Avalon Waterways

Try Me a River – On Avalon Visionary

A first-timer set sails for Europe aboard Avalon Waterways

If you’re like me, you have a slight fear of the unknown. It really doesn’t stop me from living life, but I do get butterflies whenever I’m about to make a change or do something new. So, needless to say, I had a hint of nerves when I planned to embark on a first for me: a river cruise.

I was that girl. Hailing from South Florida, I’d only ever been on ocean cruises mostly throughout the Caribbean. With Miami’s cruise port practically in my backyard, taking a trip with 3,000 of my closest friends is a fun, easy, and affordable escape from the everyday. But when I heard that 84 percent of river cruisers are previous ocean cruisers, I figured it was worth a try. And when I read about Avalon Waterways’ 10-day “Canals, Vineyards and Paris” European sailing, I was lured by the promise of small towns, castles, vineyards, and idyllic pastures.

After flights were booked and dates confirmed, I anxiously checked my tiny apartment mailbox every day for my cruise documents. But instead, a knock came at the door and when I opened it, a bigger-than-a birthday-cake-sized box stood before me. The box was imprinted with the word “HAPPY” all over it and after opening it, I knew why. Surrounded by confetti-style filler was a portfolio — great for keeping passports and travel documents throughout the trip — with a personalized, bound (bound!) booklet including a detailed, day-by-day itinerary, flight, hotel and transfer information, optional tour details, a swanky luggage tag, ship tips, and everything else that immediately put my worries at ease.

At that very moment, I felt like I had already started traveling. My body was still in Florida, but my heart was already cruising through the canals of Amsterdam and the Rhine River.

View with a Room

Including transfers to and fro is just one way that Avalon makes traveling easier. I was greeted at the airport by an Avalon representative and transferred to the ship in a comfy van with fellow cruisers. Also included would be great tours on shore and special touches on board, including bicycles for sightseeing in town, Nordic walking sticks, and onboard WiFi.

At first glance, Avalon Visionary — built in 2012 and about 37 feet wide and 361 feet long — looks impressive. It’s the perfect size to fit through the locks and under low bridges that we’d traverse on our journey along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Docked in the heart of Amsterdam, the ship offered the perfect starting point for walking into the center of town to visit shops, restaurants, and attractions.

As the all English-speaking crew of 37 prepared our rooms and readied the ship for departure, we were treated to lunch, refreshments, and a quick tour. The Panorama Bistro at the front of the ship serves as a spot for light lunches as well as cocktails and entertainment in the evening. The Club Lounge at the back offers a quiet corner for coffee and cookies (available 24 hours a day), games, reading, or a comfy chair to take in the vistas. The Sky Deck boasts 180-degree unencumbered views and a grill lunch, weather permitting. It was too chilly to use the hot tub, but I suspect it’s a popular spot in warmer months.

The main dining room accommodates everyone comfortably in one seating, and a gym — complete with complimentary bottled water and towels — is available if you feel compelled to work off a few calories. (Sadly, I was not so compelled!) A salon that offers cuts and blowouts rounds out the creature comforts. (And even though she was a hair stylist, the young lady staffing the salon did manage to solve a minor nail polish emergency for me.)

Your cabin on any cruise can sometimes define your trip, and it seems Avalon gave this quite a bit of thought. A sneak peek into one of two Royal Suites revealed 300 square feet, only a tiny bit smaller than my first apartment and much more well appointed with a queen-sized bed, separate sitting area, and large bathroom with double sinks and separate water closet. But you don’t have to be in a Royal Suite to feel spoiled and with just three decks and three cabin tiers, enjoying your temporary home away from home is easy.

My Panorama Suite felt spacious, with large closets and plenty of under-bed storage for luggage (it makes a difference when you don’t have to walk around your suitcases), a room safe, Comfort Collection bed, desk, sitting area with small sofa, table and chair, complimentary bottled water, swivel TV, mini bar (with very reasonable pricing), fresh orchid, a fluffy robe and slippers, room service for breakfast, and a large….

Photo: Avalon Waterways

This is an excerpt only. To subscribe to Porthole Cruise Magazine, click here.

Elizabeth Martinez is a former music and nightlife journalist whose love of writing is second only to her love for traveling and going on adventures. She finally found the courage to leave her upwardly mobile corporate job in order to follow her dream of returning to writing, visiting new places, and perfecting her photography skills.