Avalon Waterways on a Roar

| Monday, 15 Apr. 2013

The Avalon Poetry

Avalon Waterways just christened its fourth Panorama-Suite Ship, the Avalon Artistry II, during a canal-side ceremony in Middleburg, Netherlands, last week, April 12. The 64-stateroom river cruise vessel was officially named by travel industry professional Marilen Sandejas-Yaptangco. Avalon Expression, the line's fifth Panorama Suite Ship, will be christened by author Patricia Schultz in May 2013.

Both of these beautiful new Avalon ships contain two full decks of "Panorama Suites" featuring wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Inside the beds are laid out in a fashion to give a view directly through a full wall of windows with a sliding glass door designed to open a full seven feet. When combined with a spacious seating area this results in a larger stateroom and more access to fresh air than a small balcony accessed by a tiny door.

Eighty percent of the rooms on these Avalon river boats are 200-square-foot Panorama Suites or 300-square-foot Royal Suites according to Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. The smallest stateroom in the fleet is still a very comfortable, 172-square feet. The ships also have a Sky or Panorama Bistro (for alternative dining) as well as Panorama, Sky and Observation Lounges, featuring plenty of seating and cozy spots to relax and take it all in.

For more details on the beautifully designed panorama suites visit the Avalon Waterways web site.

Avalon's Beginnings

That Avalon Waterways is owned by well-established travel leader Globus Tours of Littleton, Colorado, should come as no surprise. Euro-river cruising is essentially a modern version of the old fashioned "motor coach bus tours" Globus began offering decades ago.

The once popular motor coach tours had their drawbacks; only a few dozen tourists could sit on small, bouncing chairs and watch the world through reflective glass. Luggage was lugged to different hotels for unpacking and repacking daily. Precious daylight hours were spent riding in buses just to reach the next attraction and more precious hours, in the most popular cities, are spent sleeping to recover from the days of traveling. Each meal was taken in a different restaurant - often with unpredictable results.

But the advent of river cruises meant your accommodations and restaurants can travel with you, available virtually 24-hours/day. Even better, the nights once spent in hotels to recover from a day of travel are now used to move you effortlessly from one destination to the next - while you sleep. Not only does this eliminate the tediousness of travel, it gives you far more waking hours to see the sights as you wake up in a new location every day.

And due to creative river cruise lines like Avalon Waterways almost everything described is now even better. River cruise vessels have taken tips from the larger cruise industry and put a new focus on customer comfort and convenience.

The New Euro-River Cruise

When a company has been offering tours for 80 years it is safe to assume they know a few things about Europe such as the best sites and the guides to hire. So, Avalon chose to use the advantages they had cultivated over the decades and start a brand new river boat cruise line from scratch. Today, just since just 2004, Avalon Waterways has created an entirely new fleet of 17 brand new river cruise vessels, each of them state of the art.

But best of all are the beautiful Avalon Panorama river boats. The first debuted in May 2011 and by the end of 2014 there will be eight of them. You have to admire the intuitive design; 443 feet long with two full decks of 64 Panorama Suites of 200-sq. ft. apiece, each with an open-air balcony where not only is one wall entirely made of glass for the best scenic cruising imaginable from your own stateroom - but they even found a way to turn the bed in such a way that this glorious view greets you first thing in morning. The view from your stateroom is so amazing you could stay in bed all day long and hardly miss a thing. Panorama vessels also have 17 standard staterooms; and 47 crewmembers.

Layout for the Avalon Panorama Suite Avalon Panorama "Royal Suite"

The Panorama Suite offers 200 sq. ft. and an open balcony

The sliding glass doors are 11-feet wide by 7-feet tall. Two of three glass panels open up completely for a seven-foot span of fresh air, essentrially transforming the entire stateroom and every component of the room, including the bed, into an open air balcony. Everything was designed to optimize the view from these rooms. Panorama's rooms are 30 percent larger and the views 50 percent more expansive than the industry average in Europe.

But if you really want to splurge there are two 300 sq. ft. Royal Suites with a king-sized bed, an extra wide French balcony, also an entire wall of glass, a large flat-screen television, a mini-bar refrigerator and a bathroom with a double sink, an extra large shower and a private toilet area.

Both suites on Panorama come with:
  • Deluxe beds with premium mattress covers
  • Egyptian super-combed cotton linens
  • European-style duvets
  • Hairdryer
  • L'Occitane bath amenities
  • Spacious 3-door closets with shelves for ample storage
  • Easy under-bed luggage storage
  • Flat screen satellite TV with movie channels
  • Alarm clock
  • Make-up mirror
  • Direct-dial telephone
  • Bathrobes & slippers
  • Well-stocked mini-bar
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • In-room safe
  • Large mirror in bathroom
  • Marble countertops in bathroom

The first Avalon Panorama was christened in May 2011 followed by the Avalon Vista and Avalon Visionary in May 2012. By May 2013 there will be five Panorama Suite vessels in service, with three more to follow in 2014. All have beautiful dining rooms with all meals included; breakfast and lunch typically served in buffet style with full waiter service for dinner. There is an upper viewing deck; and a beautiful full-service spa and fitness center on the bottom deck.

