Avalon Envision marks the first new-generation ship for Avalon Waterways, with a shallower draft enabling it to sail in lower and higher water level conditions. Built in the Netherlands, Avalon Envision joins the line's 12 other Suite-class ships with unique features, such as roomy Panorama Suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open the length of the room and beds that face the window.
The ship, which will sail the Danube River, hardly ever feels crowded. Even at maximum capacity, there are seats for 166 people in the Panorama Lounge and on the Sky Deck. Avalon Envision does a wonderful job of providing elegant interiors with plenty of window-lined spaces to gather. Without the need to dress for meals, free-style dinner seating at any time during dinner service and three styles of excursions, the ship provides the kind of trip that casual travelers will enjoy.
When it comes to excursions, Avalon offers a range of options from low-intensity tours to dedicated Adventure & Discovery sailings that are geared toward active travelers. These include things like guided canoe and hiking trips and biking along the shore. New Adventure Hosts provide passengers with all the potential options for activity onboard, and they can help organize special requests. Paid choices include a pub crawl in Linz and an absinthe tasting in Vienna for those with the stamina. The cruise line offers an extensive range of pre- and post-tour options through its "Your Way" program because of its affiliation with Globus and its many travel brands, which means it's easier to create a wide variety of unique itineraries designed around your own interests.
Another thing that sets Avalon apart are some of its dining options. The line offers Flex Dining, which allows people to go for dinner at any time during set hours rather than all at once like many river cruise lines. Avalon also offers quite a few two-top tables so that couples feel comfortable dining, although they are often combined as the cruise itinerary progresses and people meet. Continental breakfast can be delivered to a stateroom each morning without charge.
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The majority of passengers are American, Canadian, British and Australian, although the mix can vary. English is the primary language aboard. The average age on most sailings is 68, but on the line's Adventure & Discovery sailings (where the excursions lean toward more active opportunities), the average age drops to 62. Those are great for multigenerational trips, although children under 8 are discouraged.
There is no dress code aboard the ship. Even at dinner, jeans are allowed; jackets are not required. Still, many passengers may feel more comfortable among fellow peers dressing in business casual. It certainly is not required. In warmer weather, many travelers wear shorts on excursions, but if you tend to get chilly, pants or a light jacket are great to have. Theme nights are rare, and throughout the day, passengers are relaxed and comfortable in their attire.
When you sail with Avalon Waterways, regional beer, wine and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner, and Champagne is part of the breakfast buffet. Shore excursions, in three different styles, including active and discovery options, are included on a daily basis with plentiful entertainment and evening activities. These could include visits to local performances or inviting local performers aboard the ship.
Passengers can borrow free bikes from the Adventure Center or connect to the ship's Wi-Fi system without charge. Eco-friendly water bottles are provided at the beginning of the cruise. Cruisers can then refill them at water stations throughout the ship with options for still or sparkling plus vitamin-infused or flavored choices. Gratuities and drinks outside of meal times are not included, however, and passengers can choose their own amount for tips.
The shipboard currency is the euro. If you need to perk up, head to any of the lounges for unlimited Lavazza coffee.
Avalon Waterways is unbundling its cruise fares so that people choose if they want to add on pre- or post-tours plus hotel stays. Previously, hotels before a sailing (when necessary) were included.
Awesome! This river cruise more than met my expectations.