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This is a review of the 14 day Avalon cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. We are a 70's couple and the excuse for the cruise was our 50th wedding anniversary, but was actually the fulfillment of the last item on my punch list. The cruises was exactly as described in Avalon's online advertisement. So I will confine this review to a few pleasant surprises, a few negatives, and a commentt. Pleasant surprises 1. Portages Due to low water conditions at 3 points, a cruise on the Avalon Luminary actually comprised 1 hotel, 3 different ships, and 3 portages. First we were put up in a luxury hotel in Budapest and then bused to the Luminary stuck in Komora, Slovakia. Then we were bused from Vilihofen, Germany to Regensburg where we met the Impression which turned around (I presume the Impressions passengers were bused to the luminary). Then we were put on a lower draft tourist boat from Ruedesheim to St. Goar, so as to not miss the most famous part of the Rhine, and then a bus to Koblenz where we swapped with the Visionary's passengers for the remainder of the cruise to Amsterdam. The bus portages ranged from ½ hour to 1 ½ hours. I thought the situation was handled very professionally by Avalon; and none of the program was missed. In addition to receiving 15 Euros cash per person for lunches missed, $1250 was credited to my credit card for the inconvenience of having to pack and repack 3 times. 2. Bicycles Avalon was on my short list of English speaking cruise lines because they advertised that bicycles could be checked out at each port. I had no idea before hand how this would work out. Would the bikes be junkers that needed a lot of tune up before being ride-able, and how accommodating would the staff be when we requested them. The bikes turned out to be almost new, what Europeans call touring bikes, with multi-speeds and well adjusted shocks. The latter were handy over cobblestones yet didn't have that irritating bungee jumper action. The staff couldn't have been more accommodating. You simply told reception when you wanted them and they would be ready on shore. We took advantage of the offer every day but one. We had taken tours of Vienna and Brataslava before and had been to Duernstein and Passau enough times, and wasn't interested in Ruedesheim. We much preferred to strike out on our own via bicycle. During the cruise I came to hate the huge crowds of cruise passenger, other tourists, and locals than hung out near the dock or the old part of town. But since cruise lines and long distance bike routes tend to follow rivers, I found that you could quickly get away from it all on quiet, scenic bike trails along the river. This was especially true in Duernstein and Ruedesheim, places whose only reason for being is catering to hoards of tourists. The Maintal Radweg (Main Valley Bike Path) was my favorite. Even in Amsterdam I found a way to quickly get out into farm country biking along dikes alongside canals. 3. Ice machines The Luminary and Impression had ice machines just like any motel back home. It was surprising because ice is consider immoral, against the natural law, in Europe. They were a god-send because of the 95F heat wave the first 5 days. With all the exercise we did, a drink with two tiny ice cubes just wouldn't cut it.. Disappointments (Disclaimer: most people would put these complaints in the “not applicable” category) 1. Acoustics in dining room and lounge on all 3 ships. It seemed that no attempt to mitigate the noise had been incorporated into ship design. The large number of people shouting to be heard made meal times almost unbearable. I spoke with the cruise director and he said they were aware of the problem and were trying to solve it. If so, the solution is still in the design stage. To be fair, this seems to be a standard feature of our brave, new world. Even upscale restaurants operate under the assumption that the louder and more irritating the environment, the more customers will spend. If I didn't think all cruise lines operate under the same assumption, this would be a “show-stopper” for choosing Avalon again. 2 On board musician The musician in the lounge on all three ships came equipped with a full array of electronic devices which he connected to a sound system. He then cranked up the volume to a level not appropriate to the situation, namely background music in a relatively small area. Playing “cocktail piano hour” music without electronic enhancement would have been more appropriate, allowing passengers to converse easily and add some class to the lounge. What we got was more like a hillbilly honky tonk. Since loud speakers were situated throughout the lounge, you couldn't avoid the noise. Note: I'm not critiquing the musician's ability or selection of tunes, only that it was too loud to enjoy it. 3. Air conditioning Normally, the AC was more than adequate. But during the previously mentioned heat wave, the sun would cause heat to build up between the wall-to-wall window glass and the curtain. Heat would leak through the curtain and the AC could not keep up. My advise is, unless global warming shifts from central Europe to the US Middle West, book a cabin on the right hand side when traveling east to west and visa versa. 4. Local musicians (more a comment than complaint) Sailing from Brataslava a group of 5 young ladies came aboard with 2 violins, cello, piano, and flute. They morphed American pop tunes into a classical style that was very pleasing and classy. But since we were in the heart of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, why not something from that era: Hungarian folk tunes, Viennese waltzes, Franz Lehar operetta tunes, etc Entering Bavaria, it was announced that the onboard musician would do rock music in the lounge that evening. Good grief! Why not Bavarian style blassmusik, better knows as oompah. When I complained (tongue in cheek) to the cruise director, he said that they had tried oompah unsuccessfully; people didn't like it, got bored, and left. The cruise director's credibility with me dropped dramatically. No self-respecting tourist operator taking a group anywhere near Munich would not schedule a night of oompah in the Hofbrau House. His credibility dropped further a few nights later. Departing Wuertzburg it was announced that we would have oompah that evening. Sure enough a five piece group called Volkacher Ratherrn Musikanten (Volkach city council music group) came aboard. They consisted of trumpet, trombone, clarinet, accordion, and tuba. Again, they were excellent, but in no way could it be calledt Bavarian oompah. A trumpet instead of a rotary valve fluegelhorn (not to be confused with an American style fluegelhorn) and a trombone rather than a rotary valve tenorhorn (similar to an American style euphonium) produce a much brassier, less mellow, sound. Although a tuba is the heart of oompah, a tenor horn is indispensable In fact what we heard was the Franconian style of blassmusik. All the tour guides insisted that although we were technically in Bavaria, the people consider them selves Franconians, only annexed to Bavaria by Napoleon. Needless to say, the group was well received and no one left early. Leaving Miltenberg one of the worlds' foremost zither players (talk about a big fish in a small pond) came on board and gave an outstanding concert and demonstration. Again, I thought the timing strange because the zither is associated in everyone's mind with Vienna, probably because of The Third Man movie theme. I'm sure it was logistical, the artist was from Frankfurt, Germany. Finally, in Engers, a suburb of Koblenz, we walked a short distance to a palace where we were presented a classical chamber music program with a piano and violin. No complaints here. A final comment Because I wanted the full meal deal, I selected the two week cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I enjoyed it so much that I want to do another one. The only problem is our cruise covered almost the whole territory, at least in German speaking lands (Ich spreche etwas Deutsch). The only thing left is the Moselle and the upper Rhine. But Avalon does not seem to offer a Luxembourg to Basel cruise. The Moselle is combined with the Main and Upper Rhine with Amsterdam.

