Avalon Waterways Reviews & Ratings
Brian & Regina Sneed
We began in Siem Reap, checking into the Park Hyatt Hotel in the center of town. In addition to its’ superb location, merely blocks from the night market, and walking distance to restaurants and museums, the hotel itself was absolutely incredible. The staff were courteous and attentive; breakfast each morning, delicious - with abundant offerings, catering to the individual palates of multi-national travellers. Guest rooms, pools, spa and public areas of the hotel are so sumptuous, and tastefully appointed (decor/architecture subtly sophisticated, not tacky & overstated) we would have been happy not to leave the hotel. Here we met our cruise director, Ha, who later introduced us to our Cambodian tour guide Pharot. The two of them would accompany us on tours of the sacred Angkor temples and introduce us to the local industry and way of life - all authentic and exceptional excursions!
The air transfer from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, and embarkation onto the ship couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
Both ship and crew were superb. The common spaces - lounge, dining room and outer deck, as well as the guest rooms, were comfortable, spacious, tastefully appointed and in good repair - one of the main reasons I chose Avalon in the first place, as so many other cruise lines seem to offer a tawdry, Las Vegas-style environment. All meals were excellent and Ha and the crew did their utmost to accommodate our vegan food preferences, sometimes modifying a recipe specifically for us. Ha even made sure the ship had almond milk on board for our cappuccinos every morning! The entire crew knew all our names by the second day, and were always diligent to point out any non vegan food offering we may want to avoid. The graciousness of the staff throughout the week was unending.
There are only two improvements that would have enhanced our on-board experience:
1.) Better/softer pillows. We did ask for alternates, which were promptly delivered to our room, but they were really no different than what we started with.
2.) After dinner entertainment - at least for some of the evenings. We made wonderful connections over meals with several other passengers, who all agreed it would be fun to have the option to dance or enjoy music together after dinner, or even a guitar for guests to play.
The excursions off the ship continued to inspire. Often tying the river boat to trees in remote areas, we’d climb up the side of a bank on primitive steps carved into dried clay, where drivers of various types of transportation (ox carts, sampans, tuktuks, etc.) awaited to shuttle us into small villages for an exclusive and authentic experience, unfettered by mass tourism.
The tour of the Royal Palace specifically, in Phnom Phen, was my least favourite. You can’t go inside the palace. The auxiliary buildings in the compound are unkempt and very crowded. The famous Silver Pagoda - renowned for a flooring of more than 5000 silver tiles, is almost entirely covered by a patchwork of tattered area rugs. The few tiles that can be partially viewed, through gaps between the carpets, are nearly black with tarnish. Another other point of interest - the tiny Emerald Buddha, has been replaced with an unimpressive (plastic?) replica. Lastly, artifacts in display cases were covered in a generous layer of dust, without much or any explanation as to their significance. But this is the extent of my criticism about any and all excursions.
The Reverie, our hotel in Ho Chi Minh, was over the top! No complaints about this top-four-in-the-world hotel....even if it was a bit reminiscent of Las Vegas opulence and excess. The rooms had everything - including stellar views of the city, motorized draperies, heated toilet seats, luxury bath products and sumptuous beds, linens and pillows. Breakfast was good and the spa offered the ultimate in luxury pampering.
The excursions in Ho Chi Minh were also very good, and the cooking class, which I initially had my doubts about, turned out to be an absolute delight, delivering yet another authentic experience.
We had an issue with our hotel in Bangkok, due to a mistake by the tour company, that failed to secure our reservation at the hotel we were originally promised. The problem was swiftly addressed, resulting in a brief interruption in what continued on to be a positive end to our journey.
For all aspects of this experience, including service, accommodations, food quality, activities/excursions, and even conflict resolution, I give Avalon and their representatives full marks. I can’t imagine we’ll ever find better value for our money on any similar type river cruise.
Way to go Avalon!
Ship Details: A late 2019 September cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam aboard the Illumination.
Food Pluses: Average to excellent, so no complaint from me. 1) A buffet "Bistro" dinner was available in the lounge for those of us who didn't want to wade through a long, four-course dinner downstairs. Perfect!! 2) Avalon is still working out passenger dietary differences. They made a concerted effort to speak with anyone who had special dietary needs and did their best to accommodate them. Kudos!
Food Negatives: That given, their vegetarian option was almost always a pasta dish. That made it impossible to eat meat-free and gluten-free and have anything other than salads and, occasionally, vegetable sides dishes.
Port Stops: the design of river cruises is such that no more than a day is spent at any port, and sometimes only a half day. I wish this would change but don't have any expectations. It's still a good way to see a lot of cities and villages.
WHY 6 STARS: our boat was run into by a barge near the end of our trip and the crew response was stellar!!! It was night and we were into only the first course of our big, finale dinner downstairs. Everything, including some people, went flying across the room as screams ripped through the air. Immediately the Cruise Director, Tibor, came on the intercom and asked that we remain calm and check for any injured among us, bringing them upstairs to the lounge where a triage area was setup. (There were very few injuries, none major, and local land emergency crew came aboard to facilitate medical attention or transport to a hospital.) The staff had obviously run drills because they were on scene with First Aid Kits before the initial screams had died down. Amazing. Within 2 hours all broken glass, spilled liquids and toppled furniture had been cleaned and passengers were being served sandwiches and drinks in the lounge. Our itinerary was, obviously, changed for the next day but that, too, was handled last minute by Tibor.
