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  #1  
Old July 17th, 2013, 09:15 PM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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Default Avalon Expression, June 23, Prague to Budapest

I'm writing this trip report here as there is no pull down for Expression in the Avalon trip report section.

We sailed the Danube beginning with a 3 night pre-trip in Prague. We stayed at the Hilton which was a wonderful hotel, the biggest Hilton in Europe. Unfortunately, for us, it was a bit far from old town.

Breakfast at the hotel was first class, the staff was great. Had lunch in the cafe twice - a bit pricey, but it was a hotel meal.

There was free wifi in the lobby.

We met our fabulous cruise director, Nynke, the first night at a welcome champagne meeting.

We had already met a nice couple on the bus who we became fast friends with. First night dinner at the Cafe Europa, not far from the hotel. Good food and service.

Next day we had a walking tour of the Castle district followed by walking in the old town. We were bussed to the castle and then bussed back to old town then back to the ship.

Unfortunately the weather in Prague was chilly and rainy. That afternoon it just poured and we didn't get out much.

The last day in Prague we were to depart the hotel at 1pm. It was drizzly and we took the optional walking tour "Prague's Secrets Revealed" which went across the Charles Bridge into the Mala Strana area.

All the local tour guides we had were excellent. Occasionally the whisper receivers did not work.

It was at least a 3 hour drive on the bus to the Expression, docked in Nuremburg. We had a comfort stop on the way.

All the busses were new and comfortable. I'm writing this in a stream of consciousness format, hope you don't mind.

The Expression was glorious. Only 5 weeks old. We were in the bottom floor "aquarium" room which suited us just fine. The amenities were first class, queen size bed comfy, free water bottles, extra hangers, plenty of storage. It was fun to watch the camera showing the view from the front of the ship on our room's tv.

The whole crew on the ship was young and enthusiastic. All spoke excellent English and a lot were from Hungary.

After settling in we had our safety drill then dinner. Dinner was usually at 7pm and lasted at least 2 hours. It was a bit long for us but gave us a good chance to get to know our table mates. There are a few tables for 2 right inside the door, mostly tables for 4 and a few tables for 8. Service was mostly excellent, sometimes a little slow.

Food was good - not five star but good. Portions were small but you did have a choice of starter, salad, soup, entree and dessert. Wine was just ok.

There was a resident piano player, Titi, who played in the afternoon and after dinner. There is a small dance floor but not too many danced.

We usually cruised during dinner and through the night.

To be continued
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  #2  
Old July 18th, 2013, 02:53 PM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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[quote=Cobbie48;39177695]I'm writing this trip report here as there is no pull down for Expression in the Avalon trip report section.

We sailed the Danube beginning with a 3 night pre-trip in Prague. We stayed at the Hilton which was a wonderful hotel, the biggest Hilton in Europe. Unfortunately, for us, it was a bit far from old town.

Breakfast at the hotel was first class, the staff was great. Had lunch in the cafe twice - a bit pricey, but it was a hotel meal.

There was free wifi in the lobby.

We met our fabulous cruise director, Nynke, the first night at a welcome champagne meeting.

We had already met a nice couple on the bus who we became fast friends with. First night dinner at the Cafe Europa, not far from the hotel. Good food and service.

Next day we had a walking tour of the Castle district followed by walking in the old town. We were bussed to the castle and then bussed back to old town then back to the ship.

Unfortunately the weather in Prague was chilly and rainy. That afternoon it just poured and we didn't get out much.

The last day in Prague we were to depart the hotel at 1pm. It was drizzly and we took the optional walking tour "Prague's Secrets Revealed" which went across the Charles Bridge into the Mala Strana area.

All the local tour guides we had were excellent. Occasionally the whisper receivers did not work.

It was at least a 3 hour drive on the bus to the Expression, docked in Nuremburg. We had a comfort stop on the way.

All the busses were new and comfortable. I'm writing this in a stream of consciousness format, hope you don't mind.

The Expression was glorious. Only 5 weeks old. We were in the bottom floor "aquarium" room which suited us just fine. The amenities were first class, queen size bed comfy, free water bottles, extra hangers, plenty of storage. It was fun to watch the camera showing the view from the front of the ship on our room's tv.

The whole crew on the ship was young and enthusiastic. All spoke excellent English and a lot were from Hungary.

After settling in we had our safety drill then dinner. Dinner was usually at 7pm and lasted at least 2 hours. It was a bit long for us but gave us a good chance to get to know our table mates. There are a few tables for 2 right inside the door, mostly tables for 4 and a few tables for 8. Service was mostly excellent, sometimes a little slow.

Food was good - not five star but good. Portions were small but you did have a choice of starter, salad, soup, entree and dessert. Wine was just ok.

There was a resident piano player, Titi, who played in the afternoon and after dinner. There is a small dance floor but not too many danced.

We usually cruised during dinner and through the night.

