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  #1  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 12:36 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Default Just back from Avalon Panorama

We did the pre tour in Prague and loved the city. The hotel was The Hilton, a nice convention hotel located a 20 minute from the center. We did not do the included tour and instead hired a personal guide who was wonderful. I would be happy to provide contact info if anyone is interested. Rooms at the hotel were large and modern and the staff very helpful. Breakfast was included and more than adequate.

The bus ride to Nuremberg was uneventful and we arrived at the ship at five.

The Panorama is a lovely ship. The design of the staterooms really maximizes space and views and the new beds are memory foam and very comfy. The new bathrooms are also lovely and we enjoyed the upgraded amenities. They have installed a very good in room entertainment system, and we enjoyed being able to listen to music or watch a late night movie in the cabin.

Our cruise director, Jon Lupe, was the best we have had yet on Avalon and was both efficient and gracious. We saw some familiar faces aboard including Dan, the Hotel Manager, Johny in the dining room, Radu behind the bar and Peter, the dining room manager.

Where the cruises really disappointed was the food. There was a noticeable cheapening in the quality and variety of food offered on this cruise compared to one year ago when we were very pleased with the food and wine served.

Gone from the menu were rack of lamb, roast duck and the wonderful and flavorful fish dishes and soups. Instead we were served mostly bland and very small portions, much of which went uneaten. We were not the only unhappy customers when it came to the food served but everyone has different tastes and food is always subjective

Wine was also cut off at the entrée, which was new from previous cruises. We were not sure if this was server related or a new policy. This was also a departure from previous cruises, as was the overall decrease in variety and quality of wine offered.
I am also a big fan of cheese after dinner and looked forward to some of the excellent cheeses served previously. Both quantity and quality were noticeably less than in the past.

We were aboard for New Years eve and the entertainment was quite a let down. Instead of music for dancing, the CD presented an hour long audience participation story telling. A group of us wandered across to the Vantage boat docked next door and watched as their guests enjoyed a live six piece dance bank and a table full of hot snacks. Vienna came to the rescue and many of us headed topside and enjoyed the truly spectacular fireworks display that lasted for forty five minutes.

Another high point was Vasco, the houses musician, who grabbed a guitar and was joined by Dan one night for a rousing set of music. They were joined by two guests, one a pianist and the other a harmonica player and we all enjoyed a truly terrific impromptu jam session that was the best entertainment of the cruise. We all commented that we wished they had saved that for NYE.

All in all, we found the ship beautiful with great appointments but were let down by the overall experience of the Panorama and hope it was just a random off cruise and not representative of fleet wide changes
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Last edited by Help@; January 4th, 2012 at 02:49 PM. Reason: member requested editing
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  #2  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 08:12 AM
goose30 goose30 is offline
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Sorry you had such a miserable time. I think you should ask for your money back. Sounds like the trip was a monster!
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  #3  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 09:48 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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The airline was not the cruise line's fault and we met wonderful people and enjoyed our independent time a lot. The ship was beautiful, it was really the food and New Years Eve that was so disappointing.

It was not miserable but did not meet expectation based on our previous cruises on Avalon.
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  #4  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 10:38 AM
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Jon Lupe was training to be a guide on our Grand France Trip (the Burgundy and Provance portion). He is a super guy! Also glad that you saw Radu and Peter! We are not traveling on the Panorama this year but hope when we board we, too, see some familiar faces.
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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
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Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
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Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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  #5  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 11:42 AM
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OOOH! That's disappointing to hear. We have the same cruise, but on the Visionary scheduled next year. Hope they get rid of the Doberman and that the food and wine with dinner experience has improved before then.
B. Cole
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  #6  
Old January 3rd, 2012, 08:52 PM
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Wow. I am now very worried. Our Avalon cruise last year was so great. We are booked on the Luminary for April 28. I wonder if I should cancel. It's a lot of money and if the food is awful and the wine and beer is no longer free with dinner (after the entree), I just don't know if we should do it or not. I have not yet made final payment. What would you do?? I really don't want to take a chance on having an awful experience, as we cancelled all of our vacations booked for 2010 to save up for this cruise.
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  #7  
Old January 4th, 2012, 05:59 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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stretchcruz, we found the Luminary very enjoyable last year. Stefan was the chef and food was very good. We had no complaints. He was also the chef on a previous Avalon cruise in 2009 and we found the food very good then as well.

I got the impression from speaking to staff (will not name names here as I do not want them to get in trouble) that the current chef on board is not at all up to normal standards and that complaints on food taste, temp and portions are not unusual. I know that we were certainly not the only ones unhappy with the food. And I was quite surprised also at the rationing of the wine, although that issue appeared to be server related.

I have to say we were really taken aback by the food on this cruise. I would pay attention to where that chef is reassigned next year and would not go on a ship where he is working. I do hope it is a staff issue and not an overall reduction in quality on the line as Avalon has lovely ships and in general a great staff.
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  #8  
Old January 4th, 2012, 09:51 AM
cole cole is offline
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Question Which Hilton?

