River Cruise Review: Avalon Waterways
With some of the newest, quietest and most spacious ships on Europe's rivers and an extremely loyal following, Avalon Waterways has made big waves in the river cruise industry since its launch in 2004.
Serious thought went into the design of the staterooms: they boast the largest standard windows of any river cruise ships (up to 11 feet wide for suites) and eschew the layout of standard river ship cabins, with beds facing out to the river, providing more space, better views and less noise between cabins. Bathrooms are spacious with full-size showers.
The company places great emphasis on on-board enrichment, with expert traveling and speaking on each voyage. Sought-after local musicians, spa therapists and wine producers are ushered aboard for performances and talks, and local artists teach creative classes.
The cruise line also offers a number of themed special interest voyages, including a golf cruise or Jewish history itinerary on the Danube and a jazz cruise on the Rhône.
Selling point: Avalon Waterways packages week-long European itineraries combining 4- or 5-night river cruises with accommodation in hotels ashore. It makes for an ideal experience for those looking to dip their toes in the river cruise waters rather than take the plunge with a 7-night voyage and is proving popular with a younger-than-average river cruise audience.
Keep in mind: Passionate foodies might find the food served on Avalon Waterways ships isn't quite up to the standard of some other luxury river cruise lines.
Operating since: 2004 (Globus, the parent company, had been chartering river ships earlier but started building its own fleet in 2004)
Number of ships: 12, plus 3 due to launch in 2014
- Europe: Danube, Main, Moselle, Rhine, Rhône, Saône, Seine, the Dutch Waterways
- USA & South America: Amazon, Mississippi
- Asia: Mekong, Yangtze
- Africa: Nile
Most popular route: Week-long voyages along the Rhine between Amsterdam and Zürich (March to December, from $2498 per person).
What's included: Cruise fares include full board with regional wine, beer or soft drinks at dinner; most shore excursions; Internet; and gratuities.
Contact: 877-797-8791; www.avalonwaterways.com
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