River Cruise on board the Crystal Mahler

Posted By : Lucy Catalanotto/ 0 0

I recently had the opportunity to experience a Crystal River Cruise on the Crystal Mahler doing a 7 night Danube cruise roundtrip from Vienna. The inaugural sailing was in the late fall of 2017 so the ship was in excellent condition. The guest capacity is 106 with a total crew of 68 which is very good ratio. Our Crystal River Cruise, like a Crystal Cruise, was all-inclusive.

The categories S5 & S4, Petite Suite are 188 sq. ft. but were plenty big enough as you don’t really spend much time in the stateroom. The categories S3, S2 & S1, Deluxe Suites are 253 sq. ft. All S category staterooms all have a panoramic window that makes into a Juliette balcony. The category CP, Crystal Penthouse is 506 sq. ft. and the CS, Crystal Suite is 759 sq. ft. These suites have suite wide panoramic balcony-windows.

When we arrived at the Crystal Mahler, we were greeted by the staff and escorted to the Palm Court Lounge where we were offered a drink. Shortly one of the staff came and did the check-in and afterwards a butler escorted us to our stateroom. Everything was so seamless. Our Butler and stateroom Attendant both came by shortly

Our stateroom (category S4) was beautifully appointed. We had a lovely walk-in closet that contained a safe, 3 drawers, plenty of hangers as well as 2 terry towel robe and 2 cotton robe and 2 pairs of slippers. There was a vanity with a chair as well as a comfortable chair and our queen bed faced the window. Our amenities included a wall mounted TV, bedside table with a convenient iPad for us to use on the cruise and an Inspresso coffee machine & a fully stocked bar and a bottle of red & white wine as well as a sparkling wine. There was also an adjustable height/extendable coffee/dining table. The washroom was quiet large with 2 sinks, toilet and a walk-in shower that had a rainforest shower head as well as a hand held showerhead. The toiletry amenities were of high quality and larger than what most cruise lines offer.

On deck 2 which is the lowest guest deck is the reception area and also a set up for coffee, tea and pastries which is available 24 hours a day. The Waterside restaurant is also located on this deck. A breakfast & lunch buffet are served in this location and in the evening an al ‘a carte menu is served. Each night there was the classic steak and chicken dinner available and then the rest of the menu changed daily with an assortment that changed each evening but always contained a fish dinner as other regional fares to choose from. Service was excellent.

On deck 3 there was a bistro which served a late risers breakfast from a menu, a limited buffet luncheon and dinner by reservations only. The dinner menu was a tapas and our waiter suggested that we order everything as it is a shared meal. My husband was so taken by how well everything was prepared and presented that he complimented the chef.

Deck 3 also contained the Palm Court lounge where nightly entertainment and special daytime activities took place. There is also a small jet pool at the aft of the ship with some lounge chairs and change rooms with a fridge stocked with bottled water and towels.

Up on Deck 4 there is a small bar that recedes into the boat when goes under low bridges, deck & lounge chairs & couches and a sun roof.

A real plus is that there is an elevator that goes only on the 2nd & 3rd floor, a small spa and exercise room.

Our Cruise Director Neal was a wonderful entertainer and knew everyone by name. Entertainment ranged from sing-alongs to an Operatic Tenor, Karaoke, Liar’s Club, a tribute to the Sound of Music, and The (Not So) Newly Wed Game. One afternoon we had a strudel demonstration put on by the head pastry chef and on the afternoon that we were in Bratislava, The Pressburger Duo played a selection of classical music and a also did a Musical Potpourri featuring unique traditional Slovakian instruments.

There is a wide range of complimentary shore excursions, but you can also purchase private excursions. We went on only the complimentary excursion and each one ran perfectly. On several of the excursions our Crystal River Cruise included additional little surprises. In Budapest when we did the Beautiful Budapest tour when we were up at the Fisherman’s Bastion they took us up the tallest of the Bastions were there was a champagne cocktail reception and 3 couples who came and danced a local folklore dance. In Bratislava we did a tour to a that included a beer tasting at a local pub were we got to sample 3 beers and each of us also received a homemade pretzel. In Krems our tour of the Old Town also included a workshop at a family run Confectioners. The demonstration was very well done and we got to sample chocolate from the most bitter down to the sweetest, as well as sample 2 different chocolate candies and a piece of their chocolate cream cake. Also included was your choice of beverages. Our evening excursion in Krems took us to a 400 year old Monastery were upon arriving there was a champagne reception and then a most wonderful concert by crossover classical violin master Barbara Helfgott. This was a Crystal River Cruise Signature Event that was beyond belief.

