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  #1  
Old May 5th, 2013, 08:28 PM
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stretchcruz stretchcruz is offline
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Default Avalon Affinity 4/15-4/22 LONG

Here is my "travelogue" from Avalon Affinity...

Sun-Tues..

We were on the April 15-22 sailing of the Avalon Affinity, scheduled to be from Amsterdam to Basel. We flew in the day before the cruise to Amsterdam.
We caught the train to Central Station from the airport. Our hotel is the Movenpick. I got it on Priceline for $85. It is right on the water, and I had emailed them asking for a high room overlooking the water. They delivered. We are on the 18th floor overlooking all of the river cruise boats that will be leaving tomorrow. A big cruise ship left just before we arrived. We can sit in the window and watch the canal boats, the pleasure craft, the freighters….it is a really nice view. Our room is great. Big king size bed, a nice sofa under the windows (the windows open!!), nice desk, fridge, modern bathroom. Quite a deal for $85….free wifi too.
We took off walking and walked for 3 and a half hours, stopping for a little dinner. It is about 9:15, so we’re going to head to bed early so we’re ready to explore tomorrow.
Well, the best laid plans don’t always happen. We made our usual mistake of not setting the alarm, and didn’t wake up until 11:30 Monday morning. We called the front desk for a late checkout, which they kindly obliged. We dropped off our luggage at the Avalon hospitality room conveniently located at the Movenpick, and took off for another afternoon of wandering with a map in our hands and still getting lost. Amsterdam’s streets and canals are set up like spokes of a wheel all diverging from Central Station. This makes navigating a bit difficult as nothing really seems to go straight (that’s my excuse anyway). We found out that last night what we thought was NieuwMarkt was actually Dam Square, and I’ll admit that by Tuesday afternoon we were saying “there’s that DAMN Square again” as we got lost over and over and over. On Monday we saw all of the main squares, lots of canals, and did a walk by of the Anne Frank House. Amsterdam is a fascinating city. There are bicycles everywhere, and you need to be sure to stay out of the red bike lanes as they just whiz by from both directions. They have the right of way (or think they do), so we were extra cautious while walking. Nobody wears a helmet (even the babies in the bike seats), and they all just move along, chatting on their cell phones and ringing their little bells if someone is in the way. Motor scooters share the bike lanes as well (if they feel like it, sometimes they are in the street with the cars). There are bicycles parked everywhere, thousands and thousands of bicycles. There is a bicycle parking garage outside of Central Station (the train station), which is free as the government wants to encourage bicycling. We saw bicycles without brakes! Supposedly that is because Amsterdam is so flat they don’t need them. Now me, on a bike, I need brakes. There are lots of outdoor cafes everywhere, and the local dish seems to be French Fries with mayonnaise. When we ate out I asked for a baked potato or something other than French Fries. No go. Everyone has been very friendly here, and quite often when we were on a street corner with our map obviously looking totally confused someone would stop and ask “May I help you?”. Very kind. Of course if they gave us directions more than a block or 2 we’d head the wrong way. It was very interesting looking at all of the houseboats parked along the canals. Some of them have “gardens” (lots of pots of plants on the roof). Many people were sitting outside on their “patios”…the front porch of their building. They have been waiting a long time for some decent weather and the past 2 days have been nice. We still didn’t see any greenery or tulips. Maybe by next weekend in Paris there will be more blooms.
We found our way back to where our ship, the Avalon Affinity, was docked. Luckily it was by Central Station and close to the Movenpick which is a high rise. We really couldn’t get lost finding it as we’ve been looking out our window at it for 2 days and there are many signs in Amsterdam pointing to Central Station. We boarded around 5 PM, just walked up the gangway and showed our passports. Our luggage was already in our stateroom. Our stateroom is very nice, we have a large king size bed, plenty of closet space, desk and counter space, a refrigerator, a flat screen TV, free wifi, nice bedside lamps and floor to ceiling windows that slide open. They call it a French Balcony as there is a railing so we don’t fall into the river. The bathroom is really nice, nice wood vanity with a lot of storage, a big tiled shower, and L’Occitane amenities…shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. I’ve never heard of a L’Occitane (sounds like high octane gas or something), but boy does it smell good. Everyone on this boat will be smelling like verbena.
We had a safety drill, which is new on this river cruise. The rivers are very shallow (sometimes less than 2 feet), so drowning is next to impossible. They are also pretty narrow. So basically if you get up to the Sky Deck you’ll be fine. The ship is 4 decks high and very long and narrow. They took the safety drill seriously, we all had to go to the Sky Deck, put on our life jackets, and get checked off their list. The captain made all of the announcements.
We had a welcome aboard champagne reception where we met the crew, the cruise director, and the captain. The captain is very young, Dutch, and speaks excellent English. He invited everyone to visit the wheelhouse at any time when the boat is moving, he said he would be happy to show us around and explain the navigation. We plan to take him up on that. Our cruise director, Gusta, is very pleasant and has a good sense of humor. She explained that even though the captain is young, he is experienced, makes good decisions, and is NOT Italian (Costa Concordia anyone?). We then had our welcome dinner, which was very good. The dinners come with complimentary beer and wine. I asked the waiter if I could take a copy of the menu for my scrapbook, and he said no as there were not enough to go around (everyone does not get their own menu, there are 3 on the table in binders). He said that the front desk would be collecting them and putting them into a binder for those that wanted them at the end of the cruise.
Tuesday morning we had a canal cruise that was included with our cruise. There were about 25 of us on the canal boat, and it was big, so we were very comfortable. Our guide was very informative and pleasant. She was pretty funny, as we went by the houseboats she said that the windows with no curtains were an invitation to look in. She’d say, oh the kitchen in this one is in the front, and look, a new flat screen TV! Another time she’d say, oh, he bought roses for his wife, see them on the table? The houseboats started out I forget how long ago, but they were people who were poor who basically snagged a piece of the canal and stuck a boat there. Eventually they were able to hook up to electricity and water, but they did not have sewage hookups until about 20 years ago I believe she said, so the canals were pretty stinky. Those boats are grandfathered in now, they do pay rent (she said the system is very complicated), and no new “lots” so to speak can have boats put on them. The people who have the space now can put a new boat on, but the space has to be sold with the space and the boat. She pointed out many buildings, some are only 2 windows wide. There is one that is one window wide. We got lucky today and got to see how they deliver furniture and household goods. Each house has a big hook at the very top built into the façade. When you buy a new couch, they hook up a rope and pulley system and hoist it up in the air and put it through the window. Since the buildings are so narrow, this is how all household goods are delivered. The staircases inside are not spiral, they are very steep and narrow. There are some buildings that are “tipping”, they look like a bunch of drunk people holding onto each other. They were built on wooden posts that settled into the sand and now they are leaning.
After the canal boat tour we made the ill fated decision to walk to the Rijksmuseum, which reopened on Sunday after a multi year renovation. Suffice it to say that we saw the DAMN Square again, the swap meet that we wandered by yesterday (our canal guide called it a flea market because if you buy something there it could possibly have fleas), we walked for half an hour in the wrong direction before being pointed in the right way by a guard at Madame Toussard’s Museum. As we were standing outside a shoe store studying the map again, one of the clerks came outside and pointed us the right way. I forgot to bring my credit card today and I was kicking myself because I need a new pair of shoes. I’m not kidding, these walking loafers I brought are killing my feet. I need a pair of tennis shoes and I am throwing these away. The cruise director is checking for me on where in Cologne tomorrow I can buy some, that is how dire my problem is. But that was off the subject. Finally at the Rijksmuseum we stood in line over half an hour and then wandered about. Saw some Van Goghs, Rembrandts, old Dutch artists, and lots more that I had no clue what I was looking at, but it was impressive, as is the building. I think my feet hurt so bad that my brain turned off. As we exited the building a light rain was falling. We walked across the street and asked some folks how to take the tram to Central Station (the best thing we did all day!!). Arrived back at Central Station in much less time than it takes to walk our circles, found our way back to the boat, and we are now relaxing, resting my feet, and then we will have dinner and sail for Cologne Germany tonight.
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April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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  #2  
Old May 5th, 2013, 08:29 PM
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Wednesday....

