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Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches onboard Avalon Tapestry 2

8th June 2016

Kathleen from our dedicated river cruise commercial team enjoyed a river cruise in France onboard Avalon Tapestry 2 with Avalon Waterways, read about her experience and first impressions below.

The ship was lovely, the food was lovely, the crew were just extremely welcoming and friendly and I met some amazing people.

Occasionally with river cruises there are complications that arise which cause changes to the itinerary, and I got to witness one of these complications first hand. as there was going to be strikes in the locks and docks, the cruise director had to make the decision for the itinerary to be sped up, meaning that we had to meet the ship in Mantes La Jolie as it picked up passengers who went on the excursion to Rouen, then we cruised on to Conflans-Saite-Honorine through lunch where the ship docked for the night.

Our Cabin
The cabin as I had expected was really luxurious, with supplied bathrobes, slippers and L'Occitane toiletries. What I especially liked about the cabin was where the beds were facing the window instead of facing away from it, you could just lie on your bed and watch the ever changing scenery along the river bank as you sail to the next port of call, you could even have the floor to ceiling window open to let in some fresh air – or if you’d rather there was a seating area right in-front of the window where you could sit and read a book whilst enjoy the nice breeze from the window as you cruise along the river.

avalon-tapestry-2-cabin

avalon-tapestry-2-bathroom

avalon-tapestry-2-inside-cabin

avalon-tapestry-2-inside-cabin


There were many other things the cabin had to offer such as a safe, a fair size wardrobe a mini fridge (which was stocked with drinks, and weren’t badly priced) and a hairdryer.

Food
The food was also very nice. Lunch and breakfast were both buffets with quite a variety of options of food to pick from, and the options changed every day - there was also if you preferred a menu in which you could order from. Dinner was always a three course meal with a starter, a main and a pudding. Once again there was a set menu that stayed the same every day, but there was also an option that changed daily.

avalon-tapestry-2-food


Excursions
Every evening just before dinner and usually just after or before happy hour (an hour when cocktails were half price) the cruise director would talk over the excursions for the next day and what’s going to happen. Also, every evening a leaflet would be put on the beds in every cabin to outline everything that was happening the next day. This was very helpful as it meant that you could carry it around with you throughout the day and refer to it. Each day there was the choice between included excursion, and on some days there was even an extra excursion with an added cost. Some of the included excursions we went on where a tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and a tour of the Château de Malmaison.

Overall the cruise was definitely an experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I personally went on the cruise not really sure on what to expect, but also not expecting much. It was a lot better than I had anticipated and it was certainly nice to get away and just sit back and chill and do stuff like relax on the sky deck, maybe even play one of the board games available in the back lounge, or even read a book whilst sipping on a cup of tea whilst eating a doughnut. After this experience, I definitely would go on a river cruise again, and I would highly recommend Avalon Waterways.

Have you sailed with Avalon Waterways? Tell us about your experience in the comments below


We sail onboard Fantasia Class MSC Preziosa

10th May 2016

Updated May 2019

 

We sent Michael from our sales team off to report on Mediterranean masterpiece MSC Preziosa, of MSC Cruises' Fantasia-class. Read all about his experience below.

 

First Impressions

 

After arriving in Nice we had a three hour transfer to Genoa. This would not usually be the airport to use for such a cruise, but the flight had been cancelled to Genoa on this date - so instead we enjoyed a very scenic drive along the coastline.

On arrival to the port, the check in process was very quick and swift as this is one of MSC Cruises' home ports, so they have their own check in terminal. Once boarding the ship we were able to grab a drink before freshening up for a meet and greet in one of the many bars on board.

 



The ship is very opulent, and has a high standard of interior furnishings. It was immaculately clean throughout, and has a contemporary yet stylish feel. It's easy to recognise that this is not an American cruise line, and instead Italian design and hospitality shines through at every turn.

The cabin was very spacious in size and even had a nice lounge area. The shower space was good and the shower had glass doors that could be folded back to allow more changing space if preferred.

 

The Entertainment

 

We saw one show in the Main Theatre. This area is very modern, and the focus of the entertainment is more on visual and sound effects so that everyone can enjoy the entertainment, regardless of their language. In particular there were lots of acrobatic performances which were very impressive. The only downside was that there was no bar service in the theatre.

We were lucky enough during this cruise to have a behind the scenes tour; this was very useful as we met some of the crew during their working hours. The tour gave us a great insight into their lives onboard, and completely justified the gratuities policy. The crew areas were immaculate and it was great to see the galleys (kitchen). The ship is very economical and any food waste is burnt into ashes and used as fuel; a great step toward greener cruising.

