Relaxed luxury is a great way to describe our Avalon River Cruise.
In July 2018 we escorted a small group of travellers from New Zealand to experience Avalon’s 14-night Magnificent Rivers of Europe cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, and it was magnificent! The cruise meandered for 1,825 kilometres through Holland, Germany, Austria and Hungary along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, crossing a total of 68 locks.
One of the highlights at the start of the voyage was unpacking our luggage in our well-appointed Panoramic Suite on board Avalon Impression, knowing that this was to be our home for 14 nights. In recent years Avalon has removed the balconies in its ships’ staterooms and replaced them with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors to bring the outside in. The result is a spacious room that is a wonderful retreat after busy days ashore.
We were also impressed throughout the cruise by the very friendly and helpful crew; at being two of only 100 passengers aboard; by the delicious and plentiful meals with a four-course fine dining dinner to enjoy each evening (special food requirements were also easily catered for), and with the inclusive touring at every destination with plenty of time to wander at your own leisure after each tour.
We arrived in Amsterdam two days before the cruise began to explore the city. We visited the art museums, the Heineken factory, shopped a little, and rode bikes into the countryside to see the iconic windmills and waterways.
'In recent years Avalon has removed the balconies in its ships’ staterooms and replaced them with floor-toceiling sliding doors to bring the outside in.'
Once the cruise was underway, one of our favourite experiences was cruising the Middle Rhine Valley, known to many as the Romantic Rhine. This is a beautiful section of the Rhine River with quaint German villages and well-preserved castles on the hillsides in between stretches of vineyards. UNESCO declared the Upper Middle Rhine a World Heritage Site in 2002. It has two thousand years of history as a main transport route and an outstanding cultural history.
At the beautiful town of Rudesheim at the start of the Middle Rhine Valley (and the heart of the Rheingau wine-growing region), we rode the gondola to visit the enormous Niederwald monument that towers over this section of the valley. This is a 35-foottall symbolic figure of Germania which was completed in 1883. There are numerous photo opportunities given the wide views from the gondola and from the foot of the monument, plenty of traditional German Christmas decorations to buy in the town and of course many opportunities to taste the local wines.
Along this stretch of the Rhine we sighted at least 20 castles in the space of three hours. We were fortunate to have clear blue skies and we lounged on the top deck enjoying the breathtaking sights of traditional villages and historic architecture. Our knowledgeable Avalon Cruise Director, Monika, provided a detailed explanation of what we were viewing as we rode along this section of the scenic Rhine.
Moving into the Main River, our first stop was the Bavarian village of Miltenberg and its historic Old Town. After the guided walking tour we ventured off to Miltenberg Castle for the beautiful view over the area. The following day we visited the Bishops Residence at Wurzburg. It’s an elaborate palace with a beautiful interior. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Bamberg was next with its magnificent Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral and Bishops Palace.
We enjoyed learning about European history throughout the cruise and piecing together the extensive political, religious and royal connections between the countries we visited. On the Main Danube Canal we visited Roth and Nuremberg. Roth is famous for its Christmas market and Nuremberg is worth a visit for its historical relevance during WWII. Entering the Danube, we stopped at Regensburg for traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut and explored the pretty town.
'We enjoyed learning about European history throughout the cruise and piecing together the extensive political, religious and royal connections between the countries we visited.'
While in Austria we took the opportunity for an excursion to stunning Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, another UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth the visit. We stopped at Melk to visit the 11th-century Benedictine abbey whose interior decoration is magnificent. Back on board we had a commentary as we travelled along the scenic Wachau Valley and we visited the beautiful small town of Durnstein for a bike ride along the river before setting sail for Vienna.
In Vienna we enjoyed some free time to walk around this beautiful city, have a horsedrawn carriage ride and enjoy delicious pancakes for lunch. In the evening, we attended a symphony concert in the former Hapsburg family residence. Our cruise ended in Budapest where we had time to visit the highlights of this magnificent and interesting city.
We thoroughly enjoyed every day of this Avalon cruise and have already booked our next escorted tour to cruise with Avalon along the grand rivers of France in 2020. We can’t wait!