The cruise I was booked on was a Budapest-Luxembourg with land portions in Budapest and Paris included. Due to low water, numerous changes had to be made in the itinerary. The first was that we had to travel by coach from Budapest to Vienna to board the Artistry II, as the ship we were supposed to take could not sail upstream from Budapest.
Other changes included different docking locations, some dicey low-water cruising in Upper Austria, and an overnight hotel stay in Nuremberg while the ship worked to catch up to the schedule through the canal.
All the changes were communicated promptly and thoroughly by Sabine, our outstanding cruise director, and all of us in the full length tour got an automatic refund for the night in the Nuremberg hotel instead of on the ship. As well, we were given free additional excursions in Vienna and in Rothenburg, as compensation for the issues. Avalon won my future business hands-down just by the way they handled all these technical problems.
All parts of the ship were spotlessly clean at all times, both cabins and public areas.
My cabin was particularly nice as I spent more time in it than many people would, with my writing. The internet service was excellent, with only rare delays or dropouts -- much better than most ocean cruises I've taken.
Housekeeping service was outstanding. No matter what time I headed out for breakfast, I would come back half an hour later and my room would be completely and immaculately made up.
Meals were wonderful. Breakfast and lunch buffets were plentiful and nicely varied, with an eggs-and-omelettes station at breakfast and a carvery at lunch. Dinners were four-course meals, and the servings were nicely sized so you didn't stuff yourself if you got all four. Wine and beer were available free of charge -- by request at lunchtime, and with the wine flowing like water at dinner. I was told by one of the bar servers that the rule was to pour once for each course, but I'm pretty sure she went above and beyond. The wines were different every night, always local to the region where we were moored or sailing.
Service at all meals was awesome. The teamwork was excellent, even the maitre d' taking trips around the room to collect dishes that we'd finished.
If you needed a between-meals snack, coffee, tea and cookies were available at all times -- but inconveniently located in the small lounge at the stern end of the upper deck. Bit of a long hike from my cabin which was one deck down and a bit farther forward, since I had to walk all the way to the centre of the ship, upstairs, and all the way back.
The outdoor bistro lunch or grill lunch on the sundeck was only available 3 times in over 2 weeks. It's limited by the weather, and by the times when the top deck is closed due to low bridges. Even up top, the servers would circulate to see if you needed a drink refill or had dishes to carry away.
The stairs are pretty steep and pose a bit of a problem for guests with mobility issues. There is a tiny 1-person elevator serving only the 3 indoor decks.
The standard entertainment throughout the trip was the onboard cocktail pianist, but local musicians and other entertainers came aboard for evening shows 3 or 4 times during the trip and all were great performances.
Each port featured an included walking tour. The guides were all fluent in English to some degree, more in some places than others. The quality of the tours varied, too -- some of the guides stood and talked too long, while one moved so quickly that I had to trot to keep up. At each port, a special walking tour was set for people who needed to walk more slowly. Numerous additional excursions at a cost were available throughout the trip. The ones that I took were all excellent. Bicycles were available on a first-come-first serve basis.
The land portion hotels were all rated 5-star, but the Budapest and Nuremberg hotels were older buildings with issues like hard-to-reach outlets, cramped bathrooms, and such. The Paris hotel was outstanding in every way.
This was my first river cruise, but I'm already planning my next trip with Avalon.
The 200 sq ft suite cabin was spacious enough to move, and had just about the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in my entire life. It was also possible to get the firmness of the bed adjusted by request to the housekeeper. I loved the angled bathroom wall which allowed for a bigger-than-average shower stall, a nice touch for this bigger-than-average person. Also a delight was the huge double sliding glass door which turned 2/3 of the outside wall into a balcony.
The Residenz in Wurzburg is one of the most incredible palaces I've ever visited -- and I've been to many. The staircase fresco vault, the stucco room, the Imperial Cabinet, and the Mirror room are all astounding. So is the museum display which shows just how much of this palace had to be rebuilt after it was bombed in World War 2. This tour allowed us an option to continue on a walking tour of town after seeing the Residenz or just taking a bus back to the ship -- a nice touch.
Siegfried's mechanical instrument museum is outstanding. Also well worth while is the ride up the mountain behind town in a cable car.
The add-on tour of the Moselle here was good, until we hit the beer tasting in a former monastery. The staff were short-handed, and "the woman who speaks English" had taken a day off. We had to be squeezed into several small tables, and it was both noisy and uncomfortable. This stop was immediately followed by an included wine tasting in town, and that's what I should have done.
We got an extra day in Vienna and the Bratislava tour was a late add-on to the program. It's just a 50-minute drive across the border into Slovakia, and we had a beautiful day. We had a scenic stop at the hilltop castle, then a walking tour in the old town, and an hour of independent shopping or touring time before catching the bus back to Vienna and the ship. Very worthwhile! The company also gave us the evening Viennese concert free, and it was great fun -- beautiful music, amusing staging, and all very entertaining.View All undefined undefined Reviews
The included tour of Melk Abbey was amazing. The enormous complex of buildings, the lavish decor, and above all the eye-popping church. I would have enjoyed more time to look around the museum, even though all the placards were in German only, but our guides rushed us through with only a couple of quick stops at key points.View All 62 Benedictine Abbey Reviews
One of the most entertaining of the walking tours. We got a good look all around the old town, and up to the bishop's gardens on the hill. Plenty of time included for shopping, and for tasting the town's world famous "rauchbier" -- smoked beer which tastes like bacon.
Two free tours were offered here. The tour of Roman Trier took us through a number of remains and reminders of the imperial Roman presence. The guide was very thorough at some points, but gave no guidance at others.
For those not taking one of the two optional full-day, full-price tours, the walking tour of Linz was the least interesting of the trip and the one where we spent the most time standing still while the guide rambled on and on and on. Not much of interest remains of the old town, due to wartime damage and much modern construcrtion.