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  #1  
Old June 4th, 2012, 06:19 PM
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Thumbs up Trip Report Avalon Felicity Romantic Rhine Basel - Amsterdam

Just got back late last night from my 1st river cruise, on the Avalon Felicity. I went with my mom. We did the Romantic Rhine, from Basel to Amsterdam. I'm going to work on posting this in batches. I have to go back to work tomorrow, which I'm dreading, but I thought I'd start now. I want to thank all the posters on this board. I've been reading this board for 2 years now and I gained so much insight, info, tips, etc. I really felt that I knew what to expect.

Let me start with overall impressions. The trip was amazing. It was everything I expected and so much more. Avalon is a top notch organization and knows what they are doing. We were taken care of in every way. There were no glitches and everything went very smoothly. Our Cruise Director was Andrzej. He was great. He had so many duties but everything ran like a well oiled machine. He has a great sense of humor and was very helpful. We had phenomenal weather. It was warmer than expected at the beginning and very sunny. We only had about 2 hours of rain in Koblenz, which came after the included tour, so it wasn't too bad. It cooled off some towards the end of the week. It was raining the last day that we flew out of Amsterdam, but otherwise was perfect.

We left Ohio on Fri May 25 and flew to Zurich via Toronto. We had no problems with flights and all of our luggage made it. What a relief. After clearing customs, we made our way outside and found the shuttle to the Movenpick. It was maybe a 5-10 min ride to the hotel. Check in was a breeze and our room was ready. After a brief freshening up, we took the S7 fast train into central Zurich. A very nice woman on the train told us to take the train to the Opera House stop (one stop after the HB central station). We then took our time, looking at the opera house and strolling along the Rhine. We really enjoyed people watching. It was a beautiful Sat. of a long weekend (Pentecost) so lots of locals were out. We strolled up and down the many streets of Old Town. We found a great restaurant (Rhinefelder Bierhaus) on one of the streets. We were able to sit outside and watch all the people walking by. We had typical German / Swiss food and really nice white wine. It was a nice relaxing evening. We went to bed fairly early, after a really long day.

Breakfast was include with the room. The Movenpick had a really nice buffet and all of the food was wonderful. The Avalon rep was available after 8:30 am that day. We found out that we needed to be at the hotel by 3:30 pm for the last transfer to the ship. We were originally going to look into taking a day cruise on the lake, but decided to take Avalon's optional excursion to Mt. Pilatus. We left the hotel at 10:30 am. We took a bus 1 hr to Lucerne. Then we took 2 different cable cars to the top of the Alp. We then had at least 1 hour to look around. Some people walked farther up. My mom and I had a piece of apple strudel and coffee. Then it was the cog wheel train down. The bus met us and we had a tour of Lucerne. We first went to see the Lion of Lucerne, had a walking tour of the city, then had at least 1 hr free time. We were then taken directly to the ship. The total cost of the excursion was 52 Euros.

I know that we could have done this on our own, possibly cheaper, but then we would have had to deal with luggage, etc. It was a nice relaxing way to spend the day and I am very glad that we went on this excursion. I'm not sure if I am going to be back in the area, and I wanted to experience as much as possible. Avalon also offered a guided city tour of Zurich that was leaving the hotel at 12:30 and then would transfer directly to the ship. This was 29 E.

Check in to the ship was a breeze. We were given our key cards and escorted to our cabin. Our luggage was delivered in about 10 min. We were on the 2nd deck, cabin 219, just about in the middle of the boat. (Cat B) The room was made with 2 twin beds. There was plenty of floor space and more than enough closet / storage space. We unpacked and stored our luggage under the beds. The bathroom was a nice size. I'm not a small person and I had plenty of room in the shower. L'Occitane products were provided and were a very nice Verbena scent.

We had the mandatory safety briefing at 6 pm, which only took about 10-15 min. Remember, the ship is taller than the river is deep. There was a welcome reception at 6:30 that night and dinner at 7 pm. I have saved all of the dailies as well as the shore info that was passed out. I did not save any menus. Each night, we had an appetizer, choice of 2 soups, a salad, a choice of 3-4 entrees (always a fish, pasta selection and meat (veal, lamb, beef) selections. There was always a choice of chicken, rumpsteak of beef, and salmon as well. Beer (Becks draft) and wine was free flowing with dinner. There was always a white, rose, and red wine. The wines changed during the course of the cruise, but were mostly German selections. I liked all of them. Ice tea, coffee, and soda were also available. Desert was 2 choices or fresh fruits and cheese tray. Most nights there was music in the lounge. Every day there was a drink of the day for 5 E and also a happy hour with 2-for-1 drinks. It had been a long few days, so we turned in early.

