completed an 11 day Baltic Sea cruise that day. With the long, expensive flights from the US, we decided to do the 2 cruises back to back. The dates worked out for us & I booked both over the internet directly with the cruise companies with no problems. Avalon did great job getting our documents to us early and answering all my questions pre cruise. Arriving at the airport around 4:00 PM & collecting our luggage, we expected to see an Avalon representative holding a sign to transfer us to the ship. After walking around for about 10-15 minutes, we finally found the red & white object where they were standing; after the driver finished his coffee, we left for the ship, about a 20 minute ride. At the ship, we got on immediately & went to our room with no further waiting. The ship is beautiful and the room was very comfortable with plenty of space for everything. The room seemed small with only had 2 small windows; when we booked in June, no balcony rooms were available. However, with the great weather, there were plenty of public viewing places so didn't spend much time in our room. The ship ride was very smooth and our room very quiet. Beds were very comfortable. Dress was casual during the day & dining room at night most dressed up a little more but no ties or sports coats. Saw a few men in tee shirts & shorts at night. There are no activities on the ship as with large cruise ships, which didn't bother us as we do not participate in those anyway. Viewing the scenery along the river and the ports are the focus of this type of cruise and these did not disappoint. Likewise, there is no shopping on the ship and no photographers. Entertainment in the evening is primarily a piano player which we listened to a few times. One night 3 local musicians were brought in & they were excellent. By evening after dinner & sightseeing all day, we were ready for bed as most days begin with the included walking tour around 8:30 AM. Dining: The breakfast & lunch buffets offered a nice variety & food was good. Two days a bar-b-que lunch was also offered on the top deck outside but you had to signup the day before which wasn't made very clear so we missed the first; apparently they only had space for about 40 people, so if you weren't on the list, you couldn't have that. Dining: Dinner was at 7 PM in the dining room, a sit down dinner with no other option. I was disappointed in the entree options several nights as well as the desserts at lunch & dinner. The brochure information makes it sound like there is a bistro on the top deck for casual dining as an option & there wasn't. Seven nights of sitting through a long drawn out dinner was too much after sightseeing all day. The unlimited wine & beer was nice & the service was great. The self serve coffee, juice, cookies & fresh fruits in the Club Lounge all day were nice. The ports were wonderful & beautiful cities. Some of the walking tour guides gave us a little too much history but most of the included tours were good and the headsets worked well. Nice to be docked usually right in towns where we could walk around. Really enjoyed the Rhine River gorge scenery but got tired of listening to hours of history over the loud speaker on the ship; for us, an occasional break would have been nicer as we began to feel like we were in a history class. At the rear in the Club Lounge, it is quiet (no speakers) but we wanted to sit outside at the front of the ship. Rudisheim was charming & enjoyed the musical museum & included wine tasting. Really enjoyed the bus tour to the Black Forest area which also was included; very pretty & interesting. We took the optional tour to Alsace for the wine tasting, plus got to see the beautiful countryside along the way. Would recommend this tour. I would recommend this ship for this type of cruise if your primary focus is the ports & their history which they did very well. For us, the lack of evening dining options, plus the cost of a balcony room compared to the ocean cruise ships would be a factor in booking another river cruise. Also, if possible, we prefer to do our own sightseeing at the ports which gives us more options. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
This was my first River Cruise, after about 15 ocean cruises. I went with my sister, both of us in our 50s. Usually we travel with our husbands and/or children, but this was our "practice" River Cruise, just to see if we would ... Read More
This was my first River Cruise, after about 15 ocean cruises. I went with my sister, both of us in our 50s. Usually we travel with our husbands and/or children, but this was our "practice" River Cruise, just to see if we would like it. This was also our first time in Switzerland, Germany, eastern France and the Netherlands, and our main objective was to get a good look at this part of the world. We chose the Avalon Visionary, a new 128-passenger boat, for a 7-day Rhine 500-mile cruise due northward from Switzerland to Amsterdam, 9 to 16 September 2012. We traveled directly from JFK (NY) to Zurich overnight, Delta Business Class, with tickets purchased through Avalon. I got a lower airfare from Avalon than I could get on my own. We took the hotel shuttle--very easy--to the Zurich Airport Moevenpick, also booked through Avalon. The hotel