We arrived in Amsterdam July 29th to board the brand-new ms Avalon Luminary for my very first River Cruise. This was a great experience and a wonderful way to cruise along the Rhine River – with so much history and countryside to see. Most of the towns and villages we toured were hundreds or thousands of years old.
We stayed on the Royal Deck, category P, cabin 301. Our river cruise cabin was approximately 172 sq ft. with ample closet and drawer space for the two of us (women) to hang our clothes and store our personal items. Suitcases also easily fit under the beds for storage. A converter is needed for any electrical appliances (the Front desk did have some converters to loan, with no fee); the bathroom does have a hair dryer. Due to the locations on the river, signals for the TV were sometimes down and the TV was a little hard to use, but upon asking we were provided with better instructions. Also, laundry service is provided for a fee, there are no facilities to do your own laundry or to iron your clothes.
Side Note: the first day you will have a safety briefing, which will be followed by an actual drill the next morning – ours was at 9am. We were a little surprised at the drill as this is not common on large cruise vessels.
The ship held 138 passengers and there was plenty of room in the Forward and Aft Lounge to accommodate everyone. The Aft Lounge provides a latte/espresso/cappuccino machine that was surprisingly very good. There were two computers onboard, internet costs were only 15 Euros for 7 days; however with only two computers there was often a line. Salon services were also priced quite reasonably at 18 Euros for a wash & style. The Sun Deck was a wonderful place to sit and view the scenery passing by. During certain areas Avalon Waterways provided commentary – while passing through the Rhine Gorge, the ongoing narration was delightful, introducing us to the various fairy tales or stories of each castle.
Being a new ship the crew was a mix of the very experienced and newcomers. However, everything onboard the ship ran very efficiently. The staff was friendly and really wanted to please. The cruise director was highly experienced and having lived n Europe for 25+ years knew Europe very well.
Every evening Avalon provided a talk on the next day’s visit, along with a Daily Event Sheet for that port, including map and town highlights. So each day we set out and were amply prepared. Our itinerary was perfect and we enjoyed every town and village we stopped at. Our included shore excursions were a delight. Almost all were walking tours – the guide would meet us as we stepped off the river vessel and we would be divided into 3-4 groups and provided a transmitter with earpiece, called a “Whisper” to hang around our necks. The device picked up the narration of our tour guide, automatically tuning into their specific “talking” channel, allowing us to wander around and easily hear their words. The local guides were knowledgeable and obviously very experienced. My favorite cities and tours were probably Heidelberg and Strasbourg. The visit to Heidelberg Castle was approximately 45 minutes; we saw an 18th century wine cask holding 49,000 gallons of wine! Afterwards we had a short walking tour of the town and then explored on our own. Strasburg lies on the border of France and Germany and was a magnificent city, rich in history. The architecture of the new and the old was very interesting and blended together nicely.
Food and beverages onboard overall were enjoyable. Each evening Avalon throws a Happy Hour with 2-for-1 beverages. The complimentary free-flowing wine at dinner was appreciated and decent. Each evening we had a choice of red & white, or both! The meals got better and better as the cruise progressed. Fish selections were not as appealing and tasty as we are used to in the Northwest, but the red meat entrees, on the other hand were very good.
The evening entertainment was primarily a piano player and some recorded music. Twice special entertainment was brought onboard: a lovely classical group called LaStrada and another evening a woodcarver was carving, preparing us for the day in Black Forest Germany.
Overall it was fabulous to cruise up the river, no matter which way you looked you could see beautiful scenery on both sides of the river vessel. I was very impressed with the ms Avalon Luminary, the ships service and overall operation of river cruising. I highly recommend a river cruise and especially Avalon Waterways.