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Having been only on the larger cruise lines this was my first time on a smaller River Cruise trip. I wanted the smaller more intimate ship and was looking forward to sailing into smaller ports which the larger ships cannot necessarily visit. While I have no other River Cruise line to compare to, Avalon left me with the overall impression that it provides a comfortable journey (beds were good and nice shower), however I find myself having difficulty raving about any aspects that might be outstanding. The meals were good but not great. I have difficulty remembering a single meal, I think I expected more gourmet cooking, though presentation was always lovely. Breakfast became a bore as it was the same items every day. Definitely no evening activities to entertain. We had one classical trio concert in the middle of an afternoon, which I would have preferred in the evening for some lively entertainment and socializing after. After dinner, and certainly by 9:30 pm the ship was a ghost town. Only the one lounge, and another smaller coffee lounge, but most people were in their cabins as there was nothing organized, cultural or social. The on board movie options in your cabin was a welcome option once I realized there was no effort to make the journey memorable. As a solo traveler there was no effort by Avalon to make me feel comfortable or to introduce me to other solo or independent travelers. With an open seating arrangement for meals you had to be assertive and go up to diners to see if it was okay to join their table. Avalon staff were more functional than social. If you had a question they attempted to answer it, otherwise they merely stood at attention. I thought there would be more personality to the smaller passenger size ship, but no. If I look at Avalon as merely transport that got me from place to place then they succeeded. However, would I recommend this particular cruise line? Hard to say....as there was nothing overly wonderful and memorable that would make me choose them again. My motivation at this time would be to focus on the ports I want to visit. The local our guides were good and I think Avalon relies alot on the local knowledge of the tour guides to make the trip worthwhile. Every morning we were in one port with sailing resuming as we ate lunch very often. Certainly no real opportunity to stay on and explore on your own instead of having lunch on the ship. Even the day when a bus was taking passengers to Brussels for the optional tour, the morning excursion still had to come back to the ship as the ship was sailing at lunch. And when we landed on a Sunday, be prepared for most places to be closed. Why Avalon doesn't adjust the ports to make sure you are not in a place where things are closed on a Sunday baffles me. An overnight stay in one place would have been nice and I would definitely look for that if I took another River Cruise. The only place we had that was in Amsterdam the day before we left which wasn't much of a bonus as I had that option available to me since I booked my own airfare. Based on what I paid for the River Cruise, especially since I had to pay the additional single supplement, I would not do another River Cruise without the single supplement waived, at least one overnight stay in a place of interest, and I would probably encourage a friend to travel at the same time as the cruise line did nothing to make a solo traveler feel welcome and included. So for this reason I can't give Avalon a higher than average rating. Even though all the activities a bigger cruise offers is too much for me - the nonexistent options of the evening were too little with Avalon. If it hadn't been for the few people I met to make the trip interesting this travel experience would have been one of my least favorite European trips.

Avalon River Cruise First Time

Avalon Panorama Cruise Review by napoleanlady

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Having been only on the larger cruise lines this was my first time on a smaller River Cruise trip. I wanted the smaller more intimate ship and was looking forward to sailing into smaller ports which the larger ships cannot necessarily visit. While I have no other River Cruise line to compare to, Avalon left me with the overall impression that it provides a comfortable journey (beds were good and nice shower), however I find myself having difficulty raving about any aspects that might be outstanding. The meals were good but not great. I have difficulty remembering a single meal, I think I expected more gourmet cooking, though presentation was always lovely. Breakfast became a bore as it was the same items every day.

Definitely no evening activities to entertain. We had one classical trio concert in the middle of an afternoon, which I would have preferred in the evening for some lively entertainment and socializing after. After dinner, and certainly by 9:30 pm the ship was a ghost town. Only the one lounge, and another smaller coffee lounge, but most people were in their cabins as there was nothing organized, cultural or social. The on board movie options in your cabin was a welcome option once I realized there was no effort to make the journey memorable. As a solo traveler there was no effort by Avalon to make me feel comfortable or to introduce me to other solo or independent travelers. With an open seating arrangement for meals you had to be assertive and go up to diners to see if it was okay to join their table.

