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  #1  
Old September 24th, 2013, 05:29 PM
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CaroleSS CaroleSS is offline
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Question Avalon cruise questions

For anyone that has been on Avalon cruises....

Did you like the wine/beer that they offered at dinner? I'm not a wine "snob" but I do like my wine! I think DH will be in heaven with Germany beer! I read somewhere that you could bring back wine/beer from the ports and drink them onboard. Did you see anyone doing that?

Did you like the provided excursions or would you just venture off on your own? Did you do any of the options excursions ($)? Were they worth it?

Are there any meals that you would say were a "don't miss"?? What ones fell flat?

We will be arriving before hotel check-in time. Do you know if hotels will hold your luggage so we can go out exploring?

We are seeing that there is a pre-paid gratuities option, but it looks pretty skimpy. Has anyone else done this?

Any suggestions, tips I might have missed???
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  #2  
Old September 24th, 2013, 05:52 PM
bobandjo bobandjo is offline
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Did Avalon Vista Jun 23 -Jul 5 Amsterdam - Budapest.
We quite enjoyed the wine at dinner, reds from France and whites from Germany. Only had beer once at lunch, wheat beer and pay for, and a dark beer in the lounge. Enjoyed them both.
Yes, you can bring alcohol on board and drink in your room, aft lounge and deck without corkage. If you want to consume it in dining room or lounge there might be a small corkage fee.
I think I did all the "included" excursions except one and for the most part were quite good. A couple of the tour guides rated a "d". Did 2 "pay for" one in Amsterdam which was tour of windmills, cheese and clog factory and the Venice concert. Both well worth the $. All the meals were good to great, the Venice concert day was buffet because most had to be on their way early.
We arrived at our "holding hotel" in Amsterdam about 9:30 am, Avalon took care of getting all our luggage, and us, from the airport to the hotel and then on to the ship. We went wandering and shopping and back to hotel in time to be transported to ship around 4:00 pm.
We paid the "suggested" tips to staff and cruise director plus some extra to the cruise director and a few of the staff. The latter we gave to personally.
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  #3  
Old September 24th, 2013, 06:27 PM
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Hi Carole. I agree with what Bobandjo said. I'm not sure which itinerary you are sailing on, we sailed the Paris itinerary, but I'm sure they are all run basically the same. For the wine, you are given a choice of which wine you would like. So it is not just "one" wine, I think a choice between 2 reds and 2 whites. They do serve the wine of the region, so expect that.

The prepaid excursions were all very good. All were 1/2 day, returning for lunch, except for us, we had one full day excursion on our itinerary. This allows you to explore on your own in the afternoon. We did purchase a couple extra excursions, because there is so much to see in Paris, and these were also 1/2 day excursions leaving after lunch and returning before dinner.
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Old September 24th, 2013, 10:45 PM
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Hi Carol, there were 6 of us together on the Avalon Basel to Amsterdam Cruise

None of us drank beer, so can't comment, 4 of us are somewhat to very fussy about wines, we enjoyed most, different each night. One of the girls only drank Chardonnay, we got to know the wine waiters and they would always have that certain brand btl available for our table even if it was on the menu that night.

The free daily tours were good, on some of the walking tours we would break away from group at some point and then do our own think. They were happy with that provided we let them know as they keep count of the number on the tours so they don't leave anybody behind. They also provide you with maps and an emergency phone number and also address of dock and time you need to be back.

We did the paid "Alsace Country Side" (wine tasting tour) overall tour was enjoyable and we saw some countryside and also walked around a little town which was nice, the visit to winery was very average (this is based on 4 of us having done extensive winery visits and tasting in many countries and top self wineries). Yes we did by some wine and enjoyed drinking it on the top deck at night after dinner.
Also paid for "Volendam Tour", this was very good and most that did this tour said it was one of the best if not the best Tour of our 8 days.
I understand the tours differ depending on the direction you are sailing the Rhine, I think it is to do with docking and departing times.

Everybody was very happy with meals, I am the fussy eater and some nights did not like the local dishes. The good news is there is are 3 standard fall back dishes, Fish , Chicken or Steak every night so all were happy.

We did not need to worry about holding luggage at we arrived at hotel at 2.30 and Avalon people unloaded it directly from car onto their bus.

We pre paid tips as it was slightly less than their recommended cash tips at end of cruise. We did slip a little cash directly to 3 or 4 staff that had looked after us extremely well.

I can only say the trip was perfect in everyway and if you read the on going posts on CC you will not have any surprises.

