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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
A friend did this cruise two years ago and raved about it so I along with 7 friends booked the same cruise for this June 14th cruise from Paris to the Beaches of Normandie. Everything was fabulous on the boat, the cruise director, the ... Read More
A friend did this cruise two years ago and raved about it so I along with 7 friends booked the same cruise for this June 14th cruise from Paris to the Beaches of Normandie. Everything was fabulous on the boat, the cruise director, the entire staff, the food, etc. The only issue was out of Avalon's control. Due to recent rains in and around Paris the Seine was very high and the boat could not get under some of the bridges so our cruise started further up the Seine than scheduled and we missed the last two nights on the boat and were put up in a hotel where we were spread out over a number of floors and the dinners were mediocre at best. No complaints at all about the boat or any of the time spent on it. The crew and food were exceptional. I did not use the fitness area, but heard it was good Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
Avalon was recommended by our travel agent. The overall cruise was wonderful. The places we saw were fascinating and the time spent on board very relaxing. But it's the service of the staff that I will remember the most. Within ... Read More
Avalon was recommended by our travel agent. The overall cruise was wonderful. The places we saw were fascinating and the time spent on board very relaxing. But it's the service of the staff that I will remember the most. Within days of boarding the waitstaff knew what beverage I preferred for breakfast and had noticed that I used honey in my tea so brought that too. The bar staff remembered the drinks we ordered and could bring your order if you gave them a wave. The evening waitstaff were always attending to drinks and we're happy to bring extra if requested. Then there were the staff that cleaned the suites and liked to leave animals made from towels to make the guests smile. All the staff from the captain to the kitchen hands were friendly, helpful and made all their guests feel very special. I would not hesitate to recommend Avalon to all my friends and family. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We chose this Cruise after a presentation and booked immediately without shopping or comparisons and Wow did we pick a great one. WAB 503 Amsterdam to Budapest. the only complaint I can think of is the parts of the river I missed ... Read More
We chose this Cruise after a presentation and booked immediately without shopping or comparisons and Wow did we pick a great one. WAB 503 Amsterdam to Budapest. the only complaint I can think of is the parts of the river I missed during the overnight sailing. My fellow passengers, the cruise director Gusta and all the guides were on time, every time. No waiting about, clear directions and very organized. Most the local guides were very knowledgeable and fun to walk with. The Crew were happy, a pleasure to deal with and took the very best care of me. The food was outstanding. The choices, the freshness and the presentation. Really I have no complaints, ok just one other, I like being treated like a Queen and the cruise was far too short. Yes I would go again, I will go again and I will without a doubt travel with Avalon. Read Less
33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
This was my first cruise ever. I had no idea what to expect from a ship that would cruise on the river. The Avalon Siem Reap was an excellent surprise. The boat is quite new and is tastefully done with lots of dark wood and bright open ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever. I had no idea what to expect from a ship that would cruise on the river. The Avalon Siem Reap was an excellent surprise. The boat is quite new and is tastefully done with lots of dark wood and bright open spaces. The rooms were surprisingly big with lovely bathrooms and comfortable beds. Every room had an exterior wall of windows with a sliding glass door. But the real treasure here was the amazing crew. They were gregarious, funny, efficient and attentive. They took time to get to know each of us and shared information about their lives and their countries. It added so much to the trip. The food was amazing and plentiful with a wide variety of Asian and western items available. But really, you have to eat the Asian food, it was so delicious. The pace of the activities was good. At first I thought their might be more free time that was necessary but due to the extreme heat I understood that they did not want to overtax us. The extra time to nap and relax was welcome. The tour director and tour guides were professional and extremely competent. I am amazed at everything the tour director organized and managed. The tour guides did an amazing job of getting us where we needed to go when we needed to be there. Their English was excellent and their attitudes welcoming. All in all this was so much more than I expected it to be. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
This was our first river cruise. Surprisingly my husband & I were the only British people on the Xmas market river cruise tour - 80% USA, 20% Australia + some Canadians & NZ and occasional others. Avalon marketing in the UK must be ... Read More
This was our first river cruise. Surprisingly my husband & I were the only British people on the Xmas market river cruise tour - 80% USA, 20% Australia + some Canadians & NZ and occasional others. Avalon marketing in the UK must be lacking, because it was a very good trip, and very well organised. We started with 2 nights in the Intercontinental, Prague. This is a good hotel, well located, though the grapefruit "juice" at the included breakfast tasted like unidentifiable sugar water, and the ship breakfast was much better. We did not eat any other meals there. The first day we walked round the surprisingly small Prague Xmas market in the Old Town Square, and had dinner there at restaurant Mincovna on the square - quite good food, very whitewashed décor. The second day we enjoyed the included Avalon guided tour of the castle (only outside of all buildings) - the guide was good. 3 out of 5 of our daily local guides were funny and excellent, only the 2 in Nuremberg and Bamberg were rushed and a bit dull. We then chose to leave the guide and go round the Jewish synagogues, cemetery by ourselves - very interesting. That evening's meal (booked by us) was the best of the holiday, to La Veranda near the hotel - totally gourmet food in a lovely decorated room. Prague was very inexpensive all round. On the 3rd day we all were bussed to Nuremberg to catch the river ship. We left around 12.45 pm and reached the ship around 5.00 pm. It was extremely well decorated and smart, and the staff were unfailingly smiling and welcoming. We were lucky to meet some lovely friendly Americans to have dinner with each day - there are no tables for 2, so you have to talk to people when you share a table for each meal. We were also lucky with the weather which was mostly sunny and not horribly cold. We had all day in Nuremberg, only the morning in Bamburg, all day in Wurzburg (though 90% of the ship only had the morning and paid 44 euros to be bussed to Rothenburg for a guided walk in the afternoon) and the afternoon in Miltenburg, a very sweet village - though their Xmas market was shut as midweek. We were impressed by the efficiency of the private car to and from the airport at home. Only the transfer to the hotel from the airport in Prague (1.5 hours literally standing waiting for 4 other flights for us all to go on a coach) and to the airport from the ship at Frankfurt (coaches only every 2 hours for again around 4 - 5 flights, so we had 3 very dull hours sitting at Frankfurt airport - not a fun place) let the whole experience down - would have much preferred a series of taxis for us all both ways so did not eat into our holiday. We believe Avalon is much cheaper for a very similar product than some other river cruise lines, and I would recommend it - but you do need to be happy to talk to people all day, as it is very much a group experience. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
The boat was only a year old, it was wonderful, the crew was great, the food was 'ok', but I didn't really know what to expect. They had the same breakfast every morning, which is fine for me, not like i was expecting ... Read More
The boat was only a year old, it was wonderful, the crew was great, the food was 'ok', but I didn't really know what to expect. They had the same breakfast every morning, which is fine for me, not like i was expecting escargot or roast duck for breakfast. Same for lunch. Dinner was OK, they usually had four main dishes respective of whatever country we were in, as well as the same four 'standby' dishes for every dinner: chicken breast, tenderloin, fish, caesar salad. They also offered whatever regional wines respective of where we were. Too bad I don't drink. The room was a normal room below deck, it was small (as expected), but it was fine. I am a stickler for a hot shower with LOTS of water pressure (as opposed to water dribbling out of a showerhead) and the shower did not disappoint, it was great - best I have ever had in 35 years of traveling - and this includes lots of Hiltons and Westins! If two are traveling, you really need 'packing cubes' such as what Amazon sells ($20-25US) you don't have a lot of room to move, you don't have the tablespace in your room for two large suitcases, so you need to be able to access your clothes, and these cubes are lifesavers. You set them in the drawers provided and put the suitcases in your closet. The cruise itself was very nice, we seldom-ever felt the boat move while underway, and the Captain and his crew did a marvelous job of docking every time - we never felt a thing. The ports of call were what you might expect when visiting basically communist countries: somewhat very old, out of date, and quite frankly not set up for 'tourists' at all. If you are expecting all ports to be awesome, this is not the cruise for you, but 'it is what it is' and that is not the fault of any cruise line, it's just that some countries are just not attuned to river tourism (yet), such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania. Once disembarked in some small ports it seemed they were just not attuned yet to tourism. Rousse, Vidin, Mohacs comes to mind. I will say every tour guide we had was AWESOME. One mistake we made was always sticking with the tour, we wish we had gone our own way once in awhile. Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria comes to mind. A very nice village. Aside from the cruise, let me tell you this: if you go on a tour on a tour bus, you will probably catch a cold (if others are sick also) - we did. While that may be normal, you won't find any cough drops in eastern Europe like the ones in the USA such as Hall's, Ricola or Luden's, they are not allowed (to be sold) there, so take a bag with you just in case. That's my .02 tip, cough drops and packing cubes. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
