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.