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12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
We have just returned from a Rhine Cruise on Tranquility II- Northbound from Zurich to Amsterdam and loved it.There was a problem with the river being closed due to too high water but Avalon could'nt help have done any more to a ... Read More
We have just returned from a Rhine Cruise on Tranquility II- Northbound from Zurich to Amsterdam and loved it.There was a problem with the river being closed due to too high water but Avalon could'nt help have done any more to a situation out of their control. We were bussed from Zurich to Strasbourg, and spent 2 nights mored there, but it was no hardship as they bussed everyone the Heildelberg Castle from Strasbourg, so nothing was missed other than the cruise from Basle to Strasbourg (we stayed onbaord and enjoyed a lovely Bebeque on the sundeck). The guests were a nice mix of English speaking nations from New Zealand, Austrailia, Canada, USA and Brits, all who got on very well (despite the conversation always revolving about the UK referendum/Brexit! LOL) the ship is well equipped very clean (only a year old) and the cabins are very nice with 3 sliding glass windows to give you a great view of the countryside and a full size bathroom with a great shower. The crew were all excellent, and could'nt be more friendlier and helpful. The food was the best we have had on the 3 river cruises we have been on, and wine/beer included with your evening meal was great and very generous . There was a resident pianist who played every evening, with local artists coming on board when mored overnight to entertain, however the Crew show stole the limelight and was brilliant. Hendrick the cruise Director was excellent and very informative and helpful. We really enjoyed cruising through the Rhine Gorge and the destinations particulally Rhudesheim which is lovely. In all a lovely ship, cruise and I wouldn't hesitate recommening Avalon to anyone Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
This cruise was a gift from my wife's parents, however i would say i would it again and already looking to when my wife and I will be going on the next trip!!! on this trip we were never in need of want, as a person with Gluten ... Read More
This cruise was a gift from my wife's parents, however i would say i would it again and already looking to when my wife and I will be going on the next trip!!! on this trip we were never in need of want, as a person with Gluten allergies and my wife with Sea food allergies we could not have some of the meals however, the Chef (Chef Thomas) heard this and made sure we had a choice every meal to make sure I had the best experience with the food he was creating! right down to the fresh home made breads. All the excursions were very will done and gave not just the history as one would think or except but also the local information. The Crew....in a word?! Wow!! it was like wanting for nothing as Ravi was there every time you needed him, this goes with all of the Crew. Everyone was very attentive to what ever your need might be. I would give the Boat, Crew, and every part of this trip 110 % score!! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
In June, my husband and I traveled with Avalon on the Romantic Rhine cruise. It was fabulous. We were on the Tranquility II where the staff was courteous, friendly, and helpful and the food was delicious. Our cabin was roomy, clean, and ... Read More
In June, my husband and I traveled with Avalon on the Romantic Rhine cruise. It was fabulous. We were on the Tranquility II where the staff was courteous, friendly, and helpful and the food was delicious. Our cabin was roomy, clean, and comfortable to the point that Avalon has spoiled us. I’m not sure any other line has the room set up the way Avalon does. The whole outside wall is all glass and opens up 2/3 of the way to make your room the balcony. So you can sit in comfort on your sofa and watch the scenery pass by. It also doesn’t take space away from the room for a balcony, as other cruise lines do. Having the bed face the outside wall also helped to make the room more spacious. There was comfortable space on either side of the bed to move around. By placing the bed facing that way, the bathroom is extended so that was roomy and we could easily turn around or bend down in the shower, something else that other cruise lines don’t allow. The daily tours were well planned and covered a lot of ground and the local guides were very knowledgeable and pleasant. We were pleased that a walking tour was included in Amsterdam, which was not listed in the itinerary. Germany had a lot of rain this spring so the rivers overflowed their banks. As a result, the ship was not able to go further than Mannheim but Avalon did a wonderful job of making sure that we got to the places that were included on the itinerary. They got us to Strasbourg by motor coach and included the optional wine tasting tour if we wanted to take it. I opted to stay in Strasbourg. We had pre-booked the optional tour to Colmar. It had to be canceled and our money was refunded. We went by motor coach through the Black Forest to Zurich and substituted two wonderful stops in place of the options listed on the itinerary. Lake Titisee and the Rhine Falls were gorgeous. Our tour director, Hendrik, worked very hard to make sure that everyone was taken care of with stays at the hotel in Zurich, transportation to the airport, and, for us, travel to Basel to the train station. Amidst all the upheaval, he remained pleasant and calm. We were so pleased with our tour and with Avalon that we look forward to cruising with them again soon. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II from Amsterdam on Saturday June 4, 2016. By we, I mean my wife and two sons, ages 27 and 25. We wondered about the weather as it had been raining like crazy in Europe as we arrived. Paris and ... Read More
