In lore, Avalon is a mist-enshrouded island of ancient myth, magic, and an entrance to the Otherworld where people can find a source of inner peace and wisdom. What an appropriate name then for this river cruise company. Avalon Waterways’ vessels ply the rivers of Europe where each bend in the river opens like a pop-up-book presenting guests with fairytale castles and medieval villages.
Guests don’t have to move from the comfort of their beds since their beds are already positioned for viewing the scenes unfolding before them. All you need to do is prop your head on the pillow and look toward your feet at the passing vista just beyond.
While not as old as the villages and castles guests will visit, Avalon Waterways has been around for more than 90 years. Its story began when Antonio Mantegazza would ferry goods across Switzerland’s Lake Lugano. The company changed as tourism grew, especially post World War II to include motorcoach tourism which morphed into the international travel brand, Group Voyagers, Inc., more commonly known at the “Globus Family of Brands.” In 2004 the company entered the burgeoning river cruise industry. Today Avalon Waterways operates 13 riverboats in Europe, and will bring that number next year to 14 with the introduction of the Avalon View.
Where Avalon Sails
Avalon Waterways is no longer confined to the rivers of Europe; the company now operates vessels worldwide. Avalon has two vessels in Asia, one in India, one that sails the eco-exotic Galapagos Islands, and another that explores the Peruvian section of the Amazon River.
Avalon offers itineraries for all types of travelers, from four-day cruises to weeklong cruises to in-depth cruises of up to two weeks. These cruises include special-interest cruises, such as Wine-Centric Appreciation Cruises, Culinary, Beer Cruises, History Cruises, Jewish Heritage Cruises, or Christmas Market Cruises.
One of the most exciting cruises coming in 2020 is the Oberammergau River Cruises. This is an opportunity that arises only once every decade. It is a theatrical tradition since 1634, the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play, a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The play follows Christ from His entry into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. The event is a magnificent spectacle staged in a quaint Bavarian village.
What Awaits Guests On Board
Europe is where Avalon Waterways is best known, and it is known for its Suite Ships’ Panorama Suites. Beds are angled toward floor-to-ceiling windows that slide to the side to become an Open Air Balcony, more commonly known as a “Juliet Balcony.” This simple but brilliant configuration is a major selling point. Additionally, the suite’s bedding can be adjusted on a four-tier scale from soft to firm.
There’s no question that Avalon’s Panorama Suites are a major selling point. After all, the layout affords more usable cabin space overall with 30 percent more space than the industry standard, especially in the bathroom. Showers are larger than average and easy to turn around in, and there’s plenty of room surrounding the toilet and sink. His-&-Hers towels, colored dark and light, are easy to tell apart, and L’Occitane toiletries make guests feel extra pampered.
Premium spirits are served on board in an upscale bar (for a fee), and 24-hour self-service beverages are available for all guests who might crave a cappuccino, hot chocolate, or something sweet to eat. Guests can pair their glasses of wine with books from the vessel’s well-stocked library in the Club Lounge. The club-like atmosphere encourages guests to mingle and get to know each other before retiring to their suites. In the morning guests can sleep in and awaken refreshed with complimentary continental breakfast served in their suites. In the afternoon guests enjoy a snack and a glass of wine from one the vineyards they’ve seen out their windows.
Avalon Choice & Avalon YOURWAY
Avalon also differentiate its brand with its programming. Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways, calls it “building beyond the view.” That means inviting guests to river cruise in their own way, customized to their tastes. Keeping to that formula are Avalon Choice and YourWay programming. Avalon Choice comes in three categories: Classic, Discovery and Active; these choices apply to excursions and tours.
Avalon Classic focuses on history and culture, often in the form of a city tour. Avalon will provide expert local guides who will reveal the history and heritage of local sights. They will provide guests with insider information and fascinating stories behind the “must-see” sites, and hidden gems.
Avalon Discovery delves into interactive opportunities such as a cooking demonstration; and Active Discovery highlights energetic activities such as caving. With Avalon Discovery guests can roll up their sleeves or pull up a chair for interactive experiences. Avalon believes that these local experiences will help guests find their inner artists, satisfy their curiosity, or satiate their cravings to learn new things.
Avalon Active means just that. Guests can hike up a hill or speed down a trail by foot or bicycle. These are active excursions designed to keep guests in motion. Guests will have the Avalon Adventure Center and Host who will provide all necessary gear and guidance a guest needs to turn sightseeing from passive viewing to active doing. Guests can hike, bike, jog or kayak through the scenic locales. The host will provide everything needed from walking sticks to picnic blankets.
Onboard drink menus are similarly divided into these three themes.
All this activity might inspire guests to want to eat more healthily, and that is possible thanks to Avalon Fresh healthy options. These healthy dining options are created by Austrian chefs Leo and Karl Wrenkh. The food is crafted with the freshest ingredients from local farms and suppliers, and are available at every meal. Overall, dining is aimed for relaxed luxury, the restaurant does not enforce a specific dress code. Avalon’s FlexDining removes rigid dining times and changes the Panorama Bistro menu daily.
Beginning in 2020, Avalon YourWay will let guests customize their vacation further by packaging cruise tours in another three ways: with an Avalon land extension, a Monograms vacation package or a Globus escorted tour. Monograms and Globus are sister brands to Avalon, and they bring their own regional expertise and local hosts to the itinerary.
Also enhancing the experience are technological advances. The AvalonGo mobile app puts a concierge at guests’ fingertips with a daily schedule, destination maps and a list of shoreside points of interest. Directions are GPS-enabled and do not require a data connection. Avalon’s newest vessel, Avalon Envision, even has kiosks in the reception area that serve as extensions to the app.
The company has decades of experience supported by a strong and knowledgeable infrastructure, but the overall takeaway is that it’s the little things that make the difference between Avalon Waterways and other river cruise operators. Having a bed facing the floor-to-ceiling window so you can properly see the sights; dining on locally sourced products, wines, and beers; options to be as active or sedentary as a guest would like – it all is just common sense. This common sense approach is the Avalon Waterways’ difference.