was awesome, because the room was clean, modern and spacious, we got into the room at 8:30 am, and the hotel was easy walking distance to the tram that goes into Zurich, which we saw later that afternoon on our own. I would strongly recommend getting to your embarkation city a day early, because of 3 factors: (1) you have an extra day to handle the time change; (2) you have a cushion day in case your luggage is late (happened to me before, and I was lucky for the extra day); and (3) delayed flight can mean missed vacation time--we met a wonderful couple from South Carolina who had to "catch up" with the boat on Day 2. It is colder in Northern Europe on average in early September than it is at home (I live near DC), by about 10 degrees F. After all, Zurich is at the same latitude as Quebec, and we travel north from there. We had some unusually warm weather in Switzerland and France the first 3 days, but the temperature sank to normal fall temps (55-70 degrees F) the rest of the time. The highest marks I would give for the trip are for the tours. I think Avalon did a fantastic job, providing plenty of room in the tour buses and making all of the tours easy to follow. My sister and I are physically fit, but we were impressed that Avalon offered "slower walker" groups on each included walking tour. The first tour we took was a non-included pre-boarding tour, to Mt. Pilatus and Lucerne, and it was the best. Do not miss it. We took cable cars up Mt. Pilatus, and a rail car down. At the top was the most amazing view of Alpine peaks, along with people hang-gliding and hiking. We had a crystal clear day, so we were lucky to get such a great view. Lucerne is a postcard resort city, with cobbled streets and picture-perfect buildings. We then traveled to the boat. Visionary was very clean, crew was great, decor was simple and streamlined. Tour Director, Robert, was a hoot, explaining each night the planned activities for the next day with a rare mixture of insight and sarcasm. My sister and I had a Royal Suite, which was the last suite available when we booked for that sailing. I would not recommend this larger room; unlike large suites on an ocean-going cruise, there are no perks, just more square footage, which is basically not needed. Getting on and off the boat was so easy--you just pick up your laminated room card in the lobby and walk in and out. Zero hassle. The cruisers were 100 percent English-speaking. There was not one person under 40, I think, and most of the group was a least late 50s and beyond. This is a very easy-going and comfortable way to travel if you are "getting up there." Because there are so few passengers, you get to know a lot of them right away. By the end, you can recite first names for about a third of them. That's not at all like an ocean cruise, right? We met sisters from NC, sisters from MD, couples from all over--everyone very nice, and very relaxed. The food I thought was typically good cruise quality, with an understandably smaller selection for our small river boat than on a big cruise ship, with healthy alternative choices every night. There is no assigned seating, and we sat with many different traveling groups. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. Good news for wine drinkers--the included wine at dinner flowed, and a different specialty wine offered every night--nothing stingy about Avalon how did this on our cruise. Entertainment--well, it was basically a piano-player every night and the crew talent show one night. The best was the Captain of the ship singing "New York, New York," with a heavy Dutch accent. I have no complaints about the entertainment, because a river cruise will not have a Broadway-style musical, right? The first portion of the Rhine was straight, calm and maybe a ½-mile wide, and descending from the higher elevation in Switzerland to the lower elevations in France and Germany by many locks. The first night, we must have gone through a half-dozen locks. There are very few large towns directly on the Rhine, because this river until a century ago was untamed and flood-prone. There is a lot of cargo and river cruise ship traffic on the river, all shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats, nothing too big. Our first included tour was Strasbourg, France, which we saw by canal boat. This is another beautiful town, but with a sad history, as it changed hands back and forth between Germany and France over the years. Heidelberg was next, and is obviously very wealthy town, with a wonderful medieval castle. Heidelberg was our second-favorite stop. Mainz and Rudesheim (2 separate stops) were a nondescript industrial-modern town, and a quaint storybook town, respectively. We did the optional German dinner in Rudesheim, which was held at a regular restaurant, for a change of pace. It was good, but not amazing. After Rudesheim, the Rhine itself gets interesting, around the 30 mile or so (just guessing) section around the Rhine River Gorge. Our boat Visionary traveled mostly at night, but of course traversed the Gorge in the daylight, so that the cruisers could take it in. The river is wider, there are a lot more bends and rocks, and there are so many castles, every mile or so, I think. We had a cold and misty morning, but this part of