Was our first river cruise. Chose Avalon because of good reviews, well priced and wanted to see Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Had always heard great things about river cruises and Avalon met all our expectations re meals, tours and ... Read More
Was our first river cruise. Chose Avalon because of good reviews, well priced and wanted to see Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Had always heard great things about river cruises and Avalon met all our expectations re meals, tours and hospitality. Our time in Budapest was well spent with excellent tours. This continued to Vienna where we docked two days. Organized morning excursions and plenty of time on our own in the afternoon. Ship was docked very close to a subway stop. The other stops were full with hikes, biking and excursions. All the ships staff were engaging and provided excellent services. The meals were diverse and featured local cuisine. Beer and wine were included with dinner and evening meals. Drinks were served well after the meals. The wines were also local and excellent quality. We often dined with a former wine salesman who was pleased with the wine quality. We would definitely repeat a river cruise with Avalon. Read Less
The active excursions were very attractive. The two days in Vienna was also attractive. The ship was shabby but the active excursions were GREAT. I was told that the Avalon Luminary is sailing into the sunset after this year so I’m ... Read More
The active excursions were very attractive. The two days in Vienna was also attractive. The ship was shabby but the active excursions were GREAT. I was told that the Avalon Luminary is sailing into the sunset after this year so I’m sure that’s why it looked old & had small cabins. The staff was still friendly and helpful. We liked that we could ride a bike along the Danube one day or hike a beautiful trail in Hungary the next. Then we could tour museums and hear classical music in Vienna. Or visit a violin maker and help shape Viennese rolls. There was a good balance of relaxing cruising and active shore excursions. The add on trip to Salzburg was also very interesting & well organized. The hotels in Budapest, Salzburg & Munich were first class. The cruise director and tour guides were interesting & knowable. Viking boats are nicer & the food is better, but the excursions are all for older folks. I’d gladly take another Active Discovery Cruise. Read Less
Short cruise with Hotel stays at both start and finish. From the time they picked us up at the airport and dropped uus off at the airprort the logistics were excellent. Great hotels, great ship and great excursions. Budapest was a great ... Read More
Short cruise with Hotel stays at both start and finish. From the time they picked us up at the airport and dropped uus off at the airprort the logistics were excellent. Great hotels, great ship and great excursions. Budapest was a great surprise location and the excursions coverd a lot in 2. Days. The cruise excursions were both informative and fun. Vienna was beautiful and the green spaces were amazing. The entertainment on the ship was good and we had the pleasure of listening to a dup from the Vienna orchestra who traveled with us from Bratslavia to Vienna and pu on a wonderful afternoon show. The small town visit was fun and we tried Apricot is shot glasses and they tastd great. The views to the river in town were picture perfect. The views from the sun deck during the afternoon Castles on the river was a fun relaxing afternoon. Read Less
We chose to sail with Avalon has we have done so twice previously and really enjoyed the ship and service. We like having an included tour in each port, but also having the choice to go off and do our own thing in the afternoons.We do not ... Read More
We chose to sail with Avalon has we have done so twice previously and really enjoyed the ship and service. We like having an included tour in each port, but also having the choice to go off and do our own thing in the afternoons.We do not want to do all the optional tours and would rather pay for what we want to do. Free time is important to us and Avalon gives us that option.
We took the train from Zurich airport directly to Lucerne in about an hour and really enjoyed the lake cruise to Weggis that we took. We stayed at the Radisson which is located very close to the train station in Lucerne. The train station was a good place for moderate food costs( for Switzerland). There is an entire mall under the station with all kinds of options for very good take away food( both hot and cold).After 2 nights, we took the direct train to Basel and left our luggage at the station in lockers while we explored Basel for the day. We caught a taxi to the river boat very easily from there.
We particularly enjoyed the Moselle section of the cruise as it is by far the prettier River . The Rhine does have lovely sections including the Gorge and castles, but other parts are also very industrial.There were a few places where we would have preferred to dock in the main town in the afternoons rather than moving to a smaller place with less to do. Trier was an example of this. Due to the distances travelled, there is more day time cruising in the afternoons than on other rivers such as the Danube and the Rhone.