I have been on over 30 cruises, all on Mass Market Cruise Lines, but I must say that this was a very pleasant way to travel and see a part of Europe that the major cruise lines cannot take you to.

 

 

 

Cruise Review & Photos provided by
Adie Matus-Schlossberg
Independent Advisor with New Wave Travel
A division of Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

Crystal River Cruise on board the Crystal Mahler

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

I recently had the opportunity to experience a Crystal River Cruise on the Crystal Mahler doing a 7 night Danube cruise roundtrip from Vienna. The inaugural sailing was in the late fall of 2017 so the ship was in excellent condition. The guest capacity is 106 with a total crew of 68 which is very good ratio. Our Crystal River Cruise, like a Crystal Cruise, was all-inclusive.

The categories S5 & S4, Petite Suite are 188 sq. ft. but were plenty big enough as you don’t really spend much time in the stateroom. The categories S3, S2 & S1, Deluxe Suites are 253 sq. ft. All S category staterooms all have a panoramic window that makes into a Juliette balcony. The category CP, Crystal Penthouse is 506 sq. ft. and the CS, Crystal Suite is 759 sq. ft. These suites have suite wide panoramic balcony-windows.

When we arrived at the Crystal Mahler, we were greeted by the staff and escorted to the Palm Court Lounge where we were offered a drink. Shortly one of the staff came and did the check-in and afterwards a butler escorted us to our stateroom. Everything was so seamless. Our Butler and stateroom Attendant both came by shortly

Our stateroom (category S4) was beautifully appointed. We had a lovely walk-in closet that contained a safe, 3 drawers, plenty of hangers as well as 2 terry towel robe and 2 cotton robe and 2 pairs of slippers. There was a vanity with a chair as well as a comfortable chair and our queen bed faced the window. Our amenities included a wall mounted TV, bedside table with a convenient iPad for us to use on the cruise and an Inspresso coffee machine & a fully stocked bar and a bottle of red & white wine as well as a sparkling wine. There was also an adjustable height/extendable coffee/dining table. The washroom was quiet large with 2 sinks, toilet and a walk-in shower that had a rainforest shower head as well as a hand held showerhead. The toiletry amenities were of high quality and larger than what most cruise lines offer.

On deck 2 which is the lowest guest deck is the reception area and also a set up for coffee, tea and pastries which is available 24 hours a day. The Waterside restaurant is also located on this deck. A breakfast & lunch buffet are served in this location and in the evening an al ‘a carte menu is served. Each night there was the classic steak and chicken dinner available and then the rest of the menu changed daily with an assortment that changed each evening but always contained a fish dinner as other regional fares to choose from. Service was excellent.

On deck 3 there was a bistro which served a late risers breakfast from a menu, a limited buffet luncheon and dinner by reservations only. The dinner menu was a tapas and our waiter suggested that we order everything as it is a shared meal. My husband was so taken by how well everything was prepared and presented that he complimented the chef.

Deck 3 also contained the Palm Court lounge where nightly entertainment and special daytime activities took place. There is also a small jet pool at the aft of the ship with some lounge chairs and change rooms with a fridge stocked with bottled water and towels.

Up on Deck 4 there is a small bar that recedes into the boat when goes under low bridges, deck & lounge chairs & couches and a sun roof.

A real plus is that there is an elevator that goes only on the 2nd & 3rd floor, a small spa and exercise room.

Our Cruise Director Neal was a wonderful entertainer and knew everyone by name. Entertainment ranged from sing-alongs to an Operatic Tenor, Karaoke, Liar’s Club, a tribute to the Sound of Music, and The (Not So) Newly Wed Game. One afternoon we had a strudel demonstration put on by the head pastry chef and on the afternoon that we were in Bratislava, The Pressburger Duo played a selection of classical music and a also did a Musical Potpourri featuring unique traditional Slovakian instruments.

There is a wide range of complimentary shore excursions, but you can also purchase private excursions. We went on only the complimentary excursion and each one ran perfectly. On several of the excursions our Crystal River Cruise included additional little surprises. In Budapest when we did the Beautiful Budapest tour when we were up at the Fisherman’s Bastion they took us up the tallest of the Bastions were there was a champagne cocktail reception and 3 couples who came and danced a local folklore dance. In Bratislava we did a tour to a that included a beer tasting at a local pub were we got to sample 3 beers and each of us also received a homemade pretzel. In Krems our tour of the Old Town also included a workshop at a family run Confectioners. The demonstration was very well done and we got to sample chocolate from the most bitter down to the sweetest, as well as sample 2 different chocolate candies and a piece of their chocolate cream cake. Also included was your choice of beverages. Our evening excursion in Krems took us to a 400 year old Monastery were upon arriving there was a champagne reception and then a most wonderful concert by crossover classical violin master Barbara Helfgott. This was a Crystal River Cruise Signature Event that was beyond belief.

