As an ocean cruiser with a couple hundred days of cruise travel, (most on HAL), I embarked on the Normandy River Cruise adventure to see if it would be a mode of travel my husband and I would enjoy. The answer is yes- and maybe! To succeed ... Read More
As an ocean cruiser with a couple hundred days of cruise travel, (most on HAL), I embarked on the Normandy River Cruise adventure to see if it would be a mode of travel my husband and I would enjoy. The answer is yes- and maybe! To succeed as a river cruiser, I learned one must above all embrace promptness as a way of life for 7 days, and, one must be sociable every day, all day, with fellow passengers and crew, because all meals and activities are shared with this same small group. Also, one must plan to be active. Most shore trips are walking events- and there are no blissful sea days spent reading on a balcony or having a massage in the spa!
River cruising, although more expensive per person than a European ocean cruise, is probably less than a comparable stay at an American style hotel in a European capital, enjoying upscale dining and touring. The ambience on board is low key. Touring, up to 3 tours a day, is one focus and group dining is another. There was a Normandy lecture, as well as a couple of chef demos on board, a bridge and galley tour.....evening entertainment featured the on board pianist as well as a crew show. Happy hour, with discounted drink prices, was offered almost daily.
Passengers were probably 70% American; rest were adventuresome Australians and Canadians. Staff and Crew were international, but English speaking. Dress is generally casual, although ladies were very dressy on 2 special nights (2nd night and next to last night). Most important items to pack are walking shoes! I wore my dark urban clothes everywhere! Laundry service offered on ship for less than hotel prices!
My cabin was very nice, spotless too. Bed was queen-sized, with a variety of pillows, and a duvet. ( you could opt for sheets, too.) Plenty of closet, shelf and cabinet space- for me alone (probably crowded for 2). A room safe was in closet. 3- piece Bathroom tiny, but nicely appointed with handheld shower and Occitane toiletries, in generous sizes. I liked the 2 sets of towels, one tan, one white- great idea when 2 share cabin. TV - and I always tuned into daily menus. Refrig. Free water all trip long, in cabin and for shore excursions. Cabin steward was very discrete, and room was always done 2x daily, am and pm turndown service.
Port excursions were well planned and operated efficiently. I feel we saw the best of each port. Local Guides were outstanding. Our excellent cruise director offered tipping guidelines for guides and drivers, which was great. Before trips, we would be asked to come to lobby to pick up our recorders, which hung on cords around our necks, and were used with our earpieces to follow guide while touring. We had quite a few bussed events on this itinerary; not too many step off and walk into town stops, like Rouen.
Optional, paid, shore excursions are offered in addition to all the no additional charge choices. For example, I paid nominal tour fees to tour the Eiffel Tower on embarkation day, to walk thru Montmartre, to visit Versailles, etc. Trips can be selected online ahead of time and paid for- or, selected on board, and paid for at that date. Also, I figured out by Day 2 that a 1 pm departure meant your bus is pulling out of the parking lot at 1 pm, so get to the lobby, pick up your stuff, and be on board!
Dining room offerings were varied and good and creatively plated. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style. Light lunch and continental breakfast were served in lounge. Dinner is at 7; be there! Coffee, tea and cookies (donuts too) were available on top deck lounge. An ocean cruise has a tremendous variety of dining venues and choices and times; River cruise is very limited in comparison. Also, the portions were smaller (fine) and no one over-ordered.
Avalon arranged for my CDG pickup by private car service, when I arrived before dawn day ahead of embarkation. And, Avalon got all of us to our departure points on final day. Contrary to advice on phone, boat was cleared by 10am. Excellent embarkation and disembarkation!
Avalon pre cruise hotel, Pullman Montparnasse, was very good, well located, large tour hotel.
Our cruise director, Nynke, was the best. She spoke in a soft, calm voice. All was phrased positively; no orders! She personally came onboard each tour before we left to wish us well. A wonderful personality, very competent at calmly handling all that arose on our tour- there were some medical emergencies- and making all welcome! Kudos, Nynke and Avalon! A wonderful and helpful staff and crew!
To answer, yes, we will go again. River cruising is the best way for us to see the interior of a country. I really saw what I was interested in, the Creativity was a very fine, well- organized experience, in every aspect, and the group was full of interesting people I would enjoy knowing better. I also thought the Avalon product was a good match for my interests. Read Less