Again, the best laid plans……..it is now Wednesday. Once again we didn’t set our alarm, but this time only slept till 9:15. We skipped breakfast (which goes till 10), I put band aids on my blisters, and went to a briefing by the cruise director. Turns out that last night we lost an engine. There was a lot of vibration, and one of the engines broke. Luckily we have two. So, today, instead of arriving in Cologne at 3 PM we will arrive in Dusseldorf. They have chartered coaches for those that want to go to Cologne and do the walking tour, then the coaches will return to Dusseldorf. I am going to google Dusseldorf, and the cruise director is printing up some information, so I think we will stay in Dusseldorf, find me some shoes, wander around a bit and perhaps have a beer! I just don’t like riding on buses, and I need those shoes. We stopped at a small town this morning and picked up 2 mechanics who are working on the engine. So hopefully it will be fixed and we will be back on our timetable tomorrow. We seem to be moving a bit faster right now, but maybe it is my imagination.
Last night we had another wonderful meal….I didn’t know I liked veal, but the way they prepared it was really good. We have a buffet lunch today at 12:30. There is an aft lounge onboard where they have juice, coffee, tea, and cookies 24/7. DH is a big fan of the cookies and has turned into a regular up there. They also have games and books to borrow. He is up there right now reading his Kindle.
The weather has been a bit cool and grey, and a little rain at times. Hopefully things will clear up a bit over the week.
I think I’ll head up to the lounge before lunch and maybe make a plan for Dusseldorf!!
A few impressions about the ship. It is very modern looking and elegant. There is a main lounge forward where all of our meetings are held. It has room for everyone (130 passengers total capacity). There are some nice sofas and cushy chairs, a dance floor, a bar in a half circle, lots of wood. The colors are brown/tan/beige/rust/orange. There are windows on all sides with good views from every seat. The lounge is the setting for early and late riser’s breakfast and light lunch (soup, pasta, salad, sandwiches).There is a main lobby with the reception desk, which is staffed 24/7, the cruise director’s desk, and 2 computers for free use. The aft lounge has nice tables and chairs for game playing and reading and also the refreshment station set up in the corner. The Sky Deck has not had much use this cruise. There are many many chairs, loungers, tables and chairs, and a hot tub. There are also canvas covers for shade (not necessary yet!). We were up there for sailaway from Amsterdam and watched the captain steering the ship from outside controls on the Sky Deck. He would go back and forth from the wheelhouse to the outside controls. It was really neat to be right there able to experience that first hand.
Every day in our cabin they bring us bottles of water, it is mineral water and is so tasty! They also replenish our L’Occitane bottles and of course at night they put the fireplace on the TV! We also have a fruit platter and a REAL orchid. (I had to feel it to be sure because it looks so perfect). The stateroom is done in earth tones as well. Plenty of room for everything, and the floor to ceiling windows are great for watching the world go by.
Most everyone on the ship hopped on the buses to Cologne. We walked into Dusseldorf, limping feet and all. I found shoes, not the tennis shoes I was looking for, but Mephistos. Go figure. The Nikes were 130 Euros, so the dorky Mephistos were the choice of the day. My feet feel better already.
Dusseldorf is a very busy clean attractive town. There is a quay along the river where folks walk, bike, and just sit on benches and watch the water. We walked all along to the city center. The cement in the quay is patterned with a swirling pattern that to be honest made me a little dizzy, but it is attractive. In the City Center and surrounding the ground is all cobblestones in various patterns. Folks bustle around, pushing children in strollers, looking into shop windows, and stopping for French Fries in big cups or ice cream. How these people stay so thin is beyond me. I guess it is all the walking. We stopped at a bier house and had a Uerige, which is a dark beer and supposedly the best in Dusseldorf. It was quite tasty. We had a pretzel as well. On our way back to the ship there was a huge set of concrete stairs, kind of like a stadium, that overlooked the water. Hundreds of people were sitting there, all looking over the water. Nobody faced each other, they all faced the water. It was a warm day, so I think they were just happy they didn’t need jackets!!
Once we got back to the ship we got the good news that they think the engine is fixed. The mechanic is going to stay onboard overnight just in case. We had a fabulous dinner with our newfound friends and we each had our favorite….rack of lamb. It was incredibly good. After dinner they brought onboard a local trio (they actually had to drive them to us from Cologne because of the breakdown). They are called La Strada and consist of a girl playing a violin, a guy playing a violin, and a guitarist. They were fantastic. They played a mixture of classical music, gypsy music, and German favorites. We had a very enjoyable time listening to them. They were fantastic! Around 11 PM we passed Cologne and the lit up cathedral, hopefully I got some good photos. The ship stopped there for a short time to let the trio off and then we took off, headed for Koblenz.
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April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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Old May 5th, 2013, 08:32 PM
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Thursday......

