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61 Avalon Luminary Cruise Reviews

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
Sail Date December 2010
We joined the ship in Amsterdam and stayed there the night. passengers that had got into Amsterdam earlier than we did were able to partake in a city tour and a visit to the Rijksmuseum which unfortunately we were not in time for on the ... Read More
We joined the ship in Amsterdam and stayed there the night. passengers that had got into Amsterdam earlier than we did were able to partake in a city tour and a visit to the Rijksmuseum which unfortunately we were not in time for on the day. Day two started with a canal cruise around the Amsterdam canals which was enjoyable. Following the canal cruise we sailed for Cologne. On arrival in Cologne there was a good included city tour which was good. Though we must say having just done an Avalon cruise in France and other European tours if another tour guide tells me the history of ionic columns and windows being followed by romanesque windows followed by Gothic windows followed by new gothic windows there may be another homicide in the world. All these tours seam to include a church or cathedral which is the oldest, best example unique in some way. Whichever city or town you are in theirs is the best in some way. On both cruises there were optional tours that you paid for where you went to olive plantations or did wine tastings etc. In all cases these were to us the best tours but were rarely included. At the port of Breisach there was an include tour to the Black Forrest. Allowing for the return trip this tour spent 3.5 hours on country roads then winding country roads that made some passengers feel a little travel uneasy. With only one stop to take photographs. The highlighted stop was a commercial cuckoo clock company in the Black forest that there were a number of Globus buses visiting at the same time. In the afternoon there was an optional tour to the City of Colmar the passengers paid for and we would highly recommend. A beautiful Alsace city with an area known as little Venice with canals. Other highlights would include the included tour to Heidelberg and the cruise through the Rhine Gorge. The crew ere generally very helpful. There was free Wifi which was patchy but far superior to our earlier ship the Scenery. The cabins were very well kept with plenty of storage. The bathrooms were also good for the size of the ship. The food was of good quality but not much variation. Towards the end of the cruise some items seemed to run short of supply. There is a fair amount of time regimentation on these cruises which is something those people thinking of cruising should take into account in their deliberations. In summary we did enjoy both our cruises but are unlikely to do another as we like to be more active than these are fairly sedentary holidays. Roll calls for river cruises don't appear to be very successful due to the small passenger numbers. We were very fortunate to have contact before hand with Bill and Jane from Long Island New York and had a very enjoyable time in their company. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
FAULTLESS ! This is the only word any reasonable person could use to describe our river cruise on the Avalon Luminary. FLIGHTS My wife and I (in our 60s) flew into Paris an extra day in advance , almost 24 hours after departing from ... Read More
FAULTLESS ! This is the only word any reasonable person could use to describe our river cruise on the Avalon Luminary. FLIGHTS My wife and I (in our 60s) flew into Paris an extra day in advance , almost 24 hours after departing from Sydney. This isn't the place to review the airline we chose, so I'll refrain. PARIS HOTEL The Hotel (Hilton Arc de Triomphe) was excellent, meeting all our expectations and living up to its 5-star rating. The room was very comfortable and quiet and the air conditioning did exactly as it was instructed to do. The (French) staff were all friendly and helpful and our lack of the French language was no problem. We stayed for 3 nights and would recommend the hotel to anyone. PARIS EXCURSIONS An interesting coach sightseeing tour of Paris highlights was included and well worth taking. We also took the optional tour of the Palace of Versailles - what a fabulous place. It's so popular with tourists that it was inevitably fairly crowded and the pace had to be kept up during our visit. Despite the crush, it's a must-see. On our extra day in Paris, we took a private local river cruise on the Seine - what a wonderful way to see many of the sights the city offers. VERY FAST TRAIN ("TGV") This was our first experience of a very fast train, when we travelled from Paris to Luxembourg. We would never have imagined how quiet, comfortable and quick the trip would be, but it certainly was - and at 320 km/h. LUXEMBOURG and TRIER (GERMANY) Due to prior flooding in that area of Europe, the rivers were high and bridge clearance tolerances were low in some places. As a result, we joined the ship in Trier, instead of Luxembourg. My wife took the optional coach excursion back to Luxembourg and found it very interesting and worthwhile. From this point on, timings are a bit of a blur, so bear with me. THE SHIP The Luminary exceeded our expectations in virtually every respect. The entire vessel was immaculate and stayed that way during the whole cruise. We were fortunate enough to have one of the 4 suites on the ship, which are somewhat larger than the other cabins. But apart from space, all the cabins were of high standard of presentation and facilities. The décor is understated elegance and the overall layout of the ship was obviously designed with the passenger in mind. There was no smoking anywhere internally, although outside facilities were available. As a result, all of the interior had a fresh appearance and certainly none of that 3-star "odour" you can find in some accommodations. THE CREW The entire crew, from the Captain all the way down the line, were exceptional. Their training was obvious, with "engagement" of passengers a clear priority. Crew members were from many different part of Europe and some from Asia, but without exception, they were friendly, obliging and spoke excellent English - not one sour face amongst them all. They were enthusiastic about their work and had a genuine smile for everyone. Obviously hand-picked for their skills and talent, the crew even performed a hilarious "revue" one night in the lounge and had passengers busting their sides with laughter. Our trip spanned "Halloween" and that day was themed accordingly throughout the ship. I can't speak highly enough of all the crew who made our cruise so enjoyable and fun. TOUR DIRECTOR Jerome Bertrand, our Tour Director, kept us thoroughly informed and ensured that the well-oiled machinery necessary for a successful cruise was kept running. It was obvious that he intentionally did a lot of his work in the background and avoided being "in-the-face" of passengers, but was always available to assist. THE FOOD If you enjoy your food, you'll enjoy the fare on Luminary. The Chef is a real character who can cook up a storm and delight passengers with his enthusiasm and banter. The only complaint about the food ........ the waistline grew somewhat ...... but that's a small price to pay for great meals. THE CRUISE Much is already written about the beautiful towns and villages we passed through or stopped and visited along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. The balance was just right and shore excursions were easy and very enjoyable. To highlight any one in particular would be a disservice to the others. GOING HOME This was the only disappointment of the entire trip - we didn't want to go home! Nevertheless, everything good comes to an end and the disembarkation and transfer arrangements in Amsterdam happened with a minimum of fuss. IN SUMMARY Just do it ! You'll never regret it. Avalon river cruises, such as the one we took, are a relaxing, comfortable way to see delightful parts of Europe - and you only unpack your bags ONCE. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We just did the European Splendor Itinerary over multi rivers and enjoyed it very much. We were in a Cat B mid ship and highly recommend this. It was a very good location. I liked being closer to the water. We were thinking of Cat E and so ... Read More
We just did the European Splendor Itinerary over multi rivers and enjoyed it very much. We were in a Cat B mid ship and highly recommend this. It was a very good location. I liked being closer to the water. We were thinking of Cat E and so glad we went for the french balcony. People were not happy down below. Loved this itinerary. I had never been to Austria or Germany and it is so clean and green. The meals were delicious. Wines not high end but adequate. Happy hour every day is a great idea. Enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine most days before dinner. Beds were comfy and lots of good pillows. One thing I did not like was the coffee in the main dining room in the morning. Just a little thing but if you want a good cup of coffee the lounge with the library on the top level has an amazing coffee machine that makes a delicious cup of most anything you want. We did spend four nights in Vienna prior and stayed at the Holiday Inn City center and have a Vienna card for public transport and used that quite a bit. Totally worth it. We did eat a lot and did not partake in the coffee and cake at 4PM or the snacks at 10:30PM. So happy to come home and realize I had only gained 2 pounds. We were able to dance most nights when we had the energy to the piano music and Nicki made sure he played a cha cha when we were there. It is a great way to travel and take in these beautiful small towns. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We took the 14-day cruise, Vienna to Amsterdam, & found it outstanding. Scenery was beautiful & being so close to the center of towns & cities was fantastic. We were worried about spring rain, but we had only 1 rainy day--the ... Read More
We took the 14-day cruise, Vienna to Amsterdam, & found it outstanding. Scenery was beautiful & being so close to the center of towns & cities was fantastic. We were worried about spring rain, but we had only 1 rainy day--the day we cruised the Rhine gorge. All the crew were genuinely friendly & exceptionally competent. (On big ocean-going cruise ships I find the staff's friendliness forced & competence to solve problems sometimes lacking.) The Luminary is understated & elegant, very thoughtfully designed. Sabine, our tour director, was very knowledgeable & went the extra mile. For example: in Amsterdam, my husband left his camera on a canal boat & I was sure it was gone for good. But somehow Sabine located our boat among the hundreds on Amsterdam's canals & managed to get the camera put into a taxi which delivered the camera to our ship. Service above & beyond! A couple of tips. Do not miss the Bishop's Residence in Wurzburg--amazing! And we were looking forward to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. My husband had been there, but it was my 1st visit & I was so looking forward to its treasures. We had an excellent tour guide from the ship's tour, but it was May Day, a big holiday in Europe, & the museum was so crowded that it was impossible to see anything but the top third of the Rembrandt paintings. We loved this trip so much we are going back in July on the Avalon Panorama, & while in Cologne I'm spending my entire time in the amazing cathedral there. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of ... Read More
