Friday, 23 October 2009

More River-Cruise Choice

It seems river cruises are definitely the flavour of the month. No sooner do I detail the great advantages of this option compared to their big-ship, ocean-going brethren, than a new operation arrives dedicated to river cruising.

US-based Avalon Waterways is now available to a UK audience for the first time, bringing another array of high-quality riverboats to the attention (and availability) of an interested public. A new British office, website and countrywide marketing, highlight their drive to broaden their passenger base - and make river-cruising even more popular.

To start with, Avalon boast one of the youngest fleets in Europe, with eight boats dating back no longer than 2004 and two more due to come on line in 2010. They feature six main European rivers (Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Main, Rhone and Seine), as well as a range of themed cruises, and their newest six are powered by a state of the art, pod-propulsion, Silent Drive System. Two of their vessels, Avalon Poetry and Artistry, feature aft navigational bridges, which earned them an innovative design award as they allowed for more spacious public rooms and a Sky Deck.

Since their inauguration in 2004, Avalon have earned an enviable reputation for outstanding service, cuisine and onboard style, as well as featuring an attractive array of itineraries from 4-15 days (although most are in the 10-12 day range).

It's no wonder UK Managing Director Alan MacLean says: “Having become the most recognised and fastest growing river cruise brand in the world, we are delighted to launch our first class product on to the UK Market. River cruising is definitely bucking the trend in the recent economic downturn, being enjoyed by a largely recession-proof sector of the population who are prepared to pay for the highest level of quality and service.”

Their staterooms are currently the largest available on European rivers, from 172sq ft for standard rooms to a massive (by river-cruise standards) 258sq ft for suites. Virtually all have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors with French balconies, affording panoramic views of the areas they cruise through. They are also superbly appointed, with state-of-the-art amenities and d├ęcor, such as flatscreen satellite TVs, Egyptian super-combed cotton linens and individual climate control.

Their high-class cuisine is prepared by an impressive range of chefs, who include classic dishes and regional specialities, while the full board arrangement includes complimentary regional wine with dinner, taking advantage of the numerous classic varieties to be found close to Europe’s principal rivers.

Importantly, most excursions are also included, with personal headsets provided for all guided tours ashore. To add to the first class experience, Avalon offers complimentary round-trip door-to-home pick-up service in chauffeur-driven executive cars within 75 miles of the chosen international departure airport or Eurostar station.

If all that doesn't tempt you, then wait for the prices, which are all extremely value-conscious, especially for continental Europe (try getting four-star full-board accommodation in Germany, France or Austria for £160 a day!):

Prices for 2010 start from £915 for the five day ‘Taste of the Danube’ cruise on board Avalon Tapestry. Other itineraries include the ‘Legendary Danube’ (Prague-Budapest, 10 days from £1635), ‘Danube & Black Sea Coast’ (Prague-Bucharest, 13 days from £2949), ‘Romantic Rhine’ (Basel-Amsterdam, 8 days from £1369), ‘Burgundy & Provence’ (Cote d’Azur-Paris, 11 days from £1669), ‘European Splendour’ (Vienna-Amsterdam, 13 days from £1789) and the ‘Central European Experience’ (Paris-Prague, 12 days from £1955).

For music and wine connoisseurs there is also a range of themed cruises on specific departures such as the Burgundy & Provence Wine cruise or the Magnificent Europe Music Cruise with shore excursions to include a Strauss concert in Vienna, an organ recital in Melk and a visit to the Opera House in Bayreuth.

Interested yet? It certainly gets my attention, and the Danube & Black Sea Coast would definitely be my idea of a memorable trip. Now, where's their phone number...........!