That only worry I had before doing the cruise was that we would enjoy it so much we would want to do more. Yes it happened and now we are doing another one in July 2014. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I have scanned all daily on board newsletter on to one file. Its is too big to load onto CC site but if you would like copies, e mail me on pad62@xtra.co.nz and I will send copy
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  #5  
Old September 25th, 2013, 01:06 AM
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None of us drank beer, so can't comment, 4 of us are somewhat to very fussy about wines, we enjoyed most, different each night. One of the girls only drank Chardonnay, we got to know the wine waiters and they would always have that certain brand btl available for our table even if it WASN'T on the menu that night.

typo correction
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  #6  
Old September 25th, 2013, 02:10 AM
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tassietravellers tassietravellers is offline
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Hi Carole...I second what everyone has said so far. We enjoyed the wines each evening..there was a choice between red, white or a rose on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise we did August. My husband had beer from the bar of an evening, during happy hour and a couple of times at lunch time and he seemed to be pleased with that, he tried a few different ones. There was no problem at all bringing wine etc on board, we took a bottle to the sun deck one night..as many others did too...and I saw others in the back lounge and the outside deck, I didnt see anyone bring any in to dinner or the lounge of a night..but they could have I'm sure, there may have been a charge not sure about that.

We thought the meals were good to excellent, each evening meal there were standard menu items available but we never resorted to them. There were also menu options available of a lunch time too, so if you didnt want to go to the buffet you could have table service. My husband ordered a burger or a steak sandwich on one day, cant actually remember which, but it looked good and he seemed happy with it :-)

We did all the included excursions, which were usually about 2-3 hours, mostly walking tours and enjoyed them. It was good that you could actually lag a bit behind or wander off a bit and still hear what was being said through the receiver system. We took 2 optional tours one the Nuremberg Trials, which we thought was very informative and extremely interesting, well worth it...plus we did the day trip to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, a beautiful place and enjoyed that too. I would recommend both of those.
Most ports there was time to walk around on your own, for example in Vienna we had from before lunch to late in the evening to do our own thing, we didnt book for the Vienna concert, but did head off again and see the city by night...went to the 1897 Ferris Wheel ' Wiener Reisenrad', fantastic views from there of a night. During the day we took the hop on hop off, had original sacher torte at the Hotel Sacher..just loved walking and doing our own thing.

We have always found that hotels will hold our luggage prior to check in. We were staying at the Intercontinental in Budapest and this was the hotel that Avalon were using(even though we booked direct with the hotel not through Avalon), so we just left our luggage with the porter and the next time we saw it was in our cabin.

In Australia the cruise price includes all tips so we didnt have any problems on board, we just had 2 prepaid coupons to put in the box ( one for the CD nad the other for the crew). We did tip a couple of other people directly though, one being the guy that looked after our cabin, nothing was ever a problem and one of the girls in the bar, from the first day she remembered our cabin number for the tabs and our drink orders, must have ordered too many I think!! :-)

We have booked Avalon again for next June, this time doing Grand France...as Peter said, be warned...its addictive!! :-)

Do the galley tour, it only takes about an hour..but its amazing how they can create all of the meals that they do in such a small space and have them all ready at the same time.

I asked on this tour if it was possible to get a recipe for a dessert that we had one night, the next morning we picked up our pass to go on a tour and the recipe was there for me..all signed by the head chef too, my chef/baker daughter was very impressed!

Plus twice on our cruise they had a bbq lunch on the sun deck(they only do these if the weather is ok), they can only take bookings for about 30 people (not positive on exact numbers), so you need to book in at the reception desk as soon as they announce it as it fills very quickly...we did this one of the days and it was lovely eating outside, they had a good variety of meats, salads etc..and a waiter was taking drink orders.

We had a few problems on our trip...not the fault of anyone...low water levels, a barge accident and bridge repairs..that all affected the cruise in some way, but we both loved it. Must have done as we have booked again!! :-)

You will love it too
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  #7  
Old September 25th, 2013, 05:44 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaroleSS View Post
For anyone that has been on Avalon cruises....

Did you like the wine/beer that they offered at dinner? I'm not a wine "snob" but I do like my wine! I think DH will be in heaven with Germany beer! I read somewhere that you could bring back wine/beer from the ports and drink them onboard. Did you see anyone doing that?

Did you like the provided excursions or would you just venture off on your own? Did you do any of the options excursions ($)? Were they worth it?

Are there any meals that you would say were a "don't miss"?? What ones fell flat?

We will be arriving before hotel check-in time. Do you know if hotels will hold your luggage so we can go out exploring?

We are seeing that there is a pre-paid gratuities option, but it looks pretty skimpy. Has anyone else done this?

Any suggestions, tips I might have missed???
We have cruised with Avalon 4x. The first few cruises we found the complimentary wines served to be ok, and if we did not care for it we ordered a bottle off the extra charge list. On the last cruise they had switched to 1.75 bottles of less appealing (cheaper) wine which we did not care for at all. We enjoy nice wines and ended up bringing our own to dinner and paying the reasonable corkage fee. In the bar, we purchased bottles and kept them with the bartender if we did not finish them.

