Our background: We have been on 35 ocean crises approaching almost a year at sea and decided we needed to try something new. Everyone we spoke to that did a river cruise loved it so we took the plunge – so to speak.
Decision: We chose the Avalon Luminary Blue Danube Discovery from Budapest to Prague starting on May 17 in cabin 314, a suite. Actually, we decided to arrive a day early to rest so my references will listed as Day 0 for our early arrival and Day 1 will be the first scheduled day.
Ship: The Luminary is 2 years old and looks great. She holds 138 passengers – we had 133 on our cruise. Our fantastic cruise director was Nynke. She was with us during the hotel stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest and during the cruise.
Note on pre-cruise documentation: As part of the documentation each passenger receives a beautiful tour book of all the different river cruises showing the itineraries with pictures, map and descriptions of the tours. All you need to do is find your cruise and there is everything you need. PS: It is a great marketing tool if you may be interested in any of the other trips offered like we now are.
Staff: The 40 staff and crew were excellent. They were friendly and always available to help with anything. Avalon never tried to push anything on us or try to sell us future cruises. This is an important point because it differs from ocean cruising. They allow the cruise experience to speak for itself. Refreshing change.
Below I’ll use the Cruise Critic general rating categories as a quick guide.
Dining: There is plenty of opportunities to eat on the ship. For example:
-6:00 – 7:00 AM Early Riser Breakfast
-7:00 – 9:00 AM Champagne Buffet Breakfast – by the way all you have to do is ask for the Champagne, it is there
-9:00 – 10:00 Late Riser Breakfast
-12 Noon – 2 choices – Buffet lunch in the restaurant or Light Lunch in the Lounge
-3:00 – 4:00 PM Coffee, Tea and Cake
-7:00 PM Dinner where the food was excellent and the wine flowed freely until we told them to stop
-10:30 PM Late Night Fare
-Anytime there are cookies, coffee, teas, juices and water in the Club Lounge
We found the food to be very good to excellent with plenty of selections for such a small ship. Food can be excellent to one person and poor to another but I liked everything. Take the galley tour and be amazed to see what they do with such a little work area.
Public Rooms: Excellent, they easily held everyone and the wait staff was always available but never pushy.
Cabins: We selected a suite to make sure we had enough room since we did not know what to expect. The cabin was beautiful. We had more storage than on most ocean ships. The stewards always kept the room clean and we needed nothing.
Entertainment: Very Good to Excellent. See my individual day reports for details.
Spa & Fitness: We did not use
Family & Children: NA
Shore Excursions: Very Good to Excellent. See individual day reports. Avalon provides small tour groups of about 20 people plus an easy version group without less walking. For every port we received detailed maps of the city and emergency numbers to call if necessary.
Service: Excellent. Avalon makes sure you are taken care of from the time they greet you until the end of the trip. Everyone we encountered was excellent.
Value for Money: Excellent but I will say it is not an inexpensive trip especially when staying in the cities. But it was worth every penny to us. Everyone will have their own opinions on this.
OK, now time to move on to individual days – if you are sill awake at this point. I can be boring.
Remember Day 0 is our extra day before the actual start of the trip.