Avalon River Cruise Prague to Budapest July 2018
WARNING LONG POST. It is long but I promised to report back on my recent Avalon river cruise. I wrote this on the plane whilst it was all still fresh in my mind. The home to airport transfer was spot on time and worked well. The flight smooth and more or less to schedule. At Prague we were transferred to The Intercontinental Hotel and that was when we hit our first problem. Avalon had booked us and our travelling companions into the same room. This took a long time but was eventually sorted. 3 days in Prague was possibly 1 day too long. The drought conditions in Central Europe meant there was a change in itinerary and instead of boarding the boat we had to go to Passau (4 hours by bus) and spend two nights there. Going back on ourselves again by bus to get to Regensberg. The summary of all this was a lot of extra, long bus journeys and Nuremberg was missed out altogether. As a regular QG passenger I am not even going to try to compare like for like. I realise that a river cruise is an entirely different entity. There are no security checks on boarding the boat. The check in procedure was long and involved waiting in the lounge until they escorted you to the desk in small groups. The cabins are small but very well appointed and we soon got used to the size. Once again Avalon had booked us into the same room as our friends. The bad luck which seems to be dogging us meant that we were unable to draw our cabin curtains as there was another boat moored alongside with one of their cabins right opposite us for two days. Generous amounts of L'Occitane toiletries a pleasant surprise. Water in the cabins replaced daily. The restaurant was pleasant. One sitting for all. The food was ok But just ok with a limited menu which was not entirely suited to me. However grilled chicken, steak or salmon was always available as an alternative to the menu. Average quality wines and beers were included with meals and plentiful. We were travelling as a group of 8 but were not allowed to reserve one of the four tables which would seat us all together. We got round this with a rota of pairs who sneaked up to the restaurant like naughty school children 5 minutes early so a table could be 'bagged'. This is something that needs to be addressed. All passengers were not treated the same. Some were allowed to push tables together we were told we could not. One group of 10 had their own table laid up for 10 each night.The waiters were enthusiastic but could be over familiar and they were not very well trained. The lounge bar was very pleasant and they served drinks at half price during the happy hour just before dinner. No service charge here and the drinks were not overpriced at an average of 10 euros for a cocktail. There was only one place to get tea or coffee and that was from a machine right at the back of the ship. No drinks served on the sun deck. There was little in the way of on board entertainment. One day before lunch we had a beer tasting and talk which was good. Apart than that there was a sales pitch from Avalon advertising their operation in the Far East. In the evenings we had TiTi the resident keyboard player who tried his best. Two 45 minutes acts were brought in from outside. One a Jane MacDonald type singer and a small 5 piece, girl orchestra both quite good. I think we were unlucky. The heatwave meant we couldnt sail when scheduled, the mix up with the rooms both at the hotel and on the boat was irritating. We missed one stop completely. And we had long coach journeys instead of sailing down the Danube. On the last day we discovered that one of our cases was missing just as we were leaving for the airport. It had been put on the wrong bus and was on its way to a hotel in the city. Fortunately it was sent by taxi to the airport and we were reunited. As I said unlucky. Would I do it again? Watching the world drift past is a very pleasant experience and we have visited some fabulous cities. The included walking tours of these cities were interesting and the local guides all very good and very knowledgeable. Other than a lovely concert in Vienna (61 pp) we did not bother with the extra excursions, If I were to do another river cruise it would have to be with a higher grade company and it would not replace an ocean cruise. I am, after all, accustomed to travelling with Cunard.
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