In October 2022, Kiyhan – part of our Sales team in Australia – sailed for the first time with Avalon Waterways on our ever-popular Romantic Rhine cruise onboard the Avalon Vista.
From start to finish, my Avalon river cruise was relaxing, spectacular and luxurious. It completely surpassed my expectations, especially some of the Optional Excursions that were available for us.
As soon as I stepped foot onboard the Avalon Vista, I instantly felt like I was walking into my new home-away-from-home. My first impression of the ship and crew was of calm, friendly and gorgeous vibes. It was a seamless embarkation: there were staff to take your bags which allowed you to board without hassle and made me feel so comfortable from the get-go. We had arrived before the official check in time but were able to relax in the Panorama Lounge with a light lunch and drink before our first Optional Excursion. Once I’d returned, my room was ready, and bags delivered to the room.
My Panorama Suite
I was very excited to check out my Panorama Suite first hand. It was exactly what I had pictured it to be (maybe even better than what I thought)! It felt like you were staying at a five-star hotel, but on the water with a spectacular view. At a hotel, your room has a window but here, the wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling view is what makes the room so special. The Rhine is particularly well-known for its scenery, so being able to take in all the castles and vineyards from my Suite is something I’ll never forget. If I had to name my two favourite features, they would be:
- The beds that face the view. River cruising means you are guaranteed a view every day so being able to open the curtains and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in bed is what dreams are made of;
- The bathroom. I love a spacious bathroom, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much bench and storage space there was for two travellers. I was able to unpack what I needed to and put the rest away out of sight for the next 8 days. The attention to detail is second-to-none, even with two different towel colours so there’s never any confusion as to whose towel is whose!
Each day there was a choice of included excursions. These are divided into three categories – Active, Discovery and Classic – so you can pick whatever you fancy on the day.
My favourite excursion was visiting a local winery in Breisach, Germany. This was a Discovery option, and I certainly came away with new insights into not just wine, but Germany as a whole. I didn’t realise Germany was so big on wine! I have done many wine tours and tastings in my life, but the local winemaker who we met made the excursion worthwhile. He was so passionate, knowledgeable and the winery had been in his family for generations. We learnt how Germany’s wine production is different to other countries, preferring to focus on locals supporting locals instead of selling their wine internationally. There is also a lot of volcanic rock in the ground, meaning the soil and vines are different and lend themselves to creating a unique taste in their grapes.
Our afternoons were generally free for guests to choose what they wanted to do. You could head into whichever port we were docked in to explore; relax onboard; or partake in an Optional Excursion. All the ones I chose were fantastic in their own ways.
Zaanse Schans gave me a real insight into the Netherland’s famous windmills and Dutch houses; Colmar was a photographer’s paradise with its old, yet charming, homes along the cobblestoned streets. It really showcased the kinds of small towns that river cruising can take you to; and finally, the Maginot Line of WWII was a must for me as I’m fascinated by war history. We got to go into a bunker that France built to keep the Germans out – something I never thought I would ever experience in my lifetime! I really enjoyed expanding my war history knowledge while on this trip.
My favourite port
Even though the whole of my cruise was a highlight, visiting Rüdesheim was my favourite day. One of the key reasons why travellers choose to river cruise is to dock right in the heart of your destination. I felt like Rüdesheim embodied this to a tee. In just a few minutes’ walk we were right there! This small, sweet town has loads of personality but without hordes of tourists. We were fortunate to have the afternoon at leisure, so I joined another couple from the cruise to explore. We visited cafes, shops (including a lovely Christmas shop) and just wandered the picturesque streets. A perfect day in my books!
Onboard the Avalon Vista
While there was so much to do on land, there was also a lot going on back onboard.
Our Cruise Director, Simona, was outstanding as were all the crew. From the restaurant staff always remembering everyone’s dietary requirements and drink of choice, to crew members who brought out mulled wine to warm us up as we cruised through the Rhine Valley – it’s those small touches that really add to the experience.
I found the Panorama Lounge to be the perfect common space to mingle with the guests and enjoy a coffee or champagne while watching the passing scenery go by.
The Dining Room was – as you can imagine – a hive of streamlined activity at every meal. The mix of different-sized tables allows you to have a cosy dinner for two, or to make new friends at a table of six at lunch. Food-wise, I found myself opting for one or two of the Avalon Fresh options at most dinners. I generally eat fresh, light meals in my everyday life, so it made me feel a little more at home and I didn’t feel stuffed to the brim every night. The Panorama Bistro also followed a similar train of thought for me for lunch time, with lighter options available complete with the previously mentioned views.
Why you should choose a river cruise
There are so many pros to river cruising, many more than what I initially thought. River cruising was relaxing yet there was always plenty to do at the same time. It’s not just for the older demographic, but for those who are culture hungry. You can travel in style but still jump on a bike to discover a town. The crew make you feel so special each day, you eat and drink like a King or Queen, and the views from your room can’t be found anywhere else. I also found all my fellow travellers a great bunch to mix with.
Tips for future cruisers
In order to make the most of seeing each new town or village you visit, there is a decent amount of walking involved so pack comfortable walking shoes. Also, don’t forget that this is your holiday so go with the flow. Allow the Cruise Director to guide you on what experience they think would suit you best, and you can even leave your excursion choice to the day of.
Where to next?
The 8-day Romantic Rhine itinerary is the perfect length to build into your wider holiday. It features three countries, each with their own unique personalities: Holland with its bikes and windmills, Germany with its wine and castles, and France with charming towns like Colmar.
For my next river cruise, I would love to experience the Saône through France! I’m a bit of a foodie so either Avalon’s 8-day Burgundy & Provence cruise, or the 16-day Grand France which would cover WWII history plus plenty of food and wine.