We recently returned from our Avalon river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on the Expression. All four of us are seniors ranging in age from 65-74.
Our group wanted to try a short river cruise in order to determine if we would try another, perhaps longer, river cruise.
Here are our pros and cons:
The cabin (up on the topmost level) was large enough and the bed was very comfortable.
The bathroom was fine with a roomy shower and enough counter space around the sink to handle our ‘stuff’.
The large, sliding, panoramic doors were great. We wouldn’t have used a veranda and enjoyed the extra bit of cabin space the exclusion of a veranda gave us.
The ship was clean.
We enjoyed the fact there was a happy hour with 1/2 price drinks and Robert, our bartender, was a pro. He was funny, prompt, and had a great personality.
Staff was, on the whole, pleasant. The reception desk was accommodating and the two male staff members were friendly and helpful. The exception was the female who was a bit short with the passengers and sometimes acted as if it was an intrusion of her space/time to be bothered.
The cruise director was very good. When we were out and about on excursions, I found it a plus that he’d show up out of the blue (frequently on his bicycle) to wave or help with directions. He was friendly, efficient, and thorough and had a good sense of humor when addressing the passengers.
Our evening entertainment was limited. However one evening we were entertained by a trio of two violinists and a guitarist who were phenomenal-really enjoyed that!!
The restaurant waitstaff was good.
The morning tours/excursions were okay-a few times the tour guides were a bit too in-depth with the history of wherever we were and most info was lost in the translation. I guess there were just too many details to process and absorb.
The room steward was sweet and young but unlike our ocean cruises, never once called us by name.
The food was good but we doubted all food was fresh produce from each of our ports especially when we spied a pallet with large cans of fruit and vegetables ready to be taken into the ship.
Wine choices at meals were mediocre.
All breakfast and lunches were buffet-style with only dinner served by the waitstaff.
Unlike Viking, Avalon did not have a welcoming ‘tent’ at the pier. Actually, Viking had two..one on each side. It was no big deal...just another detail that adds to the experience. When we were dropped off at the pier we had to search a little to find Expression (at the end).
Mornings found us having breakfast followed by an excursion which lasted until around lunchtime; then we’d have lunch and downtime until supper.
I found that routine to be a bit of a drag as I’m enjoy walking the many decks of an ocean ship; participating (or not) in a great variety of activities; and enjoying the panoramic views of a huge sea.
All four of us concluded early on in our river cruise that the ship (no fault of theirs as they are restricted to length and width) was just too small with minimal to do. We sometimes felt like caged animals! For the amount of money we spent on this 7-day river cruise, we could have sailed on an ocean cruise for a couple of weeks.
Regardless of all the differences of river versus ocean cruising, going on any vacation with our friends is quite delightful
We did spend five days in Amsterdam pre-cruise and three days in Lucerne/one day in Zurich (post-cruise and all our own planning) which we enjoyed immensely!
Would we try river cruising again? No. I’d rather try a land tour of cities like Prague or Budapest (like Perillo Tours).
We satisfied our curiosity and have plans for a Mediterranean cruise next summer and a cruise to the Netherlands in 2021. To each his own, I say!! Happy sailing!!