In April this year my husband and were lucky to experience our second river cruise with Avalon Waterways. Last year we took the cruise from Bucharest Romania to Bratislava Slovakia.
My husband and I have taken over 60 Ocean cruises and our last 6 cruises have been on the smaller Windstar ships in the Caribbean. We quite prefer the smaller ships as there are no crowds, no waiting and smaller ships can get into the ports that the bigger ships can’t.
We now have experienced two river cruises and I can honestly say that this is the way to see Europe for us!
This last cruise we sailed on the Affinity and we only had 95 passengers so we all became one big happy family.
We flew into Amsterdam 3 nights before the cruise and stayed overnight at the Swiss Hotel which is very centrally located. We took the tour to the Keukenhof gardens where the tulips, irises, dafffodils were in full bloom. Spring arrived early in Europe so all the trees had leaves, the grass was green and the flowers were blooming. The season for the Keukenhof gardens runs between mid March and Mid May and they have over 2 million visitors.
We boarded our ship the Affinity on April 13/14 and immediately settled into our outside cabin on the Sapphire deck. Our cabin had the French Balcony and our bathroom was quite spacious for a small ship.
The meal times were:
6-7am Early Riser Breakfast in the Lounge
7-9am Buffet Breakfast in the Restaurant
9-10am Later Riser Breakfast in the Lounge
12pm Lunch Buffet in the Restaurant or Light Lunch in the Lounge
4-4.45 pm Coffee, sandwiches and Pastries
7pm- Dinner in the restaurant with unlimited wine
10.30pm-11pm Late Night Snack
On the second day, there was a tour of Amsterdam including a Canal cruise.
That afternoon we arrived in Volendam, where there was a sightseeing tour of Volendam and Edam.
On April 15/14 we arrived in Kinderdijk where there was a tour of a Windmill. That afternoon we took a galley tour on the ship. It is amazing how they can prepare such delicious meals in such a small galley.
In Cologne we decided to walk around on our own and not take the sightseeing tour and felt that we saw a lot.
In Koblenz we to the tour to the Sayn Castle and the walking tour of Koblenz. The castle was huge and overlooked the most amazing scenery. Our guide as very knowledgeable and entertaining.
In Bernkastel, we took the tour of the castle and winery.
We spent Easter Sunday in Cochem and walked around ourselves.
On April 21/14 we sailed through the Rhine Gorge which is famous where the vineyards alternate with the Castles and then arrived in Rudesheimer. This town is famous for it’s wine festival and the population triples during that time. The streets are cobblestone and all run downhill to the River. When we were there although it was not the wine festival, the streets were jammed packed with people.
In Mainz we took the city sightseeing tour and enjoyed it.
In Strasbourg we walked around ourselves and toured the sights.
In Breisach, we took the tour to the Black Forest and visited the Cuckoo Clock Shop where we bought a Cuckoo Clock and had it shipped back to our home. It was about 250 Euros and the Cuckoo comes out every hour and Cuckoos the amount of times for the hour and then at the end the clock plays a song and the figurines on the clock move around. One of the figures chops wood.
After docking in Basle we boarded our coach and were transferred to the Movenpick Hotel by Zurich Airport. Upon arrival at the hotel, we exchanged $100.00 USD and received 83 Swiss Francs.
The hotel had an open air restaurant where we had lunch. We each had a chicken wrap sandwich and one beer and the bill was 68 Swiss Francs. We were aghast at the price and asked the waiter if there was a grocery store nearby and he said that there was. So we walked around and found the store and bought bananas, cheese, bread and sandwich meat. Luckily our room had a mini fridge and guess what we ate for the rest of the stay. Buffet breakfast was 33 swiss francs per person.
We purchased round trip train tickets from Zurich airport to downtown Zurich at a cost of 17 swiss francs per person. We took the free shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport and then the train to downtown Zurich. We walked on one of the most expensive streets in the world and ended up having lunch at Macdonalds. Two hamburgers and one water came to 18 Swiss francs.
Needless to say, we did not buy anything in Zurich.
We checked in online for our Klm flights and were offered an upgrade to business class on the flight from Amsterdam to Calgary for $185.00 cad per person. We immediately bought the offer and it was well worth the additional cost. The service was just like it used to be in the good old days of Wardair.
I like the Avalon River cruises, because the service and food is excellent. The ships are in good condition and I did look at one of the newer ships and the cabins are all acutually little suites. The beds face the French balcony and there is a little love seat and coffee table, so you have more room to sit in the cabin.
The wall behind the beds is slanted, so that there is more room in the washroom.
I like that fact that bottled water is free, you can prepay your tips in advance, you can always have at least one tour per stop free and if you want to take more tours, then you can purchase them. Normally the tours are only 3 hours which suits us as we like to also relax on the ship and not sit in buses all the time. We also like to putter around ourselves and soak up the ambience of the destination.
We took 500 Euros with us and came back with 100 Euros. All the places that we shopped at took our Visa with the exception of the grocery store near the Movenpick hotel by Zurich airport.
In conclusion, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip and hope to take the river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam next year.