Let me preface this by saying we are not cruise people. We've only taken a couple of other cruises on small ships (Windstar - great!! and Antarctica excursion) but never a river cruise. We chose Avalon because they advertised a 3-Day ... Read More
Let me preface this by saying we are not cruise people. We've only taken a couple of other cruises on small ships (Windstar - great!! and Antarctica excursion) but never a river cruise. We chose Avalon because they advertised a 3-Day Cruise Only option that allowed us to do only the river portion with them. We looked at the cruise as Room & Board and transportation only. We weren't interested in any group tours. We booked our own hotels in Vienna and Budapest and did our own thing in every port. Being very experienced world travelers (having already traveled independently to over 100 countries) we don't like groups. All that said, this seemed pretty easy. Wrong!
The entire experience was annoying. From boarding the ship to leaving, we felt harassed. The cabins they touted as a room with a view, was adequate but nothing special. Food was really designed for the typical cruise population with an average age of 70. When I asked for a piece of fish with no sauce, which seems like an easy request, the waiter acted as if I was inconveniencing him. The cruise director was the most annoying person I've ever encountered in all my travels. And, above all else, no one on the staff seemed to understand the concept of Cruise Only. They kept paging us and asking about our arrangements. They were annoyed we weren't part of their group. What happened to "it's all about the customer?!"
The cruise itself: The ports were interesting — Melk, Durnstein, Bratislava and into Budapest. But river cruising is a very expensive way to see places if you are a good independent traveler. We spent three nights on the river and then three nights in Budapest at a very high-end hotel. When we added up all our expenses there, it turned out we spent half as much — and that included a huge suite, using the hotel car for touring, taking advantage of its spa, eating in some astoundingly fantastic restaurants, and being driven to the airport.
And, as if our experience on the ship wasn't bad enough, when I got home and received a welcome home email from Avalon asking for my feedback, I wrote back about some of the problems we had, and was planning to post a negative review on TripAdvisor, I received a reply telling me they were very busy and would take 5 – 8 weeks to reply. Seriously? That's how you reply to a customer who is unhappy? I didn't want anything from them other than to say you did a lousy job. The upshot was I requested to have my address — email, snail mail, and any future delivery systems — removed from all their databases. I do not want to receive anything from them.
I know lots of people who love river cruises. If you are one of them, be very careful before choosing Avalon. Customer service is not their strong suit. Read Less