• The Avalon Artistry II.

Avalon River Cruising

Have you ever thought of doing a river cruise? Margaret Boak from Quay Cruise was fortunate enough to do an eight-day Active & Discovery Cruise with Avalon Waterways on the Rhine this year and now understands why people don’t just do one but prefer to travel via the river again and again.

In Europe, 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.

My cruise was from Mainz. I flew into Frankfurt (the closest airport) and had an overnight in one of our Signature Travel Network properties The Jumeirah Frankfurt. With the early morning arrival from New Zealand it was great to have the free early check-in and room upgrade (both subject to availability) that came with my booking. Quay Travel is the only New Zealand travel agent belonging to the Signature Travel Network. The amenity of wine, fruit and handmade chocolates in my room was also a nice touch. This property is centrally located, near to the Zeil shopping street and next to a large mall. It also has a Talise Spa and complimentary access to the Fitness First Platinum Swim Club.

The next day I used Blacklane 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. There is also 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). On our first day, due to the location change, buses were arranged to take us to Mainz for the afternoon, returning for a safety briefing and welcome reception.

With Avalon, soft drinks, beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner. Every evening before dinner there is a happy hour in the Panorama Lounge. Teas, Lavazza coffee and hot chocolate are available 24 hours (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 that their ships are all the same. They have Royal suites, three categories of Panorama suites and two categories of Deluxe staterooms, which all differ in size and location. Be aware that the Deluxe staterooms have small high windows which means you cannot see out the window while sitting on the bed. Sure, upfront there might be a monetary saving, but did you really travel to Europe to see a wall?

Another thing to note with river cruises is that 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 next day’s events. A town map is always available at reception when you arrive into a new town, and as well as the map it features sights of interest and historical information. And Avalon also has its 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 the built-in GPS navigation works offline.

Excursions: An excursion a day is included in your cruise cost. With the new Avalon Active and Discovery cruises, this now means they do not just offer the classic tour like some operators, but also offer Active tours and Discovery tours, e.g. Dusseldorf, a city with the Rhine river running through the middle. You can explore on your own or on Active – Dusseldorf on two wheels – a two hour guided bike tour of the city (approx. 12km); on Discovery – Bites & Highlights – a three hour guided foodie walk through the old town; or Classic – Dusseldorf Old Town with magical Wehrhahn Line.

Food onboard: On arrival you can meet the chef and the 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, and 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.

My river cruise was the ‘8 Days Mainz to Amsterdam’. For 2020 Avalon has European river cruises as short as four 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).

But finally, it’s the people you meet onboard. We met people from New Zealand as well as Malaysia, South Africa, USA, UK and Australia. The crew were generally European and spoke good English. I can’t wait to do my next river cruise.

Quay Cruise, your local cruise experts. Phone 0800 782 987, email margaret@quaytravel.co.nz, or come visit us at 2/49 Apollo Drive, Mairangi Bay.

Parking available. Expert advice and great coffee!