From Amsterdam To Paris On An Avalon Waterways’ Active Discovery Cruise

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What. A. Great. Trip. In early April, I cruised with Avalon Waterways on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The itinerary, bookended by Amsterdam and Paris, served up some of the same stunning scenery that inspired Dutch landscape painters such as Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael. Just look at the photo below, for example, unfiltered and untouched, snapped on my iPhone from the Club Lounge, aft on Avalon Visionary one morning on the Moselle.

Sunrise on the Moselle in Remich, Luxembourg. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

I could have spent hours out on deck watching the landscape pass. Instead, I drew back the curtains and admired Europe in HD from my Panorama Suite. After only a few days on board Avalon Visionary, I understood what Avalon Waterways has been trying to market: framed postcard-like views from the bedrooms on its so-called “Suite Ships.”

“Our philosophy really boils down to the view,” said Terri Burke, managing director for Avalon Waterways, who cruised with our small media group. “We feel that the view is a compelling part of river cruising, and the Panorama Suite, with its Open Air Balcony, is a key aspect of Avalon that we have exclusively.”

The top two interior decks on Avalon’s Suite Ships feature 200-square-foot and 300-square-foot suites with beds facing banks of sliding glass wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows. Moreover, Avalon Visionary’s staterooms are spacious by industry standards, a full 30 percent larger than the industry average, according to Burke.

Though you’ll find attractive pricing for the lower deck categories, staterooms in the lowest categories are 172 square feet with windows that don’t open and smaller bathrooms than in staterooms a deck above. Plus, bathrooms in the staterooms on the upper decks are slightly angled to provide additional room. I appreciated the innovative configuration on my cruise.

But the real bonus is that on the upper decks, you get that wonderful view. “The view will continue to define Avalon Waterways,” Burke said. “You’ll not see us changing from this philosophy.”

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My Panorama Suite, 318, 200 square feet. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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The bathroom in my Panorama Suite, with L’Occitane bath amenities. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Spacious living area in the 300-square-foot Royal Suite © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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The Royal Suite. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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View from my Panorama Suite and its Open Air Balcony. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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On Indigo Deck, 172-square-foot staterooms. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

I was in a Panorama Suite, number 318, Category P, on the Royal Deck. My room featured those floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows that spanned 11 feet, with a seven-foot opening. I found myself staying in my room more than I have done on other river cruises, as villages along the Moselle, in particular, were so perfectly framed that I often grabbed my iPhone to photograph or film in HD format.  Moreover, my queen-size bed faced the views. Sitting in bed with the curtains open and watching Europe pass in real-life HD was a wonderful experience.

Cruising The Rhine & Moselle Rivers

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View from my Panorama Suite and its Open Air Balcony. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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View from my Panorama Suite and its Open Air Balcony. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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View from my Panorama Suite and its Open Air Balcony. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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View from my Panorama Suite and its Open Air Balcony. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

Along the Rhine manmade highlights such as the Cologne Cathedral and the storied castles along the river complemented the natural wonder that was the Rhine Gorge. I spent a morning marveling at castles perched on rocky outcrops before Avalon Visionary reached Rudesheim.  The tiny town never fails to charm, luring like the Lorelei travelers into its many wine gardens along the Drosselgasse. I skipped the busy street, however, and went for a long hike in the vineyards. The weather was divine, and I enjoyed the vineyards and the views. I was staying true to Burke’s proclamation about the experience boiling down to the view. The views before me in Rudesheim were breath-taking.

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Capturing the beauty of the Rhine Gorge. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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On the Rhine Gorge. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

A turn at Koblenz, the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) began the journey along the pretty Moselle, where vertical vineyards plunged into the river. Along with the Douro, the Moselle is among the prettiest rivers in Europe – and both are equally as plentiful in vineyards.

After Koblenz came Cochem and Bernkastel, with their half-timbered houses and hilltop castles. I could have spent time wine-tasting in both towns, but I was all about the view, so at each stop, I hiked up the hills with my colleagues for views of the valley below. Besides, there was plenty of good wine back on Avalon Visionary.

The beauty of the Moselle was astounding. So was its history. The Roman city of Trier (Germany) made it seem as though ancient Rome has been transported to the river and plopped down here, and indeed the Roman Empire had reached this far, with the Romans leaving their legacy in ruins that still stand.

Luxembourg awaited us when Avalon Visionary docked in Remich, where several complimentary excursions were offered, the highlight being Luxembourg and, along the way, a stop at the American cemetery where General George S. Patton is buried.

Avalon’s Active Discovery Excursions

Avalon’s new Active Discovery program serves up a new style of river cruising, targeted at boomers, like me, and younger cruisers. The excursions are designed to provide in-depth experiences and activity and will be included free of charge on Avalon’s Active Discovery Cruises, a handful of which will be offered on the Rhine and Danube rivers in 2017 and beyond.

