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Sail Date: May 2009
We took the maiden voyage of the Avalon Affinity on one of their new cruises for the year, Windmills, Vineyards and Paris.   It was fantastic.  I was a little hesitant after reading reports about other companies and their maiden ... Read More
We took the maiden voyage of the Avalon Affinity on one of their new cruises for the year, Windmills, Vineyards and Paris.   It was fantastic.  I was a little hesitant after reading reports about other companies and their maiden voyages, but I am here to say that the launch of the Affinity and the tour were fantastic.   The Affinity is the newest ship in the fleet, holding 138 passengers. The Affinity officially launched in a formal ceremony on Saturday, May 9th. Updated design:1.  From the entry doors, there is a reception desk and two computers for internet access. 2.  Towards the front of the ship there is a lounge which is outfitted with comfortable chairs, sofas, and sturdy tables. 3.  A short flight of steps up from the reception desk are the Royal Deck and Suite rooms. 4.  At the end of the hallway from these rooms is a beauty shop and a small lounge where the coffee, tea, etc. are served 24 hours a day. This is also the location of the Early Riser and Late Riser breakfasts. 5.  A short flight of stairs down from the reception area are the Sapphire Deck rooms. 6.  A short flight of stairs down from the Sapphire rooms is the Dining Room. The buffet area is much better 'presented'. Two tables are set up for 8 people while the others are for 4 or 6 people. 7.  A short flight of stairs down from the dining room are the Indigo Deck rooms along with a fitness center. The center has two bicycle-type machines along with a treadmill. 8.  Top deck has a hot tub for 6. There are two areas that are covered by a canopy for those sunny days. There are more chairs, tables, and lounges than the Artistry had last year. 9.  Staterooms are similar to the other ships. I found the bathrooms to be better thought out than on Artistry. The bathroom has more storage in the vanity area than on the Artistry.  10.  All other room storage remains the same. I actually had a lot of room left over. 11. Elevator is located in the corner of each floor.The ship and its furnishings are very attractive. The ship is maintained well during the trip. The floors are spotless. The dining room has good soundproofing.When arriving back from touring, the staff meets you with a cold drink and a hand towel.The maiden voyage had a few 'glitches' but nothing that caused anyone to be inconvenienced. 1.  The elevator was not working for several days. The engineers worked on it to fix it as fast as possible. 2.  The ship was scheduled to go through a large lock in Rotterdam. However, the lock wasn't working and what was left was a smaller lock. After several hours, the captain and the lock master agreed to give it a try using the smaller lock. The lock doors closed with only inches to spare. It was a great job by all the crew to recover from that. 3.  The ship got 'caught' on a sandbar leaving Rudesheim. The captain was able to get the ship off the sandbar without any damage. However, this delay caused the scheduled events for the day to be delayed. 4.  Due to delays at some locks, the tour busses picked up the group or delivered the group to a location other than where we were scheduled to depart or arrive. It gave us a chance to see other towns that we might have not seen otherwise.These delays were handled very professionally by our wonderful cruise director, Isabel Heimann.   Our tour started in Amsterdam, where we met at a hotel and had an opportunity to meet some of our fellow travelers and to sign up for an optional tour to Zaanses Schans, which we took.  After that tour, we were taken directly to the ship where our luggage was already in our stateroom.  We freshened up, quickly unpacked, put our empty suitcases under the bed, and headed upstairs to the lounge.  The stateroom is has so much storage that we didn't use it all, which is unusual for me.   Each day we stopped at a different port.  Some cities offered optional tours.  We enjoyed seeing different parts of the Netherlands, along with Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, and France.    Our ports of call were:  Amsterdam, Netherlands; Gouda-Dordrecht, Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; Maastricht, Netherlands; Nijmegen, Netherlands; Arnhem, Germany; Cologne, Germany; Koblenz-Rhine Gorge-Rudesheim, Germany; Cochem, Germany; Bernkastel, Germany; Trier, Germany; Remich, Luxembourg; and Paris. France.   Optional tours included:  Rijksmuseum; Zaanses Schans; Voldendam; Brussels; Aachen - Aux Le Bains; Bonn; Excursion to a German Dinner; Battle of the Bulge - on the footsteps of General Patton; Excursion to Luxembourg; An evening at the Artists Quarters of Montmartre; Mona Lisa's Smile at the Louvre; The Palace of Versailles; Moulin Rouge Dinner & The Greatest French Cabaret.   The city tours were good for the most part.  We were given headsets to use with our local guides, which worked out well.  Unfortunately, we didn't use them in Gouda and only those in the front could hear.    The optional tours that we took were great.  We took more of them than we had originally planned, but they were well worth the money.    The food was very good.  The breakfast buffet consisted of fruit, cheese, bread, eggs (hard cooked, scrambled, and an omelet station), various meats, hot cereal, cold cereal, yogurt for example.   At lunch there were two soups each day.  A change from last year is that there were two menu offerings each day in addition to the buffets.  The buffet had two meats and one pasta vegetarian offering, along with a salad bar, cheese bar, and wonderful desserts.   Dinner had two standing menu items which were chicken or salmon.  The meal consisted of appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and dessert.  Each night there was plentiful local wine to go with the meal.  I didn't have anything that I wasn't pleased with.   Evening entertainment consisted of a talk on diamonds, a trio playing classical music, the crew show and a play that Isabel put together with various members of the audience.  What a lot of fun.   We took the bullet train into Paris.  It was neat to see how fast the countryside passed by us.  In Paris, we were taken directly to the hotel where a special desk has been set up to give us our room keys.  The luggage had been sent by truck from the ship so it was delivered to our rooms shortly after we checked in.  The hotel, Le Meridien Montparnasse, was very nice and located near the southern train station and the metro.     We took two of the optional trips, the Artists Quarters of Montmartre, and Versailles.  Trips to the Louvre and Moulin Rouge were also included.   We stayed for an extra day and took the metro to tour Notre Dame, Arch de Triumph, and the Eifel Tower.    The tour was wonderful and we are already planning our next river cruise.         Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2009
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, especially for a cruise that "targets upscale North American passengers". I preface this review with the fact that we are experienced travelers and have taken other river boats before, being very pleased with the experience.             THE SHIP- Room size. At 172 square feet, the impression is that the room is larger than the regular room on other river boats. While we did not measure the room, it did not appear to be any larger than other boats. You should not have any illusions of spaciousness.             Beds- What a disappointment. While the ship(and beds) were new, the mattresses were soft and the bedding (quilts and pillows) so small, making sleeping uncomfortable. Be aware that there is a split in the middle of the two beds and could be somewhat improved if full size bedding and mattress covers were used.              Computers - There were only two computers located in the lobby for up to 138 passengers. This is way too low considering that in many ports internet cafes are not available and there are few activities and entertainment on board, increasing the demand and frustration of passengers.                  Coffee and tea service all day - Yes, but it is located in a remote area of the top of the third deck, which is not easily accessible.             FOOD AND DINING - Breakfast buffet was good, however often food or drinks were not replaced on a timely basis. Cooked-to-order omelets available and good. Lunch buffet had better selections than dinner, however very often the touring schedule was such that getting back to the ship in order to eat lunch was not only inconvenient, but also wasted valuable touring time. In several ports, we chose to stay in town and eat lunch. The ship finally provided tour buses to shuttle guests back to town after lunch as well, but it took two weeks to get that service provided! Dinner - several things. Most distressing was open seating as it made it difficult to get a large table for a group of six or eight. Food - limited selection. Boring -little food of high quality. Everything was very salty. Difficult to get coffee or tea during or after meal (procedure was no coffee until after dessert) and no sweetener on table. Waiters very nice but "busboy" quality with no personality and little common sense. Did not seem to understand North American preferences as per "upscale" tours.. Very interested in constantly filling wine glasses.             ENTERTAINMENT - Only two nights of outside entertainment for two weeks, one of which was very poor. Keyboard player available every night for dancing.             CRUISE DIRECTOR AND TOURS - For the most part, our local guides were very good or excellent. The Cruise Director on board did not give adequate information. There were several errors and miscommunication made prior to docking. She did not seem to know about local holidays and closings until too late to make alternate arrangements. Her information on local ports very limited.  Insufficient information concerning levels of difficulty for limited mobility guests. There were many incidents where the Cruise Director's poor information or lack of communication was detrimental. She was also very defensive when approached with recommendations for improvement.             TIPPING POLICY - The printed guidelines of Avalon suggest a gratuity of $18 per person per day for the cruise staff plus $4.50 per person per day for the Cruise Director (which would be over $7,000 in tips for two weeks!). This is outrageous and almost double the tipping guidelines of both big ship cruises and other river cruises. Obviously, with our dissatisfaction, we tipped accordingly. Unfortunately, many others may have been scammed in to believing Avalon's policy is the norm. This was an indication of Avalon's attitude towards its guests, where form over substance was important.             In summary, we enjoyed the cruise because of the great ports and our ability to independently tour them when necessary, as well as meeting some lovely and congenial people, who shared our feelings. Given the cost of the cruise at more than $700 per couple per day (without airfare), next time we will think about using five star hotels and land based tours so that we can have more control over our travel experience. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We started our trip with 4 nights in Berlin, a highlight of our trip. Berlin is a fabulous city and anyone interested in reading my very detailed trip report can find it on Trip Advisor and Fodor's - title is "Four Fabulous Days ... Read More
We started our trip with 4 nights in Berlin, a highlight of our trip. Berlin is a fabulous city and anyone interested in reading my very detailed trip report can find it on Trip Advisor and Fodor's - title is "Four Fabulous Days in Berlin". We took an early morning train to Frankfurt to meet the ship. Our designated meeting spot was the Westin Grand. Here there was a hospitality room where we left our luggage and carry on. The cruise director, Nancy, was there along with some other Avalon folks. There was light refreshment available but we were anxious to explore Frankfurt so just checked in, dropped our stuff and headed out. This was our first time in Frankfurt and we frankly did not care for the city. We grabbed a map and set out to see as much as we could in 5 hours. The streets in the pedestrian area had a lot of trash and were just not as nice as what we have come to expect in Germany. We explored, had an ok lunch at Cafe Mozart and headed back to the hotel. Avalon transported us to the ship around 4pm. It was a short ride and the check in process took just a few minutes - a sign of what was to come. We were escorted to our category B cabin, located at the very end of the passenger cabins. The cabin was very modern, immaculate and thoughtfully designed with great storage. We quickly unpacked, settled in and headed out to explore the ship. This was our first river cruise and it was much as we had anticipated though the ship itself was actually nicer than we expected. Colors and fabrics gave it a rich and luxurious look and we found it delightful! It did not take long to check out the facilities and we decided to head back and shower and head to the welcome party. The party was nicely done and we had the opportunity to chat with other guests and meet the crew. Lovely canapEs were served, along with champagne. A welcome talk included some general info about life aboard the Affinity and at the conclusion we headed to the dining room. The dining room was lovely and the only disappointment was that we could not find a table for two. Since we had reviewed the videos on their website, this came as a surprise to us and we do enjoy a table for two but such was not to be on this sailing. We joined three other couples and enjoyed what was to be the first of 5 very nice dinners aboard. The menu had two choices for each course and two standard selections as well. I had emailed ahead that I follow a low fat, low cholesterol-eating plan and they worked with me to provide dishes prepared without fats and sauces, which were fresh and tasty. