By: Allyson Humber, Senior Certified Travel Associate
I recently had the pleasure of participating in the Christening cruise of Avalon Waterways’ newest Suite Ship, PASSION.
Our group of agents and industry professionals met in Vienna on Saturday, April 9th at the Intercontinental Hotel to begin our tour which included a performance by the Lippizan stallions and a private tour of the stables at the Spanish Riding School. The performance hall is magnificent and we enjoyed watching the horses perform various routines showcasing their various talents. The Lippizans are born black and turn white with age, and those that retain their black coats are considered lucky charms. The performance was magical and I highly recommend anyone visiting Vienna to include this in your tour plans.
We then transferred to our home for the next 7 days, the AVALON PASSION, newest of their Suite Ships. This ship will be sailing various itineraries starting in April 2016.
I was booked in Category A, Cabin 209 on the Sapphire Deck, which had a French Balcony door that opened the full width of the cabin. Avalon’s Suite Ships now have their beds facing the panoramic windows so you can relax in bed while watching the river go by!
This was my first time sailing with Avalon and I was not disappointed. The cabin was well appointed with Avalon’s Comfort Collection Beds, premium L’Occitane bath products, large bathroom with glass shower doors, flatscreen satellite TV with movie channels, spacious closets, in-room safe and mini bar.
The ship sports an elegant, contemporary design with comfortable chairs and couches in their Panorama and Club lounges. Other features include an elevator, hair salon, fitness center, whirlpool and library. Outside, clients will find the Sky Deck which contains premium lounge chairs with shade awnings, and the Outside Viewing Deck in front of the Panorama Lounge/Bistro.
Meals are served in the Dining Room which has tables of 4, 6 and 8. Dining options include buffet breakfast and lunch, as well as four course dinners with choice of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts or cheese. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner in the main dining room.
Light lunch and dinner options are served in the Panorama Bistro, which also serves as the setting for Avalon’s Panorama Bistro Dinner. This intimate dining option will seating for 28 featuring petite portions of regional specialties, with wine and beer (free of charge, reservations required).
Avalon has self-serve beverage stations with complimentary tea, hot chocolate and premium coffees available 24/7 in the Panorama and Club Lounges. HINT – check the Club Lounge for cookies, pastries and donuts throughout the day.
All staff members onboard the Passion were exceptional. Our Cruise Director, Sabine, was a wealth of information and kept us on track throughout the cruise. Daily briefings were held each evening before dinner to review the next day’s itinerary and timings.
The Dining Room staff handled any request with ease and our Cabin Steward, Joni, kept the cabin in pristine condition. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and “hello” no matter how many times we passed each other in the hallway. The local guides were very knowledgeable about their local areas and all motorcoaches and drivers were excellent.
Avalon is introducing their new ACTIVE DISCOVERY ON THE DANUBE itinerary for 2017 which includes opportunities to hike, bike, jog and canoe as you enjoy the comforts of river cruising, and we were able to sample some of the new offerings during our time onboard.
After lunch on the ship in Vienna we were offered a choice of excursions including:
- Vienna Biking and Polaroid Tour was a 3 hour biking tour seeing the highlights of Vienna.
- Culinary DNA of Austria participants visited the famous “Naschmarkt” known by the locals for its luscious fruits and vegetables.
Anyone not wishing to participate in an excursion could relax onboard until dinner.
At 6pm we met for our Safety Exercise, followed by the Captain’s Reception and dinner, then it was off to bed.
Sunday, April 10th: After breakfast onboard we enjoyed a free day in Vienna with several sightseeing options including:
- Hundertwasserhaus and cooking class for strudel baking
- Visit to the Fine Arts Museum of Vienna
- Sisy Chapel and Hike among the Viennese vineyards for a breath-taking view of Vienna
We all met in the early afternoon at a local Heurigen for a typical lunch of Viennese cuisine and local music. Afterwards we transferred back to the ship for a relaxing afternoon, followed by dinner onboard. After dinner we set sail for Durnstein.