We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II from Amsterdam on Saturday June 4, 2016. By we, I mean my wife and two sons, ages 27 and 25. We wondered about the weather as it had been raining like crazy in Europe as we arrived. Paris and Bavaria were flooding. The Louvre was closed! But for us, as we boarded, it was warm and sunny. In fact, it would be that way pretty much the entire time. It seemed we had avoided any high water problems—but more on that later. We had arrived in Amsterdam two days earlier, and had stayed at the Ibis, which was located right next to the Central Station. Our first Avalon activity was a tour of Zaanse Schans, a traditional windmill village (optional tour). This took place before boarding, and we were to be at the Movenpick hotel by 1 pm. To get there, we had to walk along the river with our wheelie bags in tow. As we walked along, we realized that we were walking right by the boat. Would they let us on (it was hours early) to drop off our bags (and change into shorts as it was suddenly hot)? Yes! Our first interaction was one of relaxed flexibility—and this is how it was the whole time. Zaanse Schanse was interesting—windmills, wooden shoe making, cheese making. I mean, windmills and Holland go together, right? The bus took us back to the ship and we moved into our rooms. Our rooms were in the lower level (submarine class), and were quite nice. Little tidbits are that the towels come in two colors (for us—white for her, brown for me), and there were robes and slippers, perfect for heading up to the (seldom used by others) hot tub. There were always two big bottles of water in the room for our use at no additional cost. The TV had a few channels of regular TV and like ten different fireplace channels! The bed was comfortable. The next day was still an Amsterdam day, beginning with the included tour of a canal cruise followed by a guided walk back to the boat (or, you could choose a bus back, or a tour of a diamond facility with a bus back). That afternoon we explored Amsterdam on our own some more and set sail around 5 pm. The next day (Monday) we sailed until around 3 pm. It was a nice little “sea day.” We docked in Cologne where we had a choice of included tours: a regular walking tour, or a walking tour of Jewish Cologne. Pro tip: The tour of Jewish Cologne includes everything the regular tour includes, and is just 30 minutes longer. While the tour of the town was interesting, the fact is that most of it was destroyed in WWII, so much of what is described are things that are no longer there. Except, of course, the main reason to go to Cologne—the magnificent cathedral. The tours all end there, leaving us free to explore it, and for us, to climb the tower (cost is extra)! 533 steps up a narrow winding staircase on a hot and humid day. My sons scampered up and I followed, a few minutes behind. Great views, nice to see the upper reaches up close, and a small sense of middle aged accomplishment. Tuesday morning we had a walking tour of Koblenz. A cute little town, but all we could do was take the tour and get back on the boat for what was for us the highlight of the cruise: sailing the Rhine Gorge and looking at all the castles. We lucked into a warm sunny day and enjoyed the sights and the narration. Later that afternoon we docked at Rudesheim, where the included tour took us to the Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. I have to admit that the whole thing seemed hokey at first, but by the end I was completely fascinated. After dinner the four of us hit town with two others (a mother and her 29 year old daughter—so all of the under 30’s were out with us) for an evening in the local bars. Wednesday morning we had a tour of Mainz that included a tour of the Gutenberg Museum—which was very interesting and you could also see some original Gutenberg Bibles. After lunch we were off to Heidleberg and a tour of the castle and of the town, with some time in town on our own before getting on the bus back to the boat. The castle there was another highlight for us. Remaining on the schedule were stops in Strasbourg, Breisach and an end in Basel. Wednesday night we learned that all of the rain in Europe (but not on us) had finally caught up to us and that the locks upstream were no longer passable. So, the cruising part of our cruise would end in Strasbourg. We would stay on the boat each night, but no more sailing. Avalon handled this very smoothly, and all tours went off as planned except for those that had purchased the optional biking tours in Breisach. Thursday in Strasbourg included a canal cruise, a walking tour and some town time on our own, during which we climbed another cathedral tower (only about 300 steps this time—piece of cake!). Strasbourg is a very nice town. That afternoon we took the optional tour to the Maginot line, which was also a very interesting and fascinating tour. It is a tour through one of the bunkers. Friday was the included tour of the Black Forest. The bus simply picked us up in Strasbourg instead of Breisach. We chose the Cuckoo Clock option and frankly, this trip was a waste of time. The description led us to believe we would at least have a demonstration. Instead, we had a long bus ride to a cuckoo clock store where they spent an hour selling clocks, and then a ride back. Oh, and they threw in a piece of cake. The highlight was the bus ride, which provided interesting scenery. I spent the afternoon lying on the deck reading with one son, while my wife and other son walked around Strasbourg. Saturday morning Avalon provided a bus from Strasbourg to the Central Station in Basel, and we were on our own for four very nice days in Switzerland. Avalon was excellent. The ship was very nice, and the staff was terrific. It was all very relaxed, and they handled the high water problems with grace and skill. The only place for improvement is that my wife and sons are vegetarians, and the vegetarian food, while tasty and well-presented, often lacked a protein. They worked with us on this and there was improvement as the trip went along, but this is an area that needs some work. We had a great family vacation on the Avalon Tranquility II. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
