New Cruiser Avalon - AMA - Viking

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#1
Sacramento Area, CA
1,012 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Taking a first pass at Danube river cruise, Sep 2018. Avalon, AMA and Viking seem to be similar mid grade cruise lines. However Avalon seems to be cheaper than the other two - am I missing something ?

Looking at Cruise line websites: Balcony

Avalon 9 days $3638 Per Day $404.

AMA 7 Days $3948 Per Day $564.

Viking 8 Days $3949 Per Day$493.

Also would like to use a good TA but don't know any for River Cruise.
#2
FL
14,436 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
The Stickies at the top of this forum are a great resource for learning more about river cruising and comparing lines. Also, using the search function will bring up a good number of threads comparing these and other lines.

I consider AMA a significant step up from Avalon, based on personal experiences with both lines. AMA includes a much broader selection of excursions, has very good food (I did not find this to be the case on Avalon), offers better included wines, and had consistently more varied and interesting evening entertainment than Avalon.

The staff and CMs we have experienced on our multiple AMA cruises were outstanding. Avalon's were competent, hard working and efficient. I also find their vessels to be a bit sterile where AMA's ar individually decorated and have a warmth that we very much enjoy.

We have not cruised with Viking as nothing about the line or their vessels appeals to DH and I. We have toured several and find them to be cold and generic. Historically, they do not handle high/low water issues as well as some other lines, due to their design. Vikings accommodates almost 20% more passengers on the same river boats and AMA and Avalon.

There is a line (or two) that suits everyone. An experienced TA would be able to differentiate the nuances and details.
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143 cruises since 1964, 15 on the river.
Looking forward to:
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017

Amadeus Silver III, May 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

Recent cruises:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
#3
Sacramento Area, CA
1,012 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Thanks Caviargirl. I did look at the stickies and they suggest that Avalon and AMA are very similar, hence my confusion on the price difference. Your comments are helpful, thanks.
#4
Houston, TX
531 Posts
Joined Feb 2001
Some of the difference is in their marketing material. AMA refers to a 7 day cruise (7 nights) while Viking refers to an 8 day cruise (still 7 nights), so basically the same. The Avalon you refer to is most likely a 7 day cruise and 2 days on land. We have traveled on both Avalon and Viking and enjoyed them both. Have not been on AMA so can't speak to that. We have generally found the prices on AMA to be significantly higher, so not worth it to us.
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S.S.Independence 1959-Transatlantic
S.S.France 1964-Transatlantic
Enchanted Isle 7/98-Western Caribbean
Carnival Triumph 6/01-Eastern Caribbean
Rhapsody of the Seas 4/02-Western Caribbean
Spendour of the Seas 4/06-Western Caribbean
Grand Princess 3/07-Western Caribbean
NCL Pride of America 6/09-Hawaii
Disney Magic 2/10-Eastern Caribbean
NCL Spirit 8/11-Western Caribbean
Avalon Affinity 4/12-Rhine
Disney Magic 9/12-Western Caribbean
Disney Magic 3/13-Bahamas & DW
Holland America Statendam 9/13-Alaska
Caribbean Princess 3/14-Western Caribbean
Disney Magic 9/14-Southern Caribbean
Viking Lofn 12/15-Danube Christmas Markets
Emerald Princess 3/16-Eastern Caribbean
Disney Wonder 11/16-Bahamas
Radiance of the Seas 5/17-Alaska
Avalon Illumination 11/17 - Danube Christmas Markets
Celebrity Infinity 4/18-Panama Canal
Liberty of the Seas 10/18 - Western Caribbean
#5
Texas
249 Posts
Joined Jul 2014
Originally posted by caviargal
We have not cruised with Viking as nothing about the line or their vessels appeals to DH and I. We have toured several and find them to be cold and generic. Historically, they do not handle high/low water issues as well as some other lines, due to their design.
Ah, beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder.

We love the sleek modern Scandinavian look of the Viking longships. Many of the other lines, based on their posted pictures, we find quite gaudy.

There is no right answer. I would suggest to original poster that they look at the pictures of the public rooms and bedroom and see line which best matches their tastes.

One benefit of Viking is the large number ships operating make ship swaps much easier in case of localized low or high water issues.
#6
Long Island, NY
6,515 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Originally posted by QueenofEverything
Some of the difference is in their marketing material. AMA refers to a 7 day cruise (7 nights) while Viking refers to an 8 day cruise (still 7 nights), so basically the same. The Avalon you refer to is most likely a 7 day cruise and 2 days on land. We have traveled on both Avalon and Viking and enjoyed them both. Have not been on AMA so can't speak to that. We have generally found the prices on AMA to be significantly higher, so not worth it to us.

That's a good point. Some folks just want a good value with good service and tours. Others want a little more as far as food selection, and little extras thrown in. I've been on both Avalon and AMA, ama gives more attention to added details that add to your pleasure but are not necessities. You get what you pay for but that doesn't mean you won't get a good solid product with Avalon. If you don't appreciate the extras and would rather not pay for them than Avalon and the lower cost is something to consider. I recently recommended Avalon to 4 relatives of mine because I know their dining and drinking tastes are basic meat and potatoes. They want a quality tour to Normandy and I know Avalon delivers in that regard.


