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934 Avalon Waterways Cruise Reviews

Avalon Vista River Cruise “Magnificent Europe” (East Bound) Amsterdam to Budapest Aug 20 - Sep 3, 2014 Although my wife and I have been on five ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise. Based upon the price of river cruises ... Read More
Avalon Vista River Cruise “Magnificent Europe” (East Bound) Amsterdam to Budapest Aug 20 - Sep 3, 2014 Although my wife and I have been on five ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise. Based upon the price of river cruises and the way they are marketed using words like incredible, elegant, perfection, high standards, well-appointed, “luxury touch-points”, “crafted to entice all five senses” (all from the Avalon website, BTW) we came on board, fully expecting to be “wowed” by our first river cruise. When comparing cruising styles (ocean vs river), river cruises wins hands down for us. River cruising is just so much more relaxed, civilized and peaceful way to travel. Unlike large ocean cruise ships, there is no waiting in line to enter dining areas, no raucous areas such as swimming pools and outdoor “movies under the stars”, no bratty unsupervised children, well, you get the idea. There are plenty of reviews on the Internet comparing ocean cruising to river cruising so I won’t get into that here. This review will concentrate mainly on the ship and it's crew but not so much on ports-of-call. DINING • Overall, the food on the Vista was good but pedestrian, by our standards. We weren’t “wowed”. We have adventurous palates that were rarely satisfied on this cruise. Perhaps the Avalon menu was meant to reflect the part of Europe we were visiting. We did enjoy the special Bavarian lunch buffet and the Hungarian lunch buffet spotlighting local cuisine. Using our experiences on previous ocean cruises (4X on Princess, 1X on Norwegian) we would rate our food experience with Avalon at best to be on par with a Princess ocean cruise. • We enjoyed the tea, coffee and delicious cake served every afternoon at 4:00 PM, but it was the SAME three selections of cake EVERY DAY for the entire cruise! • Food quality was spotty at times. For example, the Croque Monsieur we ordered for lunch one day contained only one pitifully thin slice of ham and Swiss cheese. It was mostly bread. One of the sides at dinner one evening was a hash brown patty. Of course, it had a more posh sounding name at dinner but there it was the next morning at the breakfast buffet, in the hash brown warming tray! The Late Night Fare at 10:30 every evening was a sparse affair, usually with paper-thin triangle sandwiches and the same cakes from the afternoon’s 4 PM cake and coffee. At one particular Late NIght Fare that we attended, coffee, tea or juices were not available. Bread served at dinner was always the same bread that was part of the lunch buffet earlier in the day. It wasn’t soft and it wasn’t warm. On more than one occasion, some buffet and dinner items were overcooked. And yet, the Beef Tenderloin from the standing order menu was always outstanding as was the daily fish entree. • Dinner at 7 PM every evening was something to be endured, unfortunately, and it wasn’t because of the food. We looked forward to meeting fellow passengers from around the globe every day over dinner but virtually before the first course was served, the din from everyone conversing was unbearable. We mostly sat at tables of four and found ourselves practically shouting at our table mates to be heard. This is not elegant dining! Apparently, this situation is not restricted to Avalon vessels but is a problem on many river cruise ships. Breakfast and lunch brunches were come and go kind of affairs and therefore, more civilized when it came to conversing with fellow passengers. At dinner, the entire passenger list was in the dining room at the same time which accounted for the noise. It doesn’t help that some diners were already "happy" from the pre-dinner Happy Hour and certain dining room servers are much too eager to keep refilling your wine glass at dinner. As the wine went down, the noise level went up! • Dinner menus had plenty of variety for us. There were three or four Chef’s Specials that were different from night to night as well as a number of other items that were available every evening listed in the menu under Standing Orders. Portions were also just right. • Servers attend your table at dinner carrying two bottles of wine, one red, one white. Before having a chance to select your main course, you are asked which wine you would like. Any restaurant claiming to be an elegant dining experience would offer wine selection after the diner has selected the main course. • Further on wine at dinner: as mentioned above the servers carry two bottles of wine to your table but you are not told you may also choose from local wines that are listed in the menu. S • Breakfast and lunch brunches had plenty of variety. • Friendly serving staff were quick and efficient. • The ship had a special wine pairing tapas kind-of-dinner called the Panorama Bistro which was offered on a number of occasions. Seating was limited so one was