Like most other river cruise ships, entertainment onboard Poetry II is simple and low-key. Typically, days are spent ashore exploring, and an onboard musician provides light musical entertainment in the main lounge. A couple times per sailing, the line will bring onboard musicians and lecturers from the local area to entertain and inform. On our cruise, a swing band (guitar, bass and percussion trio) came onboard and rocked the house one night; on another, the line laid out a spread for a cheese and Dutch liquor tasting.
The ship's main lounge is also home to the only onboard bar. Two beverage menus are offered there -- one for wines, beers and drinks like juice and soda, and one for spirits and mixed drinks. The first list offers a variety of white, red and rose wine from Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. Per-bottle prices range from about 25 euros for a French rose to almost 200 euros for the best Champagne; by the glass, you'll pay around 4 euros. Mixed-drink items from the second menu range in price between 3 and 15 euros, with most hovering in the 5- to 7-euro range.
On select "movie nights," movies are shown after dinner on the flat-screen TV in the ship's secondary aft lounge on Deck 3.
Although most shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise, Avalon does offer a few optional half- and full-day tours for an additional fee. All tours are priced in euros and range in cost from 35 to 65 euros per person. For example, an afternoon's guided visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam costs 36 euros per person, while a full-day guided tour of Salzburg, Austria -- with visits to the Mirabell Gardens, Mozart's house and various sights that inspired "The Sound of Music" -- costs 64 euros per person. Guides are knowledgeable, friendly and speak fluent English.
Note: Avalon's primitive method for keeping track of who's ashore and who's onboard while in port is a series of laminated paper cards with room numbers printed on them. If you forget to pick yours up before leaving the ship, nobody will know you're gone. Likewise, if you forget to turn your card in at the desk when you arrive back after an excursion, they'll think you're still in port checking out the souvenirs.
You enter the ship into the lobby and reception, which is small but welcoming, with a modern chandelier and natural light filtering through a skylight. The reception desk faces the cruise director's desk and adjacent seating area. Next to that, passengers will find two computers. They're free to use, as is the bow-to-stern Wi-Fi for those who wish to bring their own laptops. Reception is quite good throughout the ship, particularly when in port, and load times seemed faster than those on most other vessels.
The main lounge, used for pre- and post-dinner drinks, alternative dining, and nightly entertainment, is located just forward of the reception desk. With its panoramic windows, the room is bright and airy, and it's the only space on the ship that deviates from the blues, purples and beiges of the onboard color scheme. The main lounge's chairs, stools and couches are upholstered in red, grey or cream, and the carpet is a flamboyant swirling pattern of similar colors.
The ship's other lounge, the Club Lounge, is a small space at the aft of the ship on Deck 3. With purple accents in the pillows and carpeting, the room's decor consists of dark tables and chocolate-colored wicker loveseats and chairs. If you're feeling peckish between meals, pastries, cookies and a variety of hot beverages are always available there, along with fruit and juice during the day. There's a small library of books and board games in the Club Lounge, and the space also serves as the location for Avalon's past-passenger meetings.
A first-aid kit is available at the ship's front desk, but there are no medical facilities onboard. Because river cruises sail so close to land, qualified medical professionals are only a phone call away in case of an emergency.
Self-service laundry facilities are not offered to passengers, but washing (no dry-cleaning) and pressing services are available for a fee. Prices are up to 6 euros, depending on the article of clothing and service chosen.
The ship itself is wheelchair-accessible throughout, but passengers with limited mobility might find getting on and off most river cruise ships to be difficult, if not impossible, at times due to the variety of docking arrangements. The onboard elevator also does not go up to the sun deck, as low-hanging bridges don't allow for that sort of height. The line advises that anyone sailing on the ship should at least be able to walk up the gangway and one flight of stairs. None of the cabins is specifically wheelchair-accessible.
Note: Smoking is banned on all Avalon ships, with the exception of designated areas. On Poetry II, these are found at the bow of the ship, just outside the main lounge, and at the rear, just past the aft lounge.
The top deck spans the entire length of the ship, and the signature split-level design is employed to good effect there, too. The upper aft tier offers a hot tub and a decent number of sun loungers from which passengers can enjoy 360-degree views as they sail through quaint villages. The lowered bow area has clusters of tables and chairs perfect for a relaxed chat (or a good book) over a cup of coffee. On nice days, this space sometimes hosts the line's Sky Bistro, an outdoor eatery that features grilled fare. The forward deck design also allows passengers the ability to safely remain outside when the ship passes under low bridges. There are also collapsible awnings over the sun loungers that come down when the ship is passing under low bridges.
There's no swimming pool on Poetry II, nor is there a spa, but a small salon is found near the aft of the ship on Deck 3. It offers haircuts, styling, head massages, coloring and highlighting for both men and women. Manicures and pedicures are also available. Prices range from 7 euros for eyebrow treatments to 46 euros for hair highlights.
Passengers will find a very small workout room midship on Deck 1. It has enough space for one treadmill, one recumbent bicycle, one regular exercise bike -- all Life Fitness brand -- and a TV. There's also a tower of dumbbell free weights. Water and towels are available at no additional charge at the back of the room. No fitness classes are organized onboard.
Children 8 years and older are permitted onboard, but there are no children's facilities or special activities offered for youngsters. Older children and teenagers, particularly those who enjoy history and don't mind long days, would probably be fine on this type of sailing, but there's not much else to distract them if they're bored. Baby-sitting is not available, and there are no cabins designed specifically for families. (All cabins have a maximum occupancy of two passengers.)