I have been on over 30 cruises, all on Mass Market Cruise Lines, but I must say that this was a very pleasant way to travel and see a part of Europe that the major cruise lines cannot take you to.

 

 

 

Cruise Review & Photos provided by
Adie Matus-Schlossberg
Independent Advisor with New Wave Travel
A division of Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

Crystal Ravel Joins Crystal River Cruises Fleet

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 943 0

The new luxury ship will set sail on European rivers next month

MIAMI, April 12, 2018 – The fifth luxury vessel for Crystal River Cruises, the World’s Most Luxurious River Cruise Line™, was officially handed over to the company today in Wismar, Germany. Crystal president and CEO, Tom Wolber, took the “keys” to Crystal Ravel, welcoming the ship to the award-winning fleet ahead of its maiden voyage next month.

The handover ceremony for Crystal Ravel took place at MV WERFTEN shipyard, where each of her predecessors were built. Joining Wolber were Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman and CEO of Crystal’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong (GHK), Colin Au, group president of GHK, and Jarmo Laasko, Managing Director of MV WERFTEN. They were joined by the ambassador of Malaysia, Sarah Nava Rani Al Bakri Devadason, who attended as the guest of honor.

“We are thrilled to welcome Crystal Ravel to the fleet, which will further expand the many choices our guests have for experiencing luxury on the rivers of Europe,” Wolber said. “Since launching Crystal River Cruises two years ago, our ships and their dedicated staff and crew have consistently raised the bar of excellence in the industry. Once again, I thank the experts at MV WERFTEN for their continued partnership and for sharing our commitment to building and delivering award-winning vessels.”

“Crystal Ravel is the fourth river cruise ship that was built at our shipyard – a ship that combines comfort and elegance with the highest standards in safety and navigation,” said Jarmo Laakso, Managing Director of MV WERFTEN. “Within eight months we were able to deliver four river ships to Crystal River Cruises. I would like to thank all of MV WERFTEN’s employees, our partners and the Crystal team for this achievement.”

Crystal launched its Crystal River Cruises experiences in 2016 with Crystal Mozart and was quickly voted “Best River Cruise Line” by the readers of Travel + Leisure in the magazine’s 2017 World’s Best Awards after only one year in operation. The new ships comprise the first and only all-suite, all-balcony, all-butler ships on Europe’s rivers, boasting all categories of accommodations above the water line.

Crystal Ravel joins Crystal River Cruises approximately one month after her sister ship, Crystal Debussy, was received by the company at the shipyard. Crystal Debussy embarked on her maiden voyage last week on April 9 from Amsterdam.

Crystal Ravel embarks on May 10 from Basel to Vienna, and sails itineraries along the Rhine, Danube, Main and Moselle rivers visiting medieval towns and cosmopolitan hubs in Austria, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia. Like her newly built sister ships Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Debussy, the 106-guest Crystal Ravel offers Crystal’s acclaimed butler service in every room category, king-sized beds, Panoramic Balcony-Windows™, walk-in closets and dual vanity in the bathrooms in most categories, ETRO robes and slippers, and wall-mounted flat-screen HD TVs.

Additional enticing features include farm-to-table cuisine in multiple, open-seating eateries: the elegant Waterside Restaurant, namesake Bistro cafés and the exclusive Vintage Room; and the Palm Court for entertainment, enrichment presentations and sweeping views of the countryside.

As with all Crystal River Cruises voyages, more than 200 inclusive shore-side adventures enhance the journey. Each river itinerary also feature inclusive Signature Events – special events that offer rare access and musical performances in iconic landmarks including Vienna’s Belvedere Palace, Linz’s St. Florian Monastery, Rüdesheim’s Monastery Eberbach, and others.

To ensure that every detail of each experience is in line with Crystal’s exacting standards of service, excursion group sizes are limited to no more than 15 guests; for larger groups, guides are available to lead the tours in German, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages upon request. Crystal Collection shore excursions offer guest transport to iconic sites and regions via spacious motor coaches that include free WiFi.

New 2018 ‘Crystal Getaways’ Set For Crystal River Cruises

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 1103 0

MIAMI, April 3, 2018 – Crystal River Cruises, the World’s Most Luxurious River Cruise Line™, is unveiling more than two dozen new Crystal Getaways for three of its river ships, sailing between May and November of this year. The new collection of Getaways for the all-suite, all-balcony, all-butler Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel feature multiple over nights in regal cities on six- to nine-day voyages.

