Artistry II was my floating hotel for ten days in June on the Avalon Waterways Highlights of Germany River Cruise. Built in 2013 the ship has 52 suites and 12 staterooms on four decks. I have broken my review into six sections, Public Areas, Cabins, Food, Amenities, Crew and Operations.
The club lounge is aft on the Royal Deck and is known as the “quiet” lounge. Here you can read, play a game with friends, have a snack 24/7 or sit on the small outside deck and watch the river.
Besides seating at card tables or comfy couches the Club lounge has a library, large screen TV and a wide selection of board games.
As mentioned above, snacks and beverages are available 24 hours a day in the Club Lounge. Some passengers made this the last stop of the day for tea and a pastry to take to their cabin for a late night snack.
The Panorama Lounge is also located on the Royal Deck and is the main center of activity on the ship. Here is where you will get your daily briefings from the Cruise Director, visit with other passengers and enjoy a variety of entertainment.
The bar area offers alcoholic beverages as well as non-alcoholic drinks and coffee or tea. This is the location for Happy Hour and late night music and dancing. The onboard musician, an accomplished pianist and singer, provides live music in the afternoons and evenings whenever outside entertainers are not appearing.
The computer station is available at all times. There are two computers, one on each side of the desk, and a printer accessible from either printer. Even if you have your own computer on board the printer is handy for printing out boarding passes.
I was blessed with sunny weather almost every day of my cruise. The Sky Deck is sometimes closed to passengers when passing through locks or under a low bridge.
Cabins on Artistry II
There are 52 Suites on board Artistry II, 25 on the Sapphire Deck and 25 on the Royal Deck. Each is 200 square feet. In addition there are two Royal Suites on the Royal Deck of 300 square feet. I was in a standard suite on the Sapphire Deck. This was my first river cruise so I do not have anything to compare it with. However I cannot imagine more comfortable accommodations on a small ship.
As you can see in the photos above, I was looking at another ship and not the river when I took this photo. The rivers of Europe are very busy with ship traffic. At some towns the ships are docked tandem. When docked on the town side you are looking out at another ship if your cabin is on the outer side. Sometimes you are docked next to the river, with the tandem ship docked next to the town. When this is the case you walk through the other ship when leaving the Artistry II.
This never seemed like a problem to me. Often while at dock I was not on the ship. When on the ship there were plenty of public areas I could go to relax or read where I still had a water view.
There are two bottles of water in your cabin when you board and they are replaced as needed throughout the cruise.
One of Avalon Waterways’ attractions is the cabins on the Royal and Sapphire Decks where your balcony really is your entire cabin. The outer wall of your cabin is sliding glass doors with the “balcony” rail at the edge of your floor. You are protected from wind and rain and yet right on the river. I loved being on the Sapphire Deck because you are at river level and have the same feeling of being on the river that you would in a small speed boat!
There are 12 staterooms on the lower Indigo Deck, along with the staterooms for the crew which are separated from the passenger staterooms by a door at the end of the passenger hallway. These staterooms are 172 square feet, 28 square feet smaller than the suites. I saw this room on a tour of the ship I was given as a media guest. In spite of being on the lower lever, there was a lot of light in the room. The bathroom was not as large as the suite, but still very roomy for a ship. To see the river while cruising you do need to go to the public areas. Even with my cabin balcony I was usually in the public areas while we were moving. These staterooms are a more affordable way to enjoy the Avalon Waterways experience and there are only outside cabins, so all cabins are exposed to daylight.
There was no shortage of food on this cruise! Your day starts with a buffet breakfast. The standard selection of food provides many choices. Omelets and eggs cooked to order are available every day. In addition there is a hot entrée on the buffet line that changes daily.
There are menus on each table describing the hot breakfast buffet dish for the day. In addition there is at least one hot dish that you can order off of the menu such as stuffed French Toast or Eggs Benedict. The wait staff also brings your tea or coffee and are available to bring anything to your table that you need.
Array of Breakfast Buffet Options
I did not get a photo of the extensive bagel and bread station where there is also a toaster, butter and cream cheese. Lox are available every day in the buffet spread.
A lighter Early Riser Breakfast and Late Riser Breakfast are served daily in the Panorama Lounge.
