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Sail Date: June 2019
Bucket list trip to see Budapest & Prague for my wife & I, we have taken 4 ocean liner cruises but this was our first river cruise. We arrived in Budapest the day before the cruise started & we arranged for Avalon to transfer ... Read More
Bucket list trip to see Budapest & Prague for my wife & I, we have taken 4 ocean liner cruises but this was our first river cruise. We arrived in Budapest the day before the cruise started & we arranged for Avalon to transfer us from the airport to the hotel. The morning of our trip departure Avalon had a bus shuttle us & many other passengers from the hotel to the Visionary ship. Check in went smooth and we were very pleased with the cleanliness of the ship & our cabin. The daily Happy Hour (HR) was great with drinks 1/2 off, & the service during HR was excellent & since there's only (1) bar we were able to meet new people & make friends. Overall the dining was pretty good & the service was outstanding, the entire staff went out of their way to accommodate you. I loved the sauerkraut soup but that was the only soup I liked, if I had to give a bad grade out it would be for the soups, they all tasted like potato water, & the couple of nights we had seafood it was nothing special & the desserts could have been better. We tried different wines every night and most of them were very good. Shore Excursions were very good, of course some of the guides were better than others. It was a very busy day doing the included shore excursions in the morning & then going out on (3) of the optional afternoon excursions. It was so nice that Avalon had a "gentle walkers" excursion group for those that moved slower. It seemed like we stayed very busy getting up early for the morning excursions, attending the nightly next day info meetings during HR, then dinner was 7-9, so every day we felt like we were on a schedule. I would have liked more down time cruising on the river taking in the sites and I didn't like it that we couldn't sleep with the patio door open at night due to the bright lights from going thru the river locks & waking up docked to another ship right outside our window blocking any potential view. Unfortunately several people (12 that I know of) caught the chest respiratory bug that was going around, including myself and several people we met including my wife had to seek medical treatment & were bed ridden for a few days. Maybe adding another hand sanitizer station after you walked into the dining would have helped, but this is always a concern when you have 120 people plus staff contained on a boat. We stayed in Prague an extra day & also arranged for Avalon to transfer us from our hotel to the airport & again the driver was friendly & prompt. In summary it was a nice vacation and I would do another river cruise with Avalon now that I know what they’re about, they are very accommodating & much more personable than the ocean liner cruises. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
What a fabulous trip! Ship and crew were great. I was disappointed that the top deck was closed for so long as I was planning/hoping to spend most of my time up there. I understand WHY (height of the bridges & locks) but would ... Read More
What a fabulous trip! Ship and crew were great. I was disappointed that the top deck was closed for so long as I was planning/hoping to spend most of my time up there. I understand WHY (height of the bridges & locks) but would suggest starting the cruise in Bamberg maybe? The canal from N'berg to Bamberg was less than spectacular. That would allow for more time in the cities which were all AMAZING! Bamberg, Wurzberg, Miltenberg, Rudeshiem, Bernkastel, Trier, etc....it's hard to pick a favorite! ALL picture-postcard perfect cities. Would have loved to have more time in each. Miltenberg & Bernkastel were probably my personnal favorites. Wish we could have stopped in Koblenz; looked like a neat town from the ship. Rhine river gorge was spectacular and definitely the highlight of the actual time spent sailing/cruising the river. The top deck was a great place to be in the evenings after dinner. The service was good overall, a bit slow at times when clearing the tables but we had a few newbies. Lubo, the server/bartender was the best! Great sense of humor and very fast service. Jana, our waitress most times when we could get to her section, was very good as well and adorable. The food was fabulous! Great choices and variety. I couldn't fathom people ordering cheeseburgers and fries! Americans, geez!!! Chef was awesome with a great personality. I really enjoyed the galley tour. We found it ironic that most of the free/included tours/excursions was as good, if not better, than the paid ones. We enjoyed them all but thought that some of the excursions were over priced. The free visit to the wine cellar was exceptional! We bought numerous bottles which I think is/was the point of offering it free to the entire boat. I was shocked so many people left so soon. The in-cabin TV offerings were good; really liked the GPS map w/ ship's location and front facing camera; more camera options /angles would be cool, too. A few more stations would be nice but we obviously aren't there to watch TV. Miko, the pianist, was talented and knew a wide variety of tunes. The special guest entertainers were fun, too. I really enjoyed the guy who talked about the history, state of & future of the EU, Brexit, etc. Extremely interesting to an American. He was very gracious in answering what were probably dumb questions. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze; very nice to have our giants bags lugged around for us and waiting for us when we got to our rooms! Nothing was broke or damaged!!Teach the airlines how to do it! LOL We hope to do another river cruise! It would be great if they could offer packages airfare and/or all-inclusive options. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