“Crystal River Cruises’ hallmark is offering innovative itineraries that explore new places and longtime favorites catering to our guests’ own distinct style and length of exploration,” says Walter Littlejohn, vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises. “These new Getaways, along with the full complement of voyages across the fleet, will feature the personalized service, culinary experiences, expansive all-suite design and other fine details only found with Crystal.”

The new itineraries sail along the Danube and Rhine rivers, with calls in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands. Guests can explore medieval fortresses and cathedrals, cobbled alleyways of charming riverside town squares, centuries of art and musical heritage, and the contrasting cosmopolitan hubs of modern society that border Europe’s waterways – all while enjoying Crystal River Cruises’ award-winning standard of luxury and service. The Crystal Getaways include:

Crystal Bach

– Romantic Rhine, 7 days (sailing between Amsterdam and Mainz) – Amsterdam, Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; Nijmegen, Netherlands; Cologne, Cochem, Koblenz, Rudesheim and Mainz, Germany.

– Rhine Serenade, 7 days (sailing between Mainz and Frankfurt) – Mainz, Speyer, Kehl (Strasbourg) and Breisach, Germany; Basel, Switzerland; and Frankfurt, Germany.

 
Crystal Mahler

– Delightful Danube, 7 days (sailing between Regensburg and Budapest) – Regensburg and Passau, Germany; Melk, Dürnstein and Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Budapest, Hungary

– European Escape, 9 days (sailing between Amsterdam and Regensburg) – Amsterdam, Netherlands; Cologne, Miltenberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg and Regensburg, Germany

 
Crystal Ravel

– European Treasures, 8 days (sailing between Nuremburg and Basel) – Nuremberg, Bamberg, Würzburg, Miltenberg, Koblenz, Speyer and Kehl (Strasbourg), Germany; and Basel, Switzerland (Mannheim, and Wertheim also featured on eastbound route only).

– Danube Getaway, 6 days (between Vienna and Nuremberg) – Vienna, Dürnstein, Melk and Linz, Austria; Passau, Regensburg and Nuremburg, Germany (Krems, Austria featured on southbound route only).

In addition to these new Getaways, Crystal Bach will sail three previously announced Getaways to the Netherlands and Belgium, highlighting the spectacular tulips and high season of the region in April and May.

As with all Crystal River Cruises voyages, a collection of more than 200 inclusive shore-side adventures enhance the journey. To ensure that every detail of each experience is in line with Crystal’s exacting standards of service, excursion group sizes are limited to no more than 15 guests; for larger groups, guides are available to lead the tours in German, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages upon request. Crystal Collection shore excursions offer guest transport to iconic sites and regions via spacious motor coaches that include free WiFi.

Crystal’s new river vessels are the river cruising industry’s first and only all-balcony, all-suite, all-butler vessels in Europe, with every category of accommodation perched above the waterline. They offer Crystal’s acclaimed butler service in every room category, king-sized beds, Panoramic Balcony-Windows™, walk-in closets and dual vanity in the bathrooms in most categories, ETRO robes and slippers, and wall-mounted flat-screen HD TVs. Additional enticing features include farm-to-table cuisine in multiple, open-seating eateries: the elegant Waterside Restaurant, namesake Bistro cafés and the exclusive Vintage Room; and the Palm Court for entertainment, enrichment presentations and sweeping views of the countryside.

Crystal will welcome Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel to the fleet this month and next, respectively, joining sister ships Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler and the line’s first river ship, Crystal Mozart.

AmaLea Lounge photo

AmaLea Sets Sail on Maiden Voyage

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 1002 0

AmaWaterways’ Newest Ship Departs on Tulip Time Inaugural Cruise

Calabasas, CA – (Mar. 27, 2018) – AmaWaterways is excited to announce its newest ship, the 156-passenger AmaLea, set sail this week on her inaugural Tulip Time voyage. The ship embarked on her first journey from Amsterdam and is currently sailing along the colorful canals of the Dutch and Belgian Waterways, returning to Amsterdam on April 1. AmaLea will begin her Danube itineraries starting May 6 with an official christening ceremony – led by AmaLea’s godmother and respected travel industry executive, Filomena Andre, taking place on May 26 in Vilshofen, Germany.

“We are thrilled to see AmaLea welcoming her first guests to enjoy her luxurious features, modern and spacious design and impeccable service as they sail an unforgettable Tulip Time cruise,” said Rudi Schreiner, president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. “I am confident our guests will appreciate the warm, pastel colors of the interior decor that marry so beautifully with the blooming tulip fields around them.”