Mon morning we were in Strasbourg. For breakfast, there were three choices: early riser 6 - 7, main buffet 7 - 9, and late riser 9 - 10. Early and late riser were continental breakfast style. I never had either of these. We always went with the main buffet. There was an eggs to order / omelet station, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, a selection of cold cuts / cheese; pastries, and other typical items you will find at a European breakfast. There was always sparkling wine / OJ to make mimosas. (very nice way to start the morning).

We arrived at 8 am and the sightseeing tour started at 8:15. We took buses to the city center, had a canal cruise for about 1.5 hours, then a walk through old town and a guided tour of the cathedral, then some free time. Buses returned us to the ship at 11:20 am for lunch. Lunch was in the dining room and always featured a nice salad bar, a hot and cold soup, a carving station, 2 hot entrees w/ hot sides, 2 hot veggies, a nice desert selection including 2 flavors of ice cream / sorbet / gelato, fresh fruits, & cheeses. There was always a sandwich of the day that could be ordered from the menu. On some days, there was a grill lunch up on the sky deck. I think this only happened 1 or 2 days of our trip due to windy conditions.

After lunch - there were two optional excursions: Black Forest (34E) or wine tasting in the Alsace countryside (36E). The ship stayed in Strasbourg, but it was a holiday and most of the shops were closed. some people went back into town for the afternoon or stayed on the ship. We picked the wine tasting, and I'm very glad we did so. We had about a 1 hr bus ride, through beautiful countryside. We went to a winery and a member of the family that owns it gave us the wine tasting. We sampled 5 wines (4 whites and a red). We had a room to ourselves and it was a lot of fun. He talked about each wine and answered a lot of questions about wine making / grape growing in the region. More than half the people bought wine to take back to the ship and drink. Afterwards, we went to the very quaint town of Obernai. We had a guided tour and then time to shop / explore on our own.

Andrzej had a port talk every night about 15 min before dinner. He reviewed what the next day's schedule would be and included brief background on the area, specialties, etc. Dinner was once again wonderful. We had onboard entertainment of an accordion player and a French songstress. The ship sailed at 10:15 pm.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:39 PM
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This review / trip report is going to be long, but I really want to give a feel for how the trip was. I wanted to try and post as we went along, but I couldn't get on line at the beginning. As I think has been mentioned, wifi was free. There were 2 computer stations and a printer in the reception area. If you had a wifi device, you could get a free log in / password that worked for the duration of the cruise. The ship has an entertainment system in each cabin. There were at least 8 English language channels and more of other languages. There was a movie option with some historical movies based on the region, as well as more current releases, travel documentaries, etc.

Tues morning we arrived in Speyer at 6:15 am. The morning was at leisure. Andrzej led a group into town at 9am and pointed out the bank, and other highlights. We went in on our own a bit earlier. It was only a 12 min walk to the cathedral. We paid 3E to go into the crypt, which was rather plain, but huge. There were a lot of Emperors / Empresses buried there. Afterwards, we just walked and explored the town. All the shops were opened, so we browsed and meandered. The ship sailed promptly at 11:00 am.

We arrived in Mannheim at 1:00 and those who wanted, boarded buses at 1:30 for a 40 min drive to Heidelberg. We had a tour of the castle, saw the largest wine barrel in the world, then the buses took us into town. There were 2 options then: a 1 hr guided walking tour, or just more shopping time. After the walking tour, we still had over 1.5 hr to shop / browse / explore. I really enjoyed the castle / city tour.

The ship sailed at 6:45 pm. Dinner was a bit later tonight (7:15 vs 7 on most nights). After dinner, the movie Mamma Mia was shown in the back lounge with popcorn.

Wed we arrived in Mainz some time early. At 8:30 we had a guided visit to the Gutenberg Museum and then a guided walk through the Old Town area. We had close to 1 h of free time. The ship sailed at 11:15. Lunch was while we were sailing.

