Avalon Waterways operates a fleet of 17 ships (15 currently with two more already on sale for 2016) on the rivers of Europe, which are designed for both space and light. The fleet consists of 12 Suite-class ships, which have from 64 to 82 staterooms and suites, and five Scenery-class ships, which have 69 staterooms and suites.
One of the newest, Avalon Tapestry II, was to be my home for four nights departing from Paris, after I was one of the lucky winners whose booking reference was pulled out of the hat. There were just six agents, accompanied by Paul Sharp, the national sales manager for Avalon Waterways, with the rest of the ship being full of paying passengers on the seven-night ‘Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches’ itinerary. Then, when we disembarked in Rouen, another small group of agents would embark for the final three nights cruising back to Paris.
The price paid for an Avalon Waterways river cruise includes a lot of things as standard, such as return flights (or Eurostar) and transfers, soft drinks with lunch, wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner, a range of shore excursions, pre-paid gratuities and free wi-fi. Although prices are based on London flights, it is possible to fly from many regional airports around the UK, but a supplement may well be payable. One extra benefit, which seems very popular, is that you will be picked up from home by private chauffeur, if you live within 100 miles of the departure airport, or London St Pancras for the Eurostar. If you live further afield you can pay a supplementary charge for the additional miles. This can take a lot of the stress out of getting to your point of departure, arranging car parking, and then having to drive home when you might be tired. It’s also a great selling point for agents to use.
I have to say that the onboard experience was everything I expected, and more. The majority of the accommodation grades on board are Panorama Suites, and I was in one of those. They are spacious at 200 sq ft, and benefit from an 11 foot wide, full height glass window, with two sliding panels. These can be opened to give you a fresh-air balcony, which is great when relaxing and watching the world go by. There is a small table and chair, as well as a sofa, and the beds and pillows are amazingly comfy. The bathrooms have a large glass shower, and the toiletries are L’Occitane. There is a flat screen television with a great selection of complimentary on-demand films and music channels.
The standard of service on board is extremely good, whether it is the receptionist, the cabin stewards, the waiters or the barman. I was really impressed with the quality of the food served at all meals, and I never heard anyone complain about the food. Dinner is accompanied by complimentary soft drinks, beers and free flowing wine. There was always a choice of red, white or rose wines, which were of a good quality, and you never had to look for someone to fill your glass, as it was constantly replenished until you said no thank you.
There is at least one, but usually two, complimentary shore excursions included each day. These can vary from a two hour walking tour of the local town, up to a 10 hour plus full day excursion by coach. An example is the one I did to Normandy’s Landing Beaches, which included visits to the British War Cemetery, the Pegasus War Museum, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, and the Canadian War Cemetery. A light lunch was also included. There are options to book optional excursions as well, which on this cruise included an evening trip to the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
Avalon Waterways is also very happy to work with agents to arrange your client’s perfect package, to include pre- or post-cruise hotel stays. These could be before boarding the ship, or, for instance, be in London before boarding the Eurostar. They can also arrange upgrades for flights or train if your client would like to travel in style.
There is a great choice of cruise durations to consider, ranging from the eight-day ‘Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches’ itinerary, to the 24 day ‘North Sea to the Black Sea’ itinerary, with plenty of variation in between. There is also a good selection of rivers to choose from, including the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Danube, Rhone, Saone and Seine.
If your clients are looking to travel further afield, Avalon Waterways also offer cruises on the Mekong, Yangtze, Irrawaddy & Amazon rivers, as well as cruises in the Galapagos Islands.
As I said before, our trip was excellently hosted by Paul Sharp, who is the National Sales Manager for Avalon Waterways & Cosmos Tours & Cruises. I know that he is eager to drive sales through the trade, so if you need any help or training I am sure that he would be only too pleased to hear from you. His contact details are 07794786317 or PSharp@cosmostours.co.uk
You can read Ian’s full review of Avalon Tapestry II here: http://www.cruiseswithgocruise.co.uk/cruise-lines/avalon-waterways/avalon-tapestry-ii-review/