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of the time was used to rest for the next day! this tour was non stop once on the boat! Every day we were in port for most of the day except the day going through the Iron gorge. If you haven't exercised in a while, make sure you start walking NOW!!! we averaged about 5 miles a day walking. At 53 I was the youngest passenger out of 81 (ship was only partially full!) - Budapest was AMAZING! We stayed at the lovely InterContinental, 9th floor overlooking Buda - the beauty of the city at night reflected over the Danube and was simply beautiful. Both Buda and Pest sides were fascinating - old in Buda, new in Pest,,,,and they did an excellent job of infusing the old and the new into a gorgeous city. The local food was delicious but be wary of restaurants that have buffets sitting out, even if it's behind a counter! We ate at a Chinese restaurant but as the food was sitting out and then reheated for eating, my companion got very ill. Luckily it passed before we boarded the ship the following day. Take the Hop on Hop Off and jump on the Funicular to head up the mountain to the Castle district. Also visit Margarita Island, but find out exactly where the Hoho boat picks you up!!! there are NO signs anywhere so get exact directions (it's the first boat launch area facing the Pest side) - other than graffiti all over the city, the place is stunning! And visit the Grand market for souveniers, especially Hungarian Paprika! great deals and everyone at home loved them!! The first day of the trip we met with the passengers and cruise director - the 2nd day we had a morning city tour and did our own thing in the afternoon. The following day we did the Hop on Hop off and in the evening boarded the ship. Boarding the ship was very easy. Everyone travelled by bus to the ship where we got on! that simple. Turned in our passports, got our room key, and it was done! Food aboard the ship was delicious - awesome steak, and soups!! terrific!! Salad dressings other than the Ceaser were mediocre, but everything else was great!!! and eating while sailing and so close to the water was a great experience! The Danube is a beautiful river that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Serbia city tour was very interesting, as was Vir Lipinski - an ancient civilization excavated on the banks of the Danube - during our travels through Serbia the Captain even let me steer the ship!!! :) Bulgaria - Belgradchik Rocks is a must (included tour) - and the restaurant where we ate lunch was fabulous as well. Lovely views, but again, the graffiti is overwhelming and detracts from the beauty of the city. Most of the folks on the ship gave locals any extra currency they had before leaving the country - and make sure if you like to shop, you get local currency for at least Hungary and Romania. The other countries would prefer their own money but we did use Euros - but the exchange rate isn't the greatest. Romania was very interesting, and a side trip to Transylvania was a interesting as well.. ..the castle Bram was in a lovely part of town but didn't resemble what tourists imagine it to be! well lit, light in color, and housing a bunch of modern day costumes! the views overlooking Transylvania were spectacular. We went with Avanti tours which took us to a 2nd castle which was fully designed as in the day it was used by royalty, and was the highlight of the trip! Plenty of Dracula items to purchase outside of the Castle Bram. Plan on a very busy day, unless you choose to do your own thing. Our normal day on board was wake up at 630, breakfast at 7, done by 8, on the bus at 820 and returned late afternoon, dinner at 7 with everyone, and then bed by 930. then the next day same thing!!! it rained and was chilly most of the time which was perfect for me, but remember to bring an umbrella, a rainproof poncho, and a raincoat if you get tend to get chilly!! we did not find any places to shop except H & M in Bucharest, but it was pouring and the bus stop was too far to walk over !! normally I like to buy clothing from Europe but did not have a chance this trip...just no locations that we visited were in a "city" but more of town visits. Flight home was long, 28 hours total travel time! next time I fly to the western portion of Europe, stay a day or two, and then fly directly home to the US! too many layovers makes for a very long trip!! Everything else was very smooth and well done!! the only disappointment was that I was expecting a presentation on what we would be seeing the following day, but the nightly chats were more of an itinerary for the following day- I was hoping for history lessons of what to see, look for, etc but that did not happen. The ship was small, lovely, clean, no sundry shop so make sure you have everything you need! Crew was excellent! it helps if you learn a little of the languages before you go (simple phrases, often included in the Avalon packet!) - thank you, please, hello, etc. Very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend a river cruise for people who are interested in history and education over beaches and personal activities! both are great vacations!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
The ship is immaculately maintained and luxuriously comfortable. The food was exquisite and the staff from the Cruise Director, Hotel Manager, Maitre D and all the other staff as well as the captain and crew were, without exception, first ... Read More
The ship is immaculately maintained and luxuriously comfortable. The food was exquisite and the staff from the Cruise Director, Hotel Manager, Maitre D and all the other staff as well as the captain and crew were, without exception, first class. There was a problem with the river level on approach to Vienna but the Avalon staff, in particular Adrienn the cruise director, swung into action, and we were transferred to a 4 star Hotel in Linz. This was the only negative as, although the hotel was comfortable, the food was not up to standard and they did not appear capable of coping with the influx of guests and their organisation at the main meal time was chaotic. The response from the vice president in promising a discount for any days away from the ship was rapid. It is only when problems occur that one discovers the real quality of a holiday company. Avalon response was outstanding. Though disappointing, the problems did not spoil our enjoyment and there was virtually negligible adverse comment from the guests. One problem during the booking process was encountered as we chose to travel by rail in both directions from the UK. SNCF/Avalon seemed incapable to reserving seats on the one part of the rail journey from Vienna to Zurich. This meant that, on arrival in Vienna, I had to go to the local rail station and book a reserved seat for the journey. A simple but, in my opinion. essential action. If SNCF are incapable of such a simple process you may wish to look elsewhere to book rail travel. I must stress though that, although it meant a morning doing something that could have been otherwise arranged, this has NOT diminished my admiration for Avalon and in particular the Avalon Luminary. Particular mention should go to Adrienn, the cruise director, the hotel manager ( whose name I do not have unfortunately) and to staff in the bar and restaurant namely Ganis and Stephan. 10/10 Avalon Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
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
Sail Date August 2015
First of all, Avalon does a fabulous job of catering to everyone. I just had seen the ads and was mentally prepared to float down the Danube, gazing romantically at the beautiful scenery along the way. Unfortunately, the Danube was too ... Read More
First of all, Avalon does a fabulous job of catering to everyone. I just had seen the ads and was mentally prepared to float down the Danube, gazing romantically at the beautiful scenery along the way. Unfortunately, the Danube was too low to do much sailing, so we only were able to dock in 3 planned ports and a couple of unintended ports, used for bussing us places. So this fantasy didn't come true and not Avalon's fault at all. If you are planning a trip like this, make sure there has been enough rain for the trip to actually pass through the river. If not, you will spend hours on busses going to the places that way. You may have many more tours than you wanted and hear much more history than you can ever remember. If you are someone who will enjoy this, then no worries. We discovered it wasn't comfortable for us. They feed you well on the ship- I would say not quite the tastiness of the big ocean cruises, but certainly enough to satisfy you. The people are so nice and we made lots of friends. The age group on the ships is approx. 70-80 average, I'd say. If you are handicapped and use a cane, they make provisions with the tours for you, but the countries may not be compliant with this. Lots of cobblestones, so come prepared to strengthen your ankles on those with good shoes. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
My adult daughter (27) and I just returned from an amazing week cruising the Rhine. Unfortunately, there was record-breaking flooding in Europe, so our departure was changed from Basel to Strasbourg, but we didn't miss much. The ... Read More
My adult daughter (27) and I just returned from an amazing week cruising the Rhine. Unfortunately, there was record-breaking flooding in Europe, so our departure was changed from Basel to Strasbourg, but we didn't miss much. The itinerary included a new port each day, and sometimes two. What a great way to see so much of the Rhine while only unpacking once. The crew members onboard the Luminary were excellent and made sure that our trip went flawlessly. The meals were spectacular, with at least three special entree options at each meal and four options that were always available (including steak). Wine flowed freely and we had a choice of red, white or bubbly with our dinner. Drinks at the bar were very reasonable. There was also a coffee/tea/hot chocolate bar available all the time. The cabin was nice, but not built to suit two beds instead of one. When the beds were split apart, there were lamps on the headboard right where you would sit up in bed, so they hit your head. There was also a light switch on the wall beside the bed which turned on and off if you moved in bed. I loved the L'Occitane soap and lotions. The excursions were interesting, but we liked the freedom to do our own thing as well. If a walking tour ended up moving too slowly, we just ventured off on our own. The cable car ride up the mountain in Rudesheim was worth doing (which we did instead of the musical instrument museum). We also went ashore at night to experience more of the local nightlife. There were some interesting bars right near where the boat was docked. Although most people on board were 50 years or older, my daughter enjoyed the trip because of all the opportunities to explore new cities. The river level was very high and the current extremely strong, but the captain was brilliant at navigating the fast-flowing water. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
