Let me start by saying this – cruise ships are not my preferred way of travel. I own a travel agency, so occasionally I cruise so I have an understanding of the market and can advise my clients properly. Custom land itineraries are my forte. That being said, I think I may have fallen for a new mode of travel!
This past Spring, I cruised the Rhine River on Avalon Waterways. That’s right folks, Viking is not the only river cruise line out there. It is important to match travelers to the river cruise that will best suit them. There are many cruise lines and some of them do not even sell directly to the public, you have to use a travel advisor to have access to them.
While river cruises have a reputation of being for an older age group, I traveled with a group of girls in our forties and we were definitely not the youngest on the ship. I must admit that I am of an age now that if I had seen this sign on the first night of the trip instead of the last would have been very beneficial in the low lit dining room!
My group chose Avalon Waterways because of its activity selections and its Panorama Suites.
What really sets Avalon apart is their open-air balconies. Avalon opted to remove the small balconies on river cruise ships that do not even fit a chair and use that space to bump out the wall to make the suite bigger. The standard balcony has been replaced with a wall to wall panoramic, nearly 11’ window that opens to create a large open-air balcony. This extra space allows the bed to face the window so you can literally lay in your bed and watch the world sail by …
Watch ship arrival and stateroom tour HERE.
At each port of call, we were given multiple activity options for morning and afternoon. Some activities were active and involved hiking or biking, while others focused on immersive cultural activities. While we could have opted to stay on the ship at some of the ports of call, I was excited to explore more at each destination. I was so busy each day, that I wondered why these trips have a reputation for being for older travelers when I was more active on this trip than I had been in quite a while (at home or abroad!).
While the extent of activities and the Panorama suite is what brought us to Avalon, it is the service that will bring us back. While ocean cruising, I never interacted with the Cruise Director. While river cruising, I feel like I made a new best friend. Nothing was too much trouble for Maria. She referred to herself as Mama Hen, and that she was as she made sure we were taken care of every step of the way. The rest of the staff was just as lovely, always with a big smile no matter the request.
Our bartender was Christian. He was full of gusto, and it almost seemed rude not to order something when he asked. The servers at each meal only allowed us to take a couple of sips before refilling our drinks. If we could not decide between two items on the menu, they would bring us both. Maybe it was the cooler temperatures, but the soups were the best I have ever had. We sailed a couple of afternoons so at tea time, there was a delicious assortment of light snacks and cakes. There were coffee and water stations throughout the ship.
My favorite moment was when we sailed during the day and relaxed on the top deck while passing the most scenic part of the Rhine River with all the castles. The staff distributed blankets and passed out hot cocoa with whipped cream, it was perfection!
When we were not eating, touring, or sleeping, the ship offered a small gym, a walking track, and a hot tub on the top deck. The top deck was my favorite spot, especially to watch the lock systems along the Rhine River. Locks were built to enable the canals to cross the hills which separated the various river basins. Even after experiencing the locks first hand, I find them a mind blowing piece of engineering. Watch this fast motion video of our very first lock experience of the trip from the top deck of the ship (next time, I will use a tripod!).
Our river cruise was an ideal group option since we could all choose different activities each day then find our way back to each other in the lounge each evening before dinner. I also think it will be a lovely experience for my husband and I, which is why we will be sailing The Danube on Avalon later this year! Others traveling with us were a multi-gen family with a early 20s granddaughter (who may have enjoyed the trip more than anyone), friends traveling together, and lots of couples. I also need to start planning another girls trip for 2023 and hope to get some more followers to join this time. Make sure you sign up for my weekly email if you might want to join us! The possibilities are endless with river cruising – you can also sail in Egypt, India, Asia, and South America.