By Alix Boyle
Picture yourself on a river boat docked in the Seine gazing at a view of the Eiffel Tower. Once the boat embarks for historic Normandy, enjoy the scenery from your cabin or deck. Along the way, visit the town where Van Gogh painted his masterpieces or where Saint Joan of Arc lived and died, or Giverney, Monet’s house where the magical garden always has something in bloom. Once in Normandy, experience iconic Omaha Beach and learn all about the American troops’ landing in WWII by visiting the beaches, cemeteries and museums.
Paris to Normandy on the Seine is just one of many itineraries on an Avalon river cruise. If you love history, castles, food and wine, a European river cruise may be for you.
“It’s a great way to visit all the nooks and crannies of Europe and you’re only unpacking once,” said Fay Dehaas, a travel agent with Cruise Planners/Kreative World Travel, LLC and an experienced traveler herself. “With a river cruise, you are right there in the heart of the cities, and you are seeing so much.”
“The unique thing about an Avalon cruise is that we have Panorama Suites© with 11 feet of floor-to-ceiling glass that opens seven feet. It’s a view with a room,” said Lori Nojaim, business development manager for Globus Brands, which includes Avalon, an award-winning river cruising line. “These panoramic windows allow the outside in. The bed in the room faces the view and the entire room is your balcony.”
Avalon is known for its super comfortable beds, luxury linens, spacious bathrooms with double vanities and mostly, at 200 square feet, the cabins are 30% larger than the industry standard.
Trips include sumptuous breakfasts, lunches, dinners and afternoon tea, as well as beer, wine and sparkling wine with lunch and dinner daily, and spirits during cocktail hour. The menu includes both regional specialties and American fare.
Travelers have their choice of European itineraries including the Rhine, Danube, the waterways of Holland and Belgium, and even a trip to see the famous Christmas villages in Germany and Austria. Excursions with listening devices are also included, said Nojaim, a self-described river cruise addict.
Avalon offers river cruises across the globe, including the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, the Nile in Egypt and a 16-passenger yacht in the Galapogos.
The ships are not huge and are built to fit through the locks on the river and under the picturesque bridges. Most will accommodate an average of 150 passengers, creating a small community feel aboard.
The excursions for Avalon cruises are themed. Classic features the history and heritage of local destinations. Discovery offers experiences like cooking classes and painting workshops. Active means biking, paddling and hiking. All are included in the price for the cruise.
River cruisers range in age from 40 to 80, Dehaas said. Although it’s a relaxed way to travel, there are opportunities to rent bikes, hike to a castle or even take a jogging tour of Amsterdam. “It’s all about making your personal dreams come true,” she continued.
“Many people who love ocean cruising enjoy the nighttime action of shows and casinos,” DeHaas said. “River cruising is all about immersing yourself in the destination during the day, while relaxing during the evening with dinner, drinks, conversation and light entertainment. We also offer a one-hour complimentary Happy Hour every evening with beer, wine and spirits.”
Travel industry expert Nojaim predicts that 2023 will be a comeback year. There are no COVID restrictions or testing, and Avalon has lifted its vaccination mandate as of March 1, 2023 (check kreativeworldcruises.com for updated information). Both Nojaim and Dehaas recommended using a travel agent, purchasing travel insurance and remembering to travel with patience. Travel insurance is important as it offers you peace of mind for unexpected reasons, especially now as the industry continues to get back on its feet.
“Travel is getting back to normal so it’s even more important now to use a travel agent,” Dehaas said. “Even if there are no COVID restrictions, anything could happen. We have a website that lists what is restricted; the world is open, but we still have to keep up with changes. Every one of my clients travels with peace of mind knowing they have a detailed itinerary, local contact numbers and my cell. If any problem occurs, I have their back. Why make your own plans?”
What’s the best thing about taking an Avalon river cruise?
“It’s the feeling of luxury that you want on vacation,” Dehaas said. “You’ll come home refreshed and having had an authentic experience.”
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