As advertised

Avalon Luminary Cruise Review by jobtraklite

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2018
  • Destination: Europe River
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Stateroom with French Balcony
This is a review of the 14 day Avalon cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. We are a 70's couple and the excuse for the cruise was our 50th wedding anniversary, but was actually the fulfillment of the last item on my punch list.

The cruises was exactly as described in Avalon's online advertisement. So I will confine this review to a few pleasant surprises, a few negatives, and a commentt.

Pleasant surprises

1. Portages

Due to low water conditions at 3 points, a cruise on the Avalon Luminary actually comprised 1 hotel, 3 different ships, and 3 portages. First we were put up in a luxury hotel in Budapest and then bused to the Luminary stuck in Komora, Slovakia. Then we were bused from Vilihofen, Germany to Regensburg where we met the Impression which turned around (I presume the Impressions passengers were bused to the luminary). Then we were put on a lower draft tourist boat from Ruedesheim to St. Goar, so as to not miss the most famous part of the Rhine, and then a bus to Koblenz where we swapped with the Visionary's passengers for the remainder of the cruise to Amsterdam. The bus portages ranged from ½ hour to 1 ½ hours.

I thought the situation was handled very professionally by Avalon; and none of the program was missed. In addition to receiving 15 Euros cash per person for lunches missed, $1250 was credited to my credit card for the inconvenience of having to pack and repack 3 times.

2. Bicycles

Avalon was on my short list of English speaking cruise lines because they advertised that bicycles could be checked out at each port. I had no idea before hand how this would work out. Would the bikes be junkers that needed a lot of tune up before being ride-able, and how accommodating would the staff be when we requested them. The bikes turned out to be almost new, what Europeans call touring bikes, with multi-speeds and well adjusted shocks. The latter were handy over cobblestones yet didn't have that irritating bungee jumper action.

The staff couldn't have been more accommodating. You simply told reception when you wanted them and they would be ready on shore. We took advantage of the offer every day but one. We had taken tours of Vienna and Brataslava before and had been to Duernstein and Passau enough times, and wasn't interested in Ruedesheim. We much preferred to strike out on our own via bicycle. During the cruise I came to hate the huge crowds of cruise passenger, other tourists, and locals than hung out near the dock or the old part of town. But since cruise lines and long distance bike routes tend to follow rivers, I found that you could quickly get away from it all on quiet, scenic bike trails along the river. This was especially true in Duernstein and Ruedesheim, places whose only reason for being is catering to hoards of tourists. The Maintal Radweg (Main Valley Bike Path) was my favorite. Even in Amsterdam I found a way to quickly get out into farm country biking along dikes alongside canals.

