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Cruise Ship Information
Avalon Waterways continues to grow with the launch of sister ships Avalon Illumination and Avalon Impression. With the smaller ship Avalon Poetry II, also launched in 2014, the beautiful Avalon Illumination, a sister to the Avalon Expression, cruises along the legendary Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers.
The 166-passenger Avalon Illumination was christened by Australian TV personality Deborah Hutton. Underscoring the importance of the Australian market to the river cruise company. After Avalon Impression and Avalon Poetry II, Avalon Illumination is the third new Avalon Waterways ship to be christened in 2014.
 
Avalon Illumination will sail on a selection of itineraries on the Seine, Rhine, Main, Rhone, Saone and Dutch waterways, which range from seven to 15 nights. Fares include guided excursions, all onboard gratuities and a complimentary door-to-door home pickup service for U.K. mainland passengers living within 75 miles of their chosen international airport or Eurostar terminal. For people who live more than 75 miles away, the service is available at a supplementary cost.
 
Avalon Illumination offering 3, 7 Night or 26 days long European Inland Waterways river cruises, such as 3 night cruise departing April 25, 2015 Schedule & Itinerary Port of Call Guide (Budapest, Hungary, Bratislava, Slovakia, Vienna, Austria) ---- And some longer cruises such as 26 Night European Inland Waterways Cruise Sailing Departing  date July 19, 2015. Cruise Schedule & Itinerary starting  from Istanbul, Turkey and (Disembarkation) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
 
Atmosphere on board 
Avalon Waterways continues to grow with the launch of sister ships Avalon Illumination and Avalon Impression. With the smaller ship Avalon Poetry II, also launched in 2014, there are now eight vessels in its European Fleet. All three incorporate Avalon's open-air balcony concept, where wall-to-wall panoramic windows open 7 feet to create a flexible living and seating space.
 
Avalon Illumination will sail on a selection of itineraries on the Seine, Rhine, Main, Rhone, Saone and Dutch waterways, which range from seven to 15 nights. Fares include guided excursions, all onboard gratuities and a complimentary door-to-door home pickup service for U.K. mainland passengers living within 75 miles of their chosen international airport or Eurostar terminal. For people who live more than 75 miles away, the service is available at a supplementary cost.
 
Many activities and tours were included in cruise price, however, there are also numerous optional excursions which you can add, most of very reasonably priced. "Port Talk" each evening with Cruise Director painted the picture of the plans for the next day, and usually a day or too after that as well.  "Cruise Director" was nothing short of brilliant, friendly, approachable, with many years of experience with Avalon/Globus - extremely knowledgeable and spoke 5 languages fluently. All the tours and excursions we undertook ran on time and were well worth the, local guides were generally very good with some of them absolutely first class, very friendly and fun to be with.
 
Food & Dining
Dining options aboard the vessel are the main restaurant on the Sapphire Deck, which operates an open-seating system, and the indoor Panorama Bistro, which serves lighter meals on the Sky Deck. In addition, lunch is served in the alfresco Sky Bistro during summer. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner.  Dining options aboard the vessel are the main restaurant on the Sapphire Deck, which operates an open-seating system, and the indoor Panorama Bistro, which serves lighter meals on the Sky Deck. In addition, lunch is served in the alfresco Sky Bistro during summer. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner. There is also a free 24-hour tea and coffee station.
 
There is also a free 24-hour tea and coffee station. Avalon Illumination has high quality all the way, our table service Wait Staff were fantastic and had great memories for what types of food and drinks we preferred. The menu varied each Lunchtime and Dinnertime, with a few standard features each day. Evening dinner usually ran to 4 courses, sometimes 5, and luncheon was usually a well stocked Buffet with some special orders available. Breakfast was another well stocked Buffet meal, with special menu orders available, as well as the usual "Egg Chef" for eggs as you desire
 
The Illumination Dining Room is with an open-seating arrangement (no table reservations needed). Dining options here include Breakfast (served /early-raiser from 6am, and buffet breakfast with complimentary sparkling wine and soft drinks, made-to-order eggs station), Lunch buffet (stations for pasta, carving meats, light fare, soups, salads, desserts, complimentary soft drinks) and 4-course Dinner (including complimentary wine/beer/soft drinks). Dining menu is based on the Avalon Illumination cruise itinerary (regional dishes) and also on classic Western recipes. Food is prepared with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Vegetarian, special diet and healthy food at the Illumination Dining Room is provided upon request (made upon booking and on embarkation day). Dining Room dress code is casual (shorts allowed, except at dinner).
 