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Planning the cruise is half the fun.
#7
Rhine, Germany
2,130 Posts
Joined Oct 2013
I am a little surprised Viking works out more expensive per day than Avalon. With Viking you need to know that the payment policy may not be to your liking. You can look this up in several threads on this board.

All three will deliver a good product and I am sure you will be pleased (generally speaking) with any of them. Have a look at slight differences in itinerary or a concert included that one may have but not another, for example.

In September you shall have few problems with low water on the Danube. But in such situations Viking has been affected before the other two companies in general. They have so many ships that you can swap to avoid the affected riverstretch. Which can be a coach trip of several hours. The other two will sail longer but then just stop and trying to stick to the itinerary will be decided at short notice. Viking might also announce a ship swap well into the cruise. It depends on the situation "on the ground".

I hope you will find the perfect cruise for a great holiday.

notamermaid
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Transocean Belvedere Danube April 2013
English Channel Crossings 1984 to present:
Calais - Dover
Ostend - Dover
Dutch island hopping 1980's
Many Rhine river short trips
#8
Sacramento Area, CA
1,012 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
I looked at itineraries again to be sure to count number of nights. Avalon is interesting, it shows 'Disembarkation' on Day 8 in Budapest but says 'Cruise ends with Breakfast Day 9' - so must stay on board last night in Budapest. I guess the numbers are closer than I first thought.

Avalon 8 Night $3738 Per Day $467.

AMA 7 Night $3948 Per Day $564.

Viking 7 Night $3899 Per Day $557.

Two more questions please:
1. are Windows cabins in the bowels of the ship - the photos show an nice balcony view while cruising, but how much cruising is at night and wouldn't you be on deck during the day?
2. August prices are several hundred dollars less than Sept - Aug 26 or 31 should be as good as first week Sept, right ?
#9
981 Posts
Joined Oct 2009
Hi Ted,

We prefer Avalon over AMA. It just suits us better.

>how much cruising is at night

Most of it.

>and wouldn't you be on deck during the day?
Not necessarily.

My Lady Wife much prefers staying in the cabin with the doors open.

Ira
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#10
Rhine, Germany
2,130 Posts
Joined Oct 2013
I cannot think of a great difference between end of August and beginning of September other than that end of August is still European school holiday season. By 5 September almost all children are back at school depending on what date the first Monday in September falls.

notamermaid
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Transocean Belvedere Danube April 2013
English Channel Crossings 1984 to present:
Calais - Dover
Ostend - Dover
Dutch island hopping 1980's
Many Rhine river short trips
#11
Northern KY
1,045 Posts
Joined May 2006
Originally posted by Tedferg
I looked at itineraries again to be sure to count number of nights. Avalon is interesting, it shows 'Disembarkation' on Day 8 in Budapest but says 'Cruise ends with Breakfast Day 9' - so must stay on board last night in Budapest. I guess the numbers are closer than I first thought.

Avalon 8 Night $3738 Per Day $467.

AMA 7 Night $3948 Per Day $564.

Viking 7 Night $3899 Per Day $557.

Two more questions please:
1. are Windows cabins in the bowels of the ship - the photos show an nice balcony view while cruising, but how much cruising is at night and wouldn't you be on deck during the day?
2. August prices are several hundred dollars less than Sept - Aug 26 or 31 should be as good as first week Sept, right ?
Look closely at the day-by-day details. At the top, it will tell you how many nights you are on the ship. Also, look to the right and see if there is a "cruise only" option. If there is, click on that to get a true apples to apples comparison. I'm not sure which Avalon you are looking at, but most which are longer that 7 nights have hotel nights included.

We never spend time in the cabin, except to sleep and bathe. Having said that, we did enjoy the layout of Avalon's panorama suites, with the bed facing the scenery.

We have sailed Avalon once, Uniworld three times, and will be sailing on AMA next spring.

Robin
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#12
Nashville, Tennessee USA
997 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
I can’t speak to AMA, but we’ve done 3 Viking and 2 Avalon cruises (and 1 with Vantage), and I would go with Avalon over Viking. Here are a few thoughts:

Cabins: All of Avalon’s cabins on the top two decks are 200 square feet. Vikings Veranda cabins are just over 200, but the French balcony cabins are only 135 square feet—definitely cramped. Also, with the larger-than-normal sliding glass doors, Avalon’s cabins are effectively balcony cabins, but you can gain the space back as inside space by closing the doors. And as Avalon always tells you, the beds face the window. Also the angled bathroom wall creates a much larger shower without really impacting space in the stateroom. Avalon won CruiseCritic.com’s award for best river cruise cabins.

Size: Although Avalon does have some 135 meter ships, much of the fleet is 110 meters. These ships hold 128 people as opposed to the 190 on Viking’s longships. The Avalon 135 meter ships hold 166 passengers. That translates into more pubic space.

Two-tiered sun deck. Avalon’s ships—at least the ones I’ve sailed on—have a section of the upper deck that’s a few feet lower than the main sun deck. This means that this portion of the sun deck remains open even when there are low bridges that close the upper portion of the deck. On the Viking longships, the entire sundeck is closed for high water/low bridge situations. On the Main-Danube canal, the sundeck is typically closed for the entire passage.