required to sign up in order to attend. We took in a Panorama Bistro dinner and thoroughly enjoyed the multiple courses which were different from what was being served in the dining room. The wine pairing aspect was not what we consider wine pairing though. Wine pairing is having a different wine with each food course offered. At the Panorama Bistro dinner, diners chose from two wines, red and white, which were served throughout the dinner. The wines did not change with each course. Sorry, but this is NOT wine pairing. • The first few days of our cruise we found the hot meals to be less than piping hot. This situation extended to the food at the breakfast and lunch buffets. Whatever the cause it appeared to have been resolved because after the fourth day the meals were delivered hot to our table. • We enjoy cream with our coffee but had endless difficulty in getting it. Whenever we ordered coffee it always came accompanied by a small metal pitcher of milk. Asking for cream early in the cruise always brought a response from the server such as “We have no cream in the kitchen.” or “We will be getting cream at the next port”. Halfway through the cruise we were told cream was placed only at tables of six not tables of four. Whatever! INCLUDED EXCURSIONS • Most included excursions were interesting and “worth the money”. The guides we experienced all had a good command of the English language and were enthusiastic about their culture and town. • Of all the included excursions we enjoyed the Amsterdam Canal Cruise the most. • The included walking tour of Regensberg came with a complimentary coupon for a meal and beer at the Old Sausage Kitchen which is not to be missed! • Some of the ports we felt were just “filler” ports with very little to hold our interest. Rüdesheim and Dürnstein were essentially just stops to disgorge passengers into the tourist shopping areas. If you are a shopper this may not be an issue for you. We would rather have had an extra evening in Vienna than time in Dürnstein. OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS • In Amsterdam, my wife and I booked the optional tour: Biking Through the Dutch Countryside. The tour was everything we expected. The countryside was lovely, stereotypical Dutch landscape. The tour guide was informative and very competent. An unexpected stop for complimentary refreshments in a small Dutch village was a pleasant surprise. • In Vienna, we booked the Royal Waltz Concert. The musicians, singers and dancers were all very talented and professional. It was an enjoyable evening after which a complimentary CD of the concert was given to every one! ENTERTAINMENT • On six occasions local entertainers came on board to entertain in the ship’s lounge, generally before dinner. Live entertainment was of good quality and very professional except for three instances: 1. “Hum-pa-pa Hansi”: Immature performer with a juvenile sense of humour who laughed at his own jokes. Apparently he’s a multi-instrumentalist but his “comic” antics were such that we didn’t stay long enough to hear him play. We preferred to retire to our room for the evening. 2. Klaus Niederhuber: Touted by the cruise director as the “Bavarian Frank Sinatra”, we found him to be just a very cheesy lounge singer. Basically, his schtick is karaoke, singing along to tunes he brings up on his iPod which is connected to the lounge’s sound system. 3. Avalon Vista Crew Show: Except for two crew members who delighted us with their wonderful singing voices, the rest of the show consisted of sophomoric, lowbrow, bathroom humour. Not at all the quality of entertainment that should be offered on a river cruise. • The other entertainers, though, were excellent! La Strada (string trio); Tomy Temerson (zither performer); Gunzenheimer Swing Band (elderly trio who rocked out on ‘40s swing music); and Aphrodites (Slovakian “saloon orchestra” as they call themselves). Except for the swing band the performers were classically trained musicians who played a variety of classical and not-so-classical music. • On another occasion a local expert came on board to give an extremely informative and interesting presentation on the river lock system. On this cruise, the Vista goes through sixty-eight locks, some of which are incredibly high! • Another pre-dinner “info-tainment” event was the Bavarian Beer Tasting event. Two local beer experts explained the similarities and differences between various German beers and reinforced our newfound knowledge with complimentary samples of beer. A good time was had by all! • Despite the fact the ship does not have endless sources of activities like an ocean cruise ship, the days go by all too quickly. • Excellent commentary was given by Cruise Director Nynke as the Vista was cruising the “Romantic” (read: castles) section of the Rhine River. Amazing stretch of river populated by castles everywhere! DESIGN • Our room was the “entry level” category, which means it was at the bottom level of the ship. It was one of the smaller rooms on the ship but we didn’t feel cramped at all although other people might. We travel light with only one carry-on bag each regardless of the duration of our trip so we