Avalon Waterways River Cruise – Review

My Highlights of Germany River Cruise drew to an end as we prepared to disembark on our final day. Our departure process was organized and flowed as well as the rest of our voyage. A backup on the locks in the middle of the night was handled by our cruise director as we slept.

Avalon Crew

We arose to some of the departures rescheduled and accommodating everyone’s flight schedule. As I watched all members of the crew, including the captain, moving luggage and making the ship spotless for the arrival of the next group of passengers in less than six hours, I thought back to the welcome from the crew I had received ten days earlier.

It is astounding that they manage to turn the ship around and greet a new group of passengers as if they had not been working for five to ten weeks straight with only an occasional day off in port.

Attentive Crew Artistry II River Cruise

A media discount was provided for my trip by Avalon Waterways. Other than a one hour tour of the ship mid-cruise and a chance to ask some questions of the captain, cruise director and hotel manager, I received the same experience as all other passengers on the cruise. My report is an unbiased reflection of my experience.

I previously published my day to day journal of the activities on board the Highlights of Germany river cruise.

The Artistry II was comfortable, roomier than I had anticipated and a pleasant place to call home for ten days. I have written a separate review of the ship, Artistry II.

Balcony Room Artistry II
Spacious Bathroom Artistry II

In talking with other passengers during the voyage I heard nothing but positive comments about their experience. This was my first river cruise. Others on board had been on up to 20 river cruises!  Many had sailed with a variety of companies. Almost all who had cruised previously were on at least their second cruise with Avalon.

Everyone I spoke with agreed that the food was plentiful and delicious.  The food is prepared from scratch on board, with the exception of the bread that is bought locally in port. The cakes for afternoon tea, which are prepared by a local contractor specifically for Avalon, are delivered dockside every few days.

Afternoon Tea Artistry II River Cruise
Lamb Entrée Artistry II River Cruise
Dessert Artistry II River Cruise

There were a variety of onboard activities included in the price of the cruise including guest lecturers. Local entertainers came onboard for a few hours in local ports of call on most evenings.

Expert Talk Canals and Locks River Cruise Artistry II
Onboard Guest Entertainment Artistry II River Cruise

One of my favorite ways to spend a few hours during the cruise was to sit on the back of the ship or in my cabin and take in the spectacular scenery.

Scenery River Cruise Artistry II Germany
Breathtaking Scenery Artistry II River Cruise

A history buff, I was especially delighted with the historical sites. The guides on our walking and coach tours imparted a vast amount of local history.

Architectural Comparison of Boppard Through the Ages
Historic Sites Artistry II River Cruise Germany

The charming towns, expected on a tour of Germany, did not disappoint.

Architecture Germany River Cruise

Now for the Nuts and Bolts

Value of River Cruise

Quoting prices for travel is not as straight forward as it was a couple of decades ago. Prices for hotels, air fare and tours flex with the season. Expectations about whether or not cruises will be sold out or have vacancies also impact pricing. Discounts granted for a variety of reasons include last minute availability special offers.

Looking online today, I see that with Avalon Waterways ten day cruises in Western Europe for the coming year range from $3,109 to $4,737 per person, based on double occupancy, including airfare.

My Highlights of Germany cruise included 11 shore excursions, plus many onboard activities such as beer tasting and local entertainers. Any activities on board, with the exception of drinks in the bar or after dinner drinks in the dining room, were included at no additional charge.

There were five optional shore excursions with an average price of 45 Euros per excursion. Passengers with special requests for touring sights not included in any of the excursions, can speak with the cruise director who will make every effort to arrange a separate tour with local guides for an additional fee.

I am not much of a drinker so my total bill when disembarking after ten days was a whopping 15.90 Euros for a few Happy Hour drinks and a drink on the Sky Deck while cruising the Rhine Gorge.

Virgin Mojito on the Rhine
Traveling Solo on Avalon

So what were the cons of my trip? I found none related to the delivery of services or the ship itself. The two cons I will discuss relate to how I travel. They may apply to others with the same travel preferences as I have. Ultimately, neither had a negative impact on my experience.

The first few days it felt a little awkward traveling as a single. I was one of three passengers on board rooming alone. Many passengers were married couples, some were parent and adult child, some were groups of friends.

I almost always travel alone and never feel “lonely” or out of place. However, the first few meals in the dining room, where there is open seating and all tables have an even number of seats, I did feel somewhat out of place. By the end of day two, having gotten to know some of the passengers, that discomfort ended and did not return.

Shore Excursions

I am not a tour person. I usually travel independently and seldom go on even a local tour. The shore excursions provided an opportunity for utilizing a local tour guide as well as allowing passengers time to explore on their own. It was easy to accommodate my preference to go it alone. When we were docked at towns where the walking tours started from the ship, I simply went out on my own without a tour group most days.

Riverside Walk into Boppard

Going by coach to our tour destination, I could choose to stay with the group the entire time or set out on my own as soon as we arrived. Alternately, after confirming what time and where to meet the coach, I sometimes went on part of the tour and then dropped out and continued to explore on my own.

On all tours, passengers have at least 30 minutes, usually up to an hour or 90 minutes, to explore without the group when the tour is completed.

I found that I enjoyed many of the tours and stuck with some of them longer than I intended and some for the entire time. The local guides had so much knowledge and history of the area that they enhanced the experience in each place that we stopped.

Strasbourg History on the Water
Maximizing Travel Through River Cruising

At the completion of my cruise it struck me what an advantage it was to spend my first trip to Germany, as a tourist, on a river cruise.  I was able to see much more that I would have ever accomplished on my own. As I age, I am accepting that there are more destinations in the world that I want to experience than I have time to see on my own.

I left the cruise with a new appreciation for sometimes stepping out of my comfort zone. The cruise enabled me to take in many experiences in a short amount of time.

In spite of changing location daily, on a river cruise I definitely had the sense of returning to my hotel room every night and felt like I spent ten days in one location while enjoying daily excursions.

I find myself looking forward to another river cruise in the future.

Kathy Stafford is a writer, publisher and editor. She was a contributing author to "Sasha Cohen Fire on Ice". She has been a contributing editor to several publications including, "Discover Balboa Park: A Complete Guide". Kathy was publisher and editor of "Skating Sketches", reporting on figure skating worldwide, for over ten years. She was a credentialed journalist as a figure skating specialist for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She has covered international skating events in Switzerland,...read more

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