What To Expect On An Avalon Waterways River Cruise

Susan has kindly put together an overview of her experience on board Avalon Waterways ship Avalon Expression.

I had a fantastic time and even though I was open to any faults that could be presented to me, I simply couldn't find any. Here's my account of the week.

Day 1-2 Avalon offers home pick-up and drop off within 75 miles of the airport and many regional departures, my chauffeur driven Mercedes arrived on time and I flew from Stansted to Amsterdam in 40 minutes. We were able to use the facilities at the nearby Movenpick hotel and walk into Amsterdam until it was time to embark the ship. There is half price happy Hour every evening in the Panorama Lounge before dinner is served in the restaurant around 7pm. I was impressed with the 200 square foot cabin and L`Occitane toiletries in the bathroom of my Panorama Suite. The bed has a memory foam topper and is very comfortable. The windows slide back two thirds of the width, so you can fully enjoy the view or you can visit the Sky deck above which has loungers and a whirlpool.

On day 2 We had a canal cruise around Amsterdam ending up at the Gassan diamond factory where we were shown how stones are cut and polished. After lunch on board the ship I took the optional tour to the pretty villages of Edam and Volendam. Edam is famous for its cheese which is eaten with different types of mustard. Volendam has many cafes and restaurants serving mussels and French fries, waffles and their speciality-eels. There was also an option to visit Anne Frank`s house and beat the queues or the Rijkmuseum. For excursions headsets are provided with personal earphones so you can hear the guide several metres away. (This is more expensive than booking Anne Frank's as a separate entrance ticket - but you are with the group and have the advantage of a tour guide.)

Day 3 - was the highlight of the trip-a visit to the Keukenhof Gardens. The flowers were spectacular and we had plenty of time to walk around the 7 inspirational gardens and climb a windmill to view the Bulbfields where there are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. In the afternoon we visited Kinderdyck which has 19 windmills that keep the water out of the polder where houses are several metres below sea level.

Day 4 We were taken to the impressive Delta Works and we walked out to one of the sluices, which are used to hold back the North Seas when the water gets too high. The afternoon was spent in the small town of Middelburg which had a small flea market and plenty of shops.

Day 5 The ship docked at Ghent for a guided tour, later there was time for an optional excursion to the medieval city of Bruges.

Day 6 Featured a walking tour of Antwerp and an optional tour of Brussels. In the evening we had booked the Panorama Bistro for a tasting of several starters, main courses and desserts paired with different wines for each course. There was also a classical concert by the trio La Strada.

Day 7 Included a walking tour of Maastricht, later our Chef Michael offered galley visits to small groups. In the evening it was time for Captain`s Farewell cocktail and a Gala Dinner which ended with our Baked Alaska being set on fire and paraded around the dining room by all the waiters. Sylvia the cruise director was so well organised and informative in her daily briefings and port talks, Captain Alex and his crew were very friendly and were quite happy for guests to visit the wheelhouse to see how the ship was manoeuvred through the many locks we passed and answer any questions.

There are 4 Tulip time cruises in April-May and although the scenery along the rivers is not as good as the Danube or Douro, the spectacular Keukenhof gardens and other excursions combined with the meals and on board, the whole experience is well worth it. Susan