My perception of river cruising through Europe was that this form of holiday best suited the much older traveller or for people who had low activity levels so when my sister mentioned she’d like to take a river cruise down the Rhine River my immediate response was “We’re not old enough yet” and “I’ll be bored sitting in my room or the bar whilst floating slowly down a river for 8 days”. We continued to discuss the pros and cons of a river cruise…even though we’d never known anyone who had taken a river cruise ….eventually I said ‘Ok, we’ll go with you”. I’m sure I had been sipping on a glass of wine when I uttered those words but the conversation very quickly moved to dates. Before I knew it we were all going on a river cruise in July 2017…all I had to do was find the cruise that fitted Darelle’s annual leave dates.
I spent quite some time researching various river cruise options, weighing up value for money, inclusions and what was really important to have and what wasn’t – I chose an Avalon Waterways 7 day Rhine River cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. Avalon also fitted in with the dates perfectly. A couple of other friends decided to join us as well….the more the merrier!!
Excursions and alcohol, at mealtimes, was included and outside of mealtimes we had to pay for our drinks but that wasn’t an issue for us as we weren’t big drinkers so a couple of drinks in the lounge of an evening wasn’t going to break the bank. Ty and I also don’t take holidays then worry about every extra item we might have to pay for … that would make for a miserable holiday if we did. I also didn’t think paying a thousand dollars extra with a different cruise company to have unlimited alcohol was a sensible option. Granted the higher priced river cruise ship could possibly have larger staterooms, a 24 hour butler service and more dining options but your stateroom is for sleeping so you’re very rarely in it. Avalon also had waived the single supplement and when you have several single people in the party that is a very big saving. If we like this type of holiday I’m sure, at some stage, we’ll try a different brand for comparison. I read reviews on various companies, some friends knew people who had toured with Avalon previously – some customers were happy some weren’t. I read reviews and listened to the relayed experience of others then weighed up the pros and cons to make my own decision. My only concern was the water levels…a friend had travelled several years prior and the water levels were extremely low so they spent more time being bused from one town to the next and spent very little time on the ship. Water levels were not something that could be controlled…we had to hope that this would be a good year for the rivers.
The day of embarkation arrived and cruise check in was at the Movenpick Hotel. We weren’t sure where the Movenpick was in relation to our hotel so we booked a taxi to take us and our luggage from our hotel. The cost from the Hilton to the Movenpick was around €12 so the distance between both hotels was not great. Cruise ship embarkation time was 4pm so we had an hour to wait before the coach would pick us up to deliver us to our river cruise ship. Beer, soft drinks, tea and coffee was on offer in the large meeting room during the wait.
The bus duly arrived and we were driven to the pier…..it was an extremely short ride. The pier was just over a small bridge from the Movenpick. Not even a 10 minute bus ride….it took longer to get in the bus than it did to reach the pier. After boarding the ship and being given our cabin keys Ty and I decided to walk back to Central Station to a pharmacy, it was then we discovered if we had walked under the rail bridge, less than 100 metres from the Hilton, at any time during our stay we’d have realised the Pier was just a 10 minute walk away. We could’ve easily wandered down with our bags however Lesley has a damaged knee so walking can be difficult for her. She would not have managed the walk pulling her luggage along. Taxi was right thing to do. We still laughed when we saw how close we were.
We’d already been in Amsterdam for 3 days but we get an extra day and night in Amsterdam as the ship does not sail until Monday night. We knew our river cruise itinerary included a canal cruise so we didn’t worry about about taking one during our 3 days. Seemed a waste of time to do the same cruise twice.
Our ship was the Felicity and we had a panorama cabin on deck 3 one cabin down from a suite. Cabins were smaller than we thought from the brochures and there were no balconies – we had a sliding door. Perhaps the later models have the balcony with chairs. Nonetheless it wasn’t a deal breaker just a little disappointing. It was also a rarity to be able to leave the door or curtains open overnight due to other ships docking right up close and personal – window to window at each town. So if you jumped out of bed in the morning to see where you where and check out the view the only view you saw was another ship’s cabin window. If the people in that cabin had their curtains open and were looking out at the same time they’d get a very nasty shock to see a naked man or woman looking back at them! Not a very pretty sight at all and we’re not in Amsterdam where people choose to go to see and visit the special windows so best to keep those curtains firmly closed overnight and don’t open them till you’re fully clothed.
- Food was excellent and well presented
- More intimate with only 130 guests on board
- Staff were very welcoming
- Personal service
- Cleanliness of staterooms and common areas was excellent
- Dining staff who always enjoyed a joke and had a smile
- Number of excursions included in the price
- Ship was in good condition overall
- Morning excursions commenced at 8.30am….we didn’t have to take them and could’ve rested but, you know how it is, we didn’t want to miss out on anything…lol
- Weather….it was chilly bordering on cold some days and rainy…yes, I hear you saying “suck it up princess” but it is the European summer!
- Cabins were smaller than we thought from the brochures and no balcony. Photos shown were of newer ships in the fleet.
- Pace of excursions were frustrating when less mobile people joined the active group instead of their group.
Would we take another river cruise……we’re already talking about it!! Only problem is there are so many to choose from…should we cruise Portugal, the French waterways or Russia and the Black Sea area? I’ve already cruised the Russian waterways, Ty hasn’t, but I’d do it again……….