The staff and crew were wonderful to a person and could not do enough for you.
We met many other travellers primarily from the UK, NZ, Australia and Canada. Our cruise director Bart was amazing and had lots of very valuable information and corny jokes to share.
Although the Luminary is 4 years old, she has been very well maintained. I was a bit disappointed that the beds did not face the sliding glass doors as they do on the newer ships. If I was choosing a cabin next time, I would either choose mid ship or the front as there was considerable noise from the engine at the back when we docked. We were 4 cabins from the back and were OK., but could hear it on occasion.
The food was very good and they tried to include some regional specialties, which was nice.
Of course, wine is subjective, but this is one area where I think they could have included some more local white wines which were of a better quality.We did have one local white which was nice -but there could have been more as they are not expensive in the Moselle region.
We love river boat cruising as it is such an easy way to travel without hassle.You only unpack once and cruising down the river at dinner time watching the sunset over the vineyards and castles is priceless. Read Less
After many ocean voyages, we decided to give river cruising a try. Although we were concerned about water level, it was all for naught. Our river cruise did not disappoint. Our adventure began with 2 pre-cruise days in Budapest & 4 ... Read More
After many ocean voyages, we decided to give river cruising a try. Although we were concerned about water level, it was all for naught. Our river cruise did not disappoint. Our adventure began with 2 pre-cruise days in Budapest & 4 post cruise days in Prague, with 7 days of accommodations on the Avalon Luminary in between.
Upon arrival, there was a signage holding Avalon agent waiting for us right out side the Customs area. After the arrival of other guests within the specific pick up time, we were all transferred in a very comfortable air conditioned coach to our hotel the Corinthia. The trip took approximately 40 minutes, but could vary due to the traffic conditions.
Unless you're going back to Hungary, it is just easier to take out Hungarian currencies (Ft), & ONLY the amount you need, from the ATMs which are all over the place. The ATMs there I'd understand & the one I'd used have English as an option. I'd followed the rule where I'd ONLY withdraw monies in the local currency. If you are in the Euro zone, withdraw in Euros, so in Budapest, withdraw in Ft AND do not choose the option where the ATM do the exchange for you. I am lead to believe that you get better a rate that way. For more info on that "google" dynamic currency conversion or DCC. However, take the latter info at your own risk. Upon arriving home, I noted that we were charged a withdrawal fee by our own banking institution, but not by the local ATM operator.
The accommodation, food & staff at Corinthia were 2nd to none. The breakfast buffet is magnificent & the staff were friendly, helpful & courteous. Our room was very clean, quiet & comfortable, especially important after a long flight from the west coast. Fully furnished with the comforts of home & free wifi. The only negative, if it is a negative, is that the Corinthia is about a 30 minute walk from the Danube River, where most of the attractions are, however there are cabs & a tram just out of the hotel. If you want a cab, it's best to have the hotel get one for you, as it'll be easier & they can give you a good rough estimate of what the fare should be.
We found Budapest to be very safe, although you're warned about & wary of pickpocketings. Fortunately, no one in our group encountered any problems. We did not encounter any problems with the food & water in Budapest. The food & beverages there are very reasonable compared to North America. For all intent & purpose, most of the locals we encountered spoke some English.
We had an inclusive 3 hour city tour with a local guide on our 2nd day, with stops at the Fishermen's Bastion & Heroes' Square. This tour gave you a "taste of the city" with narrations from the guide. We found the tour enjoyable & at a comfortable pace especially if you're trying to get over jet lag.
We returned to the hotel to freshened up & took a cab (2000 Ft) from the Corinthia to the Central Market. We could have taken the tram, but it would have involved a transfer inbetween & the cost difference was negligible. The tram cost 350 Ft/person, so 2 people would have been 1400 Ft. Why not take a private direct air conditioned ride.
This market is for you, if you like visiting farmer type markets. Locals shop there for their meats, vegetables & the such. On the 2nd floor of this huge market are souvenir & street food kiosks. Good local food! From there we meandered to the Chain Bridge, taking in the sights & sounds of the city. It took us an easy 45 minute walk by to the Corinthia.
