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61 Avalon Luminary Cruise Reviews

Fort us this was the trip of a lifetime and hopefully the first of many with Avalon. Everything went smoothly from our pickup in Budapest all the way to Vienna. The cruise director and the entire crew made this a fantastic experience. Our ... Read More
Fort us this was the trip of a lifetime and hopefully the first of many with Avalon. Everything went smoothly from our pickup in Budapest all the way to Vienna. The cruise director and the entire crew made this a fantastic experience. Our tour guides for shore excursions were also fantastic. Arrived early at the Sofitel in Budapest and were treated to an upgraded suite overlooking the Chain Bridge. Our Vienna Hotel was great too. Our cabin was perfect - of course we didn't spend a whole lot of time there! Dining was excellent with all kinds of choices and the wait staff made sure that everything was perfect. English was the language spoken on the ship, so there were no problems with communication. My biggest complaint was that we were so busy and having so much fun that the week went by way too fast. The side excursions we took included a wonderful Hungarian Food and Wine pairing dinner and a trip in the countryside to a horse farm. It was a great value and we'll be going again! Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
My wife and I first met the Cruise Director when we went to the hospitality desk and asked for assistance in locating my wife’s delayed check bag and hopefully redirection of it to our room onboard. My wife and I booked our own air ... Read More
My wife and I first met the Cruise Director when we went to the hospitality desk and asked for assistance in locating my wife’s delayed check bag and hopefully redirection of it to our room onboard. My wife and I booked our own air transportation to Europe with the airline we historically fly from Dallas to Europe. Our flight to Europe could not have been more eventful. As a result, we had in a tight connection in London and a bag was missing when we arrived in Austria. The Cruise Director was personally responsible for working with airline personnel and rerouting the bag to a very small town near the border of Austria and Germany that was our first stop after the cruise began. Without Barbara’s (Cruise Director) efforts the bag would have never been reunited with my wife until our return to Dallas. Our cruise was considered an Active cruise. We enjoyed each and every stop and felt that the excursions offered were very appealing to us. We didn’t want a cruise where the excursions were city tours by bus. We wanted to bike and hike during our tours. The weather could have been better but to enjoy the cruise in spite of the weather goes a long way in showing how appealing the excursions were and how enjoyable the other cruisers were to be around. The active nature of the cruise attracted cruisers that were approaching retirement instead of 20 years past retirement. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We're new to river-cruising; this cruise was our very first one. We those this cruise both because of its itinerary (down the Danube from Linz to Budapest, with two nights in Vienna), and its activities (e.g. guided hikes, guided ... Read More
We're new to river-cruising; this cruise was our very first one. We those this cruise both because of its itinerary (down the Danube from Linz to Budapest, with two nights in Vienna), and its activities (e.g. guided hikes, guided bike tours, canoeing on the river). We LOVED it! Some specifics: * the ship: The Luminary is small; there were only about 140 passengers on our cruise. So by the third day, we were recognizing and chatting with people on and off the ship. The atmosphere was casual and friendly. * our cabin: We chose a cabin on the middle deck with a French veranda (floor to ceiling sliding glass door). That made the cabin feel open and airy, even though we kept the door closed most of the time because of cool and rainy weather. Our cabin was the size of a medium hotel room, and had good storage. We felt comfortable and not crowded. In other reviews, I've read about people who were disappointed that in some ports, ships tied up next to one another and blocked their view. That did happen to us several times, usually overnight. We didn't plan to spend much time in our cabin anyway, so it wasn't a problem for us. * dining: The food was good (not gourmet, but good) and PLENTIFUL! On the second night, the head chef came around to every table during dinner, introduced himself, and inquired about our dietary preferences. He wanted to make sure the cuisine was to our liking. Later during the cruise, I saw him make or adapt certain dishes for particular passengers, to fit their preferences. He also gave a tour of the kitchen one afternoon, and that was really interesting. It's amazing how they manage to produce all those meals in such a small space! Our only difficulty was the noise in the dining room on evenings when everyone had dinner on the ship. There was only one seating at dinnertime, and