This morning (Thurs) we docked in Koblenz, Germany, for an 8:30 walking tour, which meant we had to be up at (gasp!!!) 7:30. It was a quick tour around the town, as the main part of our day was to be sailing down the Rhine and seeing all of the castles. The walking tour was informative, the city was pretty, and our guide told us many stories. To be honest, we are on history/story overload. The one that stands out for me today was the guy who I don’t know when but many many years ago was accused of thievery and murder. He claimed his innocence right up until the time they tortured him and then beheaded him. Just before they beheaded him, he stuck out his tongue and rolled his eyes at them and told them that they were wrong and they would pay for it. Well, 100 years later they discovered (I presume via DNA) that, in fact, he did not murder anybody. So, on a building in town is a face with rolling eyes (this guy), and every half an hour he sticks out his tongue!! No lie!! We were there at 9 AM and he stuck it out 9 times. It was quite a fast stop, and we docked on the Moselle, not the Rhine, but we sailed out at about 10:30. We were greeted as we got onboard the ship with the typical “Welcome Aboard!! We are so glad you are back!!”….the difference is that on a river cruise one of the folks standing outside to welcome you aboard may (and for us usually is) the captain. He shaved his beard today!!!
We were then on the most beautiful stretch of the Rhine River. Many castles, small towns, and more history than we can absorb. We had a nice lunch in the dining room. DH is trying so many different kinds of soups and enjoying every one. The food on this trip has been exceptional. We eat 2 meals a day so have only made breakfast once. Maybe one other day, we’ll see how the itinerary plays out.
Once we were sailing down the Rhine we had a map of the castles and towns and our cruise director kept up a running commentary on the Sun Deck. It was nice enough today that we could be outside to see all of the beauty and hear the history of the castles. Once again, overload. But I hope I got some good pictures.
While we were on a several mile stretch without castles we went to the wheelhouse, where the captain welcomed us in. He is such a nice guy! The person manning the ship at the time is a guy who is taking his pilot’s license test in 12 days time. The captain explained to us that in Germany the ship pilots have to pass a test for each stretch of each river. The captain had turned off the GPS to make the guy navigate by hand. There were 2 radar screens that he explained to us that showed not only other ships but buoys and what color they were (green to the left, red to the right). He showed us the depth of the river where we were….3 metres!!!!! I asked him if he was really born on a ship and he said yes, that his dad had a ship, 62 metres long, and for some reason his mom was on it when he was born, so that being a captain is in his blood. One disconcerting thing is that while in Germany and many other European countries the captains must qualify and pass tests for each stretch of the river, in France there are no such laws. Anyone can pilot any boat in France. Of course I had to ask him if the captain of the Concordia could return there to captain any ship, and the answer was yes.
After our castle/river/small town overload (and my camera was running low on battery despite being charged this morning) we arrived in Rudesheim. We had a walking tour (that started with a choo choo train) and went to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Machine Museum (or something like that). I wasn’t expecting much, but it was really neat. Lots of old musical machines, phonographs, and history. It was amazing. I just asked DH to help me describe it and all he could come up with was when our guide said, and the oldest thing in this museum is, she pointed, and it was in DH’s direction and he said, ME????
After the Mechanical Museum we went on a wine tasting supplied by the ship. The surroundings were nice, but the wine not so much. We left as soon as we could, wandered around the town, went to a pharmacy to get some blister stuff then walked to the ship for dinner. Had a nice dinner and now we are in the stateroom relaxing. I hope I am sleeping in 10 minutes time….tomorrow is Mainz and Heidelberg!!!
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April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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Old May 5th, 2013, 08:33 PM
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Friday....

