Tomorrow is a big day for Avalon Waterways as the line stands poised to christen not one, but two, brand-new river cruise vessels in the Dutch town of Enkhuisen: the Avalon Visionary and Avalon Vista. But unlike many recent launches in the river cruise industry, there’s two important distinctions that set tomorrow’s event apart from the rest.
Though their names sound similar, Avalon Visionary and Avalon Vista are not sister ships. At 443 feet in length, Avalon Vista is the newest sister to Avalon Panorama, which set a new benchmark for comfort and amenities when she set sail for Avalon Waterways last year. At the top of the innovations list was the inclusion of two full decks of balcony suites featuring a Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Window that opens to create a unique Open-Air balcony.
Avalon Visionary, on the other hand, is slightly smaller at 361 square feet and is directly descended from Avalon’s Felicity and Luminary, both of which were constructed in 2010. But don’t let their smaller size fool you: These are still some of the most comfortable ships afloat, with wall-to-wall panoramic windows throughout and staterooms and suites that offer both river view and French Balcony staterooms.
So why construct one ship built on a newer class of vessel and one built upon an older design? There are good answers for both. The introduction of another Panorama-Class vessel allows Avalon Waterways to continue to expand and improve upon last year’s successful launch, while Avalon Visionary represents a tried-and-true design for the line that remains extremely popular with passengers.
River cruise lines face some limitations that remain exclusive to their industry, though. Unlike deep-ocean cruise lines, river cruise ships must be constructed to exact specifications in order to transit the numerous locks that line the waterways of Europe, while at the same time having a draft shallow enough to clear the riverbed, and yet still meet minimum vertical height requirements in order to clear the passenger, traffic and railway bridges that line their routes.
Avalon Waterways seems to understand these hardware limitations, which is why Friday’s christening comes on the heels of some important announcements from the line. Instead of relating to the ships, the announcements concern something Avalon Waterways has vastly more control over: The entire cruise experience.
By spring 2013, Avalon Waterways will have implemented a whole host of improvements geared toward enhancing the experience of its passengers, and the company started by diversifying its shore excursion offerings. In addition to the customary tour choices ashore, Avalon Waterways will be offering tours geared toward first-time visitors who prefer to be guided every step of the way, and those who’d like a brief orientation followed by time to go off on their own. Nordic walking sticks will be provided on each ship for those who’d prefer to do a little off-the-beaten-path wandering.
Onboard the ships, guests will be able to choose to opt-out of the more traditional (and time-consuming) dinner service, feasting instead on a light dinner offered in various ports along the cruise and featuring numerous local specialties.
Foodies will be pleased to know that at least once per cruise, a local chef will be brought on board to whip up some local culinary specialties.
Rolling out on its newest vessels, Avalon’s improvements and enhancements are just a few of the things the line is focused on implementing by next spring.
For Avalon Waterways, the launch of two new ships is a proud occasion indeed, but the continued improvements and additions to its onboard programs are what will likely keep guests coming back time after time.