Active Discovery cruises kick off this July with itineraries on the Danube between Budapest and Linz on Avalon Luminary. Next year, Avalon Felicity will offer Active Discovery cruises between Amsterdam and Frankfurt, with ten ports that differ from Avalon’s most popular itinerary, the Romantic Rhine, offered between Amsterdam and Zurich. In Xanten, a new port for Avalon, the Active Discovery excursion will be offered as a nightman’s watch tour, straight from the Middle Ages. At least three complimentary Active Discovery excursions will be offered in each port.

Our cruise was a tester of sorts on Avalon Visionary. I enjoyed the emphasis on immersion and activity. And while Avalon is not alone in offering biking and hiking excursions, the company is seeking to differentiate itself through the “active discovery” aspects. “We want to take people to the destination,” Burke said. “We want them to live in it … the whole idea of immersion really takes you to that destination and that is the genesis of where we’re going with Active Discovery.”

On an Active Discovery excursion in Cologne, I pedaled a bicycle with a group for a couple of hours. In Amsterdam, I participated in a local workshop where I learned to paint still-life. See On Avalon Waterways In Amsterdam: Channeling Our Inner Van Gogh.

Avalon Choice & Avalon Fresh

Avalon has lots of other touches that I found refreshing, such as Avalon Choice, which allows guests to personalize their vacations online before leaving home. And while Avalon is not all-inclusive, the line does include much of what its competitors do, with a few inclusives that are new to Avalon this year, such as regional wine and beer at lunch and dinner, and bicycles on board for complimentary use.

Another aspect of the on-board experience that I appreciated was Avalon Fresh, a healthy dining option. Vegetarian and vegan dishes were inventive and tasty thanks to a partnership with the Wrenkh Brothers, two rising culinary stars from Austria. The brothers are known for creating great tasting, innovative, vegetarian cuisine, and I ordered the Avalon Fresh menu items at dinner each of the seven nights of our cruise. The Wrenkh Brothers source their ingredients from small farms and local producers.

I was impressed with the number of healthy dining options on Avalon Visionary. The breakfast buffet featured items such as chia seeds, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, puffed wheat, and lots of other seeds to complement the yogurts and muesli.

There’s also an alternative dining venue called Panorama Bistro at the front of the lounge for intimate dinners. The venue, where light lunches are also served, seats 20 on Avalon’s 110-meters ships, such as Avalon Visionary. The setting is gorgeous, particularly during evening transits along the river.

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Possibly the best Belgian Waffles on the rivers. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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A healthy start to the day is possible, thanks to Avalon Fresh. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Grilled Red Pepper with mushroom filling and cress espuma. Delicious and part of Avalon Fresh. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Health smoothies are at each morning’s breakfast buffet. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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The honey doesn’t get much fresher than on Avalon Visionary’s breakfast buffet. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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A healthy selection of seeds and berries on the breakfast buffet. Part of Avalon Fresh. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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We enjoyed a dinner in the Panorama Bistro on Avalon Waterways. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Avalon Waterways’ new Director of Culinary Jorg Penneke and Managing Director Terri Burke were on our cruise. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

Summing Up

Our cruise took us from Amsterdam to Cologne, Rudesheim, Cochem, Zell, Bernkastel, Grevenmacher and Remich, with excursions offered in each port of call as well as to Trier and Luxembourg. Avalon Visionary’s overnight in Remich was not the end of the trip. Two nights in Paris, which we reached via highspeed train, punctuated the perfect ending to one of the most intriguing itineraries on the rivers of Europe.

On this 10-day trip through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg and France, the diminutive Moselle, in particular, quickly rises to the ranks of favorites for many river cruiser, thanks to the river’s meandering among vertical landscapes, primarily vineyards, and villages with castles perched atop high hills.

Built in 2012, Avalon’s Visionary appears to have been made for the Moselle. The 128-guest ship’s size matches the river perfectly.

Moreover, Avalon Visionary’s innovative room configurations highlight the views, of which there are plenty, along the rivers. Add to that Avalon’s new Active Discovery and Avalon Fresh, and many will find Avalon to be their perfect choice for a river cruise in Europe.  “It’s not just about taking a river cruise,” Burke said. “It’s about taking the right river cruise, where you can marry the active experiences with relaxed luxury and personalize it for the guest. We’re trying to define just the right way to take a river cruise.”

Whether Avalon gets that formula right or not remains to be seen, but in from my point of view (which was Europe in HD), Burke and her team are off to a great start.

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Avalon Visionary in Cochem, Germany. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Avalon Visionary, docked in Remich, Luxembourg, at the end of our cruise. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Avalon Visionary, docked in Remich, Luxembourg, at the end of our cruise. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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Sunrise on the Moselle in Remich, Luxembourg. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

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From the Club Lounge on Avalon Visionary: Sunset on the Moselle in Remich, Luxembourg. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

Good news for solo travelers. Avalon Waterways is waiving single supplements on all of its European sailings. See Avalon Waterways Waives Single Supplement on European Departures

See our Avalon Visionary ship review.

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