There are two Hilton's in Prague for the pre and post tour nights. Which did the group stay in:
Hilton Prague Old Town (V Celnici 7) or
Hilton Prague Hotel (Pobrezni 1)
Thanks for your help.
B. Cole
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  #9  
Old January 4th, 2012, 11:49 AM
pingpong1 pingpong1 is offline
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Caviargal & Stretchcruz - Since I'm brand new to this "River Cruise thing", I follow these posts very carefully and particularly value the observations and opinions from seasoned cruisers, like the both of you. I will be going on my first river cruise (hopefully, not my last!) on Avalon Imagery, departing Amsterdam on 25 March and sailing to Vienna. Given the price charged for these cruises, along with the high expectation of service that Avalon themselves have "whipped up" in their advertising, I would think that the company itself - Avalon - would exercise a great deal of management oversight and quality control to make sure that a high standard of excellence - including the food, service, "attitude" of their staff, etc. - would be absolutely consistent and at an extremely high level across their entire fleet. I would also expect that if there was any complaints or disappointment among any of their customers/guests - that it would be taken care of IMMEDIATELY and promptly. Right then and there and "on the spot"! I would think that Avalon would not subject any of their customers, who have pre-paid a lot of hard-earned dollars, to any disappointment or sub-standard service simply because they happened to "pick the wrong boat"! is there any indication that Avalon management actually reads these comments and postings? Is there anyone who is actually "in charge" onboard the ship who has the authority/responsbility to address concerns like yours, and "fix them" right then and there on the spot - just as there would/should be in any other high-priced resort or hotel? It doesn't seem like customers/cruisers should have to carefully "pick and choose" which particular ship/crew they select in order to have a good cruising experience - particularly when the "system" requires you to book and pay so far in advance. When there is a complaint and you afterwards document it and present it to Avalon's corporate staff, do you ever actually get a careful, comprehensive, and personal response from anyone "in authority" - or does it just look like some "cranked-out, computer-generated non-response" letter? Given the fact that Avalon had long since collected/desposited/spent everyone's money - the customer is in very little position to get a positive remedy to these problems - other than on websites like this. If enough people have a bad experience, they will/should simply stop giving their business to a non-responsive company. There is plenty of competition out there and the "cream" should rise to the top and the companies that fail to meet expectation should be forced out of business. Of course, that doesn't help an individual cruiser after they have already spent the time/money on what turned out to be a disappointing cruise and one that did not meet advertised levels of service. One of the main selling points of river cruising is ostensibly the "all-inclusive" nature, and "constantly-filled" glasses of wine/beer with dinner. if that's not actually happening anymore on Avalon or on any single one of their ships, contrary to their sales pitch, than that is patently "false advertising". Thoughts? Best Regards
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  #10  
Old January 4th, 2012, 12:56 PM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cole View Post
There are two Hilton's in Prague for the pre and post tour nights. Which did the group stay in:
Hilton Prague Old Town (V Celnici 7) or
Hilton Prague Hotel (Pobrezni 1)
Thanks for your help.
B. Cole
Hilton Prague. The Hilton Prague Old Town is in a better location but the hotel was very nice.
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email me here: kf95704@gmail.com

Last edited by caviargal; January 4th, 2012 at 01:01 PM.
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  #11  
Old January 4th, 2012, 01:46 PM
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stretchcruz stretchcruz is offline
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Thank you Avalon for responding and for your concern. Is it true that the beer/wine is being curtailed or was that an anomaly of that server? Thank you.
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  #12  
Old January 4th, 2012, 04:23 PM
Avalon Waterways Avalon Waterways is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stretchcruz View Post
Thank you Avalon for responding and for your concern. Is it true that the beer/wine is being curtailed or was that an anomaly of that server? Thank you.
We're happy to respond. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served throughout dinner. We're looking into caviargal's experience further.
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  #13  
Old January 4th, 2012, 06:10 PM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalon Waterways View Post
We're happy to respond. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served throughout dinner. We're looking into caviargal's experience further.
I appreciate that and will look forward to hearing from you.
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  #14  
Old January 7th, 2012, 09:51 PM
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Default Good to hear

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalon Waterways View Post
We're happy to respond. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served throughout dinner. We're looking into caviargal's experience further.
I'm so glad Avalon is following this recent failure to meet the cruiser's expectations. I would recommend that future cruisers "like" Avalon Waterways on Facebook and post immediately while you are on the cruise, so insufficiencies can be addressed immediately. Caviargirl has been a great resource throughout her planning, so I am sorry to hear her repeat experience with Avalon was marred.
Karen
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  #15  
Old January 8th, 2012, 11:54 AM
bradycreel bradycreel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalon Waterways View Post
We're happy to respond. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served throughout dinner. We're looking into caviargal's experience further.
I was on the same cruise and experienced the same practice — wine was not poured after the main course. In fact, it became more difficult to get beverages — water, tea, coffee, etc. — as we moved through the meal.