Friday morning we docked in Mainz, Germany. We had our walking tour at 8:30. We still haven’t managed to make it to breakfast prior to any of the tours, just because we are lazy and sleep in!! Our guide in Mainz was an older lady and she was very funny and informative. She took us on a stroll around town on the way to the Gutenberg Museum. There was a fantastic farmer’s market set up, which she said had “fresh” fruit and vegetables from “local” farmers. I never knew they could grow pineapples and bananas in Germany!!! Seriously, though, the market was fantastic, there were flower stands as well, and sausage and cheese trucks. As she put it, this was where the housewives came to shop first thing in the morning. On our way back to the ship after our tour those sausages sure smelled good on our empty stomachs. The Gutenberg Museum honors Johannes Gutenberg, who was the person who invented the concept of the modern printing press that we use today. He combined several innovations-movable type (cheap letter casts made of lead), oil based inks and wooden screw presses to devise the system that allows texts and engravings to be produced in unlimited quantities. Our guide actually printed a page for us, using one of our fellow passengers to help, and she used the old wooden screw press and melted down the lead to form a letter G. Gutenberg produced the first printed Bible in his workshop in Mainz in 1455. He produced approximately 180 copies over the years. He produced approximately 30 on parchment, and it took around 2,000 goats to produce enough skin for the parchment. The part of the bible that Gutenberg produced was in black and white, and the colors were added by hand after the pages were printed. Purple was the hardest color to produce, and was produced by killing snakes. The numbers are all running together, but it took 10,000 snakes to produce enough purple dye for something (one bible, maybe? don’t remember….). But that is one reason why purple is the color of royalty. The museum does have an original bible on display as well.
Next we headed for the Mainz Cathedral, which was built in 975. Well, I’m sure it took way more than a year, but can you imagine something that old? There are 2 big metal entry doors, lion heads as door knockers with a rung above them that is rather high. She explained to us that the high rung was because the bishops used to ride their horses into the cathedral. The people were short back then, so the high rung didn’t make much sense until she explained that. The churches are all starting to run together now, but this one was mostly stone, stained glass, and had a big cross. (Sound familiar?) Outside of the cathedral is a statue of a headless man, who was holding his head in his hands just under his neck, and according to legend once he was beheaded he walked through the town holding his head in his hands to prove his innocence.
We continued back to the ship and sailed for Gernsheim, Germany, where we would board buses to go to Heidelberg.
In Heidelberg we headed to the Castle Ruins. The Castle overlooks the entire city of Heidelberg and the Neckar River. From up there we had incredible views of the Old Bridge, the cathedrals, buildings, and gardens of Heidelberg. The Castle was built between 1560 and 1607. Fredrich V married Elisabeth, the daughter of James I of England in 1613, when both were 16 years old. They had a marvelous 6 years in the castle until Fredrich unwisely accepted the crown of Bohemia, leading to a losing battle and Fredrich and Elisabeth and their (eventually) 13 children having to spend the rest of their lives in exile. They moved from place to place until finally they were accepted into the Hague in the Netherlands where Fredrich died at age 36, the same age his father was when he passed away. This meant Elisabeth had to raise their surviving 10 children as a single mother!!
Heidelberg is a university town, but there is no university campus, as in most of Germany. The various buildings are all over the city. At the entrance to the castle grounds is a house that was a fraternity house. Fraternities are losing favor in Germany, and this one had (has?) a tradition whereby the members have to “take a scar”. Someone cuts the member deeply, causing a scar 2 to 3 inches long. The other members are present to witness this, and the scaree is not allowed to make a sound, flinch, move, or show emotion in any way. There is a doctor present to suture the scar with no anesthesia.
We took a funicular back down the mountain after admiring the world’s largest wine barrel in the basement of part of the castle (verified by Guinness Book). We then headed for….wait for it….a cathedral!! This one has some controversial stained glass that was done by a young artist in a modern style. The glass was to replace other stained glass that had deteriorated. The windows were rather interesting looking but didn’t really look like they belonged in a church. One of them featured what was supposed to reflect a laptop at the bottom and at the top was a symbol that was supposed to reflect God, saying that all things must lead there. I never would have guessed that’s what it was.
We headed for the Old Bridge, which crosses the Neckar River. At the foot of the bridge is a bronze monkey with his face coming out of his butt. It is supposed to mean that when you look at me you look at yourself, you are no better than I, look where you are from as well as where you are going. From the middle of the Old Bridge there is a fantastic view up at the castle. After crossing the Bridge there is a pathway up the steep hill that leads to Philosopher’s Way, a path overlooking the city of Heidelberg where supposedly Mark Twain among others had revelations. We decided to try to climb up there, although time was short. We made it past 2 scenic overlooks and up to a fence, but it was still quite a way up. The path is made of uneven cobblestones of all shapes and sizes, with little steps out of cobblestones as well as some concrete steps. Quite challenging. I got some photos from the overlooks (at the second overlook we were actually higher than the castle, so we had climbed up quite a bit). There were still more switchbacks to go, so we headed down to get to the bus, which took us to Speyer to meet the ship. Once again the Captain was standing at the door to welcome us aboard, they had juice and hot towels, and we were made to feel welcomed aboard.
The crew onboard is exceptional. The front desk manager, Petya, has known my name and my cabin number since I got onboard!! (And I swear I am not a problem). She is unbelievable. When you go ashore you walk up to the desk to get your pass and she hands you the one with your cabin number on it. Everyone, without exception, is smiling, helpful, and welcoming.
We had another successful dinner and after dinner was the Crew Show. Suffice it to say that it included skits, a bottle juggler, the musician playing YMCA and everyone dancing. Even the Captain played a part, and it was quite fun. The preacher drank beer during a wedding and ran off with the bride, a guy was in a restaurant where the waiter kept drinking his beer, female cabin attendants sat around reading magazines, and 3 guys dressed up in bathrobes that opened up to reveal skillets and ladles hitting the skillets in the appropriate place made appearances. It was fun and a good ending to our day.
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April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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Old May 5th, 2013, 08:34 PM
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Saturday...