Sister ship to the award-winning AmaKristina, AmaStella and AmaViola, AmaLea also features connecting and triple occupancy staterooms that are perfect for the growing multi-generational travel group markets. The ship will also feature AmaWaterways’ unique signature twin-balcony in most staterooms – offering breathtaking views of the European scenery.

Additional amenities include a daily “Sip & Sail” complimentary cocktail hour (new for 2018); a heated sun deck pool with swim-up bar; hair and massage salons; a well-equipped fitness center; complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the ship; a fleet of bicycles carried on board for guests to use complimentary. In addition to the stunning Main Lounge providing an exhilarating backdrop for guests to meet throughout the day and enjoy nightly entertainment, the ship also offers multiple dining venues, including The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant with its wine-paired tasting menu.

AmaLea will sail six Tulip Time cruises before embarking on seven-night cruises on the Danube River between Vilshofen and Budapest, two of which are themed Wine Cruises hosted by Amelia Ceja, president of Ceja Vineyards Napa, CA and Frederick Frank, president of Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, Finger Lakes Region, NY and take place in November. AmaLea will close out her inaugural 2018 season with four awe-inspiring Christmas Markets Cruises on the Danube.

ACTION AT THE HELM … Avalon Waterways adds “Adventure Host” to ALL 2019 Europe sailings

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 938 0

March 12, 2018: On the heels of announcing Active Discovery itineraries on the Rhine, Danube and Rhône Rivers, as well as a new Avalon Choice program featuring included “Classic,” “Discovery” and “Active” excursions on each and every itinerary throughout Europe in 2019, Avalon Waterways is also announcing plans to add an Avalon Adventure Host, based in a new Adventure Center, to all 2019 European cruises.

“The river cruise demographic is changing and we’re seeing more active passengers who want to keep up their fitness regime when on vacation – or maybe even discover a new activity,” says Stéphanie Bishop of Avalon’s Canadian office.

With help from their Avalon Adventure Host, travellers can check out a bike (from onboard their Suite Ship) for a scenic ride through town. They can grab Nordic walking sticks and hike to a hillside vineyard or castle – complete with a picnic provided by the culinary team. Whether cruisers are looking for a kayaking excursion on the river or want to participate in a complimentary fitness class on the Sky Deck, Avalon’s new Adventure Host will make it happen.

Also, in 2019, the company’s new AvalonGo App will help travellers independently explore each destination throughout their vacation with a detailed, daily schedule of their itinerary, a list of nearby attractions (with hours of operation, historical facts and more), maps, directions as well as local cafés, restaurants, bars and entertainment options for further exploration.

SEE BEYOND SALES EVENT: Canadians booking a 2019 cruise by April 24 this year can save up to $3,000 Cdn per couple OR waive the supplement on select Avalon European cruises.

Jann Arden to host European River Cruise

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 1308 0

Award-winning Canadian entertainer to set sail from Budapest to Prague with Avalon Waterways

Fans of Jann Arden have a treat in store: next year she will be hosting a special sailing of Avalon Waterways’ Blue Danube Discovery cruise departing June 18, 2019. As well as mingling with passengers, Arden will perform a private concert on board and participate in a photo op and CD signing.

Arden, who acted as Godmother of the ship Avalon Tranquility II in 2015 and hosted another cruise in 2017, is a fan of Avalon Waterways and says she’s very much looking forward to sailing with them again in the company of new friends.

The 12-day vacation starts with a two night stay in the Hungarian capital Budapest before embarkation and sailing onto Vienna, followed by the fairytale castles of Dürnstein, Austria and Germany’s baroque charms in Passau, Regensburg and Roth before disembarking in Prague, Czech Republic for a two night stay.

As well as shore excursions and the use of bikes and Nordic walking poles ashore, guests will enjoy three delicious meals daily (including regional wines and beer with lunch and dinner), nightly light entertainment and talks – and, of course, as Jann’s own concert. The cruise will be on board the 168-passenger Avalon Envision, which will be launched in 2019. The majority of accommodation is in the company’s signature Panorama suites: 200 square foot staterooms featuring marble bathrooms, wall-to-wall windows which open over two meters wide, and window-facing beds – perfect for taking in the views of medieval towns and vineyards as you sail leisurely past.

The vacation is priced from $5,153 Cdn (excluding airfare) but travellers can save up to $300 per person if they book early. Guests are also welcome to extend their stay in Europe before or after the cruise with a variety of hotel and touring packages offered by Avalon Waterways.

