This is shaping up to be a banner year for Avalon Waterways. The popular river cruise line is introducing new ships across the world, from the brand-new Avalon Tapestry II and Avalon Tranquility II in Europe to the launch of two, sleek modern vessels in Southeast Asia. Avalon is adding to its roster of Theme Cruises, which continue to increase in popularity with each passing season, and the company is expanding upon the offerings that have garnered so much recognition among Avalon’s past passenger base.
For Avalon, 2015 all boils down to four key elements:
“We’re just built differently,” says Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. “We proved this when we unveiled our first Suite Ship in 2011– the Avalon Panorama. With that vessel and subsequent Suite Ships, we changed the industry by unveiling bigger windows, bigger views and bigger rooms. And now, just three years and several Suite Ships later, we’ve received incredible feedback from our guests and travel agent partners, making us even more confident we made the right design decision when we created a stateroom that feels like a balcony. Our signature Panorama Suite is an unparalleled space that offers cruisers the chance to see the river’s changing landscapes from the comfort of their beds: the only beds in the industry that face the windows.”
Each of Avalon’s “Suite Ships” places heavy emphasis on spacious staterooms and suites. In fact, each Suite Ship boasts two full decks of accommodations measuring between 200 square feet and 300 square feet. Each of these staterooms comes equipped with Avalon’s signature Open Air Balcony: a French-style balcony that completely retracts to turn staterooms into a giant veranda. Because of the large number of these staterooms onboard, nearly 80 percent of the total accommodations aboard Avalon’s Suite Ships will feature this innovative feature.
“We have expanded our staterooms without stretching the truth,” Clark says. “Our smallest room fleet-wide is 172-square-feet. That’s a very important differentiator when you consider others in the industry have rooms as small as 135-square-feet.”
Renewed Focus on Southeast Asia
Exotic itineraries have always played an important role in Avalon’s overall river cruise offerings, but this year, what’s taking place for the line in Southeast Asia is just as exciting as its European voyages.
This year, Avalon Waterways is introducing the 36-guest Avalon Siem Reap on the Mekong River, bringing European Suite Ship-style cruising to Vietnam and Cambodia for the first time. The Avalon Siem Reap features just 18 Avalon Suites for an onboard experience that is both intimate and elegant.
Measuring 245 square feet apiece, these Avalon Suites feature Avalon’s Open-Air Balcony arrangement. The overall floor-to-ceiling windows that line these 18 suites are 14 feet wide, and can fully retract to nine of those 14 feet for an expansive view of the Mekong that’s unmatched in the region.
The idea of building this new 36-guest Suite Ship along the Mekong sounded like such a good idea that Avalon decided to do the same for its newest destination: the Irrawaddy River. The new Avalon Myanmar will operate a spectacular 14-day itinerary that has been dubbed Golden Myanmar & the Alluring Irrawaddy.
Featuring a ten-night voyage aboard the Avalon Myanmar from Began to Bhamo coupled with a land tour that includes hotel stays in Yangon, the itinerary starts off with a walking tour of Yangon before flying guests to Bagan to embark on their cruise. On the cruise, guests can watch the sunrise from a Bagan temple, explore colorful local markets, see palm candy being made in the Shwe Pyi Thar village, visit Kaunghmudaw Pagoda and Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda in Sagaing, take a sampan ride at sunset in Amarapura, watch a traditional dance performance by firelight, relish the sights in Mandalay, visit a monastery and present alms to the monks in Kya Hnyat, and even pay a visit to a local farmer’s home in the town of Kyun Dew.
“Our new Asia vessels mirror the experience found on our Suite Ships in Europe. But perhaps as important as the attention to detail and appointments found on these ships is their overall size,” says Clark. “Both new ships – featuring only 18 Avalon Suites each – were designed to traverse more of the Irrawaddy and Mekong Rivers, providing travelers the chance to enjoy more of Asia. For instance, the Avalon Myanmar is small enough to cruise the spectacular Upper Irrawaddy throughout the season – a feat not possible on a larger ship. And the Avalon Siem Reap is the only ship in the industry cruising all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap (or vice versa), as water levels allow.”
The French Connection
“We are nearly doubling our capacity [in France], giving 95 percent more cruisers the chance to sail France,” Clark says. “More importantly, we’re giving them the opportunity to enjoy the passing French countryside and landscapes in the comfort of the largest staterooms with the biggest windows – and views – in river cruising aboard two Suite Ships.”
New for 2015 is Avalon Tapestry II, which will be christened on March 24, 2015 in Les Andelys, France by bestselling-author Diana Gabaldon, who is perhaps most well-known for the New York Times bestselling series OUTLANDER. Gabaldon will inaugurate Avalon’s first-ever Suite Ship to debut in France. She’s not just an award-winning author, though: Gabaldon holds a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology with a specialty in scientific computation.
In addition to the high-profile launch of the new Avalon Tapestry II, Avalon Waterways is also sending the popular Avalon Poetry II to France, where she will sail from Burgundy to Provence and from the Rhine to the Rhone on a brand-new itinerary. At 14 nights in length, this new Rhine and Rhone Revealed voyage will be available on both Avalon Poetry II and Avalon Tranquility II.
This year, Avalon is also offering four in-depth themed cruises in the region to kick off their focus on all things France. Themes include Art & Impressionist; Culinary; Wine; and a special Jazz Cruise featuring a jazz festival in Vienne.
It’s All About The Theme
This year, Avalon Waterways is pulling out all the stops for its popular Theme Cruises. Enormously popular, theme voyages are always some of the first to sell out in a given season, and this year looks to be no exception. For 2015, Avalon is offering 10 different theme cruises spread out among 24 separate itineraries:
- Art & Impressionist Cruises (2 itineraries)
- Beer Tasting Cruises (2 itineraries)
- Culinary Cruises (2 itineraries)
- Festive Holiday Cruises (5 itineraries)
- Golf Cruise (9 days from Vienna to Munich)
- Jazz Cruise (11 days from Côte d’Azur to Paris)
- Jewish Heritage Cruise (13 days from Budapest to Prague)
- Music Cruise (15 days from Amsterdam to Budapest)
- Wellness Cruise (13 days from Budapest to Prague)
- Wine Appreciation Cruises (8 itineraries)
Avalon is also hosting a special Author Cruise this year that will feature renowned author Patricia Schultz of the international bestselling book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die. On this special 7-night, 8-day cruise (departing August 11, 2015), Schultz will be offering fellow cruisers the chance to sit-in on guest lectures about must-see destinations around the world and have their books signed by her as the Avalon Expression sails the Blue Danube from Budapest to Vienna, Durnstein-Melk, Linz-Passau and Regensburg before reaching Nuremburg. Schultz previously served as the Avalon Expression godmother, christening the ship in May of 2013.
“Patricia has inspired thousands of people driven by wanderlust to travel the world,” Clark says. “She was the perfect godmother for the Expression and a wonderful choice to lead a cruise on the Expression in 2015. We’re thrilled to extend our relationship with her to a group of lucky Avalon travelers – all of whom are sure to be as enamored with her, thanks to their shared passion of travel, as we are.”
The Road Ahead
With a fleet of sleek, modern Suite Ships sailing in Europe and new vessels operating exotic itineraries to some of the farthest reaches of the world, Avalon Waterways has really hit its stride. With the influx of travellers discovering river cruising growing with each passing year, it’s hard to imagine the popular river cruise line sitting idle.
After all, as Managing Director Patrick Clark says, Avalon is always thinking about the future.
Learn more about Avalon Waterways with our company profile here on River Cruise Advisor.