Christened in 2014 by Australian TV personality and former international model, Deborah Hutton, the Avalon Illumination is one of the latest in Suite Ships launched by renowned river cruise operator, Avalon Waterways. As the sister ship to the Avalon Impression, the Avalon Illumination continues the line’s reputation for excellence, with stunning 200 sq. ft. Panorama Suites that boast the innovative Open-Air Balcony technology. Covering a range of itineraries through Europe, with particular focus on the Danube and Rhine, the Illumination is part of a cutting-edge fleet that continues to appeal to discerning river cruise passengers.
Passengers The Avalon Illumination Suite Ship can hold 166 passengers, served by 47 crew members who all have an excellent grasp of the English language. The majority of passengers hail from the USA, but other English-speaking guests are always found onboard, including well-travelled mature holidaymakers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are also an increasing number of UK travellers choosing to sail with Avalon. There is a dedicated Cruise Director onboard at all times, who can help all passengers to plan their time and answer any queries. Certified local guides are available to lead all guided shore excursions.
Dining The main dining room can be found on the Sapphire Deck, and is where breakfast and lunch buffet services, and a sit-down dinner with waiter service, can be found daily. It operates a flexible open-seating policy, and a casual to smart casual dress code is encouraged. However, for special events including the welcome and farewell dinners, it’s not uncommon for guests to dig out their best outfits. Breakfast consists of a full buffet station, as well as a made-to-order egg station. Complimentary sparkling wine and fruit juices are also available. For lunch, the buffet station includes an array of dishes such as pastas, salads, soups, entrees and desserts which have all been prepared using local ingredients by the onboard professional chefs. Soft drinks at lunch are complimentary. For dinner, guests can enjoy a four-course gourmet meal, with a choice of both regional and traditional dishes. Local wines, beers, soft drinks and water are complimentary with dinner service. If guests wish for somewhere different to eat, the Sky Bistro on the Sky Deck serves al-fresco fare when the weather allows, and the Panorama Lounge offers early and late rise breakfast as well as light bites for lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is also available, and guests can help themselves to beverages and fresh fruit 24hours a day from the self-serve station.
Entertainment Relax in the Sky Lounge as you watch the sunset, or enjoy a drink in the Observation Lounge on the Royal Deck. The Panorama Lounge is where the entertainment programme takes place, with a variety of shows, performances and movie nights scheduled for every itinerary. The lounge benefits from a full-service bar and an in-house pianist.Guests especially look forward to the Captain’s reception with sparkling wine and canapés, as well as the Welcome and Farewell dinners. The Panorama Lounge also offers a social hour with drinks specials, every evening prior to dinner service.
ActivitiesThe Sky Deck has a fun deck games area for guests to enjoy, as well as various sunloungers and premium lounge chairs with shade system to offer relief from the sun. Guests can also choose to stay connected using the complimentary Wi-Fi that is shipwide, or grabbing a chair in the Internet Corner. The Local Favorites programme allows passengers to embrace guest lectures, tasting sessions and itinerary-specific activities while onboard. Avalon Choice allows guests to pick and choose what shore excursions they wish to embark on, to suit their particular interests. There is also a choice of traditional, leisurely and independent sightseeing options, with guided tours let by expert guides. Headsets are offered for use during every guided shore excursions, and maps and Nordic walking sticks are available for independent exploration. Biking excursions are also on offer in Amsterdam and Durnstein.
Accommodation There are 67 suites onboard, which boast the Open-Air Balcony technology, and 16 staterooms which feature picture windows. Rooms are spacious, with Panoramic Suites reportedly 30% larger than the industry standard, at 200 sq. ft., and Royal Suites measuring a huge 300 sq. ft. Every suite and stateroom is equipped with Comfort Collection beds fitted with Egyptian cotton linens and European-style duvets, a full-size private bathroom with shower, bathrobes and slippers, L’Occitane bath products, flatscreen TV, direct dial telephone, minibar, hairdryer and in-suite safe. In addition, Royal Suites benefit from larger seating areas with sofa, and larger bathrooms.
Spa/WellbeingActive sorts will appreciate the onboard Fitness Center that features a range of exercise machines, free weights and stretch mats. There is also a whirlpool on the Sky Deck if you want to soak and unwind. Alternatively, guests can enjoy a pamper session in the hair salon, which also offers manicures and pedicures as well as styling.
Itineraries Popular Danube-based itineraries on the Illumination include the Legendary Danube, the Blue Danube Discovery, Magnificent Europe and the Grand Danube Cruise. In addition, the vessel also sails the Blue Danube to the Black Sea, and the Balkan Discovery cruise which sails between Budapest and Bucharest. The majority of itineraries are between eight and 15 days, with some exceptions including the magnificent 24-day extravaganza that encompasses the North Sea to Black Sea Cruise from Bucharest to Amsterdam, which sails along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. A new itinerary – ‘Essential Holland and Belgium – Tulips in Spring’ – is also now available to book, which takes guests on an eight day adventure from Brussels to Amsterdam, or Amsterdam to Vilvoorde.