the cruise was awesome. It is also famously dangerous, and one bend in the Rhine has a huge rock hill and the statue of the legendary Loreley, the maiden who distracts sailors and causes them to crash. Next was Koblenz, at the intersection of the Rhine and 2 other rivers. We had a walking tour here that started right at the boat, and it was our only boring tour, so my sister and I ditched it. There is a new cable car strung high above the Rhine at Koblenz, crossing the river to an old, very large and very high-up fort. We did the cable car ride and toured the fort on our own instead, and that was a great decision. The next day we saw Cologne, large, commercial, cold, windy, and, well you can tell, not my favorite. But, it does have an immense and impressive cathedral, and the best shopping strip on the whole tour. Finally, there was Amsterdam, which I love/hate, very strongly, both feelings. We did a long included canal tour, and saw the gorgeous homes and mix of both nice and decrepit houseboats lining the canals. We even floated past Anne Frank's house. Avalon does not offer an Anne Frank house tour, and tickets have to be ordered well in advance. I regret not getting my own tickets before the trip. We took 2 of the optional tours offered in Amsterdam, Van Gogh museum during the day and the Red Light tour at night. The first was just okay--even though I love Van Gogh, there is only so much one can see there. The Red Light tour was depressing and demoralizing, as we should have known. Sorry we took that tour. And sorrier still it was the last tour of the vacation! The next morning we took a pre-purchased bus transfer to the airport, which was another hassle-free trip about an hour from the boat. Upon reflection, this was a very relaxing vacation, and I think I want to do this again, but maybe after I have finished the more challenging stuff on my bucket list. If I were 5 to 15 years older, I think it would be right in my wheel house. I think Avalon is a good, straight-shooting company, and I will seek them out next time! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
My wife and I had Cabin 220 on the Avalon Vista.This cruise is expensive & we were disappointed that our cabin noise was never rectified.We did not sleep well. The noise sounded like it came from the timber fittings installed ... Read More
My wife and I had Cabin 220 on the Avalon Vista.This cruise is expensive & we were disappointed that our cabin noise was never rectified.We did not sleep well. The noise sounded like it came from the timber fittings installed (wardrobe,bedhead,drawers etc.) but I may be wrong.I reported it twice to reception but was never told what was done about it.After the first time I complained I asked the cruise director what was done about my complaint & he said the person responsible has looked at it & I will send him again to look at it. The noise continued & we gave up. The noise sounds like timber rubbing & stretching against other timber it sounds like a creaking & screeching & on 3 nights a drumming noise.Our friends had 2 cabins nearby & they said they had similar noises but they did not complain.Maybe we are lighter sleepers. There are 68 locks on the river but the noise from the cabin bothered us much more than the noise of using the locks.Perhaps Avalon should check if further complaints are made about cabin 220.Apart from this noise the cabin is big enough,modern,clean,comfortable bed & pillows.Flatscreen TV with a range of good movies.Bathroom was lovely & big enough. On the positive side this is a beautiful ship on a beautiful river.The large lounge room with big glass windows was a delight.The dance floor at night was always used and our one-man band musician played lovely dance music.The ship sails smoothly & there is no noticeable movement.There is also a small lounge area at the back of the ship seating perhaps 30 people,with a coffee machine,biscuits,fruit,fruit juices etc. Ship's entertainment was mostly good. The 4 girl string quartet from Bratislava,the Oomp-Pah-Pah man,the zither music we really enjoyed. The embarkation procedure was faultless. We met at the Intercontinental Hotel at Budapest & mixed with other passengers in the lounge.After one or two hours we were bussed to the ship. As we entered the ship we were welcomed by the Captain & his senior crew. Avalon excelled with it's choice of tour guides;they were all excellent, informative & amusing. Durnstein was a pretty village & we enjoyed walking around it.This is what we enjoyed most about this cruise walking around lovely villages with our friends. In Melk the abbey was amazing but after seeing 5 or 6 rooms in the building I had had enough. Passau we walked & shopped after our included walking tour. Regensburg we had a lovely German sausage & sauerkraut lunch in a restaurant with one of the friendly local residents. In Wurzburg the Palace was absolutely magnificent.We did not expect this.It's done in a Palace of Versailles style but on a smaller scale.We bought some nice clothes for my wife in Wurzburg. Miltenberg was another nice village to walk around. In Rudeseheim we visited Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum.This was a highlight and is a "must see". My wife & I walked & shopped but our friends who