Avalon Waterways river cruises review

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Perfectly lovely river cruises with complimentary shore excursions.

Avalon Waterways offers good value on quintessential European river cruises and unique meanderings through Southeast Asia, South America and Europe. Expect a flexible dining schedule with tastefully-paired libations — and book a Panoramic Suite to get outstanding views from the comfort of your bed.

19 ships

Number of ships

Price

No

Price matches

Details

Target demographic Honeymooners
Number of ships 19 ships
Contact options Phone, Email, Facebook Messenger
Payment options Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Paypal, Cheque
Deposit required Deposit at checkout
Deposit required No price matching
Food Food included
Drink Alcohol included
Room service No free room service
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Review by


Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).

Expert review

The straight-up truth is that people like cruising with Avalon Waterways. It’s pleasant. The staff are welcoming.

Good wine flows freely at meals, and the shore excursions are engaging, with just the right touch of adventure. While you won’t find over-the-top luxuries here, you will get a perfectly lovely river cruise experience.

Its itineraries through Asia, South America and Egypt are an excellent way to get an authentic taste of the cities, towns and villages you pass. Here’s one day on a Mekong River cruise from Ho Chi Minh City: First, you’ll take a motor cart to a local workshop in Vinh Long that makes rice paper, rice wine and traditional candies.

In the afternoon, you’ll visit Cu Lao Giêng Island, learning how a family of artisans craft sampan boats. From there, you’ll visit a family’s home to learn how they make Vietnamese conical hats. You’ll round out the day at a historically significant Vietnamese Catholic church.

If that sort of daily schedule appeals to you, then an Avalon cruise will definitely be worth it.

Where do Avalon cruises depart from?

Avalon Waterways doesn’t offer cruises that depart from the US. You’ll have to fly overseas to begin your cruise.

  • Avalon currently sails from:Amsterdam, Basel, Bucharest, Budapest, Cairo, Deggendorf, Ho Chi Minh City, Kolkata, Lima, Linz, London, Nuremberg, Paris, Phnom Penh, Port Louis, Quito, Remich, St Jean de Lonsne, Vienna, Zurich

Avalon cruise destinations

Avalon offers cruises on the following rivers:

  • Europe
    • Danube
    • Main
    • Moselle
    • Rhine
    • Rhône
    • Saône
    • Seine
  • South America
    • Amazon
  • Asia
    • Ganges
    • Mekong
  • Africa
    • Nile
  • It also offers cruises around the Galápagos Islands.

    What are the Panorama Suites on Avalon Waterways?

    Avalon Waterways invests a lot into marketing its Panorama Suites. But what are they actually like?

    We admit: The Panorama Suites are really cool. They feature a bed that faces a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window that can be opened, transforming into an “open-air balcony.” Imagine lying in bed while watching some of the greatest cities in the world pass by — and feeling the cool river breeze.

    But it’s easy to miss that not all of Avalon’s cabins are Panoramic Suites. You’ll pay extra for this perk. The cheapest rooms on Avalon Waterways cruise ships, Deluxe Staterooms, do not always have great views. Most have small, high-up windows that aren’t much to write home about.

    What’s included in my Avalon cruise?

    Here’s what’s always included in your Avalon Waterways fare:

    • Shore excursions
    • All onboard activities
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
    • Wi-Fi
    • Bottled water

    Its beverage policy varies slightly, depending on the location of your cruise — though coffee and tea are always complimentary throughout the day.

    LocationWineBeerLiquorSoft drinks
    Europe-Included with lunch and dinner
    -Sparkling wine included at breakfast
    Included with lunch and dinner -Premium spirits available for purchase-Included with lunch and dinner
    Mekong (Asia)-Included with lunch and dinner-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day
    Ganges (Asia)-Included with lunch and dinner-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day
    Galápagos-Included with dinner-Not included-Not included-Not included
    Amazon-Included with dinner-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day-Complimentary throughout the day

    Gratuities are included for shore excursions — for example, the wait staff during meals arranged by Avalon — but not for the cruise staff. Avalon Waterways suggests budgeting $3 to $4 per day for the cruise director and $13 to $14 per passenger/per day for the crew. You can either prepay gratuities or pay in cash — they aren’t automatically charged to your account.

    Tips aren’t required in Avalon’s onboard bars or in the salon, but you can slip a cash tip for superior service if you like. Plan on tipping local guides a dollar or two.

    Dress code on Avalon Waterways

    Avalon states that your comfort is the biggest priority when it comes to dress code. Dress casually onboard during the day. Be sure to pack good walking shoes for shore excursions.

    For dinner, the dress code is still casual: shirts and slacks for men and slacks, skirts or dresses for ladies. In Europe, the welcome and farewell dinners are a bit dressier, but not formal. If you’re cruising through the Mekong, Ganges, Amazon and Galápagos, Avalon Waterways discourages dressy attire altogether due to the hot and humid weather.

    Why you should (or shouldn’t) cruise with Avalon cruises

    Here are some pros and cons to consider before booking your Avalon Waterways cruise:

    Pros

    • One-of-a-kind panoramic windows in some staterooms
    • Well-stocked library with books and games
    • L’Occitane bath products
    • Local wines
    • Food sourced from small farms
    • Early and late-riser breakfast options
    • Customizable beds — four-level scale from soft to firm
      • Also choose between soft or firm pillows
    • 24/7 snacks and coffee

    Cons

    • Fewer onboard entertainment options than larger cruise lines
    • You’ll pay extra for liquor — unless you’re on the Mekong, Ganges or Amazon, in which case it’s included — as well as wine and beer outside of meal times.
    • Fewer kid-friendly programs than larger cruise lines
    • Less flexibility to do your own thing at port on complimentary shore excursions.

    Avalon Waterways themed cruises

    There’s one more standout to mention: Avalon’s themed cruises. These expertly curated itineraries center on a particular interest. Here’s a sampling of the themes:

    • Active and discovery
    • Photography
    • Wine appreciation
    • Culinary
    • Beer
    • History
    • Jewish heritage
    • Christmastime
    • Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series
    • Garden and nature

    Frequently asked questions

    Traveling during COVID-19
    The CDC continues to advise caution when traveling within or outside the US, though it no longer requires self-quarantine or a COVID-19 test for fully vaccinated travelers as of April 2021. It recommends that you delay travel if you are not fully vaccinated to protect yourself and your family from getting or spreading the virus.

    When traveling, follow safety measures that include wearing a mask in public, social distancing and washing your hands. If you are diagnosed with, have symptoms of or are waiting for COVID-19 test results — or are otherwise at risk of illness — do not attend gatherings or travel for 14 days.

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