because of the "hard-surfaces" decor in the dining room, it was pretty noisy. * activities/excursions: We chose this specific cruise because of the onshore activities, and they were GREAT! We took two guided bike tours (one down the Wachau Valley, the other in Vienna), two guided hikes (one up above the Schlogen Oxbow, the other in the Danube-Ipoly National Forest above Visegrad), and an early-morning walking tour in Vienna. We were signed up for the canoeing on the Danube as well, but the weather that morning was bad so the vendor cancelled the activity. Our cruise director, Barbara, did an EXCELLENT job of coming up with alternate activities based on weather. She also made accommodations for people who'd over-estimated their physical abilities. (For example, she set up less strenuous "gentle walks" for people who weren't able to handle the regular walks.) * service: The crew were REALLY friendly and helpful -- most of them seemed genuinely caring. We'd signed up for pre-paid gratuities, but gave our dining-room server an extra tip because she was so great. * would we go again? DEFINITELY! In fact, on the fourth day my husband started talking about where he wants to go next! Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
First time cruiser, got talked into it by friends and was skeptic. Was surprised at the size of the cabin. Easy to move around, well laid out, good use of space, lots of storage space. Well above the water line, sliding door, no balcony. ... Read More
First time cruiser, got talked into it by friends and was skeptic. Was surprised at the size of the cabin. Easy to move around, well laid out, good use of space, lots of storage space. Well above the water line, sliding door, no balcony. The toilet was well ventilated and again well laid out. We are not large people which probably helps. The storage space for toiletries was sufficient. The beds were normal size, the mattresses were fine (for our taste), and we slept well. Food was simply great. The choices for breakfast and lunch were myriad, served buffet style and, perhaps due to the fact that seating was informal, not all guests arrived at the same time, so it was easy to get around the buffet. Dinner was served by waiters and usually had at least two choices of appetizers, main course and desserts. Wine flowed freely and was included in the price. Seating was again informal, starting at 7:00PM, lasting until 9:00PM. There was a lounge, serving afternoon tea with cookies and some entertainment in the evening. There was a bar attached to the lounge serving cocktails and drinks, for which you had to pay. One thing I appreciated particularly were activities offered by the company. There were walks offered, both easy and strenuous, trips to monasteries and wineries by bus, bicycle tours through the Wachau Valley and the city of Vienna, wine tasting, beer tasting, canoeing on the Danube, (although that got rained out this trip), and even a cooking class in Vienna. There were activities for just about every taste and ability. Guides were always local people who knew the local customs and history. We had a very good tour coordinator in Barbara, a lady who can juggle many things at one time. If you so chose, you could also lounge on the upper deck with many deck chairs but it got mainly rained out on this trip. There is a small exercise room with about 3 machines. The service was truly superb, both in the dining room and in the cabin. We were so impressed that (although we had pre-paid gratuities), we tipped our waitress and maid again, separately. It is true that I had not cruised before and, perhaps, have no great frame of reference, but the wife and I were really pleased and can recommend this company and ship highly. We both believe in value and we think we found it in the price we paid and the product we received. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Originally, we chose this cruise because it was described as an "Active Discovery" vacation that offered us an opportunity to explore the Danube. A broken back during a cruise in 2016 modified our expectations, since we could not ... Read More
Originally, we chose this cruise because it was described as an "Active Discovery" vacation that offered us an opportunity to explore the Danube. A broken back during a cruise in 2016 modified our expectations, since we could not engage in some of the vigorous activities we would have chosen. However, we were treated respectfully and provided with ample ways to optimize our experience. From our visit to see the "Trout Circus" to the visit with a Count to engagement with an apricot farmer, we were taken beyond the typical tourist offerings of the regions we traversed. We were blessed with exceptional tours in Vienna and Budapest, with a unique opportunity at the Opera House in Pest where we were treated to the vocal renderings by an extraordinary male member of the operatic cast. We cherish the memories and encourage our friends to get onboard in the future. Thanks to the members of the crew and the support team that helped us as we prepared for the voyage, cruised on the Danube and returned safely home. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