The Avalon Visionary is much nicer than other ships to which we had access due to the double and sometimes triple docking at ports along the way. The clean, Scandinavian aesthetics most evident in the salon were reminiscent of a large ... Read More
The Avalon Visionary is much nicer than other ships to which we had access due to the double and sometimes triple docking at ports along the way. The clean, Scandinavian aesthetics most evident in the salon were reminiscent of a large living room compared to the overly decorated, glam interiors of the other ships. The crew was delightful, the cruise director capable and the excursions and tour guides engaged were excellent. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably chose a different itinerary, though. This particular route's German ports were disappointing - it seemed as though the restaurants and shops (the small percentage that were open) were merely going through the paces and rather indifferent as compared to Budapest and Austrian ports. I wondered if those cities weren't regretting becoming ports? The locks system throughout the river are really interesting and somehow made our 'passage' more adventurous. The rooftop deck was nicely furnished with tents to shade the sun and open-air seating, and the interior gathering spots were perfect for the small-ish number of passengers. The ship had a nice selection of novels, but could benefit from Mahjong & Cribbage sets! There was a coffee station accessible 24/7 where juice and iced tea were also available (and cookies!) Unfortunately they closed the sky deck from Regensburg on through Nuremberg, which was awful. Not being able to be outside (especially in great weather) felt like a punishment! We couldn't figure out why they wouldn't put the chunky heavy outdoor seating up on the sky deck since it wouldn’t have to be removed for bridges & locks (since it wouldn’t blow away and isn’t higher than the wheelhouse) so that passengers could be outdoors ALL of the days of their cruise?! We chose our itinerary based on destinations: Budapest and PRAGUE being the two main attractions. Had we known that the cruise essentially ended in terms of amenities in Regensburg (what with no sky deck access and only the aft deck which could be dubbed “exhaust central” or a very crowded, small and ill-furnished outdoor seating area at the bow) it’s likely we would have chosen a different cruise or itinerary. Well appointed rooms and efficient bathrooms, both with plenty of storage space, feature the “panoramic” sliding glass doors with fence balcony. Though lovely, the “Panoramic” feature is only as good as the breeze outside which is all too often none, so exhaust fumes come in the room (removing the benefit of the panoramic sliding glass doors). Paying for a ship with a step out balcony (which we contemplated) would be a waste of money given the likely absence of sufficient air movement to prevent exhaust fumes from invading. Oh, and bugs. Seemed like the ship and many of its staff stopped trying on the next to last day of our cruise ... the hallways were sweaty, the food - which wasn’t much to crow about in the first place, but wasn’t bad, either - fell into the "re-tread" category. The 3 1/2 hour tour from Nuremberg to Prague recommends a vehicle with a bathroom rather than a bus used for city touring. The comfort of reclining seats, curtains to shade sun, seat-back tables and A/C vents is lost if you’re unable to relax awaiting the “comfort stop” at 1 1/2 hours. Those few criticisms aside, we had a wonderful time, Budapest being the highlight with Austrian ports equally enchanting. I would definitely cruise with Avalon again … and hope to do so in future! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
A Danube River cruise was on our bucket list, Avalon provided the perfect itinerary, and did not disappoint. Everything went smoothly from start to finish. All staff members were courteous and knowledgeable. Our cruise director Niko ... Read More
A Danube River cruise was on our bucket list, Avalon provided the perfect itinerary, and did not disappoint. Everything went smoothly from start to finish. All staff members were courteous and knowledgeable. Our cruise director Niko was one of the best we have ever had. He thoroughly explained what we could expect each day, patiently answered all questions, and never tried to "sell" an excursion. Our deluxe cabin on the highest deck was roomy and we particularly enjoyed the window wall with sliding door to watch the beautiful scenery. Our cabin attendant was charming and did a great job keeping us supplied with anything we requested. Dining was excellent. Both food and beverages reflected the country we were visiting, a big difference from our many ocean cruise experiences. Service was friendly, efficient and added to the enjoyment of every meal. Each of the ports we visited was a new experience for us. The shore guides were all locals who lent a genuine touch to the experience. We took the included excursions in all ports except Vienna and Prague, where we wanted a more in-depth experience, which we found by researching and doing on our own. Our one additional