Since making its way onto the Danube in May 2013, the Avalon Expression (sister ship to the Artistry II) has continued to impress its passengers with cutting-edge design and innovations that help to satisfy its ‘Suite Ships’ label. It’s part of the growing fleet of vessels owned by Avalon Waterways, with itineraries that focus on European rivers, canals and waterways from Belgium to Budapest, including the Rhine, Main and Danube.
Passengers The maximum capacity of this Suite Ship is 166, which allows for an intimate river cruise with excellent service and ample opportunity to mingle and meet fellow travellers. The majority of passengers onboard Avalon ships tend to be well-educated, affluent and senior travellers from the USA and the UK. All staff, crew and tour guides speak English. At full capacity, the crew ratio is 1 to 3.7 guests, meaning a high level of service throughout. An onboard Cruise Director is also available, to ensure every passenger has a pleasant sail. Passengers also enjoy being able to personalise details of their cruise with the MyAvalon programme.
DiningOnboard, the main dining area offers breakfast, lunch and dinner services. Breakfast starts at 7am and consists of a full buffet breakfast (including an egg station), with sparkling wine available. Lunch service is also a buffet, with a range of meats from the carving station, pasta dishes and hot fare on offer. For dinner service, guests can enjoy a four-course dinner menu, with a selection of classic and regional dishes on offer. The main restaurant boasts open-seating, and provides an innovative half divide, which means you can enjoy an intimate dining experience while still being able to appreciate the views from both sides of the ship. As well as the main restaurant, the Expression has a number of different venues to try, including the Sky Bistro on the Sky Deck, the Sky Lounge, Observation Lounge and Panorama Bistro and Lounge areas. Light lunch is served in the Panorama Bistro, while a social hour with drinks specials is held in the Panorama Lounge prior to dinner service. Guests can enjoy room service offering a continental breakfast and beverages (fee applicable) and there is also a self-serve beverage station which offers complimentary hot drinks at any time of the day. Wines, beers and soft drinks are free-flowing with dinner, and one of the lounges has a bar serving premium spirits. Guests can relax with a casual and comfortable dress code throughout the day and for dinner. There’s no need to dress up, but jackets and ties won’t look out of place. If there’s one opportunity to dress a little fancier, it’s the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell dinners.
EntertainmentFrom the moment guests step aboard, they’ll be faced with a range of low-key and sophisticated entertainment options which echo the ship’s relaxed and upmarket vibes. The Captain’s Welcome Reception, with canapés and sparkling wine, is ideal for passengers to meet other guests, while the indulgent Welcome and Farewell dinners are a perfect opportunity to dress up and enjoy a fine dining experience. Evening entertainment could include piano music, movie nights, and the Culture & Cruise entertainers who present region-specific performances. Once guests retire to their staterooms, the diverse on-demand in-room entertainment can be enjoyed, at no extra cost.
ActivitiesGuests can enjoy a range of ‘Local Favorites’ as part of their time onboard, including various lectures, activities, expert presentations and artisan experiences. The Sky Deck also has a well-equipped games area, where guests can play chess and shuffleboard during down-time. Onshore, passengers have a choice of excursions to suit their individual preferences, including Leisurely, Traditional and Essential Sightseeing options. All guided shore excursions include the use of individual audio headsets, so nothing needs to be missed. If you wish to explore independently, this is fine too. Avalon offers guests use of complimentary maps and Nordic walking sticks to make their solo explorations easier. Biking excursions are also available in Amsterdam and Durnstein. There is complimentary Wi-Fi access throughout the vessel, as well as an Internet Corner and well-stocked library.
Accommodation There are 67 suites and 16 staterooms, set across three accommodation decks. Of these, two full decks offer suite accommodation, which boast wall-to-wall panoramic windows that open to create an open-air balcony in every room. Of these suites, 65 are Panorama Suites that offer 200 sq. ft. of space. The other two Royal Suites have an astonishing 300sqft to offer, with an even wider panoramic view. The 16 staterooms (172 sq. ft.) have picture windows. All accommodation options have an excellent range of amenities to ensure your cruise is a pleasant one, including a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and on-demand entertainment system (which features over 100 free movie options), radio, well-stocked minibar, safe and hairdryers. Guests have a choice of two twin beds or one queen bed, and also have a choice of firm or soft pillows to go with their Egyptian cotton linens. Royal Suite occupants have the added bonus of a king size bed, a large bathroom with shower and bathtub, and the use in-suite complimentary iPads. All suites boast a six person sitting area that’s ideal for relaxing in private or entertaining friends.
Spa/Wellbeing On the Sky Deck, you’ll find premium lounge chairs and sunshade awnings, which are perfect for relaxing and admiring the panoramic views and enchanting landscapes as you sail. There is also a choice of deck games and a whirlpool available. Active sorts will appreciate the expanded fitness centre on board, or guests can choose to pamper themselves in the hair salon, which also offers manicures.
Itineraries Currently, the Avalon Expression’s itineraries focus on the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers, with many of its sailings linking Amsterdam and Budapest for a 14night river cruise. However, other sailings are available, including 10night ‘The Legendary Danube’ (Prague to Budapest) and 7night trips between Brussels/Vilvoorde and Amsterdam. Return flights between the UK and these cities are usually included in the ticket price, and guests also have the option of extending their stay on land if they wish.