Avalon staff were more functional than social. If you had a question they attempted to answer it, otherwise they merely stood at attention. I thought there would be more personality to the smaller passenger size ship, but no. If I look at Avalon as merely transport that got me from place to place then they succeeded. However, would I recommend this particular cruise line? Hard to say....as there was nothing overly wonderful and memorable that would make me choose them again. My motivation at this time would be to focus on the ports I want to visit. The local our guides were good and I think Avalon relies alot on the local knowledge of the tour guides to make the trip worthwhile. Every morning we were in one port with sailing resuming as we ate lunch very often. Certainly no real opportunity to stay on and explore on your own instead of having lunch on the ship. Even the day when a bus was taking passengers to Brussels for the optional tour, the morning excursion still had to come back to the ship as the ship was sailing at lunch. And when we landed on a Sunday, be prepared for most places to be closed. Why Avalon doesn't adjust the ports to make sure you are not in a place where things are closed on a Sunday baffles me. An overnight stay in one place would have been nice and I would definitely look for that if I took another River Cruise. The only place we had that was in Amsterdam the day before we left which wasn't much of a bonus as I had that option available to me since I booked my own airfare.

Based on what I paid for the River Cruise, especially since I had to pay the additional single supplement, I would not do another River Cruise without the single supplement waived, at least one overnight stay in a place of interest, and I would probably encourage a friend to travel at the same time as the cruise line did nothing to make a solo traveler feel welcome and included. So for this reason I can't give Avalon a higher than average rating. Even though all the activities a bigger cruise offers is too much for me - the nonexistent options of the evening were too little with Avalon. If it hadn't been for the few people I met to make the trip interesting this travel experience would have been one of my least favorite European trips.
napoleanlady’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin
Though I though having a full wall of windows, (they promote the full French window, sliding wall of windows) the truth is you travel mostly at night and at lunch so you don't actually spend time looking out of the window wall. And forgot about letting fresh air in as all the bugs come in too. I could have been satisfied with a smaller window and wouldn't pay more for this feature.
  Avalon Panorama Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Red Light District Night Tour
    In terms of giving you a clear understanding of the legalized business and a walking tour past several working windows....this tour succeeded. However, be prepared, you will feel like you are an outsider gawking (especially with the tour guides hand held flag waving above you for the group to follow). Streets are narrow, must walk single file in many spots, uneven cobblestone and not recommended for those who have any difficulty walking. Given that the average age on the River Cruise is retirement age - many are still interested and eager to participate but perhaps don't realize you have to walk at a fairly fast pace to keep up to the guide sometimes.
    View All 13,176 Red Light District Night Tour Reviews
  • Canal Tour
    You can't visit Amsterdam without a canal tour and this was done during the day. Tour guide gave a nice overview of the architecture and how the locals live. I would do this at the beginning of exploring Amsterdam as it may help you understand the canal streets.
    View All 269 Canal Tour Reviews
  • Edam Walking Tour
    I would have expected an actual Cheese Factory tour in Edam, but you basically walk past the houses, hear a little about the culture and pass a cheese store. Had it been a rainy day this would have been a chore.
    View All 12 Edam Walking Tour Reviews
  • Volendam Walking Tour
    This looks like a nice coastal town but unfortunately you don't have much time to explore. Skip the tourist shop after tourist shop, and try to grab a drink or snack at one of the restaurants with a view. Not a lot of value as time is too limited.
    View All 16 Volendam Walking Tour Reviews
  • Canals of Bruges
    I enjoyed the afternoon in Bruges and would definitely go back on my own. There is lots to see and it is picturesque with a serene feeling. One walking tour does not do it justice, but the canal boat ride through the place was enjoyable.
    View All 9 Canals of Bruges Reviews