I think that I'm the fourth person to review this sailing of the Artistry II. After sailing three times with Viking and once with Vantage, Avalon is our new favorite cruise line. We chose this cruise for the beautiful scenery along the Moselle and the starting and ending points (Paris and Amsterdam). We were with siblings, and it was their first river cruise, so we thought that this would be an ideal first cruise.
Avalon is very similar to Viking in terms of food, service, etc., but we really like the Avalon ships much more than the Viking Longships. The ship was smaller (110 meters vs. 135), and it held 128 people instead of the 190 on finds on a Longship. The public areas seemed roomier, but the real Avalon advantage was the staterooms. On our last Viking cruise we had a 135 sq. ft. French balcony cabin. Avalon’s 200 sq. ft. cabin is about the same size as Viking’s Veranda cabins (205 sq. ft.), but on Avalon, the area that serves as a balcony becomes inside space when one shuts the wide siding glass doors. As mentioned earlier, the beds facing the window are really nice, and the extra shower space from the slanted bathroom wall was great.
Embarkation and Paris precruise:
We were picked up at Charles de Gaulle and bused to the Hotel du Collectioneur where our rooms were ready. The first evening Avalon hosted a meeting of all passengers to explain the plan for our days in Paris and the trip to Luxembourg on the train. The next day featured a morning bus tour of the city and an optional excursion to Versailles. On the final day in Paris, there was an optional tour to Montmartre. Everyone had to have their luggage outside their room by 7:30. It was loaded on a truck to be transported to the ship in Grevenmacher. Those on the tour were taken directly to the train station after the tour, and those of us who didn’t do the tour (we went to Notre Dame on the subway) were bused to the train station, arriving about an hour before departure. The TGV took us to Luxembourg City and we were bused to the ship in Grevenmacher.
The Artistry II holds 128 passengers, but we only had 80 on board. So there was plenty of room in public areas and the restaurant. Décor was a little fancier than the stark modern design of the Viking Longships, but not like the over-the-top furnishing on Uniworld. The sun deck has a slightly lower level in the front of the ship. This allows some of the passengers to sit on the sun deck even when the main part of the sun deck may be closed due to low bridges (this can be a full week on the Main-Danube canal). There was also a shaded sitting area on the bow, and a smoking area on the stern. There was also a nice area on back of the top deck with the coffee station, snacks, and games.
The staff was very attentive and friendly. Our cruise director, Hendrik, was probably the best cruise director we’ve had in our five river cruises. He kept people moving in the right direction at the right time while doing it in a friendly way.
We’re not foodies, but we considered the food to be very good. As on most lines, there were standard entrees (steak, fish, chicken, and veggie) in addition to the featured meals. Breakfast and lunch buffets were good as well, with a light lunch in the lounge for those who didn’t want to use the standard dining room.
We were briefed on disembarkation a couple of days before our last day, and things went smoothly. We were bused to the Schiphol Airport, arriving in plenty of time to get boarding passes, get through security and make the long walk to the gate.
The Avalon staterooms have received CruiseCritic’s award for best staterooms, and it’s obvious why. The standard rooms (on the top two decks) are 200 square feet, and the beds face the windows which open to make a virtual balcony, but when they’re closed, the space is available for use inside. I didn’t think a lot about the slanted bathroom wall, but it makes a BIG difference. The shower was very roomy compared to other lines on which we’ve sailed. The room has a minibar which the cabin steward will clean out for you if you want to keep your own drinks in it.