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with a good choice for most folks but a bit more of a challenge for me as there no eggbeaters or egg whites available for breakfast. I opted daily for fruit and smoked salmon and the occasional slice of turkey breast when it was offered. They offered a small salad bar at lunch, which is what I had when we were not in port. We did dine in port as often as possible in order to enjoy the German foods we have come to enjoy over the years of travel there. My husband and everyone I spoke with just loved the food on the Affinity. Everything was prepared fresh and was served hot. Quality was excellent overall. Fresh fish was available nightly and I enjoyed each of the varieties offered. Desserts were also a big hit with everyone at our table but I will leave that for others to review, as I did not partake. Our itinerary was: Miltenberg-Wertheim Wurzburg. Excursion to Rothenburg Bamberg Nuremberg Of these we most enjoyed Bamberg and Wurzburg, followed by Miltenburg and Rothenburg. Nuremberg was our least favorite except for the fact that we had the most time there and were able to stay out as long as we wanted. We only took the included tour in Wurzburg, which included the Residence and was lovely - our tour guide was excellent! In the other cities, we grabbed a map and headed off on our own to explore, as that is what we prefer. Avalon did a great job with organizing, with providing as much detail as was needed and in taking care of the various needs of the guests. There were some who were very active and another component that used walking sticks and had to go at a slower pace. Though there not always tours available for all abilities, as we had expected, no one was left behind and the quality of their shore program was very good as were the guides we met. We were quite late getting into Bamberg and they quickly rearranged their plans and had the ship stop before we reached the port - buses were there to take us into town. We ended up only having 3 hours there but they did extend our departure time as much as possible to allow us that. Happy hour was offered nightly and was quite popular. We were so impressed with the staff of the Affinity overall and especially David at the main bar, Dan the Hotel Manger and Claudio in the dining room. The service overall was very personal and professional and so much better than the rushed, impersonal service we have come to expect on mass market cruise ships. Entertainment was minimal as expected. The house piano player, Vasco, was enjoyable and played every night in the main bar. One night they brought a zither player aboard and on another the crew joined the guests for carols and Santa came to visit. That night was the most fun as everyone got in the holiday spirit. There was a small fitness center, which made keeping up with basic cardio workouts possible. The beauty salon also stayed quite busy. The aft lounge offered coffee and tea throughout the day. Fellow passengers came from as far away as Australia and Hawaii and most were quite friendly and personable. There were three young girls aboard who were very well behaved and who seemed to enjoy their experience. Downsides for us were short times in port and the "dead" time when the ship sailed during daylight hours. While I am sure many enjoy relaxing on vacation, when we are in Europe, we really are interested in our destination more so than downtown. Some improvements that Avalon could make in my opinion would be to provide robes in the rooms for guests and more choices for those of us who need to watch their calories on vacation. Otherwise, my husband and I really enjoyed the Affinity overall and made some wonderful new friends over the course of the cruise who we are staying in touch with. For us, that was a real bonus! We love Germany and especially over the Christmas season. We left the ship in Nuremberg and headed by train to Munich for a couple of days after the trip, which was a perfect finish to the trip. I can recommend Avalon and the Affinity for those looking for a very good quality experience overall. The staff was exceptional and we plan to return, this time knowing what to expect. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
My wife and I have been celebrating 40 years married this year and our final holiday was our first ever cruise. We mostly travel fully independent and had doubts over cruises as being not our thing. The Avalon Affinity trip from ... Read More
My wife and I have been celebrating 40 years married this year and our final holiday was our first ever cruise. We mostly travel fully independent and had doubts over cruises as being not our thing. The Avalon Affinity trip from Basel to Amsterdam has been a very pleasant surprise and we both enjoyed the overall holiday. It has confirmed to us that a ship of 140 or so passengers is enough for us and we will avoid large ship ocean cruises. The crew on the Affinity are first class and a daily pleasure to be with. The food overall is very good but not fine dining,.this is not a criticism,feeding 140 people 3 times a day is hard work,but far better we imagine and having spoken with fellow passengers on the Affinity they tell far superior to cooking upon an industrial scale for 3000 ! At 61 and 63 my wife and I found ourselves in the youngest 10% on the ship so it would not be for the under 50`s. The organised tours each day made my wife and I feel too controlled so we chose which to avoid and do our own thing,which was fine. Using the Affinity as our floating hotel was fine with us and some of the organised tours could be taken up without tagging along with the guide and the constant delivery from a script,no offence meant,it was just not for us. The night life on ship was great a hard core of say 25 of the guests danced every night to Laslo on his piano or Hammond,we had a great time. The bar staff are all fantastic and the restaurant staff likewise. The ship is spotlessly clean throughout and the cabins and maids top drawer. We have stayed in hotels at 4 star that are not a patch on the Avalon affinity experience. We would use Avalon again for a different river cruise and have no hesitation in recommending friends and family to use them and the Affinity team in particular. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
This is the second small ship we have cruised, with the first one being on the Yangtze River in China. That was wonderful, and I believe it was the same cruise line, but different ship. Let me begin with the positive...the room/bath was ... Read More
This is the second small ship we have cruised, with the first one being on the Yangtze River in China. That was wonderful, and I believe it was the same cruise line, but different ship. Let me begin with the positive...the room/bath was the best we've had on a ship...mostly because of the roomy, full-sized bath. The ship was modern and nice, although a bit sterile feeling. Having said that, the food was lousy and repetitive (had risotto at least four times at different meals during the first two days!), and the staff were rude and unfriendly, with few exceptions. The only friendly staff on board was the cabin stewardess, two bar servers, the chef, and the piano player. Everyone else, including the cruise director, were unfriendly to different degrees. You could tell that most crew members were tired of working and wanted to go home. I won't said that cruise line again, although perhaps other ships would be OK. This was certainly not! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
The Avalon trip from Amsterdam to Basil which departed on September 10 started out with the welcome cocktail party of cheap sparkling wine ( one glass per person) and this set the tone for the cruise. Anytime Avalon could cut corners they ... Read More
The Avalon trip from Amsterdam to Basil which departed on September 10 started out with the welcome cocktail party of cheap sparkling wine ( one glass per person) and this set the tone for the cruise. Anytime Avalon could cut corners they did from the old canal boats they used for the Amsterdam canal cruise with windows that were so cloudy you could not see out of half of them to the worst free wine with the worst dinners. The facilities on Affinity were OK but the large cupboards in the top deck rooms were half taken up with the air heating/air conditioning system, the mini bar, the safe and the extra blankets. The crew work hard trying to make the passengers as comfortable as possible and trying to meet their needs with what they have to work with, specially the bar staff. The dinningroom service is about average for a medium priced restaurant but not for a top cruise line. The waiters/waitresses were looking after to many tables which caused some long delays. Now to the "Five Star" dining: breakfast was buffet and not bad, good selection but selection of fruit lacked, lunch was also buffet with a reasonable selection to choose from for the most part, dinners lacked any sign of quality with the standing dinners being the same chicken and fish from the daily menu with a different sauce and the daily menu was completely devoid of real meat with the only beef being "rump roast" one evening. Lobster night was a piece of lobster the size of your thumb cut in half lenght wise so it served two people and the sauce had been on it so long there was a skin on it. For what people pay for this cruise they should have the best of steaks, which we never say, and the best local wine available not the worst. To say the least I was disappointed in Avalon as I have gone on other European cruise with another cruise line(Viking)and they have much superior food and wine. Even the chief commented "I did not think that you people would want so much meat" The evenings in the bar were great with the same 10 to 20 people there every night enjoying them selves and the company of people from Australia, USA and Canada. The Captain needs to take ship handling 101 again as he hit both sides of every lock at least 10 time and bent one of the props when he hit the rock near a lock entry. This caused noise and vibration through out the ship. The Engineer even had divers go down to check the damage but said"Everything is OK" ? I wrote to Avalon expressing my dissatisfaction and they did not even give me the courtesy of a reply. I tell everyone that asks about the trip "Don't go with Avalon" the dinner will turn you off to the whole experience. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
transfer to ship-- We spent 3 days in Vienna before we took a cab from our hotel to the to the hotel where we were to meet and then transfer to ship. Avalon staff greeted us at the ship and showed us to our cabins. Our luggage arrived ... Read More
transfer to ship-- We spent 3 days in Vienna before we took a cab from our hotel to the to the hotel where we were to meet and then transfer to ship. Avalon staff greeted us at the ship and showed us to our cabins. Our luggage arrived soon after we had boarded. The passengers were mainly from Australia and England , a few Canadians and a few Americans. Everyone was very friendly even tho many of the Aussies came in a large group who knew each other. Probably most of the passengers were traveling with other people they knew. Cabin-- Our cabin was very efficient. It was clean with nice bedding and a robe and bottled water for our use. Our luggage fit under the bed. ( 2 larger pieces and 2 carry ons. The bathroom was very modern with plenty of storage. The closet held all of our clothes without a problem. The television worked and there were a large selection of movies to choose from with no additional fee. We enjoyed the patio doors which opened up to a railing as there was no balcony. They allowed us to have a spacious area to view the passing scenery. Food---Breakfast and lunch were both buffets which were excellent as there were many choices. For breakfast a chef was making omelets and for lunch the head chef made pasta dishes. Dinner was not as impressive. We think this was because the kitchen is quite small. Service at dinner was very slow at times. We ate with various passengers and we would comment on the slow service. Another time we were at a table for 4 and I ordered the fish and the other 3 a beef selection that they were not able to cut up nor eat. There was fresh fruit cut up and sliced for breakfast and slices for lunch. There was always whole fruit at the buffets and fruit in the back coffee area. Wine was freely served at dinner while coffee when asked for did not arrive so gave up ordering. We usually left with out coffee in evening and went up to the lounge area to the coffee machine. I am not a wine drinker and enjoy coffee with dinner or with dessert. I know I am in the minority as most everyone including my husband enjoyed his wine. In the lounge they would have 2 for 1 drinks and we would have drinks before dinner and listen to the cruise directors presentation on the next days activities and port. The bar tenders were very efficient. It was interesting to sit and talk with people from other countries.The 957 mile cruise went through 66 locks which very interesting but caused a few restless nights because of the bumping and positioning in the locks during the night. Our cruise experienced 2 days of low water levels leaving Passau on the way to Regensburg and Nurnberg. We were bussed around the two days, lunches included with beer and wine and returned late in the evening to the ship. The ship moved with no passengers (weight) in the low level water during this time. We were kept informed by the cruise director who was in constant contact with the ship's captain. Our tours were handled seamlessly during the low water period and the cruise line refunded one tour we missed and gave the passengers a free tour for our patience. We found out at the end of the cruise that Globus, the parent company, was busy arranging hotels if the ship was unable to continue. I was aware this could happen from the message boards but fortunately the worst did not come about. Overall Impression: Saw a lot of history, sights and great people. Tour guides were outstanding and the individual hearing pieces allowed for all the details on tour. Tour buses were excellent, new and comfortable, with great drivers. Avalon was my choice because of the Globus association should the river cruise turn into a land excursion. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We had never experienced a river cruise before, so we read everything we could in preparation for our April trip aboard the Avalon Affinity. We selected the Amsterdam to Basel route on the Rhine for a variety of reasons. Amsterdam was ... Read More
We had never experienced a river cruise before, so we read everything we could in preparation for our April trip aboard the Avalon Affinity. We selected the Amsterdam to Basel route on the Rhine for a variety of reasons. Amsterdam was one place we really wanted to see during tulip time and it certainly did not disappoint! We flew into Amsterdam, arriving on a Thursday morning and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast on the Prisengracht canal, The Posthoorn. Built in 1600, it has 3 rooms each with private bath and breakfast delivered to your room in the morning. It was wonderful and the host was outstanding. The first day we toured Anne Frank's house (only 2 blocks down the street) and took a canal boat tour. Purchasing tickets online was really smart as the line was very long. Friday was our "flower day" as we went to the FloraHolland auction in Aalsmeer and Kuekenhof. The auction was amazing, we rode the local bus from Centraal Station, but you have to go early as they shut down by 11:00 a.m. We then took another bus to the airport to catch the Keukenhof express bus. Keukenhof was beyond amazing. The weather was perfect and the flowers were unbelievable. I tend to take way too many pictures, and I took 500 just at Keukenhof! Saturday was our day to wander around Amsterdam. We visited the Amsterdam museum and the Bloemenmarket. Sunday, we left our luggage in a locker at Centraal Station and visited Zaanse Schaanse before retrieving the luggage and heading to the ship. Our first impression of the Affinity was as expected, beautiful. The crew were very friendly and check in took all of 2 minutes. We opted for a lower level cabin to save the $$$ for the next cruise and it was fine. We had two windows at what my husband termed "duck level", but worked for us. It gave us light and we could still see out, just without the french balcony. The cruise was just wonderful, we enjoyed each port very much. We visited Cologne, Koblenz, Rudescheim, Mainz, Heidelburg, Breisach, Strausbourg and Colmar. Walking tours of the ports usually took about an hour and a half and the guides were very good. We took the optional excursion to Colmar and highly recommend it. Like most cruises, you don't have enough time at each stop, but it gives you a little taste and helps you decide where you want to return to visit. We thought the food was excellent and the crew was friendly and seemed like a close team. We were especially impressed with the captain, who seemed to pitch in anywhere help was needed. He was even carrying bags out on disembarkation day! The river cruises are much more relaxed and casual than ocean cruises and it is easier to get to know your fellow passengers and the crew. The highlight was cruising thru the Rhine Gorge. It was freezing cold and windy and we were the only ones brave enough to be on deck the whole afternoon, but it was worth it! We thoroughly enjoyed our first river cruise and highly recommend Avalon. We had absolutely nothing to complain about and look forward to our next one! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2012
