Avalon or Viking??????

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#1
57 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
My sister and I are planning a river cruise in France this August. Our choices are the 2001 older ships of Viking or a 2009 ship on Avalon. I hear differing information about which ship(s) and companies offer a more high quality cruising experience. Some of the reviews of the Viking ships on cruise critic are not very positive. Can someone offer us some advice?????
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Upcoming cruise:
2016 Emerald Princess-Scandinavian cruise

Past cruises:
2014 NCL Pride of America-Hawaiian Islands
2013 HAL Eurodam-Norwegian Fjords
2012 NCL Dawn-Bermuda
2011 Crystal Symphony-New England/Canada
2011 Ocean Princess-Dover/Ireland/Scotland
2010 Ruby Princess-Eastern Caribbean
2010 Caribbean Princess-New England/Canada
2009 Golden Princess-Alaska
2008 NCL Pride of America-Hawaii
2007 Avalon Waterways Tapestry-Rhine River
2007 Celebrity Century-Caribbean
2006 HAL Maasdam-New England/Canada
2001 HAL Statendam-Alaska
2000 American Hawaii-Hawaii
1972 NCL Sunward-Bahamas


#2
Ohio
769 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
I have not cruised on Viking but did my first river cruise earlier this year on Avalon. I cannot say enough positive things about Avalon. Every minor detail was handled and taken care of. I too have read plenty of negative comments / reviews about Viking. In their defense, they do have more ships and therefore more people on the river.

One thing I would really check out is the size of the cabins. I was on the Felicity, which was built in 2010. it is the sister ship of the Affinity, built in 2009. The cabin size was 172 sq ft, with a French balcony. I for one, would not want to cruise in any smaller of a cabin. I know that on some of the older ships, the cabins are as small as 128 sq ft. This just seems tooooooo small to me. Granted you are not in the cabin much, but even for 2 people maneuvering around the room, I can't imagine that 128 sq ft leaves much, if any, room around the bed.

Another comment about Avalon vs Viking - last year and earlier this year, there were issues with low water and some itineraries were changed to bus trips because the river ships couldn't navigate parts of the rivers. It seemed that Viking had more complaints about how they handled these changes than the other cruise lines. Obviously the companies have no control over the weather, but they do have control over how the change is communicated to passengers.

Good luck with your choice.
#3
3,885 Posts
Joined May 2009
I would suggest going to the member reviews area on Cruise Critic...
Check out Uniworld, Viking, AMA and Avalon (there are other also that are favorites on this board). Just like on Ocean cruising each line is very different.
From basic to more upscale.
#4
FL
14,260 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
I have been docked next to several of the older Viking ships and know that they would not be a cruise I would enjoy. The basic cabins (we looked directly into several from our French balcony over the course of a few cruises) would not work for me. Very small and cramped and no hotel bedding. The smallest cabins on Avalon are 172 sq ft so quite spacious.

My impressions of walking through their lobbies was IKEA. Very serviceable but not much warmth or attention to details.

I agree that they seem to get more negative reviews than most lines and this was especially evident during the low water levels. We saw several of their boats empty and parked last November and we were able to continue on with no issues - we were on AMA for that cruise.

Our first Avalon cruise was on Affinity, launched in 2009 and it was our best Avalon experience. I would not hesitate to choose Avalon over Viking personally.
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143 cruises since 1964, 15 on the river.
Looking forward to:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017
Crystal Esprit, February 2018

AmaKristina, Christmas Markets, December 2018
Scenic Eclipse, April, 2019


Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary B2B- Christmas Markets, 2009
Avalon Affinity - Christmas Markets 2010
Avalon Panorama - Danube New Years Cruise, 2011
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle 2012
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg, 2013
AmaBella - Tulip Time, 2014
AmaDagio - Provence, 2014
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine 2014
SS Catherine - Provence 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine, 2015
Scenic Diamond, Bordeaux, April 2016
AmaVida, Douro, August. 2016
AmaSonata, Romantic Danube - Oct. 2016
Joie de Vivre, Paris and Normany - April 2017
#5
Coastal NC
3,232 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
I have never sailed with Avalon but will be going on my 4th Viking cruise next month. I have not had any problems with them and would travel anywhere with them in the future.
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Sharon

