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  #1  
Old June 1st, 2012, 04:15 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Avalon Luminary Blue Danube Discovery May 17-29, 2012 Review

This will be an attempt to cover our Luminary cruise in enough detail so a new river cruiser will get a feel for the experience. Over the last few months I was searching for this type of information so I decided I would try to help spread the word now that we have returned. Sorry, but this will be long and spread over multiple postings.

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.
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  #2  
Old June 1st, 2012, 04:16 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Day 0 to 3

Day 0 – Arrival in Budapest
The Avalon driver met us right after we picked up our luggage and drove us to the hotel. We were his only passengers so he was able to talk to us and point out the sights on the way to the Intercontinental. He provided a great first impression of Avalon.

At the hotel we asked about a river view room. They told us the standard Avalon room is facing the street so we upgraded to river view for 25 Euros a day. Wow, it was worth it. We had a room on part of the hotel that angles out – hard to explain – with a sofa in front of a large picture window that gave us a view of the Danube River, the Chain Bridge, and Buda. Beautiful at night.

The hotel registration person told us where we could meet the Avalon representative the next day plus explained the hotel layout to us.

We cleaned up, walked around a little and then had dinner at the hotel. Very nice restaurant and the food was very good.


Day 1 May 17 – Budapest – First day of the official trip.
We spent the day walking around the city using a guide book. The hotel is in a perfect spot for just walking. At the Avalon desk we met our Cruise Director Nynke and picked up the Daily Newsletter for Thursday and Friday at the hotel.

At 6:00 PM we had our Welcome Meeting with Champagne with Nynke. She described in detail what was going to happen over the next few days. Nice meeting and overview.

At 7:30 we did the optional tour – Hungarian Folklore Show with Dinner. It included transportation, dinner, drinks and the show. Cost is 59 Euros each. Nice introduction to Hungary.


Day 2 May 18 – Budapest
At 8:30 AM was the included City Tour of Budapest. Good overview tour of the city.

The rest of the day we did on our own but the following optional tours were available.

At 1:30 PM Bohemian Village of Szentendre 29 Euros per person
At 1:00 PM Skanzen, Caprice and Szentendre 49 Euros per person
At 9:00 PM Budapest’s City Lights 19 Euros per person


Day 3 May 19 – Budapest and Transfer to Ship
10:00 AM The luggage had to be out in the hall.
9:15 to 11:30 AM Hotel check out.

10:30 AM we took the optional tour – Hungarian Horse Farm Puszta tour for 59 Euros per person. It included transportation, welcome drink, lunch, tours of the farm, horse show, and entertainment during lunch. Excellent tour.

The other optional tour was at 9:30 AM the Communism Tour for 31 Euros per person.

3:45 to 5:30 PM Embarkation: very easy and fast. We were delivered to the ship right from our tour, walked on, were given our room keys, and was escorted to our room within minutes.

5:50 PM or so, we had the Mandatory Safety Exercise with life vests and evacuation procedures.

6:00 PM we sailed for Vienna.

Entertainment for the evening: Stefan, the on board piano player.
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  #3  
Old June 1st, 2012, 04:17 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Day 4 to 7

Day 4 May 20 – Sailing to Vienna
Enjoyed the day relaxing and watching the river. In the morning there was a cruise briefing by Nynke.

Arrived in Vienna during dinner – uneventful.

At 7:30 PM we took the optional tour Royal Waltz Concert for 49 Euros per person. It included the concert and a Champagne break. We enjoyed the concert very much but the room was way too warm so don’t overdress if you go.

Entertainment for the evening: Stefan



Day 5 May 21 – Vienna, Austria
At 8:30 AM we had the included City Tour which was both a coach and walking tour.

Optional tour we did not take was at 1:15 PM Schonbrunn Imperial Palace and Bakery for 44 Euros per person.

6:45 PM there was a port talk with Nynke

Entertainment for the evening: Pressburger Duo followed by Stefan


Day 6 May 22 – Durnstein and Melk, Austria
8:30 AM we had the included Walking Tour of Durnstein. We enjoyed the tour and managed to pick up a few trinkets to bring home.

10:45 AM we sailed to Melk. During the trip Nynke gave a narration of the Wachau Valley.

Afternoon – we arrived in Melk and had an included tour to the Melk Abby. Again, a good tour.

5:45 PM Austrian Wine Tasting. Very interesting and the wines tasted very good.

6:45 PM sailing to Linz, Austria

Entertainment for the evening: Crew Show. Very funny show and lots of fun. This was followed by Stefan.


Day 7 May 23 – Linz, Austria and Passau, Germany
There was a short stop in Linz to allow the people going on the optional tours to disembark. They met the ship in Passau later in the day. Others were not allowed off since we sailed immediately to Passau. We stayed on the ship.

The optional tours were:
Cesky Krumlov for 64 Euros per person
Salzburg and the Sound of Music for 64 Euros per person

About 4:00 PM we arrived in Passau and took the included Orientation Walk of Passau. To be honest the tour guide was a horrible person and did everything to offend us and to see how many steps we would take until the group gave up. I will not go into details but I will say Nynke immediately came to us when we returned to the ship because she heard from others what happened. She had us complete written reports which she was going to send to the home office. I just hope they never use that tour guide again. Don’t read anything into this please – it did not ruin our trip and it was not Avalon’s fault. The guides are provided by local agencies and this was one Nynke did not know before the tour.