Saturday….we are in Strasbourg France. It is cold, rainy, and windy. Our umbrellas kept turning inside out, which really doesn’t help matters much. There are umbrellas available as you get off of the ship, but we brought our own. I should have used theirs.This morning we had a canal boat tour of the city for about an hour and 15 minutes. It was quite nice and gave us an overview of the city. Plus, it was dry in there. After the canal boat tour we went on a walking tour of Strasbourg, which appears to be a very nice town but it was hard to appreciate because of the weather. And it wasn’t just me that was cold, everyone was. We could see our breath. We headed for the……Cathedral!!! At least it was dry in there. There was a huge organ way up high on the wall, stained glass, a cross, and an astronomical clock!! This astronomical clock is second only to the one that we saw in Prague, according to our guide. We were all to meet at the tourist center where we had a 20 minute walk back to the buses to take us to the ship, and in a testament to the weather I think pretty much everybody was there half an hour early. On our way to the buses our guide was explaining things as we were passing, but you really couldn’t see anything as you stood with your umbrella pointing into the wind and looking at the ground so you don’t trip!!
When we arrived back at the ship the Captain was once again there to greet us (outside, in the rain!), they had the usual juice and hot towels, and today there was a guy playing an accordion in the lobby. It was lunchtime so we headed there and we are just relaxing this afternoon. There were a few tours this afternoon of the Alsace countryside including wine tasting and Maginot Line, but we had not signed up for those (extra cost), and we’re glad we didn’t. DH is asleep on the bed half sitting up, and once I’m done with this I think I’ll head for the aft lounge. That is DH’s favorite place because of the cookies, but they also have juices and a machine that makes hot chocolate, cappuccino, coffee, hot tea…..all free! I think I’ll finish my book and relax. Tomorrow we head for Breisach and the Black Forest. Tonight Adolf and Jurgen Herr from the Black Forest are coming aboard and doing a presentation after dinner. They are woodcarvers. Tonight is also the gala dinner that includes lobster and filet mignon!! So I’ll update again on Sunday.
Well, we are going to get to Breisach and that’s it. The river is too high due to the SNOW for us to make it to Basel. We are going to overnight in Breisach and then they are going to transfer us to the train (for us, independently planned) or the airports. They are being very accommodating from what we can see right now, it all just happened. Just finished dinner and I am off to bed. DH is going to go to the woodcarvers, I am too tired as we have to get up at 7. I am up at 5 every day for work, but I am not up past 8 or 9, so that is the difference!! Good night, I’ll keep updating….
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Next cruises....
April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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  #6  
Old May 5th, 2013, 08:36 PM
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Sunday/Monday...

