A First River Cruise
We booked our first river cruise on the Avalon Creativity. This was in response to an email advert offering very low prices for the start of the season. The booking procedure, over the phone, was easy. The Avalon office very quickly offered us an alternative flight from Liverpool as opposed to Luton. The additional cost was minimal. For the first time in our lives we had a taxi to take us to the airport. This all worked very well both at the start and end of the trip. On arrival at that dreadful airport Paris CDG we were met and after a fairly long coach ride found ourselves in a Paris Hotel for a couple of hours. Snacks and coffee etc. were available at no charge. There was not enough time to go out and about so we chatted to other guests and made a couple of contacts with whom we spent a good deal of time in the week on board. The boat was moored within sight of the Eiffel Tower and the weather was glorious if chilly. Our cabin was as expected, a perfectly reasonable size and a decent little shower-room. If we have a criticism it is that there were no drawers, just shelves and hanging space. Our cabin steward was a very pleasant chap from eastern Europe as were most of the crew. We had chosen the top deck on the same side as the 2 suites. One of the nice things about this, apart from the better views on gets, was the stern cafe/lounge situated at the end of our corridor. A short stroll to a never ending supply of good coffee, very tasty biscuits etc. and a pleasant place to sit either inside or out at the stern (one of the few places available to smokers too). The cruise director was an excellent chap from the UK who kept us well informed without bombarding us with unnecessary information. All the excursions were well organised with tip-top local guides. Amongst the best was the trip to the Normandy beaches and the Pegasus Bridge museum. Another highlight was a visit to the hilltop castle at Les Andelys, built in 1197-98 by Richard 1st. The dining experience was generally very good. Breakfast and lunch were splendid. Once the guy doing the omelettes had got the hang of it they were lovely. He was plainly new to the job! Some of the dinner main courses left room for a bit of improvement but all-in-all we would give the meals 4 stars out of 5. The inclusive wine or beer at lunch and dinner flowed unceasingly. We never bought a drink at the bar as we always had enough alcohol at meals. In fact, with excursions and gratuities included, for the first time ever, our end-of-cruise on-board invoice was zero!! In fact we only spent about 100 euros in all, being the cost of outings and an art gallery on our final day which was in Paris. The itinerary had been changed because of Easter so, sadly, we were in Paris on Day 6, a Monday, meaning the Muse dOrsay was closed. The trip was an experiment in river cruising. Would we go again? Our main concern was the thought of paying large amount only to find oneself parked alongside another boat with a fine view to the cabin alongside, some 50 cm away. This only happened once but we know it remains a risk. The boat was lovely, the service excellent, the excursions good, the company fine so, all-in-all, the answer is Yes, we will river cruise again when we see an offer in our price bracket, which is in the order of no more than 200 p.p.p.n. for a best deck cabin.
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