Our First River Cruise - New Friends and New Experience: Avalon Affinity Cruise Review by caviargal

Avalon Affinity 4
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Our First River Cruise - New Friends and New Experience

Sail Date: November 2009
Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation: Hamburg
We started our trip with 4 nights in Berlin, a highlight of our trip. Berlin is a fabulous city and anyone interested in reading my very detailed trip report can find it on Trip Advisor and Fodor's - title is "Four Fabulous Days in Berlin".

We took an early morning train to Frankfurt to meet the ship. Our designated meeting spot was the Westin Grand. Here there was a hospitality room where we left our luggage and carry on. The cruise director, Nancy, was there along with some other Avalon folks. There was light refreshment available but we were anxious to explore Frankfurt so just checked in, dropped our stuff and headed out.

This was our first time in Frankfurt and we frankly did not care for the city. We grabbed a map and set out to see as much as we could in 5 hours. The streets in the pedestrian area had a lot of trash and were just not as nice as what we have come to expect in Germany. We explored, had an ok lunch at Cafe Mozart and headed back to More the hotel.

Avalon transported us to the ship around 4pm. It was a short ride and the check in process took just a few minutes - a sign of what was to come. We were escorted to our category B cabin, located at the very end of the passenger cabins. The cabin was very modern, immaculate and thoughtfully designed with great storage. We quickly unpacked, settled in and headed out to explore the ship.

This was our first river cruise and it was much as we had anticipated though the ship itself was actually nicer than we expected. Colors and fabrics gave it a rich and luxurious look and we found it delightful! It did not take long to check out the facilities and we decided to head back and shower and head to the welcome party.

The party was nicely done and we had the opportunity to chat with other guests and meet the crew. Lovely canapEs were served, along with champagne. A welcome talk included some general info about life aboard the Affinity and at the conclusion we headed to the dining room.

The dining room was lovely and the only disappointment was that we could not find a table for two. Since we had reviewed the videos on their website, this came as a surprise to us and we do enjoy a table for two but such was not to be on this sailing. We joined three other couples and enjoyed what was to be the first of 5 very nice dinners aboard.

The menu had two choices for each course and two standard selections as well. I had emailed ahead that I follow a low fat, low cholesterol-eating plan and they worked with me to provide dishes prepared without fats and sauces, which were fresh and tasty.

Breakfast and lunch were buffet with a good choice for most folks but a bit more of a challenge for me as there no eggbeaters or egg whites available for breakfast. I opted daily for fruit and smoked salmon and the occasional slice of turkey breast when it was offered. They offered a small salad bar at lunch, which is what I had when we were not in port. We did dine in port as often as possible in order to enjoy the German foods we have come to enjoy over the years of travel there.

My husband and everyone I spoke with just loved the food on the Affinity. Everything was prepared fresh and was served hot. Quality was excellent overall. Fresh fish was available nightly and I enjoyed each of the varieties offered. Desserts were also a big hit with everyone at our table but I will leave that for others to review, as I did not partake.

Our itinerary was:

Miltenberg-Wertheim Wurzburg. Excursion to Rothenburg Bamberg Nuremberg

Of these we most enjoyed Bamberg and Wurzburg, followed by Miltenburg and Rothenburg. Nuremberg was our least favorite except for the fact that we had the most time there and were able to stay out as long as we wanted.

We only took the included tour in Wurzburg, which included the Residence and was lovely - our tour guide was excellent!

In the other cities, we grabbed a map and headed off on our own to explore, as that is what we prefer.

Avalon did a great job with organizing, with providing as much detail as was needed and in taking care of the various needs of the guests. There were some who were very active and another component that used walking sticks and had to go at a slower pace. Though there not always tours available for all abilities, as we had expected, no one was left behind and the quality of their shore program was very good as were the guides we met.

We were quite late getting into Bamberg and they quickly rearranged their plans and had the ship stop before we reached the port - buses were there to take us into town. We ended up only having 3 hours there but they did extend our departure time as much as possible to allow us that.

Happy hour was offered nightly and was quite popular. We were so impressed with the staff of the Affinity overall and especially David at the main bar, Dan the Hotel Manger and Claudio in the dining room.

The service overall was very personal and professional and so much better than the rushed, impersonal service we have come to expect on mass market cruise ships.

Entertainment was minimal as expected. The house piano player, Vasco, was enjoyable and played every night in the main bar. One night they brought a zither player aboard and on another the crew joined the guests for carols and Santa came to visit. That night was the most fun as everyone got in the holiday spirit.

There was a small fitness center, which made keeping up with basic cardio workouts possible. The beauty salon also stayed quite busy. The aft lounge offered coffee and tea throughout the day.

Fellow passengers came from as far away as Australia and Hawaii and most were quite friendly and personable. There were three young girls aboard who were very well behaved and who seemed to enjoy their experience.

Downsides for us were short times in port and the "dead" time when the ship sailed during daylight hours. While I am sure many enjoy relaxing on vacation, when we are in Europe, we really are interested in our destination more so than downtown.

Some improvements that Avalon could make in my opinion would be to provide robes in the rooms for guests and more choices for those of us who need to watch their calories on vacation.

Otherwise, my husband and I really enjoyed the Affinity overall and made some wonderful new friends over the course of the cruise who we are staying in touch with. For us, that was a real bonus!

We love Germany and especially over the Christmas season. We left the ship in Nuremberg and headed by train to Munich for a couple of days after the trip, which was a perfect finish to the trip.

I can recommend Avalon and the Affinity for those looking for a very good quality experience overall. The staff was exceptional and we plan to return, this time knowing what to expect. Less

Published 12/16/09

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