Rear lounge. The back of the Viking longships are occupied by the large panorama suites. Avalon’s ships have a nice lounge area with snacks, coffee, and tea along with a library with books and games. Viking has all these amenities, but not in such a nice location.

Aquavit Terrace: The Avalon ships do not have an equivalent to Viking’s Aquavit Terrace. They do feature cookout lunches on the main sun deck. The also have a nice sitting area at the front of the ship where Viking’s Aquavit Terrace is

Food: For us food was a toss-up—both lines were very good, but we’re not foodies. Freebies (wine, beer, and soda) are the same, but Avalon does have a ½ price happy hour every evening before dinner.

Hope this helps!
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FuelScience

2018: The Douro: Portugal's River of Gold & Spain w/Madeira extension, Vantage Douro Serenity (April)
2017: Burgundy & Provence, Avalon Poetry II
2016: Canals, Vineyards, and Paris, Avalon Affinity II
2015: Switzerland & the Heart of the Rhine & Moselle, Vantage River Navigator
2014: Tulips & Windmills, Viking Atla
2013: Romantic Danube, Viking MS Vienna (leased)
2012: Cities of Light, Viking Sky
#14
Missouri
35 Posts
Joined Jun 2012
AMA all the way. Food is much better and cabins are better too. Do not book a lower level room on Viking---we did once and smelled fumes all night. Transfers are better on AMA also, and we never spent dime on anything once we arrived. Happy hour, premium drinks, snacks, etc. all included. I drank champaigne (sp ?) at every meal and in between too !!! Have not cruised on Avalon.
#15
Ontario, Canada
2,756 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by Tedferg
I looked at itineraries again to be sure to count number of nights. Avalon is interesting, it shows 'Disembarkation' on Day 8 in Budapest but says 'Cruise ends with Breakfast Day 9' - so must stay on board last night in Budapest. I guess the numbers are closer than I first thought.
Two more questions please:
1. are Windows cabins in the bowels of the ship - the photos show an nice balcony view while cruising, but how much cruising is at night and wouldn't you be on deck during the day?
2. August prices are several hundred dollars less than Sept - Aug 26 or 31 should be as good as first week Sept, right ?
Let me try to answer your questions - and then will offer my thoughts.

1) The lowest category cabin (aka Aquarium Class) have windows that are probably around 5 feet up. We almost always travel Aquarium Class - and are quite happy with that. Many people, however, want a balcony and so pay the difference for the upgrade. If you do go with Viking - look closely at the room sizes as the lowest category rooms are bigger than the rooms with a French Balcony. This is because the hallways are shifted slightly to allow for the extra space for a "real" balcony. As for cruising at night, read the itinerary closely. While much of the cruising is done at night, there are times where you are cruising in the morning or late afternoon.

2) Prices are usually lower in the summer months. If you are OK with the heat, end of August can be good. One thing that may be more money in August is air fare.

Now - my thoughts. Of course, free advice is often worth what you pay for it - so read all posts, and work from there.
We have traveled with all 3 lines. All have some benefits - all have some drawbacks IMHO. We go with itinerary, then dates - then prices. Viking have quite sleek lines. The Scandinavian influence is quite obvious in their decor. They have been in the business for quite a while - with a large number of ships - so do have the whole river cruise thing figured out. They usually ask for full payment quite a ways in advance - which may or may not be a turn off.

We were pleasantly surprised with our 1st Avalon cruise. It was "less" money, so were prepared for a "less" robust - but, that was not the reality. They have incorporated a "Fresh Menu" this past year - and we were happy with the dining options. They offer 4 main choices - meat/fish/veg/pasta as well as options for the wine choices (ie: don't like the Chardonnay - they will have perhaps a Riesling available). They also offer Rose as well as the usual choices of red or white. We do find the evening entertainment is almost non-existent - but that isn't a problem for us.

AMA has lots of very loyal customers. People often rave about the food and service. Our cruise with AMA wasn't spectacular - so haven't done a 2nd with them. I would travel with them if the stars aligned - but, so far, that hasn't happened.

There are 2 things you have no control over --> the cruise director, and the chef. If food is very important to you, maybe AMA might be a good choice. The Cruise director is a crap shoot on any cruise. So - we just work with whoever is in that role.

We are fairly experienced river cruisers - having just completed #12 - leaving for #13 in September - and just booked #14 for next year. We are not brand loyal - but I think we may be in the minority in that regard. My suggestion is to think about what is really important to you. If price is a driving factor, then looking at one of the cruises that is cheaper/day might be the way to go. If ambience, level of luxury etc is driving this - then perhaps also include some of the "all inclusive" lines in our search. Scenic & Uniworld are all inclusive - and the level of luxury is quite high. I would suggest you also look at Emerald - and they are more all inclusive than the lines you mentioned (ie: included gratuities, free airport transfers even if you do your own air...). They are newer in the game, so don't have as many ships available.

Lots of companies have early booking discounts on right now - so this is a good time to look at booking.

Good luck!!

Fran