 

 

ABOUT AVALON WATERWAYS
Since we launched our very first ship in 2004, Avalon Waterways has invited you – our traveller – to be our muse. Thanks to you, we let imagination and a relentless desire to create a smart use of space, be our guide. The result? An incomparable river cruise experience, including one-of-a-kind Panorama Suites℠ – with innovative Open-Air Balconies® and beds facing the views – on the industry’s only Suite Ships®: Unequalled vessels that feature two full decks of 200- and 300-square-foot suites.

On the spectacular ships of Avalon, “included” is one of our favourite words. Spacious outside staterooms with plenty of room to relax – included. Special touches like regional wines and beer at every onboard lunch and dinner – included. Complimentary Wi-Fi – included. The most shore excursions, led by Certified Local Guides – included. VIP entrance into must-see sites – included. Unique Local FavoritesSM designed to bring your destination to life – included. In addition to everything that is included, we also give you the freedom of Avalon Choice® – a different approach to river cruising that invites travellers to personalize their trip.

Whether looking for a romantic mini-break, an in-depth 24-day exploration or something in between, with Avalon Waterways, you can choose the river cruise that reveals the very best of Europe, Asia, or South America– your way!

AmaWaterways – Danube Christmas Markets Cruise

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

My niece and I were so excited to take our first ever cruise and to go on a river cruise was a great way to experience Europe in a way we never thought we would.  Especially during the holiday season and visiting the Christmas Markets.

 

We flew from Toronto to Budapest (with KLM) with a connection in Amsterdam.  On the way home we flew from Nuremberg to Toronto (with KLM) also with a connection in Amsterdam.  Surprisingly there were quite a few storms within Europe so we were glad we decided to fly a day earlier since you never know what could happen!

 

HOTEL

We spent one night at the Hilton Budapest City, which is centrally located, close to the train station, restaurants and shops as well as above West End City Centre Shopping Centre.

The rooms are large and clean.  All rooms, the lounge and restaurants have complimentary WiFi.  Modern fitness facility available.  Upon check in we purchased a package that included buffet breakfast.  Buffet had a wide selection of items i.e. cereal, croissants, Danishes, sausages, cold cuts and fruits.  Coffee, tea and juices readily available.

Front desk and hotel staff were friendly and efficient and they all spoke English.

The cab ride from the airport to the hotel took about 35 mins and cost approximately EUR40.  The cab ride from the hotel to the dock was approximately 15 mins drive cost EUR25.

 

CRUISE 
Finally the day arrived and we travel by cab to the dock to board AMA Serena which will be our home for the next 8 days!

The AMA Serena is a beautiful vessel and is a glow with decorations to celebrate the Christmas season.  From the minute we stepped on board we were greeted by the extremely friendly staff and crew.  We were given a glass of champagne and warm towels and were seated comfortably waiting to be checked in.  Everything went very smoothly.  There is no line up or waiting at the registration desk.  I strongly believe all check in procedures should be like this!

As a part of the check in procedure we each had a photo taken which is attached on their reservation/registration system to our room key fob.  Security and safety is key so whenever you are leaving the ship for any reason (i.e. Shore excursions) you must have your key fob scanned.  This helps the crew to know who is on board the ship at any given time (no one gets left behind! J).

 

There are 4 decks – the Sun deck with the heated pool, walking track, navigation bridge, bicycles, sun deck and lower sun deck, the Violin deck which has the reception, main lounge and piano bar and gift shop, 32 staterooms which includes 3 suites, the massage and hair salon, the Chef’s Table Restaurant, Fitness room, the Cello Deck with 33 staterooms, elevator down to the main dining room and the Piano Deck (our deck for our voyage) with 16 suites.

 

Each Stateroom had twin beds (in most cases) an en-suite bathroom, flat screen TV and keyboard (featuring various news and movie channels as well as a ship safety channel), 2 wardrobes, safe, telephone, coffee table and 2 chairs, 2 robes, hairdryer, a 110V socket as well a few more 220V sockets, and a bar fridge which is stocked with water (replenished daily).  Although the beds were small they were very comfortable. Staterooms on the Violin and Cello decks have French balconies.

Staterooms on the Piano deck (our deck for the trip) do not have French balcony but have porthole windows.

All decks are easily accessible. There is an elevator which runs from the Violin to Cello deck as well as to the Main dining room.

In the lounge you will find a bar with a piano and very comfortable couches, chairs and coffee tables throughout.  Most of us loved sitting in the lounge to mingle, read a book, while having a few drinks and looking out at the beautiful scenery.  All entertainment on board takes place in the lounge.  In the lounge daily there is a light lunch at 12 noon should you not want to eat in the dining room, tea time with tea, coffee and cakes between 4 and 5pm and at 10:30pm a light snack.

