In May 2023, Natalie – part of our Marketing team in New Zealand – sailed on the Rhône on our 8-day Active & Discovery river cruise with Avalon Waterways. Read on to find out some tips and tricks from her river cruise.
I am a recovering over packer. We were going to be away for 5 weeks, so I had to be mindful of how much I wanted to take with me. Rest assured; you don’t need a different outfit for dinner every night. I rotated, mixed and matched 3-4 outfits during our week onboard, and nobody batted an eyelid.
Book your excursions in advance
Excursions are available to book via your MyAccount customer portal between 90 and 4 days prior to your departure. If there are some excursions that you have your heart set on, I would recommend booking these in advance. I only booked ours when I boarded the ship and was able to join my first choice of excursions except for in Lyon. My fellow travellers were all keen foodies so the Bites & Highlights walking tour was already fully booked. However, my second choice was the Lyonnais cooking class which turned out to be one of my favourite excursions during our river cruise – silver linings!
À la carte dinner option dilemmas
If you ask nicely, your waiter will let you order two of a course. One night, I couldn’t decide between the fish with pasta or mushroom risotto, so our waiter kindly let me order both. My husband and I shared the fish main, and skipped entrées, so as not to roll out of dinner that night.
Where to dine
You can’t go wrong with the views from the main Dining Room or the Panorama Bistro, so it comes down to personal preference. In the Dining Room, you sit just above water level which is a unique vantage point. However, I preferred to eat in the Panorama Bistro. The views across the river and the city or riverbank scenery were better being one level higher, and you could dine al fresco if you wanted to. Having the choice of where to eat really showcased Avalon’s FlexDining concept.
Be prepared for cooler temperatures
…if you’re travelling in spring or autumn. I cruised in May (spring in France) and was subject to the mistral – a cool wind that starts in the Swiss Alps and comes down the Rhône. The mistral came and went but having a windbreaker on hand was essential.
Spend time onshore
While I loved spending time onboard, I also made sure to spend time onshore when I could. There was a free afternoon in Arles so headed into the nearby township to explore. I adored wandering through the charming streets without any crowds, making the most of a gloriously warm spring day.
There was also one night where we weren’t due to leave Avignon until 10:30pm. After a quick Google search, I found a local bistro to have dinner at just inside the city walls. It was a cosy, delicious, and typically French meal, and we wandered back to the ship with an ice cream in hand. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the food onboard Avalon (I absolutely did!) but it was nice to have the opportunity to do something a little different.
Build in some down time
It is so easy to want to make the most of your time when overseas, filling your schedule with as many activities as possible. However, down time is also important! There’s something special about having a quiet morning or afternoon onboard. Make yourself a coffee or a flavoured mineral water (the green tea flavour was my favourite) and pick up a snack from the Club Lounge; then sit back, relax and enjoy the passing views from one of the common areas or from the comfort of your Panorama Suite.
While Natalie sailed on our Active & Discovery on the Rhône itinerary, most of the above tips can be applied to our full range of Avalon Waterways river cruises. Take a look today and book your dream river cruise holiday.