We arrived in Rudesheim at 1:30. The small trains took us into town and dropped us off at Siegfried's Musical Museum. It was a very interesting tour. The guides played an assortment of the instruments. We had wine tasting at a local restaurant. We tried 2 different whites. There was then plenty of free time. The train gave 2 transfers back to the ship - after wine tasting and again at 4:30 pm. It was less than a 15 min walk back to the ship. We took the chair lift / cable car (7E) up to the top of the hill above the city. The German unification monument is undergoing extensive renovation and was covered up. There were great views up top and the cable car goes up over the vineyards. There is a restaurant / bar up top.

At 5:30 we had a local guest lecturer present a history of Rhine travel / development. It was a bit boring, but that could have been because it had been a long day and lots of wine.

The ship stayed docked in Rudesheim all night. There was an optional choice of going ashore for a German dinner complete with Oomph-Pah-Pah band. (44E) We did not do this, but almost half of the ship did. Those that went seemed to enjoy themselves. There was free flowing beer and wine and schnapps as well.

It was along day but everyone seemed to have lots of fun.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Thanks for posting your review. We are on Vikings's Amsterdam to Basel sailing in November. Looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report. This will be our first river cruise as well.

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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:57 PM
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What a great review, thanks for posting.

We'll be on Viking's Rhine Cruise in November, Basel-Amsterdam. We plan on staying in Basel before the cruise. How far is Basel from Zurich?
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Old June 4th, 2012, 08:39 PM
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Basel was about a one hour bus ride from Zurich. It was also one hour from Lucerne. I wish we had time to explore Basel. Oh well, there is only so much time and way too many places to see.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 09:07 PM
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whoops - double post

Last edited by YoungDubFan; June 4th, 2012 at 09:19 PM. Reason: double post
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Old June 5th, 2012, 09:14 AM
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Default Romantic Rhine with Avalon

Thanks so much for this great review of your trip. I am really enjoying reading it since we did the same trip on April 1st this year. I am currently in the process of labeling the photos that I have finally printed and assembled into a book. I've tried to include a lot of the details of the ship life, tours, etc. in the labels since I am typing labels and printing them on sticky back paper to put beside the pictures. I love all the details you have put in your report and look forward to reading about the rest of your week. I agree, it was an amazing trip and Avalon does a great job.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 11:09 AM
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Thurs we left Rudesheim at 8:45 am to sail the Rhine Gorge. This was the first day that the weather turned cooler. We were lucky that it was not raining, as had been the forecast. About half of the ship braved the breezy weather on the sun deck for the sail, and others stayed warmer in the lounge. My mom actually took the blanket from the room up on deck and wrapped up in it. Andrzej handed out a flier that listed the km marker and the name of every castle that we sailed past, which was very helpful. I also purchased a map of the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. This actually showed what the castles look like. This should help trying to match up castles with pictures. Andrzej gave a running narration of the journey as well. He gave some background on the castles. The sail was amazing. I could not believe how many castles there were within such short distances. I think we finished the gorge around 11:30 or noon. Lunch was at noon.

The ship docked in Coblenz at 1:00 pm and we had a 1.5 h walking tour starting at 1:30 pm. There was free time as well. Coblenz is situated at the intersection of the Rhine and Moselle. We took the cable car across the Rhine up to the top of the hill (8E round trip). We decided not to tour the fortress up there (additional 3E admission) due to the threat of rain. A word of advice - if you take this up, sit facing Coblenz. This is the only way that you can get good pictures of the intersection of the two rivers as well as nice views of the statue of Wilhem. I thought we would have good views from the top of the hill. However, the cable car was put up last year for a big flower show and was originally going to be a temporary structure. As a result, there really are not viewing areas or good vistas. You may have a better view from the fortress, but I'm not sure about this. I was able to get some really nice pictures on the way down. We finally got some rain, which started on the way down.

We were going to tour the Basilica of St. Castor, but the rain really started to come down. Luckily the ship was only a 10-15 min walk away. I should note that Avalon had umbrellas available if needed. They did not have enough for everyone, but it was a nice gesture. We had packed our own.

