When you think about a river cruise you might envision a small floating retirement home where everyone onboard is 80 years old and all you do is visit old churches. I know a few years ago when we took our first river cruise and I told people what we were doing they laughed and said we would be the youngest by at least 40 years onboard. Ok so a few years ago they were not too far off on that guess as most of the guests onboard our first river cruise were probably 70 and above but we still had a great time. Everything about that first river cruise was just wonderful so I thought it was a shame that most younger people were not aware of what a great vacation it could be.
Things are changing though and the river cruise lines have been doing a lot to try and attract a younger market. The main thing almost all the river lines did was to start offering shorter cruises. They realized that younger people really do not have 2 weeks to take off so they started offering 7 night sailings and there are even a few shorter itineraries. Shorter cruises also meant the pricing would be a bit lower which helps too. They still needed to do a little more to shake the image of river cruises being boring. It is true you won't find a lot of extras onboard a river cruise ship that you find on some of the ocean ships these days but a river cruise is more about the destination than the ship itself.
Avalon Waterways started offering Active and Discovery cruises where they are including some more adventurous options at some of the stops. I had already sailed Avalon on a previous cruise so I knew I liked their ships and the service they provide so I was excited to try this new Active and Discovery. We just got off the Avalon Poetry II that did an Active Discovery on the Rhone. It was a 7 night cruise from Arles to Lyon and they did a great job of offering some fun active options like biking, hiking, and kayaking. There were also some interesting Discovery options where you got to do some more in depth things like a foodie tour, wine blending, or make your own chocolate bar. Since they were offering multiple included options each day our groups for each excursion were nice and small with some only having about a dozen people. Since this was the first time they were doing these Active and Discovery things on this river there was a bit of a learning curve such as we didn't know the bike ride would be 20 miles or what Avalon called canoeing was actually kayaking but we still enjoyed it all. I am sure once they tweak it a little and are able to set the right expectation ahead of time the guests will really love all the fun options available to them. One thing I can say for sure was that I was never bored! If you want to read more about our adventure I did a short blog each day you can check out.
Here is why I love river cruising on Avalon Waterways -
- You have a nice size ship with only about 110 guests (maybe more on other lines but Avalon stays around 110).
- 3 meals a day included onboard so even if you are picky eater like me you can visit foreign countries and not have to worry if you will be able to find something you like to eat. Wine and Beer are included with meals on Avalon as well.
- An excursion at each stop is included (most times you will have more than 1 to choose from) and Avalon even takes care of tipping all of your local guides and drivers for you.
- You get to visit multiple cities or maybe even multiple countries and only have to unpack once.
- Most times you ship will be docked right in the heart of the town so you won't have far to go to explore the main sights.
- Avalon staterooms are a nice size and the balcony rooms offer a nice feature of a bed that faces the view instead of sideways. Also the balcony is part of the room so you don't lose room space like you might on some of the other lines that have the typical balcony.
- Avalon will now let you go right to the ship at whatever time you arrive on embarkation day so you can get checked in and if the rooms are not ready yet you can grab a snack and store your belongings and go explore or hang out in the lounge until the rooms are ready. The same goes for the end of the cruise if you have later flight you will have to be out of your room but you can hang on the ship or at least store your belongings onboard until it is time to go to the airport. I think this is one of the best bonuses!
- Little things as well like free wi-fi onboard, 24 hour coffee and drink station offering juices and tea and cookies, and bottled water waiting for you to take out on each adventure everyday.
If all of this sounds good to you then you really should give river cruising a try!
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