Afternoon tea is served every day. Even if the ship is docked and you are the only passenger on board, tea will be served! The bread at all meals and the cakes for tea are the only food not prepared from scratch by the chef and kitchen staff. The cakes are prepared by a contractor who meets the ship along the river every two to three days to deliver the cakes for tea. They are made from recipes that are exclusive to Avalon Waterways and reflect the specialties for the regions that you will be cruising through on those days.
Besides the beverages and pastries available in the Club Lounge 24 hours a day, there is always fresh fruit in the Panorama Lounge.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner service are in the Dining Room with open seating. Like breakfast, lunch is served buffet style. There is a large selection of salads, bread and fruit. The buffet includes at least two hot entrees with sides and a cold soup that changes daily. From the menu you can order a variety of other hot dishes and a hot soup which also changes daily.
There is a light lunch of soup, sandwiches and desserts served upstairs in the Panorama Lounge .
Dinner service is a sit down affair, no buffet. There are a wide selection of starters, entrees and desserts. There is also a soup course. In addition there are some standard items every day such as baked chicken or steak which you can order if none of the entrees of the day appeal to you. Wine is available at no charge with a specific white and red featured each day.
On select evenings a tasting menu is an option served at the Panorama Bistro in the Panorama Lounge. You can sign up for this alternative for dinner once during the cruise, allowing each passenger to experience this more intimate dinner service.
At 10:30 each night Late Night fare is offered in the Panorama Lounge.
When you depart the ship for shore excursions there are umbrellas available if needed. They were never needed on my cruise. In addition, there are bottles of water to take with you. Upon return you are greeted by a crew member dispensing warm moist towels and something cool to drink.
It is the attention to detail and the attentiveness and friendliest of the crew which stand out for me when remembering this cruise. The Captain was not visible much of the time as he was usually in the bridge guiding us safely and uneventfully through many locks! However, I witnessed his team spirit as I watched him moving luggage from the hallways to the reception area on the day of departure.
When I commented on this to the Hotel Manager, he responded that the closeness and warmth of the crew that I had experienced comes from the top down. He said he has worked on many ships and they are not all like this. But on the Artistry II they really are a family that works together to make certain that the passengers have the best experience possible.
Hotel Manger Henry entertaining the passengers on the night of the Crew Show.
The amazing chef giving passengers a tour of the kitchen.
Until you take a cruise you will not be able to appreciate all of the ways in which the Cruise Director will impact the daily enjoyment of your experience.
Artistry II Operations
Passengers on Artistry II are invited to a tour of the kitchen about halfway through the cruise. By then I had been on board long enough to be astounded as to how the chef and her staff were able to prepare and elegantly present our delicious meals from this small space.
Soups, sauces, outstanding desserts all are cooked from scratch. Steaks are cooked to order. Only breads and cakes for afternoon tea are sourced from local vendors. In addition, the team adheres to stringent health and safety food preparation standards.
A small sample of every dish is placed in a tube in the freezer. In the unlikely event of illness on board ship it is possible to test the food to rule out food borne illness as the cause.
I think I was most impressed with how they manage to plate so many dishes in a short amount of time, each one looking like a work of art, on their limited counter space.
Cruise Director Sabine Klocker and Hotel Manager Henry Seiler gave me a tour of the ship and sat down with me to answer some specific questions about day to day operations.
I was particularly interested in the environmental impact of river cruising and what steps Avalon takes to protect the local environment. There are strict standards for all cruise ships on European waters. Since the popularity of river cruising, the health of the rivers has actually improved resulting in an increase of fish.
Waste water on board the ship is put through several rounds of purification before being released into the river. Fresh water is taken on board every few days from local water sources when docked.
Recycling is separated from garbage and the ship docks every two days at sanitation stations along the river to unload garbage and recycling into containers for pick up by local processors.
The Artistry II averages an occupancy rate of 80-90% with 100% occupancy during the busiest seasons. Cruise Directors are independent contractors. There are currently 35 on contract who rotate around the 13 Avalon Waterways ships.
My tour ended with a visit to the bridge where I saw the captain at work. On this particular cruise we passed through dozens of locks. Navigating the locks is almost a full time job for the captain and his crew.
The Artistry II bridge has the surprising ability to lower into the ship leaving only a small portion above deck with a opening for the captain’s head. This allows the captain to still have complete visibility while the ship passes under low bridges.