Our first river cruise and it was a wonderful experience! The weather was not ideal and there was some flooding but I would still not change my rating. The ship was beautiful and the cabins with the beds facing the river were all you ... Read More
Our first river cruise and it was a wonderful experience! The weather was not ideal and there was some flooding but I would still not change my rating. The ship was beautiful and the cabins with the beds facing the river were all you could ask for. The crew did not disappoint and the cruise director, Kathy, was a treasure. She made the cruise! Food was very good. We did the romantic Rhine starting in Switzerland and ending in Amsterdam. Historic and picturesque. My only regret is that we were too late for the tulips in Amsterdam! Switzerland was fabulous and the trip up Mt. Pilates is a must see! From Black Forest cakes in Germany to the croquettes in Amsterdam, experiencing local fare was a great adventure! I would highly recommend this cruise line and this cruise! We cruised with siblings and that made the trip even more fun! Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
My wife and I have always wanted to go to Europe and thought that a Rhine River cruise would get us a good sampling of the main countries of northern Europe. We sailed out of Amsterdam and ended up the cruise in Basel, Switzerland with a ... Read More
My wife and I have always wanted to go to Europe and thought that a Rhine River cruise would get us a good sampling of the main countries of northern Europe. We sailed out of Amsterdam and ended up the cruise in Basel, Switzerland with a bus ride to Zurich for our flight home. The ship was beautiful, clean, and very comfortable. The food was outstanding and the service excellent. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with a great selection. Supper was a served meal by congenial and courteous staff. The choices for the supper meal were numerous and included a nice variety. Wine and beer was available with the supper meal at no charge. This experience was much better than our large ocean going cruise a few years ago where all meals were prepared ahead of time and we felt like we were being herded to feed. Of course, the number of passengers on this cruise were a lot, lot less. Our cabin was lovely with doors that opened up for a panoramic view of the shore line. The cruise activities and shore excursions were fantastic. Shore excursions included canal tours, walking tours, and some bus tours that were included. Other excursions cost additional money, such as a visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, or visits to Heidelberg, Germany and Colmar, France, or the Black Forest in Germany. Erik, our cruise director did and outstanding job, keeping us all on time and organized. Evening entertainment was very good with a variety of types from piano solos to wood carving demonstrations. Overall, the trip was fantastic, very well organized with a good selection of tours and options for all customers. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
I did not know that Avalon is a part of Cosmos tours and ultimately Globus, an American Company. There were only 4 English People on the boat, the majority being American with a few Canadians and Australians. This does not matter of course ... Read More
I did not know that Avalon is a part of Cosmos tours and ultimately Globus, an American Company. There were only 4 English People on the boat, the majority being American with a few Canadians and Australians. This does not matter of course but lends a certain perspective. For example, the dress code is VERY casual.This boat is new with large staterooms and high quality fitments and toiletries etc. The tours are very well organised and the cruise director, Nancy Paredes is the best that I have come across. The food and wine is good apart from the vegetables which were mush. However our brochure mentioned a library and a shop which are non existent. The library is one shelf of books, half of which are travel guides and the shop is reception where you can buy a toothbrush. There was one nights entertainment, a trio of violins and guitar which were excellent. Other than that nothing! The lounge emptied at 10.30! This is an expensive trip and I had 2 big problems. The booking was made last September and 2 weeks before travelling, Avalon emailed us and changed the flights trying to blame KLM airline. This was untrue and it all descended into disorganised chaos. Also the brochure notified me for the first time that all gratuities are included in the cost of the trip. It does not say how much, nor can you opt out. I rang the Company who could not or would not tell me how much had been added to the cost of the holiday. Someone was supposed to ring back but never did. At the end of the cruise there were guidelines for gratuities for people who had not prepaid. These amounted to $200. Have I paid this? I don't know. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We had high water river flooding so Avalon had to scurry and make our trip the best it could be under the circumstances. We were very impressed with their actions. They notified us via email that there was high water and things were ... Read More
