European River Cruise Reviews: Avalon’s “Canals, Vineyards & Paris” Cruise
CruiseExperts.com’s Jen Brisco Reviews Her Experience on Avalon Waterways European River Cruise, “Canals, Vineyards & Paris”
Recently my husband, Ron, and I had the opportunity to lead one of our CruiseExperts.com groups on an Avalon Waterways European river cruise, “Canals, Vineyards & Paris”. The cruise began with several days in Paris, after which we hopped onboard the Avalon Visionary and made our way up the Moselle and Rhine Rivers, disembarking in Amsterdam. If you’re perusing European river cruise reviews, definitely keep reading – we had SUCH a good time!
Here are the highlights of our trip:
Day 1 – Paris
We arrived in Paris around noon, and once we freshened up in our room at the beautiful Marriott Opera Ambassador, we set out to explore the city. Food was pretty high on the priority list, so we found a nice little café that the concierge had recommended. Always follow the concierge advice, if you want authentic cuisine. But don’t expect the wait staff to cater to your American questions. “What do you think I should order?” doesn’t fly over here. Just pick something and go with it. I really enjoyed the French onion soup and Ron loved his veal. Lots more walking (it’s what we do) eventually brought us back to the hotel in time to meet our Avalon cruise director, Bart, for the instructions on the city sightseeing tour the next day.
Day 2 – Paris
The City Highlights tour was a great way to get an overview of Paris, get to know some of the other guests on the tour/cruise, and scope out what we wanted to do with our free time in the afternoon. Our Globus guide was incredibly informative, while still managing to keep us all laughing at his crazy sense of humor. Even though we loved our views of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, and the Arc de Triomphe while on the tour, we chose to spend our afternoon in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower. We ended our day with dinner at La Closerie des Lilas. Burgundy Snails in garlic butter and Millefeuille (French Napoleon pastry) were the big hits.
The Croque Madame is a “must try” menu pick. I loved it. And French fries served with mayo in a cup in Paris? Yes, please.
Day 3-Paris, Luxembourg
We had a delightful excursion to Montmarte (the only hill in Paris) this morning. We saw the famous Sacre Couer Church, and strolled the quaint little streets filled with artists and cafes.
In the afternoon we boarded the high-speed train to Luxembourg City. I’m always up for a good train ride, and the countryside scenery was beautiful. We arrived in Luxembourg City in the evening and boarded the classy Avalon Visionary.
The atmosphere was celebratory! Champagne was flowing as we mingled with the crew and our fellow travelers, and got the keys to our cabins. My group of 28 was ready to celebrate!
Day 4 – Luxembourg
What a treat to be able to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery, not on the original itinerary but arranged for us because of a holiday closure. This hidden gem was so meaningful to us as Americans who quite possibly had relatives that fought in the Battle of the Bulge. This is General Patton’s burial place and is worth the time to visit.
Later, we joined a local tour guide on a city tour of Luxembourg. The streets were quiet because it was a holiday, but beautifully kept and clean. The view above the valley of the Alzette and Petrusse Rivers was astounding! It did take me a while to realize the guide was talking about the beautiful valley below our vantage point, because she kept talking about the “wellies.” I love the differences between accents!
Back on the river, we spent several hours in our panorama suite. The beautiful weather made it ideal for opening the sliding glass door and making our room into an oversized balcony. Wow. I can’t say enough about the Avalon floor to ceiling, wall to wall window with its panoramic view. Worth every penny….
When I got bored I made my way to the front of the boat, and unfortunately, just missed the opportunity to be on the top deck when we went under a very low bridge. I could hear the guests above me exclaiming loudly, and later discovered there was less than 1 foot clearance. Exciting! Obviously, that involved some skill and planning, and I was happy to be with an experienced captain.
Day 5 – Bernkastel, Germany
Avalon always offers included excursions nearly every morning of the cruise, so off we went again this morning to explore Bernkastel with our small group and local tour guide. Thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the story of Bernkastel’s cute half-timbered houses, why they were built “top-heavy” (had to do with avoiding taxes) and seeing the high-water flood marks on the walls. Ron and I really wanted to climb to the top of the local “hill” where an old castle beckoned, and the views looked promising. We recruited the Janes (mother/daughter-in-law duo) to climb with us. The 30 minute hike did NOT disappoint!
The afternoon was spent cruising again, and we joined several of our group on the top deck. Vineyard views were amazing, and the fall colors were a bonus.
Day 6 – Cochem
Woke up to another charming and picturesque town. A bit of rain brought out the umbrellas, but only for a few hours, and the highlight of the morning was the visit to the Reichsburg Castle, way up on a vineyard covered hill. Views of the town below were foggy but beautiful.
Day 7 – Rudesheim/Rhine Gorge
Today’s treat was a visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. Sorry, no pictures, because I’m more of a scenery gal. But it was very interesting, and we followed it up with delicious Irish coffee before being set free to do some Christmas shopping. I enjoyed this much more than Ron, but he was a trooper. Got back to the boat by lunchtime, and spent a cool-ish (alright, we bundled up in hats, coats and blankets on the top deck) afternoon cruising the Rhine and making sure we glimpsed every castle there was to see. There were many….
Day 8 –Cologne
Another morning with a very knowledgeable local guide. I think our only regret was not being able to find the stairs to get to the top of the twin towered Gothic Cathedral, but it was beautiful even on the floor level.
After hearing our guide’s story about Kolsch beer (locally brewed in Cologne for over a hundred years!) and how it is served (in a “crown”) Ron and I set out to find a pub where we could immerse ourselves in the culture, and try a beer. Here’s the waiter holding the crown, and our attempt at the pub selfie.
Day 9 – Amsterdam, Holland
It was pretty cold the day before, so I bundled up really well today, anticipating our canal boat cruise through Amsterdam’s well-known and traveled canals. Canal boats are covered though, at this time of year, so I needn’t have worried. Still, the view was splendid, especially seeing the houseboats as well as stately old homes, along the grachten (new word for me, meaning canals). Following our cruise we followed our guide along the streets of Amsterdam, getting a lively commentary on all things Amsterdam. Did you know that there are 4 times as many bikes as cars in this city? Over 800,000…. And between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are fished out of the canals every year. Apparently, it’s a popular pastime to throw bikes in the waterways! Needless to say, we spent the afternoon on a biking excursion.
Day 10 – Amsterdam…. Home
It was such a pleasure for me to join a CruiseExperts.com group on this grand vacation. My clients quickly become my friends, and I love hearing their stories, and enjoying the adventures of travel with them. For me, cruises like this are about enjoying beautiful views, eating incredible food, and having fun with friends. Dinner times were exceptional with regional wines. Couple that with lively conversations with new-found friends, and it’s a win. Want to join me next time?
Check out some of our happy, satisfied clients!
Jennifer Brisco joined CruiseExperts.com in 2013 as our group tour specialist. Her fun and caring personality is the perfect fit to work with our growing family of guided group tour enthusiasts.
She loves helping people ensure their trip is an amazing experience, and works hard to make sure the details are taken care of, and makes sure any special needs are met. Her background in customer service in the hotel industry and in winery tourism helped make this transition easy and smooth. When Jen is not at work she loves to read, go for walks, enjoys the beach, and a good glass of wine.
Jennifer can be reached at (888) 804-2784 ext. 106, or Jen@CruiseExperts.com.