So, on Sunday we were in Breisach Germany and we went to the Black Forest. It was, again, very cold, and very foggy, but thank goodness not too much rain. Driving up into the Black Forest should have been beautiful but the clouds were so low that they covered the mountains. The fog was so intense that sometimes you couldn’t see the road in front of you. The bus driver was incredible and got us where we were going. There were a lot of switchbacks. One lady on our bus got very carsick and spent most of the trip there and back in the bus bathroom. Can’t imagine a worse fate!! There was a lot of confusion when we got off of the ship as far as the buses were concerned. Our cruise director had told us one thing as far as the tours and the guides outside told us another. So we actually got on the wrong bus, but it turned out fine.
Once in the Black Forest we went to visit an open air museum, Vogtsbauernhof. It has many original buildings from the farm that used to be there. The main house we visited was built in 1612. Believe it or not, one of the descendants, an elderly lady, lived there until the 1960s. We went into what was originally the living area, and they had the “heat” on as it was so cold (around 40 degrees). The heater is made of tile, and wood is fed into it from the kitchen next door. The tile heats up and thus heats the room. The master bedroom is above the living quarters as they got the benefit of the heat rising. The rest of the family got to sleep across the hall where there was no heat. No wonder they lost a lot of kids, maybe they froze to death. Also on the grounds of this farmhouse was their distillery. They were able to make their own alcohol as long as they didn’t sell it, then they would have to pay taxes. This is true to this day, according to our guide. There was another house where they were grinding corn, and lots of other buildings. It was interesting, but, again, it was outside and a bit cold. We headed back to the ship with a few stops for “photo opportunities”, which turned out to be photos of the fog obscuring the views. But, what can you do?
In this part of Germany (I know I will get this wrong), the young women didn’t have a chance to meet young men who were husband material much. So, the young women wore these really really ugly hats with red pom poms on the top, GIANT red pom poms. The red pom poms showed that you were single and available. Once you got married, you still wore a hat with…..guess the color…..BLACK pom poms!!!!
One thing about the included tours on this ship is that they were not as advertised in the brochure. We had 3 “traditional” groups and 1 “leisurely” group, and never an “essential” group, which we would have preferred. I have not asked Avalon about this yet, but I will. Our cruise director was a bit overwhelmed with the changes that happened, plus we were the first cruise on this itinerary this year, so I think that had something to do with it.
Once back in Breisach we got back aboard our ship, which was docked next to a Viking Cruise River Boat. There is only so much docking space available in the ports, and when a dock is full the next river boat pulls up next to it, they tie together, and then to get off and on we pass through their ship to get where we want to go. In this particular instance, we went up to our Sky Deck, across their Sky Deck, then down the stairs through their bar/lounge area, then through their lobby. I think it is rather fun, as we get to see the other ships a bit, we’ve done it in the past. Nobody asks for ID, you just clamber aboard and off you go. As we were getting back aboard our ship the Captain was waiting, outside, on the Sky Deck, to welcome us back aboard. In front of me was an elderly “gentleman” who asked the Captain when, exactly, was this other ship going to get out of our way so he wouldn’t be so inconvenienced. Well, I am so shy that I told the guy to lighten up, it was part of the adventure, and if he didn’t want adventure why was he traveling? He kind of stalked off and the Captain and the guy who is training (who were both there to welcome us aboard) both gave me a thumbs up. Give me a break. If you do any kind of research into river cruising you know that this happens often.
We had lunch and then decided to explore Breisach. All of the shops and most of the restaurants were closed, but we didn’t care, we are not shoppers, and there was plenty to eat on the ship! We took off walking for around 3 hours. There was, overlooking the town, of course, a cathedral! We climbed up there for the views and to admire the architecture. We strolled around the small cobblestone streets and alleys, admiring the town and the gardens that are just starting to bloom. Funny thing is, we were wandering around on an upper level of the street, and the houses were on a lower level, then the gardens were above the house. It looked as though people were working hard on their gardens, but very few even had chairs to enjoy the garden. It seemed as though having the garden was good, but I don’t know when they had the time to sit and enjoy.
Once back aboard we packed and went to the Captain’s Farewell cocktail party. He was really funny and read something his young niece/nephew had sent him about being a captain, which included some things about how you didn’t have to work hard because driving a boat was easy, you don’t have to go to school, and girls would chase you. I wish I had the transcript, I may have to do a google. He then thanked all of us for going to the wheelhouse to visit and asking questions about navigation and buoys…green and red. He then pulled up the pant legs of his Captain’s uniform to show us that he had a green sock on one leg, a red on the other, and that is how he knew which side of the buoy to pass by. He also said he another pair just like that in his stateroom!! We had dinner with our new found friends and that was it, the end of a good week.
Monday morning Avalon transferred us to the Basel train station to get our train to Paris. We left at 8 AM which wasn’t too bad, some folks had to leave at 6 AM to get their flights from Zurich. We took the high speed TGV train to Paris.
We had a great time, and Avalon surely delivered. Our food, service, and accommodations were exceptional.
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Old May 5th, 2013, 08:38 PM
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Sorry about the font, don't know what happened. Hopefully your eyes are better than mine or you can enlarge it!!