excursion, Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Gorge was excellent, and something we could not have seen on our own. Entertainment included a Wachau Valley wine tasting, a beer tasting, local musicians with some unique local instruments, and a specialist on the Main-Danube Canal. Each were informative and entertaining. One small group of rowdy fellow passengers could have marred these events, but our cruise director was able to calmly re-direct their attention. Along those lines, the dining room is compact and therefore can become very noisy at mealtimes, particularly when there is one loud group. Avalon needs to consider better acoustics in this space. We also would have like better details on arrival and departure times prior to the cruise. Avalon gives only the port and the day, but since they run these routes regularly and also schedule excursions, it is obvious that they know beforehand approximately when the ship will arrive and depart. It would have been very helpful in our planning, and possibly allowed us to make better use of our time in port. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful trip and we would definitely consider another. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
The ship was unbearably noisy in the dining room and the large lounge. So much so that a conversation could not be had. And yes the Captain knows this and agrees something needs to done to rectify the problem. Cabin was great, love the ... Read More
The ship was unbearably noisy in the dining room and the large lounge. So much so that a conversation could not be had. And yes the Captain knows this and agrees something needs to done to rectify the problem. Cabin was great, love the French doors. Dining was good, food not exceptional. Noise level spoiled the dining experience. Entertainment was very good, But, again, the noise level was so high the pianist could not be heard, and that was to bad because he was very talented. The Austrian entertainers managed to get above the noise level and they were very good. Dining room service not exceptional but very good considering the crowded tables. Cabin service was excellent, the young lady that took care of our cabin was super nice and always greeted me by my name. Cabin always very clean and tidy. Ports and excursions were excellent. The only negative I have about this one is, I wish the tour guides on the busses would STOP droning on and on about things that are non essential facts. Yes, a lot of negatives, but we had a good time. Prague is the most beautiful city and so easy to navigate on the Hop on Hop off and also the metro system. Would go there again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We took the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Prague cruise. We spent several days on our own in Paris, then took the TGV to Luxembourg City and then the public bus to Remich that dropped us off within 100 ft of the ship (the bus fare ... Read More
We took the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Prague cruise. We spent several days on our own in Paris, then took the TGV to Luxembourg City and then the public bus to Remich that dropped us off within 100 ft of the ship (the bus fare was $2 - a bargin!). The hotel manager met us at the bottom of the gangway and took care of our bags. We were in Room 208 on the Sapphire Deck. The design and maintenance of the cabin was great! The slight angling of the wall between the bed and the bathroom made both rooms seem larger than in cabins with perpendicular walls. Thanks to whoever came up with the idea. The lunches and dinners were very good, especially the soups and salads. The breakfasts were pretty much the same each day - not bad but not outstanding. The ship has a nice lounge area on the Deck 3 aft where coffee and tea are available 24/7 as well as pastries and juice. The one disappointment was the tasting menu that they serve in the evening in the bistro. It was an effort to add some variety to the food choices, but it is a set menu and some of the items didn't go together with each other and with the wines very well. All of the tours were good. We especially enjoyed the wine tasting in Bernkastel, the stop in Miltonburg (less touristy than a lot of the other city we visited), and the Residence in Wurzburg. The crew was very helpful and conscience throughout the cruise. The key disappoint was the limited pre-cruise support. We did not book a pre-cruise transfer so we needed to get information on where the ship would be docked in Remich. We were told that we would be sent that information a couple of days before we embarked, but nothing ever came. Fortunately, Remich is a very small town and the bus driver knew where the ship was docked so it was a none issue, but providing an address ahead of time would have been appreciated. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
The hotel in Prague pre-cruise was excellent. The Intercontinental hotel is definitely 5 stars. The bus transportation to Nuremburg was good, not great, the organization at the hotel for pickup could have been better. The ship itself ... Read More