don’t have a lot of “stuff”. • With our stateroom being very near the water line, we occasionally would hear the sound of water lapping against the side of the ship which was fairly soothing when it was time to drift (pun intended) off to sleep at night. • The stateroom furnishings were top quality and everything worked like it should. • We liked our stateroom’s more modern décor which was carried throughout the ship. • Closet space was adequate for us but unlike everyone else on the ship, we travel light: no check-in bags, only one carry-on each. • Closet needed interior lighting. The dark recesses of the closet made it difficult to use the safe and locate items on shelving at times. • Our stateroom was two rooms away from the fitness room. During the day we could hear the “thump-thump-thump” in our room of someone working out on the treadmill in the fitness room. This was somewhat annoying but happened only during the day when we didn’t spend much time in the room anyway. • The room had five easily accessible electrical sockets. Great for all the chargers travellers carry these days! • Two bottles of water were left in our room every evening. Before every excursion, bottled water was available for those who wished to take some on their excursion. • We contacted housekeeping for additional clothes hangers, which were delivered practically before I hung up the phone. • Pant hangers were not provided. :~( COMFORT • According to the Avalon website they have invested in the finest bathroom appointments such as quality robes and slippers. Robe quality was good but the slippers were typical hotel quality. Near the end of our voyage, the toes of our slippers had pretty well worn through. • We had use of our robes for only thirteen of our fourteen night voyage: Robes were removed from our room by the steward on our last evening. Very tacky on Avalon’s part, indeed! • The bathroom shower was excellent! Great water pressure and plenty of hot water. • The bed, pillows and duvet were very comfortable. AMENITIES • Unfortunately, the Sky Deck with shade awnings was closed for most of the cruise due to all the low bridges the ship needed to pass under. • The complimentary (really now, NOTHING is complimentary, it’s in the price somewhere!) WiFi Internet access worked well. It was up for the entire cruise except for Bratislava, where it was kind of spotty, just as Avalon warned us it might be. • The self-serve beverage station with complimentary (there’s that word again) tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juices and water is a great idea that was very popular with the passengers. The Nespresso coffee machine serving espresso, lattes, cappucinos, and premium coffees was very popular at times with a line of passengers waiting to use it. (Okay, so there was one lineup on the ship.) For coffee aficionados, such as my wife and myself, we found the coffee coming out of that machine to taste pretty much the same, no matter what style of coffee was selected. Very little coffee flavour, mostly steamed milky flavour. We didn’t see any premium coffees as was advertised. Also at the beverage station was a selection of store-bought cookies and at times, pastry. The pastries disappeared quickly whenever they were put out but there were always cookies. Maybe it’s because the cookies were the SAME flavour for the entire fourteen day cruise. Every day it was hazelnut-chocolate chip cookies! • The ship’s interior was totally non-smoking but smokers had their designated outdoor spaces on two levels at the stern. At times a few smokers took it upon themselves to smoke wherever they pleased on the Sky Deck level if they figured other passengers would not raise a fuss. • Cruise Director Nynke is a wealth of information with a sharp wit and sense of humour. She took care of us all like a shepherd looks after her flock! • The ship is well designed for watching the scenery go by. All areas of the ship had plenty of window space. • A mandatory lifejacket drill for all passengers was scheduled the first evening in Amsterdam. For those familiar with these drills on ocean cruises, this five minute drill was laughable. It was very haphazard with the onus on each passenger to figure out how to put on the lifejacket. If you had any questions, crew members were standing by to answer them. At the end of the drill, the lifejackets were taken away to be stored somewhere else on the ship and not in your room! • Remembering Avalon’s use of descriptors such as “well-appointed” and “luxury touch-points” it’s odd one would find the stateroom bathroom stocked with upscale L’Occitane skin care products but find a one-bite, lowly, candy store Snickers bar placed upon one’s pillow in the evening by the room steward! Snickers? Really? Since we were cruising through Germany, German chocolate would have been nice. • We booked our flights through Avalon (whose parent company is Globus) and were met promptly by Avalon reps when we arrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Avalon had a hospitality room with refreshments and snacks in a local posh hotel for early arrivals. Disembarkation was relaxed and efficient. To summarize, we were “wowed” by the concept of river cruising but less than wowed by Avalon Vista’s execution of the concept. We give Avalon Vista a B+. We give river cruising an A+.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