Note: gratuities can be removed or adjusted with MSC Cruises. I was more than happy to keep mine in place due to the fantastic service we received.

 

 

The Facilities

 

The Infinity Pool at the aft of the ship is very impressive. The middle of the ship features a heated pool area where competitions are held, some of us ended up joining in and it was a great experience. The Vertigo Slide is great fun and the clear section even extends off the side of the ship. Kids can enjoy the Doremi Castle Area.

The gym was very well stocked with all the latest equipment, and had great views looking out over the front of the ship. The spa is one of the biggest we'd seen on a cruise ship, and I treated myself to two massages! Both of these were very well priced. There is a Day Pass system for access to the Sauna and Spa - when we were onboard this was €16 for 1 hour or €29 for the day, but there were special offers available on various days throughout the itinerary. The spa area boasts fabulous choices of sauna and steam rooms - there is even a Coconut Steam Room and a Fridgenium (crushed Ice room to put on your body before the sauna).

 

 

The Spa Café is a quiet spot to enjoy one of many teas or smoothies (some were included in the package and some come at a supplement price). There are many other bars and lounges onboard which offer entertainment in the form of live music of varying styles, some with audience participation and some more relaxed with fine wine to accompany the music.The Piazza was especially classy and impressive with its Swarovski Crystal staircase - in the MSC Yacht Club the staircase features Gold Swarovski Crystals.

 

Food Onboard

 

As this ship is popular among Mediterranean nationalities, there is an Italian flair throughout the cuisine onboard. The chef explained to us that us Brits typically love our food hot, but generally in the Med the food is warm - something that can seem strange at first if you like your food hot! At breakfast we enjoyed a buffet option with a variety of hot and cold foods: croissants, cold meats, cheeses, fruit, cereals, sausages, hash browns, bacon, beans, and more. There is always self-service coffee, tea, and hot water available in the buffet 24-hours a day, and it is open for 20-hours a day for Food. Another option is to have breakfast in the restaurant with menus and waiter service. I preferred this as it was less busy and a more relaxing experience. Tables are allocated by the waiters.

For lunch and dinner guests can choose between the buffet or waiter service in the restaurants. One of my favourite venues was the Golden Lobster, an a la carte restaurants in which I experienced great service from the waiters and maître d. Each evening here there was a choice of something new or something from the staple menu.

Golden Lobster Example Menu

Shrimp Cocktail / Puff Pastry with Snails / Chickpea and Hummus and Aubergine Ghanoush Sweet and Sour Salad / Rock Lobster Bisque

Tortellini Mascarpone Cheese / Rissatto allo Spumante / Fish of the Day – Seabream / Leg of Lamb / Fillet of Beef

There are two Specialty Restaurants onboard, Eataly and Galaxy. I chose to eat in Eataly which had laid back décor which made it seem more like a café than a restaurant. The best part of this experience was the chefs talking to us about the local produce, and the way in which the dishes are created.  

 

 

Eataly Example Menu

Selection of Cold meats and Cheeses

Pasta with Seafood / Steak Medium Rare with salad and potatoes

There was plenty of choice for dessert, and wine at the table was included.

Dietary requests are very well looked after throughout all restaurants onboard, and guests with these needs are provided with an individual menu to suit if required. 

The drinks available are all popular brands, and you can enjoy cocktails, coffees, and ice cream (Ferrero Roche being the best one!).

 

Lasting Impressions

 

This cruise line are known for being very competitive on price, and are great value for money. The best way to describe MSC Cruises in order to set them aside from other cruise lines would be that that they are ideal for anyone who enjoys being among other nationalities, sipping on fine wine, dining on Italian flair food and relaxing in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

 

Join MSC Voyagers Club for exclusive member benefits and priviliges, and browse our latest MSC Cruises cruise deals today.


Viking Sea Cocktails Onboard

6th May 2016

Updated July 2019

 

It's no secret that many cruisers embark on their exciting itineraries not only excited to see new destinations, but also to explore the ship and - more specifically - the food and drink onboard! Some cruise lines are known to appeal to foodies more than others, and Viking Cruises is certainly one of them. We set a member of our team, Linda, the task of tasting and reviewing a good variety of cocktails available onboard one of Viking Cruises' gorgeous ships, Viking Sea. Read on for her fantastic account of the ship and of course, the drinks onboard.

 

cocktails onboard

 

Viking Sea is a beauty! She is small and intimate with toned down Nordic style furnishings in neutral colours, and I was lucky enough to be invited to spend three days onboard during her maiden voyage. 