Since I am a well traveled person and research my trips before I go this was certainly a big disappointment. My travel agent touted this as a good cruise. However, the food was mediocre and the specials at breakfast were not ... Read More
Since I am a well traveled person and research my trips before I go this was certainly a big disappointment. My travel agent touted this as a good cruise. However, the food was mediocre and the specials at breakfast were not "special". The service at meals was awful. I had to ask for a Sprite 4 times before I got it. At one meal I and two other ladies were the last to be served even though we ordered with everyone else. During the first night and subsequent nights where there were cocktail parties. I, as a non-drinker, was not able to get an alternative such as a soft drink or juice to toast with everyone else. I feel I paid for this. I also thought I should be able to get cappuccino in the dining room. When I appeared in the dining room for lunch and dinner there was no one to greet me or help me find a seat. As a SINGLE TRAVELR I had to go from table to table to see if there was a vacancy. I found this to be very humiliating. They advertised free Internet. This I count on to conduct business while I am gone. I even brought my own computer. There was no service during more than half the trip. One of the passengers said they thought there was no service contract in Belgium. When disembarking they called a taxi for me. It cost $25 for a shorter trip than my arrival which was $8.00. The trip was to be special with a tour of Keukenhof. These are the gardens and fields that one sees in photo brochures with stripes of many colors of tulips EXCEPT we arrived a little too late and portions of the fields were cleared away and just dirt was left. My main objective for the cruise was not achieved. Another tour stop, "Floriade" was an exhibition that occurred once a every ten years. The guide dumped us at the gate and disappeared without much of a clue as to what the highlights were. This was also disappointing as it was mainly commercial displays most of which were not very interesting. Personnel who cleaned the room did a good job. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We had a great direct flight from Atlanta to Zurich and then 10 minutes van ride to Avalon arranged hotel at Movenpick Hotel. Wonderful hotel with good restaurant and easy access to trains to go downtown to Zurich. Spent 4 nights there to ... Read More
We had a great direct flight from Atlanta to Zurich and then 10 minutes van ride to Avalon arranged hotel at Movenpick Hotel. Wonderful hotel with good restaurant and easy access to trains to go downtown to Zurich. Spent 4 nights there to see Alps and other sights with a distant relative being our special guide. Then took a nice excursion with Avalon on boarding day to Mt Pilatus and Lucerne. Sadly the top was socked in, but still a great trip and got to know 12 other couples pretty well before boarding. Took us from excursion directly to ship. Our bus broke down, but they handled it seamlessly. Lucerne is great. Our suite (one of 4 on Affinity) was great. Also close to back lounge which has a great 24/7 coffee machine and snacks.All meals were great with ample selection options and super friendly staff. Breakfast was a nice buffet with fresh fruits/cereals/eggs to order/cheeses/ and always a special. Lunch also a buffet with specials. Dessert always included 2 flavors of home-made ice cream. Dinner is served to you and you select from options -- always have some attractive options and free wines and Beck beer on tap. You decide where and with whom you eat - great way to mingle and meet great new people - a real high light. Entertainment was limited as expected, but always fun. Famous zither player, a talented accordion player, fantastic electric violinist -- never expected I would like that. Wonderful night in Vienna with a great show with Viennese waltzes played by talented musicians in a beautiful setting. We also loved Salzburg and Sound of Music tour, Heidelberg, and Durnstein. All villages/cities were fun. 70 locks on this trip.Cannot think of any town/city we did not enjoy - fun to just walk around. My wive, a talented pianist, enjoyed Salzburg and Vienna with emphasis on music and insights on Mozart. Return flight thru Charles de Gaulle was a bad experience and with 90 minutes, we still almost missed our flight. Will try to avoid this in the future. Overall, we would sure use Avalon again. Our cruise director was very dedicated and helpful Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise with Avalon. There were about 130 passengers - American/Canadian/UK/Australians and New Zealanders. The size of the boat and flexible dining, made it more personal and we enjoyed meeting a very wide range ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise with Avalon. There were about 130 passengers - American/Canadian/UK/Australians and New Zealanders. The size of the boat and flexible dining, made it more personal and we enjoyed meeting a very wide range of people. The hard working crew and our outstanding cruise director made the best of some difficult circumstances when low water levels and a complete closure of the river near Frankfurt (due to the construction of a new bridge) for more than 24 hrs resulted in some major changes to the schedule and a delayed arrival in Amsterdam. Not all of the contingencies worked but most guests seemed to understand and appreciate the huge effort made to try to offer alternatives to the schedule and ensure everyone got to see what they wanted to see. Most days had an included walking tour of the port of call and a good range of optional tours (varied in cost). Guides ranged from good to excellent. Reasonable free time was allocated although the nature of group touring limits flexibility. We now have a long list of beautiful villages and cities in Germany that we would like to visit again. The ship is very well maintained by a diligent multi-national crew. Our room was compact but well appointed and housekeeping were very attentive. The bathroom was small but adequate. We found our beds and bedding quite comfortable. Storage was not a problem given that we could slide our suitcases under the bed once unpacked. The in-room TV had a good range of channels as well as an impressive range of movies (some selected for their connection to the areas we were travelling through) Public areas on the ship were very comfortable although we did find the back lounge stuffy on very hot days. (It was unseasonally warm in Europe during our visit - so this wasnt the ships fault) Self-serve tea/coffee and biscuits were available 24/7 from the back lounge as well as a good range of books and board games. Meals on board were very generous and consistently of a very good standard given the challenges of preparing 500 meals a day in what was a extremely tight kitchen (guests were given a tour of the kitchen by the head chef and it certainly made me appreciate the challenges they face). Breakfasts included a regular range of continental and American style items with a cook who did eggs to order and (most days) there was a "special" dish available on request. Most days, champagne was available free of charge to those who wanted it. Lunches included a good range of items although we did find the buffet arrangement and layout a little cramped and chaotic in busy times. Alcohol could be purchased but softdrinks were complimentary. Dinners were a 4 or 5 course "restaurant" style with choices available for starter, main (I think the Americans called this their "Entree") and dessert. Wines and Beers were included with dinner and a wide range of cocktails/beer/wine and spirits were available in the bar lounge at other times. I am genuinely surprised by other reviewers who have been so negative about the food on the Avalon Affinity. It certainly wasnt our experience - we were very well fed and thought the kitchen and wait staff did a terrific job. Entertainment was limited but fine. (Anyone expecting those glitsy caberet/Las Vegas style performances should book a mega cruise line in the Caribbean). There were two computers and a printer available for guests in the foyer with internet access and although free wifi is available, being satellite, it was patchy and at times unreliable. But - we were on holiday for goodness sake - so if it wasnt working we tried again later! We were very impressed with the skill of the crew in navigating more than 60 locks and at times, quite heavy river traffic. The occasional bump in the night when going through those tricky locks is to be expected. Vessels navigating the European river systems are limited in size to fit under low bridges, into tight locks and through stretches of river that are quite shallow at times. Therefore you wont find an olympic size swimming pool, a casino or a 500seat theatre on the Affinity Guests should not expect the same range of facilities provided by the mega cruise boats - this is a different type of cruise - more intimate and relaxed - and we were very satisfied with our experience on the Avalon Affinity. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
What can I say that "Lorri1962" hasn't already said? We had a wonderful time and met many really great people. Rather than repeat what she said, go read Lorri1962's review, I agree 100% with it. It was very ... Read More
What can I say that "Lorri1962" hasn't already said? We had a wonderful time and met many really great people. Rather than repeat what she said, go read Lorri1962's review, I agree 100% with it. It was very peaceful and quite on the top deck, late in the evening, while sailing through the canals waving to the campers on shore with their bon fires blazing. No noise from the engines or exhaust fumes either, and because of our speed and the calm waters the Affinity made no noise to speak of. One could have a very quite conversation in the very warm air. Daytime temps in some places were about 36 degrees C. It was almost like cruising down the river on a cloud, with bar service. I think the cruise line did a fantastic job considering the issues presented to them. The water in the Danube was low enough that when we went through the Danube Gorge (on a tourist, tour boat, not the Affinity) I could see the bottom of the river. In fact we were told that the water was so low , the previous day, the gorge tours had been cancelled. The captain also mentioned that in some spots the water under the keel of Affinity was about 12 inches. At one point the Affinity had to off load fuel, to lighten its load (while we were on a shore tour) to pass a particularly low spot (high spot on the river bottom?). The other major challenge for Captain Van der Lea, was the bridge under construction at Frankfurt, which further delayed us, as we couldn't pass. Ships were lined up at various locks waiting for passage, which also added to the delays. Even after passing Frankfurt, there were delays as a result of all the ships backed up at the locks. The Captain, actually turned the ship around, in the middle of the narrow canal, and headed back to Frankfurt (about 20 minutes) so we could board motor coaches to take us to the Rhine gorge. Reported waits were up to three hours. Sylvia, the cruise director was wonderful at dealing with unexpected situations and coming up with work arounds that made it seem as if nothing was amiss. In fact we got to see the Rhine gorge twice. Once during the day, from a local tour boat, which also included an unscheduled stop to tour Rheinfels castle, and then, after rejoining the Affinity, a sail past at night, where we could see the castles lit up by lights. The initial tour sheet indicated only a sale past of the gorge in the morning, with an on board narration. We used motor coaches to speed ahead of Affinity, do the tours, and then return back to Affinity which had been sailing towards us, as we toured. While Affinity was forced to follow the waterways, the buses could take short cuts. Because of all the time we lost with the Frankfurt bridge, we had to bypass Cologne, which was an included stop/tour. The goal was to get everybody to Amsterdam, in time to make their connections. As it was Sylvia made arrangements for motor coaches to take us from Dusseldorf to Volendam (242km), and then to Amsterdam (for the included canal cruise) because at our current speed we would not make Amsterdam by river, until almost midnight. With the included canal cruise, free time in Amsterdam was 45 minutes, before we had to return to the ship. It was supposed to be the better part of a day. We rejoined Affinity at the last set of locks, for the final sail into Amsterdam a few hours later. We made Amsterdam about 20:00hrs. The original program had us in Amsterdam in the morning for breakfast. Every evening we had three main entrees to choose from, one veggie, one fish, and one red meat. The wine and beer was gratis and made for very enjoyable conversations with many people from all over the world. Monika waited on us well in the dinning room and was always smiling and attentive. Victoria did an excellent job of caring for our guest room. She seemed to have magical powers to appear, do the work, then disappear, without us knowing she had ever been there. We did love the towel art, it was better than we normally see. Petya at the front desk was spectacular, remembering our names, and room number after only a few days, so that every time we went to get a shore pass, she automatically new what to give us. Not to mention that she seemed to have a 6th sense for reading our minds when we were asking for other information. She always seemed to have the answers before we completed the request. Some locks can be claustrophobic, with the ship having only 24cm clearance on each side of the vessel, and at the bottom of a lock with an 80 foot displacement, it does look overwhelming sometimes. Complaints; From me, nothing. Others complained about trivial things, like only one chair in a guest room, not two, or the size of the hooks on the back of the doors, two duvets, instead of one. All the rooms, except for the suites are around 172 sq ft, not a lot of room for a second chair. The little hooks work really well with coat hangers. Personally, I like two duvets, there's no fighting for the covers. Some people on the upper decks complained about the AC not being effective, when the sun shone on their side of the ship. Please note that this is a feature that you pay extra for. Those of us in the basement, (partially below the waterline), had no such problem. LOL General stuff; Rooms (ours anyway) are wired for 220 volts 50Hz, European style receptacles. I did not see anything in the room, for 115 VAC. Hair dryer supplied. Mini Bar fridge has room for your own beer (well two .5 liter bottles anyway, tested and proven). The white wine chilled nicely on the horizontal AC duct, grills Bath robes and slippers supplied. Forward facing camera, available for viewing, on in room TV Only ever saw two people in the fitness room. The included room safe is small, Playbook fit fine, maybe even a iPad, but probably not a laptop. Two for one happy hour most days. Keep your head down when passing under bridges on the canal, in some cases I could reach up and touch the underside of the bridge as we passed under it, and that, from a seated position. Average age was 55 plus. If you get left behind while on a tour, (yes you "Frank") the tour director will hunt you down like a Aussie Blueheeler, sheep dog, and get you back to the flock on board the ship.LOL Most memorable on board moment, was passing under, within inches, a bridge, and turning around to see the captain steering the vessel, in the now retracted wheel house, standing in the skylight, and ducking to avoid hitting the bridge with his head, while wearing a sombrero. Embarkation and disembarkation went remarkably easy, no security checks, no passport checks, no immigration, nothing, just drop your luggage at the pickup point, board and go (well they did check your name off a list). Oh and by the way, there are no lifeboats on a river cruise boat, from any cruise line we saw on the river. There is one small motor boat, which made me think of the Costa Concordia, perhaps only for the........ Well I asked about that and was told that the canals are only 4 meters deep, that's just over 12 feet. In other words, there isn't enough water to sink in. The small motor boat was used to wash the windows on the lowest deck, and probably to pick up guest that fall over board. We have been on many ocean cruises, and this was our first river cruise. We had pushed ocean cruises to the bottom of our vacation to do list, and generally lumped all cruises together, down at the bottom. But after this river cruise, we have now placed river cruising at the top of our vacation list, while leaving ocean cruising still at the bottom. Certainly the entertainment is not that of a major cruise liner, but we were here to see Europe, not dancers in fancy costumes. We most likely will be sailing with Avalon again, but to be honest, we haven't tried any other river cruise lines. Bring lots of memory sticks for your camera. Between the wife and myself we snapped 2700 pixs and videos this trip. Sorry for the long delay in posting this report, but I had to do my personal trip report and slide show first, of which this is a small subset. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
After reading some of the reviews for Avalon River cruises, my husband and I just hoped we were not throwing money away! What a pleasant surprise The Avalon Affinity was! The stateroom was small but most of the staterooms are small ... Read More
After reading some of the reviews for Avalon River cruises, my husband and I just hoped we were not throwing money away! What a pleasant surprise The Avalon Affinity was! The stateroom was small but most of the staterooms are small compared to our own bedrooms. We had a French balcony and the storage in the stateroom was great! The bathroom was small but the glass doors on the shower made up for the size! How nice not to have a shower curtain flapping at your legs! We were close to the upper lounge so my first chore of the day was to get coffee for us out of the machine located in the lounge. It wasn't room service but it was nice to have while getting dressed. Also available in the upper lounge was cookies, fruit, hot water, tea and ice. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. At breakfast there was always a 'egg man' to cook what you wished each morning. Lunch always was different and a pasta was always available along with ice cream! Dinners were wonderful and made to order thus sometimes it took a while to receive your entree. There were always 3 entrees to choose from, 2 soups and several deserts. We ran into some problems with the cruise due to low water levels and bridge closers but out TOUR DIRECTOR, Sylvia made the trip even better as we had extra tours with lunch to make up for the slow travel on the rivers. Sylvia was the best and truly made our trip the best.We did have to give up the optional excursions in Amsterdam but she made sure we had a great day anyway. The weather was HOT for the first 8 days then Germany became what I had always remembered from the late 60's, cloudy and pleasant with rain in Amsterdam. I would with out hesitation recommend the Avalon Affinity to my friends and neighbors. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2012
Pre-Cruise and Embarcation: We started our Cruise on the Avalon Affinity with an overnight in Zurich, and stayed at the Moevenpick airport hotel, which was a good choice, since the bus transfer to the ship left from the hotel. The hotel ... Read More
Pre-Cruise and Embarcation: We started our Cruise on the Avalon Affinity with an overnight in Zurich, and stayed at the Moevenpick airport hotel, which was a good choice, since the bus transfer to the ship left from the hotel. The hotel was easy to reach from airport, with a great buffet breakfast in hotel included in price of room. All hotel personnel were helpful, professional and pleasant. We enjoyed a nice lunch on their patio while waiting for tour bus to take us to Basel for departure. There was a meeting room available for waiting and luggage storage prior to boarding the transfer bus, and the hotel had carts for the luggage. The bus trip to the ship was short and comfortable, taking about an hour. Ship Comments: Once on board the Avalon Affinity, we checked out our room: We had one of the Suites, and it was very nice, with plenty of space for luggage and clothes and a great bed, but looking back we're not sure it was worth the premium over the regular room. The room safe was small and in a dark corner of closet, which made it hard to find small things and to read the instructions for passcode setup. The bath area was very good.and had adequate water pressure in the shower at all times and no shortage ever of hot water. There was plenty of storage available there, also. Our housekeeping attendant was wonderfully compulsive and the room and bath were always spotless. WiFi was available on the boat, but frustrating to use, necessitating multiple log on and password entry attempts each time for every device. It was reasonable fast for text, but horribly slow for photos. There were the usual English language European TV channels with an additional movie channel on a nicely placed flat panel TV, though we rarely watched anything. European plugs were plentiful throughout cabin making recharging of all electronic devices easy-but bring a Europe/US adapter.Food: There was a good breakfast buffet daily. Lunches were buffet style with a variety of pasta, salad, meat and dessert options, though the choices grew monotonous during the trip. Poor food placement stations for lunch resulted in gridlock amongst the diners, and long waits for the food. Dinners were always sit down and slow paced -- usually it took about 2-2.5 hours to eat. Food level we felt was barely cafeteria quality, though often artistically presented. Fish dishes and bread were extraordinary disappointments, and eventually we skipped them entirely. Regional wine was poured with dinner at no charge, and there were usually 2-3 wine choices per evening meal. There was never a charge for the house wines poured in the evening, though any wines at lunch were always extra. Beverages and pastry for early risers was available most days in the lounge and a coffee/cocoa/hot tea machine in the aft lounge was available 24h. There was no provision for room service. Itinerary: Our trip looked lovely in the brochure, but it became apparent after the first day that it was not designed for any type of independent exploration nor to offer any chances for off-boat dining in the wonderful cities where we docked. It was common practice on this trip to disembark in the morning often far from the advertised city, get on a bus, to be transported into the city, then return for lunch by bus to the ship (which had now moved further along the course of the river), then board another bus at another point and drive for optional afternoon excursions, then meet up after another bus ride to the again moved boat. With one exception, (Bamberg) it was never possible to enjoy a lunch in any of the towns visited. Only in three towns (Miltenburg, Wertheim and Durnstein) did we dock close enough to the center of the village that we could walk about and return to the ship at will. Otherwise, you were totally at the mercy of the bus schedule for transport to and from the ship, and there was always only one departure time.Added Cost Excursions: We took a wonderful optional trip to an Alsatian wine producer and then got to explore the beautiful town of Obernai.. I could also recommend the Danube Gorge excursion and the all day trip to the Salzkammergut lake region of Austria. We also chose the Vienna evening program for a concert, and though the audience was mostly other river cruisers, it was most enjoyable. I think we were lucky in our excursion choices, because our fellow travelers had varying experiences with the other tours. Please note you have no flexibility in the tour bookings-- once you sign up, you are charged, even for reasons of illness or bad weather. Annoyances: Depressing, dirge-like sail away music- every time the boat moved. Maps handed out were the worst for any shore excursions we have ever seen. Often the position of the docked boat was not included on the map, nor was the site of the return bus pick up ever marked. Major local sights were often omitted from maps, as were major areas of shopping interest. Daily activity programs were often incompletely described and frequently inaccurate. We felt the tour director was disorganized and aloof. Room safe was too small for an iPad or a laptop . Suggested gratuities at the end of the trip were in our view excessive for most of the services provided. In summary, if you want a very regimented tour with the security of all meals on the ship, the company of English speaking fellow senior travelers, and passive touring with furnished guides and busses, this is your tour. However, we grew rapidly weary of the continual early morning tour departures, and perpetual bussing to city center sights, when a different docking location would have provided easy in-town walking access. Overall,for us this trip was a huge disappointment, and a poor value. It was a much less satisfactory experience than another tour we took along a similar route in 2009 with a less expensive company. In my opinion, this tour did not deliver an upgraded experience for the significant extra cost.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
I have read some not so complimentary member reviews about Avalon Affinity so I was concerned that I may not have selected the right river cruise. However, I soon discovered that my fears were unfounded. Our cruise began in Vienna, a ... Read More
I have read some not so complimentary member reviews about Avalon Affinity so I was concerned that I may not have selected the right river cruise. However, I soon discovered that my fears were unfounded. Our cruise began in Vienna, a wonderful city to explore. Avalon provided a transfer from the Intercontinental Hotel and check-in for the ship could not have been easier. No lines, not hassles. We had a reception in the main lounge on embarkation day where the cruise director, the captain and hotel manager all introduced themselves and told us what to expect during our cruise. Our stateroom was very comfortable... about the same size as those on ocean-going ships with a very modern pleasing decor. We especially enjoyed the french balcony and free wifi. While the wifi connection was complementary, the connection to the satellite wasn't always very robust. The memory foam mattress toppers made the beds extremely comfortable. We appreciated the L'Occitane bathroom products provided. Nice touch. The ship was spotless, with modern European style. Our ship accommodated about 134 passengers with a crew of about 35. So everyone got to know everyone else. We met some wonderful people from various parts of the world. Dining was open seating with buffet for breakfast and lunch. There are freshly prepared eggs/omelets for breakfast and a carving station at lunchtime in addition to the other buffet items. Dinners were served open seating with a 5-course meal each evening. Main courses usually varied from beef, fish and a pasta or vegetarian offering along with 3 always available items - salmon, steak and chicken. I found the meals to be very good with very nice presentation. The wait staff varied in its efficiency depending upon who served a specific table. But I've found that on large ships as well. Alternatively a "light" breakfast and lunch are also served in the main lounge. The cruise director held nightly port talks about the towns and cities we were going to visit the following day. While there is no show lounge like on large cruise ships, we did have some light local entertainment on board several nights. The itinerary was very busy with a port (sometimes two) every day. We visited Melk, Grein, Passau, Regensberg, Nuremberg, Bamberg, Wurtzburg, Miltenberg, Rudesheim, Cologne and concluding in Amsterdam. We were on the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. Overall, the crew was wonderful and very attentive. The atmosphere on board is very relaxed. We did not find anything to complain about... on the contrary, the entire experience was just wonderful. We would not hesitate to sail on Avalon again. It truly exceeded our expectations. A word of caution... If you like large, busy ocean-going cruise ships you may not like a river barge. It is very different from a cruise ship experience. This is not a cruise for children. There are no triple/quad cabins. But I can tell you that after having sailed on 40+ ocean cruises, we are hooked on river cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
River cruises are very popular and even though I was booking the trip in November to travel in July, almost everything was booked up. So I found an Avalon combination package, that included 2 days in a hotel in Vienna and Budapest, at ... Read More
