We booked this trip over a year ago and then suddenly it was time to go. We were notified that the water on the Danube was low and it could adversley effect our itinerary but we decided to go ahead either way. We had added an extra night in Prague before the cruise so we arrived on Monday morning at the Prague Hilton. The hotel is very large and extremely efficient, although the staff is far from warm and welcoming, with the exception of Tomas at the front desk. Having Eric, our Avalon tour director arrive on Tuesday gave us a connection and he was available most all day long to offer ideas and suggestions and helpful information about Prague. We had a quick welcome meeting on Tuesday night and our optional excursions began Wednesday night. We enjoyed our time in Prague and walked about 20,000 steps a day on our own, exploring so many wonderful areas, great food, and beautiful scenery. On Friday we boarded buses to Regensberg bypassing Nuremberg due to low water there. We were told that the decision would be made by the next Monday whether we would sail through to Budapest or be bused and stay in a hotel the last night. The ride was maybe 2-3 hours on coach buses through beautiful scenery in the Black Forest so no complaints. When we arrived at the ship, the staff was lined up to welcome us on board! They led us into the lounge where we were welcomed and then directed to our cabins assisted by staff to find our way and make us feel at home. Our cabin steward was Flory. Sweet and efficient and very professional. I have previously only been on ocean cruises and it is very hard to compare one to the other. There were about 150 guests on board and maybe 40 or so staff. The lounge and the dining room are both big enough to fit every guest at the same time, so no worries finding a table or a seat. Our cabin was on the 3rd floor. We had panorama doors that were floor to ceiling and could slide open to give an unobstructed view. The cabin was not huge, but was more than comfortable for 2. The bathroom was better than most hotels, with plenty of amenities and towels. As soon as we would leave for breakfast Flory would clean and restock our room. When we went to dinner she would do it all over again, we never once returned to an "unmade room"...she was amazing. Breakfast in the dining room was open seating, a delicious buffet with menu offerings also available. Lunch was regional depending where we were, with beer and wine readily available. Each evening we would all meet in the lounge for about 15 minutes for Eric to give us updates on the entertainment for the evening, weather reports, water level reports, and then he would send us off to dinner. Dinner was enjoyable as guests could sit where ever. Friendships were beginning and people were gravitating toward the same table area each night, which meant you tended to have the same wait staff. This became very beneficial as they started to know your likes and needs. Wine and beer were refilled often so pay attention to how much you drink! There was entertainment after dinner so people would wander back to the lounge to enjoy whatever was offered each night. We had pre booked our excursions and we also took advantage of the daily included walking tours to familiarize ourselves with the area before venturing off on our own. The tour guides employed by Avalon for these walking tours were local, and knew the areas well. Due to missing the Nuremberg embarkation, we were in Regensburg a day before our schedule. Some pre booked tours had to be changed or cancelled. Avalon really showed their professionalism in this area. I can say all of the rescheduling went as smoothly as if nothing had changed. We were barely aware that anything was disrupted as Avalon went WAY out of their way to compensate us. Cancelled rebooked excursions were quickly credited back to my credit card. A concert in Vienna that we had booked was now offered for free and our money was refunded. A walking tour of Regensburg was concluded with a certificate for lunch at the oldest sausage kitchen dating back to the 1100's. Then Avalon also gave each of us 15 Euros each to spend as a compensation (although we didn't feel we needed to be further compensated). Monday night came and it was time to hear the decision about our sailing future. Eric had good news and bad news. Bad news! Our hotel reservations in Budapest were cancelled....Good News...We would sail the entire way! The water had risen just enough so we could enjoy our entire week on the ship! YAY! Without going into details about each and every port I can just say we enjoyed every stop, although they started to blend together after 4 countries in 1 week. ABC... Another Beautiful Castle was a phrase we heard from our tour guides and they were correct. Take lots of pictures and save the daily itineraries that Avalon leaves in your stateroom by putting them into those complimentary folders they give you on your first day. You will need all the help you can to put your memories into order when you get home. We booked a few extra nights in Budapest after the cruise ended. We stayed at the Hilton Budapest on the Buda side. I cannot say enough nice things about the friendly, professional, and welcoming staff at this hotel. And the view........unbelievable!
My overall opinion about river cruising...the small passenger numbers were great. Staff to guest ratio was very impressive. The ship was well appointed, extremely comfortable and well maintained. It was completely comfortable in every way ( the coffee tea and cookies in the rear lounge 24/7 were a delightful treat). Fellow passengers were fun and friendly and easy to talk to. We had an age spread of about 30-75. There were approximately 10 singles on board not traveling together who appeared to get along with every one and thoroughly enjoy themselves. There were 4 or 5 "30 somethings" traveling with their parents. They all seemed to be along to assist and enjoy their parents company. There were many couples in the 50-70 age range from many walks of life. Food was good, drinks were free at dinner and lunch and extremely low priced at happy hour. Tours were professional and informative. Scenery was gorgeous and plentiful. Would I recommend it? A most definite YES! A easy way to travel to 4 countries in a week and feel pretty spoiled by a wonderful staff along the way. Hats off to the Captain and his crew for safely navigating a very low Danube river! A big THANK YOU to Eric for being so good to all of us while maintaining his smile and professionalism as he went with the flow of a constanalty changing itinerary .
" I will see you when I look at you" Bon Voyage!