So, I would travel again on any Avalon cruise!
Editorial review of Avalon Waterways
Part of the Globus family of travel brands since 2003, Avalon Waterways has proven to be one of the more innovative of the many river cruise companies now in operation.
Its newest “Suite” ships feature “open-air balconies” with floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to serve as indoor-outdoor seating areas, which don’t cut into cabin space as do normal balconies -- meaning you have more room to move around. Bathrooms are also roomy.
What Makes Avalon Waterways Stand Out?
While global in scale, Avalon Waterways is best known for offering high-end cruises on brand new ships on European rivers. The oldest of the 15 Europe-based ships dates from just 2008, which makes it the youngest fleet of any size on European rivers.
Newer ships generally mean that staterooms are larger and amenities are enhanced.
Who Will Enjoy Traveling with Avalon Waterways?
While the majority of river cruise travelers are in the 50-plus range, more and more middle aged couples have been enjoying river cruises as well. Avalon is a good place to start, particularly for the more exotic destinations like the Mekong in Asia or the Amazon in South America.
Travelers seeking a luxury minded cruise experience, without an overly pomp and circumstance feel, will love cruising the world’s rivers with Avalon.
If you’re wary of river cruising as an extension of the “floating hotel”, Avalon makes sure that a focus on the region itself is felt onboard as well as through the port excursions. Local ingredients are used to make traditional dishes, and beer, wine, and spirits of the area are also showcased.
Casual and comfortable, combining a relaxed atmosphere with a fine dining calibur food and wine, Avalon presents a quiet elegance without being stuffy.
Travelers who like choice will appreciate Avalon’s numerous options when it comes to port excursion activities. Starting in 2019 and unlike many cruises, a majority of these excursions will be included in the price.
Avalon is well known for their Europe cruises, but they travel all over the world as well. They have five ships in Asia (sailing the Yangtze, Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers), and one ship each in the United States (the American Queen, which sails the Mississippi) and South America (the Aria, which plies the Amazon). Avalon runs small-ship cruises through the Galapagos Islands as well.
Avalon Waterways Travel Style
The comfort of their passengers is top of mind for Avalon. Whether this means the spacious viewing deck or numerous excursions available to satisfy different interests.
There is a sense of casual elegance that Avalon portrays. The culture on board is professional while still friendly, and the furnishings are not overly opulent.
Another thing that makes Avalon stand out is their attention to staying active and healthy. They have been a frontrunner in river cruises providing bikes and other ways to be active in each port stop.
Why Choose a Cruise with Avalon Waterways?
Avalon Cruises are comfortable, fun, and active. This is the perfect choice of cruise company for older affluent travelers seeking top notch river cruise experiences around the world.
Considering the spaciousness and innovativeness of its cabins, the fact that shore excursions and multiple dining options are included in the rates, and a chance to take advantage of some attractive early-booking discounts, Avalon can offer excellent value.
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About the company FromFrom Avalon Waterways
River Cruising from a Unique Point of View...Yours.
You see life differently. While others chase what's popular, you follow your own path. Your own voice has never led you astray. You've arrived, knowing what it’s taken to get here. At Avalon, we share your unique point of view. That's why we've designed a cruise experience that’s just a bit different. Spaces are bigger. Views are more epic. Excursions are more enriching. It's a step beyond the ordinary, but knowing you, we think you'll feel at home here. Welcome aboard.
Whether you'd like a romantic mini-break, an extended exploration, or something in between, with Avalon Waterways, you get to choose the river cruise that reveals the very best of Europe, Asia, South America, or Africa-your way!
On the spectacular ships of Avalon, "included" is one of our favorite words. Spacious outside staterooms with plenty of room to relax-included. Special touches, like regional wines and beer at every onboard dinner-included. Complimentary Wi-Fi access-included. The most shore excursions, led by Certified Local Guides-included. VIP entrance into the must-see sites-included. Unique Local Favoritessm designed to bring your destination to life-included. Expansive panoramic views throughout the ship-included. And in addition to everything that's included, we also give you the freedom of Avalon Choice®, a different approach to river cruising that lets you personalize many elements of your cruise...to make your experience exclusively yours!
We're Looking Out for the Way You Look Out
When your bed faces a wall, the view never changes. Which is precisely why our beds, unlike other cruise lines, face a window.* Because we think letting you see the incredible views that river cruising is famous for, is a darned good idea. And if we put that much attention into a bed, imagine what we’ve done for the rest of your experience.
Better Views Are Just the Beginning
Come see for yourself and read about how Avalon Waterways is different from all other river cruise companies.
Delicious in Every Flavor
From the first bite to the last "Mmmm," Avalon gives you lots of choices when it comes to dining. And because we start with fresh, quality local ingredients, delectable recipes and expert chefs, you’ll look forward to each meal the same way you look forward to each port. You pick the time, the place and the tastes you are craving, and we'll deliver dining perfection every time.
Cruises to Exotic Destinations.
Experience all that Avalon has to offer in exotic locations like Southeast Asia, China, the Galápagos Island, Egypt or the Peruvian Amazon. A journey on one of Asia’s great rivers, Yangtze, Mekong, or Irrawaddy, offers a tapestry of fascinating sights, colorful cultures, and ancient traditions. In South America you may embark down one of the world's vastly unexplored regions, the mighty Amazon, or explore the home of some of the world's most fascinating animal life in theGalápagos Island.
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