River cruises are very popular and even though I was booking the trip in November to travel in July, almost everything was booked up. So I found an Avalon combination package, that included 2 days in a hotel in Vienna and Budapest, at either end of the cruise, plus three days on the river traveling from Vienna to Budapest, with stop in Melk and Durnstein, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia along the way. We added on two days at the beginning in Vienna, and I wish we had done the same in Budapest, so the trip was 9 days in total. The included hotels were Intercontinental hotels in Vienna and Budapest. I was very happy with the hotels in both cities, and a really nice breakfast was included in each. The Intercontinental in Budapest was particularly well located, right at the foot of the Chain Bridge, with an outdoor eating/drinking area right along the Danube River. It was a wonderful place to be. The stops along the way were beautiful, and the tours offered by Avalon were very good and innovative. We took a great tour of the Baden resort outside of Vienna before we boarded the ship, took in a great musical performance in Vienna, did a bike tour of the Wachau Valley in Durnstein and took the Jewish and Communist tours in Budapest. There were many different types of tours for different interests. I've taken a number of ocean cruises and this was my first river cruise. The two are completely different, each having its advantages and disadvantages. On a river cruise, there is much less of a life aboard the ship. On the other hand, there is always a beautiful view as you go down the river, and our evenings were spent mostly up on the top deck taking in all the beautiful sights. The only real disappointment was the food. I thought the quality and selection of the food was relatively poor. It was sort of like eating at your grandmother's house if she were a bad cook. On the ocean cruises, dinner was an event to be anticipated and savored, but on this cruise, it was more something to be endured. The staff was very friendly but at dinner time, they were clearly overwhelmed and service was slow. There were too many courses of low quality food, and fewer courses of better quality food would have been far preferable. Even the salads were terrible, and the dressing appeared to have been watered down. Two other things surprised me -- that there was no drink service offered on the top deck (which required us to keep going down to the bar to get our own drinks), and that the choice deck on the ship was a smoking deck. All in all, it was a great trip and I would definitely do it again, but I would hope to find some better food options next time around. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
We know the French go on strike as a sort of national pastime, or when they get bored; but no one was prepared for a strike by the German Lock Masters. Since this trip up the Rhine and across on the Main River, the Main-Danube Canal and ... Read More
We know the French go on strike as a sort of national pastime, or when they get bored; but no one was prepared for a strike by the German Lock Masters. Since this trip up the Rhine and across on the Main River, the Main-Danube Canal and the Danube River involved over 50 locks, this problem severly disrupted our itinerary. Of course Avalon cannot be blamed for this, and they responded as well as they could, but the final days were mostly river cruising without stops, and this disappointed everyone. However, to proceed with the review. We started with a five day sojourn in Paris, a city we had never visited. We will leave our comments on this part of our trip to the end, since this is a cruise review. We do note that we went to Basel, Switzerland, our embarkation port by French train, a TGV Lyria Premier "Piccolo", that made it in slightly over three hours, hitting 320 kph on some stretches. This was far better and more comfortable, as well as cheaper, than struggling out to CDG to fly. We have some advice on using the rail system. First, if you are hauling cruise luggage, take the lower deck so you won't have to haul your bags up to the top level. Next, when you go on line to get tickets, and they ask for your country of origin DO NOT put in the USA - choose someplace like Australia. It will be cheaper. I don't know why, but it works that way. We were required by Avalon to telephone them after 8:00 A.M. on the embarkation day to find out where in Basel Affinity was docked. The directions from the first person to answer the phone were incomprehensible, so my wife took the phone and asked in German. Someone else, I believe Helmut the Cruise Director, gave her the correct and simple address. The cab to the pier from the Basel train station was very expensive compared to Paris taxis. When we arrived it was at a semi-industrial area on the Rhine. We had been told that we could not board until 4:00 P.M., and it was then about 1:30. We explained that by no means were we going to take a 45 euro cab ride back to Basel and pay the same amount to get back to the boat, and that we were not going to sit in the sun on the pier. After some heated negotiation, we were allowed to sit "no moving permitted" in the lounge adjacent to the front desk. Avalon could have showed better initial flexibility and customer relations. We were later joined by two other passengers, Karen and Penny, who were also early arrivals and sent to join us. Eventually other passengers started to show up so the four of us were released from detention and paroled to our staterooms. When we arrived there, our luggage was waiting, and, overcoming the less than welcoming embarkation, we started to settle in. We believed then and believe now that Avalon should have displayed more sensitivity and discretion in dealing with its paying customers; but we were resolved not to let that color the entire experience. The Boat Despite the Cruise Director's claim, Affinity is of course a boat, not a ship. The locks limit the width of all boats and barges to approximately 36 feet. The low bridges limit the height to three decks, with the lower deck being partially below the water line. Several river cruises earlier this year were stopped en route because heavy rains raised the water level to a point where the boats could not pass under some of the old bridges on some European rivers. (There are boats cruising exclusively on the central prtions of the Rhine that are not so limited.) In any event Affinity is quite attractive and well designed even though it is 4 years old, almost ancient among the rapidly growing body of River Cruise boats. Basically it has two decks forward (about 45% on the length) and 3 decks aft, all in addition to the almost entirely open sky deck. The lower forward deck consists of the main dining room and the kitchen. The second forward deck holds the lobby, front desk, Cruise Directors desk, an internet station with two computers, the bar and main lounge, and an open forward deck area with a few tables and chairs for forward viewing. The lower aft deck has eleven passenger cabins, all with windows rather than the open balcony doors found on the upper decks. The remainder of the space is occupied by the crews' quarters and ship equipment. The second aft deck is almost entirely staterooms, all identical. The far aft portion is used for the laundry and perhaps other housekeeping supplies. The third aft deck has more staterooms, including the four suites. In addition there is another small lounge area aft, with the library, a 24 hour coffee station, about 30 or so chairs with tables and a small open view deck overlooking the stern with eight or so chairs. There is also a hairdressers' room, which we did not investigate or use. The sky deck is reached by several outside stairways, aft, midships and forward. It houses the pilot deck/navigation bridge, which can be lowered a few feet if needed to get under bridges. This occured many times during the trip. There are deck coverings which can be raised, and a small hot tub. Staterooms There are 69 staterooms; 65 of them identical in layout except that the 11 on Deck 1 have windows. All the remaining 58 staterooms, including the 4 suites, have sliding glass doors opening to the water, with railings, for what is called a "French Balcony". The standard cabin is not large, 172 square feet, but this is a size more typical of a riverboat; and is quite adequate. The walls are a nicely finished white surface. There is a queen sized bed, which can be split into two single beds for those wishing it. Night stands are on either side and there is a convenient bullet lamp on each side which can be focused on a book for in bed reading. Opposite the bed is the desk set up, with one chair, a vanity mirror, several shelves and a mini bar, and over them all at one side, a flat screen TV. Next to this table arrangement is the closet, also with shelves and a wall safe. The bathroom has a corner shower, single sink and toilet. My wife and I found it all quite pleasing and perfectly satisfactory. As usual, we had no trouble storing all our clothes and other supplies. We did wonder how some of our substantially overweight fellow passengers would be able to maneuver in the shower. The only time we were on a cruise where we did not have adequate space for either sleeping or storage was on Viking's Clara Schumann for our initial river experience. We were able to explore one of the suites after almost everyone except for us had debarked. There is more furniture and a larger bathroom in the 258 square feet provided, and they are quite nice. Dining Everyone wants to hear or read about the food on cruises. It is not totally fair to compare river boats to ocean ships. The size constraints of these boats are fixed by the heights of the bridges, the depth of the various rivers, and the size of the locks which might have to be negotiated. Therefore the number of food items offered, and even their preparation, is quite limited. We were provided with a tour of the galley, and all were astonished that the meals we were served could be prepared in such small quarters. Only dinner was served by the waiters; breakfast and lunch being buffet style. The principal difference between this boat and a cruise ship for breakfast and lunch was the number of items being made available on the limited sized buffet station. There was less fresh fruit at breakfast, and while egg preparation was provided, side dishes were fewer. The same thing was true for the lunches, several hot offerings and a hot meat carving station was available, but fewer items were provided, and the desserts were limited; although, like all the pastries on the ship, they were quite good. Also at lunch, precisely one-half hour after the meal started, an assistant chef appeared carrying the ice cream choices of the day, which he served with grand flourishes. Generally speaking we both found the breakfasts and lunches well prepared and satisfactory. We were less enthusiastic about the dinners. My wife found very little to enjoy in the daily vegetarian offering. We might have put this down to a European lack of familiarity with this type of meal, except that there were at least two restaurants in Vienna (one closed for vacation, one other that we ate at) which had a number of vegetarian options). There were at least two major entrEe offerings that simply should not have been on the menu, because the kitchen was not capable of the preparation involved. One was a sauerbraten and the other a goulash; both traditional German/ Austrian dishes. Both however require special preparation. My wife marinates the meat for her delicious sauerbraten for at least a week. And goulash requires extensive slow simmering. Neither were applied here, and the Austrian Chef admitted to my wife, in German of course, that the sauerbraten was not close to the real thing. We also felt that Avalon should have provided additional wait staff, because the waiters had too many tables and passengers to attend and service was rushed and had occasional lapses. All the waiters were cheerful and friendly, and they poured the complimentary (at dinner) wine freely, but the service was somewhat erratic and very slow at times. By way of comparison, on a scale of 1-100; I would rate Crystal at 98, Oceania Marina at 97, Oceania Insignia and Celebrity at 94, Princess at 91, HAL at 90, Royal Caribbean at 87, NCL at 80 and Avalon and Carnival at 85. As a kind of post script, we should note that twice, when we would be ashore for lunch with no way to return to the ship, Avalon handed each shore bound passenger 15 Euros to buy lunch locally. We found the amount more than enough, but perhaps this was because neither of us have large hot meal lunches. But it did meet Avalon's claim that it provides all meals. No cruise ship does this. The Crew First and foremost, the Captain was amazing. He seemed quite young for his position, and obviously was in great physical shape. He was everywhere, seemingly at all times, doing everything, from manhandling the gangplank to hauling passengers' luggage, to guiding the boat through many difficult locks and past other river boats and barges on the various rivers. At one point he, and the captain of another Avalon Boat going in the opposite direction pulled up together so we were almost touching and could exchange handshakes and greetings with the passengers on the other boat, while our captain climbed across to greet the other captain. He was always cheerful and upbeat despite the concerns raised by the lock masters' strike and doubts as to when we could move and where we could go. We were told that the captains, and presumable all, the "sailing" crew, did not actually work for Avalon, but for a separate company that contracts out their services. Apparently only Helmut, the Cruise Director was an Avalon employee. When we were docked in Vienna for the last night, and most of the passengers had gone to a concert ashore, I saw the Captain wheel out a bike and take it along the Vienna pier side area for a well-deserved bit of relaxation. The Cruise Director, Helmut, from Vienna, had an extremely difficult cruise to manage, due to the strike. He was required to be in frequent contact with Avalon's home office in Switzerland, relating to them the information about the delays we would face (obtained from the Captain, I imagine), finding out what remedies Avalon could come up with and transmitting that unhappy information to the passengers. He tried to be as positive as possible in presenting the information and the options, but it was a thankless task. Some passengers complained about him, but I do not see how else he could have handled situations over which neither he nor Avalon had any control. He did seem to enjoy chatting in German with Edith, since apparently no other passengers spoke German. Of course the Austrian chef and perhaps some other crew members did also. Some of the more difficult problems arose from the fact that after he was able to send the passengers off to visit a town, there were often upsets to the plans, again caused by the strike, concerning where they would meet the boat to re-embark. This involved Helmut communicating with the bus drivers and making sure they could find our boat. One time the drivers almost got lost, and then had to drive the huge buses down very narrow small town streets to a pier which had never seen a river boat dock there before. The townspeople were delighted with this new show! All in all, I am sure Helmut and the Captain both breathed huge sighs of relief when we docked in Vienna. I have no idea how long the strike continued, but at least Affinity's next stop was down the Danube, not back to Germany. Our cabin steward, Petor, was excellent, working very quickly, and getting our laundry back the same day, a very big help with the clothing we had worn in Paris. The Dining Room waiters were friendly and pretty good, but I believe that even just one more would have allowed a much less hectic pace of food delivery for everyone. The front desk staff was cordial and helpful, although not particularly outgoing. And as noted, they were extremely inflexible when we arrived. A course in customer relations would not be wasted. The Hotel Manager was cheerful once the trip started, and we had gotten past our arrival issue. The Voyage We had a slightly delayed start since apparently there had been a small transportation problem for some of the passengers coming from Zurich. In addition, we