The dining room on Avalon Panorama

The Skydeck viewing area on the Panorama vessels

The whirlpool spa on Avalon Panorama

In addition to the flat-screen televisions offering a wide selection of satellite news and entertainment, each Avalon vessel now features 3G unlimited, high-speed Internet service. This is extremely important to people like me who need to work during every vacation.

A Variety of Destinations

Avalon offers European cruises on their modern fleet of river vessels as short as four or five days on the Danube from Vienna to Budapest.

There are several Christmas cruises available, which feature visits to many of the unique German traditional Christmas markets which are open from November through Christmas Eve. Some of them, such as Prague, actually stay open into early January.

Tulip time in Holland and Belgium is another river cruise tradition every April. These cruises take you roundtrip from Amsterdam to Arnhem, Antwerp, Ghent, Middelburg and Rotterdam. Tours are available to Brussels, Bruges and other notable sites nearby.

There are seven and eight day summer cruises in France, heading either north along the Seine or south along the Saone. Either way, the cruise will immerse you in French culture and cuisine for a highly memorable vacation. Or you can combine them for a 15-day Grand Tour of France with Paris as your pivot point between the two cruises.

All together, Avalon offers cruise in Europe, Asia (The Yangtze and Mekong Rivers), South America (the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon), Egypt (Cairo and the Nile) and the U.S.A (with the American Queen on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers).

The Magnificent Europe cruise typically offered on Avalon Panorama and other vessels.

Ship Amenities:

  • Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Windows
  • Sky Deck with premium lounge chairs and shade system
  • Wi-Fi access
  • Expanded fitness center
  • Non-smoking interior
  • Elevator
  • Headsets for all guided shore excursions in Europe
  • English-speaking crew
  • Sightseeing with a Local Guide
  • Cruise Director
  • Onboard lectures, activities & nightly entertainment
  • Room service available featuring Continental breakfast and beverages
  • Sky Deck whirlpool
  • Internet corner
  • Hair salon

Older Avalon Waterways Vessels

All together, Avalon now offers cruises on 24 different vessels, some of which they own, and some where they are partners, such as the glorious American Queen River Boat on the Mississippi. And even the older Avalon boats built between 2004 and 2011, like the Avalon Artistry (the oldest vessel in the fleet) are still beautiful, with gourmet restaurants, comfortable staterooms and opulent, inviting public rooms. All of their boats offer French balcony staterooms, full Internet access, spacious private bathrooms and comfortable queen size beds.

But even if you choose to sail on one of the nine older ships you still get the benefits of recent upgrades Avalon will have made to its fleet as of 2011. All Avalon staterooms and suites will offer premium bedding including a choice of pillows, orthopedic mattresses, high-comfort mattress covers, European-style duvets, Egyptian super-combed cotton linens, extra blankets and bed configuration options. There will be L'Occitane toiletries and quality robes and slippers in each room, fleet-wide. All of Avalon's spacious staterooms feature large storage spaces for additional comfort and other "comfort touches" like complimentary bottled water and fully stocked mini-bars.

Off the Beaten Path

Avalon also offers tours of China from 11 to 24 days. A four-day Yangtze River cruise from Yinchuan to Chongqing, part of each Chinese tour, gives you a chance to see the Three Gorges Dam - the largest in the world.

With the Egypt package you begin in Cairo to visit Giza and then fly back to the temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. You then cruise to Aswan (below the dam at Lake Nasser) and then fly to Cairo again at the end of the cruise.

Ecuador and the Galapagos packages include the Galapagos Islands famous for natural history plus a variety of tour options in South America including Peru and the Amazon.

For these three exotic destinations Avalon uses vessels from other cruise lines and local tour operators.

Here are the individual ship schedules:

  • Nile - Year-Round
  • Yangtze - April through October
  • Mekong - Year-round
  • Danube - April through December (themed cruises in Oct and Dec)
  • Main-Danube Canal - April through December (themed cruises in Oct and Dec)
  • Moselle - April through October (wine cruise in August)
  • Rhine - March through November (Tulip time cruises in March and April; Music cruise in Oct; wine cruise in Aug)
  • Rhone - March through November (wine cruises in Aug and Oct; Jazz cruise in July)
  • Seine - March through October
  • Saone - March through October
  • Galapagos Islands - Year-Round
  • Amazon River - Year-Round

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