We had high water river flooding so Avalon had to scurry and make our trip the best it could be under the circumstances. We were very impressed with their actions. They notified us via email that there was high water and things were going to have to change. We had planned on the newest ship in the fleet and smooth sailing but that was not to be the case for us. However, we did not get put into a hotel or taken just by bus as I had heard horror stories in the past. They got a different ship there in Amsterdam for us so we were in good shape. They explained that Sat, Sun, Mon, and Tues we would be enjoying our cruise on that ship with their staff. They could not have been any nicer. Then on Weds we did have to pack up and be taken by bus to our excursion and from there they would take us to the new ship! For that inconvenience they even offered us a monetary reimbursement which I thought was outstanding as they were not obligated to do that. So then we were finally on our ship....it was fantastic and our super cruise director Isabel went with us so we still felt like home. That could have been an awful experience and they worked doubly hard to make sure that it was not! The beginning of the trip we stayed in Amsterdam for three days on a houseboat which was pretty awesome too. Then went to the Movenpick Hotel for free soft drinks and meeting other travelers and then whisked off by bus to the Keukenhoff Gardens tour. It was unbelievable--the reds, oranges, pinks, yellows in the fields and then the best garden we have ever toured and we have been to Versaille, etc. It is only open 8 weeks out of the year so if you are lucky enough to be there then I heartily recommend going. We were not besieged by crowds as we had a plan of which places we wanted to see and we walked directly to them. The orchid place was one of our first to visit and it was phenomenal. After that tour then we were taken back to the ship. The ship was easy to get around on unless you cannot do about six steps up or down. There is an elevator if you cannot. We were on the top cabin level in 323 towards the back of the ship. Perfect location for us as it was near the club lounge where there was always cookies, teas, coffees, juices, donuts, turnovers etc out day and night. Many people read there or did computers there. Wifi is great on this ship! And the views from the back of the boat were good too. You could also go right up on the top deck from there too. So we liked the location of our cabin and especially being on the third floor we had great views. We actually laid in bed and watched some castles go by! The cabin itself was great with the panoramic wall of glass doors that open. And it was roomy with a couch, desk, fridge, the most comfortable bed and pillows that I have experienced. The bathroom is way bigger and nicer than what you get on the ocean cruises. Nice size shower and marble everywhere. A nice night light system too. And they have different color towels so you know which one is yours and which one is your roomies. Nice idea! Came from a cruisers recommendation on an evaluation they said. There were different ages represented from many different countries. Average probably in the sixties. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and U.S. had the most people onboard. So interesting to meet them and get to know them. I made us of the hand sanitizers at the reception area when you came and went and also at the restaurant entrance and I carried my own as I did not want to get a cold etc. I loved that they had provided free water for us and they kept that going all through the trip. Nice touch. Also, loved the free wine and beer that came with dinner. They actually kept filling up my glass and I am a lightweight so they were not stingy at all! After we left Amsterdam the most exciting thing was going through the first lock! We went up on top and watched the process as I had never experienced that before. Food: I did not ever go to breakfast as I don't eat that usually but did go to the club lounge and had a turnover or something with my juice and pills. The lunches were great. You need to remember at the dining room to look at the menu since you can order things too besides what is on the buffet. I loved the buffet and way overate. Salads to start and many entrees, breads, veggies, and desserts. Ice cream was always offered too. Then for dinner we had six courses some nights! The best was the one with lobster of course....but always good soups, salads, entrees like salmon, steak, fish, potatoes, rice, and yummy desserts. My favorite was the lobster and the tenderloin of beef. And the best night was the night we tried the bistro dinner in the lounge. You have to sign up for it and we were so happy we did...no charge extra! And it was the best meal of little plates and we were stuffed and we had great dinner companions from Canada. Had a great night. In your regular dinners, we sometimes ate at a table for two and sometimes ate at a group table. Depends upon what time you get there what choice you have. And for lunch you also have the choice of a light lunch in the lounge. We did that a couple days when we were pressed for time with two excursions in a day. And there was soup, salad, two entrees and dessert. We were sad that on the day we were to have a grilled lunch up on top we had rain so we missed that. Service: we cannot say enough about the service....both ships had staff that always spoke to you and wished you a good excursion or dinner or day. And the cruise director was so good--Isabel kept things running smoothly, explained everything, and even offered to have us borrow her ipad charger when mine broke mid cruise. And the hotel director Mr. D offered his laptop computer to me one night to print boarding passes....just ask. We also needed another adaptor/convertor and both ships had them to borrow free of charge since we had U.S. Ipads, and Kindles, and phones to charge up. The room was kept immaculate and clean and loved the turn down service while at dinner and came back to chocolates on the bed and a fireplace on the tv. The tv was a flat screen and was much better on