Off of the lounge there is a small library with daily news from the US and Canada depending on the guests nationality.  There were 4 Canadians (including us) and of course 2 Jamaicans (my niece and I) but no Jamaican news?!?!? J

There is also a 24 hour hot beverage area with seating off of the lounge and across from the gift shop.  Here you are able to sit and have coffee, an assortment of teas, hot chocolate, lattes, cappuccinos etc. or make a hot drink and take it to the lounge.

Whether you are seated in the lounge, library or the hot beverage area, you are able to see the various cities while cruising.

The entertainment on board consisted mostly of our pianist – Peter who was also a very good singer, or depending on the city we are visiting we had various entertainers i.e. an acapella group from Regensburg.

All meals and dessert on board were exquisite.  Breakfast and lunch were usually buffet style however you were able to order off of a menu.

The crew were very helpful and accommodating and by the 2nd day they knew each guests likes and dislikes.    They had very long hours but you would never know that they were tired as they were always full of energy and with a genuine smile.

I do feel that Riverboat cruising is quite suitable for a small group but during our cruise there was a group of American Real Estate Agents and it did tend to get quite loud in the lounge at night.

As this was my first cruise and being on a small ship made me think that this is the only way to cruise.  There is a smaller number of guests and so friendships among the guests and crew are formed very quickly.

 

 

ON SHORE

Budapest, Hungary

Our first evening was an Illuminating cruise on the Danube of Budapest’s Riverfront.  Budapest at night is quite beautiful.  We cruised along the banks and saw many illuminated buildings such as the Chain bridge, Buda Castle, Hungarian Parliament Building and Fisherman’s Bastion to name a few.  We docked for the night in Budapest.  On the second day we were taken by motor coach on a city tour of Buda as well as Pest.  We visited Heroes Square, Mathias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, the opera house and various highlights of Buda City.  We also visited the Pest side where we saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its spectacular views of Pest and Buda.  Our tour ended with our first Christmas Market visit.   That night we set sail for Austria.  Our first city to visit….Vienna.

 

Vienna, Austria

We sailed all night and woke up in Vienna, Austria.  The day began with a motor coach tour to Vienna where we drove by the opera House, the former Imperial house of the Hapsburg Emperors, Parliament, Town Hall and Vienna University.  Our tour ended in Vienna’s historic city centre where we were given a walking tour of the city, visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and other historic city landmarks.   At the end of our city tour we visited the Christmas Markets of Schönbrunn and Karlsplatz Schwedenplatz, Maria-Theresian-Platz and Rathausplatz.  After a long day we had a delightful dinner on board and sailed on to Melk.

 

Melk, Austria

On this day we arrive in Melk and were taken again by motor coach to Melk Benedictine Abbey were we are given a walking tour.

 

The abbey sits perched on a rocky hill above the quaint little village of Melk. The abbey is still to this day a functioning abbey with approximately 7 monks and schools approximately 900 co-ed students.  We were not able to take photos of the interior.  The Abbey is quite spectacular with gold frescoed ceilings and columns as well as one of the largest libraries in the world.  The view from the Abbey is quite spectacular as you are overlooking the River Danube and the village of Melk.

 

Passau & Salzburg, Austria

We sail overnight to Passau where we are taken on a 2 hour motor coach ride to Salzburg, the home of The Sound of Music, my favourite movie J! And also of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Enroute our tour guide gave us a little history of Salzburg and of course the movie.  For example at the end of the movie when the Von Trap family escapes the Germans over the mountain to Switzerland?  Well on the other side of that mountain…… is Germany! J

We arrived in Salzburg where we went on a walking tour through the historic town to the Christmas Market.  On the tour we pass Mozart’s birthplace, Mirabell Gardens (you know the place where Do Rei Me was filmed! J) and get a glimpse of Hohensalburg Fortress which overlooks the town.

 

Regensburg & Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market, Germany

We sailed overnight and arrive in Regensburg, our first Bavarian city.  Regensburg is well known for its High Gothic Cathedral and very quaint and charming cobblestone street, where we go on another walking tour of the city.  Close to the dock and next to the Stone Bridge is the oldest restaurant in Germany, Wurstkuchl (Sausage Kitchen), famous for its delicious Bavarian sausages.  Unfortunately the line-up was really long so we did not get a chance to partake is this delicious feast.