The hotel in Prague pre-cruise was excellent. The Intercontinental hotel is definitely 5 stars. The bus transportation to Nuremburg was good, not great, the organization at the hotel for pickup could have been better. The ship itself was quite nice, the public rooms were well equipped and bright and airy and very modern. The room we had was on the bottom deck but it was fine. The beds are very comfortable, there is adequate storage, the bathrooms are well thought out and have lots of storage space, and they are quite quiet. The provided tours are for the most part OK, some of the guides were less than stellar. The cruise director was not as involved as he could have been and not as attentive as we have had in the past. The outlandish prices for drinks, including soft drinks was a continual annoyance. The only free drinks are provided at dinner time. In the lounges there is coffee and tea available but no juice or soft drinks. There was some entertainment onboard but we never availed ourselves of it. The meals were quite good, there was always something that appealed. Wi-Fi was good in all areas of the ship. Disembarkation in Budapest was handled quite well with transport and taxis readily available. We made our own arrangement for a hotel in Budapest for a few days and after talking to some folks who booked a post cruise extension and stayed at the Intercontinental in Budapest we were glad we did. Overpriced and not in great shape. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our first river cruise. We started our cruise in Amsterdam on May 2 2015. We went to the Movenpick Hotel city center on Saturday to check in and take an optional "Flower time in Tulip Land" The Keukenhof Flower ... Read More
This was our first river cruise. We started our cruise in Amsterdam on May 2 2015. We went to the Movenpick Hotel city center on Saturday to check in and take an optional "Flower time in Tulip Land" The Keukenhof Flower Exhibition.The gardens are very big and beautiful. We were there just at the right time because all the Tulips were in bloom. Coach transfer to the MS AVALON VISIONARY after the Tulip trip.We boarded the Avalon Visionary and it was beautiful. Our cabin on the 3rd floor(upper deck) was more than we expected. A big queen bed facing a big French Balcony. It had a sitting area, chair, sofa, and table. The bath was better than any cabin on any cruise ship we were ever on before. We had our Mandatory SAFETY DRILL, then a welcome meeting and cocktail. 7 PM Embarkation dinner(every dinner was very good, with a good selection of food.) We really didn't leave Sunday we had an Included Canal Cruise of Amsterdam in the morning. Then lunch on board. at 1:45 we took the optional Shore Feature visiting The ANNE FRANK HOUSE. 5PM all aboard, then a port talk, 7PM Dinner, Afterwards music. The rest of the week was great with every day doing a city tour, then lunch, either a light lunch in the lounge or buffet in the main dinning room. Then Dinner at 7PM where you could sit anywhere with anyone you wanted to. The menu was very nice with meat or fish or chicken every day and wonderful soup salad and dessert. The ports were Amsterdam, Cologne, Rudesheim, and Mainz Strasbourg and Basel. We had a problem that the river was to high for ships to continue to sail down the river. We disembarked in Bingen and were driven to Strasbourg by motor coach were we were put on another Avalon ship named The Tranqulity II the same class ship as the Visionary only newer. After lunch we went to our new rooms(the same room as we had on the Avalon Visionary.) Then we did a tour of Strasbourg came back for coffee and cake then a port talk then dinner. After dinner a Black Forest Presentation then music and dancing. Overnight in Strasbourg. 8AM tour of the Black Forest by tour bus, for shopping for Cuckoo Clocks and some Black Forest Cherry Cake and Coffee. Back to the ship for a buffet lunch. After lunch a free tour to the City of Colmar France. This tour was Complimentary by Avalon. 4PM back on board coffee and cake. 6-7 Happy hour(every night) Port talk 7PM Dinner. Music and dance. We were to leave Strasbourg but due to the high water Avalon Tranquility stayed docked and we could not go Basel. Saturday we all left for Basel or Zurich by bus for our planes or trains home. The river being too high is no fault of Avalon, they gave every one $200.00 refund for the inconvenience. This was a great river trip and we are going to do another with Avalon. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
The Avalon Visionary is a lovely ship boat. Our 200-level portside cabin was excellent. The "French Balcony" is fantastic. Staff and crew are extremely friendly and accommodating. When there was too much sun at dinner, I ... Read More
The Avalon Visionary is a lovely ship boat. Our 200-level portside cabin was excellent. The "French Balcony" is fantastic. Staff and crew are extremely friendly and accommodating. When there was too much sun at dinner, I started to pull down the blinds. A waitress came running up to pull them down. She said, "We're supposed to do everything for our guests." Don't worry," I said, smiling, "I took a course in blind pulling." It's neat. They have mini-newspapers for Canadians. The buffets are never crowded and there's always plenty of table space available. (That's quite unlike our experiences on over a dozen ocean cruises.) Anyone complaining about the quality of food needs cerebral assessment. The breakfast and lunch buffets are elaborate and the dinners are excellent. (A brochure explains that, because of the limited space, the buffets can have no more than 80 or 90 items!) At dinner, the red and white wines flow freely ... with multiple refills (all for no extra charge). When they say dinner begins at 7 pm, you gotta be there at 7 pm. You select everything at the start, from a multiple-choice menu. Then the meal is served like clockwork; starters/appetizers/salads, soup, main course, dessert, coffee, tea. Every guest gets the same component at the same