At 5 pm, La Strada came aboard for entertainment. They are a 3 piece (violin, guitar, cello) group who played classical and local tunes. They were wonderful. I think most of the ship came to hear them. The ship sailed at 6:15 pm. Dinner was at 7 and the crew show followed at 9:15 pm. This was truly a highlight of the week. By this time, most of the passengers had gotten to know the waiters and other ship staff fairly well and they put on a very funny show. The closing number was a riot!! All the staff were very good sports about it.

Fri morning we were in Cologne. We docked into Cologne around 11:00 pm at night. If anyone is still up, it is worth it to look out the windows to see the cathedral and the bridges lit up at night. Very pretty. We were docked almost right behind the cathedral, which was very convenient. We had a 1.5 h walking tour of the city and then plenty of free time afterwards. Our guide took us to one of the stores that sold the Eau de Cologne. The ship didn't leave Cologne until 1:45 pm to head to Amsterdam.

Once we were underway, from 2:30 - 4:00, Captain Manfred Mertens was in the wheelhouse and the doors were open for everyone to look inside, ask questions, etc. There was a galley tour at 3:00 pm. This was very interesting to see what a small space the staff has to prepare all the wonderful food we had.

Andrzej gave a nice port talk about Holland in the afternoon. There was a reception for Journey's club members (my mom is one) at 5:30. We were all given a complimentary drink and were able to sit with Andrzej and the hotel manager. (I can't remember his name) to talk about Avalon, Globus, our trip, etc. Very nice.

At 6:45 there was a farewell cocktail and disembarkation briefing, followed by the farewell gala dinner. Again - very good food. hors d'oeuvres were passed during the reception. I would say that less than 10 men wore sport coats. Some women wore sparkly / dressy tops and a few had dresses on, but as with most of the cruise, dress is much more laid back than on ocean cruises.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:09 PM
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Thanks so much for sharing such a detailed review. We're going on the same Avalon route in 3 weeks. Knowing the approximate time of all the activities ahead of time is very helpful!

Not sure if you've finished posting yet. If so did you skip Amsterdam? Would love to know when the ship gets to Amsterdam and things you did there.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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Now for the final part of the trip - Amsterdam. I know that this is a long and somewhat detailed review, but when I was doing my research and planning, I had a hard time really getting an idea of how the days went. I have seen so many posts asking for timing in port, length of excursions, etc., that I wanted to provide as much detail for anyone doing research as possible. Please know that towards the beginning of the trip, the times can vary somewhat. We went through 24 locks, starting in Basel. I think we didn't have any locks after the 2nd day of the trip, but I can remember exactly. Even though I just got back, so many things are running together. That's why I'm trying to get this finished today.

We arrived in Amsterdam around 7 or 7:30 am. We had a 1.5 canal cruise of Amsterdam that started at 8:40 am. This is the only thing that I had a complaint about. We were docked next to the Avalon Imagery, which had sailed up from Vienna. There was some miscommunication about boarding the canal boats. There were 5 boats for both River ships and passengers from both ships were on each canal boat. The boat that we got on had banquet seating that comfortably held 4 adults, but for some reason, the Imagery cruise director said that we had to have 5 people in each banquet. This resulted in too many adults being squished into too small of a space. There was no leg / knee room at all. What made this worse was that the final canal boat ended up sailing with many open seats. It was probably not even 3/4 full. In addition, the windows on our boat were very foggy / cloudy and it was difficult to see out. The boat also quickly became very warm / stuffy. I ended up doing the entire cruise from the open air area of the boat in the back. Some of the other passengers joined me. Unfortunately there was not a speaker in this area, so it made it hard to hear the guide. The boats are also very noisy when making turns, again making it impossible to hear the guide. All in all, the canal tour was okay. I think we had a not so good guide who missed pointing out a lot of things.

Avalon had two different times that buses were taking passengers back to the ship: right after the canal cruise, or later at 11:30am. The canal cruise ended at a diamond museum, and everyone who wanted to could enter. They also had coffee and tea available. The tour was ok, nothing spectacular. They did bring out a lot of jewelry to look at.

After the museum, we just wandered around Amsterdam and walked through the flea market (junk in Amsterdam is like junk in America.) The day turned into a nice sunny day so we ended up walking back to the ship after meandering around the side streets. It was less than a 20 min walk.