the Tranquility II than on the older ship. Newer of course. One night it was not working and reception just reset it from down there and it was back up and running. My hubby's only criticism was not much for U.S. news on it...mostly British. But you are on vacation and you have your Ipad and your Kindle so we were not without news. Plus they have a bulletin paper for all the countries in the club lounge so you could read up there. Excursions: We did them all! We did all the free ones and did all the paid ones we could fit in so we were busy! In Amsterdam, we did the Canal Boat tour and walking tour and Keukenhoff Gardens. We would have done Anne Frank House but had already done it and the same with the Zaanse Schwans Windmills. In Strasbourg, we had the best tour guide ever, Rafaella sp? but had her for two excursions and she was so proud of her city and excellent. Loved the Alsace Loraigne wine trip too. The local family winery there was very hospitable and the wines all white were excellent and got to see the process. And even had some cake. I personally loved the Siegfrieds Mechanical Musical Museum as I knew what to expect; old instruments very unique and very loud and the house it is in is very interesting too. Then we did not have the Rudesheim coffee after as they offered us the wine tasting there instead with cheeses. Notice a wine theme going on here...it was great! I much preferred that to a coffee thing. The best thing though with the most pictures was the sailing through the gorge and a castle every five minutes. We had 87 degree weather for that day which was weird since it had been 50's and 60's so up on the top deck with our cruise director giving us a paper with the castle history and a narration as they floated by. It was fantastic with waiter service for drinks as we sailed along. Towards the end, I went down to the cabin to lay in bed and watch them gently go by. My hubby fell asleep but I saw them all! Magical! Heidelburg printing press and Heidelburg castle was a great excursion too with free time for shopping so I got my chocolates. Also got macaroons in Strasbourg. The only thing different I might have done the whole trip was maybe take a morning off to relax but I just did not want to miss anything....Wear comfortable shoes as there are lots of cobblestone streets and stairs. We only travel with backpacks for Europe so for packing I can tell you that you can do layers for colder, warmer etc and be very comfortable. Don't overpack! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip on my first river cruise and would do another! And would definitely recommend Avalon! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
General Info My wife and I sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II April 18 through April 25, 2015. It was a North bound sailing on the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Tranquility II was launched on ... Read More
General Info My wife and I sailed on the Avalon Tranquility II April 18 through April 25, 2015. It was a North bound sailing on the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Tranquility II was launched on April 2, 2015; this is was only the third sailing of the ship. This was our first river cruise. Overall, the cruise and the ship were fabulous. The crew and the service were fantastic…especially the cruise director, Karolien. We flew into Zurich a day early and stayed at the Avalon pre-cruise hotel – the Moevenpick Airport Zurich. (See my review on TripAdvisor dated April 28, 2015 entitled "Good Hotel; the Restaurant Service Needs Improving. Directions using S-7 to Zurich". The bus from the hotel left at 3:30 PM; we were at the by around 4:30 PM. We were escorted to our cabin be the staff. Our bags were delivered about 10 minutes later. The Ship The ship was beautiful. It was elegant, contemporary and comfortable. (In Amsterdam, we docked next to a Uniworld ship. I’ve always heard that Uniworld was top-notch. Looking through the windows of the public areas we could see crystal chandlers and ornate furniture. It looked like my grandmothers living room – no thanks). The layout of the ship is kind of a “split-level”. The main deck with reception and the main lounge is a half a deck down from deck 3 and half a deck up from deck 2 The dining room is a half a deck down from deck 2 and a half a deck up from deck 1. There are six steps between each of these decks. The only problem that I saw with the ship design is the height or rise of the steps. I believe that a normal step has about seven inches. My estimate of the steps on the ship was about a nine inch rise. Most of the passengers on the ship were older. (My guess is that the average age was about 72). You could tell many had hip and knee problems and had trouble walking on the excursions. People struggled to climbs the short stair cases. Yes, there is a small elevator; but, I never saw a passenger use it. Hygiene was encouraged on the ship. There is an alcohol-based sanitizer dispenser at the door that passengers are asked to clean their hands with upon returning from shore. There are two sanitizer dispensers one each side of the entrance to the main dining room which passenger are reminded to use before each meal. After a few days, passengers were complaining about dry skin. The cabin The cabin was beautiful, tasteful and very functional. There was a lot of hanging storage in the closet. There were also some shelves on the side of the closet where the safe was located. (I found the safe a little tricky. The first couple of times that I opened and closed it, it didn’t catch. I would come back the cabin and find the safe opened. Then I realized that I had to hold the safe closed with one hand and punch in the code with the other; and, then you have to wait to see the word “success” on the display. Otherwise, there was a good chance that the door didn’t catch properly). Drawer