went to a coffee making session that the ship arranged said it was very good. Back on the ship in the afternoon we went on a cruise down the Rhine Gorge.This was spectacular with many castles. Cologne we felt was a more commercial type city rather than the type of lovely village we grew to love.However it was the best for shopping & the prices seemed very good. We arrived in Amsterdam to complete our cruise & were given a tour of the inner city and a boat trip of the canals. Both tours were excellent.We stayed a few more nights in Amsterdam ( at our own expense)& went to a diamond cutting exhibition,red-light district & shopped. The food on board was good although a little too salty for our taste.But the wine served at dinner was not very good & not much was supplied anyway.You could buy a bottle of wine but it was about 38 Euros.However the lovely French wine in the cabin's mini-bar was only about 2 or 3 Euros for a small bottle & we used that a few times. Breakfast was pretty good & had everything you wanted with eggs cooked to your liking. The Happy Hour preceded dinner & cocktails were cheap & good.This was a lovely meeting lounge. Overall a lovely cruise,with friendly staff on one of the world's magnificent rivers. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The only thing they all had in common was that they went to Christmas markets. Both AMA and Uniworld had Christmas activities scheduled on the ship with AMA going all out to keep up the Christmas atmosphere. Other than some tasteful decorations, the Visionary had no Christmas activities. Not even a cooking demonstration on how to make some Christmas yummy! There was one lecture on the formation of the EU. Sadly the water was high and we barely cruised and it was at night. The busing and the night in the hotel in Frankfurt were handled very smoothly, but it was a disappointment not to see the small towns along the Main. The ship was beautiful and our cabin gorgeous. The food and wine were good. If we had never been on other Christmas cruises maybe we would have been satisfied. As it was we were very disappointed with the lack of Christmas on the ship. The towns along the Main were all charming decked out for Christmas. Our guide, Victoria, was such fun that even the bus ride had everyone having fun! (Maybe the happy hour on the bus helped keep us happy!) Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2013
This was our first river boat cruise. We chose Avalon because they were recommended by friends and we were not disappointed. Not having been on any other river boat, I do not have any comparison but I will say the Vista was a wonderful ... Read More
This was our first river boat cruise. We chose Avalon because they were recommended by friends and we were not disappointed. Not having been on any other river boat, I do not have any comparison but I will say the Vista was a wonderful ship. We sailed from Budapest to Amsterdam August 4 - August 18. This trip far exceeded our expectations. The rooms were much smaller than in a cruise ship, but very comfortable and the bathroom is gorgeous. The bed faced the huge sliding glass door which made it nice for view in scenery if we were in our room relaxing. The cruise director, Helmet, did an excellent job each night detailing the excursions (both included and optional) and sharing bit of interesting information about the ports for the next day. We took every included excursion and a few of the optional excursions. Helmet was always around during the excursions to answer questions and give directions. We thoroughly enjoyed every one of the excursion, we found them fun and with enough variety to be interesting. Yes, there were a lot of churches and castles. All of the crew members were very friendly, professional and helpful. Our waiters Ginda and Micheal were attentive and made us feel special (isn't' that why we take cruise so that for a few days we can feel very special - Ginda did an exceptional job of doing just that). Food was very good! Breakfast buffet was similar each morning, but enough variety that it did not get boring. Sparkling wine and a variety of juices were available each morning, which meant you could have a mimosa. The lunch buffet was different every day offering both some delicious and different hot and cold soups. The carving station offered excellent selections of meats and although I did not eat any pasta, the offerings all looked delicious. If you are not a buffet person, you can choose items from the menu that will be served to you by your waiter. If you are a light eater, there was a lunch served at the back of the lounge, usually consisted of soup, small sandwiches and salads and of course a desert. The dinner menu each night was different and again the food was excellent and included a choice of white and red wine. Did I mention the deserts - YUM!!! Each evening we had some sort of entertainment. Although the entertainment cannot be as expansive or as elaborate as the entertainment on the cruise ships, we found entertainment varied and very enjoyable; a nice way to end the day. Would we take another river boat cruise, yes if we liked the itinerary? Would we sail with Avalon again - definitely!! Read Less
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