This was our first river cruise. We have been on several ocean cruises, which we love, but this river cruise was better. Nothing could have been better about this cruise (northbound Rhine cruise from Basel to Amsterdam) - the ship, the ... Read More
This was our first river cruise. We have been on several ocean cruises, which we love, but this river cruise was better. Nothing could have been better about this cruise (northbound Rhine cruise from Basel to Amsterdam) - the ship, the cruise itself, the staff, the food, the shore excursions. We knew nothing about Avalon. We took this particular cruise because it fit into our schedule. And it was wonderful. We did have to bus from Basel to Strasbourg because of high water, but what we missed seeing was mainly at night. Instead they booked an excursion up Mount Pilatus by gondola and cog railway. It was wet and cold and foggy, but still fun. The excursions that came with the cruise were all exceptionally well handled and had wonderful guides. The groups were small, and individual hearing devices were used so you could hear everything the guide said.. The only entertainment was music in the public areas, but one night some of the staff put on a show, which was lots of fun. The ships are small (100 passengers), so there is no need nor room for entertainment - just enjoy talking to your fellow passengers and watching the beautiful scenery. There is a tiny exercise room. The cabins are not too small and had plenty of storage. We could not hear our neighbors at all.The food was fabulous and plentiful. There were always soft drinks, tea and coffee available in one of the public areas. Plus some kind of pastries. Embarkation and disembarkation went so smoothly it was amazing compared to large ocean cruise ships. We would absolutely take another of their cruises. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
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
Sail Date June 2016
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
Sail Date June 2016
I would actually rate the ship 3-1/2 stars if that were an option. I chose this cruise because we wanted to do the Moselle and Rhine Rivers in one trip. This was the only line i found that offered that combo in August. We have done ... Read More
I would actually rate the ship 3-1/2 stars if that were an option. I chose this cruise because we wanted to do the Moselle and Rhine Rivers in one trip. This was the only line i found that offered that combo in August. We have done approx. 15 ocean cruises and one River Cruise (danube) 2 years ago on another cruise line which we liked better overall. We loved the overall itinerary--so glad we included the Moselle, which contained some of our favorite stops (Luxembourg City,& Bernkastel, Germany) The ship was pretty "average"--the cabin was smallish, we couldnt both sit by the sliders to watch--there was only one chair in the cabin. Our bed faced Aft, so it was not enjoyable to watch out the window going backwards. The bed itself was very comfortable, but only super soft pillows were available so i had to sleep in my horseshoe "airplane pillow". The ship should offer at least one firm pillow option. This is a very pricey trip and sleep accommodations are critical. The dining room was too warm on several evenings...the lounge furniture was not very comfortable. Food ranged from good to fair. Dinner options needed to be expanded. Breakfast and lunch options were very good. Service in the dining room was quite slow at times. Some crew members, including our favorite maitre'd left during the cruise (without us knowing) and new servers replaced them. This was disappointing. Why not have staff go on holiday at end of a cruise rather than in the middle? Would like to be able to listen to lectures etc from our cabin. According to the info in the cabin, this was supposed to be doable, but it wasn't. We had to go to the lounge or outside deck. Since we couldn't comfortably watch our progress from the sliders (as previously explained), we tried to watch the" front camera" on our TV. Unfortunately, the "front camera" was never viewable from the TV. (We asked at front desk, but the 2nd method didnt work either). Lastly, we took advantage of morning and afternoon tours whenever offered, but timing was very rushed getting back for lunch between the tours--often only 45 minutes to come in, drop off stuff, go to lunch, bathroom, get gear for afternoon tour...would be nice to have at least an hour or hour & 15 minutes betweem end of one tour and start of next. We would recommend the Moselle -Rhine trip to anyone, but would recommend a different cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We picked this cruise for the itinerary and it was more than we expected. The cabin was a good size, the bed was very comfortable. Dining was excellent as was the service. Loved all the ports we visited. Would have liked to spend a little ... Read More
We picked this cruise for the itinerary and it was more than we expected. The cabin was a good size, the bed was very comfortable. Dining was excellent as was the service. Loved all the ports we visited. Would have liked to spend a little more time in the towns we visited. Overall an excellent cruise and would definitely choose Avalon again. The crew was cordial and good at what they do. The shore excursions were well planned and the surprise treats were an added bonus, especially the Rudesheim coffee. Our tour director was very personable with a wonderful sense of humor who made our trip a pleasure. We were really taken aback by the beauty of the countryside and the historical places we were privileged to visit. We loved the old cobblestone streets in many of the towns we visited and were often in awe of who else might have strolled down those same narrow streets that we did. Bottled water was supplied on every excursion into town. Fantastic cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
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
Sail Date September 2016
I wanted to see more of Germany and I had never been to Vienna. This cruise had the ideal itinerary for my husband and I. We were able to fly to Zurich non-stop from New York and stay two nights and then meet our fellow passengers at their ... Read More
I wanted to see more of Germany and I had never been to Vienna. This cruise had the ideal itinerary for my husband and I. We were able to fly to Zurich non-stop from New York and stay two nights and then meet our fellow passengers at their hotel and take the optional tour to Lake Lucerne. We found the ports of call delightful and our fellow passengers very friendly. The crew was very hospital and the tour director was very adept at her job. We especially liked the optional waltz concert in Vienna. We loved that the cruise ended in Vienna and we stayed an extra two nights on our own. We booked a suite and it was a good size and very clean. When I requested more hangers, our cabin attendant fetched them post haste. The food was good. I thought that the fish portions were a bit small. Also, I like pouched eggs but mine always came out hard boiled. These are really trivial complaints. Happy hour was great and the drinks so reasonable. All in all, a very memorable trip. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We have had the privilege and joy of having a front-row seat to a performance by world-class zitherist, Tomy Temerson. It was aboard the cruiseship Avalon Luminary, as we sailed on the scenic Main River in Germany on a sunny day. ... Read More
We have had the privilege and joy of having a front-row seat to a performance by world-class zitherist, Tomy Temerson. It was aboard the cruiseship Avalon Luminary, as we sailed on the scenic Main River in Germany on a sunny day. In one word, they – Tomy Temerson's concert and the cruise – were sensational. In the space of eleven days, with nine of them aboard the Avalon Luminary, our cruise holiday not only entertained us with music, but we also enjoyed a lecture about the European Economic Union, as well as excursions ashore to enjoy wine-tasting and to see historic, interesting sites. For us, the Avalon Luminary cruise was a holiday of magnificent proportion. From the day we purchased our tickets to the moment we left Amsterdam airport to fly back to Toronto, Canada, everything was well organized and our every need was met. Day by day we followed the scheduled plan under the watchful eye of tour director, Nico de Nooyer. Day by day, we were treated as if we were royalty aboard the Avalon Luminary. And to this day, we enjoy Tomy Temerson's zither music thanks to the discs we purchased from him. I suspect, judging by the variety of world addresses of fellow passengers aboard the Avalon Luminary, there are people enjoying Temerson's music all over the world. But musical enjoyment, which included other afternoon and evening musical sessions, did not occur only on-board the ship. In one of the many excursions offered at various stops along the Luminary's route, we visited Siegfried's musicial museum. Not only was it musical, it was also magical and well worth the effort and stroll ashore. That musical museum visit was one of the many tours included in the price of our Avalon Luminary cruise. Price is a big factor when one considers a river cruise. So is where you are going to cruise and what you will do aboard and off the ship during the trip. There are many factors to consider! We started with river-cruise guidebooks from our travel agent, Shawn McLean of Travelworld in Collingwood. After studying those, we made lists of questions and took them to our travel agent who answered them all. If she did not know the answer, she had it within hours from Avalon Waterways. We were fortunate enough to get to a travel show in nearby Wasaga Beach at which various travel companies had time to make presentations to the audience after which we visited their booths and talked to their agents. We talked to Robynlee Hyndman, who represented Globus/Avalon very well. Our questions, not clearly answered in printed literature, involved such things as length of time to be spent on connecting train, or bus, rides and about things to do in spare time. All of our questions were answered to our satisfaction. The river-cruise marketplace is a very competitive one. Approximately six major companies dominate the marketplace and we studied them all, from what they offered day-by-day, to price. Important to remember, compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Some prices include air fare, and/or gratuities. Some don't. It is imperative to know about these differences. You will probably pay more for a river cruise holiday than you have ever paid for a one, or two, week all-inclusive holiday at some on-land destination. But considering how everything you require, from start to end in your river cruise, will be included, it will be worth it! We still consider our river cruise with Avalon Waterways our trip of a lifetime and the best holiday we ever had. We believe we received tremendous value for our money. We chose the “Central European Experience – Eastbound” presented by Avalon Waterways. This would be an eleven-day trip with the best part of nine days travel spent aboard the Avalon Luminary. I have done a lot of boating on small craft, large boats and on ships. One concern we had was “how rough would it be travelling on a river cruise?” In a nutshell, this turned out not to be a concern. Sailing aboard the Luminary was never a rough ride. In fact, it was surprisingly smooth sailing. People who are not used to boats, or ships, worry needlessly about rough water when it comes to a river cruise at least that was our experience. I never saw a big wave in all the time I was aboard the Avalon Luminary, unless you count the friendly waves from passengers on one ship to passengers on a ship going in the opposite direction; or friendly waves from people ashore. There were waves produced by the forward action of our ship and other ships. Those waves are called “the wake” and V-out behind vessels that are in motion. But there was nothing, ever, that caused uncomfortable motion to those aboard our river cruiseship as we travelled day and night along parts of the Main, the Moselle and the Rhine rivers. Certainly, I never heard of anybody suffering from motion sickness, nor did I ever see an unhappy fellow traveller on our ship. Soon after we purchased our river cruise trip, with the vacation code WRN 1011, Avalon Waterways sent us our travel documents through our travel agent. These small booklets provided more information than travel guidebooks do and pinpointed specifics about things we had to know. Our travel booklets had 52 pages and covered 19 different topics at our fingertips. Topics ranged from air information and an e-ticket receipt for our flights, to the itinerary and optional excursions. There was a strong emphasis on safety in the information provided and I strongly recommend that when you receive your travel booklets you take the time to read everything page by page. There are also sections in the travel-plan booklet which you must complete. Once booked for our trip, our first time with Avalon Waterways, we had to open an account on-line with Avalon. This was easily done and when I went to do it I found it was half-completed by our travel agent as part of her excellent service. Avalon also sent us a couple of promotional luggage tags, which I felt were a waste of money on their part. These tags did not have any use for a passenger, other than to promote Avalon's name which is emblazoned on these blue metal squares in white letters. Better, would have been for Avalon to provide luggage tags which can be personalized by each passenger and which carried Avalon's name on one side, opposite to the passenger's name. As it was, I did not want to attach these heavy Avalon tags to our luggage for fear that damage could be done if the tags caught on something in transit. But these luggage tags were a minute issue in the large scheme of things. I think Avalon should rethink this give-away promotion. Give customers a whistle, or a set of nail-clippers, or a small pocketknife, if you have to give us anything at all. On the plus-side of giveaways, we did receive an Avalon-emblazoned, small folder for documents. That was handy. I like to keep travel documents in one handy spot and the folder made it handier. On the day of our departure from Toronto, we were aboard Air France flight 351 and it left on time. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris 25 minutes ahead of schedule. The flight was fine and the service was terrific. At this Paris airport only 50 per cent of existing customs stations were staffed and it took us, standing like cattle herded together, two hours to clear customs. That was not a friendly welcome to France! An Avalon representative, Max, met us just past customs and took us to a waiting area with seats adjacent to a parking lot. Then, he went away to locate other new-arriving Avalon customers. Once we were all assembled, we boarded a bus and were driven to L'Hotel Du Collectionneur which is not far from the Arc De Triomphe. L'Hotel Du Collectionneur is a five-star and it is palatial. Our group was met at the bus by another Avalon representative, Katherine, and then directed to the lobby where we were assisted by a hotel staff member, Julie. We were given an envelope from the hotel which contained information we would need to know during our stay. As well, the envelope contained flexible tags to be attached to our luggage on embarkation day. Then, we were directed to the Avalon Waterways' reception desk, which is on one side of the massive lobby, and there we met our cruise director Nico de Nooyer. It's at this point that the company's hospitality toward Avalon guests started to kick into high gear. Nico de Nooyer is a veteran cruise director and his professionalism shone. We received Nico's verbal greetings and also printed sheets which told us about the Avalon Waterways desk's hours of operation, and what would be happening in the two days to come. Information was presented about our upcoming Paris tour and also about optional tours. We were invited to attend a welcome reception at 5.30 p.m., that day, but until then we were on our own. It was the noon hour, so after checking into our room, Nancy and I crossed the street outside the hotel and settled in for lunch at Le Parthenon, which is half-pub and half-restaurant. Lunch for the two of us cost 29 Euros. You will know in advance, from your travel kit, when daily meals are provided and when they are not. So, you have to budget for any meals that are not included on your Avalon ticket. We strolled locally, admiring the architecture and enjoying the mild temperature (it was mid-October). We noticed the Myanmar Embassy located across the street from the hotel. Since my wife has family in Myanmar, we tried to get a meeting with staff there. However, it was late in the day and that was not possible. On a sheet which detailed optional excursions in Paris, we chose a Seine River cruise and a guided tour of the Marais district. The latter was a walking tour with a guide, set for the afternoon of the next day. The cost for this excursion was 54 Euros per person and there were other trip choices available. For the third day of our stay in Paris, we paid 49 Euros each for a guided, morning trip to Montmartre and the church of the Sacre Coeur. We were making full use of our available free time. We went to the Avalon Waterways welcome reception for 5.30 p.m., and tour director Nico, who has 47 years with company at that time (“So, I'm part of the furniture,” he joked.) made a number of points very clear to his guests. On train day, which would be when we depart from this hotel, we were instructed to leave our luggage outside our hotel doors by 7 a.m., for pickup by Avalon. The luggage would be taken to the Avalon Luminary. This would work fine for Nancy and me because we travel using a carry-on bag each and a suitcase each. Whatever we needed for our time of transfer from hotel to the Avalon Luminary would be in our carry-ons. We were told about a number of other important points: pickpocketing in France is a big problem, so beware. Check Avalon's bulletin board daily. For our guided tour the next morning (included in the trip price) be on time at the lobby, or miss the trip. Nico gave us the first of our daily newsletters. The newsletters would become an important communication vehicle for all of us Avalon guests. Sometimes, the newsletter would have a map printed on it, or be accompanied by a map sheet. This was very helpful. Put your cabin number on your luggage labels! Avalon guests departing from the hotel for the train station would be taken by coach on the day that we would go to the Luminary. For those guests taking the optional guided tour to Montmartre (that was us!) a coach would take us directly to the trian station after our tour. The train would leave at 2.20 p.m., that day and keep in mind that these trains leave on the minute! The Avalon welcome reception gave us a chance to chat with some of the other guests. They came from distant places, such as Wales, Australia, and there was a group from Wisconsin, U.S.A. Our ship, the Luminary, was about 85 per cent to capacity in terms of the number of passengers it can carry. After the welcome reception, Nancy and I walked to a nearby supermarket on Rue Lisbonne and bought some drinks, biscuits and salad to share. Much as supermarkets do in Canada and England, their French counterparts offer take-away meals, including salad options. Ours, “Orzo Au Basilic Petits Legumes Fromage Frais” was very good! So ended our Tuesday, our first day in Paris. It was easy to see that professionalism prevailed in every aspect of the hotel and Avalon Waterways. On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel (included in the Avalon package) and then left at 8.30 a.m., on one of two coaches filled with Avalon guests, for our guided tour of parts of Paris. Our guide was Patricia and she was excellent. We stopped at Emperor Napoleon's tomb, where armed guards inspected our bags. Napoleon's body has been at this tomb since April 2, 1861. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower for long enough to take photographs and then headed back to the hotel. For lunch, Nancy and I returned to the nearby supermarket and bought crackers and a selection of cheeses. We agreed, as we ate, that our morning tour was excellent. This quality of guided tours would continue throughout our trip. On Wednesday afternoon, we were on time for the bus which took us to the boat for our Seine River cruise, which was followed by a tour – once again with Patricia. She equipped us with listening devices which we carried as she explained about our surroundings. Along the way, I bought a map and a Paris guidebook. Nancy bought some mini-quiches at a bakery. In short, the Seine River cruise was terrific and an excellent way to see (and photograph) various places. We felt that for the money spent on the optional excursions we received excellent value. Back at the hotel, Nancy used her i-Pad to communicate with family and friends in Canada. The wi-fi at the hotel was excellent. Later, we would find out that wi-fi aboard the Luminary worked well. Let's be absolutely clear about short-term visits to major European cities, in particular Paris and Prague. Our Avalon trip, staying only a few days in each, allowed us only a taste of what these historic cities have to offer. For a fuller tourism meal, so to speak, one would have to visit such cities for a week, or more, at a time. This is not a criticism, rather a reality. On Thursday morning, we had our luggage in the hallway for 7 a.m., pickup and went for breakfast at the hotel. Food and service were top-notch. We connected with our guide Clarisia for a tour of Montmartre and were dropped off at the train station with time to spare to catch our train. At the train station, it was easy to find tour director Nico who had an Avalon sign in hand. He was constantly checking to ensure that everybody got onto the train. Everybody in our group did! I love train travel, so the two-hour and twenty-minute trip by high-speed train across the French countryside was a delight to me. We arrived at Luxembourg City and moved on to a bus which took us to the Avalon Luminary at dock. The rest of the day was