Viking, Portraits of Southern France. 2006
Uniworld, Castles Along the Rhine, 2007
Gate 1, Thanksgiving Cruise, 2007
AMA Waterways, Portugal on the Douro, 2008
Grand Circle: Romance of the Rhine and Mosel, 2010
Viking Emerald, China's Cultural Delights. 3/28/2011
Grand Circle: Old World Prague and the Blue Danube. September 7, 2011.
Viking Spirit, Paris to Normandy. 12/11/11.
Grand Circle's [i]Essence of the Elbe: 5/27/12/ to 6/11/12
Grand Circle Russia Revealed with pretrip to Helsinki and Tallinn , 2012. .
Viking Sun, Treasures of the Rhine. Nov 11, 2012.
AMACerto, Istanbul to Budapest. May 30, 2013.
Uniworld River Queen, Classic Christmas Markets, Nuremberg to Frankfurt. Dec 5, 2013.
Vantage Travel, Croatian Odyssey & Venice with Lake Bled, Slovenia pretrip. M/Y Harmony G
Grand Circle, Burma and the Irrawaddy, Thailand and Cambodia. Nov 25, 2014. RV Paukan 2012.
Grand Circle: Spain's Northern Coast & the Bay of Biscay. 4/30/2015 to 5/21/2015. Ship: Corinthian
AMAWaterways: Magnificent Europe. Aug 30 to Sept 14, 2015. AMACerto. Budapest to Amsterdam
Vantage: The Peruvian Amazon and Machu Picchu. 3/12/2016. Post trip to Lake Titicaca. Ship: RV Amazon Discovery
Grand Circle: Grand Baltic Sea Voyage. . 7/30/2016 to 8/15/2016. Ship: Corinthian
Viking: Castles & Legends. Munich to Budapest. 12/5/16 to 12/16/16. Viking Ve.
Viking Sky: Mediterranean Getaway, Rome to Barcelona, 2/25/17 to 3/4/17.

Grand Circle: Maritime Jewels of the British Isles. 7/23/17. Ship: Corinthian
Avalon Affinity: Burgundy & Provence with London, 10/2/17
Viking RA: Pharaohs & Pyramids. March 8, 2018
#6
57 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Listening to the Fodors Travel Show, they always rave about Viking, indicating that they are at the high end of the river boats. Perhaps that may be true of their newer ships, but the responses above confirm my thoughts - that Avalon is preferable. I traveled on the Avalon Tapestry in 2007 and enjoyed it. I am thinking about the newer Avalon Creativity, launched in 2009. I did note that the cabins are 172 sq. feet, which is more spacious than most. Any thoughts about how Avalon compares to Uniworld?????
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Upcoming cruise:
2016 Emerald Princess-Scandinavian cruise

Past cruises:
2014 NCL Pride of America-Hawaiian Islands
2013 HAL Eurodam-Norwegian Fjords
2012 NCL Dawn-Bermuda
2011 Crystal Symphony-New England/Canada
2011 Ocean Princess-Dover/Ireland/Scotland
2010 Ruby Princess-Eastern Caribbean
2010 Caribbean Princess-New England/Canada
2009 Golden Princess-Alaska
2008 NCL Pride of America-Hawaii
2007 Avalon Waterways Tapestry-Rhine River
2007 Celebrity Century-Caribbean
2006 HAL Maasdam-New England/Canada
2001 HAL Statendam-Alaska
2000 American Hawaii-Hawaii
1972 NCL Sunward-Bahamas


#7
South Carolina, USA
241 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
I've been on 2 river cruises, one with AMA and the other with Avalon. I did not pick Viking because they used to not include wine with dinner. I wouldn't hesitate to use either AMA or Avalon, but I wouldn't use Viking.

