Our Romantic Rhine cruise departed 8/19/18 from Basel northbound to Amsterdam. We added two days before the cruise in Zurich (wish it had been 3), and two days after in Amsterdam (would have been fine with one). We chose Avalon because of ... Read More
Our Romantic Rhine cruise departed 8/19/18 from Basel northbound to Amsterdam. We added two days before the cruise in Zurich (wish it had been 3), and two days after in Amsterdam (would have been fine with one). We chose Avalon because of somewhat better pricing over Viking at the time we booked. We had never heard of Avalon, but the travel agent had good things to say. Our itinerary was very similar to Viking's. From embarkation to change-of-ships (more later) to disembarkation, the staffs of both Avalon's Affinity and Felicity, the sister ship, were bend-over-backward welcoming and accommodating. Special kudos to cruise director Tony- a hard-working and super-friendly pro. To prospective first-time river cruisers, if you have only done 3000-passenger ocean cruises, this experience is DIFFERENT. Less passengers, more intimate, better food, no hard-sell jewelry shows, no Broadway shows or casinos, more education, and yes- less evening entertainment. But we were so tired from the day's excursions by dinner's end at 9 or 9:30pm, we just wanted to retire to our room! There was an entertainer in the lounge for some that wanted to dance and drink, but we didn't use that feature.
We loved every one of the included excursions/towns. We opted for extras in Colmar (so glad!) and the Maginot Line (fascinating). The food was great, we never had to look for the waiter for more wine at dinner- sometimes we had to cover the glass because we had had our fill. The service was exemplary.
The only wrinkle in our week had to do with Mother Nature. Europe is suffering from 3 months of extreme heat and drought. There were stretches of the Rhine that were not navigable for these types of ships. When that became apparent to the captain, the decision was made to swap the Affinity's northbound passengers with sister ship Felicity's southbound folks. The ships simply swapped us out and u-turned back the way they had come. We missed one town (Mainz) but were bused to a sightseeing boat which apparently could navigate the shallower water, so we saw many of the castles after all. We were well compensated for our trouble and given a freebie excursion at the Amsterdam end, and welcomed onto the freshly-cleaned Felicity with friendly smiles and a second welcome dinner to finish our northbound cruise. They were so doggoned nice about it we forgave them for having to pack up and unpack our luggage all over again. And it sure beat the experience of some other ships, which had to complete the tour on buses and hotels. And our cruise director Tony (with whom we had all bonded) came to the new ship with us. No complaints; it was extremely well handled.
Disembarkation from the ship went smoothly - until those of us that were staying extra days in Amsterdam were bused to the hotel- then there was some confusion and poor communication about getting our luggage off the bus. Could have been communicated better by the rep on the bus- she certainly had time.
Of our pre and post-cruise days, I would say this: we were MUCH more enamored with Switzerland than Amsterdam. From Zurich we did a lovely day trip to Lucerne, took a lovely boat ride on Lk Lucerne, a cog RR up and down Mt Rigi,enjoyed the views and looked around that beautiful city. Switzerland is clean, friendly, and has extremely efficient transportation systems. While we visited beautiful museums and the Anne Frank house, in general Amsterdam was over-crowded, less clean, less friendly, not as easy to figure out the transportation system. The tram drivers slammed some doors in our faces. We felt a bit uneasy a couple times with large throngs of young people crowding us on the sidewalks. And the thousands of bicyclists sure do have the right of way- just ask them!! Maybe we were tired and ready to go home, but not in love with this city, and won't return. Three days after we got home there was a stabbing incident in Amsterdam's Central Station, so we felt our instincts were not totally out of line. Take that, Chamber of Commerce! None of that, however, is on Avalon. We loved our cruise!! I'd do another Avalon cruise in a heartbeat. Read Less