spent getting settled aboard the Luminary, having a fine dinner and watching the world go by that evening before turning in for the night. Watching the scenery go by from the deck of our ship, we found, would become addictive. It was fun! Safety is an imperative with Avalon Waterways. Our tour guide Nico talked about it. Participation in a safety exercise is mandatory at the beginning of the cruise. Additionally, Avalon crew keep in touch with passengers by means of a daily newsletter, a daily “Port Talk” before dinner, an information channel on television and through a public-address system on board. There was a shore pass for every passenger. It had to be taken ashore whenever you went there and, later, returned to the front desk upon one's return to the Luminary. The other thing that one had to remember to take ashore, if you were taking part in guided tours, was a very handy listening device. It too would be returned to the front desk when a passenger returned to ship. For those who simply had to get a news report from home, Avalon Waterways had that covered too. Daily, close to the front desk, there was a spot at which one could pick up newsletters such as “The Canadian”, or “Britain Today”. These were photocopied newsletters which brought news highlights to our fingertips. It was there that we learned Bob Dylan had won a Nobel Prize in literature, or that Ennis-Hill had retired from athletics. To be blunt, news from home mattered little to us and perhaps to most fellow passengers because there was simply so much to enjoy aboard the ship and off it. We awoke to find ourselves docked in Grevenmacher near Trier (population 116,000). After breakfast, we went ashore by bus to Trier and then for a tour with guide Andrea Tullus. Trier is a remarkable city dating back to Roman days. Alongside the river, in this case we are on the Moselle River, the hills are covered with vineyards. While we were in Trier on the “included” tour, others had gone for an optional trip to Luxembourg. We all got back to the Luminary in time for lunch and our ship sailed at 1.50 p.m. Once again, the weather was co-operating with a sunny day and we sailed past hilly vineyard after hilly vineyard. Before we left Grevenmacher, I explored our dock area where there was a canal boat called “Zinnen” which caught my attention. It turned out to have Maarten Van Lelyveld and Ellen Graafland from Holland aboard. They had spent the summer river cruising and would soon be heading home. Amazing! It was also amazing at how close to the underside of bridges our Luminary came. Before Trier, she sailed under a bridge at which there seemed to be about half-a-metre's clearance! River cruise ships, such as the Luminary, are designed to have their wheelhouses – which jut up from the uppermost deck – lowered. The captain, or his designate, then controls the ship from a side-of-ship location. We spent a lot of time, when the ship was sailing, on the sky deck near the wheelhouse. The sky deck provided a wonderful vantage point and we enjoyed it a lot, sometimes with a glass of wine in hand and often in the company of other passengers. If the weather turned against us, which is to be expected with a late-season sailing, we would watch the world go by from the comfort of lounges; either near the bow of the ship, or at the stern. In any area, you made yourself comfortable and often the crew added to our comfort level with either cheerful pleasantries in passing, or with the service of snacks and drinks. We soon learned about the delights of breakfast, lunch and dinners served in pristine dining areas surrounding by fine staff. To say we were spoiled would be an understatement. At Trier, the Luminary went through a lock, one of many she would traverse before our trip ended. Locks are a fascinating place! Sometimes we traversed locks during the day and could watch whatever was going on aboard the ship and on shore. Sometimes, we went through locks during the night. Then, I could open our balcony door and be face to face with the dampness of a lock wall, just a metre, or less, in front of me; or so it seemed! As we sailed past kilometre after kilometre of vineyards, riverside villages, castles, landmarks such as the Lorelei, or other marine traffic, we sat back, relaxed, enjoyed the ship's amenities and chatted with fellow passengers. A river cruiseship is a working vessel, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It did not take us long to realize that our voyage was the product of a complex and highly-organized system involving professionals at so many levels: the captain, navigation, food service, room service, on-board entertainment. There were so many things that we could see and applaud and many more behind the scenes, which we could not see, such as the staff members who looked after propulsion, the galley, the laundry and other necessities important to our comfort and safety. TRIER, STEPPING BACK IN TIME... On our day at Trier, the outdoor temperature was nine degrees Celcius. It was cool, but sunny and we essentially stepped back in time enjoying history there. On other days, temperatures were comfortable enough in the teens. We had studied our daily newsletter which helped to organize us for each day. In the case of the Trier day, we signed up for the included guided tour, got to the gangplank before the tour's 8.30 a.m., start and made certain that we had our shore passes and our listening devices. Our morning was spent enjoying the guided tour, taking photographs and asking our guide questions. For every shore excursion, it was made clear from the start whether the walk would be easy, or not-as-easy. That was appreciated. Colour-coding on listening devices helped to organize passengers to their comfort level of tour. Some passengers chose to go on tour on their own, either on foot, or using one of the available bicycles. In our case, we did the guided tours and then took up any available, remaining time with exploring on our own. It was always friendly, with no pressure and just the occasional verbal nudge from a guide to ensure the group stayed together; or waited politely for a straggler. Thanks to the guides anywhere on our riverside stops, we always had the highlights of their community pointed out to us. Additionally, the maps given out prior to leaving ship were always helpful to have. Daily, our newsletter noted times for everything: early-riser breakfast, buffet breakfast, late-riser breakfast, sightseeing tour departure time, lunch time, optional excursion details, departure time from whatever dock we were at, coffee-break time (although coffee, tea and snacks were available around the clock at the stern lounge), any stop-and-go visits enroute, happy hour, Port Talk, dinner, after-dinner entertainment, late-night snack, estimated time of arrival at our next destination. On board, every day, we got to listen to a guitar player called Valentin. He entertained us skillfully and his rendition of Purple Rain was superb! We sailed from Trier at exactly 1:45 p.m., with theme music as background from the public address system. This background music was never too loud and it was uplifting. In a small way it was like a musical speech saying “here we sail again!” I enquired about this piece of music, played each time we sailed away from a dock. The stirring piece was “Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis. Truly, we were in waterways paradise, going to sleep in one area and awakening in another. We awoke moored on a bend in the Moselle River at Bernkastel-Kues. KING AND QUEEN OF THE CASTLE.... By shortly after 9 a.m., we were walking with our excellent guide, Genevieve Schmidt. This tour was directly from the ship. We walked away with our guide to the historic downtown of Bernkastel. After her tour, Nancy and I followed a trail through a vineyard and walked up and up and uphill. Our destination, always looming above us at the top of the hill, was Landshut Castle, a medievil fortress which dates back three centuries. It might have taken us an half-hour of walking slowly, stopping for a rest and then walking some more, but we got to the castle. From the castle, looking down at the Moselle River we could see the town, cars, the Avalon Luminary and everything down there looked like Matchbox toys. The castle is being rebuilt, but it's a slow process. Our view included a bridge over the river, the small community of Kues on the other side of the river and a splendid panorama of vineyard-covered hills for as far as the eye could see. We got back to the Luminary in time for lunch and then we were off again for a tour of the nearby Weinmuseum, also called the Bernkastel Vinothek. It was a 15-minute walk, including crossing a bridge over the Moselle River, to the wine museum were we were cheerfully greeted with a complimentary pretzel and taken to underground cellars with arched roofs; wine samples beckoning. Things are extremely well organized for visitors to the wine cellars. I learned that its displays and servings, free samples and opportunity to purchase bottles of wine, were all because of the co-operation of families which have vineyards in this area which date back hundreds of years. There are dozens of vineyards, perhaps more than 100, so it would take a return trip in order to do more sampling! Our wine cellar guide, Jan Nikolic, was very friendly, helpful and – of course – I told him about our local vineyards just in case he needs a holiday target for a trip to Canada! Jan Nikolic was representing Rieslinghaus, an on-line shop, when we met him. After our wine museum tour, Nancy and I walked back to Bernkastel's tourist office to learn more about this community. It's a fascinating place and one which we truly can say we “tasted”. At the tourist office, I bought a map of the Moselle River area for three and a half Euros. I like to pinpoint where we are whenever we travel. This river cruise experience was our first such voyage and I found myself wanting to know exactly where we were at various times. There were signs on towns and at locks along the way and, obviously, whenever we stopped at a designated spot it was clearly evident because of signs. But I missed not being able to tie our location, wherever we were, to something as tangible as a map. Perhaps they have this aboard river cruise ships. Perhaps, the Luminary had it televised with an on-ship channel. I did not watch television, so I can't say. I did notice a black-and-white chart which pointed out names of locks. But that just didn't do it for me. Not a complaint, not even a problem; just an observation from this traveller who – for the second time in his life – felt a bit lost by not knowing his position. (The first time I was lost, it was in a wilderness area of New Brunswick, Canada.) Perhaps somebody could create a magnetic, map panel, adjacent to the front desk, on which could be a magnet – shaped like the Luminary – which would pinpoint the ship's location in relation to its river travels. I could also argue that somebody on vacation on a river cruise does not need to know his, or her, location in pinpoint fashion and should simply enjoy the trip! When the Luminary sailed from Bernkastel at 3 p.m., on that day, I was at our cabin's balcony, with the door open, watching swans which were swimming alongside the ship. By 4 p.m., we were