When we docked next to Viking ships, they seemed older and a little shabby. Also, some cruisers have said that the long boats have to dock farther from the city centers. Just my 2 cents....
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SAILED: AMA DANUBE 2008

SAILED: Avalon Rhine 2009


#8
Tasmania, Australia
654 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
We were on the Avalon Panorama in August, I wouldnt hesitate to recommend them, the staff, ship, food etc were excellent.

We had quite substantial river level problems, but I believe the CD and Captain handled them very professionally and did everything within their power to keep everyone happy and to try and keep to the advertised itinerary.

We too were docked beside a few of the Viking ships and we walked through their lobbies or could see into their cabins, I felt they looked older and not as modern looking as the Avalon ships. Plus I believe they carry more passengers in the same size ships as the Avalon ones, so the cabins must be smaller or the common areas, lounges etc must be.

Just my opinion of course
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Avalon Panorama, Magnificent Europe, Budapest to Amsterdam August 15 -29th 2012
Avalon Scenery, Grand France , Cote D'Azur to Paris, 30th June - 8th July 2014
Avalon Creativity, Grand France, Paris-Normandy Beaches-Paris, 8th - 15th July 2014
HAL Oosterdam, Mediterranean Dream , Venice to Rome , 17th -29th June 2016
#9
Southwest US
52 Posts
Joined Oct 2003
We too wanted to cruise in France for our 8th river boat trip. We decided to evaluate various lines by envisioning ourselves on the itinerary, not just reading the glossy marketing stuff they all put out. Originally we wanted to try either Tauck or Uniworld but felt we should include Viking as we have been on 4 of their trips.

Some surprising things we learned: Of the 3 companies Viking had the largest cabins in France with 170 square feet (Uniworld had 128 and Tauck had 150). But size wasn't a huge factor except maybe with Uniworld. We don't really care that much about decor either. However, when looking at the itinerary I started to count up the number of times we would need to pack up our suitcases. Viking takes one from the airport directly to the boat and at the end of the trip takes one directly to the airport (assuming you are using Viking for your transfers). With Tauck they have hotel stays at the beginning and end, but Uniworld only at the beginning. Plus with all of the companies one must pack up in the middle as you can't sail from Paris to the south of France on one boat (no river I guess in between). We prefer keeping things easy and simple and Tauck with its packing up 4 times in 14 days seemed excessive.

We also found that the prices between the 3 were very comparable if you add in all the things you will spend money on (transfers, tips, optional excursions). Tauck was more but not significantly to us.

One thing we prefer is choosing an itinerary whereby everyone takes and completes the same trip, i.e., no separate groups taking only the river boat trip and not the "land excursion" as some call it. That way you all stick together and the group has a real sense of companionship. Only mention it because we have been on 2 of AMA's trips, both of which had 4 different groups with 4 different itineraries so we really only came in contact with either 14 or 22 people. It wasn't the same experience.

By the way, we were on a Viking trip in 2003 when the water levels were creating havoc all over Europe for all the companies including the freight ones. Viking handled it perfectly, we actually changed boats after 9 days and continued on to Vienna. We were fully informed multiple times a day as to the situation and what the captain was trying to do to get us through. We had a number of restaurant lunches (on Viking's dime) and several special excursions. And yes we were bussed while the boat struggled to meet us at the next docking. It didnt interfere with the very good time we all had.

I'm sure that whatever company you pick you will have a great time as river crusing is one of the best ways to travel.
#10
Australa
78 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
One thing we prefer is choosing an itinerary whereby everyone takes and completes the same trip, i.e., no separate groups taking only the river boat trip and not the "land excursion" as some call it. That way you all stick together and the group has a real sense of companionship. Only mention it because we have been on 2 of AMA's trips, both of which had 4 different groups with 4 different itineraries so we really only came in contact with either 14 or 22 people. It wasn't the same experience.

