It’s no secret that river cruising is one of the most popular trends in travel. More and more Canadians are discovering the charms of seeing the world at a human pace, often in Europe but also in other corners of the world such as Southeast Asia and India. As many river cruisers have sailed before on ocean cruises, what should they know about how the two travel styles differ? Here are just some of the differences to be found in river cruising, using Avalon Waterways as an example.
First, the size of the ship. In Europe, ships sailing along the Danube, Rhine and other rivers have a maximum width as they must be accommodated in the numerous locks. So ocean-going ships may accommodate thousands of passengers, but Avalon’s Suite Ships top out at 166 passengers.
While it makes for a much more intimate, social experience, it also means that due to space constraints, some facilities such as casinos, large theatres, shopping arcades and a vast array of dining options are not possible. Yet with Avalon Waterways, for example, the available space is used imaginatively with al-fresco lunches on the roof deck and the club lounge/library doing double duty as a coffee bar - unlimited cappuccinos included! Four course dinners in the main restaurant or casual bistro dinners always include wine with Avalon…and no reservations or fixed seating time is required, unlike many ocean cruises.
Inclusions on a river cruise may be surprisingly generous if you are used to ocean cruising. On every Avalon cruise, there are three included optional excursions at every port of call: one classic (usually a walking tour of the city with a local guide/historian); one discovery (fun cultural engagement such as a painting class or meeting a local farmer); and one active (perhaps a guided hike or biking tour). Onboard activities such as yoga classes are also included in the price.
Yet there is no sacrificing space when it comes to staterooms. Avalon’s well-known Panorama Suites, the majority of accommodation on its European fleet, measure a full 200 square feet - a full 30% larger than the industry standard. Rather than a typical balcony, the Suites offer an “open air balcony”: a window-wall stretching 11 feet wide that slides open over six feet to bring in the sights and sounds of Europe at no sacrifice of stateroom size.
Because of the small size of the ships, it can be great fun to theme a cruise. Throughout the season, Avalon offers select sailings with experts giving insights into themes as varied as wine, photography, gardens, history and beer: another great way to connect with fellow passengers while quenching an appetite for learning. And, again, all included in the price of the cruise.
And because you are in the heart of Europe, it’s easy to start off or extend your vacation with an escorted tour or tailor-made tour of your choosing.
Lastly, with such a small number of passengers, the embarkation and disembarkation process is seamlessly quick: a few minutes or more, allowing you to spend more time relaxing in your Suite or ashore, enjoying the delights of Europe!
Find out more about Avalon Waterways at avalonwaterways.ca; call 800-268-3636; or see your travel agent.