Had a good trip, I know this is more of a travelogue than a review.

By the way, our Petya had the menus waiting for us the last morning of the cruise, all done up with a red ribbon!!!
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Old May 5th, 2013, 09:34 PM
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Great Report, gave us lots of info to add to our notes for our trip in July this year with Avalon from Basel to Amsterdam.
Must say after reading your report I do not think I will attempt to do one on our trip because I wouldn't be able to do one anywhere as well as you have.
Thanks again for great information and detail.
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Old May 5th, 2013, 09:44 PM
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Thank you for such a detailed report. We were with Avalon last year, BUD to AMS, so was great revisiting some of the towns with you.
Like you we had a few hiccups due to waterlevels but they are part of cruising on these rivers, it didnt worry us at all, we just loved the whole experience.
Laughed about the crew show as it sounded like an exact copy of ours on the Panorama, will be interesting to see if we get the same in France next year.
We only had praise for Avalon, the captain, crew and cd..plus the ship, cabins, food and wine were fantastic. Its the little touches you remember most..like the front desk manager remembering your name and cabin number.
The young guy that made up our cabin always called us by name, I was madam Debbie and hubby Mister Chris, always brought a smile to our faces.
Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip, Deb
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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
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Old May 5th, 2013, 09:48 PM
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Thanks for the positive.....what I did was bring my netbook and I tried to type up each night what we did that day (I did fail on several days). Most of it was for my own recollection, and as I am going through my pictures now and reading my notes I don't remember half of what I wrote!! We went to Paris after and those notes are even worse. So try to keep up if you can nightly and it may help you to remember what you did, I know that even now looking at my pics and trying to edit I am thinking WHAT???? I was just hoping people wouldn't get too bored reading my ramblings....
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Old May 5th, 2013, 09:55 PM
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Thanks Deb....appreciate the positives. I am a bit under the weater, so off to bed till 5 AM, then off to work!