time. That's efficiency, eh? You come a half hour later, you miss your goose liver pate or caesar salad and begin your dinner with the cream of white bean soup. A neat thing? As we move from Germany thru Bavaria to Vienna to Hungary, the food changes to reflect the locale. Bavarian sausages, Wienerschnitzel, Hungarian goulash ... very nice! The maid came by twice a day to fix our room, leaving bottled water in the mornings and chocolate on our pillow at night. (Unlike ocean cruises, the bottles of water are free.) WiFi is free (unlike 75 cents / minute on ocean cruises) ... and we even got CNN on TV. There are free tours / excursions at many stops ... with guides and earphones. Although there is no elaborate evening entertainment (as there is on ocean cruises), we had musical entertainers, chocolate and beer testing sessions, talks and videos on local history and other things of interest. In addition to lots of information and a daily schedule (delivered each day to your cabin), the cruise director explains everything over the PA system. Because there are only about one hundred guests, you often bump into the same people. After a few days, it's like a "family gathering". Although there are elevators, the ship is cleverly designed so that the restaurant is between the 1st and 2nd floor and the lounge is between the 2nd and 3rd floors ... so there are just a few steps to negotiate. What is so neat is to see the villages, farms, vineyards, castles going by ... and the locks are fun. Our daily diary with comments, pictures and videos is here: http://www.gummy-stuff.org/Danube-diary.htm   Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
Been on about 50 total cruises but only 2 Riverboat sailings. The first riverboat was 2 1/2 years ago on Viking's Pride, a 10 night Tulip Time sailing Amsterdam to Amsterdam. It was really only a 7 night sailing as three nights we ... Read More
Been on about 50 total cruises but only 2 Riverboat sailings. The first riverboat was 2 1/2 years ago on Viking's Pride, a 10 night Tulip Time sailing Amsterdam to Amsterdam. It was really only a 7 night sailing as three nights we were docked in Amsterdam using the ship like a hotel. The latest was an 11 night Avalon Waterways cruise tour on their Visionary. The tour included 2 nights in Prague at the Old Town Marriott, then a 7 night sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest ending with 2 night at the Inter-Continental in Budapest. Our Avalon Sailing was a charter but pretty much everything is what anyone booking with Avalon Waterways would receive. Let start with the ships themselves. I liked the Avalon Visionary better than the Viking Pride. It was smaller holding 128 vs. 178 and had a better decor. Lacking though were drawers in the cabins. Lots of shelves and cabinet storage but no drawers. Bathrooms goes to the Visionary as well. Bigger and nice layout. Beds were set up as a Queen on both ship but the Visionary had a thick topper, so no center crack like on the Pride. On the Visionary we had a Cat. E, minimum rate, which was much nicer than the minimum rate cabins we saw on the Viking Pride. We upgraded to a Cat. D on Viking's Pride because of no hotel beds in minimum. I understand Vikings new ships have comparable minimum rate cabins to the Visionary. Keep in mind that riverboat cabins are much smaller than those on large cruise ships. You spend very little time in your cabin other than sleeping. When going through locks you are requested to have your sliding doors closed in the cabins with them. Also when docked you might be right against another ship as they often dock two or three abreast. You have to walk through one or two other ships to get to the pier. Personally I would not pay for more than a minimum rate cabin as long as it had "hotel style" beds. Most cabins are about the same size in all categories except the suites which are still not that large. Save your money and book minimum rate cabin. They are always the first to go. Food goes to Viking hands down. Viking did 4 course table service lunches equal to those in a fine hotel, the same for dinner. Avalon did buffet lunches with one item that could be ordered from the kitchen. Most passengers didn't even know that unless asked for a menu. I felt the food on Avalon reminded me of large cruise ship buffets and pretty much the same everyday. Dinner, while offering table service were not as elegant as Viking. Wines and beer were freely poured on both at dinner. I am not sure now that Viking has added 24 new ships in just two years if their food and service is up to par with that offered in the Spring of 2011. The Visionary offered coffees, teas and other beverages 24/7 as did Viking but Avalon always had lots of fruit and homemade cookies set out as well. It was hit or miss with Viking for snacks. Both lines offer included tours in port as well as optional tours. I felt Avalon offered a lot more optional tours. I am not sure if this was because of a different itinerary or not. Both did a great job with their tours. All in all I would go on either line again. While pricey as compared to Ocean Liner Cruises I really enjoyed both riverboat sailings. It is a totally different experience and one that I am liking more and more. It is a great way to see Europe. I just wish they would offer more 10 or 11 day sailings. Most sailings tend to be either 7 or 14 nights on the riverboat itself. I have always felt 7 nights is too short and 14 nights a bit too long on board a ship or riverboat. Giving riverboat cruising a try. I think you'll enjoy them as much as I do.