By: Hue Nguyen, CTA and Senior Travel Consultant
Avalon Waterways introduced a new itinerary called “Active Discovery” that I knew I wanted to partake as my first river cruise. This type of itinerary offers the action-packed adventures and interactive discoveries which allows all kind of explorers to choose their own Avalon excursions. I decided to explore the Rhine River on an 8-day Active Discovery from Mainz to Amsterdam.
Upon arrival at the Frankfurt airport, an Avalon representative warmly greeted and escorted me to a Mercedes motor coach to transfer to Mainz, where the Avalon Felicity ship was beautifully docked.
The very first thing I noticed upon boarding was the high level of customer service the crew puts forth. Be prepared to smile and be greeted to all the time.
I checked into the Deluxe French Balcony Stateroom on the Sapphire Deck that had a private river view with a floor to ceiling sliding glass door.
After getting situated, I excitedly explored around the Avalon Felicity and its amenities like a treasure hunter.
My first adventure started off early the next day in Eltville. I opted for the excursion to see the 12th century old Kloster Eberbach Monastery that was featured in Name of the Rose, a historical murder mystery movie. This simple monastery is no longer active; however, the church door is still open with the mystical and peaceful ambiance.
They were also known for wine making and still have the collections of the old manual wine presses that I have never seen before.
Avalon Felicity ship started to sail in the afternoon along the river banks to Rüdesheim. We had a surprise private invitation that night at the Rheinstein Castle.
The calories consumed from our dinner were burned off by the 10 minutes incline hike to the historic castle which is 270 feet above the Rhine River. Every step was worth it because the scenic night view from above was jaw dropping!
The following morning, we cruised through the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was one of the highlights of my river cruise trip.
I lounged on Avalon’s exclusive Comfort Collection bed, and enjoyed the fresh open-air views while the ship sailed down the river pasting enchanting castles and towns perked high along the river banks before docking in Boppard.
I decided to take on another steep hiking excursion to the Marksburg Castle which happened to be the only castle that was not destroyed, and its structure has been preserved over the years.
The view of the Rhine Valley was gorgeous once we made it to the top of the castle. Our energy was refueled by tasting a variety of German wursts (sausages) with Hefeweizen (beer) at the castle.
Next up was Cologne, the ship docked in the beautiful city center.
This was one of my favorite river cruise ports. The buildings and cathedrals were breathtaking while the city square was a great hangout place. I opted for the Off the Beaten Path excursion where a local guide took us on a stroll to the non-tourist sections of the Belgian Quarter. We also tasted the famous Kölsch beer at Päffgen Kölsch.
Our visit ended at the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, one of world’s tallest churches. We were awed by the Gothic style Cathedral and the sound of church bells.
The following day, the 15 miles country-side bike ride excursion in Xanten was an awesome experience.
I have not ridden a bicycle since I was a kid, and luckily, I did not need training wheels to ride the bike! The scenery of the countryside was spectacular, and the weather was just perfect for such outdoor activity.
Our last destination was Amsterdam, the fascinating and bustling capital of Netherlands.
One interesting fact about Amsterdam is it has more bicycles than automobiles. I went on a canal cruise tour in Amsterdam, which was a fun way to explore the city on water.
Afterward, I took advantage of time remaining in the day by walking around the town like a lost tourist with Dutch French fries and Fritessau in my hand. Their famous fries are a must try when you visit Amsterdam!
A perfect vacation always has good food and drinks to indulge. Avalon Waterways provided mouthwatering buffet-style breakfast and lunch with a wide variety of food selections, and a creative four-course dinners menu. The ingredients were locally sourced, and the food was deliciously prepared. Beers and wines were also served, and the waiters were very eager to make sure that our glasses never went empty.
Sadly, my first river cruising was ending, and a very early flight departure would miss the 7am breakfast buffet! The chef was very thoughtful and packed us breakfast in case our stomachs start to rumble for more food. In addition, Avalon’s departure process was very well organized and coordinated. It made a lasting impression of Avalon Waterways going above and beyond, which indeed shows how “Avalon Difference is in the Details”.
Avalon’s Active Discovery on the Rhine River was a wonderful adventure, and best of all, I was stuffed like a turkey, but I did not leave looking like one! I would strongly recommend this type of river cruise for anyone looking for new discoveries beyond the shore.
CTA and Senior Travel Consultant
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