Tours: Quick walking tour of Nuremburg was included. We were bussed to the main square - we wished we could have visited the old town.

Regensburg: It is a lovely city. Had a nice walking tour including free fried bratwurst at an old pub. Beer is included. Spent the rest of the day wandering around on our own.

Passau: The ship stops here for a short time and most people go off on excursions. We chose to go to Cesky Krumlov. It was a most interesting medieval town with a wonderful guide.

Melk: The included tour of the Melk Abbey was great. You can walk back to the ship if you want. We spent from 11am on sailing - the Wachau Valley is gorgeous. Lots of hillside vineyards.

Docked overnight in Vienna. Took the excursion to Schonbrunn Palace in the am. Excellent tour. Took the included walking tour in the afternoon.

Budapest: Docked overnight. Took the included walking tour in the morning.

Stayed 2 extra nights in Budapest at the 5 Star Intercontinental Hotel. It was right next to the Chain Bridge. Also took the nighttime excursion drive around to see Budapest lit up.

End of the Report
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  #3  
Old July 18th, 2013, 04:32 PM
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Great trip report. I was on the Expression right after your trip. The bar tenders told us that the bar bills on our cruise were more than the past two cruises and we kept Titi playing dance music ... so we could dance!

Expression is a great ship with a wonderful crew! Glad you had a great time!


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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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  #4  
Old July 22nd, 2013, 05:02 AM
Sylve1 Sylve1 is offline
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Thanks for the great report. It reminded of our trip with Avalon last September. We were not on a new ship but you wouldn't know it. We had a longer stay in Prague and Budapest on our own but everything else sounds so familiar. I would agree on the food and service but like you though it was a small thing and overall it was wonderful.
When you went to Vienna I see you went to the Palace in the morning. We went in the afternoon and it was a bit rushed and we had heavy traffic to contend with. Sounds like Avalon has changed this for the better.
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  #5  
Old July 24th, 2013, 03:12 PM
InTheCruisingYearsOfLife InTheCruisingYearsOfLife is offline
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Default Which would you choose?

You can see from the bottom of my signature the itinerary we are currently planning. But upon learning that there is a one in three chance of being affected by "cyclonic storm weather" on the eastbound ocean cruise, and upon reflecting on the fact that we'd really like to do our first river cruise, we are considering this very cruise you describe, starting 31 August 2014.

When we arrive in Budapest, we are considering staying five extra nights in Budapest or in Vienna, and shortening our stay in Venice to five nights before hopping aboard the NCL Jade for our Greek island cruise. The reason for the five-night granularity on our stays is that we plan to exploit the "fifth night free" deal we get through Marriott Rewards.

With that as a backdrop, and knowing what you already know about how long the Expression itinerary visits each of these cities, which would you recommend: five more nights in Budapest before rail-riding to Venice; or hopping the rail to Vienna the moment Avalon tosses us and our luggage onto the wharf?

Thanks for your insight! (And thanks for your great review!)

InTheCruisingYearsOfLife
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Feb '12, 7 days -- NCL Spirit -- Western Caribbean, NOLA -- rump penthouse.
25 Aug, 14 days -- Scenic Pearl -- Amsterdam to Basel on the Rhine and Moselle rivers
20 Sept 14, 7 days -- NCL Jade -- Greek Islands -- rump penthouse
25 Oct 14, 4 days -- NCL Epic -- Rome to Barcelona, spa mini-suite
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Old July 24th, 2013, 05:27 PM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheCruisingYearsOfLife View Post
You can see from the bottom of my signature the itinerary we are currently planning. But upon learning that there is a one in three chance of being affected by "cyclonic storm weather" on the eastbound ocean cruise, and upon reflecting on the fact that we'd really like to do our first river cruise, we are considering this very cruise you describe, starting 31 August 2014.

When we arrive in Budapest, we are considering staying five extra nights in Budapest or in Vienna, and shortening our stay in Venice to five nights before hopping aboard the NCL Jade for our Greek island cruise. The reason for the five-night granularity on our stays is that we plan to exploit the "fifth night free" deal we get through Marriott Rewards.

With that as a backdrop, and knowing what you already know about how long the Expression itinerary visits each of these cities, which would you recommend: five more nights in Budapest before rail-riding to Venice; or hopping the rail to Vienna the moment Avalon tosses us and our luggage onto the wharf?

Thanks for your insight! (And thanks for your great review!)

InTheCruisingYearsOfLife
We loved Budapest. Avalon gives you two nights and one full day and tosses you out by 10 am the next day. I'm not a fan of Vienna. I think there would be plenty to keep you busy in Budapest. Public transport is great. We loved the funicular to and from the Place.