sitting in a forward lounge with Cindy Jenkins and Rick DeKryger of Dundas, Ontario, toasting their eighth anniversary. There's no pressure to meet fellow passengers, but as faces become familiar, smiles and pleasantries exchanged, one can soon be sitting for a meal, or a drink, with somebody from somewhere else in our world. Later in the evening, following a delicious dinner, we chatted with Bill who worked for Harley-Davidson in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Our common denominator, a love of motorcycling, had us chatting then and later in the trip. Aboard the Luminary, after every dinner, there was always entertainment. On this evening we enjoyed a couple of hours of music and camaraderie until it ended. Then, we went to the sky deck and watched the darkened shoreline slip past in the silence as the ship moved downstream as smoothly as silk. The river was calm and a full moon watched over us. There was a noise on one riverbank and a light. Then, from the darkness a noisy freight train rattled past and on into the darkness, leaving us in silence and moonlight. It was lovely. In addition to guest speakers, musicians and other entertainment, passengers could sign up for a Panorama Bistro dinner. We enjoyed ours! Later, we completed a questionnaire from the company which asked us many questions about the dinner, the comfort level, the food quantity and the dishes served. Ah, the dishes served! Once again we were spoiled. We gave everything top marks, as well as commenting on how spotlessly clean things were kept aboard ship. Mary Pete looked after our cabin and did an excellent job. The Panorama Bistro dinner we enjoyed had as starters: roast beef, smoked salmon, quiche lorraine, or grilled vegetables – your choice – followed by potato soup, if you wanted it. Main dishes – your choice – veal cheek, fillet of plaice or Kasespatzie-Rosti. Then, if you wanted it, a cheese plate, followed by – your choice of dessert – Black Forest cake, or mousse from roasted nuts, or White Passion. Given that the regular, daily dinners were a culinary delight, the special Panorama Bistro dinner moved us into Second Heaven and the service was as excellent as the food. There were many optional features to our Avalon Waterways' cruise. We enjoyed the included guided tours, but signed up for the optional Folklore Show Dinner days ahead in Prague. The cost for this was 64 Euros per person and we were to find out that this was well worth it. If you are on a river cruise and wake up during the night, take a few minutes to open your balcony door and see what's outside. One night, I opened the door to darkness punctuated by city lights and large buildings. I think we were passing through Koblenz. Seldom, during the day, did we see large cities. Usually, we passed hills, vineyards, small villages and, occasionally, a campground, or a trailer park. Here and there, from the shoreline, people waved in friendly fashion at the Luminary. Having thoroughly enjoyed our visits to Trier and then Bernkastel-Kues, we thought that those municipalities and what they offered were highlights of our trip. But each day brought new highlights and that would be the case again in Rudesheim. On one cool and foggy morning, I awoke before dawn, opened our river-facing, glass door and noticed the lights of the Luminary were reflecting from house windows ashore which we were passing. Yes, we were that close! Somewhere ahead of me, in the galley at the bow, staff were preparing breakfast. I could smell the bacon cooking. Dawn broke, we enjoyed breakfast and then watched the world go by from the Sky Deck where I chatted with Ramiro, a passenger from Wisconsin, U.S.A. By noon, we were moored at Rudesheim. We were prepared for Rudesheim. We had read our daily newsletter, had looked at a provided map of this city on the Rhine River and also reviewed a map which showed the Middle Rhine area. Each time we received a map it would have information about a community, sights of interest and history on it. But nothing prepared us for Siegfried's Mechanisches Musikkabinett because it is difficult to find something else as unique! We had lunch aboard before heading off for a tour of Rudesheim. As the days pass, one gets to know servers at meal times. Many of the ones on our ship came from Romania. We also got to know “Chef Bobi”, or at the front desk, receptionists Elena, or Ahmed. From time to time we met the captain of the Luminary, Roger Spoor. Sometimes he had time to chat briefly, at other times we knew that he was busy with work and we did not interrupt him. To a person, Luminary staff were friendly and made us welcome. RUDESHEIM, MUSIC AND ASBACH At Rudesheim, what started as a foggy morning in mid-October turned into a lovely sunny day just as we left the ship. We were taken to the heart of the downtown area by means of a small train; one of those imitation trains, not a real train. This one had a small engine and small cars behind it in which we sat. Our first stop was Siegfried's Mechancial Music Cabinet which is the brainchild of a private collector, Siegfried Mandel. He started small, collecting mechanical musical instruments. Today, his collection, located in an architecturally-fascinating house, is one of the largest collections of musical instruments in Europe. We had a guided tour, which included demonstrations, and it was not simply excellent. It was amazingly awesome! I purchased a little booklet, written in three languages, which tells the history and explains about instruments at Siegfried's spectacular museum. Take history and add music and you have a winning combination for visitors to enjoy! Our guided tour involved a second surprise, an introduction to Asbach, a brandy. We walked to Rudesheimer Schloss, a large restaurant which made us very welcome. There, we were poured a coffee which contained well-heated Asbach....”The Hot Original” they called it on a recipe card, which also carried a recipe for “The Cool Delight”.We were welcomed everywhere we went. As with previous stops, we bought souvenirs and enjoyed ourselves before heading back to the Luminary for “high tea” to the sound of guitarist Valentin playing Carlos Santana numbers. At 4:45 p.m., the Luminary sailed for Freudenberg, once again to the strains of Conquest of Paradise. Avalon Waterways never ceases to amaze us with entertainment, beyond the on-board guitarist Valentin. A trio which calls itself “La Strada” performs a concert in the lounge before dinner. Two very-talented violinists, Stefan and Vladimir, are accompanied by guitarist Kristina and thrill us with their music. Later, they leave the ship. At this point in our travels, the topography alongside the river has changed. Gone are the vineyard-laden hills. Now, the countryside is flat and wooded and there is more marine traffic passing us. As the hours go by, we go up in locks, seldom feeling any motion. We sail under traffic-topped bridges. Early morning brings a pinkish sky in the east and I see a jet plane flying not far from the river. Judging by the number of construction cranes I have seen in built-up areas and at locks, Germany is in some sort of vibrant economic boom. Two pieces of paper arrive under our cabin door. One is an Optional Excursion Receipt and the other is an informative piece about Water Locks:The Key to River Cruising. By now I have taken 1,802 photographs! Our daily newsletter invites us to “Zither Melodies” by Tomy Temerson at mid-morning. We attend this concert, which is fantastic, and I not only photograph this skilled musician, I also make a video as he plays Edelwiess. He tells us that there are only five professional zither players in the world and he is one of them. We are not only entertained, we are honoured to be in his audience. He's that good! FLOATING LOWER AT FREUDENBERG Approaching Miltenberg on the Main River we come to a bridge and the Luminary is too tall to go under it. Because water ballast had been pumped from this ship the day before, we are now riding higher above the water. Now, our captain has water being pumped into the ballast tanks to bring the ship lower in the water so that we can sail under the bridge. It takes a little while, but soon we go under the bridge and dock at Freudenberg. From Freudenberg we take a coach to nearby Miltenberg for a guided tour. Once again, we step back in history and Gary, also from Wisconsin, and I team together for a visit to a local brewery while Nancy goes shopping with his wife Jane. Gary and I visited the Faust brewery which has been operating here since 1654. We buy some beer to take back to our cabins. Time flies when you're having fun and we make it back to the Luminary with minutes to spare, but well in time for high tea before the ship sails for Wurzburg. Later, we have dinner and enjoy another Avalon surprise...”the one and only Luminary Crew Show”. It's fun and we find out about other talents crew members have. Our gratuities for crew members have been pre-paid as part of our ticket-purchase package, but there are times when you want to give them a little something extra. This is one of those times. In addition to the on-shore activites, we have seen interesting things on the riverside. Sometimes we see wildlife, sometimes castles, sometimes passing ships which have interesting names (Red Dragon, for example). In one place we sail past a factory which is emblazoned with a familiar name: Magna! This morning, docked in what looks like an industrial area of Wurzburg, we are ahead of schedule. We go to tour director Nico's briefing and get new luggage tags and two newsletters for Nuremberg and Prague. We had free time ashore to explore in the morning and after lunch we took a coach to the Residence Palace. We leave all of our bags on the bus and are told that photography is not allowed inside the palace. One of Wurzburg's famous sons is Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen who produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range, today known as x-rays. That was in November 1895. It earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. As we visited Wurzburg it was apparent that community leaders have a strong focus on looking after tourists. From excellent signage to walkways at the waterfront, to public toilets, Wurzburg welcomed us. Back aboard the Luminary by 4.:45 p.m., we enjoyed coffee and cake as the ship set out for Bamberg. Later, we enjoyed the captain's Farewell Dinner. Crew members were introduced and drew loud applause for a job well done. After dinner, we received questionnaires which sought our opinion of the cruise. We also received disembarkation information, a newsletter for the next day (to do with Bamberg), gratuity envelopes for the captain, cruise director and crew. (If you have already provided a gratuity, one can ignore these, or provide an additional token of thanks.) This evening, just before midnight, we hear noise above us somewhere in the vicinity of the top deck. The shoreline stops moving and with the cabin's balcony door open we soon figure out that we are stuck under a bridge. As our captain, or his designate, solves this situation, the “Travel Marvel Diamond” sails between us and the shore heading in the opposite direction from us. I marvel as that ship clears the underside of the bridge by what seems to be half a metre. About two hours