After 3 days in Prague we were supposed to board the ship at Nuremberg for a cruise to Budapest. However, at the last minute we were advised that the river was too low and we would have to be transported by bus to Passau. As a result we ... Read More
After 3 days in Prague we were supposed to board the ship at Nuremberg for a cruise to Budapest. However, at the last minute we were advised that the river was too low and we would have to be transported by bus to Passau. As a result we missed out on two of the seven days cruising we had looked forward to. We were later told by a member of the Avalon staff that this situation is not unusual as the Main River is often low in June. The boat was very nice, the food was excellent, the service provided by boat staff was excellent. However, we were very disappointed by the loss of those two days cruising. In our opinion we had paid top dollar but for two days we were provided with a mediocre product. We did not get what we had paid for. Avalon staff told us that they do not compensate passengers for this loss. Our advice - research the river you will be travelling on with respect to how often it is not navigable during a certain month of the summer. One last note. Do not take a river cruise if you like to eat by yourselves. There are no tables for two. You will have no choice but to eat with others, some of whom are delightful, others less so.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
We were comparing Viking and Avalon as we knew nothing about either. We chose Avalon as it was the right timing and we received free air fare. Lol. We really didn't know much about destinations or places we wanted to see but ... Read More
We were comparing Viking and Avalon as we knew nothing about either. We chose Avalon as it was the right timing and we received free air fare. Lol. We really didn't know much about destinations or places we wanted to see but thought we would start with the Danube and see what that was like. We quickly found that the destination was only part of the trip. We enjoyed every minute of the time we spent on the Avalon Impression. The cruise director, Kristine was a delight. So organized and seemed to know all passengers in a very short time. She was so informative and helpful at every turn. The Captain Roland was also wonderful. He took time to answer questions and made us feel like he was at home with his ship and we felt well cared for on the water. The ship its self was very nice. The rooms seemed adequate in the space we had and supplied everything we needed. Our room attendant, Flory was delightful. She kept us put together at all times and was so polite and helpful, we had no complaints. We so enjoyed meeting the other travelers from different places and had overall an amazing experience. This was a trip I never imagined I would get to experience and Avalon made it one I hope to do again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We chose to go on this cruise to experience five countries in a leisurely manner, taking in the passing scenery from our Stateroom. To be fair, we were not too bothered about excursions or onboard entertainment, so our rating in this area ... Read More
We chose to go on this cruise to experience five countries in a leisurely manner, taking in the passing scenery from our Stateroom. To be fair, we were not too bothered about excursions or onboard entertainment, so our rating in this area may not be important to others. Had the trip gone according to plan I have no doubt I would be giving Avalon five stars. The five days we cruised, out of fifteen booked, was exceptional. Whilst Avalon cannot be blamed for poor water conditions, they can be blamed for failing to inform us in time to cancel the trip, on failing to offer reasonable compensation, and on exceptionally poor communications from their customer service area. In short: We cruised for 5 days out of the advertised 15. We cruised through part of one country, rather than the advertised five countries. We were put up in hotels for six nights. Meals, where provided by the hotel at all, were ordinary, at best. We spent many hours being driven point to point on buses, requiring early morning starts and much packing and repacking. We saw very little in the way of scenery outside of the five days of cruising, spending most of the time on motorways. We have been offered compensation of approximately 20% of the total cruise-only cost (nothing for the cost of airfares). When challenged, Avalon just says it is their policy. My requests for a review by a more senior representative seems to have been ignored. Whilst other cruise companies have suffered similar problems, most seem to be able to transfer passengers relatively small distances to another ship. I suspect this is because most have more ships available. By all means use Avalon if you can be certain the river conditions will allow one continuous journey - the ship was great, as were the staff on the ship. However where there is any likelihood of problems, it appears Avalon is least likely to be able to minimise the disruption and will not offer fair and reasonable compensation. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We had high expectations for our first (and LAST) river cruise last summer to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had no idea that there were issues with low water levels until we landed in Prague. Most other people were told ... Read More