space was limited to three drawers in the desk and a very small drawer in each nightstand. Lighting in the room was great. The beds were high enough to store suitcases. There is a mini-bar on the left side of the desk. It is well stocked. There is enough room in the fridge for two or three small water bottles. Housekeeping checks the inventory each day. Be careful about removing items from the fridge to make room for your own things. You will be charged for missing items on a daily basis. Avalon provides two (one liter) bottles of water in cabin and replaces the bottles throughout the cruise…a nice touch. There are at least two ice machines – one by the entrance to the main dining room and one in the rear lounge on deck three. We requested that the bed be put together. There was a placard on the bed when we first arrived that, if you didn’t want the duvet cover, you could request a traditional sheet and blanket set up. I found the duvet too warm for me. So, I requested the sheet and blanket setup. The only problem is that they don’t have queen/king size blankets. There are two blankets in the cabin on the shelf above the safe in the closet. They are twin size blankets. Housekeeping laid the twin-sized blankets perpendicularly across the bed. There was no spread on top. It worked; but, it wasn’t pretty. Speaking of bedding, I read somewhere that Avalon uses TempurPedic mattresses. The mattress was the most comfortable bed that I had ever slept on. We both awoke with no backaches or pain. The pillows were great also. (Unlike the pillows in the Moevenpick). The HVAC system was very good. You just had to interpolate the Celsius marking for Fahrenheit. The room was always comfortable. The bathroom was large and beautiful. There is a storage area with shelves on each side of the sink. The wastebasket pulls of the center of the counter. There is a narrow glass shelf on the mirror. We really enjoyed the use of the provided bathrobes and slippers. The shower was very good. But, my wife wished that there was a seat or a step to aid in shaving her legs. One hint on the shower…when you first turn the shower on there is a button or detente that stops the knob. The shower at that point is a gentle spray. If you press the button down and continue to turn the knob more, you get a stronger spray. (It took us a half a week to figure that out). One nice touch in the bathroom was that there were lights at the top of the mirror and another set of lights under to overhang of the counter for floor lighting. They made for a good night light. The only real problem we encountered was the toilet stopped working just after lunch on Monday. The problem was fixed by the time we returned from our afternoon excursion. The toilets work on a vacuum system and there was a problem (a loose fitting or something) with the system. Some passengers reported sporadic issues with the toilets prior to that. A word on cabin position…we were in room 210 on the port side of the ship. We felt that it was perfect. It was far enough away from the main lobby and not too far back that it was a hike to get to your cabin. I don’t really think that port or starboard cabin locations make much difference. There was scenery on both sides. Some nights we moored facing the river and some nights we tied up facing the town. (The only time that was really an issue was the night in Rudesheim. There are train tracks along the river. There were trains every four to five minutes all night long. My wife didn’t hear them; but, they kept waking me up. I’m not sure if we were on the starboard side it would have been any better. I really didn’t think that we would open the wall-to-wall sliding glass doors much. But, we had them open every day. It was a nice treat. Sail Away Shortly before 5:00 PM on Saturday, the cruise director came over the speaker system and announced that we were waiting for three passengers. I learned latter that the significance of that was the captain was anxious to get underway. There are 14 locks between Basel and Amsterdam. Nine of those locks are between Basel and the first port of Strasbourg. The time that it takes to get to Strasbourg depends on other river traffic using the locks. We made Strasbourg on time; but, we learned the next day that it took over five hours to get through one lock. There are some very low bridges leaving Basel and the crew had to drop the railings, and all the structures (including the captain’s bridge) to pass under the roadways. So, we were not permitted on the Sky Deck during the sail away. The safety exercise and ‘welcome aboard’ reception took place in the main lounge. Food The food at dinner was generally very good. There was a choice of two appetizers, two soups and two entrees each night. Plus there were three or four entrees that were always available. The soups were excellent. The only entrees that I had that were a little off were a veal roast that I thought was over cooked and a cod entrée that I thought was tasteless. Deserts were good. On the last night, neither of the main entrees appealed to me. So, I ordered the tenderloin from the items that are always available. It was surprisingly good. The first morning I was up early, so I tried the “Early Riser” (6:00 AM – 7:00AM) breakfast in the main lounge. It was juice, coffee/tea and pastries mainly. There may have been a cereal. I can’t remember. The full breakfast buffet usually runs from (7:00 AM until 9:00 AM) in the restaurant. My hint for both the breakfast and lunch buffets is to sit at one of the tables first and read the menu. There are always daily specials like eggs benedict, blue berry pancakes, etc. that you have to order from the wait staff. At lunch there is a sandwich special on the menu. The breakfast buffet had a little bit of everything. The only thing that I believe was missing was American cold cereals. There was Muslin and oatmeal; but, that was all I