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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.

What's River Cruising All About?

8th May 2015

Updated February 2017


Iglu's Managing Director, Simone Clark, a seasoned ocean cruiser, experienced her first river cruise. Here's what she has to say about her experience with APT...

We now have over 7000 river cruises on our Iglu Cruise website – offering an even wider choice of destinations and cruise holidays worldwide. As with anything that we offer, I was keen to experience and gain an understanding of what river cruising is all about. I was fortunate enough to spend two nights onboard AmaReina with APT, travelling from Budapest to Vienna and wanted to share my thoughts. I’ve previously been on quite a few ocean cruise holidays ranging from small six star ships to some of the biggest ships in the world.


River cruise with APT


The Cabin

I had a lovely cabin with a French balcony and a small balcony too. Very comfortable and compact with lots of storage and an Imac TV, that could be used as a computer too so you could take advantage of the free wifi!


The Ship

The AmaReina is a 5 star river cruise ship and carries under 200 guests with a crew of approximately 50 people. Facilities onboard were fairly typical for a river ship . The lower deck was home to the restaurant, a small fitness room, massage room and a speciality dining restaurant offering a delicious tasting menu. The upper deck featured a large lounge with bar, where you could eat light snacks throughout the day and that offered some musical entertainment in the evenings, and also featured a small shop and the reception area. Upstairs was a large, very luxurious sun terrace with sofas, deck chairs, covered areas and a bar. This ship was extra special as it even had a small plunge pool, with swim up bar! The crew were fantastic with very personal service.


River Cruise with APT

River Cruise with APT


The Cruise

I was on at the very start of a 14 night cruise, which ended up in Amsterdam. Ports were a mixture of larger cities (where we docked overnight) and smaller scenic ports. APT include all excursions in the price, which were a mix of city tours or something further afield. For the city tour, virtually the whole ship attended whereas there was a choice of 3-4 more specialist excursions the following day in smaller groups.

My itinerary for the 2 days were as follows:

Day 1: Arrive in Budapest and embark on the ship with a light lunch (soup, sandwiches and cakes) in the lounge. Free time in Budapest, where we visited the market. Pre dinner welcome at 6, then dinner at 7.30. We enjoyed a delicious tasting menu in the speciality dining venue. At 9pm there was an evening cruise through the Danube. We enjoyed this from the sun deck with a nice glass of wine! Then to the lounge for a drink and to listen to the pianist.

Day 2: Breakfast and then off the ship for a city tour of Budapest, that included a tour of the opera house and was a mixture of coach and walking. Then back onboard for a much needed lunch and washed down with local wine. The afternoon was spent sailing down the Danube and relaxing in the sunshine. Many enjoyed the views from their cabin or balcony and took the opportunity to have a nap or watch the latest movies (free in the cabin) or find out more about the different excursion choices on offer for the next few days. That evening there was a lovely welcome cocktail party from the Captain and the whole crew followed by dinner.

Day 3: A lazy morning sailing including through our first 2 locks of the trip. We arrived in Vienna after lunch and then everyone went on a city tour. The evening was going to be spent having an early dinner and then an (optional) private trip to the opera house for a recital. I sadly had to fly home to missed this.

Day 4: The morning was planned to be a choice of optional excursions in Vienna and the surrounding areas (choices included Bratislava or a chocolate tour). Then sailing on to the next port.


The Atmosphere

There was a very relaxed atmosphere onboard the ship - people got changed for dinner, but it was very casual. As there were less than 200 people on the ship, everyone dined at the same time and tended to all sit together on tables of 2-6 people.

The people onboard were from all over the world, well travelled and enjoyed exploring the destinations as well as enjoying relaxing between ports and enjoying the view from the ship as we sailed down the Danube. As the ships are small, it’s quite social and friendly and certainly not formal.


What’s Included?

With APT, all excursions, tips, wifi speciality dining and most drinks were included – there was a regional wine each day with dinner too.


The Verdict

The ships are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, this one had approx. 190 passengers onboard. They have the feeling of a small, boutique, floating hotel with a restaurant, lounge bar and sun terrace. The pace was a good mix of exploration and tours followed by relaxing cruising down the river and the views were sensational in the cities and beautiful in between. There isn’t a huge amount to do onboard as the emphasis is on relaxation and enjoying the view as you dine and enjoy music/drinks and learn about your destination. The age group onboard tended to be 55 plus and a mix of singles, couples and groups of friends (these ships don’t really cater for families). If you’ve cruised on a smaller cruise ship on the fjords and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and want to explore further afield, then this is a perfect choice for you as it does have a similar feel onboard. Many of the people onboard my cruise and had combined the cruise with a tour and a med cruise onboard cruise lines such as Seabourn, Cunard and Azamara cruises. In my short time onboard I enjoyed fine wine and food, explored 2 cities and a gentle cruise along the river and came back feeling very relaxed.


See also:

A day in Budapest

River cruise deals

Browse our river cruise blog

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