Further, my companions and I found the wine to be subpar and, in some cases, completely unacceptable. After the first night, we brought our own wine to the dining room for each meal and did not consume any house wine. (We were the guests about whom others said, "They just opened another bottle of champagne...." Despite what I was told by the Globus sales agent, we were never offered sparkling wine with dinner.)

My full review of the cruise is forthcoming, but I wanted to weigh in on this and to take credit for the pianist caviargirl mentioned — that's Basil from my group.
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  #16  
Old January 4th, 2012, 11:53 AM
Avalon Waterways Avalon Waterways is offline
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Thanks, caviargal. While our overall ratings continue to be high, indicating that we're exceeding expectations for the dining experiences we provide in Europe, we appreciate your feedback and are further reviewing the service provided on your sailing. Thanks again.
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  #17  
Old April 7th, 2012, 04:08 PM
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We are in Budapest now and everything has been great. It is an honor to have Patrick Clark, President of Avalon along with us. He has arranged several special trips for us and I understand there are a few more things to come in the following days.

From something I ate in Vienna, I had a touch of food poisoning and haven't been able to eat too much but the staff has been great by being sure I had broth soups, etc.

I hope tomorrow to start a thread here on Cruise Critic. Again, as Kelvin said, food is a personal choice but so far I have not heard any complaints!
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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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  #18  
Old April 7th, 2012, 04:10 PM
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Tell him to come on the Luminary April 28!!!!
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  #19  
Old April 7th, 2012, 05:52 PM
pingpong1 pingpong1 is offline
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Caviargal and others - We might just break a record here and make your original post/thread one of the longest running conversations ever. I'm now sitting again on US soil in the Delta "Sky Club" at JFK airport waiting for the next leg of my journey home (JFK to my Dad's house in Tampa). Got to get him back home before rejoining the wife and cats back in Phoenix I spoke to several of my fellow travellers (now friends) onboard the Imagery on our last morning before departure. These folks have been on more cruises than I have (both river and ocean) and I told them I'd be posting a review on CC. I wanted to get their feelings about the cruise and I wanted to blend them into my review. Without any prompting at all, they each "slid into" the topic of "food" on the cruise. We all agreed that most everything was just great. Crew was friendly and efficient, the boat was in tip-top shape, the "free" WiFi (new this year) worked just fine except for a 30-hour period towards the end of the cruise between Grein and Vienna. The complimentary and "extra" tours in each town were wonderful and all the guides were most knowledgeable and friendly. So it all came down to "the food" that they wanted to talk about. And I guess we're talking about it because AVALON talks so much about it in their literature. If you read all the adjectives and superlatives that they use in their written material to describe their meals, they have made the food one of the "most important" parts of their cruise experience. Therefore, if it doesn't seem to meet those standards in the opinion of their customers, then it's kind of "their fault" - not ours! The food, in a word, was "okay". Not great, and not terrible. It was just "okay". A LOT of fish at a lot of meals! Along with the "default choice" of grilled breast of chicken. I didn't think the steaks were as good you could get at Ruth's Chis, or Morton's, or Outback, or on Kelvin's grill in the back yard. The fish wasn't as good as you can get at Bonefish, Landry's, or Fish Market, or even Red Lobster. The salads weren't as good at that served at Olive Garden. The deserts were not as good as you can get a Maria Callendar's, Cheesecake Factory, or the Village Inn. No hot pastas or Italian dishes were served (spaghetti/meatballs, lasagna, saltumbaca, etc.) but if they had been, it probably wouldn't have been as good as Carraba's or Romano's Macaroni Grill. The breakfasts were no better than what can be had at IHOP or Denny's. Okay, maybe you can't get smoked salmon at Denny's! But if someone is coming onboard who has never eaten at any of those other places, then they'll think the meals are perhaps "wonderful". But they did not "top" any of those other places that I have mentioned. I thought the wines and beer served were fine. No better/no worse than what I buy to serve in my own house. I would just suggest not going on board the boat expecting the meals to be something far superior to what you might have at many of the popular (and moderately priced) restaurants that we Americans generally have access to. I'm hoping we hear from others (including webfoot) on this subject during this cruising season. I also now have an appreciation for what Caviargal was saying in her original post. Regards to all.
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  #20  
Old April 8th, 2012, 07:11 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Kelvin, thanks for posting that level of detail as well as feedback from multiple sources. It is always interesting to get the perspective of others and I agree that expectations set by marketing influence our experience to a good degree.

On our first few cruises with Avalon food was consistently good to very good and much better than the moderately priced chain restaurants you named and superior to our expectations.

Did your menu selections include rack of lamb, roast duck, etc.? Were local dishes (venison, etc) offered? I am curious because our cruises in 2009 and 2010 did but not the most recent. I am wondering if there were menu changes fleetwide.

Thanks again for posting along the way and glad you enjoyed your cruise.
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Last edited by caviargal; April 8th, 2012 at 07:12 AM.
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