We are thrilled to have a partnership with Melissa Doyle as our Australian Avalon Waterways ambassador. Journalist, TV presenter, author and radio host, Mel first set sail into the world of luxury river cruising with us in 2022 on the Danube. Then 2023 saw her adventure along the Rhine.
Read on to hear more about her favourite things while cruising with Avalon.
I’m a toothbrush in the glass, hang my clothes in the wardrobe, kind of traveller. I like to unpack, settle, make the room mine, learn the names of the doorman and the local barista. That, however, can sometimes be a bit hard to do when you have a number of destinations on your list and a limited timeframe.
I love to travel. It’s really one of the main reasons I work! I fell in love with the vastness of Mongolia, the history and khorovats in Armenia, the merlot in the Bekaa Valley and the snow-covered temples in Kyoto.
But sometimes I don’t have it in me to wrangle my overpacked suitcase up the steps of a train platform or waste half a day going from queue to queue at the airport. Which is why my first river cruise ticked more boxes than I expected.
In July 2022, I was invited by Avalon Waterways to cruise the Danube. It was my first overseas holiday alone. For a busy working mum of two, that was heaven! 8 days meandering through four countries, filling my camera roll with the prettiest villages and my stomach with the tastiest food.
And all with my toothbrush in the same cup the entire time.
I embarked the Avalon Impression in Bratislava, unpacked, hung my dresses, and tucked my empty suitcase out of sight under the bed. We gathered in the lounge that evening for cocktails and introductions to our Captain, staff and the man we’d come to rely on the most – Cruise Director, Mehai. Every evening he would gather us for pre-dinner drinks and a snapshot of the following day – where we were and what we needed to know about the region’s history (and from a man who hails from Dracula’s hometown, he certainly knew how to weave a good story!). Mehai also covered the essential stuff like docking and departure times, handy local info and our options for the day.
So many options.
Sometimes I’m a planner. I totally rely on my diary (old school paper) and a to-do list (slightly more high tech and on my phone). But on other days, I am overwhelmed with decision fatigue, begging for someone else to tell me where to go, what time to be there and what to eat. And on those days, I took the easy path. I joined the morning excursion and happily went with the flow. And at night there was no fossicking in the fridge and deciding what to cook. I simply selected one from each of the delicious four courses on the ship’s menu and said yes to the sommelier’s suggestion. Truly kicking back while someone else made the decisions for me.
Then on the days I felt rested and energised, I selected the excursions that were a little more active – hiking, biking and canoeing. The options were endless, and always mine. I loved having the choice to do whatever I felt like on that day.
I finally finished the novel I’d been reading for months; I took the odd afternoon nap; and spent many hours simply sitting in my Panorama Suite on my bed that so perfectly faced the river. I could pick my favourite castle like I was flicking through a virtual reality real estate website with my wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling Open-Air Balcony glass sliding doors fully open – fresh air, curtains swaying, feet up, and a cheeky glass of chilled rosé.
I saw little riverside towns that I would have missed if I’d been travelling by road, and quaint little villages that weren’t pumping with tourists. I made new friends and added more places to my ever-growing list of cities to visit.
I also took comfort in knowing that as a solo traveller, our Cruise Director was keeping an eye out for his passengers. We would check in and out of our Suite Ship when we ventured off for the day; a nice feeling as a female alone in a new city.
Then in October 2023, my husband John and I, joined Avalon Waterways along the romantic Rhine. We boarded the elegant Avalon Panorama in Amsterdam and spent 8 days meandering through some of the prettiest places on earth.
We went hiking through the vineyards in Rüdesheim and learnt how to make proper Rüdesheim coffee – laced with brandy, lit on fire and topped with cream. Wowsers! We biked along the foreshore of Heidelberg, explored the mountaintop 13th century castle and replenished that afternoon with schnitzel and apple strudel.
We rugged up and explored the tiny French medieval village of Colmar, bought cheese, wine and bread and took it back to our Suite Ship for lunch. In the afternoon, we chose the other side of the river and took a guided tour through Freiberg, Germany and feasted on proper Black Forest cake.
Again, the choices were always ours. And all the while, my suitcase stayed under the bed and my toothbrush in the same glass.