Though it feels like forever since I have sailed the rivers of Europe, I was lucky enough to do so twice in the fall of 2021. My first trip back to Europe was onboard AmaWaterways’ AmaSiena. After traveling to Europe once during the pandemic I felt like an old pro, so when Avalon Waterways reached out and asked me to sail the Rhône, I jumped at the opportunity. There was fear that came with my first trip back to Europe, but on this second trip in early October, I was vaccinated, boosted, fearless and ready to go.
Avalon Waterways required all passengers and crew to be vaccinated, and I had to take a COVID test to return to the United States. Because everyone on board was vaccinated, Avalon made masks optional during the sailing for guests. All crew wore masks. We were required to wear masks when on tour busses and in indoor venues in France. The antigen test needed to get back to the United States was paid for by Avalon and conducted in the Club Lounge by the crew.
The lobby of the Avalon Poetry II was different than most of the river cruise ships that I have been on. When I walked onboard, I appreciated the openness of the lobby and the smiling faces that greeted me from behind both the front desk and Cruise Director’s desk through plexiglass dividers. There was also a seating area in the lobby, which provided a nice place to sit and wait for friends or gather before outings.
After attending a welcome reception hosted by our wonderful cruise director, Gayle (you’ll learn more about Gayle next week when I write about the crew), I headed to my cabin. After many webinars and podcasts with Avalon’s executives, I knew that there was something in my stateroom I’d be impressed by – the bed.
When I say that I could write an entire article about the beds on Avalon’s river ships, I am not exaggerating. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to do that now because there are so many other wonderful things about Avalon I need to cover, but this was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on in my life. Night sweats? Nope. Soft sheets? Check. Fluffy duvet? You know it. I know it seems like it can’t get any better, but it can. The bed faces the windows in the cabin so that you can look out onto the river as you sail. Say what?
Though there are other cruise companies that face the bed toward the view, most of them only do so in certain cabin categories. Avalon pointed out how silly that was in its own clever way.
My first impressions of Avalon were that it was comfortable, inviting, familial and most importantly fun. I emphasize the word fun because this is definitely the most fun cruise that I have ever been on, and Avalon intends it to be that way. We had BBQs on the sun deck, late night dance parties, high-energy performances, exciting excursions to caves and on ghost tours (again, more on that in the next article), and too many laughs to count.
I’ll see you next week to talk more about the crew, excursions, dining, among other things. But for now, I will leave you with a joke from the wonderful, and hilarious, Gayle:
An English lady, making plans for an inexpensive visit to Switzerland, wrote to a country inn for a room reservation. She ended the letter saying she preferred accommodation as close as possible to a WC.
You anglophones will recognize WC as a water closet, or toilet, but the Swiss innkeeper was not that well acquainted with English, so he took the letter to his friend the parish priest and asked, “What is a WC?”
The priest mulled this over for some time and finally said, “Oh! She must mean Wayside Chapel.”
Very pleased to have his problem solved, the innkeeper responded to the request as follows:
It is with great pleasure that I am able to inform you that we have a lovely room reserved for your visit and that there is indeed a WC. It is located conveniently only two miles from the inn in a beautiful grove of pine trees, which gives a feeling of serenity to the visitor.
It may surprise you that our WC holds over 200 persons per sitting. It is a good idea to go as early as possible in order to get a good seat as sometimes only standing room is available, which is especially hard on some of the older ladies.
On Sundays a good number of people take picnic lunches and make a day of it. Others take a bus or horse carriage and usually arrive only just in time. I would recommend, Madam, arrange to go on a Thursday evening when there is an organ accompaniment. Although the building dates back to the 12th century, the acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds may be heard in the halls.
We are very proud of our unusual bell, donated by a wealthy visitor, which rings every time someone makes an offering.
Unfortunately, my wife has not been able to attend regularly since we don’t live that close. Naturally, it pains her very much not to be able to go more often.
Some come with cheer, and some with charity, but all leave satisfied.