Because of low water levels on the Danube, our trip was not up to our expectations. Avalon handled the situation very poorly. We called them before we left for the cruise and we were told that sailings were going as scheduled. They ... Read More
Because of low water levels on the Danube, our trip was not up to our expectations. Avalon handled the situation very poorly. We called them before we left for the cruise and we were told that sailings were going as scheduled. They actually knew at that time that other trips had been interrupted. Not only did we have to switch our boat once, but we had to pack up and move twice. From other reviews we were told that the Avalon crew was exceptional. We did not find that was the case. As a matter of fact, our cruise director had no personality at all. The crew was lacking smiles and I feel it may be because of the additional work that they had to do that week. We embarked in Budapest and attempted to sail to Vienna. After an hour and a half we were told by the river authorities that we had to turn around. We spent an additional 2 days on the boat in Budapest sailing nowhere. Avalon made another poor decision to sail the vessel into Hungry when they could've bussed us an hour and a half West. They did offer $500 refund and a free concert p/p. We feel that was totally inadequate. We were also unable to do some of the other extra excursions that we had paid for in advance and were hoping to do. Also, we never made it to Nuremberg. That was partially our choice because we did not want to spend a day bussing around for approximately nine hours! I would definitely think twice about doing another river cruise and certainly not with Avalon! I do have to mention that the boat was beautiful and the design of the rooms was lovely. Sorry we couldn't have spent more time sailing on the boat. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
My wife and I took a River Cruise on the Danube River from Budapest to Prague. This was our very first cruise and our overall experience was phenomenal. We boarded the boat, the Avalon Expression, in Budapest. The boat and our ... Read More
My wife and I took a River Cruise on the Danube River from Budapest to Prague. This was our very first cruise and our overall experience was phenomenal. We boarded the boat, the Avalon Expression, in Budapest. The boat and our Panorama Suite were excellent. The boat is well designed and organised with everything easy to locate and the room spacious (for this type of boat). The bathroom was a good size and modern. The organised tours and their guides are well worth going. All guides were professional and knowledgeable of the sites we visited. In all, the tours were more than enjoyable, they were educative as well. We visited places such as small towns, castles, cathedrals and a concentration camp. As well, we visited a number of museums that gave us an insight in the countries’ traditions / customs, as well as their histories. While the Danube water level was very low this year, the Avalon Expression was able to get through with some scraping of the bottom of the river. This being said, sailing on the Danube was very smooth and made it on time for every planned stop except for one time were we had to wait six hours for a lock to be repaired. Our Cruise Director, Robert was efficient and well organized. A couple of times, he was able to reorganized the schedule of a tour and its activities on short notice. As well, he was present and available all the time. He kept us well informed of the status of the cruise and activities. We credit him for a well run and managed tour. At the front desk, there was Jennifer. She was good-natured, professional, helpful and efficient. She took care very rapidly of some minor problems. One thing worth mentioning was the food. The food was just wonderful and varied. The Chef and his staff did an excellent job. It was like eating at a five stars’ restaurant at every meal. I will add all of the staff, including employees working in the dinning room, the lounge and doing the cleaning, were very friendly, polite, efficient. It showed that the were well trained to deal with guests. We were able to visit several countries, see great scenery, learn more about Europe and meet wonderful people. In all, a well worthy trip. I recommend this river cruise wholeheartly. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
My husband and I recently experienced our first cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. We loved it, our room was spacious and I was able to unpack everything and store our suitcases under the bed. I think having a room away from the back of ... Read More
My husband and I recently experienced our first cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. We loved it, our room was spacious and I was able to unpack everything and store our suitcases under the bed. I think having a room away from the back of the boat was a bonus, we had room 201 and we were able to have our door open at all times when we were in the room. Our tour leader Katy was fantastic we worked tirelessly to ensure every detail went smoothly. The captain and staff were all first class both friendly and efficient. There were times when the river level was so low that it was thought we would have to bus to the next stop; but no our new Avalon boat managed to get through when some other cruise lines were not able to. Starting from Amsterdam the cruise is quite relaxed but as you reach the Danube there is much to see and sometimes we were doing two tours per day but that is optional. I felt the food was lovely, fresh fruit in the morning and we could request an omelet freshly cooked if you didn't want to eat the buffet breakfast. Lunchtime there was a light lunch option in the lounge upstairs and dinner I always enjoyed. We loved meeting and making new friends and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will most certainly book another cruise with Avalon. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
A wonderful experience, despite low water levels making completion by boat a little uncertain - but we got through when other, older boats didn't. The boat had Avalon's wonderful new cabins with whole room being integrated with ... Read More
A wonderful experience, despite low water levels making completion by boat a little uncertain - but we got through when other, older boats didn't. The boat had Avalon's wonderful new cabins with whole room being integrated with the balcony - bliss to lie in bed and see the world drift by!. Excursions were excellent - relatively early (8.30-ish) starts for some of them meant that we got in to popular places well before the crowd, which made the experience more enjoyable and then left the afternoon free, very often, for exploring on our own (one of the advantages of river cruise boats berthing near town centres). Average age of those on board 50s to early 70s - we had a sense from comments by local guides that we might have been more mobile as a group than those from other boats, and the cruise director did arrange for those with hip and knee problems to go in a slower group which could travel difficult parts in a small 'train' contraptions, so they didn't feel they were slowing others down on hills and cobblestoned streets. Had a fantastic cruise director (Katy) who managed everyone with good humoured efficiency. The rest of the staff were also great cannot fault service and food. Only criticism (and not everyone would see it as a negative) was that evening meals were full service 4 course affairs lasting up to 2 hours which, as noise levels got up became very difficult for the hard of hearing - a buffet option similar to the lunches would have enabled a shorter meal (and more time to enjoy the beautiful evenings in contemplative mode!) We did this trip at the end of 3 weeks travelling alone and it was a relaxing way to finish a trip. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
This was our first cruise, and our first trip to Europe. We were very cautious about this trip. Would the cruise be worth the money, would the cabin be good enough, what about the staff, language, other costs etc. etc. Typical ... Read More
This was our first cruise, and our first trip to Europe. We were very cautious about this trip. Would the cruise be worth the money, would the cabin be good enough, what about the staff, language, other costs etc. etc. Typical newcomers. This trip was absolutely magnificent. The cabins are roomy, modern, well set out, full view sliding window (dont book lower deck - our friends thought they would go for the cheap cabins and really regretted it after they saw our cabin!!), the food and dining was divine and the staff wonderful, friendly and very helpful. Only additional cost onboard was alcohol (other than mealtimes where it was included) and 3 optional tours. All other daily tours and guides were included in the cost, and were first class. There was a port and tour every morning to a different town with plenty of time for shopping and wandering or you could stay on board for the day (all meals included onboard), or come back for lunch, guides all had headset and we wore earphone on guided trips (so you miss nothing, and cant loose track of your guide), everyday was different, site seeing on cruise was always informative and entertaining (thanks Stefan, our wonderful cruise director), and interesting fun entertainment on several of the evenings onboard. There was nothing that disappointed us, and great value for money. We will be looking to Avalon for our next trip to south of France. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
The Avalon cruise along the Seine to Normandy on the near-new Tapestry II was our first cruise of any kind. At just seven days duration, it was a "taste" to discover whether this type of holiday was to our liking, as previously ... Read More
The Avalon cruise along the Seine to Normandy on the near-new Tapestry II was our first cruise of any kind. At just seven days duration, it was a "taste" to discover whether this type of holiday was to our liking, as previously we had been more independent travellers. And it most definitely was! We were at the younger end of the passenger age spectrum, and, as Australians, we were vastly outnumbered by folks from the USA. Neither mattered, as it turned out. The cabin (called a stateroom) was beautifully appointed and serviced, and the location of the bed facing the wall of windows to the river outlook was excellent. The meals were a highlight, thanks to Chef Olivier and his team. Options such as a BBQ lunch and Bistro dinner were created, which gave extra variety. The wines were of very good quality. The open seating arrangements allowed us to meet many delightful fellow passengers. The shore excursions were characterised by knowledgeable, charming guides. In particular, having Laura escort us through Monet's garden in Giverny was a treat, with her background in Art History. A pre-excursion lecture by historian Nigel vividly set the scene for the journeys to the D-Day Landing Beaches. Overall, the organisation was excellent, with a small glitch in disembarkation and allocation of taxis, not the fault of Avalon. The portable audio equipment worked well on tours. The vessel was about 60% capacity, so I am aware that our experience might not be replicated with a full passenger load. My sole negative comment relates to the quality of the coffee. The main coffee machine was out of order for more than half the journey, and the coffee served at meals was not up to the standard we expect in Australia. Next time I might take my Nespresso machine! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Our 11 day Avalon cruise started with three days on land in Prague. Very nice accomodations, great city tour. We met on first night with cruise director, at that time concerned travellers questioned the river levels, as we heard they were ... Read More