Moving on…

Entertainment for the evening: Magic Violins Concert with Giorgio Benedetti. What a fantastic show. Don’t miss it if offered. This was followed by Stefan.
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  #4  
Old June 1st, 2012, 04:18 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Day 8 to End

Day 8 May 24 – Regensburg, Germany
Early, a short stop at Bach to disembark the option tour Danube Gorge and Weltenburg Abbey. Sorry, I can’t find the cost. We stayed on the ship.

Mid-morning we sailed by Walhalla. Impressive.

10:30 AM arrived in Regensburg and went on the included Walking Tour. It ended at the Old Sausage Kitchen for included free sausages, kraut, bread and beer or soda. Very good tour and the food was very good.

Entertainment for the evening: Hum-Pa-Pa-Hans O’Marusch who played Bavarian music on different instruments and managed to get people from the group to assist him in skits. A heck of a lot of fun. Also, he has one of the largest mustaches you may find. This was followed by Stefan.


Day 9 May 25 – Nuremberg, Germany
9:30 AM we had a disembarkation meeting for tomorrow with Nynke.

10:00 AM there was a presentation on the Main – Danube Canal by a local guide.

Lunch was a special Bavarian Lunch Buffet.

2:00 PM we took the included City Tour of Nuremberg. It was good but Nuremberg is a modern and large city, not the small interesting cities we visited before.

Optional tour was Nuremberg Trials and Rallies. Again, sorry I can not find the cost. It also combined the included tour so these people did not miss anything.

Dinner was the Farewell Gala Dinner.

Entertainment for the evening: Bavarian Beer Tasking followed by Stefan.


Day 10 May 26 – Depart for Prague
9:00 AM and time to get off the ship and board the busses to Prague. It was a very easy process. One impressive thing – the staff was there to say good-bye and Nynke personally shook everyone’s hand and thanked us for traveling with them. Since Nynke was staying on the ship we would have Nancy to take care of us in Prague.

The trip to Prague was about 4 hours. We were taken to the Intercontinental where check-in went very smoothly. We were upgraded to a beautiful large room which made us very happy. Avalon Cruise Director Nancy was our host.

Optional tour we took was Prague Secrets Revealed. 38 Euros per person. We saw a lot but it was too much walking with to many people in the streets after the long bus trip. Not a complaint, just a statement. This tour did help us plan for our day of walking on our own.

Day 9 May 27 – Prague
8:30 AM we took the included City Tour of Prague. This was excellent and showed us different things than the Secrets tour.

1:00 PM we took the optional tour of Terezin Labor Camp for 98 Euros per person. Long afternoon but very interesting and eye opening. Terezin can be looked up on the internet if you are interested in details.

6:15 was an optional tour we did not take to the Prague Opera Tosca. People who went said it was wonderful.


Day 10 May 28 – Prague
We did our own walking tours today and tried to rest.

The optional tours were:
8:30 AM Melnik Castle
7:15 PM Folklore Show with Dinner

Airplane transfer schedules were posted for tomorrow. It has to end sometime.


Day 11 May 29 – Depart for Home
We departed the hotel at 6:30 AM. Avalon made sure we had breakfast bags from the hotel including water, juice, 2 sandwiches, a roll, muffin, banana, and an apple. Too much food for me that early but it was a great final touch from a great cruise company.


That is it. I hope this may help anyone with questions about what happens on a river cruise.

Overall, we met some very nice people and had a great time. Will we go again? Probably. Would we go again using Avalon? Absolutely.

Happy sailing everyone!

Hal
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  #5  
Old June 1st, 2012, 04:20 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Final Comments

I know there is a lot of information missing so if anyone has questions please ask.

Be aware that I am not on here everyday so the answers may not be very rapid - but I'll try.

Hal
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  #6  
Old June 1st, 2012, 07:53 PM
Royalgirl Royalgirl is offline
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Great review Hal. We just did the Prague to Budapest cruise in early May and echo your experience. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Avalon people are.

This was our first river cruise and it certainly won't be our last.
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  #7  
Old June 1st, 2012, 08:21 PM
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smiledocMA smiledocMA is offline
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Thank you for that review. We will be doing Prague to Budapest in the summer of 2013 on Ama. Your review provides some great background as we prepare.
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  #8  
Old June 1st, 2012, 08:37 PM
jeckstein jeckstein is offline
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Fabulous review. We are following the exact same itinerary on the Avalon Visionary in 12 months. Your information, particularly about the optional tours, was extremely helpful for our planning. Can you write a little more about the amount of walking on the included tours. one of our group of four is extremely active, two of us are moderately active, and one would like to see as much as possible but avoid too much walking.
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  #9  
Old June 2nd, 2012, 10:24 AM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeckstein View Post
Fabulous review. We are following the exact same itinerary on the Avalon Visionary in 12 months. Your information, particularly about the optional tours, was extremely helpful for our planning. Can you write a little more about the amount of walking on the included tours. one of our group of four is extremely active, two of us are moderately active, and one would like to see as much as possible but avoid too much walking.
The amount of walking for the regular groups varied in each city and right now they are all blending together in my mind. Usually, it was more small hills with stone streets than steps. For those who want to avoid walking, there is an easy walkers group where they use a seperate bus to avoid the hills and steps. I don't remember which tour it was but on one they used a mini bus for the group. Everyone that took the easy walkers group seemed to be happy with the tours.

