I spent the last week or so cruising from Amsterdam to Nuremberg, Germany with Avalon Waterways and its beautiful, 166-guest Avalon Expression.
River cruising never gets old for me; I think it’s one of the best ways to see Europe. Avalon, though, is kicking things up a notch with its new “Active Discovery” river cruises on the Rhine that focus more on soft adventure and off-the-beaten-path cultural experiences. I had the good fortune to sample some of these during my voyage.
Cruising from Amsterdam to Frankfurt (Wiesbaden) or reverse, these eight-day sailings that will debut in 2018 combine an alluring mix of big-name cities with smaller, off-the-beaten path ports of call like Rudesheim, made famous for its vineyards and its boozy “Rudesheimer Coffee.”
One of my favorite cultural excursions was a painting class in Amsterdam. My inner Van Gogh is rusty, but this wonderful tour in the city’s Jordaan district is one of many excursions Avalon offers that focus on unique experiences ashore.
In Cologne, Avalon eschews a visit the famous Dom, or cathedral, in favor of an optional guided tour of one of the city’s more up-and-coming hipster neighbourhoods. Complete with bizarre street art, interesting stores and a sampling of the city’s famous kölsch beer, it’s a great excursion for those who have visited Cologne before and are looking for something new.
Of course, if you want to get out for some soft hikes, or cycle the countryside, that’s always possible, too. Avalon’s ships offer Nordic walking sticks and complimentary bicycles for guests to use.
After seven days onboard the Avalon Expression, though, I came to realize that it really doesn’t matter which river you decide to cruise on; the real Avalon difference is felt onboard.
Almost everyone sailing on Avalon’s newest ships will sleep in a 200-square foot Panorama Suite, featuring super-comfy beds angled to face the window; itself a wall-to-wall sliding glass door that spans nearly the entire width of the room, revealing an expansive French balcony.
Unlike some river cruise ships, bathrooms in these Panorama Suites – which make up 80 percent of the accommodations onboard – were positively spacious….
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