were told that 21 passengers had missed a flight connection at JFK, and would be joining us the next day in Strasbourg. Fortunately, they made it, and their number included a family group of 13! Strasbourg Our first stop was Strasbourg, France, in what was once known as the Alsace-Lorraine. It originally was French, was taken over by Germany as the result of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, restored to France in 1918 after WW1, retaken by Germany in 1940, and returned to France in 1945. It has some mixed architecture and language as a result. During WW1 the British, in an excess of patriotic zeal, decided to change the name of the German Shepherd breed to "Alsatian". We first visited by an open river tour barge, since part of the city is actually an island. This gave us a unique view. We then returned to Affinity for lunch and went back to town for a guided walking tour in the afternoon as well as some free time. We used the system now followed by all river boats. We were divided into groups of less than twenty and given headset earphones and a control box. Each guide had his or her own frequency for their group. The control boxes had different colors so we could get together with our guide, and the white colored group was always for "gentle walkers". This worked out quite well. We had used it on our Viking Elbe River cruise, so we knew how it functioned. There were three optional tours at this stop, all requiring additional fees; unlike the mormal tours which were included in the cruise price. These were to the Black Forest, The Alsace countryside with wine tasting and the Maginot Line. I know there were some Black Forest takers, but I am not sure about the other offerings. When we re-assembled around 6:30 for the port talk for the next day, we were advised of the strike problem, without too many specifics about how we would be affected; except that we had to leave Strasbourg immediately and would not have the local on-board entertainment as planned. We also had the mandatory safety lecture which, as on Viking consisted of mostly saying that if the boat started to sink, go on the sky deck and you will still be dry as the boat rested on the river bottom. Heidelberg The next day was spent entirely on a Heidelberg visit. This involved a bus trip of about an hour or so each way. We first visited the castle above the town, and then were pretty much on our own. This was one of the stops where we were provided with 15 euros apiece to supply our own lunch. We did pretty well with that. Heidelberg is a town of about 150,000 and had been untouched by WW2. It still is a university town, with the historical legend of having students duel in order to get "fashionable" dueling scars. None were evident on our visit. Nor did we see any "Student Prince" singing in a local tavern. How neglectful of tradition is the present generation! It is a very attractive city nonetheless, with lots of older buildings and churches. Wertheim This is a comparatively small river-side town, and we enjoyed an easy stroll. It was apparently untouched by any major war damage, and still has a great many medieval structures. We returned to the boat for lunch, and the galley tour. This was a quiet day. Wurzburg- Rothenburg Wurzburg is noted for its extremely ornate and large Bishop's Palace. It is also a very pleasant town, and our guide, who actually was born in South America, was amusing and informative. In the afternoon we went to Rothenburg, a small and beautiful city, somewhat inland. It still has its medieval wall. We walked through a tower gate in the wall out to a beautiful grassy area with a view of a lovely valley. We then took our guide's advice and walked a section of the wall by ourselves. We were rewarded by another beautiful view of the grass lawn outside the tower gate where we had been. We also saw a nice cat in front of her home. This was the only cat we saw on our entire trip, although Paris, Germany and Vienna have plenty of dogs. This visit would have been one of the tours for which there was a charge, but Avalon made in complimentary because of our loss of other stops. Kitzingen-Bamberg Kitzingen is a small, attractive river-side town where we strolled for short time in the morning. It was not listed as a stop, but we were glad we had the chance to see it. We then went to Bamberg which truly has many amazing buildings dating back to the 12th century. Bamberg is definitely a city to see. Once again we had an excellent guide. The only drawback was that the bus trip was about an hour and a half each way. That night we were treated to a "show" by the crew, which even involved the captain. Pretty corny as one might expect, but fun nonetheless. One of the acts was a juggler, and he was pretty good for an amateur. Nuremberg This also involved a bus ride and an all day visit. Nuremberg is noted for the War Crimes trials, but one cannot actually see the courtroom, only the building and the attached jail. We disembarked the buses for another 15 euro lunch, which turned out well since we found a place with their specialty -excellent small sausages; (well excellent for me anyway). Back on board we were told that the strike would prevent our stops at Passau and Regensberg. We were offered the option of remaining on board to sail to Vienna, with possible stops at Melk or Salzburg; but no promises in that regard - or disembark the next morning with luggage to travel by bus to Munich, spend one day there and the following day go by bus to Vienna, an all day trip. We then had a lecture on beer, followed by beer tasting of four different types. The balance of the trip. While a number of people originally thought they would go to Munich, most felt that, since one of the main pleasures of cruising is not packing and unpacking, they would remain on board. So, the next morning only 11 people left. Helmut had planned on going to Munich, but since so many were remaining on board, he did also. The next two days were spent on the river, with only one brief stop where we could get off and stretch our legs. We did not stop at Melk, nor were we able to have a side trip to Salzburg. We had visited Melk before and also spent two days in Salzburg on another trip, but we felt sorry for the people who had planned on enjoying both the beautifuly cathedral in Melk and the charms of Salzburg. It was during this stretch that we saw Avalon Expression on its trip from Budapest to Amsterdam. We pulled up together and exchanged greetings and handshakes, while the captains visited. It had started with 168 passengers, but had only 60 remained as the rest took the bus option offered rather than face the lock delays and cancelled stops. Vienna We arrived in Vienna on Saturday morning as scheduled. We had time for a one more tour, spending most of the day in Vienna. Our guide was somewhat elderly, but she did lead us to a great casual place for lunch, the Rathsberger, just off the main pedestrian street near the Statsoper. We also ate there for lunch the next two days. While there one of our fellow passengers suggested that we visit the Albertina Museum. Vienna was very hot, in the 90s, and we knew the Museum would be refrigerated. We were absolutely delighted with the exhibition then being held, of many late 19th and early 20th century artists, including Manet, Monet, many Picassos, Klint etc. We had a most enjoyable time, and it was very near where we caught our bus back to the boat. That night many fellow passengers opted to go to a concert in town. This was an additional charge, and we had seen one of these concerts on a prior trip. They are staged solely for tourists, not serious music lovers. The orchestra members are dresed up in late 18th century outfits with wigs etc. The music is largely from the Johann Strauss family, with perhaps one or two Mozart pieces. All the more serious musicians from Vienna are at the Mozart Festival in Salzburg in July; so we decided to skip this show and use the time for more leisurely packing. Some of our fellow passengers were forced to get up very early in the morning the next day to make their flights, but we were content to be among the last to leave since we were staying on in Vienna for two more nights, and did not want to arrive at our pension too early. Our taxi ride from Affinity to our Vienna residence took only about 15 minutes and was not expensive. Our cruise was over. Entertainment River boats are limited in this area, and we lost two entertainment offerings scheduled, due to the strike. These would have been local entertainers, but early sailing times prevented their appearance. We did have one musical evening (not counting the on board pianist) and this was a German zither player named Tommy Temerson, who was quite enjoyable. Edith chatted with him afterwards and was pleased to find out he knew, and had played in her home town. There were three lectures, all given by local educators, on history and the locks, and they all were knowledgeable, pleasant and worthwhile. Passengers As usual, the majority of the passengers were American, but there was a very large contingent of Australians aboard, I believe 4 from New Zealand, a few from the UK and and some Canadians. There were five or six young people, from early teens to early 20s, which surprised us a little. River cruising seems to offer more opportunity for socialize with fellow passengers, perhaps because we are always seeing people we recognize and with whom we are more apt to have shared dining times. Overall impression River cruising is different from ocean cruising in many ways. The small size of the boat, the much smaller passenger and crew size, the frequent stops, the guided tours, the limited entertainment, are only part of it. The peace and quiet of the rivers themselves make for a more relaxed overall experience. As noted earlier, it seems much easier to get to know ones fellow travelers and spend time conversing. The lock situation on this trip was a problem, but not enough to ruin the trip or make us regret it. Many of Avalon's amenities, free internet, free wine at dinner, the complimentary Rothenburg trip, and the overall effort to work with a very difficult problem made us believe that this is a good cruise line. We would recommend it as a way get to know countries in depth and in a much more personal way than from a large cruise ship. Pre-cruise Paris We spent 5 days in Paris, arriving on July 13. We stayed at the Hotel St. Jacques in the Latin Quarter portion of the 5th Arrondissment on the Left Bank. It is an excellent three star hotel, which fortunately has refrigeration, since the temperature was in the 90s for our stay. We have posted a review on www.tripadvisor.com. This was our first visit to Paris, and we loved it. Bastille Day (July 14) the big National Holiday, was rather frantic, and no one can possibly see what Paris has to offer in a short period of time, but we had fun. The Metro is marvelous, fast, efficient, clean, frequent. There is a website - www.ratp.fr - which not only provides maps, but has a system which shows you how to get from station to station in a marvelous way, covering the metro and bus lines, giving choices for the fastest route, the route with the least walking and the route with the fewest connections,and a map with clear directions. We had three great dinners; La Cuisine de Phillipe, Le Berthoud and Le Tournebievre, all reviewed also on Trip Advisor. We ordered Louvre tickets on line, and that got us in pretty quickly at 9:00 A.M. The Musee D'Orsay is also marvelous and there are many others. We found everyone friendly and helpful, especially since I tried to speak French as often as possible. Unfortunately, when they answered in French, I was often lost. Post cruise Vienna We had spent a week in Vienna in 2008 inorder to see Wagner's 4 opera Ring Cycle at the Statsoper. We stayed then, as well as on this trip, at the Pension Suzanne, also reviewed on www.tripadvisor.com. The only problem this time was that it is not refrigerated, and Vienna reached close to 100 degrees. We made do with a fan, but there are few shops that are refrigerated, and not all restaurants are either. That aside, Vienna is a marvelous city, with wonderful sights, stores museums etc. It also has great music, but not during July or August unfortunately. We mentioned the Rathsberger Restaurant, which is a buffet, and a very good place for a well prepared, very reasonable lunch. We ate at one rather unique place, the Wrenkh-Weiner Kochsalon, which had an excellent vegetarin dish for Edith and a marvelous trout for me. It is reviewed also on Trip Advisor, and is highly recommended. It is quite convenient, as it is close to Stephan Plaz, which is immediately in front of St. Stephan's Cathedral in the center of the pedestrian part of the Innerstadt, cwhich, as it sounds, is the center of the city. Vienna has much to offer. All in all we spent three weeks on this adventure, and while we were tired after our long flight back, we felt that the overall experience was well worth while.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
we are in our early sixties and my wife is retired and I am transitioning into retirement. This is our first river cruise and we did not know what to expect. the results? would we do a river cruise again? absolutely! there is no experience ... Read More
we are in our early sixties and my wife is retired and I am transitioning into retirement. This is our first river cruise and we did not know what to expect. the results? would we do a river cruise again? absolutely! there is no experience like the peace and solitude of sailing down a great river especially at dawn or dusk or as we experienced in the rain. would be cruise Avalon again?maybe if there was A good deal to be had. Would we go in another cruise line? absolutely. the pros: Avalon was extremely well organized and professional.Everything went like clockwork, the tour guides were probably the best we have ever had. And the service was impeccable. the cons: principally, the food fell short. While you can't do much to ruin a breakfast, which was ample with omelet stations, fresh breads,juices, etc., the lunches and dinners did not come up to what one would expect from a cruise of this cost. The entrees were tasteless affairs, portions small,thrown together. essentially, the food was good enough to satisfy ones hunger but not once during the whole week did I nor anyone else in my group have a WOW moment from anything that was served.disastrously, the ice cream was terrible, having been frozen and refrozen; most of it had ice shards in it. One waited to go ashore to buy ice cream from a street vendor that was ten times better than what was serve in board. To be fair the included wines were perfectly acceptable to us so unless you are a wine lover there is no need to buy the expensive drink package. Another con while the ship was kept spic and span clean, the furnishing were also nothing to write home about . Functional Danish moden no frills communist era issue.you do not get the understated elegant feel that you do on Celebrity.Lastly and least importantly the linens left much to be desired, the towels really threadbare and cheap. Again, a good solid experience, but I am curious to look elsewhere for my next river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
We considered a river cruise on Avalon on the recommendation of friends. We do not like ocean cruising, too many people, we like to see places and not spend days at sea. This seemed to suit our criteria. We spent 3 nights in Paris before ... Read More