After lunch, we took the optional tour to the village of Zaanse Schans (31E). This was about a 30 min bus ride out to a traditional Dutch village with lots of windmills. I really don't know what I was expecting of Amsterdam, but this village really was what I expected a traditional Dutch area to look like. We saw a demonstration of how they make wooden shoes and were able to go up a windmill and get an explanation of how they work. We also went to the cheese shop to see how Gouda cheese is made. In the shop, they had lots of samples of all the different cheeses. There was plenty of free time to shop. I almost bought a pair of wooden clogs, but decided I probably wouldn't wear them enough to justify the cost. Plus I thought my bags may be heavy on weight, so passed. I really enjoyed this trip. It was nice to see some of the typical / traditional dutch structures and I took some nice pictures of the windmills. We were back on the boat by 5 pm.

After dinner, there was an optional excursion to the Red Light District (26E). This was about a 1 - 1.5 hr guide walking tour. We didn't go on this because my mom was pretty tired after the whole trip. We spent the time after dinner packing our bags. I figure that I will be back in Amsterdam in the future and can see it then. I talked to people who were there and many were a bit disturbed. It was a Sat night and was very busy / crowded. Some of the women were afraid they would lose the tour guide.

Sun morning, we awoke to a very rainy / drizzly, cool day. Avalon really knows what they are doing in regards to airport / hotel transfers. Andrzej had a list up on Sat. afternoon with everyone's flight info, who needed transfers, cabs, etc. Every passenger was asked to verify their flights / times. The internet was having some problems and was not able to log in to print my boarding passes for our return flight. Andrzej worked on this on and off during the afternoon, but it turned out we had to check in in person. I thought it was very nice of him to keep trying. After dinner, a sign was posted as to what time transfers were. Bags did not have to go out into the hallway until about 45 min before we left the ship, which was a nice luxury. The hallways are really too narrow to have bags out the night before. Plus, since there aren't as many passengers, it doesn't take nearly the amount of time as on an ocean cruise. Each group were given different colored ribbons or stickers to place on the luggage, corresponding to departure times. On Sun morning, they picked the bags up from the hallway and put them in central areas in reception / the lounge. They had every passenger verify that their bag was there before it was taken to the coach each was on. When we got on the coach, they had us verify again that all our bags had been loaded.

We had an 11:15 am flight, had to have bags out in the hall at 7:15 am and left the ship at 8:00 am. Since it was a Sun morning, there was not much traffic. We were at the airport by 8:25 am. There was a huge line at United to check in but it moved very quickly. We were all checked in within 40 min.

We had a fairly uneventful flight home, and arrived in Chicago one hour early. Of course, we then had a 1 hr delay out of Chicago. All in all, this was a wonderful vacation. I highly recommend Avalon and will likely take more river cruises with them in the future. They know what they are doing and we were taken care of very well. Everything ran like a well oiled machine. All the food was good. My wine glass at dinner was never empty. I hope that this review / report help some people with their future planning.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by YoungDubFan View Post
Thurs we left Rudesheim at 8:45 am to sail the Rhine Gorge. This was the first day that the weather turned cooler. We were lucky that it was not raining, as had been the forecast. About half of the ship braved the breezy weather on the sun deck for the sail, and others stayed warmer in the lounge. My mom actually took the blanket from the room up on deck and wrapped up in it. Andrzej handed out a flier that listed the km marker and the name of every castle that we sailed past, which was very helpful. I also purchased a map of the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam. This actually showed what the castles look like. This should help trying to match up castles with pictures. Andrzej gave a running narration of the journey as well. He gave some background on the castles. The sail was amazing. I could not believe how many castles there were within such short distances. I think we finished the gorge around 11:30 or noon. Lunch was at noon.

The ship docked in Coblenz at 1:00 pm and we had a 1.5 h walking tour starting at 1:30 pm. There was free time as well. Coblenz is situated at the intersection of the Rhine and Moselle. We took the cable car across the Rhine up to the top of the hill (8E round trip). We decided not to tour the fortress up there (additional 3E admission) due to the threat of rain. A word of advice - if you take this up, sit facing Coblenz. This is the only way that you can get good pictures of the intersection of the two rivers as well as nice views of the statue of Wilhem. I thought we would have good views from the top of the hill. However, the cable car was put up last year for a big flower show and was originally going to be a temporary structure. As a result, there really are not viewing areas or good vistas. You may have a better view from the fortress, but I'm not sure about this. I was able to get some really nice pictures on the way down. We finally got some rain, which started on the way down.