saw. There is bacon cooked two ways…soft cooked and crispy. And, there is always a chaffing dish of scrambled eggs. They had an amazing cook doing eggs to order. He had about five pans going preparing omelets, fried eggs, etc. Plus there were soft cooked eggs. My favorite breakfast item was the Belgium waffles. Again, you had to order them from the menu; they are not on the buffet. By the way…there is one menu per couple. So, you have to share. The lunch buffet usually had a meat dish plus a carving station, about four or five vegetables. There is a pasta station on the starboard side of the buffet line (looking forward) only. Don’t expect, Southern Italian, red-sauced pasta. It’s not there. It was mostly spaghetti or Linguine lightly dressed with something like a pesto, al Olio (olive oil and garlic), or something similar. Twice the menu listed gnocchi; I never found it. My wife and I are not fans for a full-hot meal for lunch. So, we usually opted for the sandwich. A “light lunch” was usually served in the lounge at lunch time. It was usually, soup or pasta and a sandwich. On a couple of occasions, they offered a “grill lunch” up on the Sky Deck (weather permitting). It consisted of grilled chicken, minute steaks, corn on the cob, salads, sausages, and burgers. They can only handle 20 passengers at a time (the number of tables) and you have to sign up for it. But, if they offer it, it is a nice change of pace. The ship also experimented with a dinner alternative that they called a “Bistro Dinner”. It was a tapas-style (small plates) meal held in the lounge. We never did it. So, I can’t comment on it. Service The entire staff was great. They always greeted you wherever they saw you. They were all pleasant and friendly. The people at the reception desk could not do enough for you. Service for the first and second nights at dinner was unbelievable. Your wine glass was never empty. (My only gripe was that the wait staff asked you if you wanted red or white wine before you had a chance to look at the menu and decide what you were having that night). Courses flowed like clockwork. On the third night, the dinner service was much slower. We talked about it with our table mates and one gentleman pointed out that it was the first night that they tried the “Bistro Dinner”. That meant that they had to pull wait staff (and split the kitchen) to serve up in the lounge. I don’t know if it meant anything, but that night I spotted Peter, the restaurant manager, at the reception desk and I mentioned to him that I thought that the service was much slower at dinner. He thanked me. They offered “Bistro Dinner” several more times. I never noticed slow service after that. Our favorite place on the ship was the bar. (Okay, I’m half Irish). There were a couple of stand-out crew members that handled the bar. First was the bartender – Aneta. She was fast and efficient; and, she knew what she was doing. Every day at happy hour they would have a drink special. One day it was Mojitos. I never saw anyone crank out drinks that fast. Plus she was sweet, personable and fun. After the first night, she had our room number memorized. The “class clown” of the cruise was a waiter named Iro (like hero without the “h”). He was also a lot of fun. I’ve read a review that knocked Avalon’s level of service because most of the crew is mainly East European. (In total, the crew represented 11 nations). I don’t believe that is true. I would rate the level of service an A+. Guidelines for tipping are included in your cruise documents. I found out while on the cruise that you can either pre-pay the tips or charge them to a credit card. If I knew that, I wouldn’t have gone to the bank to get extra Euros. We were talking to hotel manager (Mr. D) one day. He explained that, aside from the cruise director), all the rest of the crew splits the tips equally – from the officers down to the dish washers. Entertainment I wasn’t expecting much in the way of entertainment; so, I was pleasantly surprised. The on-board entertainer was a gentleman name Rumen. He played piano and accordion; plus, he did a little signing. One group of passengers from Australia really liked his Tom Jones songs and begged him to play them each night. We had a scheduled appearance of Armand and Margaux – a French Accordion team. (It may sound corny, but they were pretty good). One night, the cruise director arranged an unscheduled appearance of a violin trio. They were excellent. The crew show was funny and entertaining. There was a Happy Hour almost every day before the Port Talk and diner. Drinks were half price. It was pretty well attended. But, this wasn’t really a party crowd. Unless there was special entertainment, the lounge was pretty dead after dinner. There was a group of Australians, my wife and I and one or two other people. There is a flat screen TV in the room. I wasn’t planning on watching much TV; but, I would have liked to have caught up on world news. There were about eight English language news channels – all from Great Britain. Most seems to be focus on European business. The world could have been at war and we would not have known it. On the last day sailing from Cologne to Amsterdam, we had a lot of time to kill. I thought that I would watch a movie. But, the TV didn’t work. (It was fixed by that evening). I latter found out that many people problems with their TVs. They just didn’t work. In Cologne, the crew was seen bring about 10 new TVs on-board. The rumor was that some of the TVs that were installed during construction were incompatible with ship’s system. The only real use that the TV got was that housekeeping would turn the TV to one of the ten “fireplace” channel each night as the turned down the beds. The music selection on the TV was horrible. One category was called “Bar Selections 1 through 4”. On the other hand, the internet Wi-Fi service on-board was very good. You need