CABINS: Avalon purports to have the largest staterooms on European waterways; at 172 sq ft. Suites are a roomy 258 sq ft. As befits Avalon’s spanking-new ships, décor is tasteful and contemporary in muted browns, beiges and reds. The Royal Deck featured floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, flat-screen satellite TV and cocooning hotel-style beds fitted in luxurious Egyptian cotton. Double wardrobes, safes, mini-bars and desk space are standard throughout. Bathrooms are bijou but very hi-spec with great showers, and easy-to-control heating and air-conditioning.
DINING: Food was refreshingly healthy, with plenty of fruit and salad options and imaginative dressings. A la carte dinner (one seating) features a selection of soups, salads, regional wines (or beer) and a choice of fish, meat and vegetarian mains, followed by dessert and tea or coffee. Room-service continental breakfast is available in all Royal Deck staterooms and suites. As well as an extensive buffet lunch in the main restaurant, a light-lunch option is served in the lounge.
LOUNGES AND BARS: When the weather’s warm enough, sunning with a chilled Riesling on the spacious Sky Deck is the place to be. The Club Lounge is a nice spot for a quiet drink, with books and games available, otherwise there’s the bar in the Lounge – with high stools or comfy sofas strategically placed by panoramic windows.
ENTERTAINMENT: In keeping with the ship’s style and clientele this was more of a peripheral on Creativity, although there was nightly piano tinkling. An hour’s entertainment courtesy of an accomplished Edith Piaf-style chanteuse passed all too quickly, and another evening, a fabulous string trio went down a storm. On the final night the young, multi-national crew put on a great show for their champagne-supping audience.
ACTIVITIES: River cruising is all about the excursions and here Avalon excels with daily all-inclusive boat, bus and walking tours. Afternoons often include optional excursions such as wine tasting in Alsace (e36) or a Black Forest tour (e34). Bus transfers are provided for those who prefer to tour independently. Headsets are standard for all tours in Egypt and Europe.
FAMILY FUN: This one’s not for young families, but the grown-ups will have plenty of fun.
SERVICE: Top marks for service on-board Creativity, from the drinks and hot towels that are handed out (with a smile) every time you re-board, to the personal service of the knowledgeable cruise director and the top-notch housekeeping. Bathrooms were spruced twice daily and an orchid arrived in the room mid-week.
ANYTHING ELSE? The Club Lounge (access to all), on the Royal Deck, was always stocked with complimentary fresh fruit and a selection of teas, coffees and hot chocolate and biscuits. There’s a hairdresser (head massage e26; wash and dry e18), a small gym and a whirlpool tub on the Sky Deck. Onboard lectures – cheese and wine tastings for example – proved popular. The internet (e5 per hour; e15 for four hours or e30 per week) proved unreliable.
VERDICT: Nice touches include the bridge camera (live feed from the bridge beamed to your in-room TV) and the Silent Drive System, which all-but eliminates engine noise. The relatively small ship coupled with the cheery crew meant that by day two we felt right at home. www.avaloncruises.co.uk - Avalon Cruises is the trading name of Cosmos Coach Tours Ltd.
First Launched: 2009
Price range: £1,395 to £1,679 price includes flights or Eurostar transfers
Freelance Journalist, Selling Cruising