Our 11 day Avalon cruise started with three days on land in Prague. Very nice accomodations, great city tour. We met on first night with cruise director, at that time concerned travellers questioned the river levels, as we heard they were low. We were told that by the day we were to sail, that the water levels were probably going to be okay. We were lead to believe that somehow the water levels could be manipulated by man power, dam? Departure date came and we were given a choice to see Nuremberg by bus, as we couldn't sail, due to low water, or take a bus to A small village up river where boat was docked. To see Revensburg, we also had to bus, ship couldn't get there either. Did not dock in Passau, had to be bussed there from village. Avalon advertises their cabins with the great view. Anytime we were docked, there would be another ship parked directly beside us, never even got to open curtains. Our sailing was done in early evening or night, so never got to see the wonderful sights advertised. We did dock in Linz and Budapest, so we were able to go ashore to explore on our own. Daily tours were really early. Biggest disappointment was that we never got to enjoy the views from our cabin, which was explained to our group the last night: reason being that River cruising is so popular that there is not enough port space for the ships. The staff on the Avalon Vista was great, cruise director not so much. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
A fantastic cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Avalon Expression was a magnificent, modern and spacious ship. Our cabin on the Royal Deck was cleverly designed and spacious. The queen sized bed was so comfortable and faced the river ... Read More
A fantastic cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Avalon Expression was a magnificent, modern and spacious ship. Our cabin on the Royal Deck was cleverly designed and spacious. The queen sized bed was so comfortable and faced the river which was a bonus. A smart double opening floor to ceiling glass door provided an indoor outdoor experience without losing precious floor space that many other river ships do lose with their dedicated balconies. A flat bottomed ship together with masterful captaincy provided by Alex Strien and his crew, ensured that we could navigate through a very low Danube which most other ships could not achieve. The servicing of our cabins was spotless and faultless. Food was delicious and plentiful. Lounges areas were great for relaxation and tours were informative and well planned. Evening entertaining was also very good. I would highly recommend Avalon for anyone wanting a cruising experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
This was our first river trip and we picked the Seine trip so we could travel along the river and spend a little time in Paris. We made a small mistake with our flights. Boarding doesn't take place until around 4pm but we arrived in ... Read More
This was our first river trip and we picked the Seine trip so we could travel along the river and spend a little time in Paris. We made a small mistake with our flights. Boarding doesn't take place until around 4pm but we arrived in Paris much earlier. Avalon have a lounge in a hotel where passengers can wait until the ship is ready. Drinks were available and the area is pleasant to walk around but next time, I would organise a flight that arrived closer to the boarding time and also to the departure time on the last day. This ship was launched in March 2015 and so is quite new. The ship was in beautiful condition and it was a revelation to go on board and see our cabin and the rest of the ship. Our cabin was very comfortable and very well maintained by the cleaning staff. The food on the ship was excellent and we ate far too much but managed to walk it off during the daily excursions. It is possible that the choice of excursions might change but the ones we went on were all most enjoyable, fascinating and sometimes very moving. All the tour guides we had were knowledgeable, helpful, funny and a pleasure to listen to. The staff on board were without exception professional, organised, friendly, helpful and happy to go the extra mile for the passengers. For instance, some passengers asked for adjustments to some of their meals - items removed or added, meats cooked rarer, absolutely no seafood and so on - and the staff didn't hesitate in doing all they could to accommodate everyone. We had a wonderful time on the ship and I can't compliment all the staff enough for making our stay so comfortable. I would definitely go on another cruise. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
As I was about to board the plane with my friend for Prague, I received an urgent call that our Central European Experience cruise was cancelled due to a cargo ship blocking the river. They didn't have an alternate plan as they had ... Read More
As I was about to board the plane with my friend for Prague, I received an urgent call that our Central European Experience cruise was cancelled due to a cargo ship blocking the river. They didn't have an alternate plan as they had just received the news. By the time we reached Prague, Avalon Waterways had redirected our cruise to take us down the Danube. They did an outstanding job of giving us an amazing substitute cruise including all the wonderful side excursions from Passau ,Germany to Vienna,Austria and Budapest, Hungary. When the were no longer able to take us by train to Paris because of the distance from Budapest they chartered a plane and flew us there. They went above and beyond what was expected of them. I am 100% sure the other cruise lines would have sent us on the original itinerary on a bus instead. Our cruise director Danielle and all the crew were wonderful and went out of their way to make sure we had a great cruise. I tell everyone if you have future plans to take a river cruise, Avalon Waterways is the way to go! Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
No words can adequately describe the wonderful trip I had on The Avalon Siem Reap. I could not fault a single thing. The accommodation was 5 star...spacious and very well appointed. The food was superb. The crew were so ... Read More
No words can adequately describe the wonderful trip I had on The Avalon Siem Reap. I could not fault a single thing. The accommodation was 5 star...spacious and very well appointed. The food was superb. The crew were so friendly, smiling and just wanting to please. The tour director was fantastic as were the local guides who were not only able to share their extensive knowledge but also their personal stories. The excursions were many and varied... I learned more history, geography and politics in 2 weeks than at any other time of my life. The cruising was relaxed and scenic. I cannot rate this cruise highly enough and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a once-in-a -lifetime wonderful experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2015
It was our first river cruise and we really enjoy the experience so much that we want to go back soon. First, it was not a easy embarkation due to the low level of the Danube at this time of the year. It was a exceptional situation that ... Read More
It was our first river cruise and we really enjoy the experience so much that we want to go back soon. First, it was not a easy embarkation due to the low level of the Danube at this time of the year. It was a exceptional situation that the staff took care of everyone on board during the cruise time. We had to embark at Passau instead of Nuremberg ...but they did make sure that we didn't miss anything from day one. Big thanks and appreciation for our cruise director, Janos, who took care of us from Prague to Nuremberg to Passau. He was very accommodating to everyone on board. He had to make good decision and he did as well. We did enjoy the excursions and appreciate the suggestions that was offered to us. We did learn a lot on everything we saw. Our nice surprise was the excursion to Cesky Krumlov that we didn't have a clue it was so special and beautiful. On board, we did enjoy the grill lunch on the top patio and the bistro dinner in the lounge. It was a new experience and we did enjoy very much. The choice of meals and wine are excellent. We appreciate that there was no assigned seating at the restaurant so we can meet different interesting people from different places. The service at the reception, bar, restaurant is exceptional because there are less people on a river cruise ship. They took the time to know where you're from and what is your needs. The staff had a great sense of humour and having fun working around us. Thanks for a good experience on the Impression! We will be back for more cruises like this one. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2015
Our family had a fantastic cruise down the Danube in late June / early July. The entire staff of the Avalon Panorama was great. We have highly recommend Avalon to many of our friends who are thinking of maybe taking a cruise. Enjoyed ... Read More
Our family had a fantastic cruise down the Danube in late June / early July. The entire staff of the Avalon Panorama was great. We have highly recommend Avalon to many of our friends who are thinking of maybe taking a cruise. Enjoyed meeting other people from all over the world on the cruise. The staff was very helpful as the service was outstanding. The staff show on the last night was fantastic. Janos Horvath, our cruise director was excellent as he took the time with all the passengers to make them comfortable. Started in Nuremberg, then Regensburg, on to Passau, took side trip to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, then re-joined the boat at Linz, stopped at the Melk Abbey, viewed the fantastic Wachau Valley, into Vienna, toured downtown Vienna at night, took the side trip to the Schonbrunn Imperial Palace. Enjoyed the Farewell Gala Dinner on the last night on the Panorama with the staff show. Enjoyed walking in downtown Budapest and seeing Castle Buda. My wife's grandparents emigrated from Hungary before WW I, so the trip had family history implications. Enjoyed the great Hungarian meals in Budapest. All of the on-shore excursions had great guides to explain the local history of the cities and sites that we visited. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
This being my first river cruise, I dont have anything to compare it with. This is a truly lovely boat, only being added to the fleet in 2013. It was immaculately clean and beautifully decorated. The staff were extremely cheerful and ... Read More