to get a password from reception. I signed on once and remained connected throughout the cruise. The only thing that didn’t work was when I attempted to stream a movie. I don’t think that there was enough band-width. Excursions – Included When you arrive at your cabin, you are provided with and ear piece and lanyard. They are for wireless audio system used by the guides during the tours. Each excursion will have between three and five color-coded tours to break the passengers into more manageable groups. The system worked well; I was impressed by the quality and range of the devices. The “yellow” group seemed to have a high frequency of dead receivers. But, the guides usually have a spare receiver or two. The ear pieces, on the other hand, are painful. After about 20 minutes you are tempted to rip the thing off your ear. I thought that it was interesting that Avalon wanted the ear pieces and lanyards back at the end of the cruise. In general, the included tours were all very good and interesting. There is an “easy walking” group for each excursion. In Koblenz, we got drafted into an easy walking tour because there were too many in the “red” group and no one in the “white” or easy walker group. The tour leader was interesting. He was a college professor, a lawyer, an author and a poet. But, we only covered about a four square block area in Koblenz and he beat each location to death with way to much detail and his personal poems. In some cases, I’m not sure what the “easy walker” group bought you. At the Heidelberg castle for instance, all the groups had to climb a rather steep, cobblestone path up to the main castle level. My suggestion to anyone planning on any of these cruises is to start walking at least a mile a day a month before the cruise. You do a lot of walking. And, most of it is on cobblestone walkway. Walking on cobblestones is very strenuous. Personally, my favorite day was Speyer. We had the morning to ourselves to walk into town and explore. That gave me plenty of time to compose and properly frame photos. I didn’t feel rushed and I felt that we got a flavor for the town. We started walking around 9:00 AM. The shops didn’t open until 10:00. We were back on board by 11:30. The one tour that I could have done without was the visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rudesheim. It was corny and some of the music was way too loud – BRING EAR PLUGS. This was the only tour where I remember that they walked you through the souvenir shop to exit the building. After that, there was a short walk to the Rudesheim Schloss for Rudesheim coffee. (Coffee with Asbach brandy, whipped cream and chocolate). The sail through the Rhine Gorge was magnificent. Unfortunately, it was the coldest and windiest day we had on the cruise. A lot of people on the Sky Deck took blankets from their cabin to stay warm. Karolien narrated the trip, explaining each castle and point of interest, for over two hours. Excursions – Optional We did the Zurich City tour on our first day. I was mainly a way to kill time waiting for the bus to Basel and the ship. It was worth it. The Excursion to the Alsace Countryside was fun. We stopped at a small winery and tasted four (all white – this is mostly a white wine growing area) wines. Then we stopped and walked around the medieval town of Obernai. The tour guide (Terry) was very good. In Rudesheim we did the German dinner. It is held in the open courtyard of the same restaurant were we had the Rudesheim coffee early. It was like a wedding. There had to be 250 people there, including passengers from two Viking ships that were in port. The band played all types of music besides German. The lead singer did some Neil Diamond and Elvis songs. They encourage audience participation with a drinking game where five people lined up and drank Schnapps from cups mounted to a long board. And, there was a parade around the restaurant with audience members play instruments. The food was a fixed menu. It was salad, and a plate of four sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes, plus desert. There was white and red wine on the table. You probably could have asked for beer; but, no one in our group did. Would I recommend it…probably not? The town is an easy walk from the ship. (You do have cross train tracks). And, there are many restaurants in Rudesheim. We signed up for the Keukenhof Flower Exhibition. The timing was good; the flowers were in bloom and even the flower mosaic of Van Gogh was in full bloom. My issues with the tour were first, the crowds…attempting to enter the garden was like being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And second, the traffic getting out of the garden and back to the ship was frustrating. (We almost missed Happy Hour!) Fellow Passengers As I mentioned, this was mainly an older crowd. Most people were retired or semi-retired. There was only one couple from Brazil in their 30’s. They looked like they were bored out of their minds most of the time. I don’t know who recommend this cruise to them; but, they got some bad information. On the night we docked in Cologne (about 11:30 PM) they were waiting by the lobby door ready to go ashore. There were bars and clubs, within a couple of blocks of the docks. I guess they couldn’t wait for some real nightlife. Everyone was very friendly and everyone got along well. The hotel manager said that the passengers represented five nationalities. I estimate that they were British, Australian, Canadian, American and the couple from Brazil. Conclusion My wife and I loved this trip. We loved the ship, the crew and the fellow passengers. We especially loved the cruise director Karolien who made each day so special. One of her key phrases was “No panic, no stress” and that’s what this cruise was. I highly recommend Avalon, the Tranquility II and this cruise. Read Less
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