We had to check out on the 3rd day by 11 PM, but the transfer to the ship did not occur until about 3:30 PM. So you have several options, store your luggage with the hotel & explore more on your own or take an inclusive lunch excursion & get dropped off the ship at around 4 PM which we did.
The Avalon Luminary is a very nice vessel. It has 3 decks of state rooms, with the sky deck & wheel house on the 4th deck. There are elevators going from the 1st to 3rd deck. The reception & lounge are next to each other at the fore of the ship, while the dining room, also at the fore of the ship, but 1 deck down. There is also a small quiet sitting section on the 3rd deck aft, where there is a coffee/expresso type machine, juices & pastries. The fitness room, albeit small, is on the lower deck, is equipped with a tread mill, 2 bikes & some very light dumbbells.
We were on the 2nd deck, portside, midship with a french balcony (sliding patio door if you will) on the Luminary. Although the room is not as large as the ocean vessels, it was suffice & comfortable for the 2 of us. There was ample space for storage, with suitcases fitting under the bed. Our room was furnished with among other things, a king size memory foam bed, flat screen TV, writing table with cushioned chair, safe, iron, hair dryer & stocked mini fridge. The bathroom was just as, if not a bit larger than those on the ocean vessels. The glass shower definitely is larger, sans shower curtain, but with a good sealed door. There are 2 European type outlets to charge your devices in the room, along with a 115 - 240 V outlet for your shaver in the bathroom. I'd used that outlet to charge my batteries with no problems. There is complimentary wifi & bottles of water in the room. Unlike ocean vessels, the wifi & TV signals were always very strong during our time on the river & in port. Our room was very comfortable & quiet.
All the breakfasts, lunches & 1/7 dinners (because of a late excursion) were buffet style meals. The other 6 dinners were sit down/order your meal affair. Understandably, the selection of food was not as varied as ocean going vessels, but they were just as good, if not better. The wait staff were very attentive, courteous & helpful. No shorts or tees during dinner sessions.
Again & understandably so, the entertainment was not as elaborate, but just as good, with a more intimate atmosphere. We had a wine tasting session, a beer tasting session, a lecture on canals, 2 musical comics, a funny Barvarian musician & of course a show put on by the crew.
On our cruise, we had 77/138 guests, as such, you basically had free run of the ship. No rush for anything, very friendly & relaxing atmosphere.
All the crew/staff were friendly, helpful and had time to speak & interact with the passengers. Our cruise director was 2nd to none, very experienced, has a wealth of knowledge, well prepared & a pretty good singer.
The inclusive & paid excursions are subjective, but in general were good, giving your the flavor & bit of history of the area you're visiting.
The disembarkation, like the embarkation was simple, fast & smooth, unlike the ones you experienced on the ocean vessels, but hey, we only had 77 passengers. In any event I don't think another 61 passengers would have made any difference.
Upon arrival & disembarkation, we had a 4 hour ride in a comfortable air conditioned bus from Nuremberg to Prague, with a 20 minute pit stop half way.
We stayed in Prague for 4 nights at the Hilton Old Town. An Avalon rep was also staying there should we required any info or assistance. Like in Budapest most of the locals we encountered spoke English. We also did not encounter any problems with the food & water in Prague. Food here a little bit more than in Budapest, but still very reasonable compared to North America.
The Hilton Old Town was relatively close & within walking distance to most of the attractions, like the iconic Astronomical clock. Prague is also very safe, but again be aware of pickpocketing. Again, fortunately, no one in our group encountered any problems. We had an inclusive city bus/walking tour which was good & informative. Lots of cobblestones, so be careful when walking around.
Our room at the Hilton was very large, quiet, comfortable & fully furnished. Their breakfast buffet was good. Hotel staff was very friendly, helpful & courteous. Free wifi for Hilton Honors members. Sign up to become a member is free & get free wifi.