This being my first river cruise, I dont have anything to compare it with. This is a truly lovely boat, only being added to the fleet in 2013. It was immaculately clean and beautifully decorated. The staff were extremely cheerful and helpful....nothing was too much trouble. Food was superb, and at each "town"/ "country" they visited they used the local produce. The Cruise director was extremely knowledgeable in the local histories and layout of the towns if you wanted to do your own thing. The only 2 things I can say that I think they could improve on is : the land tours of the towns is a little too commercialized - We would have liked to go a little further into the villages to get more of the local less commercialized crafts. But I guess these tours are all like that. They also need an expresso coffee machine on the 2nd deck for early morning coffees while you are preparing for breakfast. ( There is one on every other deck except that one ) - but only a small downer. As a tip..... you can put your suitcase under the bed... we had a couple of cases between us and we were trying to put the cases out of the way....finding out by another guest that your bags fit under your bed .hahaha.. This River boat company with the floor to ceiling & wall to wall open out doors in your stateroom are just so lovely - a big plus !!!! During our trip we had to park next to a couple of other companies boats.... and Avalons were far roomier.... Would definatley recommend this company - ESPECIALLY this boat.... you will not be disappointed !!!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We have traveled extensively and a lot on a private yacht charter with just 10 of us and 7 crew. This was our first river cruise and recommended by friends who did this trip once and then a second time with us. They have been on over 40 ... Read More
We have traveled extensively and a lot on a private yacht charter with just 10 of us and 7 crew. This was our first river cruise and recommended by friends who did this trip once and then a second time with us. They have been on over 40 cruises and swear by Avalon. We loved this cruise. The river cruise ships are restricted in width because of the locks so every river cruise ship has to be the same width but Avalon cabins are just as described -roomy. You open your sliding door all the way and you have a small couch, table and chair and can set there and enjoy the view or ride and fresh air. You actually get extra space because your room is a built in balcony. We managed just fine as there was space for everything and very large bathrooms for a ship. The crew were extremely professional, friendly and courteous. Always wanting to make your trip more enjoyable. They couldn't have been nicer. I had special dietary issues and the Maitre D met with me and then everyday he would meet with the chef and then visited with me about what they thought I could eat. Chef even made a special dessert for me one night as I don't really eat sweets. I truly appreciate their thoughtfulness. They went out of their way to make sure I had enough right food to eat. The entertainment on the ship was great as well as the crew show. We loved the size, 130 people, and ease of getting off and on the boat. You very quickly meet everyone and start to get to know people and talk to one another on the bus and excursions. Day trips were very well organized. The one thing I would do different for us on this trip was to not go to Salzburg and stay on the boat and enjoy it. To me, Salzburg was another Linz where we had just stopped. The other option that day was to Cesky Krumlov which is well worth it and would do that over Salzburg it but we had arranged for a private driver from Passua to Prague who made that stop for is and we spent a couple of hours there. I would have loved a little more relaxation time on the boat but then you don't feel like you want to miss anything. The highlight of our trip was the special concert in Vienna at the concert hall. It was classical music, ballet and opera and just for us. Well worth the money. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014
We just got back from our Paris to Normandy cruise with Avalon and have nothing but positive to say. Embarkation: We arrived a few days early on our own and were able to get directions from the cruise director to give to our taxi driver. ... Read More
We just got back from our Paris to Normandy cruise with Avalon and have nothing but positive to say. Embarkation: We arrived a few days early on our own and were able to get directions from the cruise director to give to our taxi driver. We were told to be there between 4 and 5, but due to being a little neurotic arrived at 3:30. As we walked up to the ship to just hang out until 4, the crew saw us and allowed us to board. They grabbed our bags and took us to the reception desk. Within minutes we had our key and were settled in our room. The Room: We were in suite 306. This was on the Royal Deck. The room had a floor to ceiling sliding door that went just about the whole way across the wall. We had a beautiful view of La Seine. The bed was roomy and comfortable (queen size with a thick foam top). There was a fluffy, white comforter on top. The room was subtly decorated with a burgundy geometric carpeting, a large mirror over the desk across from the bed and simple picture over the bed. There was ample storage under the desk and in the entrance way for all of our clothing. On either side of the bed were nightstands with reading lights and plugs for charging your phone, ipad, kindle, etc. In addition to the storage under the desk was a stocked mini fridge. The pricing were actually quite reasonable. Under the bed was ample room for storing our suitcases out of the way. Finally, a small flat screen TV was over the corner of the desk. Our only complaint on the cruise would be the lack of US channels. We understand we were cruising, but just one or two channels of something other than news or finance would have been great. They did offer on demand shows and movies, which did provide a nice alternative. Considering we were on a tour that covered WWII history, there was a nice selection of movies related to that topic. The bathroom had tons of storage along the sink and was stocked with amenities from L'Occitane. A hairdryer was included in the cabinet. The shower was roomy with excellent water pressure. The hot water was very hot. There was ample lighting and towels were replaced daily. The food The main breakfast was a buffet with many selections. There were always fruits, breads, cereals and cheeses. The chef had a specialty each day. The bagettes were delicious and addictive! The staff kept your coffee or tea filled and removed used plates quickly. There were several juice choices including champagne for mimosas. Along with the buffet items were some standing items you could get from the kitchen. You just needed to ask the waitstaff. In addition to the main breakfast (usually from 7-9), there were early riser and late riser options that were mainly breads and cereals. Lunch was also a buffet with new chef selections each day at the carving station, using including a pasta. As always, lots of breads and cheeses. There was always a salad bar and two soup choices. Beer and soda were included with the meal, if requested. There were standing items that could be ordered off the menu. If you were in the mood for something a little lighter, a smaller lunch was offered in the lounge. It was a nice alternative as it wasn't as crowded and the pianist would play. Dinner was at a standing time each evening. It usually consisted of 4 courses - salad, soup, entree and dessert. On a few nights, we had an amuse bouche to start us off and on the second to last evening was a gala - more on that in a bit. The table had bread and a choice of butter or oil/spices for you to get started. there was usually a different salad each evening in addition to the standing Caesar (which was delicious). The soups followed, which were amazing. You always had a choice of two. For the entree, the chef would prepare a choice of two or three dishes and if you weren't inclinded to those, there were standing items - Caesar salad, steak, chicken or salmon. Finally, there were several dessert choices. For the gala, we had a 7 course meal with wine pairing. The baked alaska dessert was brought out by the kitchen with the lights out and sparklers lit - a nice touch. The seating was always open so you could sit with the same folks or move around and meet new ones. We chose the latter and met so many wonderful people from all over. The nice thing about the smaller ships is you really do get to know people. You'll see them again when you're out in town or walking around the ship. It's an intimate experience. A selection of local wines and beers were included with dinner, in additon to soda. You can see how hard the waitstaff work. They're trying to keep the meals coming while refilling the glasses and clearing the plates. A big kudos to these folks. On several days, there was cake and coffee/tea served in the lounge in the afternoon. And, at any time you could get coffee/capuccino/water/juice and a snack from the aft lounge. This was quite a popular area for people to gather. There were also daily news postings and games for people to use. The ship We found the size to be perfect. Not too big, not too small. There was always seating to be found no matter where you were on board. The dining room was on the second deck and had walls of windows on either side. It was roomy and you never felt like you were right on top of anyone else. The lounge was on the 3rd deck front area of the boat and was surrounded by windows. There were comfy seating groups including couches and club chairs, with table to put your drinks and snacks. The bar was also in here and the piano player. You could reach a small outside seating area from the lounge. The snack area was on the 3rd deck in the aft area. Plenty of seating and windows with doors leading to another outside seating area and steps to the upper deck. The upper deck was immense! Tons of lounge chairs, table with chairs, covers from the sun and a hot tub. My husband and I made good use of the hot tub. Given that we were among the youngest on the ship (we're 44/50), we usually had it to ourselves for as long as we wanted. The only issue we had was that it closed at 8. After a long day of walking, it would have been nice to hop in it to relax the muscles, but dinner didn't end until around 9 each night. The itinerary After the standard safety drill, we set sail from Paris in the evening the first day. While dining, we swung by a great view of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty. Great way to take off! We sailed all evening and awoke to the small town of Vernon. We chose to go on the tour of Monet's home. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather the entire time and spring had sprung early in France so the flowers were in bloom. It was a lovely location. We did not do the afternoon bus tour but chose to walk around Vernon on our own and did some hot tub time. We arrived in Rouen the next day. We awoke to being right in the city. There was a train that woke us up and we worried about spending two nights there, but it was only an issue when we first arrived. We did our own walking tour of the city in the morning - a really great place. Along the river it looks modern, but a few blocks in and your in the old world, with a beautiful town square containing a memorial to Joan of Arc making where she was burned at the stake. There were also many, many churches to explore. Rouen is know as the spire capitol and you can see why. The afternoon trip was to Honfleur, an artsy little port town with really cool buildings and loads of side streets filled with shops and galleries. It was one of my favorite places on the trip. Our next day had us up bright and early to head to Omaha Beach. It took about an hour and a half to get to the first stop - the WWII museum where the artificial harbor was built - fascinating. Next stop was at the cliff overlooking Omaha beach. This was an amazing spot with lots of German bunkers still remaining and a gorgeous view - well worth the stop. We hit Omaha Beach next and just spent a few minutes there. I'm sure there was alot to see, but we were cramming alot into the day. Our final stop was the cemetery and there just aren't words that express what it was like there. I will say that I'm proud of how they've taken such care to give our boys such a beautiful resting place. A little after we arrived, they had a short ceremony which included the playing of the national anthem. I don't think there was a dry eye to be found. Just a beautiful, meaningful experience that I will never forget. Our itinerary had us waking up in a new location in a tiny town with one small street and Richard the Lionhearted's castle on top of a hill. When we first started out, it was foggy and you couldn't even tell there was a castle up there. But, we did the hike up the hill (about 20-25 min) and after waiting about half an hour were rewarded with the fog lifting and the most amazing view ever. We explored the castle, made our way into town and walked around a bit, then headed back to the ship. This was the only tour that day as we headed out at lunchtime onto our next stop. It was fantastic because we were exhausted from the first few days of going non stop. The weather was gorgeous so we headed to the hot tub - of course!! With the sun shining and the boat crusing along, we spent a glorious afternoon recouperating. It was perfect timing. We pulled into Conflans that late that evening and docked for the night. The next morning, we chose to do a self walking tour of the town. There was a great market going on that we went to then just explored. A really interesting place to check out. We chose not to go to Van Gogh's or Napoleon's summer home. We just preferred to take it easy. The next day we sailed back to Paris. It was another great day of sailing with beautiful weather. In the afternoon a group headed off to Versailles that we would pick up along the river closer into the city. That night was our gala followed by a bus tour of the city at night. It was a great evening and nice to get out and see Paris lit up. Our last full day was in Paris with loads of options for excursions. We chose to take the metro to Montmartre. After all that walking, guess where we spent our afternoon? Yes! The hot tub. I know we spent more time in there than anyone else, but hey, it was our vacation and with returning to work the day after we got back home, we needed some relaxation in addition to the exploration. Just sitting up on that top deck in the hot tub with the Eiffel Tower in the back ground was a surreal experience. I highly recommend it if you go on the cruise. Disembarkation The night before a poster was put up telling everyone what time they would be leaving. In addition, they gave colored ribbons to be attached to your suitcases. We were told when to have our suitcases outside our stateroom and when we would be getting on the bus. Jean Loup was checking all the flights and making sure if there were delays, he worked with the folks impacted. The morning of departure we had time to get breakfast and relax a few minutes before heading into Paris traffic and the nightmare that is CDG airport. A few things of note Our cruise director, Jean Loup, was simply fantastic. He answered every question, kept people informed and managed to get everyone where they needed to be. He would leave a sheet on our bed each evening while we were at dinner with the next day's itinerary, a map of the area and a weather report. He was a large part of this cruise being so good. My husband and I are low key so we didn't spend a lot of time in the lounge, be we did go to the staff show that was really entertaining and Jean Loup arranged for a string trio to play one evening while we were sailing. It was so lovely to listen to them and watch the scenery go by. The boat was smooth. You could hardly tell you were moving unless you looked out the window. The captain was very good, squeezing us into several locks and was always smiling. When we would set sail, he would play the music from 'Columbus' - very cool. One final note - I should disclose that we won this cruise through an Avalon Facebook contest. I do feel that if we had paid for this we would have gotten our money's worth. Avalon did not require/ask that we give this review. We are not receiving any compensation for writing this review.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
My sister and I chose to travel on Avalon Waterways Magnificent Europe tour starting from Budapest on 24 July 2013 and finishing at Amsterdam two weeks later on 7 August 2013. It was quite a change for me to be on an organised tour after ... Read More
My sister and I chose to travel on Avalon Waterways Magnificent Europe tour starting from Budapest on 24 July 2013 and finishing at Amsterdam two weeks later on 7 August 2013. It was quite a change for me to be on an organised tour after always traveling independently over the years. We started our journey in Budapest and enjoyed our explorations of that very beautiful city. My sister had a brief city tour in the eighties while it was still behind the Iron Curtain, conducted from the airport to fill in a 10 hour stopover. The city has greatly changed since then from all accounts. We arrived in the city a day early and were taken by a private driver to Intercontinental hotel to spend our first night before joining our cruise. Our hotel rooms were very comfortable and of a high standard, while the service we experienced was excellent. During our stay we enjoyed a light meal and wine in the bar on our first evening, and a beautiful buffet breakfast the following morning before checkout. The front desk advised that our luggage would be transferred to our ship over the course of the day. Prior to joining our cruise, our first day and a half was spent ambling around the local streets, checking out the architecture and local sights, trying not to double up on activities included in our city tour with Avalon the following day. Our hotel was beside the Danube so well placed for our explorations. We particularly enjoyed discovering a number of Art Nouveau styled buildings and some quirky bronze statues along the way. One perched on a fence near our hotel, 'the little Princess' was very endearing, the artist inspired by his young daughter playing princess dress-ups. Another of Ronald Reagan was a surprise encounter, I guess a tribute to his presidential role around the time of the move towards democracy in these parts. The most poignant monument was a collection of 60 iron shoes beside the river near the Parliament building. A tribute to a group of jewish people who were murdered there by Arrow Cross Militiamen in WW2. Ordered to remove their shoes, they were shot and their bodies were carried away by the river. Sadly the shoes were seen to have a secondhand and greater value than the wearers in the eyes of the fascists. It is one of the most moving street sculptures I have ever seen. Not far from the hotel we discovered a monument highlighting the city's roman past and also an area of archaeological excavation showing roman remains below a thick clear perspex window set in the paved square above. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit Aquincum Museum and roman ruins during our stay, no doubt a fascinating outing. We did however delve into more recent history, visiting the House of Terror, the building that once housed the Arrow Cross fascists and Nazis, then later was taken over for by the Communist Secret Police as a torture centre. It is now a monument and museum as a reminder of this tragic past. How wonderful it must be for the population to now experience freedom. We joined our cruise on MS Panorama in the afternoon of our second day. We were given a glass of champagne, some canapes and a very warm welcome from Cruise Director Hendrik who introduced the senior crew. Instructions were provided for joining tours each day, collecting boarding passes which would indicate we were onboard on our return to the ship and obtaining headsets for our tour commentaries. This was all done with great precision along with much humour from Hendrik, and providing we all complied with instructions about our return to the ship was assured of running smoothly. We were then shown to our suites to settle onboard before dinner. My sister and I each had our own Panorama Suite so had the luxury of space without having to dodge around another inhabitant. The rooms are beautifully appointed and well maintained each day. I knew from the moment I entered my suite that I would feel at home there, and began nesting immediately. In fact the environment on the whole ship is of a very high standard, with plenty of space for passengers throughout. The ship holds a maximum of around 160 passengers, with a large crew to take care of passengers. The restaurant is very roomy so there is plenty of space for people who choose to sit in smaller groups. Our welcome dinner gave us a preview of the quality of dining that we would come to expect every meal while onboard for two weeks. I have to admit that it was a bit intimidating that first time we entered the dining room, not knowing anyone else onboard. We introduced ourselves to a lovely pair of ladies from the UK, and remained firm friends and dinner companions throughout the voyage; sitting elsewhere for other meals in order to meet other people. The food was fresh, superbly presented and very tasty, a credit to chef Orlando and his fellow chefs and helpers. A varied selection of wines were offered with our evening meal each day. We were able to select less courses from the menu each time as the four of us all preferred a lighter diet than what was on offer. But for those who prefer more generous serves and multiple courses this restaurant would not disappoint. Try as we might to be self disciplined, the pastry chef made desserts so tempting that this was a course not to be missed at meals. Any attempt to request smaller serves was subverted by him with that extra dollop, slice or scoop! Our empty plates and bowls were testament to his skill! The following day we headed out for a city tour, taking in the sights of both the Buda and Pest sides of the river. Our guide was very informative giving us a history lesson at the same time as pointing out the many and varied highlights along the way. Most of the tour was experienced from the bus, with a brief stop at Heroes Square, then an hour and a half to wander around Fishermens Bastion on the Buda side where we were able to enjoy some stunning views across the city. Much more time than a couple of days is needed to really appreciate this fine city. We also went on an afternoon excursion to a nearby town called Szentendre, a quaint little spot heavily reliant on selling souvenirs. The