Sailing along the Wachau Valley
Monday, April 11th: After breakfast onboard we enjoyed a short tour of Durnstein, either on foot or by choo-choo train. After returning to the ship we began to sail down the Wachau Valley. Several agents chose to participate in the Biking in the Wachau Valley excursion and rode bikes from Durnstein to Aggsbach (2.5 hrs) as the ship sailed alongside. They rejoined the ship in time for lunch and a relaxing afternoon was spent sailing down the picturesque Wachau Valley.
We had an early dinner onboard and at 7pm docked in Grein where we enjoyed a walking tour of the city, followed by a visit to the Stadt Theatre, the oldest theatre in Austria which dates back to 1790. From there we walked up to Palace Greinburg for a visit and welcome by the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. After time to explore various rooms of the palace we took the short stroll back to the ship for overnight.
St. Florian’s Boys Choir
Tuesday, April 12th: As we enjoyed breakfast the ship arrived in Enns. We departed by bus for a walking tour of Enns, followed by a guided tour of St. Florian’s Monastery. After touring the monastery, with it’s incredible chapels and library, we were treated to a short concert by the St. Florian Boys Choir. Their magical voices filled the air with the music of angels and brought a few of us to tears.
We headed back to the ship for lunch and a short sail to Linz where we would be docked for the next 2 nights, in preparation for the christening ceremonies. On arrival into Linz a variety of activities were offered for the afternoon including:
- A visit to ARS Electronica Center to enjoy the museum of the future
- Hiking and Honey Tasting in Linz
- Linz City Walk
- Ride on Europe’s steepest adhesion railway to Postlingberg mountain for splendid views of Linz
After an early dinner onboard we split off for our evening excursions which included:
- Special performance at the “Brucknerhaus” concert hall by the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra
- A visit to Musiktheatre for a performance of Into the Woods
- Linz Pub Crawl (by far the most popular option!)
Everyone was back on board by 10pm for late night snacks and overnight.
Wednesday, April 13th: After breakfast we departed by motorcoach for Cesky Krumlov, the Jewel of Bohemia. We enjoyed a walk around this UNESCO world heritage city, including visits to the State Castle and Baroque Theatre. After lunch we had free time on our own to explore this charming city with many stores and coffee shops before heading back to prepare for the Christening ceremonies.
After dressing in our finest we made our way to the Panorama Lounge for the presentation of the official ship documents to our Captain, and introduction of the ship’s Godmother – Jill Ellis, Head Coach of the US Women’s Soccer Team.
Everyone headed outside to watch the official ship christening with the crack of a bottle of champagne against her bow, after which all the ships docked nearby welcomed PASSION with toots of their horns. A local band was playing dockside and many locals had gathered on the slopes of the nearby park to watch the festivities.
We then went back inside for our Christening Gala Dinner, during which time the ship sailed up and down the river. Before returning to our dock in Linz we stopped in the middle of the river for a spectacular fireworks display in celebration and welcome of the Avalon PASSION.
The spirit of celebration filled the ship until late into the night and a good time was had by all.
Thursday, April 14th: The ship departed Linz at 6am sailing to Aschach where we docked briefly at 9am to drop off passengers wishing to participate in the Schlogener Schlinge Walking tour from Aschach to Schlogen (approximately 3 hours). We then continued our relaxing sail on the Danube Loop of Upper Austria. At noon we docked to retrieve the walkers and continued our sail to Engelhartszell, enjoying lunch on board along the way.
We arrived into Engelhartszell at 2pm and were welcomed by a lovely banner made by the local school children, as well as local refreshments and entertainment. We then set off for a short walk to the Trappist Monastery where we toured the church, visited the Acquarium and finished with a beer tasting.
We returned to the ship for our disembarkation briefing, followed by dinner and the realization that our vacation was coming to an end and suitcases had to be packed for the early morning departure.
Friday, April 15th: Suitcases were outside the door for pickup at 4.45am and I enjoyed a light breakfast before departing Linz at 5.15am for our transfer to Munich airport for the flight back to Houston.
Avalon offers a variety of cruises in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, ranging from 8 to 20+ days, as well as special interest itineraries including:
- Active Discovery (coming in 2017)
- Art & Impressionist
- Beer Tasting
- Christmas Markets
- European History & Politics
- House of Hapsburg History
- Jewish Heritage
- WWI History
- WWII History
With the introduction of the Active Discovery itineraries for 2017, Avalon has something for everyone.