We were going to tour the Basilica of St. Castor, but the rain really started to come down. Luckily the ship was only a 10-15 min walk away. I should note that Avalon had umbrellas available if needed. They did not have enough for everyone, but it was a nice gesture. We had packed our own.

At 5 pm, La Strada came aboard for entertainment. They are a 3 piece (violin, guitar, cello) group who played classical and local tunes. They were wonderful. I think most of the ship came to hear them. The ship sailed at 6:15 pm. Dinner was at 7 and the crew show followed at 9:15 pm. This was truly a highlight of the week. By this time, most of the passengers had gotten to know the waiters and other ship staff fairly well and they put on a very funny show. The closing number was a riot!! All the staff were very good sports about it.

Fri morning we were in Cologne. We docked into Cologne around 11:00 pm at night. If anyone is still up, it is worth it to look out the windows to see the cathedral and the bridges lit up at night. Very pretty. We were docked almost right behind the cathedral, which was very convenient. We had a 1.5 h walking tour of the city and then plenty of free time afterwards. Our guide took us to one of the stores that sold the Eau de Cologne. The ship didn't leave Cologne until 1:45 pm to head to Amsterdam.

Once we were underway, from 2:30 - 4:00, Captain Manfred Mertens was in the wheelhouse and the doors were open for everyone to look inside, ask questions, etc. There was a galley tour at 3:00 pm. This was very interesting to see what a small space the staff has to prepare all the wonderful food we had.

Andrzej gave a nice port talk about Holland in the afternoon. There was a reception for Journey's club members (my mom is one) at 5:30. We were all given a complimentary drink and were able to sit with Andrzej and the hotel manager. (I can't remember his name) to talk about Avalon, Globus, our trip, etc. Very nice.

At 6:45 there was a farewell cocktail and disembarkation briefing, followed by the farewell gala dinner. Again - very good food. hors d'oeuvres were passed during the reception. I would say that less than 10 men wore sport coats. Some women wore sparkly / dressy tops and a few had dresses on, but as with most of the cruise, dress is much more laid back than on ocean cruises.
What a great review you have compiled. When we were in Cologne, our tour guide ended the tour outside the cathedral. It was Good Friday so we had to wait for the service to finish before entering. Don't miss going in there. It is fantastic and has an amazing story of how the people saved and restored it after the bombing during the war. Also, don't miss walking up on the bridge close to the ship. The fence is covered with "Locks of Love". A tradition that has grown in recent years is for lovers to leave pad locks with their initials on the fence. Also the bridge gives you a great view of the city with our ship and photo op.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 10:17 AM
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Hey, also don't miss the Lindt chocolate museum. Not far from the Dom in Kolnl. Lots of different varieties on sale in the retail store and I think we bought about $100 worth. Unfortunately about only 1/2 made it home. It's really one of the best chocolates in the world IMO.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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Hey, also don't miss the Lindt chocolate museum. Not far from the Dom in Kolnl. Lots of different varieties on sale in the retail store and I think we bought about $100 worth. Unfortunately about only 1/2 made it home. It's really one of the best chocolates in the world IMO.
Now you've done it! Lindt is the only chocolate I like and knowing that this museum is so close when I will be in Cologne in September, means a few more pounds of extra weight I will be bringing home. Thanks for the information.
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  #14  
Old June 6th, 2012, 04:14 PM
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mountainhouse mountainhouse is offline
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Wow, got my docs yesterday, and I noticed you're review today. Definitely getting excited now! Thanks for posting this excellent review.
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  #15  
Old June 6th, 2012, 04:44 PM
Realtor at Sea Realtor at Sea is offline
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Loved your review!! Also, as a chocoholic I was thrilled to hear about the Lindt
Museum! Will definitely visit next summer. All the tips on CC are terrific!
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  #16  
Old June 6th, 2012, 05:23 PM
Avalon Waterways Avalon Waterways is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YoungDubFan View Post
Just got back late last night from my 1st river cruise, on the Avalon Felicity. I went with my mom. We did the Romantic Rhine, from Basel to Amsterdam. I'm going to work on posting this in batches. I have to go back to work tomorrow, which I'm dreading, but I thought I'd start now. I want to thank all the posters on this board. I've been reading this board for 2 years now and I gained so much insight, info, tips, etc. I really felt that I knew what to expect.