We considered a river cruise on Avalon on the recommendation of friends. We do not like ocean cruising, too many people, we like to see places and not spend days at sea. This seemed to suit our criteria. We spent 3 nights in Paris before flying to Vienna and we had booked into the Intercontinental Hotel for the night preceding embarkation. The hotel was nice but I can't say too much about it because we got there late at night and checked out at noon the next day. In between, the room was very comfortable, breakfast buffet extensive, ATM available in the hotel and in a good location to head out and explore the city whilst waiting for Avalon to take us to the ship. A tour desk was manned early in the morning to provide information on tagging and leaving luggage for safe keeping etc after checking out of the hotel and a room to wait with tea, coffee and water provided for cruise passengers. Quite a few gathered in the hotel bar to wait and this was a very pleasant environment to begin our cruise. Embarkation was professional and slick after being transported through Vienna by motor coaches. The ship is clean, well maintained and comfortable. We had booked a stateroom on the Indigo deck which has a window and not sliding balcony doors. Were we sorry that we did not have a balcony, not at all. We found that we were not in our stateroom very often, we were either ashore or in the foreword or aft lounges enjoying a 180 degree view of the scenery and not just of one side. The bed was comfortable, shower pressure and temperature great, plenty of storage and it was great to kick the empty suitcase under the bed and relax. I did the optional tour to Schonbrunn Palace. Well organised, and for those who went to that in the morning they could go on the included city tour in the afternoon and didn't miss out. In Durnstein we went on the included guided tour through the picturesque town and then headed off for Melk. The included tour of the abbey in Melk was good. In Grein, which was a small place we decided to go off on our own for a brisk walk and ended up at Greinburg Castle just on opening time. For €5 each we explored the castle long enough to give us time to make it back to ship before it's departure. Delightful morning. On returning back to the ship from tours there was tea or hot chocolate waiting. Others on board had taken off on 2 optional excursions and there would possibly have been only 1/4 to a 1/3 of passengers left onboard. That is what we came for, the experience of gliding along the the river relaxing. It was exactly that with fewer people at lunch and in the lounges. Not that anyone got on top of each other when everyone was onboard, but it was nice. Next stop was Linz and we took off to explore on our own again armed with a map provided by Avalon. We saw another castle, explored churches, window shopped and generally soaked up the atmosphere of strange city. The people on the excursions met up with the ship in Linz. Onto Passau. I did the guided tour on my own and window shopped in a very charming place on my way back to the ship. We did partake of afternoon tea this day and there were sandwiches, a very nice cake plus tea and coffee. At Passau we disembarked and in lieu of going direct to Munich we took the optional excursion to go via Salzburg. This was worthwhile as Salzburg is quite charming and was an opportunity to try a cuisine of a different country. Our luggage came with us and we checked in at our hotel in Munich seamlessly. The dining on the ship was good and the kitchen did well in what I can only assume is a cramped space. It's not fine dining and it's not what we expected. But the food was good and the crew attentive. My husband doesn't drink and a couple of glasses of wine with dinner is all that I want. So we didn't have a drinks package. The stateroom was cleaned and turned down everyday/night and a chocolate left on our pillows. We didn't use the lounge very much after dinner and so can't comment on the entertainment. The fitness room was well fitted out and I did use it once, but the hours between 7am and 10pm did not suit and we grabbed every opportunity for brisk walking when ashore. The Sofitel in Munich is a wonderful modern hotel, refurbished from being a former Post Office. It is next door to the main (I think) train station in Munich. Some would possibly say not in the best location but we didn't think so and after dining on 4 course dinners for the past 5 nights opted to try some fast/street food at the station. We had Bratwurst with mustard in rolls and Doner kebabs. The Doners were very good and we waited in line with Bayern Munich supporters to purchase these. If the locals think they are worthwhile lining up for, then that's good enough recommendation for us. The breakfast at the Sofitel is one of the best that we've ever had all over the world. The room was great except we needed a few more days there to work out all the switches, being that modern. It was in a good location being only a short walk from the tourist/ shopping area. Included was a guided tour of Munich the next morning along the same lines as Vienna. The first part in a bus and then walking with a tour guide. This was good and even though we were only walking distance from the Sofitel, a bus was provided at 2 and 5pm for people to catch should they wish. I opted to tour the Residenz on my own that afternoon even though the weather was beautiful outside. After that we had a delightful late lunch at Ratskeller Restaurant in a central position of the tourist area. Next day was a long day visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, Oberammergau and Linderhof Castle. The countryside and attractions did not disappoint and we had a very, very good meal in Oberammergau when we stopped for a break. We had not booked a transfer to Munich airport prior to the cruise and the Tour/Cruise Director arranged this for us. We and our luggage were picked up at the appointed time and taken by coach with 4 others to our relevant terminals. There was an Avalon representative who came with us to ensure that there were no hiccups. All in all, would we recommend river cruising and Avalon. Yes very much so. Avalon were excellent, really couldn't fault anything. The passengers were mainly 55+ and US citizens. The younger couples onboard wouldn't have felt out of place though and mixed with the older passengers. The 2 dining nights at each of the cruise which were a bit more special, only required a collared shirt and pants other than jeans really. The only thing that we were sceptical about was whether we would like being in the company of others most of the time, but there was opportunity to be social and other opportunities for quiet time. We would do it again as it really was relaxing.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
Others have described the boat in detail, so I'll only add the differences that we experienced. Another couple in their 60s and my husband and I booked suites, combination land-cruise, so 4 nights in hotels and 4 nights on the boat. ... Read More
Others have described the boat in detail, so I'll only add the differences that we experienced. Another couple in their 60s and my husband and I booked suites, combination land-cruise, so 4 nights in hotels and 4 nights on the boat. When we arrived in Budapest to stay two nights in the Intercontinental, we were told that Avalon had booked city-view rooms for all passengers, no upgrade for those who booked suite accommodations, this was the same at the Hilton in Vienna - extremely disappointing. I give full credit to the Intercontinental for upgrading our room to a river-view, very good of them. Avalon charges quite a bit to upgrade to the suite, especially for only 4 nights on the boat, but not in the hotels. I should add that our travel agent said that tried to find out ahead of time if we had hotel upgrades, but Avalon would not answer this question. I asked the Avalon rep on the ship if we would be upgraded in Vienna and she said that she could not find out the answer to this question. For those who were arriving in Budapest, they had to find their luggage in the lobby. The Hilton in Vienna delivered the luggage to our room. Boarding the boat was very organized and bags were delivered promptly to the room. The suite was very comfortable with plenty of storage and a large marble shower and bathroom with L'Occitane toiletries, very nice. A basket of fresh fruit was in our room on arrival. The wifi was available throughout the ship, including our cabin, but was slow at times when I suspect that many people were on the internet. The food was generally good, the seafood and beef were much better than the pork and the 'local' chef cooking was mediocre. The dining room was very loud. There is very little noise attenuation, metal ceiling, metal partial divider, carpet on the floor. My husband has tinnitus and we both had difficulty hearing in the dining room. The musician who was onboard was very good, played keyboard, sax, guitar, sang well. The Bratislava musicians were excellent. The night with the crew entertaining was disappointing, through no fault of the crew - not sure if all river cruises do this, but I certainly have not seen this on ocean cruises. We highly recommend the excursion called 'A Sleeping Beauty', Cesky Krumlov is truly a fairytale town and the bus ride there and back to the ship goes through beautiful farm areas. The locks and the elevated canal were very interesting. October 2013 was quite cool and rainy, but we expected that and it didn't affect our activities. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We chose to do a Rhine River Cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. It could not have been more perfect. Our cruise was "The Rhine and Moselle" which is several days longer than the basic "Romantic Rhine" ... Read More
We chose to do a Rhine River Cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. It could not have been more perfect. Our cruise was "The Rhine and Moselle" which is several days longer than the basic "Romantic Rhine" cruise. The entire experience from booking the cruise to airport shuttle at the end of the cruise was was wonderful. We flew into Amsterdam on the first day of the cruise. We found the local reps at the airport who walked us over to our bus whereupon we were delivered to a hotel within a short walking distance of the center of Amsterdam. We had a large meeting room in which to relax while waiting for boarding time. This was a good time to start meeting others in the group. My wife and I chose to walk into the town center which is maybe 3/4 mile away. An easy walk. We returned to the hotel and were shuttled to the ship, which was docked right behind the hotel. We did not sail that night because a canal boat tour of Amsterdam was included the next morning. We sailed about lunch time that day. I'm not going to review all the stops along the way other than to say that every 'port of call' was lovely, with INCLUDED local tours every day. It was much like taking a tour by motorcoach except that you bring your hotel along with you. It made for a very pleasant,, no worries, experience. We were very fortunate with the weather. It was a bit cold for the first three days but it then started warming up. Cool mornings and mild, sunny afternoons. Several days were forecast with 70%-80% chances of rain but they never materialized, other than maybe a very light, brief sprinkle. Our Cruise Director, Karolein, was a treasure. Extremely knowledgeable, hard working, funny. She took care of every detail for us. The captain was a soft spoken, easy going guy that could do stand up comedy on the side. The two beautiful ladies at the reception desk, Bea and Oana, were a joy to work with. All of the restaurant and bar staff were friendly, charming, and very helpful. We especially liked working with Shady, Constantine and Michael in the lounge. They also acted as bartenders in the dining room at dinner time. We always sat at Ovi's table at dinner. He was a very attentive and graceful server. We always had breakfast in the dining room, a light lunch in the lounge, and dinner in the dining room. The food was amazing in all respects. Seven or eight choices of entrees each night as well as a selection of starters, soups and desserts. We had a top notched Chef on board. Unlimited wine and beer is included with dinner. There were four selections of included wines each night including at least one from the local region. I am very much into wines and I found them all to be excellent. They were not stingy with the pouring, either. There is a Happy Hour in the lounge each day with half price drinks. Apparently, they have recently changed their policy because you no longer have to order two of the same drink to get their "2 for 1" special at Happy Hour. All drinks are simply half priced. The cabins were smallish but no smaller than the average cabin on ocean going cruise ships. We opted up to the second floor, mid ship. All cabins on decks two and three have "French balconies." Not a balcony that you can go out on but you have large sliding glass doors that give you the open air feel of a balcony. We enjoyed this very much. The bathrooms were larger than most cruise ships and there is a real glass door instead of a thin plastic curtain that tends to stick to you. The beds had memory foam mattresses and were extremely comfortable. There are four suites on the ship but a quick inspection showed that, other than a very small sitting area, the suites didn't seem to be much bigger than the other cabins. Entertainment on board was limited to a quite talented,resident pianist/guitarist who played in the lounge during lunch, happy hour and after dinner. There were a few outside entertainers who came on board some nights. One standout was a wonderful singer. She did ten songs representing ten nations of Europe- in the original languages. It was a great show, as was a duet of two singers one night. Lots of dancing to their singing. Overall, though, people tended to retire shortly after dinner ended at 0900. We only signed up for two optional excursions: One was a German feast complete with beer, schnapps, an "oompah" band and dancing. It was a lot of fun though our "group meal" food was not really representative of the region. The other option we did was a drive through the wine region of Alsace which included a visit and free time in a beautiful, walled village and wine tasting at a local vineyard. We very much enjoyed this. Disembarkation was painless, other than having to get up at 4:30 for our 0600 shuttle. But they had a full breakfast buffet open early for us that morning. We loaded up and departed at 0600. We arrived at Zurich airport about 0715. Plenty of time for our 1010 departure. At that time in the morning we zipped right through check-in, security, etc. Zurich airport is huge and spread out so you will be glad to have the extra time Avalon allows for you. We met lots of very nice people on the ship and became great friends with two couples: Kevin and Carmel from Australia, and Gary and Lisa from Canada. (We are from Texas, ourselves.) We all did pretty much our own thing but ate dinner together every night. Great fun. All the travelers on the ship were quite nice. Well.... there always has to be "THAT GUY!" Right? By day two he was telling everyone he talked to that he was an American Express Travel Agent (from Georgia)who was "inspecting the ship" and he was very vocal about how terrible he thought the food was. He bragged about going to the kitchen "just like Gordon Ramsay" and demanding that Chef cook him something he could eat. He then criticized for that, too. He quickly became "personae non grata." No one wanted anything to do with him and even his lovely wife kept her distance from him most of the time. He rarely was seen eating meals in the dining room. It seems that he was buying bread, cheese, and lunch meet in town when we were ashore, and eating his food in his room or in the rear library lounge. He never participated in any activity. He wasn't missed. Overall, it was a delightful experience and we look forward to taking another cruise with Avalon in the near future. I highly recommend it!   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