Your uber trip this fall sounds amazing. Good luck with next years decision
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Old July 24th, 2013, 05:44 PM
InTheCruisingYearsOfLife InTheCruisingYearsOfLife is offline
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Originally Posted by Cobbie48 View Post
We loved Budapest. Avalon gives you two nights and one full day and tosses you out by 10 am the next day. I'm not a fan of Vienna. I think there would be plenty to keep you busy in Budapest. Public transport is great. We loved the funicular to and from the Place.

Your uber trip this fall sounds amazing. Good luck with next years decision
Thank you, Cobbie, that's a good datapoint for us to consider!

By the way, would you opine as to how all-inclusive your Expression trip really worked out to be? I don't have to tell you, switching from a trans-atlantic cruise to a river cruise comes at a stiff hit to the pocketbook, indeed one that I haven't figured out yet how to accomodate. I'm just wondering how much additional siphoning I can expect during that part of this grandiose 'cation.

Admittedly, I haven't yet availed myself yet of a really good pawing through the River Cruise forums yet, so pardon if this is unforgivably mundane of me to ask.

I'm glad you had a fine time!

InThe
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July '04, 7 days -- NCL Sun -- Alaska, Sawyer Glacier -- stern mini-suite.
Oct '08, 11 days -- NCL Sun -- San Francisco, Mexican Riviera -- bow mini-suite.
July '10, 7 days -- NCL Pearl -- Alaska, Glacier Bay -- penthouse UPSOLD TO Deluxe Owner's Suite.
Feb '12, 7 days -- NCL Spirit -- Western Caribbean, NOLA -- rump penthouse.
25 Aug, 14 days -- Scenic Pearl -- Amsterdam to Basel on the Rhine and Moselle rivers
20 Sept 14, 7 days -- NCL Jade -- Greek Islands -- rump penthouse
25 Oct 14, 4 days -- NCL Epic -- Rome to Barcelona, spa mini-suite
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  #8  
Old July 24th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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burrma burrma is offline
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Default Great review; one question

Were you happy with Intercontinental Hotel? Book it through the cruise line or on your own? We are staying there in Oct. I understand it was right across from where you dock. Did you walk, take shuttle or was transfer included? Thanks
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  #9  
Old July 25th, 2013, 01:29 AM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheCruisingYearsOfLife View Post
Thank you, Cobbie, that's a good datapoint for us to consider!

By the way, would you opine as to how all-inclusive your Expression trip really worked out to be? I don't have to tell you, switching from a trans-atlantic cruise to a river cruise comes at a stiff hit to the pocketbook, indeed one that I haven't figured out yet how to accomodate. I'm just wondering how much additional siphoning I can expect during that part of this grandiose 'cation.

Admittedly, I haven't yet availed myself yet of a really good pawing through the River Cruise forums yet, so pardon if this is unforgivably mundane of me to ask.

I'm glad you had a fine time!

InThe
The cruise was very pricey. It was $1500 more for a room upstairs. We were very happy with our downstairs room

We signed up for the all day excursion to a cesky Krumlov which was $88 (lunch not included). We had a guide on the bus then a local guide in CK. they were included in the price. we also signed up for the $25 nighttime bus tour of Budapest. During the tour we signed up for 2 more excursions which were not terribly pricey. In the cruse line on line info they tell you exactly what the extra tours cost

Send for the catalog from all the tours. They are a wealth of info.

We didn't send much on extra alcohol on the cruise. A couple of beers on deck. I think they had happy hour too but were not big drinkers. The tips are extra. Avalon suggests $12/day per passenger for the crew and a separate amt for the cruise director. The CD earns her $$. Not like on an ocean liner

They don't take photos and try to sell them, there is no casino. It's pretty Low key

Let e know f you have more questions
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Old July 25th, 2013, 01:32 AM
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Cobbie48 Cobbie48 is offline
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Originally Posted by burrma View Post
Were you happy with Intercontinental Hotel? Book it through the cruise line or on your own? We are staying there in Oct. I understand it was right across from where you dock. Did you walk, take shuttle or was transfer included? Thanks


The Intercontinental was fabulous. Huge buffet breakfast. Across from the dock and Chain Bridge. Very good location. We booked it through the cruise line. Including breakfast it was $225 a night including vat. They called us a taxi for our 3:30am departure to the airport. We only paid around $15 for the taxi

Transfer was included. They put bags and a on a bus and drove us across the street!
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  #11  
Old July 25th, 2013, 10:36 AM
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burrma burrma is offline
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Default Thank Cobbie

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobbie48 View Post
The Intercontinental was fabulous. Huge buffet breakfast. Across from the dock and Chain Bridge. Very good location. We booked it through the cruise line. Including breakfast it was $225 a night including vat. They called us a taxi for our 3:30am departure to the airport. We only paid around $15 for the taxi

Transfer was included. They put bags and a on a bus and drove us across the street!
for taking the time to reply; information was great to know. We have to leave hotel also at 3:30; said they would even make us a boxed breakfast. Surprised taxi to airport was that reasonable. Thanks
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