My role is in customer services and one of the main questions we always get asked is about drinks. It can be difficult to find out much about the drinks on a cruise prior to travel, so when I have opportunities to get onboard a ship I like to try a nice variety and take notes, in order to share more information with our customers in advance. It is all strictly educational and the research is solely for work purposes, of course.

In general the prices onboard Viking Sea are reasonable for drinks; cocktails are between $8 and $12 (USD). I would recommend getting the Silver drinks package if you want to have a little more than the standard house wine and a couple of cocktails each day; as it works out better value for money. Water is complimenary though, and you get wine, beer and juices during lunch and dinner. Tea and coffee are also available all day.

So, with that in mind, I put my taste buds to the test.

Let’s start with the drink that lent its name to the terrace bar at the back of the ship. Aquavit. Never heard of it? Me neither. It is a caraway or dill spiced Scandinavian spirit. On its own… how shall I put it… it requires an acquired taste. I wouldn’t recommend sipping it. If you want to be polite and drink it, just throw it back in one go. In a cocktail however it can add an interesting edge to the taste. I tried it in a cocktail specifically created by Viking Cruises. I would recommend this drink, it has a slightly herby taste, but the bubbles in the sparkling wine round it off nicely.

 

cocktail

 

At the Pool Bar I had a Strawberry Daiquiri. An old favourite on a hot summer’s day, which suited perfectly while we were docked in a very warm and sunny in Lisbon. I must say it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but certainly enjoyable.

Then I suddenly felt a bit homesick and opted for a Pimm’s. To be honest I just wanted to see how a Philippine bartender in Lisbon on a Norwegian ship would make it. It tasted lovely, but it didn’t come with all the fruits you’d expect and the cucumber was missing.

The next day after our trip into Porto and a couple of spa treatments, we all had Afternoon Tea around the pool. The tea and cakes were very nice and so was the Champagne! After tea we got ready for dinner and went to explore the ship further. Eventually we got to the Explorer’s Lounge where we befriended one of the barmen who offered us advice on what to have.

My colleague opted for Caipirinha, which I thought was a solid choice. It wasn’t to her taste, so the barman made her a rum-based cocktail off the menu. That was delicious. I had a Planter’s Punch. It’s one of my favourite cocktails because it reminds me of all-inclusive summer holidays on a sandy beach. I thought it was made very well, one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

viking cruises cocktail



We had a bit of time to kill until dinner and a talented guitarist came on, so we just chatted and enjoyed the sea view with fellow guests. The Explorers Lounge is the place to be for that. It is at the aft of the ship where the whole back wall is made of glass, so you have a spectacular view of the sea and your surroundings. Live music, good company, a refreshing cocktail, and watching the water: bliss.

Before dinner we had time for a few more cocktails, of which there were two I was keen to try. The Viking Cocktail is made with brandy and sparkling wine in a tall Champagne glass. I love drinking out of a Champagne glass; it gives me the feeling of an occasion. I quite enjoyed this drink; it was refreshing and cold, a good choice.

The next was a Grasshopper which was fantastic, but perhaps I should have had it after dinner. It tastes like After 8, so I could have had that instead of pudding. (Instead… Who am I kidding?)

Some colleagues tried my old favourite the Bloody Mary, but with a twist. This time the tomato juice got replaced by crab juice. Yes, you read that right. Apparently it’s lighter and obviously has a distinct seafood taste. No thank you.

Overall I really enjoyed this cruise, not just the cocktails, but the whole experience and I would love to return to the Viking Sea for another trip. 

See which Viking Sea cruises we have available, and book your own cocktail-filled adventure with this warm and welcoming cruise line.


River cruising with Avalon Waterways

8th July 2015

Updated February 2017

 

Iglu’s Marketing Manager, Natalie, went on her first river cruise adventure with Avalon Waterways. Here’s what she thought of her first river experience onboard the luxurious Avalon Tapestry II:

I have only been on ocean cruise line's before so I was looking forward to experiencing a River Cruise and was lucky enough to be invited on Avalon’s newest ship to the fleet, Avalon Tapestry II.

On the deck on Avalon Tapestry II

I was meeting the ship halfway through its 7 night Paris to Normandy Landing Beaches itinerary.

 

Day 1

I met the ship in the picturesque town of Rouen after taking the Eurostar to Lille. As I approached the ship I was instantly struck by how luxurious the ship was. It is decked out with luxury sun loungers and tastefully decorated with plants on the top deck. I was greeted with a glass of Champagne into an airy reception area and couldn’t wait to see my cabin. It didn’t disappoint with a modern bathroom and a full supply of L’Occitane bath products. The layout of the bedroom was fantastic with the beds facing the French windows. The layout might not sound exciting but Avalon is the first river cruise line to point the beds towards the window. I could already picture myself waking up in the morning and watching the world go by.

