(5:30 a.m. EDT) -- Clear skies and a gorgeous Budapest backdrop set the stage for the official christening ceremony for Avalon Waterways’ newest river cruise ship, Avalon Envision.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the award-winning, New York Times-bestselling "Eat Pray Love" did the honors as godmother before a crowd of media, travel agents, invited guests, and plenty of curious onlookers on shore.
What makes 166-passenger Avalon Envision different from the rest of the line's European river ship fleet? Cabins now feature adjustable-height coffee tables in the room to avoid obstruction of the three-panel, floor-to-ceiling windows that glide open to bring the outdoors inside. The Panorama Restaurant does not have any obstruction in the center of the dining room so that even when the ship is docked, guests can take in views no matter where they are seated.
In a news conference prior to the christening, Avalon Waterways Managing Director Pam Hoffee shared details of the line’s growing environmental initiatives. This includes switching from single-use L’Occitane toiletries in bathrooms to larger pump bottles, doing away with plastic straws, stirrers and cup lids, and phasing out bottled water in favor of reusable bottles. These bottles can be refilled at central water stations with the option for still or sparkling and vitamin-infused or flavored choices.
Hoffee also shared details of the company’s next ship, Avalon View, which will be launched in 2020. It will be identical to Avalon Envision and continue the line's commitment to Panorama Suites, larger cabins with open-air balconies and feature beds angled toward the window. On most Avalon ships, 80 percent of the rooms are configured this way; the line has won Cruise Critic Editor's Picks awards for Best River Cruise Cabins several years in a row.
Guests then headed to the Akadémia dock, the most prestigious in Budapest for its central position by the Chain Bridge, for the christening with Gilbert.
Traditional christenings are an important part of cruise introductions to the public and its crew. The blessing is a long-standing maritime tradition, a birthday if you will, for new ships and assures good fortune to all who step aboard.
For the ceremony, the crew decked out Avalon Envision with white spring flowers and ribbons. The ship builder’s flag was then lowered and replaced with that of Avalon Waterways as the crew waved from the top deck to the crowd onshore.
In her customary poetic fashion, Gilbert’s blessing read, “We come from the water, we are made of the water, we are drawn to the water. Our lives are rivers meant to be explored and enjoyed. Let every curious soul who steps foot upon this vessel have a safe and blessed journey. May we all be changed for the better by what we discover along this river.”
After Gilbert’s blessing, the traditional Champagne bottle swung toward the ship and smashed against its hull.
For 2019, Avalon Envision will sail along the Danube River between Budapest and Nuremberg.