By Joyce Landry
Recently, I joined an intimate group of 75 esteemed guests on the banks of the Danube River to witness the christening of Avalon Waterways’ newest European river vessel, Avalon View. During our inaugural “short & suite” voyage, we actively explored the heartland of Europe visiting vibrant cities, ancient towns, verdant vineyards, and stunning palaces.
Highlights of the Delightful Danube
During our 4-night voyage, we sailed from Vienna to Budapest, gliding peacefully along the river, stopping to visit legendary cities in Austria and Slovakia.
Vienna, Austria: I love Avalon’s active excursions! In Vienna, we hopped on bikes to cycle around the Ringstrasse and experience the city’s food, architecture, and culture like locals.
We visited historic monuments and museums, stopped at the oldest ferris wheel in the world (the Wiener Riesenrad build in 1897), and spent time visiting the Easter markets.
After our bike excursion, we had lunch on deck while the ship was docked in Vienna.
A wonderful day was topped off with a private evening cocktail event at Belvedere Palace. We were treated to classical music and a tour of the famous artwork including “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt.
Bratislava, Slovakia: We drove to the 17th-century Raca Winehouse and Elesko wine park to explore traditional and modern winemaking. A professional Sommelier accompanied us during a scenic hike through the forest and vineyards of Raca. Our unique culinary and wine experience included lunch in the stunning Zoya Museum Art Gallery.
That evening alongside Avalon Waterways President Pam Hoffee, Captain Ambrose Manolach, crew members, and local dignitaries, we witnessed the dramatic christening ceremony of the Avalon View. The ship’s godmother, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and television host Meredith Vieira led the festive inaugural ceremony.
Esztergom, Hungary: In the Pilis Mountain region of Esztergom, Hungary, we rode electric bikes to explore the surrounding area known as the “Heart Chakra of the Earth”. We took in beautiful views from a panoramic lookout point and enjoyed a tasting of traditional Hungarian chimney cakes.
Dinner on board included champagne to commemorate Landry & Kling’s 40th year anniversary.
Budapest, Hungary: Sailing into Budapest at night past the dramatically lit Parliament Building was a highlight of our river cruise. Standing out on the deck, we watched in awe as Hungary’s shining city drew near. This was truly a memorable experience!
The next day we visited the Central Market Hall, toured the Jewish quarter, and walked both sides of the river from Buda to Pest.
We enjoyed exploring the city’s streets, restaurants, and shops around historic Buda Castle, where we stayed in a charming boutique hotel.
Avalon Choice and Active Excursions
River cruising was once considered a passive way to travel, but not anymore! Avalon Waterways redefined the river cruising experience when they introduced the Avalon Choice concept and “Active & Discovery” itineraries. An average of 23 excursions (both included and optional) are available during every voyage: from classic and cultural experiences to immersive discoveries and active adventures.
When Avalon travelers prefer to explore independently, they can find all the recommendations, maps, and information they need with the new AvalonGO mobile app. This exclusive, personal “hotspot” is also a headset for excursion guests, helping them stay connected to their local guide. (By the way, complimentary wifi is available throughout Avalon ships.)
Onboard amenities include a state-of-the-art Fitness Center, an Adventure Center for bikes and active gear, and an Avalon Adventure Host to assist with active excursions and activities.
Avalon View – Open-Air Balconies and Onboard Experience
The 166-passenger Avalon View is Avalon Waterways’ 14th Suite Ship featuring two decks of Panorama Suites. These suites are unique because their wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows transform the living space into river cruising’s only Open-Air Balcony. Living up to its name, Avalon View also features clear-view glass panels on each balcony for unobstructed views.
Another bonus: all Avalon Views’ luxe “Comfort Collection” beds face outward so that guests can enjoy fresh breezes and ever-changing views.
After our days ashore, there were several inviting venues to relax and share stories with our friends and colleagues. The Observation Lounge gave us the perfect vantage point to watch the world go by, while the expansive Sky Deck offered cocktails with a backdrop of Europe’s most spectacular views. The Panorama Lounge & Bar was also a popular after-dinner spot with cozy seating, panoramic windows, and a dance floor.
The dining onboard Avalon View was exceptional! Seasonal cuisine featuring the freshest local ingredients was served in the elegant glass-walled Dining Room, casual Panorama Bistro, or al fresco Sky Grill. “Avalon Fresh” healthy cuisine and vegetarian/vegan options were available at every meal. Complimentary wine, beer, or soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner.
New inclusions on Avalon View include BeWell, refillable water stations that not only provided us with endless hydration (while eliminating the need for single-use water bottles on board) but also gave us invigorating, vitamin-infused options like “Green Hope +15,” “Body Guard +15” and “Pink Positive +15”.
Sustainable River Cruising
Avalon Waterways is committed to sustainable travel and has invested in top-of-the-line technology on its suite ships to limit energy, consumption, and emissions. Recycling programs have been rolled out across the fleet to reduce their environmental footprint.
During our cruise, Avalon Waterways introduced its green Lighthouse Project. This initiative was designed to protect the rivers it sails on while creating a culture of care and sustainability that extends to its guests. The Lighthouse Project focuses on three main categories: Planet, People, and Places. These principles aim to protect waterways and wildlife and shine a light on organizations doing the same. Learn more about Avalon Waterways’ Lighthouse Project.
Avalon Waterways also:
- Eliminated single-use plastics on board their ships and offices, worldwide
- Reduced paper waste by 95% onboard by favoring digital communications
- Received the Green Award for Avalon’s entire fleet of ships
- Invested in local farmers to secure locally produced food and beverages, reducing food miles while supporting local economies
- Installed LED lighting throughout each ship, fleet-wide
- Worked with dozens of ports to purchase shore power (while docked), allowing generators to be turned off, further reducing emissions
Between 2022 and 2024, the company plans to reduce paper waste to less than 1% and pilot a program to use bio-fuel, aiming to reduce total carbon emissions by 50%.
Avalon’s Short & Suite River Cruises
For groups seeking immersive and culturally-rich destination experiences as well as active adventures, river cruising is the way to go! Unlike traditional ocean-going cruise ships, these small vessels can dock right in the heart of Europe’s most charming towns and legendary cities. And they’re ideal for private charter.
Avalon Waterways offers 4-, 5-, and 6-day river cruise itineraries – perfect for your time-starved attendees. And with Avalon Choice excursions and Active Discovery itineraries, there are unique destination experiences and activities to please everyone.
Want to learn more?