My husband and I took our first river cruise May 30 from Basel to Amsterdam aboard the Avalon Affinity and absolutely loved it! We have done a dozen ocean cruises (and plan to do more), but enjoyed the personal style of the river cruise. ... Read More
My husband and I took our first river cruise May 30 from Basel to Amsterdam aboard the Avalon Affinity and absolutely loved it! We have done a dozen ocean cruises (and plan to do more), but enjoyed the personal style of the river cruise. Avalon was chosen based on the date we needed, but we will certainly make them our first choice on our next river cruise. The ship is tastefully decorated and very easy to get around. We had a suite which has a sofa and extra chair. The bathroom is large with a wonderful shower. We enjoyed the french balcony in the room and opened it often. Everything about our trip was handled in an expert and friendly manner. Sabine was our cruise director and was very personable and professional in everything she did. The entire staff of the Affinity was helpful, friendly, and efficient. With only 132 passengers on board, the service is very personal and everyone feels like a famly. The open seating at dinner allowed us to mingle with many people. We liked the early riser breakfast (on several mornings we brought it to the room to eat while getting ready) and the light lunch served in the Panorama Lounge was very good and plentiful. Every dinner we had was delicious with a nice variety each evening. My secret favorite - the hazelnut chocolate chunk cookies available 24 hours/day in the club lounge. Try them with a cappacino - fabulous! If you have never been through locks on a river, it is a unique experience not to be missed! Every port had a guided tour and we had good guides for all but one. There is also time to look around on your own if you like. In Strasbourg, my husband visited the Maginot LIne and I took the tour of the Alsace countryside and vineyard. We both enjoyed these trips. We also took the visit to the windmill village in Amsterdam which was enjoyable. I highly recommend the Romantic Rhine cruise with Avalon and would gladly do it again! My husband and I hope to take the Mekong cruise with Avalon in the future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2014
We just got back from our fabulous cruise on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. We sailed on the Avalon Affinity with 6 friends and everyone had a wonderful time. The crew was friendly and helpful and our cruise director Karolien was ... Read More
We just got back from our fabulous cruise on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. We sailed on the Avalon Affinity with 6 friends and everyone had a wonderful time. The crew was friendly and helpful and our cruise director Karolien was personable and always cheerful. She (and the crew) had to deal with a barge accident up river so they made last second arrangements for docking and bus transfers in the Rudesheim area and I thought it was all handled very well. The food was excellent with a variety of choices at every meal. They even brought in a local chef for one evening's meal. There were 2 tables for 8 people in the dining area and we managed to get one of those tables every evening but one, so we enjoyed eating with our group. We got to tour the galley area and they perform magic in that small area getting the food out to all 138 of us. Most evening's entertainment was Vesco at the piano but we mostly sat on the top deck and visited, enjoying the scenery. The included shore excursions with the local guides were great. They gave you a quick flavor of the town and then let you have an hour or so to explore. Karolien provided pretty good town maps each morning so you could navigate on your own. I had downloaded the iphone app "Planet Earth" so I had a more detailed map that I could access off line. All the port stops were interesting and we particularly enjoyed the castle ruins of Heidelberg and the canals in Strasbourg. Unfortunately there was never enough time in each port, but that's the nature of this type of trip. You just have to come back on your own. The highlight of the trip had to be sitting on the top deck watching the castles, cathedrals and small towns on the Middle Rhine. Karolien did an excellent job narrating along this stretch of the Rhine river and I had downloaded Rick Steves' podcast about the castles so we could follow along. We had great weather that day and most of the trip. It sprinkled a little bit one day but I didn't need the umbrella I brought. Our cabin was small but very functional with lots of storage and room under the bed for our luggage. The bathroom was very clean and nice. We were in Cabin 110 on the bottom level so we didn't have the big floor to ceiling windows that our friends did but since we booked this trip at the last minute, we were lucky to get a cabin at all. Somebody canceled the day I called. We didn't spend much time in our room except to sleep, preferring to be on the top deck. I didn't do any of the optional shore excursions and didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Some of the group did a couple optional excursions and they said they were enjoyable. Both getting on the Affinity and leaving were super easy. When leaving, we just marked our luggage with a colored ribbon and set it in the hallway 45 min before we got on our bus that took us from Basel to the Zurich airport. Our travel agent had us purchase Avalon's transfer to Zurich, which was a good idea, since the taxi was very expensive. We did not purchase the transfer in Amsterdam, the beginning of our trip and that worked well since it was easy and cheaper to ride the Train from that airport to the middle of Amsterdam, where the ship was docked. Tips: 1.We found that exchanging money with a Debit card at an ATM in the Amsterdam airport was easy and cheaper than buying Euros from my bank at home. 2.We used a credit card that didn't charge any foreign transaction fees when we bought our goodies and gifts to bring home. 3.We didn't need a "chip" in our credit card. 4. If you are buying something BIG, like an expensive clock or jewelry, you might consider starting in Zurich and ending in Amsterdam, if you want your VAT refund. You must exit through an EU country and Switzerland doesn't belong. 5. Don't over pack, it's a very casual cruise, although they did request the men wear long pants to dinner at night. 6. Upgrade your seats on the airplane, if you can... it's a l-o-n-g flight to/from the States. 7. We bought wine and beer on shore and brought it on board with no problems. We usually drank it with our friends on the top deck for "Happy Hour". Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
First River Cruise in Europe (previously did the Nile in Egypt). First with Avalon. I researched many European River Cruise companies and talked to friends and family before selecting Avalon. It exceeded every expectation. Rooms were ... Read More
First River Cruise in Europe (previously did the Nile in Egypt). First with Avalon. I researched many European River Cruise companies and talked to friends and family before selecting Avalon. It exceeded every expectation. Rooms were spacious with more storage than we could use. The L'Occitane amentities were great. The ship was spotless everyday and the crew could not have been nicer. We had a problem with our room door lock sticking which maintenance resolved. The food was excellent. Always great fresh fruit at every meal and multiple entrees at every meal. Many salads, soups, and entrees were low-fat and low-sodium, but tasted great! Chef Nemo worked very hard to ensure the meals were delicious. He even went to local bakeries to get bread and gluten-free items for passengers. Wine flowed freely at dinner and we never had a glass we didn't like. Our captain Viktor was excellent. We were really glad he was on board when we hit some low water at Konigsberg. He got us out of a really tight spot. (He must be "the guy" for low water as he had to fly down to the Danube for 2 days to help out another Avalon ship.) We enjoyed all the ports but felt that we got short-changed on Cologne and Mainz. We were at Cologne late Saturday night and 1/2 day on a Sunday so could not tour the cathedral during daylight. At Mainz, we arrived late on a Monday and the Gutenberg Museum was closed. Most churches closed before we could get inside. (Check your itinerary if these spots are important to you.) If you want to see the Ann Frank House, book the optional tour with Avalon. We bypassed all the lines! Also, Roman Trier was excellent. We heard Jewish Cologne tour was good. (We did the "regular" Cologne trip.) I would forego the Luxembourg excursion. It was boring and there wasn't much to see there and to/from. The Black Forest museum was good, although a long bus ride to/from. Great mix of passengers from Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and the US. Also 4 couples from Mexico. Not sure why they took this cruise as their English was not great. But kudos to our cruise director Isabel who worked hard to find them Spanish speaking guides, when available. We did not need to avail ourselves of the "Gentle Walkers" excursions, but these were always available for travelers. Wi-Fi was not the greatest. Lots of competition during the day. We definitely plan to do Avalon again! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
My husband and I are in our early 60's and have enjoy traveling a lot. For the past few years we have been thinking about going on a river cruise and decided this was the year, to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We chose Avalon ... Read More
My husband and I are in our early 60's and have enjoy traveling a lot. For the past few years we have been thinking about going on a river cruise and decided this was the year, to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We chose Avalon partly because of a recommendation from someone who had traveled with Avalon and partly because of the itinerary. We flew into Zurich a day early and stayed at Hotel Walhalla, which we booked ourselves. It was very close to the train station. We did our own thing for the day, enjoying the sights on a free walking tour we had read about online. The following afternoon we took the train back to the airport where an Avalon rep walked us to the hotel shuttle bus which took us to our meeting place. From that hotel three buses drove all the cruise passengers to Basel where our ship was docked. We were quickly shown to our room and our luggage arrived within 10 minutes. Our stateroom was a little smaller than ones we are used to on big cruise ships but it was fine for the two of us. We had plenty of storage space for our clothes and our two big suitcases fit nicely under the bed. The bathroom had a glass door shower which was very good and the L'Occitane bath products -- well they're my favourite anyways so we really enjoyed them. Soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and lotion were provided. The wifi worked great and it's free. I think the only time I had some trouble with it was when we were deep in a few of the locks on the canals. We found the crew to be the most friendly of any ship we have ever been on. We had an excellent cruise director in Erik. He had everything under control, held excellent port talks every evening in the lounge just before dinner, and was always happy to answer any questions you might have. I think it was the previous reviewer who said that Chef Nico would go off the ship to buy special breads. We heard he did that on our cruise too. Also, one couple told us that they were enjoying a particular drink each evening but one day they had run out, so the very next day a crew member was sent off to buy another bottle. He came back with the wrong one so he was sent out again to get the right one. Also, one day we discovered the specialty coffee machine at the back of the third deck was not working. They sent someone out to buy a new one the next day. Nothing seemed too big of a problem. We were really impressed! We really enjoyed the food onboard. It is amazing what they can produce in that small kitchen at the bow of the ship. One of our favourites was the halibut on the second night. It was moist and delicious. I had the salmon two nights and both times it was tender and moist and came with lovely sauces. Breakfast can of course become repetitive, but really there are only so many things people eat at breakfast anyways. They always had smoked salmon so I was happy. Lunch was great. There was always a hot fresh pasta, two soups, probably 10 hot items including the vegetables, at least four or five salads, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, and you could order dessert from the waiter. They even served ribs one day at lunch that we really enjoyed. One day they had a German lunch and it was very good too. Coffee/tea and cake was served from 4:00 - 4:45 each day in the lounge and oh my were those cakes wonderful. Don't miss it. Each day there was an included walking tour. We enjoyed all our guides except one. Just too much information. We found most of them walked too slow for our liking but we had to realize we were younger than most of the folks on the tour. There is a slower walkers tour offered. It must be very slow. I think almost anyone could keep up with the ones we took. I must say that these towns would not be good for anyone with a walker. Most of these old cities have cobblestone roads and sidewalks and you need to wear runners and watch your step. A couple of people had canes and they were OK. We encountered low water levels on what they called the German Danube and that day all passengers had to be off the ship for the whole day. That was our day in Regensburg. Avalon paid for all passengers to take the optional excursion thru the Danube Gorge to Weltenburg Abbey. Any who had already paid to take this excursion were reimbursed. They also gave us 15.00 euros each to cover the cost of lunch. Once again we were really impressed at the way they handled things. The afternoon carried on in Regensburg as planned. Erik came with us to be sure everything went smoothly. It was a 1 1/2 hour bus ride to catch up to our ship which had sailed through the low water without us but the scenery was lovely and we enjoyed the drive. All together we travelled through 74 locks on this cruise and one afternoon we had someone come onboard who gave a talk on the locks. It was very interesting. We even crossed the Continental Divide while on this cruise. Disembarkation in Vienna was very well planned and was a breeze. We would definity recommend Avalon and we would travel with them again should the itinerary be what we're wanting. Read Less
Avalon Affinity Ratings
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