Good luck on your trip.
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  #10  
Old June 6th, 2012, 05:41 PM
Avalon Waterways Avalon Waterways is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cruiserhal View Post
This will be an attempt to cover our Luminary cruise in enough detail so a new river cruiser will get a feel for the experience. Over the last few months I was searching for this type of information so I decided I would try to help spread the word now that we have returned. Sorry, but this will be long and spread over multiple postings.

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.
cruiserhal - Thank you so much for taking the time to share your Avalon experience. We know the many people who read these posts appreciate it ... so do we! We're thrilled you had a great time and really appreciate your compliments! We hope to cruise with you again soon. In the meantime, all the best!
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  #11  
Old June 7th, 2012, 02:58 PM
luha luha is offline
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Thanks for your post - it gave me a lot of insights.

Do you find the "optional" tours to be of good value? Were there other perators in the ports whom we could use?
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  #12  
Old June 7th, 2012, 06:36 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Default Hi LUHA

We always used the optional tours form Avalon so I can't really help you with other tour operators.

I found all the optional tours we took to be worth the value because of both the additional things we saw and the additional information we learned. They were especially of value in Budapest and Prague when we did additional touring on our own.

I will warn you the Secrets optional tour in Prague was very long and a lot of walking. We were very tired after it was over.

I think you will be very happy with the Avalon tours.
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  #13  
Old June 10th, 2012, 10:35 PM
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Agutaya Agutaya is offline
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Thanks for the good review. We've only done ocean cruising so this was very helpful.
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  #14  
Old June 12th, 2012, 04:20 PM
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Kentish Kentish is offline
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Smile Avalon Blue Danube Cruise

Thank you Hal, your review was really helpful. I am going to follow you on this trip on the Tranquility in October this year. I am really looking forward to it, even more having read your review!
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  #15  
Old June 13th, 2012, 04:14 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kentish View Post
Thank you Hal, your review was really helpful. I am going to follow you on this trip on the Tranquility in October this year. I am really looking forward to it, even more having read your review!
I'm glad this was of help. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll try to help.
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  #16  
Old June 19th, 2012, 06:45 PM
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blingbling blingbling is offline
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Default Many thanks

Hi Hal,
I can't thank you enough for giving us insight into the daily itinerary of your river cruise. I'm taking a different cruise this OCT (Romantic Rhine) with Avalon, but your review still helped tremendously by sharing the level of detail and quality provided by Avalon.

It's good to hear of consistency in their offerings.
Karen
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  #17  
Old June 20th, 2012, 08:39 AM
mj_holiday mj_holiday is offline
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Default Another question

First, thanks for your great review and information. You described your heading to the airport for your return home and mentioned that your were given a breakfast bag. I am been given these before and end up throwing it away since there is no place to eat (relaxed) before going through security. Will these types of breakfast bags make it through security in European airports?
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  #18  
Old June 20th, 2012, 03:19 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mj_holiday View Post
First, thanks for your great review and information. You described your heading to the airport for your return home and mentioned that your were given a breakfast bag. I am been given these before and end up throwing it away since there is no place to eat (relaxed) before going through security. Will these types of breakfast bags make it through security in European airports?
Great question. We drank all the liquids and ate some things at the hotel (we had time and space) because they won't go thru security and I drink a lot of water early in the day to keep the doctors happy. However, we did take some of the other food to eat during long layover in Munich without any trouble from security. Honestly, there was so much food we left some in the bags at the hotel and still had plenty!

Enjoy your trip and let me know if you have any other questions.
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  #19  
Old June 20th, 2012, 03:23 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blingbling View Post
Hi Hal,
I can't thank you enough for giving us insight into the daily itinerary of your river cruise. I'm taking a different cruise this OCT (Romantic Rhine) with Avalon, but your review still helped tremendously by sharing the level of detail and quality provided by Avalon.

It's good to hear of consistency in their offerings.
Karen
Have a great cruise Karen. I can't say too much about how happy we are with Avalon from beginning to end. We are use to the "well it is the last day so get off our ship" type of trip and this was anything but that. If you have taken an ocean cruise you know what I mean.

Gosh, I sound like a paid advertisement for Avalon. I'm not, but I sure do like them.
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  #20  
Old June 20th, 2012, 03:38 PM
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crusinbanjo crusinbanjo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royalgirl View Post
Great review Hal. We just did the Prague to Budapest cruise in early May and echo your experience. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Avalon people are.

This was our first river cruise and it certainly won't be our last.
Great review!!! Mrs Banjo & I cruised on Avalon last year and we intend to cruise with them again in 2013.

Thanks again for the great review!
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