We met many nice Aussies and New Zealanders (Kiwis??) on this cruise, as well as folks from the UK, Germany, Canada, and I forget where else. One of the reasons we like Avalon, not only Americans!! It is very nice to be able to visit with folks from other countries, makes travel more valuable.

OK, off to bed for me, big sigh.....
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Old May 6th, 2013, 02:52 PM
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Thanks for the detailed report stretchcruz, getting me even more excited for our Avalon Magnificent Europe on the Vista Jun 23, first cruise ever. When I saw you had rack of lamb one night and lobster/filet another I just said "wow, hope we do too". I had planned on taking the laptop so I could keep updating what we do but it's a pain in the a$$ carrying it on and off the planes so will probably just keep a notebook so I can coordinate what we did with pics and videos. But then again I'll probably break down just before we leave and take it.
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Old May 6th, 2013, 03:18 PM
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Thanks, Dobie! I


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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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Old May 6th, 2013, 03:20 PM
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I guess my iPad doesn't like being shaken ... anyhow, great report, Dobie! It made me feel like I was there.


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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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Old May 14th, 2013, 11:39 PM
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Thanks, been so busy working that I haven't been back much. PLUS...I got a stress fracture in my foot from all of the walking and climbing and I'm in a boot! Mostly Paris walking but it sucks!! Still have to be on my feet 10 hours a day so by the time I get home I'm tired.....
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Old May 15th, 2013, 05:56 PM
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Sounds like your Paris guide walked you to death. Take care of that foot!


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Avalon Artistry: Magnificent Europe 4/26/08 - 5/11/08
Avalon Affinity: Windmills, Vineyards and Paris 5/10/09 - 5/24/09
Avalon Creativity: Paris to Normandy Battlefields 4/13/10 - 4/20/10
Avalon Scenery: Burgundy & Provence 4/20/10 - 4/27/10
Avalon Imagery: Blue Danube to the Black Sea 4/1/12 - 4/16/12
Avalon Expression: Magnificent Europe (Budapest to Amsterrdam) 7/3/13 - 7/17/13
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Old May 15th, 2013, 10:28 PM
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Thanks Pat, I will be fine....I just shouldn't have forced myself to walk as much as I did, but I didn't want to complain.....it is feeling better, problem is when you are on your feet 10 hours it doesn't get a chance to rest!!!!
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April 10, 2015 Avalon Impression Budapest to Passau with extra days in Budapest and Prague
Feb 26, 2016 Serenade of the Seas Caribbean
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  #18  
Old May 22nd, 2013, 02:31 PM
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Enjoying your report - great to hear how much you liked the boat. We leave for a Danube trip on Affinity in less than 3 weeks! It will be our first time on a European river, first with Avalon - so your positive impressions of the cruise are much appreciated.
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Old June 12th, 2013, 02:48 AM
big43rdkid big43rdkid is offline
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Default Avalon Affinity Romantic Rhine April 2013

Hi,

I was on that cruise. Your report is very accurate and there is not much more to add except to repeat that the crusie was excellent, happy crew, happy captain,great cruise director,good local guides and excursions.
Whatever problems the boat had, mechanical or highwater, the Avalon crew did there best to negate any impact on the passengers.

My wife & I did back to back cruises ( Tuliups & Romantic Rhine) and both were a great experience

Would recommend Avalon to all and are already looking to join them again next year. If the Australin dollar holds up.

Cheers
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  #20  
Old June 12th, 2013, 06:44 AM
Sylve1 Sylve1 is offline
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Great report. We too loved our Avalon cruise last year on the Tranquility.
Reading your report it seems you had a friendlier captain than us. At the beginning we were told we may be able to visit the wheel house and that the cruise director, Isabel would enquire. My husband was quite keen to do this. Later in the week , as we returned from a day trip ,we asked Isabel again as she had not gotten back to us and she replied with a very terse 'No' . She must have realised by the look the look on our faces that her reply was unpleasant. She amended her tone and reply but the answer was still no. There were no issues of high or low water or engine problems that may have made the captain busier than usual. Guess it just depends on how the captain feels. Ours obviously didn't want his time taken with questioning tourists! This was the only slightly negative experience.
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