Avalon Waterways is planning a bold move away from the river cruise industry’s standard one-size-fits-all cruise model, courtesy of its soon-to-launch Avalon Choice program. Slated to debut in March 2013, Avalon Choice will provide guests with a more personalized sailing experience, allowing cruisers to customize their cruise vacation with some three dozen choice elements for shore excursions, onboard dining, and cultural offerings—all of which will be included in the base cruise rates.
In port, passengers can opt between four inclusive shore excursions—rather than the standard single offering on most river cruise lines. Select one of three options including Traditional Sightseeing (a standard sightseeing tour, providing an overview to the port’s main attractions), Leisurely Sightseeing (scaled back tours, conducted at a slower pace), and Essential Sightseeing (a basic port orientation by a local guide, followed by free time). Finally, cruisers can also elect a special interest Alternative Sightseeing option in select ports, like a musical history tour in Vienna or history tour of ruins in Rome. Guests will be able to sign up for their preferred election in advance of arrival, following the ship port talks held onboard.
Also new for 2013, guests can take advantage of guided European biking excursions in ports like Amsterdam and Maastricht, the Netherlands; Lyon, France; Durnstein, Austria; and Breisach, Germany (the program is already on offer in some ships; fee applies). Plus, Nordic walking sticks will also be on loan for active guests, free of charge.
Look as well for enhancements to dining and cultural offerings. Foodies will delight in more onshore dining options, and new culinary initiatives like onboard tastings of regional delicacies and local wines and beers, as well as local chef appearances. Also expect demos by local artisans, talks by local experts, and performances by regional entertainers in between ports.
While the Avalon Choice program will be available fleet-wide, we suggest giving it a whirl on one of the cruise line’s 2013 new-debut Suite Ships—the 128-passenger Avalon Artistry II (sailing the Rhine) and 166-passenger Avalon Expression (sailing the Danube and Rhine), modeled closely after the Avalon Panorama, the first of the line’s superlative Suite Ship class, which launched last year.
Expect contemporary design throughout, floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly all of the staterooms, and complimentary ship-wide WiFi. The ships will additionally feature a new alternative dining venue, the casual Panorama Bistro, serving light dining fare highlighting regional specialties and local wines. Rates for 7- to 14-night sailings on the new ships start at $2,249/person, including select beverages. AvalonWaterways.com.
Photo Credit: Avalon Waterways