This cruise was booked because mom wanted to do a Rhine River cruise. My late dad and mom took a Rhine River cruise years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The price was great probably because the end of the tourist season was here. The ... Read More
This cruise was booked because mom wanted to do a Rhine River cruise. My late dad and mom took a Rhine River cruise years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The price was great probably because the end of the tourist season was here. The cruise was sold out. The big cruise lines could learn a lot on how to treat their passengers from Avalon. My mom, sister, and I were on this cruise.
We knew our experience was going to be different when we checked in with the cruise folks at the Zurich Movenpick Airport, the start point of the cruise. Mom is disabled but the folks at the hotel took her under their wing to make sure she was taken care of. Check in was a snap, they just checked our names off a list. We opted for the Mt. Pilatus and Lucerne excursion. Avalon could just skip Mt. Pilatus and offer several hours in Lucerne instead. After spending about an hour in Lucerne, it was on the bus for a short trip to Basel. (Cruise Critic add Basel to your ports of embarkation). We got off the bus and the crew helped mom to the reception deck where they gave us our cabin cards. The crew escorted us to our cabins and helped us to orient ourselves to the features of the cabin. Our luggage was in the cabin before we could catch our breath.
There was a evacuation orientation followed by a description of what to expect on the cruise by Gusta, the Cruise Director. She went into great detail about the included shore excursions, an extra that we weren't expecting, but welcome. Afterwards, there was a happy hour followed by the first of many great dinners. Beer and wine were included in the evening meal, another nice touch. In fact beer and wine were included in all evening meals. Happy Hour, every day, had drinks at half price. Since it had been a long day most cruisers retired to their cabins.
The first full day found us in Strasburg, I opted out of the include excursion and just wandered around town. It was Sunday morning, everything was closed, except the bakeries. I bought a couple of roll and some cheese and strolled about. In the afternoon, we boarded a bus for a trip to area wine producing region and had a delightful afternoon of sipping wine. Though rain clouds threatened, we didn't experience any rain. After about three hours it was short trip back to the boat. The tour guide gave us a lot detail but knew when to be quiet and let us enjoy the ride. Another great meal on board. There was a very unexpected surprise in store for us. Sunday was my mom's birthday and about midway through the evening meal, the lights went out in the dining room and the head waiter led a procession of the crew to where mom was sitting and presented her with a birthday cake and rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday". It seemed that everyone on board came by to wish her the best. That was something a big cruise line would never do. That made the cruise for us.
A night of cruising found us in Speyer the next morning. While my sister opted for the included excursion again I opted to stroll around myself. My sister said the tour guided gave a great walking tour. We only spent about three hours in Speyer because we were expected in Heidelburg in the afternoon. A short hop and we docked and got on board for a tour of downtown Heidelburg. I need to add since my mom uses an wheelchair some optional excursions were out of the question. On the walking tour of Heidelburg the tour guide went to great lengths to make sure mom was comfortable with the pace. I would also like to give a shout out to our fellow passengers that were always asking if mom was doing okay. On the way back to the boat the tour guide pointed out several old US Army Kasernes that were in the process of being converted back to civilian use.
Another short hop found us in Mainz. It was at Mainz were we experience several days of less than nice autumn weather. But Avalon had us covered there as well. What big cruise line would provide its passengers with umbrella before going ashore? We did the tour of Mainz and the Gutenberg Museum and had about an hour of free time in Mainz. As luck would have it, there was a farmer's market in progress. It was nice walking about an seeing all the fresh produce, cheese, and breads. There was short hop to our next destination, Rudesheim. Rudesheim is the center of Rhineland wine region. Avalon stayed in Rudesheim overnight. I went ashore a bought some fresh pastries before we shoved off. We enjoyed the pastries as we sailed down to Koblenz.
The morning and early afternoon were spent sailing down the Rhine Gorge getting a running history of the castles that dot the riverside. Gusta gave a great rendition of "Die Lorilei" as we sailed past that point of the Rhine. Koblenz is where the Mosel and Rhine Rivers merge. Koblenz could be called the capital of Mosel wines. It rained the afternoon but that didn't spoil our roaming the streets of Koblenz. The huge statue of Kaiser Wilhelm sort of dominates the area, located on the Deutsche Ecke, "German Corner" on the confluence of the two rivers. We sailed in the evening headed to Cologne.
Enroute to Cologne, we passed the town of Remagen, where US Forces captured the lone standing bridge across the Rhine during World War II. The captain slowed the boat down and pointed the boat's spotlight on the ruins of bridges abutments to about dozen of us veterans on the upper deck. Gusta gave an excellent recap of the battle.
Again we sailed throughout the night and docked sometime that night in Cologne. We took the walking tour of of downtown Cologne and visited the rebuilt Cologne Cathedral. Despite the cobblestones, folks in Cologne went out of their way to give us tips on smoother paths as we pushed mom in her wheelchair around. We stopped at a cafe for a cup of coffee and the owner gave mom a free cup of coffee with a huge dollop of whipped cream and a pastry that must have had a gazillion calories!
Another night of sailing found us in Amsterdam for the last day of the cruise. Avalon provided a canal cruise. Amsterdam canal boats are not the easiest to get in and out of, the canal boat pilot went through great effort to get mom down before we started and helped her out at the end of the tour. The tour guide presented the history of Amsterdam in a very humorous way.
The only really disappointing excursion was the trip to a "traditional Dutch village". It was more of a three hour shopping tour.
That evening we wound up the cruise with a last excellent meal on board. The captain introduced his crew. The cruise director went through any last minute instructions in preparation for disembarkation. Disemarkation was a snap. We said our final goodbye, several crew members gave mom hugs and wished us well.
I would recommend this Avalon cruise-Basel to Amsterdam to everyone. We were extremely pleased with the service, boat, food, and cabins on the cruise.