After lunch on board the ship, we are taken by motor coach (approximately 5 – 10 min drive) to the Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market.  This market is located on the grounds of the Palace Emmeram where Emperor Franz I family still resides.  The matriarch (Princess Gloria) has preserved the castle and all its surroundings and still runs the family business.  She is a collector of modern art and thus has assembled a large array of local artists and craftsmen for this very unique Christmas Market.

This was our second to last evening on board AMA Serena and so the staff and crew serenade us to say goodbye at the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail.  We were also visited by Santa Claus who has presents for all on board.

 

Roth & Nuremburg, Germany

The sailing from Regensburg to Nuremburg (with a technical stop in Roth) is mostly done during the morning.  The cruise enters the Main-Danube Canal (the European Panama Canal).  When we arrived in Nuremburg we were taken by motor coach on a city tour.   The city is famous for the Nuremburg Trials which was of a series of military tribunals held by the Allied forces under international and also laws of war after World War II.  Nuremburg was also known for its location of the Annual Nazi Rally’s. This was by far the coldest day on our trip and actually seeing the site and where Hitler stood making his speeches had us all thinking back to what it could have been like during his reign of terror.

At the end of our tour we are taken to the largest Christmas Market in the world which is in Nuremburg.  There is so much to see and so many people!

On this evening we are able to get a reservation to have dinner at the Chef’s Table Restaurant.  The meal consists of a delicious tasting menu accompanied by various wines.  Each course is described by the maître d’, and served by 2 waiters with a specific wine pairing.  Not only was the presentation beautiful but the meal and wine delicious.

 

 

Contributed by Kathy Gooden
Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

AmaWaterways River Cruise

Posted By : Kathy Wilton/ 0 0

My husband and I just took our first river cruise which was AmaWaterways, Christmas Markets.  We didn’t know what to expect but we were very pleasantly surprised!  The guests were like 1 big family, on the first night, the cruise director Nick, got everyone together and we all decorated 3 Christmas Trees while singing Christmas songs.  It was amazing how quick that all came together and the community feeling was so great.  Also to mention how AmaWaterways made us all feel every day and Santa even came to give each and every guest a gift!  We all felt extremely special.  The service was amazing and the staff was the best.  Our cruise director gave me the most incredible insight as to what a cruise director does.

We’ve traveled on many ocean cruises and now we have added river cruising to our best loved list!  Add it to your Bucket List!

Avalon Waterways scores Best Stateroom award – again

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 1071 0

December 13, 2017 – Stéphanie Bishop, managing director for the Globus family of brands in Canada, is delighted to announce that for the third consecutive year its river cruise brand, Avalon Waterways, has been awarded the coveted Best River Cruise Cabin award with Cruise Critic, the influential website. In announcing the Editors’ Picks award, Cruise Critic remarked “River cruise cabins come in many iterations. But we’re hard-pressed to find one better than Avalon’s signature Panoramic Suite.”

“This is a huge honour for us, and clearly shows that these Suites are an enormous hit with our passengers,” says Bishop of the cruise line’s innovative, 200 square feet staterooms. Each Panorama Suite features an entire window wall which opens over two meters to bring in the sights and sounds of Europe. “The other truly innovative aspect of the Suites, which make up the vast majority of our staterooms, is that the beds face the windows, and guests love lying back and watching medieval towns and ancient vineyards glide by.”

 

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Media Contact: Martha Chapman for the Globus family of brands (416) 614 2845

ABOUT AVALON WATERWAYS
Since we launched our very first ship in 2004, Avalon Waterways has invited you – our traveller – to be our muse. Thanks to you, we let imagination and a relentless desire to create a smart use of space, be our guide. The result? An incomparable river cruise experience, including one-of-a-kind Panorama Suites℠ – with innovative Open-Air BalconiesSM and beds facing the views – on the industry’s only Suite Ships®: Unequaled vessels that feature two full decks of 200- and 300-square-foot suites which have for three consecutive years been named the Best River Cruise Stateroom by the famed website www.CruiseCritic.com
On the spectacular ships of Avalon, “included” is one of our favourite words. Spacious outside staterooms with plenty of room to relax – included.

Special touches like regional wines and beer at every onboard dinner – included. Complimentary Wi-Fi – included. The most shore excursions, led by Certified Local Guides – included. VIP entrance into mustsee sites – included. Unique Local FavoritesSM designed to bring your destination to life – included. In addition to everything that is included, we also give you the freedom of Avalon Choice® – a different approach to river cruising that invites travellers to personalize their trip.

Whether looking for a romantic mini-break, an in-depth 24-day exploration or something in between, with Avalon Waterways, you can choose the river cruise that reveals the very best of Europe, Asia, or South America– your way!