We didn't Experience this at all on our recent Avalon Danube cruise. Quite a few people did the land extensions on their own and joined the cruise for the river component. We very quickly established a sense of companionship. From speaking to people who did the land component with Avalon they did not spend so much time with the other cruisers apart from a tour and meals where there were other hotel patrons present. (meals not tours) they were very happy with their choice to do the land component with Avalon. I think it's great that this is possible as people have a choice. Maybe the AMA cruise was structured differently.
#11
FL
14,260 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
One thing we prefer is choosing an itinerary whereby everyone takes and completes the same trip, i.e., no separate groups taking only the river boat trip and not the "land excursion" as some call it. That way you all stick together and the group has a real sense of companionship. Only mention it because we have been on 2 of AMA's trips, both of which had 4 different groups with 4 different itineraries so we really only came in contact with either 14 or 22 people. It wasn't the same experience.
We only once have opted for the land portion with a river cruise and would not choose to do so again. We are DIYers and enjoy our independence so this is really not something we even look at. And we certainly would not want to be required to book a portion of a trip that we had no interest in.

Interesting that this was a key factor to you as it would be entirely irrelevant to us. We do not look for companionship though so perhaps that is the difference. For us, the most comfortable demographic was on AMA where the guests were younger overall and the vibe of the trip reflected that.

As far as pricing and inclusions, we prefer to arrange transfers, guides, etc. on our own and do not want them included. So lines that do not include these extras are our preference.

Each of us has different priorities so I agree that it is very important to do your research and see which line(s) best suit your needs.
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143 cruises since 1964, 15 on the river.
Looking forward to:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017
Crystal Esprit, February 2018

AmaKristina, Christmas Markets, December 2018
Scenic Eclipse, April, 2019


Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary B2B- Christmas Markets, 2009
Avalon Affinity - Christmas Markets 2010
Avalon Panorama - Danube New Years Cruise, 2011
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle 2012
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg, 2013
AmaBella - Tulip Time, 2014
AmaDagio - Provence, 2014
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine 2014
SS Catherine - Provence 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine, 2015
Scenic Diamond, Bordeaux, April 2016
AmaVida, Douro, August. 2016
AmaSonata, Romantic Danube - Oct. 2016
Joie de Vivre, Paris and Normany - April 2017
#12
Orangeville Ontario
1,660 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by Sylve1
One thing we prefer is choosing an itinerary whereby everyone takes and completes the same trip, i.e., no separate groups taking only the river boat trip and not the "land excursion" as some call it. That way you all stick together and the group has a real sense of companionship. Only mention it because we have been on 2 of AMA's trips, both of which had 4 different groups with 4 different itineraries so we really only came in contact with either 14 or 22 people. It wasn't the same experience.

We didn't Experience this at all on our recent Avalon Danube cruise. Quite a few people did the land extensions on their own and joined the cruise for the river component. We very quickly established a sense of companionship. From speaking to people who did the land component with Avalon they did not spend so much time with the other cruisers apart from a tour and meals where there were other hotel patrons present. (meals not tours) they were very happy with their choice to do the land component with Avalon. I think it's great that this is possible as people have a choice. Maybe the AMA cruise was structured differently.
I agree with your assessment re: the different groups converging.

We had a similar experience on Uniworld, but it involved only two groups. Nevertheless, it created a real division on the first few days onboard and it was well into the cruise before a more general acceptance emerged.

The experience was unlike any other of our cruises and, if possible, we would avoid it.
#13
South Carolina, USA
241 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
I think it is interesting that it would be important to cruisers to remain with the same large group. This would just never occur to me. On our last cruise people did many different things while docked, but to me it was interesting because we could hear about other experiences people had at dinner.

Guess it just shows how different people can be.
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SAILED: AMA DANUBE 2008

SAILED: Avalon Rhine 2009