later, the Luminary sails free, heading for Bamberg. There has been no serious damage done The next morning, after breakfast, I see a fellow with his bicycle being helped aboard our ship at one of the locks. He is Alexander Estel, a historian from Nuremberg, and mid-morning he gives a very interesting talk in the lounge about “The European Union – History, Challenges and Changes”. His insight was much appreciated judging by the question-and-answer period which was lively. Following his address to Luminary passengers, Mr. Estel with his bicycle left us at the next lock. We docked at Bamberg, had lunch, and headed off for a tour with our guide Sabina. Historic Bamberg has many unique features. One of them is that the Old City here has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As with other places at which the Luminary had stopped and at which we had tours, there was much to see and the opportunity to do some shopping, or try a cafe, or bar. Bamberg was also the first and only place at which we experienced an unpleasant attitude toward tourists from some locals. In one book shop, I saw a carry bag for sale with the slogan “I'm not a tourist, I live here” printed on it in large letters. In another spot, as our group stood and listened to Sabina, I saw a passing bicyclist showing his disdain for tourists with his body language. Not nice. We were told that cruiseship companies were preparing a documentary which would highlight the economic benefits to communities which embrace visitors. I hope it worked for them. Our worst example of anti-tourist sentiment came from a server in a bakery-cafe. After standing in line to order coffee and cheesecake and being ignored repeatedly by the server at a counter, she eventually relented and served us. When she brought the plates carrying our drinks and cakes she literally threw them at us with enough force that the plates clattered on the countertop. I wish I was fluent in German because I would have had words with the manger. Instead, I waited until we got home and wrote them a letter of complaint. To be fair, I do understand that having groups of tourists flooding onto sidewalks and impeding local pedestrians is not only bothersome, but disrespectful. But I do believe this matter can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned. Because I live in a tourist area in Canada, I also understand the value of tourism, in financial terms, to a small community. Back at the ship that evening, we enjoyed the captain's farewell reception, Nico's Port Talk (as usual) and chatting with new-found friends Peter and Linda from Wales and Anne and Peter from Australia. That evening we received our final invoice (excluding gratuities) for souvenirs, postage stamps and bar drinks aboard the ship. Our total was 83.20 Euros. I mention this as a reminder that even though the trip is all-inclusive, there are sundry things for which you will need money, or a credit card. At Nuremberg, our trip aboard the Luminary ended. Our luggage was picked up from in front of our cabin at 7 a.m., and was taken to a waiting coach which would take us to Prague. I was worried about the four-hour coach trip, thinking that it might be uncomfortable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our coach, complete with a tour guide who commented occasionally about things in the countryside, was modern and comfortable. Half-way to Prague, our big bus stopped at a service centre where we could purchase drinks, snacks and use washroom facilities. The highway between Nuremberg and Prague is an expressway and flanked by rolling hills, farmland and, from time to time, signs which told us about candidates in an upcoming Czech Republic election. By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Marriott Hotel and were met by Zuzana, another excellent Avalon representative. Our rooms were not ready at that point and we were directed to leave our luggage in safe storage in a room, where Roman looked after things. With a bit of time on our hands, Nancy and I went off to stretch our legs on nearby streets and we ended up browsing at a nearby mall called the Palladium. The architecture in Prague is stunningly beautiful and interesting. There was an open-air market in an area just down the street from the Marriott and we enjoyed browsing and shopping there. Then, to an adjacent Billa store, a food market, where we bought some snacks. Our room number 205 at the Marriott was splendid. It was large, well-appointed and its windows gave us a view of an inner courtyard. We readied for that evening's dinner, once again with Rick and Cindy from Dundas, for which we had made reservations at Ginger and Fred restaurant. We got a taxi to the riverside “Dancing Building” in which Ginger and Fred is located on the seventh floor. From food to service, everything was superb. This dinner was not included in the Avalon itinerary and we went to Ginger and Fred because we heard it was good. It was more than good. It was excellent. It was not cheap to dine at this restaurant. But we spoiled ourselves, again, making more wonderful memories. The morning after our arrival in Prague, we were up and ready early at the hotel lobby for our Avalon-arranged guided tour. We met Stefano, an Avalon representative, then headed for our bus which would take us on our tour. Dana was our tour guide and did an excellent job of taking us throughout Prague and to the historic castle hill and old town. Once again, we used headsets to listen to our guide. We returned to the Marriott and had the afternoon to ourselves. Nancy and I found the Hop-on, Hop-off bus ticket booth nearby, purchased tickets and enjoyed another guided tour in Prague. Our guide was Monica. We switched at stop number 15 for the Hop-on, Hop-off river cruise. We enjoyed this river cruise from the comfort of a large lounge. We sat sipping our drinks as the shoreline passed by and an announcer told us about Prague. We finished the cruise at what was our starting point. It took us about 15 minutes to walk to Republik Square, where we wandered away to see the astronomical clock. There were crowds everywhere. Lots of people enjoying themselves and, hopefully, not having their pockets picked. We found a Starbucks, bought coffee and snacks and chatted with visitors from Spain. Our Avalon adventure continued that evening when we were taken by bus to the U Marcanu restaurant somewhere on the outskirts of Prague. There, we were among visitors who packed U Marcanu and enjoyed the optional Folklore Dinner. It was well worth the price! There was dancing. There was music. There was beer. There was wine. The dinner was both tasty and fun. Our bus and guide Ivanka took us back to the Marriott and we prepared for departure the next day. Leaving the Marriott on our last day in the Czech Republic, everything was highly-organized (as usual) by Avalon Waterways. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast. Our luggage was picked up at 10 a.m., from in front of our hotel room. We met a friendly mini-bus driver at the Avalon desk for transfer to the airport at 10.30 a.m. From Paris to Prague, we met interesting people who were on holidays. Some we met, such as Giada Serafin, were working. An Avalon employee, she was finding out about a river cruise first-hand. She was on our bus to the airport and we wished her well. The Prague airport is modern and we flew from there with KLM to Amsterdam where we changed to another KLM flight to Toronto. The KLM service was excellent rounding out our Avalon Waterways adventure to give full credence to a saying by Cesare Pavese. His saying is printed on the back of an Avalon Waterways' cruise memories folder which I have kept along with my notes, maps and daily newsletters. Cesare Pavese's saying states: “We do not remember days; we remember moments.” Thanks to Avalon Waterways we have many wonderful moments to remember. Would we go on another Avalon Waterways' river cruise? Absolutely! Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
First time on a river cruise- it was terrific. Ship had many common areas, cabin was a good size, and food was delicious at every meal. Excursions were great and tour guides were knew every fact. Every activity started on time. ... Read More
First time on a river cruise- it was terrific. Ship had many common areas, cabin was a good size, and food was delicious at every meal. Excursions were great and tour guides were knew every fact. Every activity started on time. The Netherlands cruise was a great way to see the cities and villages. Flower fiels were beautiful. Visit to Keukenhof gardens was outstanding. Tulip growers tour was interesting and fascinating. Entertainment on various evenings was very good. Entertainment range from a string trio to local dancers. The Captain and crew were very professional. Cruise director's nightly port talks were detailed and informative. Everyone on the ship did everything possible to make each guest at home. Ship was spotless. Loved the 24 hour availability of coffee and cookies. Tea at 4 was a very nice way Avalon will be my first choice for our next river cruise!! Do not hesitate to book a river cruise with Avalon. Highly recommend Avalon! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
It was recommended by 3D Cruise and Travel in Round Rock, TX. We loved the excursions, the food, the atmosphere, the people, the staff, the wonderful accommodations. We learned a great deal of history from the knowledgeable local guides. ... Read More
It was recommended by 3D Cruise and Travel in Round Rock, TX. We loved the excursions, the food, the atmosphere, the people, the staff, the wonderful accommodations. We learned a great deal of history from the knowledgeable local guides. Dining was especially because of the interesting food and the stellar wait staff. On board entertainment was great fun when we could stay up late enough for it. Avalon took great care of us from the airport to the hotel and back. There were plenty of English speakers everywhere we went. It is a totally different experience from open sea cruising, fostering intimacy and new friendships. The locals were very friendly and encouraged us to try new things. Our cabin was always clean and provided a haven when we were exhausted from walking the cobbled streets. It was lovely lying in bed watching the scenery go by. When can we go again? Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
We planned to spend our 40th wedding anniversary with close cousins. Unfortunately, one couple had to cancel because of illness. The most enjoyable parts of the cruise were visiting the small villages and the extra excursions we ... Read More
We planned to spend our 40th wedding anniversary with close cousins. Unfortunately, one couple had to cancel because of illness. The most enjoyable parts of the cruise were visiting the small villages and the extra excursions we took. The tour guides were informative, well trained, and most importantly passionately proud of the locations that they promoted. The larger cities were very interesting as well but clearly not as exciting as the smaller villages. The service was exceptional. The restaurant staff and meals were exquisite. Everyone was very helpful, friendly, and charming. The food was made to perfection and more than enough. Coffee and snacks were always available. All of our needs were attended to. The other guests were very friendly and sociable. This is a strong indication of how much the staff and facilities served the guests. The only issue that I can truly identify was the wifi was very infrequent and inconsistent. This was a problem for me because I depended on it to connect back with my business. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
