This was our first river cruise. We have taken cruises before on Oceania (London to Copenhagen), Royal Caribbean (Caribbean), Disney (3- Day), Celebrity (3 - Day), and Norwegian (Alaska).
Embarkation and debarkation was very easy - even though we had not booked the Movenpick through Avalon, the man in charge of the concierge desk had our luggage delivered to the ship.
Embarkation and debarkation was much easier than our previous ocean cruises. The ship also cleared each port with immigration, customs, etc. very easily - we were able to go ashore virtually immediately. They even told us to put our passports away - that we would not need them when going on the excursions - that surprised me - much different than other cruises we have been on where in one case they even kept the passports for the entire cruise. Getting on and off the ship at each port was very easy as well - we just scanned our card they gave us and walked off or on - there was no one standing there to verify our identity, thereby slowing things down considerably, as was the case in the past ocean cruises we have been on.
We really enjoyed this cruise - Avalon is experimenting with the format (Active Discovery), doing it only twice a year. We chose it because:
(1) It was 7 days (2) It ended in Frankfurt (we have relatives near there), and (3) Because of the format - 3 choices of activities, some more active than others - my sister is 10 years younger and she and her husband could choose more active activities.
We, and I believe several others, were surprised by the amount of walking (several miles) and walking pace (some of the older individuals had canes) for even the less strenuous of the included 3 excursion choices each morning (afternoon tours were extra). Although surprised by the walking of several miles a day we really enjoyed it as compared to past cruise line tours where we have been on where we spent most of the time on a bus - you got to see things up close as opposed to outside a bus window. The tour guides were excellent.
The amount of walking did provide a pretty significant problem for the tour guides as some of the other older people had trouble keeping up leaving the tour guides in a "catch 22," either see less or leave people behind - both occurred - obviously causing irritation. Bottomline - no one should go on this if they have any trouble walking several miles at a decent pace.
If you also participated in the afternoon tours, as we did (extra cost), you had about an hour to an hour and a half back on the ship before the afternoon tour - getting back from the morning tour which generally started around 8:30 - 9:00 AM and ended around noon until the afternoon tour, starting at around 1:30 and returning around 5:00. On several evenings there was also the opportunity to engage in another type of activity in the evening - one was a visit to castle that was marvelous.
Those on the cruise were, by-and-large, younger than on other cruises we have been on (other than Disney) and while for the most part upper middle class - were probably not of the somewhat more elite social status that we experienced on Oceania.
The meals were very good, although probably not quite up to the level of Oceania or Disney. There was an alternative for lunch everyday where they offered a lighter portion small buffet of what was being served in the main dining room inside on the front of the ship. You could also take this lunch up to the upper deck and sit outside. We chose to do this most of the time as it was less crowded and faster (given our afternoon tours) and we enjoyed sitting on the front with all the windows or on the upper deck. Avalon indicated that those with dietary restrictions should confer with them on arrival on board - my sister is gluten free and did so, but they were not very helpful - simple indicating she should talk to the waiter - that said, the waiter was very helpful.
The staterooms were somewhat smaller than on the other cruises we have been on, but were adequate and nicely appointed - I did notice that the Viking ships docked next to us had a true balcony - we had no balcony - the doors just slide open and there is a railing.
Although Avalon's pre-cruise instructions purport to limit luggage to one large piece each, we brought 3 large pieces of luggage plus 2 carry on luggage pieces and had no problem storing the luggage under the bed.
Finally, cruising through the Rhine Gorge with all the castles was magnificent and the crew director provided an excellent commentary, including explaining why in some cases the water is too shallow to get through, causing a transfer of passengers from one ship to another - and you could see why.
The staterooms were somewhat smaller than on the other cruises we have been on, but were adequate and nicely appointed - I did notice that the Viking ships docked next to us had a true balcony - we had no balcony - the doors just slide open and there is a railing. Although Avalon's pre-cruise instructions purport to limit luggage to one large piece each, we brought 3 large pieces of luggage plus 2 carry on luggage pieces and had no problem storing the luggage under the bed.
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