3. Ice machines

The Luminary and Impression had ice machines just like any motel back home. It was surprising because ice is consider immoral, against the natural law, in Europe. They were a god-send because of the 95F heat wave the first 5 days. With all the exercise we did, a drink with two tiny ice cubes just wouldn't cut it..

Disappointments (Disclaimer: most people would put these complaints in the “not applicable” category)

1. Acoustics in dining room and lounge on all 3 ships.

It seemed that no attempt to mitigate the noise had been incorporated into ship design. The large number of people shouting to be heard made meal times almost unbearable. I spoke with the cruise director and he said they were aware of the problem and were trying to solve it. If so, the solution is still in the design stage. To be fair, this seems to be a standard feature of our brave, new world. Even upscale restaurants operate under the assumption that the louder and more irritating the environment, the more customers will spend. If I didn't think all cruise lines operate under the same assumption, this would be a “show-stopper” for choosing Avalon again.

2 On board musician

The musician in the lounge on all three ships came equipped with a full array of electronic devices which he connected to a sound system. He then cranked up the volume to a level not appropriate to the situation, namely background music in a relatively small area. Playing “cocktail piano hour” music without electronic enhancement would have been more appropriate, allowing passengers to converse easily and add some class to the lounge. What we got was more like a hillbilly honky tonk. Since loud speakers were situated throughout the lounge, you couldn't avoid the noise. Note: I'm not critiquing the musician's ability or selection of tunes, only that it was too loud to enjoy it.

3. Air conditioning

Normally, the AC was more than adequate. But during the previously mentioned heat wave, the sun would cause heat to build up between the wall-to-wall window glass and the curtain. Heat would leak through the curtain and the AC could not keep up. My advise is, unless global warming shifts from central Europe to the US Middle West, book a cabin on the right hand side when traveling east to west and visa versa.

4. Local musicians (more a comment than complaint)

Sailing from Brataslava a group of 5 young ladies came aboard with 2 violins, cello, piano, and flute. They morphed American pop tunes into a classical style that was very pleasing and classy. But since we were in the heart of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, why not something from that era: Hungarian folk tunes, Viennese waltzes, Franz Lehar operetta tunes, etc

Entering Bavaria, it was announced that the onboard musician would do rock music in the lounge that evening. Good grief! Why not Bavarian style blassmusik, better knows as oompah. When I complained (tongue in cheek) to the cruise director, he said that they had tried oompah unsuccessfully; people didn't like it, got bored, and left. The cruise director's credibility with me dropped dramatically. No self-respecting tourist operator taking a group anywhere near Munich would not schedule a night of oompah in the Hofbrau House. His credibility dropped further a few nights later.

Departing Wuertzburg it was announced that we would have oompah that evening. Sure enough a five piece group called Volkacher Ratherrn Musikanten (Volkach city council music group) came aboard. They consisted of trumpet, trombone, clarinet, accordion, and tuba. Again, they were excellent, but in no way could it be calledt Bavarian oompah. A trumpet instead of a rotary valve fluegelhorn (not to be confused with an American style fluegelhorn) and a trombone rather than a rotary valve tenorhorn (similar to an American style euphonium) produce a much brassier, less mellow, sound. Although a tuba is the heart of oompah, a tenor horn is indispensable In fact what we heard was the Franconian style of blassmusik. All the tour guides insisted that although we were technically in Bavaria, the people consider them selves Franconians, only annexed to Bavaria by Napoleon. Needless to say, the group was well received and no one left early.

Leaving Miltenberg one of the worlds' foremost zither players (talk about a big fish in a small pond) came on board and gave an outstanding concert and demonstration. Again, I thought the timing strange because the zither is associated in everyone's mind with Vienna, probably because of The Third Man movie theme. I'm sure it was logistical, the artist was from Frankfurt, Germany.

Finally, in Engers, a suburb of Koblenz, we walked a short distance to a palace where we were presented a classical chamber music program with a piano and violin. No complaints here.

A final comment

Because I wanted the full meal deal, I selected the two week cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I enjoyed it so much that I want to do another one. The only problem is our cruise covered almost the whole territory, at least in German speaking lands (Ich spreche etwas Deutsch). The only thing left is the Moselle and the upper Rhine. But Avalon does not seem to offer a Luxembourg to Basel cruise. The Moselle is combined with the Main and Upper Rhine with Amsterdam.
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Stateroom with French Balcony
Cabin B
As advertised
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