commentary on the way was detailed and interesting but did we really need a second telling of all these same points of interest on the return journey from our guide! I was thrilled to see Aquincum and some of the roman ruins from our bus, a small consolation for not being able to visit. We were all very excited when the ship finally set sail to the strains of the music 'Conquest of Paradise' by Vangelis, which is very dramatic. (I know some of the words, the ones that go mm mm mm mm mm etc) As the tour progresses we will discover that this is played each time we set sail and we never tire of hearing it, it quickly becomes part of our routine. Our first stop was Bratislava in Slovakia where we visited the Castle which is located at a high point with excellent views of the river and city. We were then taken on a walking tour of the old town to appreciate the very attractive old-world streetscapes. I had read about the quirky street sculptures featured here and had my eyes peeled. Eventually we were able to meet 'Cumil' (pronounced Choo-mill) who has his head and upper body protruding through a manhole on the side of the road. He is in such a precarious spot he has lost his head a number of times after being collected by cars and has undergone regular repairs. We also saw 'Schone Nazi', a strange name for a representation of a local well dressed character from the early 20th century who used to hang around the spot where the sculpture is located, greeting people and paying particular attention to any ladies passing by, sometimes even handing out flowers. In those days he was considered to be an oddball but in our times he would probably be on YouTube and famous around the world for his antics, much like the guy who was offering free hugs to people in public places. Sadly Paparazzi no longer exists, a sculpture of a man peeking around a corner with his camera. I had been eagerly anticipating meeting him. Next day and we were in another country! Aaahhh Wien! My husband and I visited this city many years ago, so we had experienced a visit to Schonbrunn Palace and other local sights. We started our day with a bus tour around the city locale. I had forgotten how amazing the architecture is here, truly stunning! Unfortunately this mode of travel doesn't allow us to explore in depth, you just whizz by in a bus taking photos with reflections, cars, poles etc. It is a taster but you can't expect to do any scratching below the surface of each location as I would normally do. We also went on a walking tour with our very eccentric and lovely guide Cordelia, who was able to point out some aspects of interest that were a little more unusual and gave insights into the Austrian sense of humour which is apparently distinct from Germans despite the shared language. We had a little spare time to check out some of the shops where I was able to pick up a lovely temporary souvenir from a baker - a berry torte. A work of art, it was well appreciated later, but not much later! It was great just walking around checking out the distinctive streetscapes and architecture. We returned to the ship for dinner. Later I boarded another bus to attend a concert of classical music, dance and opera. These concerts are prolific in Vienna and there are young people dressed up in period costume selling tickets all over the city each day. The hall was pretty but not particularly special however I enjoyed the concert very much. The orchestra and other performers were really good. Many of the musicians are apparently music students who are honing their skills in the final years of their degrees. I was a bit unsure about booking this optional tour but decided to give it a try and I am glad that I did. Our guide talked about the fact that many tourists now think that there are kangaroos in Austria, confusing them with Australia. How funny! When Phil and I visited Europe in 1984 many people thought we were Austrians when they asked where we were from because they didn't understand our accents. I guess it sounded like we were saying 'Austrayia' or the like. Haha! Now there are Tshirts and plastic bags with the slogan 'No Kangaroos in Austria', featuring a picture of a roadsign showing a kangaroo with a cross through it. I am pleased to see that our country is finally on the map. Of course when we clarified in 1984 that we were really from Australia the usual response was 'Ohhh Kangarooooo!' with a suitable mimicking of a kangaroo accompanying that phrase. Later when we visited the US and Canada in 2001, the population was more interested in Crocodiles than kangaroos thanks to Steve Irwin and also Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee. Our next stop was Durnstein, a pretty riverside village with steep vineyards surrounding it and a ruined castle on a rocky outcrop above, which is famous for holding Richard the Lionheart for ransom back in the time of the crusades. Coincidentally at home my other half had been watching Errol Flynn's Robin Hood which refers to having to raise gold and silver to pay a ransom for Richard who is a prisoner in Vienna. What strange timing! We were assured that Richard actually was living the life of Reilly while there, with servants, luxurious rooms and a fair degree of freedom within the castle; not chained up in some dark, damp dungeon as we might imagine. We really loved exploring the quaint streets here, admiring the pretty buildings and walking through laneways past the vineyards. It was very hot though so great to get back to the airconditioned comfort of the ship for lunch. We continued on to Melk, another town in the Wachau Valley of Austria. Again we were herded on to buses to tour Melk Abbey which we were assured was an amazing place to visit. This is certainly a fact but it was so hot that afternoon I found it hard to appreciate the visit and wished I had stayed on the ship for a quiet afternoon. I should point out that I had been struggling with sinusitis and a sore throat which was interrupting my sleep, so the heat was really draining. The abbey has beautiful terraced gardens but it was way too hot for any of us to spend much time exploring. The weather was much hotter than the locals are used to for several days in a row. Once returned to the ship we set off towards Linz for our final Austrian destination the next day. Linz required an early start as there were several optional tours on offer, We had opted to visit Salzkammergut Austrian lakes area. I was feeling like death warmed up so decided to give the tour a miss and stayed onboard, while my sister enjoyed a long day out traveling around 'romantic Austria'. It was the best decision under the circumstances as it was a much cooler day after some very hot days, so it was refreshing to sit outside and enjoy a cool breeze. With most of the passengers away on outings, I was one of a very small contingent still onboard. I found it relaxing to watch picturesque countryside and pretty villages pass by. Apart from the naturalist aspect, we thought we may even get to see more naturists' views as we did the previous day. It seems that the River Danube is a popular spot for getting the gear off for an all over tan. We were even bemused by the sight of men cooking barbecues in the all-together, an activity that seemed fraught with danger of burning the snags! Additionally we were able to observe the workings of some enormous locks along the way. We crossed the border of Austria and Germany through a very wide lock so two ships were able to go through beside one another, but with the narrowest gap between the side of the ship and and concrete wall. I was amused to see that the neighbouring boat was named Hendrika, because our Cruise Director is Hendrik. Another discovery on this journey was that it was a bit weird walking along the Skydeck in the opposite direction to the boat, as it had the effect of a treadmill, with the landscape beside me keeping up. > Our first stop in Germany was the extremely beautiful town of Passau, which sits where three rivers meet, the Danube, Inn and Ilz. Each is a different colour so it is very strange to see the three colours of water merging at the point where they all converge. After such high temperatures over several days, we had a huge downpour on arrival here which was quite refreshing. I enjoyed strolling around the streets checking out the architecture, the wonderful baroque cathedral and even had time to browse in some shops that were not stuffed to the gills with souvenirs. I strolled back to the ship beside the river in time to see the daytrippers returning from their outings. My sister shared photos of her day's outing with me and seemed very happy with her experiences. She did however feel that too much time had been spent at St Wolfgang, while another superb location with a Schloss reached by cable car did not have enough time for a visit. As days wore on I found myself struggling to catch up with my first email to family and friends. Wifi access was understandably sporadic along the river and canals so communication with home became difficult. The best time was when we docked somewhere and of course that meant being out and about on tour. Once back onboard the ship sailed off and again there was no wifi. I was also guilty of dozing off in between activities at times when my intention was to catch up on facebook, sorting photos and emailing. When I finally found the time I could hardly remember where I had been since Vienna! Fortunately we were given daily itineraries which made an excellent resource for jogging the memory. Next stop was Regensburg, Bavaria, which is an amazing city of UNESCO World Heritage status due to more than 1300 buildings of historic interest. After a short walking tour we were given a couple of hours free time to explore. It was great to retrace our footsteps and see the sights without a crowd of people around us. There is a lovely old stone bridge which dates back to mid 1100s, the oldest of its kind in Germany. It seems the biggest claim to fame is the Wurstkuchl which we were told is considered to be the world's oldest 'fried sausage kitchen'. Who would want to argue with that? Actually we were more interested in visiting one of the newest department stores in town than eating sausage and sauerkraut. Haha! I must agree the city is a fantastic place to stroll around. Those who did make it to the Wurstkuchl were full of praise for the sausage and beer consumed there. On return to the ship many of us took advantage of a chocolate tasting session. We enjoyed trying three different, delicious chocolate treats while our speaker shared some chocolate facts with us. Yum! After dinner our night was rounded off with a corny show by Hans, a One Man German Band, who had a massive moustache that looked like a broom under his nose. He had fun selecting 'volunteers' to play a variety of instruments he had hauled onboard. It was pretty silly but the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. We made sure we were seated near an exit to make a quick getaway if he headed our way at any point. While traveling to our next destination the following morning, an interesting presentation was held on the Main Danube Canal, with particular focus on the engineering of this waterway and the operation of locks. It is a fascinating aspect of this particular cruise as there are many locks to negotiate along the way. The fascinating