Taking this cruise was a shot in the dark for us, never having done any kind of cruise travel. We had a number of concerns going in - would we feel "trapped" on board when we wanted to be out exploring? Would we feel like we were ... Read More
Taking this cruise was a shot in the dark for us, never having done any kind of cruise travel. We had a number of concerns going in - would we feel "trapped" on board when we wanted to be out exploring? Would we feel like we were being herded about like sheep? Would it be too restrictive for our tastes? Would we be squashed in with an unappealing group of Americans? Happily I can report that the trip was truly enjoyable from start to finish. Mostly, we just did our own thing and gave the excursions a pass, except to sometimes use the transport provided. There was plenty of time at each port to get out and explore the lovely towns and cities and the time spent on board was relaxing and wonderfully comfortable. The accommodations were roomy, comfortable and the panorama windows made the time in your room an incredible part of the journey. The ship's crew were very professional, experienced and proficient at their jobs. The food was delicious and dining was enjoyable. Would definitely book with Avalon again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
Our river cruise on the Luminary was amazing. We embarked in Budapest and were greeted and given our cabins by delightful front desk staff. We had booked the 3rd floor which we are glad we did. Rooms were comfortable for my husband and our ... Read More
Our river cruise on the Luminary was amazing. We embarked in Budapest and were greeted and given our cabins by delightful front desk staff. We had booked the 3rd floor which we are glad we did. Rooms were comfortable for my husband and our adult daughter was across the hall. We had been touring Ireland before we flew to Budapest and had rental apartment while budapest. passengers we had meet over the cruise said that Avalon had provided nice hotel and tours in Budapest before the river cruise. We also opted out of the extra days in Prague, and stayed in old nuremberg before flying home from Frankfurt. The Staff and crew seemed to be new in their contacts so they seemed somewhat shy at first. They were all delightful and made our trip amazing, fun, with lots laughter and great service. Dining and food were excellent , many choices, Enjoyed the open seating so we were able to mix with different staff and crew and passengers. The crew was always hard at work inside and outside during the cruise. They never stopped, and the ship was spotless. Evenings were quiet with relaxing music, which was nice to sit and converse after a long day of touring. The guides/ transportation, excursions free or paid ones where all very good. You usually had time to explore on your own, which was an added bonus. We enjoyed the beer and wine tasting evenings and the wonderful singer we had on board one night. We hated for the river cruise to end. The ship was only 1/2 full so maybe that also made a difference. We had a hot tub on top deck but because of so many locks the top was usually down in the evening when cool enough to go and enjoy. Most people were heading to Prague and were bused off the ship to their next adventure. We would love to take another river cruise and our first choice would be Avalon. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
This was an extended "girl's trip" with my best friend and her mom in honor of her mom's 80th birthday. Overall, we three women were well taken care of throughout the cruise and for two days of sightseeing in Prague ... Read More
This was an extended "girl's trip" with my best friend and her mom in honor of her mom's 80th birthday. Overall, we three women were well taken care of throughout the cruise and for two days of sightseeing in Prague beforehand. The Intercontinental Hotel in Prague was very nice. Our staterooms on board the Luminary (310 and 311) were also very nice -- roomy and comfortable. The purser, Sandra, and her assistant, were absolutely delightful, as were most of the crew and staff. My housekeeper, Tri, took very good care of me. But there were certain aspects of the itinerary and the service that could have been better, and I only point these out in hopes that Avalon will take them to heart and offer some improvement in these areas: Three times I asked for laundry service aboard ship. Only the first time was the laundry done correctly. The second time my "cleaned" laundry was returned to me wadded up in the laundry bag -- they hadn't done it at all. The third time, my clothes were returned to me wet - they had forgot to put them in the dryer! The music selections on the in-cabin TV were sorely lacking. Here we are cruising through the classical music capital of the world and only one classical music option was offered en suite. Perhaps additional albums, such as classical guitar or other instrumental music could be added to the onboard listening options. One of the walking tour guides, Ulli in Vienna, was quite rude to one of the passengers, berating the 70-year-old woman publicly (over our earspeakers) for needing to find a restroom before the allotted stopping point and then chastizing her (again publicly) for making the group wait. Most of our walking tours through various cities began with a bus ride. Only once did the tour guides chasten us to wear our seatbelts aboard the bus (European law) or remind us about seatbelts when we re-boarded. Since it is not customary to wear seatbelts on public transportation in the US, I would recommend that tour guides remind passengers every single time a bus is boarded whenever seatbelts are required. Our onboard musician, Valentin Donov, was absolutely wonderful, but except for two occasions, he was the only onboard entertainment offered in the evening. The two special offerings, singer Lindsay Hamilton while we were docked in Passau, and the Quintet Aphrodite in Vienna, were fabulous - absolutely top notch. It would have been nice to have a few more of those kinds of evenings during the cruise. I thought the food was mostly great. The breakfasts, always served buffet-style, were awesome. The dinners, during which we selected courses from a menu, were much more hit-and-miss. I liked that we were treated to regional specialties specific to the ports-of-call we visited, but the execution of most dinners just wasn't very good, and I thought three different days of Hungarian goulash at lunch or dinner was a bit much. As for drinks, it was great that alcoholic beverages were included with meals. But on at least one occasion my table was refused another glass of wine because the Maître'd arbitrarily decided that it was too close to the time we would be moving to the ship's lounge after dinner where we would be expected to pay for our drinks. Considering the price we paid for our cruise, this seemed more than a bit stingy. Personally, I found going through all those locks (24 of them) on the Danube absolutely fascinating. However, I heard several passengers complain that beginning the cruise on the canal portion of the Danube, which required summiting the continental divide, caused "lock overload" for many. We went through a lock every few hours (sometimes more often) for several days and many passengers found the slow-going tedious after awhile. After getting to the actual Danube river, we still had MANY locks to go through as we made our way to Budapest. Several passengers suggested that starting the cruise at Passau instead of Nuremberg might have been a better plan, since most of the locks could have been avoided that way. But the most glaring issue I found with this cruise was our cruise director's open hostility to passengers, including me, on several occasions. I admit a cruise director has a lot on his plate, organizing and ushering up to 138 passengers (we had 118 on our cruise) through a variety of challenging circumstances, and ours did an excellent job. But it might be time for this particular CD to retire. He was not receptive to questions when he wasn't specifically asking for them during port briefings and he certainly didn't have a gentle or generous attitude when speaking to passengers privately. Fellow passengers began to lament that they preferred to wonder in silence rather than approach the CD with questions about anything. This is not the generous, affable professionalism that should define a cruise director, in my opinion. That said, there were many excellent qualities about sailing with Avalon and I want to finish on a positive note: I found Avalon quick on its feet to adapt to circumstances. For instance, a few of our passengers required wheelchairs or canes or were otherwise mobility-challenged. Our cruise director immediately arranged to have a separate group and tour guide (and sometimes even a separate bus) on every walking tour. He dubbed this group the "gentle walkers", and made sure they still got the benefit of an excursion without being too challenged or holding up the rest of us. Also, every single onboard talk and port briefing he gave was interesting and full of important historical information. I was fascinated and in awe of his knowledge and eloquence. Our guides on every walking tour were extremely knowledgeable, funny and interesting to talk to. Although they all spoke with accents, we could understand them perfectly. I especially liked that almost all of them were older, so they had lived through the communist occupation and could give us firsthand insights into what life was like for residents of the towns we visited. The bottom line is that Avalon is a topnotch carrier and I would sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We were in the bottom floor room 106. Great room and much lower price. Every time we came into a port we could go to the top deck or lounge. From our room we could see out but also the TV had a good view of what was coming up next. Also ... Read More
We were in the bottom floor room 106. Great room and much lower price. Every time we came into a port we could go to the top deck or lounge. From our room we could see out but also the TV had a good view of what was coming up next. Also the Cruise Director would tell you each when we would be passing good sites. Great Entertainment in the lounge and a great way to meet people at happy hour or during the later dancing time. TV had excellent first rate movies and news. The Meals were fantastic. Great wne or beer service during supper or lunch. The xcursions were well planned and most were free. The Room was very comfortable. The Guides on the Excursions were very knowledgable. They had a Coffee room at the back that was open 24/7. Coffee Cookies, Games were available. Budapest was the best of the cities we visited. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
Avalon Luminary Ratings
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