Updated September 21, 2017
With a fleet of 16 ships in Europe and even more cruises on waterways around the world, Avalon Waterways offers a global footprint for river cruisers. The company is part of Globus, a Swiss-based tour operator with a long track record of escorted trips. This connection gives Avalon an advantage among its competitors; the company has a wide network of tour guides around the world, which adds to the river cruise experience.
Avalon has a few other characteristics that set it apart. Read on to see why Avalon might be your next favorite cruise line.
Avalon will float your boat if you like ...
Waking up to a great view
On Avalon's Suite Ships, the majority of cabins have beds that face the window, not the wall. It sounds like a small change, but it's one that makes a difference. On an Avalon cruise, you can lie on your bed while still enjoying the scenery, which makes the cabins a more pleasant place to spend your time. It's an innovation that is now being copied by some competitors.
Besides the bed placement, Avalon's floor-to-ceiling French balconies that open the length of the room are also a differentiator. (While other lines have rooms with French balconies, they usually open only part of the room, which doesn't give you that full let-the-outside-in feeling that Avalon cabins have.) With that much sunlight and fresh air coming into the room -– not to mention the extra space that you gain -- you won't miss a step-out balcony.
For 2017, Avalon has teamed up with Austrian chefs Karl and Leo Wrenkh to offer a more comprehensive menu of vegetarian and vegan cuisine. The initiative, called Avalon Fresh, focuses on local ingredients and regional dishes. In addition to Avalon Fresh, the line makes gluten-free dishes available at meals, and the menus are marked for people with food allergies.
Unusual shore excursions
In 2017, Avalon will offer an Active Danube itinerary that focuses on different ways to explore the region, from included bike rides through the Wachau Valley to hikes through a salt mine and conducting an orchestra in Vienna.
A stable of tour guides
Your local guide on a river cruise can be a bit of a gamble; the quality can vary, depending on whom the line hires. Because Globus employs guides for its tour business as well as its river cruises, the company is often able to get the best in an area because they can offer them the most consistent employment.
Consistency in Asian destinations
The focus on consistency carries into several of Avalon's Asia itineraries. On Myanmar's (Burma's) Irrawaddy and the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia, the company has smaller versions of its Suite Ships instead of charters, which means the experience is more akin to what you'd find in Europe than with a company that doesn't have its own ships.
A tour before or after your cruise
Through Globus, as well as other arms of the company (Cosmos and Monograms), Avalon has the ability to set up seamless pre- and post-cruise tours connected with your river voyage. (While Avalon isn't the only river cruise line that's affiliated with a larger tour operator, the other ones that are -- Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld -- have a more upscale focus, with more inclusions and higher price tags.)
Avalon is probably not the line for you if you like ...
Avalon does include quite a bit in its fares, such as wine and beer at lunch and dinner, Wi-Fi and at least one shore excursion per day. However, you will pay for gratuities at the end of your cruise, special excursions and drinks outside of mealtime.
Cruising with your kids
While some other river cruise lines are jumping into family-oriented sailings, Avalon continues to gear its sailings toward adults. There are no facilities or programming for children.