Let me start with overall impressions. The trip was amazing. It was everything I expected and so much more. Avalon is a top notch organization and knows what they are doing. We were taken care of in every way. There were no glitches and everything went very smoothly. Our Cruise Director was Andrzej. He was great. He had so many duties but everything ran like a well oiled machine. He has a great sense of humor and was very helpful. We had phenomenal weather. It was warmer than expected at the beginning and very sunny. We only had about 2 hours of rain in Koblenz, which came after the included tour, so it wasn't too bad. It cooled off some towards the end of the week. It was raining the last day that we flew out of Amsterdam, but otherwise was perfect.

We left Ohio on Fri May 25 and flew to Zurich via Toronto. We had no problems with flights and all of our luggage made it. What a relief. After clearing customs, we made our way outside and found the shuttle to the Movenpick. It was maybe a 5-10 min ride to the hotel. Check in was a breeze and our room was ready. After a brief freshening up, we took the S7 fast train into central Zurich. A very nice woman on the train told us to take the train to the Opera House stop (one stop after the HB central station). We then took our time, looking at the opera house and strolling along the Rhine. We really enjoyed people watching. It was a beautiful Sat. of a long weekend (Pentecost) so lots of locals were out. We strolled up and down the many streets of Old Town. We found a great restaurant (Rhinefelder Bierhaus) on one of the streets. We were able to sit outside and watch all the people walking by. We had typical German / Swiss food and really nice white wine. It was a nice relaxing evening. We went to bed fairly early, after a really long day.

Breakfast was include with the room. The Movenpick had a really nice buffet and all of the food was wonderful. The Avalon rep was available after 8:30 am that day. We found out that we needed to be at the hotel by 3:30 pm for the last transfer to the ship. We were originally going to look into taking a day cruise on the lake, but decided to take Avalon's optional excursion to Mt. Pilatus. We left the hotel at 10:30 am. We took a bus 1 hr to Lucerne. Then we took 2 different cable cars to the top of the Alp. We then had at least 1 hour to look around. Some people walked farther up. My mom and I had a piece of apple strudel and coffee. Then it was the cog wheel train down. The bus met us and we had a tour of Lucerne. We first went to see the Lion of Lucerne, had a walking tour of the city, then had at least 1 hr free time. We were then taken directly to the ship. The total cost of the excursion was 52 Euros.

I know that we could have done this on our own, possibly cheaper, but then we would have had to deal with luggage, etc. It was a nice relaxing way to spend the day and I am very glad that we went on this excursion. I'm not sure if I am going to be back in the area, and I wanted to experience as much as possible. Avalon also offered a guided city tour of Zurich that was leaving the hotel at 12:30 and then would transfer directly to the ship. This was 29 E.

Check in to the ship was a breeze. We were given our key cards and escorted to our cabin. Our luggage was delivered in about 10 min. We were on the 2nd deck, cabin 219, just about in the middle of the boat. (Cat B) The room was made with 2 twin beds. There was plenty of floor space and more than enough closet / storage space. We unpacked and stored our luggage under the beds. The bathroom was a nice size. I'm not a small person and I had plenty of room in the shower. L'Occitane products were provided and were a very nice Verbena scent.

We had the mandatory safety briefing at 6 pm, which only took about 10-15 min. Remember, the ship is taller than the river is deep. There was a welcome reception at 6:30 that night and dinner at 7 pm. I have saved all of the dailies as well as the shore info that was passed out. I did not save any menus. Each night, we had an appetizer, choice of 2 soups, a salad, a choice of 3-4 entrees (always a fish, pasta selection and meat (veal, lamb, beef) selections. There was always a choice of chicken, rumpsteak of beef, and salmon as well. Beer (Becks draft) and wine was free flowing with dinner. There was always a white, rose, and red wine. The wines changed during the course of the cruise, but were mostly German selections. I liked all of them. Ice tea, coffee, and soda were also available. Desert was 2 choices or fresh fruits and cheese tray. Most nights there was music in the lounge. Every day there was a drink of the day for 5 E and also a happy hour with 2-for-1 drinks. It had been a long few days, so we turned in early.