We did a few of the included excursions and enjoyed some and others wandered off early to explore on our own. In some ports we opted out and struck out on our own so we could go at our own pace. We were expecting options for active and slow walkers as advertised but they were not offered and our preference is a faster pace so we were happy on our own. We did not opt for extra cost excursions but headed out on our own here as well, including a day trip to Salzburg by train which we really enjoyed. My mom did the excursion with Avalon and enjoyed it.

We tip in cash as we go for exceptional service and then the recommended amount at the conclusion of the trip.

The first three cruises had good to very good food, with rack of lamb being a stand out. This was not offered on our last Avalon cruise, and other dishes we remembered from our first cruises were also no longer offered. A lot must depend on the head chef and we were fortunate to have Stefan on our first cruises - his food was very good.

I have posted detailed reviews of all my river cruises if you are interested in further details.
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Last edited by caviargal; September 25th, 2013 at 05:46 AM.
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  #8  
Old September 25th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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CaroleSS CaroleSS is offline
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Thumbs up Thank you!!!!

I will tell you what......CCers are the BEST!!!

I can't honestly say that any of your comments come as a surprise to me. We chose our trip based upon itinerary, but were swayed by reviews saying how much they enjoyed the Avalon product. Thank you to everyone for your comments.....they make me feel better (and better informed).....now I just need to figure out how to get the next 9 months to go by faster!

We are sailing on the Main river.....from Passau to Basel with a pre-trip in Munich (including a day trip to see Neuschwanstein). Most of the sailings I've seen are on the Rhine of the Danube, so I was a tad nervous that I'd made a mistake! If anyone has any information concerning this part of the river, I would appreciate the information!

I asked about luggage as we are adding a day at the beginning of the trip, so we can spend another day in Munich. I'd really like to see Dachau even though it is a somber visit. I just didn't know if our hotel (2 nights of which are included in the tour price) would hold our luggage, but I guess they see this type of thing all the time, so it only makes sense for them to do that for us.

We will be in Nuremberg, so we will take tassietravellers' suggestion and take the Nuremberg Trials tour. There is also a trip to Salzburg which we will take. We are torn between the trip to a winery in Strasbourg or a trip to the Black Forest, but are leaning toward the winery (based upon things I've read).

Again, thank you to all. I look forward to being an addict!
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  #9  
Old September 25th, 2013, 09:31 AM
caviargal caviargal is offline
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I have been to Dachau twice and it is a very moving experience. I recommend it.
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  #10  
Old September 25th, 2013, 11:19 AM
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I did Avalon's Basel to Amsterdam last year and posted a fairly extensive trip report:
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1646466

We flew in a day early and stayed at the same hotel that Avalon used in Zurich. We did Avalon's optional trip to Mt. Pilatus and Lucern, which we really enjoyed. I know that we could have done this on our own for less money, but by booking it via Avalon - everything was taken care of. They transferred our bags directly to the ship. Avalon had a rep in the hotel by 8:00 am and any travelers on the trip, regardless of where they were staying, were able to drop their bags at the meeting hotel and Avalon took care of getting them to the ship. Avalon also offered a city tour of Zurich that some people took and enjoyed. Since we had arrived a day early, we had already done this exploring.

We took the optional wine tasting tour of Alsace with a stop in Obernoi France. We really enjoyed this. The village of Obernoi was really nice. It is an extremely well preserved old town, complete with fortified wall. We also did the windmills, clog (wooden shoes) factory, gouda cheese making trip out of Amsterdam. This went to Zaanse Schans. Again - very enjoyable. The clog making demonstration was great. There was a great selection of clogs to by as well.

On our trip, Avalon offered a walking tour of the red light district the evening before departure, but we passed on this as my mother was tired and just wanted to relax and pack. Those who went said it was okay, but a bit disturbing to see all of the women in the windows.

As far as food and wine - I have to agree with all of the posters above. I like white wine, but not chardonnay and enjoyed all that were poured. There was one night when I preferred the wine from the night before and the waitress found a bottle from the night before for us. The food was also very good. We did have the rack of lamb as an option one night.

We had no issues with our cruise and highly recommend Avalon. I'm trying to figure out when I can get another river cruise booked.
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Old September 28th, 2013, 12:51 AM
Tinky2 Tinky2 is offline
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I would also like to say thank you for the information offered. We are also booked on our first river cruise in May 2014 and soaking up all the information I can get my hands on!! We are doing Amsterdam to Paris and just cannot wait !!!

Thanks Again

Tinky
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Old September 28th, 2013, 10:21 AM
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Ditto on all of the comments re: Avalon. We love Avalon and have cruised with them many times.

One of the chefs told me that while they try to buy the very best "groceries", sometimes they are limited at the markets as to what they can obtain. If the lamb or other meat doesn't meet his requirements then he won't purchase it.

Many times we have seen produce and other food stuffs waiting for the chef at port side and it looks fresh and lovely. Other times I've seen chef/kitchen staff 1st off the ship headed for market!
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