ATMs are all over the place & easy to use. If you need a cab, have the hotel order one for you. We had the Avalon rep make arrangements for our private cab from the hotel to the airport. The cost was 550 CZK, better than the ones being advertised.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable trip. Read Less
Fantastic ship . So well fitted out that gave the feeling of a 5 star hotel.library and games available with good choice. Great tours that were well organised and of a very high quality . Teriffic staff in all departments and nothing was ... Read More
Fantastic ship . So well fitted out that gave the feeling of a 5 star hotel.library and games available with good choice. Great tours that were well organised and of a very high quality . Teriffic staff in all departments and nothing was too much trouble. Food excellent with excellent choice of fine wines with meals. .cabin very well appointed and serviced daily. Fresh water bottles daily for taking on tours.There were extra tours to choose from and the selection was difficult to pick from.
I do wonder why the bar is not complimentary in the evenings. Spirits are so cheap now but the prices on board were a bit steep.
I was disappointed with the strong smell of diesel in the cabin from time to time.this was particularly present in lock maneauvers. However,this was my only criticism.
I would certainly go with Avalon again but organise my 3 day stay in Prague,which was part of the cruise,myself.
The home pick up service went well and certainly takes the stress out of both ends of the holiday Read Less
This was our 2nnd cruise with AVALON; and we were not disappointed. The Luminary is a well-appointed ship with all the amenities needed for an upscale cruise experience. Our cabin had ample room for us and storage for our things; while the ... Read More
This was our 2nnd cruise with AVALON; and we were not disappointed. The Luminary is a well-appointed ship with all the amenities needed for an upscale cruise experience. Our cabin had ample room for us and storage for our things; while the French balcony allowed ample views of our progress along the Danube. Robes, slippers, upscale toiletries, etc. all included. The food was excellent for each meal including buffet breakfast with omelet station, buffet or menu lunch with a 5-6-course dinner comparable to a 4-5 star restaurant; and the service by the entire crew both met and exceeded our expectations. Peter, our Cruise Director, did not have no in his vocabulary and met each and every request with a smile and can do!
Our arrival point was Budapest, Hungary a city to which I will someday return for an extended stay. Lot’s to see and do, great food with warm and charming people. We happened to be here during St. Stevens day the Hungarian Independence Day celebration and were treated to a spectacular fireworks display. Our Intercontinental Hotel on the Danube was 1st class as were all meals. After boarding the Luminary we sailed to Vienna where we attended an optional musical concert, which was one of the highlights of the trip and should not be missed. Additional stops in small villages and cities included Durnstein and Melk in Austria a sail through the scenic Wachau Valley in Austria; and an unscheduled stop in Linz, Austria due to low water beyond Passau. All had there special charms especially Linz which we would recommend be a scheduled stop in the future for this cruise.
As a result of the low water issue (which must have been know to AVALON prior to our trip but was not communicated until we were an our way to Linz) we had to end our cruise in Passau, Germany and complete our itinerary by buses. The 8-hour roundtrip bus ride and tour of Regensburg, Germany was exhausting but it included a great sausage and kraut plate. Passau could be easily skipped and Linz substituted as it only had a cathedral to visit and view. Due again to the low water we were bussed to Nuremberg for dinner and overnight hotel stay; and disappointed in that we saw nothing of Nuremberg which we had looked forward to touring.
All in all a great start, enjoyable middle and poor ending. Read Less
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary.
We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the ... Read More
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary.
We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the conditions icy and/or slushy, making walking unpleasant. The snow covered scenery was magnificent and really added to the ambiance. This was our 4th visit at this exact time of year and the first time we had snow in every city we visited, except for our 4 days in Berlin at the very beginning of our trip.
The Luminary is a new ship and she is elegant and understated. The highlight was the outstanding staff who was among the very best we have encountered on any cruise line. Gabriel, the utterly competent Maitre'd, managed a dining staff that was not only professional but also warm and gracious. Stand outs were Charlie (Perdang), Laszlo and Norbett. Our chef, Stefan, had been with us on our Affinity cruise last year and he was delightful, always smiling and very visible at meal times.
Timea and Daniel at reception were always helpful and pleasant.
Hans lived up to his reputation as an excellent cruise director, handling both the day to day aspects of his position along with the additional issues he faced due to weather challenges. We had about a dozen passengers unable to get to the boat due to weather problems in Frankfurt that disrupted flights and was on the phone constantly working to get them to the boat at the next ports of call.
