View with a Room
Including transfers to and fro is just one way that Avalon makes traveling easier. I was greeted at the airport by an Avalon representative and transferred to the ship in a comfy van with fellow cruisers. Also included would be great tours on shore and special touches on board, including bicycles for sightseeing in town, Nordic walking sticks, and onboard WiFi.
At first glance, Avalon Visionary — built in 2012 and about 37 feet wide and 361 feet long — looks impressive. It’s the perfect size to fit through the locks and under low bridges that we’d traverse on our journey along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Docked in the heart of Amsterdam, the ship offered the perfect starting point for walking into the center of town to visit shops, restaurants, and attractions.
As the all English-speaking crew of 37 prepared our rooms and readied the ship for departure, we were treated to lunch, refreshments, and a quick tour. The Panorama Bistro at the front of the ship serves as a spot for light lunches as well as cocktails and entertainment in the evening. The Club Lounge at the back offers a quiet corner for coffee and cookies (available 24 hours a day), games, reading, or a comfy chair to take in the vistas. The Sky Deck boasts 180-degree unencumbered views and a grill lunch, weather permitting. It was too chilly to use the hot tub, but I suspect it’s a popular spot in warmer months.
The main dining room accommodates everyone comfortably in one seating, and a gym — complete with complimentary bottled water and towels — is available if you feel compelled to work off a few calories. ( Sadly, I was not so compelled!) A salon that offers cuts and blowouts rounds out the creature comforts. (And even though she was a hair stylist, the young lady staffing the salon did manage to solve a minor nail polish emergency for me.)
Your cabin on any cruise can sometimes define your trip, and it seems Avalon gave this quite a bit of thought. A sneak peek into one of two Royal Suites revealed 300 square feet, only a tiny bit smaller than my first apartment and much more well appointed with a queen-sized bed, separate sitting area, and large bathroom with double sinks and separate water closet. But you don’t have to be in a Royal Suite to feel spoiled and with just three decks and three cabin tiers, enjoying your temporary home away from home is easy.
My Panorama Suite felt spacious, with large closets and plenty of underbed storage for luggage (it makes a difference when you don’t have to walk around your suitcases), a room safe, Comfort Collection bed, desk, sitting area with small sofa, table and chair, complimentary bottled water, swivel TV, mini bar (with very reasonable pricing), fresh orchid, a fluffy robe and slippers, room service for breakfast, and a large bathroom made all the more special with L’Occitane amenities, a Millefiori Milano reed diffuser, and, get this: two different color towels so if you’re traveling with someone, you will always know which towel is yours.
The pièce de résistance in the cabin, however, is the lack of a balcony. Not having an actual carved out balcony is just one of the things that Avalon does marvelously. Suites all boast an 11-foot floor-to- ceiling sliding glass door/window that opens 7-feet wide, which essentially makes your entire room a balcony. Pop a chair in front of the railing or lay in bed (which faces the water) for the view of your life and fresh air on your skin.
Dining options aboard Avalon Visionary do not disappoint. Breakfast is served buffet style with hearty fare, light options, and everything in between. Mimosas and sparkling wine are always included. You can opt for a light lunch in the lounge — serving mostly salad, soup, and lighter fodder — or a buffet in the dining room with a few added options. Dinner gathers everyone for a
fresh and seasonal four-course à la carte menu featuring regional specialties beautifully connected to your itinerary. Whenever possible, the ship’s executive chef goes ashore and visits local food markets to create dishes inspired by that day’s port.
Adding to the options is the always-available Caesar salad, chicken, salmon, or steak. Making its debut this year is the company’s new Avalon Fresh menu, featuring mostly vegetarian, but always healthy and locally inspired appetizers, main courses, and desserts. Partnering with brothers Karl and Leo Wrenkh — the culinary gurus behind the first vegetarian restaurant in Vienna — Avalon now offers even more guiltless and delicious dishes. A late-night snack in the lounge also always hit the spot. And because one of Avalon’s favorite words is included, beer and wine are complimentary during lunch and dinner (as are soft drinks, sparkling water, and juices).
Top to bottom: Panorama Suite, Dining Room cuisine, Panorama Lounge