Avalon River Cruise
July 22, 2019 at 1:41 PM
One of our cruise specialists, Margaret, was lucky enough to experience a wonderful river cruise with Avalon lately. She reports back on all you need to know about your next river cruise experience:
Have you ever thought of doing a river cruise? Of course, you only unpack once and have meals included like an ocean cruise, but what's it really like? I was fortunate enough to do a 7 day Active & Discovery Cruise with Avalon Waterways on the Rhine this year and now realize why people don’t just do one, but prefer to travel via the river again and again. In Europe you need to remember that the waterways were there before the highways and they are still a main transportation route. Due to this, many towns are located right next to the river, so no transfer is required from the ship to town; you arrive right in town.
My arrival into Frankfurt was seamless, and after a long flight it was wonderful to see my name held up high by my Blacklane Chauffeur at the airport for my transfer to the hotel.
My cruise was from Mainz, so I flew into Frankfurt (the closest international airport) and had an overnight in one of our Signature Travel Network properties The Jumeirah Frankfurt. With the early morning arrival from NZ it was great to have the free early check-in and room upgrade (both subject to availability) which came with my booking. Quay Travel are the only NZ travel agent belonging to the Signature Travel Network programme. An amenity of wine, fruit and handmade chocolates in my room was also a nice touch. This property is centrally located in Frankfurt, near to the Zeil shopping street and next to a large mall. They also have a Talise Spa and complimentary access to the Fitness First Platinum Swim Club, connected to the hotel.
The next day I used Blacklane once more for my transfer to the Avalon Suite Ship. It is definitely worth having this transfer arranged, as at the last minute the docking location was changed from Mainz to Nierstein.
Embarkation on Avalon is very easy. You can arrive anytime; there is a buffet in the panorama lounge if you are hungry and the bar is open if you wish to purchase a drink. Staterooms are generally available around 4pm. In the lounge there is also an opportunity to book your excursions for the next few days (most are included in your cruise fare, however they do also offer some optional tours - more about this later). On our first day, as the embarkation location had changed, buses were arranged to take us to Mainz for the afternoon, returning for a safety briefing and welcome reception with the Captain and Cruise Director before dinner.
With Avalon, soft drinks, beer & wine are included with lunch & dinner. Every evening before dinner there is a happy hour in the Panorama lounge. Teas, Lavazza coffees and hot chocolates are available 24hours (self-service) with cookies and other tasty items in the Club Lounge.
River ships are much smaller than ocean ships, they take usually around 150-190 passengers. They do not have quite as many options for staterooms. One good thing with Avalon is their ships are all the same. They have Royal Suites, 3 categories of Panorama Suites and 2 categories of Deluxe Staterooms, which all differ in size and location. Be aware, the Deluxe Staterooms have small high windows, which means you cannot see out the window whilst sitting on the bed. While upfront there might be a monetary saving, did you really travel to Europe to see a wall?
Another thing to note with river cruises is when you arrive in a town the ships are stacked next to each other, so it is not uncommon to walk through one or two other vessels before actually touching land. With the Avalon Wall to wall Panoramic Window creating an open air balcony inside, you do not lose any balcony space in this instance. Windows are also tinted so during the day, if closed, others cannot see in.
Like an Ocean cruise ship, a daily newsletter is left in your stateroom in the evening with the times for the next day's events. A map with an overview of the town is always available at reception when you arrive into a new place, plus the map features sights of interest, and historical information. Avalon also have their Avalon Go App. You can log-on here prior to your cruise and pre-book excursions, or use it when you are in the towns, as it has maps and guides as well as dining and shopping suggestions, and a journal. Wifi is not required as built in GPS navigation works offline, such a bonus!
An excursion a day is included in your cruise fare. With the new Avalon Active & Discovery Cruises, this now means they do not just offer the Classic tour like some operators, but also offer Active tours and Discovery tours. An example of this would be our stop in the city of Dusseldorf; a city with the Rhine river running through the middle.
Active – Dusseldorf on two Wheels – A 2 hour guided bike tour of the city (approx 12km)
Discovery – Bites & Highlights – A 3 hours guided foodie walk through the old town
Classic – Dusseldorf Old Town with Magical Wehrhahn Line
At the start of the cruise you are given a headset. Pick up the coloured attachment which relates to your tour. This allows you to hear the guide up to 100m away so you can go looking at other things while they are giving you the history and information rather than having to stand very close so not to miss anything.
Yoga and stretching classes were held onboard with the Active Host. And there is also a small gym.
On your day of arrival you can meet the chief Chef and Restaurant Manager to discuss any dietary requirements. Breakfast options are a light buffet in the Panorama Lounge or buffet with omelette/egg station and a-la-carte in the main dining room. Lunch offers a small buffet in the Panorama Lounge, or larger buffet in the dining room. You could also order burgers (we saw some Americans do this so also tried – and they were fantastic). Dinner is a-la-carte and served in the dining room. Of course the coffee and cookies served 24/7 in the Club Lounge mean you would never go hungry.
But finally, its the people you meet onboard. We met other guests from New Zealand as well as Malaysia, South Africa, USA, UK and Australia. The crew were generally European and spoke good English. The tour director was Dutch and the Captain Hungarian. What a wonderful experience - I cant wait to do my next river cruise.
My River cruise was a short one - 8 Days Mainz to Amsterdam. For 2020 Avalon have European river cruises as short as 4 days (Budapest to Vienna or vice versa), so you can just give river cruising a try, or as long as 27 days from the Black Sea to the North Sea (Bucharest to Amsterdam). The most popular is still the Magnificent Europe River Cruise – 17 days (Amsterdam to Budapest or vice versa).
After my cruise I had two nights in Amsterdam, and stayed at The Waldorf Astoria. A beautiful historic building (or buildings really - as it is a collection of six 17th century canal palaces on the Herengracht) just a short walk from luxury shops, museums and theatres. The property has a large private courtyard, a Guerlain Spa with a private indoor pool, The Vault bar, Goldfinch Brasserie and Spectrum (their two Michelin Star restaurant). Truly a beautiful property, deserving of its place ranked in the top 25 Hotels in Europe (TripAdvisors 2019 Travellers Choice Award). Of course the included breakfast and F&B Credit, the early check-in and room upgrade with our Signature property benefits were greatly appreciated.
The vault bar was fun. The specialty cocktail menu is given to you in the form of a wallet, containing different currencies (or cocktails). The table nibbles are served in a small money tin.
Blacklane collected me from my hotel and transferred me to the airport for my flight back to Auckland. Just a note, Amsterdam Airport, like many European airports is quite spread out. From economy class check-in to the security area was about a 10 minute walk, then from there to my gate a further 20 minutes. My recommendation would be to allow plenty of time to make all your connections and enjoy the rest of your journey.
We have more great tips and recommendations - so just get in touch to discuss your next travel. Wherever in the world you want to go, we'll get you there.