We had 4 in our group delayed and were surprised to learn that even though Avalon had booked their air and transfers as a complete package, Avalon's air department does not track flights at all to let the ship know of any delays. I had to let Hans know what was happening as he was unaware and told me that it is the passenger's responsibility to call him directly with any flight delays. Be aware of this if you expect to have your air issues handled by Avalon.
The excellent bar staff of Vladimir, Bibi and Radu made before and after visits to the forward lounge very enjoyable.
Rooms were well appointed and beds very comfortable. We had to go to the front desk to request a robe and it would have been nice to have these in the rooms when we checked in.
The quality of food was excellent and we enjoyed a galley tour one afternoon with Stefan. The food is freshly prepared and was consistently cooked properly and served hot. There was a special offered each day at breakfast and several menu items that could be ordered at lunch if one did not want the buffet. The variety was very good for a ship of this size.
Avalon advertises they offer a variety of low calorie options but this is really not accurate. At both breakfast and lunch, the choices for those choosing to follow a lower fat diet were very limited and the kitchen was not able to accommodate special requests for these meals. Hot soups at lunch were consistently cream based and though there was a small salad bar, there were limited items that were prepared without additional mayonnaise, etc. Veggies were prepared with butter and meats with sauces. This was not an issue at dinner when the two people in our group - including me - that prefer low cal options were well accommodated.
Included wines were good. We did want to purchase better wines on a few nights but they were completely out of about 75% of the red wines offered on the wine list, the same situation we had encountered last year on the Affinity. I am not sure why they offer an ala carte list if they are unable to stock for it. We tried to order no less than 7 different reds by the bottle and not a single one was available. We were limited to the German wines and this was disappointing as we would have preferred some variety and were happy to pay the extra. By the next to the last night, they had also run out of vodka and Kahlua, which I found strange as well.
There were some negatives on this trip for us:
There was lots of sailing time and virtually no in cabin entertainment was available. There were three English channels and this is a cruise line that caters to North American passengers and Aussies so this is something Avalon really needs to address. Often CNN did not even have sound available. Avalon really needs to add some movie options and music channels. One can only watch progress through the locks so many times and after dark which comes very early in winter, there was no scenery to enjoy.
Only twice were we docked in any reasonable proximity to the city we were visiting. I consider reasonable a 20 minute walk at a good pace. This mean taxi fares to get us back when we chose not to take the scheduled bus transfer.
Walking groups were not grouped by physical ability and this was a hindrance in my opinion. There were most always 4 groups so it would have been easy to designate a group of slow walkers and another for those who wished to walk faster.
Internet service was more unavailable than available. I had issues sending but could receive. The people in the cabin next to us to us could send but not receive.
On this 11 night cruise, menus were much the same for the second half and more variety would have been welcomed.
There was not much in the way of evening entertainment, even for a river cruise. The onboard piano player, Ivan, had a very limited repertoire. We were scheduled to be in port late in Regensburg so looked forward to being off the ship there but the heavy snowfall caused the river to rise very rapidly and instead of leaving at 11pm we had to pull out at 4:30pm. The evening entertainer was unable to get aboard that night. Last year we really enjoyed a Christmas evening put on by the crew but this was missing this year. For a Christmas cruise, there was nothing to distinguish the season in terms of any events or entertainment.
A highlight for us was the crew show where about a dozen of the crew put on a series of skits that bordered from amusing to hilarious. Stefan and the gang of Roman bell ringers took top prize judging by passenger reaction. On the night of the 2nd crew show (a repeat of the first) we happened to be docked next to the River Countess and noticed their show taking place at the same times as ours. There was a young lady dressed in traditional Bavarian attire signing which made up the bulk of their entertainment and we noticed a number of their passengers peering over into our lounge where our staff had us bursting out with laughter at some of the antics. We were very happy to be on the Luminary with its very special crew.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise but will next year we are booked on AMA for a wine themed cruise since they offer some of the things Avalon is missing, like walking groups organized by capability, bicycles and in room entertainment. The itinerary we chose for 2011 also has 4 of the 7 nights (enough for us we decided on this trip) either as overnight stays or very late in port which will give us the opportunity to spend more time in the cities we visit. Read Less