Company Overview As a member of the Globus family of brands, Avalon Waterways, established in 2003, is backed by 80 years of experience in planning itineraries and guiding vacations around the world.
Being part of a larger tour company seems to be a great fit for a river cruise company. While on a river cruise, it can frequently seem much like a "motor coach tour" because of all the destination- based activities. But there are two important differences - you only have to unpack once and the ship, as your primary transportation rather than a coach, mostly travels at night while you sleep.
The Globus family of brands began as a small family company with one man and a rowboat in 1928. Antonio Mantegazza, the company's founder, used his rowboat to transport commercial goods across Lake Lugano in Switzerland. While taking frequent trips across the scenic lake, Antonio began dreaming of a different opportunity - tourism.
Over time, his entrepreneurial instinct and drive led him to acquire motorcoaches to transport tourists around the Lake Lugano area in southern Switzerland. By 1961, the company launched the Cosmos brand, featuring value-priced European touring for the cost-conscious British traveler. Beginning in 1974, under the flagship of Sergio Mantegazza, son of Antonio and current president of Globus, the company's brands began expanding their markets beyond Great Britain.
1970s, Globus showed travelers more countries than any other tour operator including Africa, Australia, North and South America, Southeast Asia, Europe and the South Pacific. Also in the early 70s, Globus launched its North American company - Group Voyagers - overseeing U.S. tour operations and the American market for the Globus and Cosmos brands.
In 2003, the Globus family of brands launched Avalon Waterways, an river boat cruise company offering primarily European river cruises but also offering the Nile (Egypt), Yangtze (China) and adventure cruises in the Galapagos Islands near Ecuador.
Avalon Waterways started with this young fleet of eight ships. They are uniquely suited to the destination each calls home:
- Avalon Affinity, coming in 2009, will be the smallest vessel in the company. Specifically designed for the Moselle to reach Basel, Switzerland. It has an elevator to the sky deck - and carries a maximum 138 passengers including four suites.
- Avalon Scenery - the smallest of the Avalon river boats, this ship was built in 2008 with just 67 staterooms and 2 junior suites. The ship is positioned in France sailing from Paris to Nice on 12-day "Flavors of Burgundy and Provence" cruises.
- Avalon Tranquility - This ship sails the Danube, the Main, the Rhine, and the Moselle rivers. Sister ship to Avalon Poetry, this ship was built in 2007, with 81 staterooms and 4 junior suites.
- Avalon Imagery - Sister ship to Avalon Tranquility, built in 2007 with 81 staterooms and 4 junior suites. It sails the Danube between Amsterdam and Budapest.
- Avalon Tapestry - Built in 2006, this ship sails the Rhine and Moselle rivers. It has 80 staterooms and 2 junior suites.
- Avalon Poetry - Sister ship to the Avalon Artistry, this ship was built in 2005 and with 84 staterooms and 4 junior suites. It also cruises primarily on the Danube with some cruises to Amsterdam.
- Avalon Artistry - Cruising primarily on the Danube, this ship was built in 2004 with 87 staterooms and 2 junior suites, sister ship to Avalon Poetry. It was specially made designed to fit through the many locks on the Danube, with what seems like only a few inches clearance.
- Victoria Anna - Sailing exclusively on the Yangtze River as part of extended tours in China. One of the larger river vessels with five decks and 226 berths. All cabins have floor to ceiling windows and a balcony.
- Victoria Jenna - coming in 2009 and also sailing exclusively on the Yangtze River as part of extended tours in China. Also five decks with balconies for most staterooms.
- Royal Lotus - Sailing exclusively between Cairo and Aswan along the Nile, this ship has various public rooms and a large upper deck to take in all the scenery.
- La Pinta - This motor yacht cruises exclusively in the Galapagos Islands and with just 24 cabins it accommodates just up to 48 people.
- M/V Santa Cruz - This expedition ship holds 88 passengers in staterooms with all the creature comforts. There is a library, hot tub and an observation deck.
In May 2011, Avalon Waterways unveiled the Avalon Panorama, the industry's first Suite Ship bringing indoor/outdoor living on board. In 2012, the company introduced two more Suite Ships - the Avalon Vista and Avalon Visionary.
While the entire fleet features a minimum room size of 172-square feet, with three new ships boasting suites as large as 200-square foot Panorama Suites (178 total) and 300-square foot Royal Suites (6 total) - the cruise line is offering cruisers even more room to relax.
Each suite features a large seating area adjacent to a Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Window. When opened, this 10' x 7' floor-to-ceiling window transforms the entire suite into the category's only Open-Air Balcony. Some enhancements, including flowers in each stateroom and premium L'Occitane products are subtle. Other offerings, such as marble bathrooms, Avalon-branded deluxe bedding (Comfort Collection by AvalonSM) and the perfect balance of warm interiors and natural lighting are distinct and unexpected.
The Avalon Experience: Tailor-made for English speaking tourists, the focus of the river cruises is on the destination, and the ship features are built to suit this purpose. Rooms have floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors. Most days are spent in port, so there aren't a lot of people on board during the day. On board afternoon activities when the ship sails early consist of presentations by local experts, such as wine and beer tasting. This also adds to the regional destination focus of the cruise.
There are only a handful of public areas on the ships on the river cruises - generally a lounge, dining room, small library or gathering area. The best place to be while sailing is on the wide and flat upper deck watching the scenery go by.
Breakfasts and lunches are buffet style. There is one dinner seating and no room service. Should a passenger become sick, with a cold for example, since sea-sickness is almost impossible on these tranquil rivers, they can be accommodated traveling companions taking dinner back to their rooms. Afternoon coffee, tea and cake are also served. Dinner includes a choice of two entries, plus chicken and salmon also offered every day. Both red and white wine, frequently regional favorites, are available at dinner, and are included in the cruise fare.
Fellow Passengers Passengers are a mix of the well-traveled with people traveling to Europe for the first time. Most are from the U.S., mixed with a few Australians and Brits. Most passengers are couples, with some older children. There are no children's facilities, per se, and so taking young ones is not encouraged, though not disallowed.
Shore Excursions: Each ship carries local experts on the region who will accompany you and give talks on the region regularly. They will also accompany you on tours but give direction over to an expert tour guide on each tour. Most shore excursions are included in the cruise fare and consist of walking tours of the port cities. In addition, optional excursions to non-port cities or areas, and places requiring entrance fees like special local programs, are offered for an additional fee.
Special Programs: Special "Tulip Time" cruises around Amsterdam are offered in April, and Danube River Christmas Cruises are offered in December. Special theme departures include wine cruises on late season 12- and 14-day Danube and Rhône River sailings and feature private tastings, special food pairings, talks by food and wine experts, and options to visit local wineries. The 16-day music-themed Magnificent Europe departure in October offers special concerts, recitals, and performances on and off the ship as well as overviews on the history of European music and a full-day excursion to Mozart's Salzburg.
Tipping: Gratuities are at the passenger's discretion. No guidelines are published.