city of Nuremberg was our next point of call, with so much to see but of course we were not able to explore in depth due to lack of time. It has a long proud history yet will always have the legacy of reluctantly hosting the annual party rally for Hitler's Nazis over a six year period. As a result of this association the city had more than 75% of its historic buildings destroyed. Clearly much of the Old City has been restored as the town walls, towers and beautiful half-timbered houses look in great shape. We made a brief stop at the Nazi Party Rally grounds and found that the building and interior is in disrepair, a crumbling monument to their failure in WW2. We also checked out the massive Zeppelin Field nearby, a site larger than twelve football grounds put together, which was used for huge Nazi parades associated with the party rallies. We were given an hour of free time away from this sad political history. We decided to visit the Toy Museum, a fantastic display specialising in German made toys which must be one of the biggest collection of its kind. The quality of the toys was brilliant and many still had their original packaging. We returned to the ship for a very popular beer tasting session, not my thing but well received by most passengers. As the cruise progressed, the food continued to be wonderful. The crew are so professional and attentive, chef Orlando is highly skilled and his army of helpers do an excellent job. They try and include local specialties at every lunch and dinner along with beautiful wines and a selection of other beverages. Bamberg was the next stop on our itinerary and what a beautiful town. Our dutch guide was great, very knowledgeable as she has lived in this town for many years and presented our walking tour with a sense of humour. She pointed out various places of interest including a fountain featuring Neptune which is known locally as the "Man with the Fork'. It is surrounded by stone seating referred to as the Ape Rocks, in deference to the usual zoo settings for Apes where they watch us watching them. I like that nickname, so apt. The Town Hall is an unusual tall half timbered structure which is perched precariously halfway along on a stone bridge, with water rushing under it. Local legend is that the bishop of Bamberg refused to grant land for the building of the town hall so the citizens rammed stakes into the river to create an artificial island for locating this landmark. Whatever the truth is, it is an incredible sight. Most of our guides have mentioned that there is an old German (Austrian) saying that a wealthy person is Stone Rich or Rolling in Stones, a nod to the great value placed on Stone in medieval times. The half timbered buildings were a way to build relatively grand homes without the extra cost of stones for upper levels. I guess that is where our saying 'Rolling in it' comes from when we talk about people with pots of money. Interesting. (Well I thought so anyway.) The afternoon schedule included a talk on the European Union so I decided to have a nap as I was feeling very weary. I had been battling hayfever for days which was progressing to a sore throat and it was all catching up on me. However I did book to go on the 3.15pm galley tour on the ship so set my watch to wake me at 2.30. I woke with a start at 3.21 pm to find that I had set my alarm for 2.30am! So much for my plans, oh well, back to sleep! I drifted in and out of sleep, waking occasionally to lie there watching the world go by through the huge windows in my room. My dinner companions later reported that the galley tour was great, highly organised and they were impressed with the cooking achievements in such a small space. We woke the next morning to a beautiful view of a hillside palace in Wurzburg, complete with the most perfect reflections on the river. I was able to capture some stunning images of this view on my camera much to my delight. We started our explorations with the obligatory walking tour which I almost passed on, but ended up being glad that I went. Our guide Valerie is British but has lived in Wurzburg for over 20 years. She proved to be an extremely effective speaker, very conversational and funny with a droll sense of humour. We visited the Wurzburg Palace located in town (as opposed to the one on the hill overlooking the river) and she took us on a journey back in time as she explained all of the features of the palace and the habits of occupants and visitors. We were introduced to the Prince Bishop who ruled the town in the early 1700s, by all accounts a humble fellow given that he commissioned a ceiling mural above the Grand Staircase that may as well be entitled 'The World Pays Homage to the Prince Bishop'. Even the gods appeared to be praising his image in this mural. The World only had 4 continents at that time, all featured in different displays. America was shown to be the least important or civilised, while Europe was advanced well ahead of all others. On the origins of words, she mentioned that the men who came to the palace in the 1700s were expected to wear wigs. If a man had a very long wig this indicated he was very important, hence the term 'Bigwigs'. We had a little free time to wander around town, taking in more splendid views with a leisurely stroll back to the ship along the river, just in time for more food. (In the unlikely event that anyone on board may starve...) Once that was done, we boarded buses for Rothenburg, a fantastic medieval walled town with narrow lanes and many half timbered houses. How lucky we were to have the same tour guide, Valerie, who entertained us on the bus to and from our destination. She gave us a bit of an orientation on arrival then we were cut loose to enjoy exploring for a couple of hours. It was a very hot day so nothing too energetic was on the agenda. Jill and I checked out some of the shops around the central marketplatz (naturally), including a huge christmas shop and surprisingly emerged with no packages between us. We decided to head to the town walls for a trek above the houses which was a great way to see a different view of the town. We also had an ulterior motive, to find the horse and carriages so we could take a ride. No luck, so we did the female thing and asked for directions and next thing you know we were taking a leisurely ride around the outer streets, under a shady canopy. The ride took 25 minutes with two stops; one a toilet stop but for the horses, not for us, and the other at a huge water trough for a drink, again for the horses not us! On the return journey Valerie entertained us all with personal stories about her adjustment to living in Germany, her children's bilingual issues and other funny tales. This lady could easily do stand up comedy or after dinner speaking. (Take note Avalon, she would be great onboard as a speaker, especially on the cross cultural issues she has encountered.) Our trip to Miltenberg was very leisurely as we were still sailing for half of the next day before we docked. Once again we were taken on a walking tour of the town, which is famed for its beer and franconian red wines. It is yet another medieval town, with many enormous half timbered houses lining the streets of the old town. The day we visited it was hosting a stopover of a very large contingent of cyclists who were following the way of a pilgrimage from town to town. They departed mid afternoon and the streets were very quiet in comparison. Back on board we had a local lady visit the ship to present a Vanilla Gipfel cookie baking demonstration. She managed to coerce a couple of the guys into helping her with this, and I noticed a few not so brave men quickly depart from the lounge once she announced she needed volunteers. Brigitte was very funny and lively so it was much more than a baking demonstration and whiled away an hour very easily. Soon after we set sail for Rudesheim to the strains of Vangelis and the view outside my window was perfect; a white swan was floating by, the light reflected on all of the buildings giving a glowing effect, the green of the countryside looked even greener than usual and I spied canoeists on the river. Lovely! That night the crew put on a show for us all in the lounge after dinner. They did a variety of funny skits as well as some musical moments. I guess all of these cruises do something similar as part of their entertainment. We got to see another side to the people who have been providing us with such professional service this past two weeks. They are a great bunch of people, very hard working. Many of them are married with children but barely see their families during the summer holiday season, They work long hours every day and most do a multitude of jobs, yet no task seems to be too much trouble for these easy going crew members. We also had a piano player each night, Nick, from Bulgaria. He has quite the repertoire, has a great voice and is a good musician so we enjoyed dancing along to his music most nights. We particularly appreciated our next destination, Rudesheim, which was another leisurely day spent on the boat until lunch time. We boarded our Petit Train on leaving the ship and trundled into town, saving a long walk uphill. It was greatly amusing to see how close the train got to the chairs in the outside dining areas of cafes. Luckily noone was sitting in them as we passed. We had visions of sitting there, then moving backwards to stand up only to be cleaned up by a colourful little train. We have seen news reports of all manner of tourist tragedies over the years, but never by this method. Oh the embarrassment to be killed by le petit train! On arrival at our destination, we waited to see which way our guide was going then headed in the opposite direction away from Siegfried's Mechanical Music Museum, before anyone spotted us making our escape. No reflection on this popular tourist activity but we had alternative plans! In my research I had found out there was a cable car that would take us to a lookout at a highly placed monument, which appealed to us more than an hour of antique musical instruments followed by coffee laced with brandy at the local Schloss. While I am sure that everyone enjoyed their music and coffee interlude, our journey above the terraced grape vines, with magnificent views of the town, the Rhine and beyond, was a perfect way to while away our time on such a warm summer's day. The Niederwald monument, commemorating the reunification of Germany in the late 1800s, was pretty impressive too. After our return journey we meandered through the streets back to the ship. We set sail to Cologne through the most picturesque stretch of the Rhine River, with commentary on the Skydeck from Hendrik, pointing out the many castles and other places of interest along the way. The weather was perfect for viewing these sights; cameras and iPads were kept busy capturing the images of steeply perched fortresses and charming riverside towns. Time was slipping by fast and before we knew it we were disembarking for our visit to Cologne. We chose to wander around the city centre rather than follow the guide as we have both been to this city in the past. We walked back to the ship through the old town, admiring the well maintained historic buildings and the river views. We had an early sailing that afternoon so headed back in good time to enjoy some people watching from the Skydeck. One