Mon morning we were in Strasbourg. For breakfast, there were three choices: early riser 6 - 7, main buffet 7 - 9, and late riser 9 - 10. Early and late riser were continental breakfast style. I never had either of these. We always went with the main buffet. There was an eggs to order / omelet station, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, a selection of cold cuts / cheese; pastries, and other typical items you will find at a European breakfast. There was always sparkling wine / OJ to make mimosas. (very nice way to start the morning).

We arrived at 8 am and the sightseeing tour started at 8:15. We took buses to the city center, had a canal cruise for about 1.5 hours, then a walk through old town and a guided tour of the cathedral, then some free time. Buses returned us to the ship at 11:20 am for lunch. Lunch was in the dining room and always featured a nice salad bar, a hot and cold soup, a carving station, 2 hot entrees w/ hot sides, 2 hot veggies, a nice desert selection including 2 flavors of ice cream / sorbet / gelato, fresh fruits, & cheeses. There was always a sandwich of the day that could be ordered from the menu. On some days, there was a grill lunch up on the sky deck. I think this only happened 1 or 2 days of our trip due to windy conditions.

After lunch - there were two optional excursions: Black Forest (34E) or wine tasting in the Alsace countryside (36E). The ship stayed in Strasbourg, but it was a holiday and most of the shops were closed. some people went back into town for the afternoon or stayed on the ship. We picked the wine tasting, and I'm very glad we did so. We had about a 1 hr bus ride, through beautiful countryside. We went to a winery and a member of the family that owns it gave us the wine tasting. We sampled 5 wines (4 whites and a red). We had a room to ourselves and it was a lot of fun. He talked about each wine and answered a lot of questions about wine making / grape growing in the region. More than half the people bought wine to take back to the ship and drink. Afterwards, we went to the very quaint town of Obernai. We had a guided tour and then time to shop / explore on our own.

Andrzej had a port talk every night about 15 min before dinner. He reviewed what the next day's schedule would be and included brief background on the area, specialties, etc. Dinner was once again wonderful. We had onboard entertainment of an accordion player and a French songstress. The ship sailed at 10:15 pm.
YoungDubFan - We can't thank you enough for sharing your positive experience on this board. We appreciate all of the feedback we receive, but as you can imagine, we especially love when someone has taken the time to share with others the wonderful time they had. And, to do it with this much detail is even more special. Thank you again!
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  #17  
Old June 6th, 2012, 06:05 PM
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siuc78 siuc78 is offline
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Thank you for the detailed report, especially the timing of when you arrived and left the ports.
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  #18  
Old June 19th, 2012, 05:19 PM
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blingbling blingbling is offline
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Smile Basel to Amsterdam by YoungDubFan

I join the other CC members in giving OUTSTANDING praise for your detailed review of your Basel to Amsterdam cruise. Like you, I enjoy the process of planning and feel knowing what to expect enhances my experience. I started following CC River Cruise tips last summer for our trip 7 OCT on the new Visionary. And we have 12 other cabins of friends from across the U.S. joining us on this trip who enjoy the fact I do a lot of the fact-finding for them! You can be sure I will be sharing your review with them.

I had tears of joy while reading your review. Can hardly wait.
Many thanks for sharing!
Karen
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  #19  
Old June 20th, 2012, 07:18 AM
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tassietravellers tassietravellers is offline
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Thank you for sharing such a detailed and informative review, so looking forward to our cruise now...we're cruising with Avalon from Budapest to Amsterdam in August. I have been reading boards on CC for months now, I too love the planning stage and have learnt so much , getting so excited, even more so after reading your review.

Thank you again, Debbie
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  #20  
Old June 20th, 2012, 03:39 PM
cruiserhal cruiserhal is offline
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Smile Thanks for the review!

Great review. Your trip is one we have looked at for our second Avalon cruise. You made it sound so great I'm ready to go now.

Thanks again for the review. I printed it so my wife can read the details about the trip. It helps so much to hear from people who actually took the trip rather then just reading the cruise line descriptions.
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