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The only thing they all had in common was that they went to Christmas markets. Both AMA and Uniworld had Christmas activities scheduled on the ship with AMA going all out to keep up the Christmas atmosphere. Other than some tasteful decorations, the Visionary had no Christmas activities. Not even a cooking demonstration on how to make some Christmas yummy! There was one lecture on the formation of the EU. Sadly the water was high and we barely cruised and it was at night. The busing and the night in the hotel in Frankfurt were handled very smoothly, but it was a disappointment not to see the small towns along the Main. The ship was beautiful and our cabin gorgeous. The food and wine were good. If we had never been on other Christmas cruises maybe we would have been satisfied. As it was we were very disappointed with the lack of Christmas on the ship. The towns along the Main were all charming decked out for Christmas. Our guide, Victoria, was such fun that even the bus ride had everyone having fun! (Maybe the happy hour on the bus helped keep us happy!) Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
This was my first River Cruise, after about 15 ocean cruises. I went with my sister, both of us in our 50s. Usually we travel with our husbands and/or children, but this was our "practice" River Cruise, just to see if we would ... Read More
This was my first River Cruise, after about 15 ocean cruises. I went with my sister, both of us in our 50s. Usually we travel with our husbands and/or children, but this was our "practice" River Cruise, just to see if we would like it. This was also our first time in Switzerland, Germany, eastern France and the Netherlands, and our main objective was to get a good look at this part of the world. We chose the Avalon Visionary, a new 128-passenger boat, for a 7-day Rhine 500-mile cruise due northward from Switzerland to Amsterdam, 9 to 16 September 2012. We traveled directly from JFK (NY) to Zurich overnight, Delta Business Class, with tickets purchased through Avalon. I got a lower airfare from Avalon than I could get on my own. We took the hotel shuttle--very easy--to the Zurich Airport Moevenpick, also booked through Avalon. The hotel was awesome, because the room was clean, modern and spacious, we got into the room at 8:30 am, and the hotel was easy walking distance to the tram that goes into Zurich, which we saw later that afternoon on our own. I would strongly recommend getting to your embarkation city a day early, because of 3 factors: (1) you have an extra day to handle the time change; (2) you have a cushion day in case your luggage is late (happened to me before, and I was lucky for the extra day); and (3) delayed flight can mean missed vacation time--we met a wonderful couple from South Carolina who had to "catch up" with the boat on Day 2. It is colder in Northern Europe on average in early September than it is at home (I live near DC), by about 10 degrees F. After all, Zurich is at the same latitude as Quebec, and we travel north from there. We had some unusually warm weather in Switzerland and France the first 3 days, but the temperature sank to normal fall temps (55-70 degrees F) the rest of the time. The highest marks I would give for the trip are for the tours. I think Avalon did a fantastic job, providing plenty of room in the tour buses and making all of the tours easy to follow. My sister and I are physically fit, but we were impressed that Avalon offered "slower walker" groups on each included walking tour. The first tour we took was a non-included pre-boarding tour, to Mt. Pilatus and Lucerne, and it was the best. Do not miss it. We took cable cars up Mt. Pilatus, and a rail car down. At the top was the most amazing view of Alpine peaks, along with people hang-gliding and hiking. We had a crystal clear day, so we were lucky to get such a great view. Lucerne is a postcard resort city, with cobbled streets and picture-perfect buildings. We then traveled to the boat. Visionary was very clean, crew was great, decor was simple and streamlined. Tour Director, Robert, was a hoot, explaining each night the planned activities for the next day with a rare mixture of insight and sarcasm. My sister and I had a Royal Suite, which was the last suite available when we booked for that sailing. I would not recommend this larger room; unlike large suites on an ocean-going cruise, there are no perks, just more square footage, which is basically not needed. Getting on and off the boat was so easy--you just pick up your laminated room card in the lobby and walk in and out. Zero hassle. The cruisers were 100 percent English-speaking. There was not one person under 40, I think, and most of the group was a least late 50s and beyond. This is a very easy-going and comfortable way to travel if you are "getting up there." Because there are so few passengers, you get to know a lot of them right away. By the end, you can recite first names for about a third of them. That's not at all like an ocean cruise, right? We met sisters from NC, sisters from MD, couples from all over--everyone very nice, and very relaxed. The food I thought was typically good cruise quality, with an understandably smaller selection for our small river boat than on a big cruise ship, with healthy alternative choices every night. There is no assigned seating, and we sat with many different traveling groups. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. Good news for wine drinkers--the included wine at dinner flowed, and a different specialty wine offered every night--nothing stingy about Avalon how did this on our cruise. Entertainment--well, it was basically a piano-player every night and the crew talent show one night. The best was the Captain of the ship singing "New York, New York," with a heavy Dutch accent. I have no complaints about the entertainment, because a river cruise will not have a Broadway-style musical, right? The first portion of the Rhine was straight, calm and maybe a ½-mile wide, and descending from the higher elevation in Switzerland to the lower elevations in France and Germany by many locks. The first night, we must have gone through a half-dozen locks. There are very few large towns directly on the Rhine, because this river until a century ago was untamed and flood-prone. There is a lot of cargo and river cruise ship traffic on the river, all shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats, nothing too big. Our first included tour was Strasbourg, France, which we saw by canal boat. This is another beautiful town, but with a sad history, as it changed hands back and forth between Germany and France over the years. Heidelberg was next, and is obviously very wealthy town, with a wonderful medieval castle. Heidelberg was our second-favorite stop. Mainz and Rudesheim (2 separate stops) were a nondescript industrial-modern town, and a quaint storybook town, respectively. We did the optional German dinner in Rudesheim, which was held at a regular restaurant, for a change of pace. It was good, but not amazing. After Rudesheim, the Rhine itself gets interesting, around the 30 mile or so (just guessing) section around the Rhine River Gorge. Our boat Visionary traveled mostly at night, but of course traversed the Gorge in the daylight, so that the cruisers could take it in. The river is wider, there are a lot more bends and rocks, and there are so many castles, every mile or so, I think. We had a cold and misty morning, but this part of the cruise was awesome. It is also famously dangerous, and one bend in the Rhine has a huge rock hill and the statue of the legendary Loreley, the maiden who distracts sailors and causes them to crash. Next was Koblenz, at the intersection of the Rhine and 2 other rivers. We had a walking tour here that started right at the boat, and it was our only boring tour, so my sister and I ditched it. There is a new cable car strung high above the Rhine at Koblenz, crossing the river to an old, very large and very high-up fort. We did the cable car ride and toured the fort on our own instead, and that was a great decision. The next day we saw Cologne, large, commercial, cold, windy, and, well you can tell, not my favorite. But, it does have an immense and impressive cathedral, and the best shopping strip on the whole tour. Finally, there was Amsterdam, which I love/hate, very strongly, both feelings. We did a long included canal tour, and saw the gorgeous homes and mix of both nice and decrepit houseboats lining the canals. We even floated past Anne Frank's house. Avalon does not offer an Anne Frank house tour, and tickets have to be ordered well in advance. I regret not getting my own tickets before the trip. We took 2 of the optional tours offered in Amsterdam, Van Gogh museum during the day and the Red Light tour at night. The first was just okay--even though I love Van Gogh, there is only so much one can see there. The Red Light tour was depressing and demoralizing, as we should have known. Sorry we took that tour. And sorrier still it was the last tour of the vacation! The next morning we took a pre-purchased bus transfer to the airport, which was another hassle-free trip about an hour from the boat. Upon reflection, this was a very relaxing vacation, and I think I want to do this again, but maybe after I have finished the more challenging stuff on my bucket list. If I were 5 to 15 years older, I think it would be right in my wheel house. I think Avalon is a good, straight-shooting company, and I will seek them out next time! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
Arrived in Amsterdam on first day of cruise coming from Copenhagen where we had just completed an 11 day Baltic Sea cruise that day. With the long, expensive flights from the US, we decided to do the 2 cruises back to back. The dates ... Read More
Arrived in Amsterdam on first day of cruise coming from Copenhagen where we had just completed an 11 day Baltic Sea cruise that day. With the long, expensive flights from the US, we decided to do the 2 cruises back to back. The dates worked out for us & I booked both over the internet directly with the cruise companies with no problems. Avalon did great job getting our documents to us early and answering all my questions pre cruise. Arriving at the airport around 4:00 PM & collecting our luggage, we expected to see an Avalon representative holding a sign to transfer us to the ship. After walking around for about 10-15 minutes, we finally found the red & white object where they were standing; after the driver finished his coffee, we left for the ship, about a 20 minute ride. At the ship, we got on immediately & went to our room with no further waiting. The ship is beautiful and the room was very comfortable with plenty of space for everything. The room seemed small with only had 2 small windows; when we booked in June, no balcony rooms were available. However, with the great weather, there were plenty of public viewing places so didn't spend much time in our room. The ship ride was very smooth and our room very quiet. Beds were very comfortable. Dress was casual during the day & dining room at night most dressed up a little more but no ties or sports coats. Saw a few men in tee shirts & shorts at night. There are no activities on the ship as with large cruise ships, which didn't bother us as we do not participate in those anyway. Viewing the scenery along the river and the ports are the focus of this type of cruise and these did not disappoint. Likewise, there is no shopping on the ship and no photographers. Entertainment in the evening is primarily a piano player which we listened to a few times. One night 3 local musicians were brought in & they were excellent. By evening after dinner & sightseeing all day, we were ready for bed as most days begin with the included walking tour around 8:30 AM. Dining: The breakfast & lunch buffets offered a nice variety & food was good. Two days a bar-b-que lunch was also offered on the top deck outside but you had to signup the day before which wasn't made very clear so we missed the first; apparently they only had space for about 40 people, so if you weren't on the list, you couldn't have that. Dining: Dinner was at 7 PM in the dining room, a sit down dinner with no other option. I was disappointed in the entree options several nights as well as the desserts at lunch & dinner. The brochure information makes it sound like there is a bistro on the top deck for casual dining as an option & there wasn't. Seven nights of sitting through a long drawn out dinner was too much after sightseeing all day. The unlimited wine & beer was nice & the service was great. The self serve coffee, juice, cookies & fresh fruits in the Club Lounge all day were nice. The ports were wonderful & beautiful cities. Some of the walking tour guides gave us a little too much history but most of the included tours were good and the headsets worked well. Nice to be docked usually right in towns where we could walk around. Really enjoyed the Rhine River gorge scenery but got tired of listening to hours of history over the loud speaker on the ship; for us, an occasional break would have been nicer as we began to feel like we were in a history class. At the rear in the Club Lounge, it is quiet (no speakers) but we wanted to sit outside at the front of the ship. Rudisheim was charming & enjoyed the musical museum & included wine tasting. Really enjoyed the bus tour to the Black Forest area which also was included; very pretty & interesting. We took the optional tour to Alsace for the wine tasting, plus got to see the beautiful countryside along the way. Would recommend this tour. I would recommend this ship for this type of cruise if your primary focus is the ports & their history which they did very well. For us, the lack of evening dining options, plus the cost of a balcony room compared to the ocean cruise ships would be a factor in booking another river cruise. Also, if possible, we prefer to do our own sightseeing at the ports which gives us more options. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved ... Read More
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved with you and your cruise. The captain played his trumpet as we passed the Lorelei and the crew did a talent show which was such fun! The meals onboard were very good with a nice variety. One tip, check the breakfast and lunch specials each day before going to the buffet. Dinner was great. Six of us travelled together and were able to sit together without a problem each night. Wine at dinner was wonderful and we had more than our share. The included excursions were great. I was in a walking boot due to a foot problem but was able to keep up without a problem. You will receive earphones and a receiving device on each excursion. The guide then transmits the details of the excursion as you walk. This enabled all of us to hear without a problem and was excellent for my husband who wears hearing aids. My only regret was that we didn't have more "free time" in the cities. Our guides were fun and informative. I would strongly recommend the optional trips to Alsace and Colmar. For the small cost, these excursions really gave you a flavor of the area. Also, make sure you are on deck when going through the locks (at least one). We travelled through the Panama Canal on a "big ship" and enjoyed the locks. But on this small vessel, it is really "up close and personal", a real treat. I have three minor "complaints". The bar did not stock bourbon, only CC and Jack Daniels. But since the wine was so good, it really didn't matter. Rafting is a real bummer, but necessary evil. On the third day of our trip, I awoke and opened our curtains only to be looking at the vessel we had rafted with. This occurred 4 times for us so basically rendered our French balcony worthless. Finally, it would be nice to know a basic time for the itinerary. Example, we had a flight delay to Amsterdam (7 hours!). We arrived at 4PM versus 9AM on Sunday 6/10. However, from the brochure, I thought we had all day in Amsterdam on Monday. No, the boat left at noon so I only had 4 hours in Amsterdam. I would strongly recommend adding a day (minimum) to the front of your cruise. Post cruise, we spent 3 days in Lucerne. We all had a marvelous time with Avalon and I would recommend them highly. Read Less
Avalon Visionary Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.6
Dining 4.0 4.5
Entertainment 3.5 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.7
Family N/A 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.6
Enrichment 4.0 4.4
Service 4.0 4.8
Value For Money 4.0 4.3
Rates 3.0 3.6

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