Before I got too comfortable I unpacked and went to explore the rest of the ship. I was just in time for the daily afternoon tea. Delicious finger sandwiches and a choice of two gateaux’s were on offer. It would be rude not to sample so I tried both. As this was an educational trip I thought I better check my emails and there was no excuse not to as the ship has free wi-fi throughout. Fortunately there were not many emails to check so I had some time to relax in the sun on the top deck before the next round of delicious food at dinner.

 

Avalon Waterways Trip

Avalon Waterways Holiday

Heavenly cocktails and delicious food


The dining room is tastefully decorated and I was pleasantly surprised that although the ship is small compared to ocean cruise lines, you do not smell the cooking throughout the ship. I chose the red snapper for my main course tonight and enjoyed the free flowing wine which is included lunch and dinner.

As this was my first night onboard I stayed up to watch the entertainment for a while before getting an early night so I would be ready to get up bright and early for the Van Gogh excursion the following day.

 

Day 2

I woke up feeling revitalised after a good nights sleep in the comfortable bed. I was delighted with the buffet breakfast and enjoyed smoked salmon and eggs. If salmon and eggs is not your cup of tea, they have a fantastic selection of food to choose from including freshly made pastries, cereals and much more.

 

Cruising with Avalon Waterways

A cruise onboard Avalon Waterways

Glorious views of the riverbank through France


I had the choice of two free excursions and decided to go on the tour of the town Van Gogh spent his last few months of his life in the picturesque town of Auvers-sur-Oise. Before you set off on the tour you pick up a complimentary water and a headset so you can listen to the tour guide.

I am not an art expert and it really didn’t matter as the tour guide William was really engaging. He brought the history to life and it was very special to see the places and subjects Van Gogh had painted. I particularly enjoyed walking through the fields Van Gogh painted known as Wheat Field with Crows.

After the tour we were taken back on the coach in time for lunch and were greeted with freshly made iced tea. We had booked the grill lunch which was hosted on the Sky Deck. They host these lunches several times on the cruise itinerary but you must put your name down to reserve a space. Lunch was delicious and I enjoyed fresh salad and steak.

In the afternoon there was an optional excursion to the Palace of Versailles. However, as I only had 3 days on the ship I decided to experience what it was like whilst sailing as we were going to set sail to Paris. I am sure the Palace is beautiful but I was so pleased I stayed onboard. The engine is so quiet, the experience is tranquil and the journey along the Seine was stunning. I was surprised by how unpopulated the river banks were. Every now and then you would spot a stunning Chateau along the banks. I would have happily sailed along the river for days absorbing the view. We picked up the guests who took the afternoon tour and then sailed into Paris. The dinner was served as we sailed towards the Eiffel Tower.

 

My River Cruise with Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways Cruise

Excursions in France and more sublime views from the ship


Tonight was the Captain's farewell dinner as the following night guests were going to Moulin Rouge in Paris so it was a day earlier. Before dinner, we were all given a glass of champagne and the Captain came and said goodbye to everyone. Once again the meal was fantastic and my favourite dish was the lobster. Also having been on several ocean cruise lines I was delighted to see that the famous baked alaska was on the menu ,so it is not just the big ocean lines who have this tradition.

As the ship was staying in Paris I went for a stroll around the city before coming back to a refreshing cocktail on board.

 

Day 3

It was our last night on the ship and I went on the complimentary walking tour in Paris. If you didn’t want to walk there is a bus tour which is also included. After the tour I arrived back and sampled the light lunch which is also on offer every day on the Sky Deck. We had free time in the afternoon as the optional trip was to the Moulin Rouge in the evening. I decided to head back into Paris and hit the shops on the Champ Elysees.

As I was not going to the Moulin Rouge I booked a place in the bistro dining experience. This was hosted in the Sky Lounge and there are 20 places available so you need to book. They offer a 7 course tasting menu and once again I was extremely impressed with the standard of the food.

This evening we were sailing to another port in Paris close to the business district so I sat on the deck and enjoyed a refreshing cocktail as the ship gently sailed past the glittering sights of Paris before heading back to my room where I enjoyed the view for a little bit longer before falling into a relaxing sleep.

 

River Cruising with Avalon Waterways

Crepes and cocktails! A match made in heaven

 

The Verdict 

What I really love about river cruising is the relaxed pace, you can do as much or as little as you want. Even if you participate on all the tours you are looked after so well and come back to such a beautiful ship you don’t feel exhausted. I came back from my cruise feeling refreshed and invigorated. My only complaint is next time I want to go for a bit longer.

 

View Avalon Waterways Cruise Deals | Find out more about River Cruising.


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