couple was late getting back; Jill spotted them strolling slowly along the pathway before having to make an undignified dash for the boat with only minutes to spare after our Cruise Director Hendrik yelled out loudly to them. We had been warned previously that the ship would not wait for us if we were late so they were lucky to just make it. Once we set sail we had our final Port talk from Hendrik with special emphasis on disembarkation protocols. Hendrik's pre dinner Port talks were a fixture each day of the cruise along with Happy Hour in the Lounge, briefing us on the schedule for the next day and and what we could expect to see and experience. We had our farewell dinner one night early given that many of the passengers would be out and about on tour in Amsterdam the following night. It was a very special dinner, featuring a parade of all the people who had carefully prepared and served our meals during the cruise and also to pay tribute to all of the other crew who work tirelessly behind the scenes. Three cheers for you all, you are a credit to your ship and to Avalon. Our final destination of Amsterdam was reached overnight. We had a long day planned, starting with a canal cruise around this very lively and historic city. We have both been to Amsterdam previously so chose a country outing in the afternoon rather than further exploring the city sights. It was interesting to see the way that the land has been reclaimed from waterways for farming and housing. The farms had raised grazing lands punctuated by channels of water and I saw quite a few swans in the fields, a very strange sight. The farmhouses were square and the orange tiled rooftops were shaped like pyramids. We visited the town of Edam and wandered around checking out the pretty streetscapes of well tended houses. We then went on to Volendam, a nearby fishing village, with more neat little homes reflecting house proud locals. There were many sailboats on the water, a great sight as we walked along the dyke. It is a very touristy area with numerous souvenir shops, cafes and pubs. Our guide mentioned it is a busy place no matter what the season. Fortunately the charming backstreets were quieter so we escaped the crowds. There were channels of water covered in a type of duck weed, giving the impression it was a grassy pathway. Our guide was at pains to remind us of this, paranoid that one of us might mistakenly take a dip. We did spot a bicycle lying beside a pond covered in this greenery, and some orange and white tape had been stretched around the perimeter, serving as a warning to walkers to watch out. We returned to the ship for our last dinner onboard, then away we went again, this time for an evening excursion to check out the historic city centre, most notably the red light district Amsterdam is famed for. I enjoyed the canal cruise more this time as the light was much better for taking photos. Our guide was adept at discussing the issues of prostitution and legal use of marijuana in Amsterdam. Even though the two are legalised, it appears that there is still a criminal element causing social problems. For me, walking around this area is uncomfortable, not because of what the ladies are doing, rather because there is a feeling of treating them like they are creatures in a zoo by observing them. Any uncomfortable feelings are quickly wafted away by the strong smell of marijuana in these streets; we relax. Haha! There are cafes with special licences to allow legal smoking of dope, but clearly it is openly smoked everywhere else. This is all part of Amsterdam's culture and ways, so is something for visitors to be aware of, and hopefully show some level of respect as we move amongst the locals. After our tour we gather with some fellow passengers for a last night of dancing to Nick's music, chatting and debriefing about our experiences over the previous two weeks. It is a credit to the Cruise Director that proceedings run like clockwork and it all appears so seamless and trouble-free. I would like to make special mention of the lovely people who tended to our cabins behind the scenes. They work extremely hard over long hours and try to incorporate individual touches to make passengers feel special. I had brought along a tiny jointed cat toy on my trip as a piece of home to add to my room. Every night when I returned to my cabin after dinner, my bed was turned down by Anto, who also left a chocolate on the pillow and the little cat tucked up in bed. One day we were all thrilled to find that our towels had been expertly folded on our beds into animals, in my case a dog wearing my reading glasses and cuddling my little cat. These special touches along the way never failed to make me smile! The next morning we rose early to ensure our cases were outside our room at 6 am. It is hard to sleep when you worry you may not wake on time. I had some last minute packing to sort out and pressed down on my case to close it, hearing a noise that I thought must have been a wake up call. Hang on, I didn't order a wake up call! I realised it was a toy yodelling Marmot that I had bought as a souvenir gift, serenading me from my luggage! I quickly rescued it and put it in my hand luggage, thinking it might alarm a baggage handler if it went off during transit. Wearily we headed to the lounge for a quick continental brekky before boarding the airport bus to catch a flight to our next destination. We were both so tired that we dozed off on the plane, however I woke up when someone close by snored very loudly! Oh dear, was that me? Haha! I forced myself to remain awake after that mortifying experience! I hope this journal of my cruise experience highlights how wonderful the Magnificent Europe tour with Avalon Waterways is! Although I still favour traveling independently, I did enjoy the refreshing change of letting someone else take care of the detail, carrying me along on their journey. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
Our first cruise of any type was on the Avalon Vista's Amsterdam - Budapest June 23 - July 7 sailing. In a word - wow! Far exceeded our expectations. We were in one of their suites, mid-level near the stern of the ship. Our first ... Read More
Our first cruise of any type was on the Avalon Vista's Amsterdam - Budapest June 23 - July 7 sailing. In a word - wow! Far exceeded our expectations. We were in one of their suites, mid-level near the stern of the ship. Our first night because we were in port with no engines running and we were so tired after being up for 30 hours we slept like a log. First time we've experienced sleeping in a bed with no sheets, just the two twins pushed together with about a 2 inch foam mattress pad over the top to make a queen and two duvet covers, one for each person. Wife said it was great having her own cover and me not taking it all night. lol Early up next morning for an 8:30 am canal cruise in the rain. The only thing we weren't happy with was having to get up so early every morning, 6:30 - 7:00, to have breakfast and then get ready to go on their morning excursions. Obviously we're late risers. The cruise, cruise director Andrzej (Andre) Sanakiewicz, and all the waiters especially Ilie, Michael and Ginda and our maid Cinthia were fantastic and calling us by our first names within 2 days. Captain Hank you could talk to anytime he was out of his pilot house and you could also visit him in there. Our first night of cruising we became very used to the engine noise and would only wake up when they shut them down for a lock or sped up. Then of course we'd have to look out the HUGE door/windows to see where we were and what we were doing. The way the bed is layed out so you could lay there watching the world go by is fantastic. Food was awesome and menus for lunch and dinner were posted on the tv daily. Breakfast buffet was always the same, lots to choose from and to vary your choices daily. Lunch buffet was different every day or you could order something from your waiter. Dinners ranged from 4 - 7 courses and we found them to be excellent. I had a seared butter fish one night that has to have been the best fish dish I've ever eaten. Most of our included excursions were well run by local tour guides, 2 not so great, and we only did 2 of the "pay for" one to Zaanse Schans in Amsterdam and the Vienna Concert both of which we're glad we took in. The one day when most of the passengers were off on 10 hour excursions from Passau we stayed on board and sailed down the Danube, best decision we made sitting on top deck seeing all the villages, etc. as we past by. Free wine and beer with dinner, wish they also included it for lunch, and sparkling wine with breakfast. Drinks in the lounge weren't cheap but they have a 2 for 1 happy hour before dinner and a special cocktail every day. Unfortunately our first night at dinner we heard someone do the big cough and we both said oh bleep and by the end of the cruise most passengers were experiencing some symtoms of a nasty cold. Wife missed the Farewell dinner and excursions in Bratislave and Budapest. There were hand sanitizers at the entrance to the restaurant and as well as you came on board and were well used. Met lots of people, tables ofr 2, 4, 6 and 8. Most were from Australia and New Zealand, 4 from Canada, 16 from USA and a few from UK. Would we do it again? Maybe. River cruises are expensive and flights from Western Canada to Europe also very expensive. We feel we got good value for our buck and saw history that we never thought we ever would. Visiting about 13 or so churches and cathedrals became a bit much by the end of the trip but the cathedrals are really awesome to visit. And most allowed you to take pictures, even with flash. If we were to do it again we'd definitley go over a couple days early and stay an extra day or two at the end. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our ... Read More
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our waiters Thomas and Constantine . The cruise director , Dragan , was very obnoxious ,though many seemed to like him . The food was pretty good though , inevitably seemed repetitive . There were far too many "surprise" expenses for a cruise that implied that it was "all inclusive " . The included tours were uneven and the extra ones were overpriced and should not have been "extra" . The entertainment that was provided was very good with the exception of one talentless electric violinist . Although it may be conventional , I found the gratuities policy ( giving us envelopes and telling us exacly how much to tip everone including the cruise director ) offensive and we ignored it . We tipped those that provided us good service ( NOT the cruise director ) . We spent the same amount of money ( a bit more actually ) but giving it ,in cash , directly to those who deserved it . Our fellow passengers were suprising old . We expected that to some degree but at age 65 I didn't expect to be one of the youngest onboard . River cruising is nice but it is not a good way to see a place . You spend too little time on shore and you seem cutoff from local people and experiences . Avalon seemed too interested in getting extra money out of us at every opportunity given we were sold this cruise as "all inclusive " . We will probably do it again but I doubt if we will use Avalon Read Less
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