Honestly, checked Viking first because I was familiar with it through mailings and commercials. When dates and accommodations didn't work out, Googled further and found Avalon. It was our first river cruise and we wanted a great one. I'm not comfortable with ocean cruises: too much water, too many people. The ship looked beautiful and modern, and the cabins were spacious. My traveling companion and I found a great cruise that encompassed both cultural, entertaining, and historical destinations as well as the option to visit Paris and London. Perfect! After checking the prices, which were quite reasonable, and dates etc., we booked. We called a 'human' because we preferred to connect more personally and get answers to questions.
Our first days in Paris were fabulous, including the hotel which was a stone's throw from the Eiffel Tower! Service was phenomenal. We ended up with a view of the Tower from our balcony. The room was fabulous, which made up for an awful dinner. We went out after that. After three days, we boarded the ship. Everything went smoothly. Staff is extremely well-organized and attentive, not to mention friendly and personable. All meals served on-board were delicious and presented beautifully. The chef catered to our special needs (roomie is gluten-free and lactose intolerant.) Yep, they took great care. Wines flowed generously at every dinner and were excellent. We met so many fabulous people on the ship and made easy friends. (We're staying in touch with a couple even now.) The excursions were varied and interesting and fun. Leaving the ship, we were offered bottled water and a map and historical tidbits about our destination; upon return, we were greeted by the captain and security detail and offered a cool drink and hot face towels to refresh. Wow. We even had some entertainment on the ship in the form of a history lecturer on Normandy, a three-piece group playing classical music, and nighttime musicians.
There were Captain's dinners, both at the beginning and at the end and even a world cafe night with unusual and 'rich' food. There were some intro meetings, including safety information at the beginning and when we were leaving to our various points of travel after the cruise. I know we have no control over weather, but amazingly enough, we had the best ever, even in Normandy, which apparently has rain and clouds almost exclusively. Talk about lucky! Our final stop was London. Our hotel was in the middle of everything...Westminster Bridge...and beautiful. Staff was wonderfully helpful and friendly. One disappointment was the room. Though modern and lovely, the lighting was terrible; the outlets were oddly placed; and our water temperature and pressure were terrible. But the convenience of location made up for it all.
My biggest complaint, and it's a serious one, comes with the personal arrangements with the company. Because I was traveling with a friend, sharing a room, but not a spouse or romantic partner, everything in paper and emails went to my friend. I was virtually ignored as the second name on the reservations. I even called to ask that they send me my own correspondence. She had to send me emails. I was told that it was impossible to alter as this is how the company operates. ***IT NEEDS TO CHANGE***. Even our final packets of information with flight information, seat assignments, and hotel and room confirmations went to my friend's house! I have no access to her mail or house. What if something happened to her and I couldn't even access my own personal paperwork? This is disgraceful. I could almost understand if they are dealing with a couple who reside together, but never for two separate individuals who are paying their own way. I will tell others all the great stuff, but I must also share this problem. I have numerous single friends who travel together.
I must say that this much-needed vacation on Avalon's river cruise was a great experience. I definitely will do a river cruise again.
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