One of the things that drew me to this itinerary…. besides the historical significance that reached right into my heart and will live with me forever…. was the overnight in Paris on the end of the sailing. This allows you take advantage of the floating hotel and its amenities while still allowing for a good amount of time in the City of Lights. Avalon provides many opportunities to explore on your own or you can take advantage of their included and optional tours (translation, for a fee). On this final full day you could take a city walking tour that includes the infamous Notre Dame Cathedral, or a bus tour that guides you past some of the city highlights with the narration of a local expert.
Optional tours in the afternoon include a tour of the Louvre Museum or Montmarte which is truly an artists haven. In the evening they also had an optional outing in the evening to experience the infamous Moulin Rouge.
Anticipating many of the guests would opt for that evening show, the crew held its official farewell dinner on the previous night as we sailed to Paris. The Captain hosted a cocktail party followed by a farewell dinner that was capped off by a parade of Baked Alaska adorned with sparklers to light up the evening.
On the final day, I decided to wander the city around the dock and explore the immediate surroundings. The gangway ends at a city park that was full of sun worshipers, families and daredevils who wanted to take on the Parisian version of Disney Springs Characters in Flight. It was a nice way to spend the day just strolling through the streets and marveling at the mixture of old and new architecture, that could be also interpreted as art, around each corner.
Just a few minutes walk from the ship is the ‘little sister’ to our own Statue of Liberty that stands in New York harbor.
The 2nd of 3 versions of this noble lady was dedicated on Nov 15, 1889, and it looks towards the Atlantic in the direction of her “big sister”. This lady liberty was also shown in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets as one of the historic locations Nicolas Cage and posse visited.
Look the other way off the island where she stands and you get a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower
Once back on board, it was time to give into the reality that it was almost over… Time to recheck transfers, pack and get ready to disembark the next morning and head back to the airport. As any cruiser will tell you… this can be a process. However with only 128 people on the ship and an amazing crew, they make it a breeze.
The day before you disembark, the cruise director gathers the guests in the lounge and walks you through what to expect… step by step. They post your departure time on a board in the ships lobby so you can take a look what time you are to disembark the ship to catch your pre-arranged transfer.
Some are going to the airport, or the hotel for a post stay. Other guests were actually transferring to another Avalon ship to continue the adventure on another itinerary traveling south. (can you feel the envy seeping out of my pours?)
Tip envelopes can be placed in the boxes located in the lobby. The crew splits one envelope and the cruise director gets a separate envelope. These tips can be euro or charged to your room account if you prefer.
You also grab a ribbon that corresponds to the color noted on the transfer roster, attach it to your luggage and the crew knows what bag goes where. Gotta love the simplicity!
You place your luggage outside your door the morning of debarkation and a crew member whisks it away down the hall and its grouped with the other like colors that will be sharing your vehicle to your destination. I loved not having to pack up most of my belongings and place it out the night prior which is usual for large ships and felt a sense of relief to watch my bag make its way from the hallway, to the lobby to the waiting transfer.
The cruise director calls our your transfer, the crew loads your luggage, and you have have memories of an incredible experience to accompany you to the airport.
A couple of things that may surprise the ocean cruiser on their first river cruise…
First, be prepared to get up close and personal with your neighbor… ie: other river cruising ships.
When they dock the ships will tie up to each other as in the picture below:
This docking ritual results in a couple of happenings that may seem a bit strange at first, but you quickly take to the new way of doing things…
For example, if you happen to be on the ship on the outside of the dock, your trusty crew will clear a path through the neighboring ship for you to traverse on your way to shore. Depending on the tide and other logistics, this may be directly thru the lobby or , as in the case of the pics below, a gangway is set up between the two so you just walk over the top from one to the other. Plus… there are no long lines at the metal detector to get in the way of you and you lunch thats being served on the sun deck… cause there isnt a metal detector. Crew are posted at the ship to mind the needs for security.
A more… interesting… aspect of this tie up arrangement is that you may fall asleep looking out onto the beautiful river slowing lapping at the sides of the ship and wake up to the site of your neighbors cabin, or as in the case below, their sun deck, just inches from your balcony.
At first this can seem a little off-putting and you find yourself a bit annoyed when you get the short end of the stick, but after a couple of days you just realize that’s how the system works and honestly the times you tie up to another ship, you are most likely out exploring the villages, having a meal or sitting in a lounge or on the sundeck anyway.
Moral of the story is… always close your curtains before you fall asleep. Just in case.
Who is river cruising for?
Anyone who enjoys a relaxed pace, immersed in history, and the company of other travelers. River cruising has traditionally been an older demographic but with the entry of Disney into the game with its Adventures By Disney product and the popularity and marketing rising, the future looks to possibility bring the average age down a bit.
Many people will be wondering if its a good family experience…
While we did have one very well behaved 9 year old on this sailing (who reminded me of a 35 year old in a 9 year olds body) I wouldn’t recommend it for any children who aren’t old enough to really appreciate the history and relaxation value. Id even question it for most teens but it depends on the individual. There just isn’t enough onboard to entertain kids and keep them occupied enough to allow for the relaxing vacation you may be looking for. If your child wouldnt enjoy a 4 hour narrated walking tour of the Louvre or sitting in a deck chair for hours just watching the world go by without saying “Mom. Im bored…” – or if their idea of the perfect food is chicken nuggets and fries and that’s all they want to consume — its a much better idea to save the money you would spend on the required additional cabin and let the kids vacation with grandma and grandpa while mom and dad head out on a river cruise.
Having had this experience, it will be interesting to see what Disney brings to the table for families when they sail next summer. They do plan to incorporate kids activities on their sailings — but keep in mind, those will be charter sailing where only Disney guests are onboard so it wont be the usual river cruise experience. (sigh of relief for those who booked the Danube Adventures By Disney)
Having said that…. A river cruise is an amazing and very unique experience compared to other cruise adventures. The perfect scenario would be a group of 4 – 8 adult friends or family members who want a good mix of relaxing together and seeing a new part of the world.
The experience is elegant, but not stuffy. Relaxing yet there is enough to do to keep that appetite for activity nourished because the villages and towns are just a few steps away. There are places to escape into your own thoughts both onboard and by leisurely strolling the towns, but you will leave the ship with 100 plus new friends that you have dined with, explored, or just relaxed with a cocktail or glass of wine on the sun deck while the countryside slowly drifts by.
I have already started looking at the itineraries for the next river cruise onboard Avalon Waterways.
Christmas Markets in 2016 anyone? I just need 2 – 6 more friends for the perfect adventure!
I’ll leave you with just a few of the pics I took along the journey.
Castles, bridges, locks, estates and beautiful sunsets.