We had high expectations for our first (and LAST) river cruise last summer to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had no idea that there were issues with low water levels until we landed in Prague. Most other people were told before they left town they could cancel for a full refund - we were not. After purchasing Business Class tickets, we didn't think it made sense to turn around and go home. BIG MISTAKE. "Issues" means that many of our stops were skipped and we were transported by BUS rather than cruising. They passed out this type of information day by day to avoid everyone cancelling right out of the shoot. To top it off, they kicked us off the last segment because they said the boat could not make it to Budapest. Funny thing - we saw our @Avalon ship docked in Budapest the next day. (We were treated to yet ANOTHER 5 hour bus ride instead of a cruise.) I get it that they don't control the weather, but they did nothing to make it right. By the time they responded to our complaint (at least a month after it was filed) they could have cared less. It was a LOT of money as we had upgraded to the Royal Suite since it was a special occasion. While the thought of a European River Cruise may sound lovely on paper, trust me, its a huge gamble and frankly not worth it. HUMONGOUSLY disappointing to say the least. I don't know how @Avalon can maintain a business where you can't deliver what you sold. They could have made it right by giving us a nice discount - they chose not to. I'm going back to Ocean cruises. Thanks. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
While most people were notified before they left home, we were not, that our cruise would not be sailing as planned. I had no idea the river levels were too low in places until I arrived in Prague for the land portion of the cruise. The ... Read More
While most people were notified before they left home, we were not, that our cruise would not be sailing as planned. I had no idea the river levels were too low in places until I arrived in Prague for the land portion of the cruise. The theme of this so called river cruise was how many hours can we put you on a bus instead of enjoying your relaxing river cruise? This cruise has been a joke from day 1 and when they finally announced mid-cruise that not only were we going to miss the first 2 days of our cruise, but also the last 2 days, most of the people onboard pitched a fit. The cruise director who is an independent contractor, said hey, don't blame me, call Avalon. She wanted everyone to smile and just take it apparently. So what that we spent a fortune to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I get it, they don't control the weather HOWEVER, if you can't deliver what you promised to people you should, at a minimum, give them a big discount. And how about throwing in some free drinks or shore excursions. Something to say we are sorry we cannot provide you with the experience you shelled out $10,000 for. I could have bused/trained myself around the area for far less money. What a rip off. I will never book a river cruise again. They don't even compare with ocean cruises. The service is lousy and the food is pretty pathetic. This was the biggest vacation disappointment ever. DON'T BOOK AVALON. They don't care what your experience is as long as they have already cashed the check. It's going to be hard for them to stay in business when it gets around that they don't take care of their customers and won't do the right thing by them. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
This is my third cruise with Avalon and I'm still on the creativity. My first was amazing, second the passion I put up with quite a few no's and can't help you. Like Missing out on food, they pack up 10 minutes early. Staff ... Read More
This is my third cruise with Avalon and I'm still on the creativity. My first was amazing, second the passion I put up with quite a few no's and can't help you. Like Missing out on food, they pack up 10 minutes early. Staff taking plates away before you finished. Getting only a half glass of wine in 2 hours, constantly asking for a drink or top up. This cruise takes the cake. No no and more no's. Food is not ok. Frozen stale donuts in coffee lounge. Over cooked bacon and powdered eggs. Staff not looking at anyone just head down clearing plates. Hovering over you at afternoon tea serving food but only one peice each. I'm sure the drinks are watered down and only ever half full. I've bar trended before and not once have I had a decent drink! More ice than drink. Cocktail parties more food going down stairs than being offered to guests and that's on the last 2 cruises I have only had one peice of food at 3 cocktail parties. Tried to even buy a bottle to drink asked 4 people and got a NO. Would I book Avalon again NO Would I recommend Avalon NO. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