accidently by available dates and final destination but what a fabulous accident!! The active cruise fit our abilities and interests perfectly allowing so many choices for different abilities. cruise director and staff were so great, ... Read More
accidently by available dates and final destination but what a fabulous accident!! The active cruise fit our abilities and interests perfectly allowing so many choices for different abilities. cruise director and staff were so great, friendly informative, individualized to each of us. food on board excellent. cabin service very good. Visiting entertainment good except for the musician who was on board the longest. we will sail with avalon again!! we have had email communication from new friends made on the cruise and will hopefully have them join us on a next cruise. We are seriously considering southern France and hope the active cruises continue.One recommendation would be to have a few more bar staff at cocktail/briefing hour as we tended to really enjoy this get together! I guess active folks dont like to wait! The excursion guides were all spectacular. Combining beautiful country, gorgeous architecture, knowlegable history, inimate glimpses of local culture from passionate locals was a treat. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Was our first river cruise. Chose Avalon because of good reviews, well priced and wanted to see Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Had always heard great things about river cruises and Avalon met all our expectations re meals, tours and ... Read More
Was our first river cruise. Chose Avalon because of good reviews, well priced and wanted to see Budapest, Vienna and Prague. Had always heard great things about river cruises and Avalon met all our expectations re meals, tours and hospitality. Our time in Budapest was well spent with excellent tours. This continued to Vienna where we docked two days. Organized morning excursions and plenty of time on our own in the afternoon. Ship was docked very close to a subway stop. The other stops were full with hikes, biking and excursions. All the ships staff were engaging and provided excellent services. The meals were diverse and featured local cuisine. Beer and wine were included with dinner and evening meals. Drinks were served well after the meals. The wines were also local and excellent quality. We often dined with a former wine salesman who was pleased with the wine quality. We would definitely repeat a river cruise with Avalon. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
The active excursions were very attractive. The two days in Vienna was also attractive. The ship was shabby but the active excursions were GREAT. I was told that the Avalon Luminary is sailing into the sunset after this year so I’m ... Read More
The active excursions were very attractive. The two days in Vienna was also attractive. The ship was shabby but the active excursions were GREAT. I was told that the Avalon Luminary is sailing into the sunset after this year so I’m sure that’s why it looked old & had small cabins. The staff was still friendly and helpful. We liked that we could ride a bike along the Danube one day or hike a beautiful trail in Hungary the next. Then we could tour museums and hear classical music in Vienna. Or visit a violin maker and help shape Viennese rolls. There was a good balance of relaxing cruising and active shore excursions. The add on trip to Salzburg was also very interesting & well organized. The hotels in Budapest, Salzburg & Munich were first class. The cruise director and tour guides were interesting & knowable. Viking boats are nicer & the food is better, but the excursions are all for older folks. I’d gladly take another Active Discovery Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Short cruise with Hotel stays at both start and finish. From the time they picked us up at the airport and dropped uus off at the airprort the logistics were excellent. Great hotels, great ship and great excursions. Budapest was a great ... Read More
Short cruise with Hotel stays at both start and finish. From the time they picked us up at the airport and dropped uus off at the airprort the logistics were excellent. Great hotels, great ship and great excursions. Budapest was a great surprise location and the excursions coverd a lot in 2. Days. The cruise excursions were both informative and fun. Vienna was beautiful and the green spaces were amazing. The entertainment on the ship was good and we had the pleasure of listening to a dup from the Vienna orchestra who traveled with us from Bratslavia to Vienna and pu on a wonderful afternoon show. The small town visit was fun and we tried Apricot is shot glasses and they tastd great. The views to the river in town were picture perfect. The views from the sun deck during the afternoon Castles on the river was a fun relaxing afternoon. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Avalon Luminary Ratings
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