What a way to visit Normandie and get a taste of Paris! This was our first cruise of any kind. We are very happy with our choice. From beginning to end all went well. The crew were welcoming, helpful, efficient and professional. ... Read More
What a way to visit Normandie and get a taste of Paris! This was our first cruise of any kind. We are very happy with our choice. From beginning to end all went well. The crew were welcoming, helpful, efficient and professional. They must be applying the 10/5 concept; eye contact at 10 feet and a hello at 5 feet. Whenever we would leave the ship for an excursion the Captain would bid us a good day and then a welcome back, something we were told rarely happens on other cruises. The stateroom was very well apportioned and always kept clean and tidy by our room steward. Dining in the morning, at noon,in the evening and at night was fantastic and plentiful and the wines were very good. The service on all fronts was excellent, albeit a bit slow at the bar at times; the entertainment also left something to be desired, except for the night the crew took to the stage. As for the shore excursions all of them were well guided, informative and always on schedule. Without taking anything away from other excursions the highlights for us were the D-Day landing beaches and the optional one to Honfleur, i.e., the location from where Champlain and company departed to settle the "new world". The sailing part of the cruise was not so much a sail per se as a glide along La Seine. Although there is always a current there is practically no wind to speak of, thus no waves. We delighted in watching the river banks and the towns and cities glide by, even at night with the lights of our room extinguished and curtains slightly opened, all until we gently fell asleep. This was truly a wonderful adventure. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Let me preface this by saying we are not cruise people. We've only taken a couple of other cruises on small ships (Windstar - great!! and Antarctica excursion) but never a river cruise. We chose Avalon because they advertised a 3-Day ... Read More
Let me preface this by saying we are not cruise people. We've only taken a couple of other cruises on small ships (Windstar - great!! and Antarctica excursion) but never a river cruise. We chose Avalon because they advertised a 3-Day Cruise Only option that allowed us to do only the river portion with them. We looked at the cruise as Room & Board and transportation only. We weren't interested in any group tours. We booked our own hotels in Vienna and Budapest and did our own thing in every port. Being very experienced world travelers (having already traveled independently to over 100 countries) we don't like groups. All that said, this seemed pretty easy. Wrong! The entire experience was annoying. From boarding the ship to leaving, we felt harassed. The cabins they touted as a room with a view, was adequate but nothing special. Food was really designed for the typical cruise population with an average age of 70. When I asked for a piece of fish with no sauce, which seems like an easy request, the waiter acted as if I was inconveniencing him. The cruise director was the most annoying person I've ever encountered in all my travels. And, above all else, no one on the staff seemed to understand the concept of Cruise Only. They kept paging us and asking about our arrangements. They were annoyed we weren't part of their group. What happened to "it's all about the customer?!" The cruise itself: The ports were interesting — Melk, Durnstein, Bratislava and into Budapest. But river cruising is a very expensive way to see places if you are a good independent traveler. We spent three nights on the river and then three nights in Budapest at a very high-end hotel. When we added up all our expenses there, it turned out we spent half as much — and that included a huge suite, using the hotel car for touring, taking advantage of its spa, eating in some astoundingly fantastic restaurants, and being driven to the airport. And, as if our experience on the ship wasn't bad enough, when I got home and received a welcome home email from Avalon asking for my feedback, I wrote back about some of the problems we had, and was planning to post a negative review on TripAdvisor, I received a reply telling me they were very busy and would take 5 – 8 weeks to reply. Seriously? That's how you reply to a customer who is unhappy? I didn't want anything from them other than to say you did a lousy job. The upshot was I requested to have my address — email, snail mail, and any future delivery systems — removed from all their databases. I do not want to receive anything from them. I know lots of people who love river cruises. If you are one of them, be very careful before choosing Avalon. Customer service is not their strong suit. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
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