Choose from a delicious variety of cuisine at the buffet breakfast and lunches at this elegant yet relaxed-atmosphere restaurant. Lunch buffet includes a pasta station, carving station, soups, salads and light fare. At dinner guests will enjoy a four-course meal with appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and delicious deserts. All meals are open seating.
Seating Times: Check onboard for hours of operation.
Dress: Always casual. Dinner attire is "evening casual" which consists of open-neck shirts, slacks, and dresses. Coats and ties may be worn. The Captain's Welcome and Farewell dinners are dressy but not formal.
Costs: Food included in the cost of your cruise; specialty drinks, alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and soft drinks are at current menu pricing, however complimentary regional wines, beer, and soft drinks are available during dinner, complimentary soft drinks are available during lunch, and complimentary sparkling wine is available during breakfast and no reservations required.
 
Panorama Bistro
An alternative to the four-course dinner in the main restaurant, the intimate Panorama Bistro offers a light lunch as well as dinner with local specialties and regional wines. As in the main dining room, you'll enjoy delectable cuisine crafted from the highest quality local ingredients, served by the same friendly and efficient staff.
Seating Times: Check onboard for hours of operation.
Dress: Always casual. Dinner attire is "evening casual" which consists of open-neck shirts, slacks, and dresses.
Costs: Food included in the cost of your cruise; specialty drinks, alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and soft drinks are at current menu pricing, however complimentary regional wines, beer, and soft drinks are available during dinner, and complimentary soft drinks are available during lunch.
As seating is limited, passengers must sign up in advance.
 
Sky Bistro
Watch the passing scenery while dining on light lunch fare at the open air bistro on the Sky Deck.
Seating Times: Lunch time check onboard for hours of operation.
Dress: Always casual.
Costs: Food included in the cost of your cruise; specialty drinks, alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and soft drinks are at current menu pricing, however complimentary soft drinks are available during lunch. No reservations required.
 
Room Service - Continental breakfast and beverages Guests can enjoy a light continental breakfast from the comfort of their stateroom Just a phone call away.
 
Family with Kids/Teens
Simply put, this is not a family-appropriate ship. There are no triple cabins or provisions for entertaining youngsters. Avalon maintains a minimum age of 8 for younger passengers. Children under the age of eight typically are too young to fully enjoy a cruise vacation. Because of this and for the safety and enjoyment of all passengers. In addition, please note that there are no special arrangements or activities for children on their ships
 
Past Passenger Programs
Avalon Waterways Past Passenger Program is called the Journeys Club. Journeys Club is the frequent travelers club for the Globus family of brands. Through it, Avalon will reward their frequent travelers with attractive perks. Cruisers must enroll in the club to receive benefits including exclusive promotions, special perks, and customized service.
 
Fitness And Spa
There is not much to satisfy the fitness Avalon Illumination; as with most riverboats, you get your exercise in port. There is no spa/massage facility, but there is a tiny workout room with two machines --Indigo deck There is an elevator access to the upper decks. Here is the ship’s Fitness Center (Gym room with modern equipment /workout machines, free weights, TV, small stretch area).
 
Sky Deck (the uppermost deck) has a hot tub and central sunning area with plenty of loungers, and there is ample space around the periphery for those who feel compelled to jog onboard, though there is no marked or designated track. Unusually, Avalon ships have beauty salons.
Many of the tie-up points along the riverbanks have pathways or sidewalks paralleling the river that are ideal for jogging or walking, and there is usually enough time in port to do so. However, shipboard bicycles, which are typical for many river cruises, though the size of Illumination may make them impractical.
Deck 3 Plan – Royal After passenger cabins is the Hair Salon served by certified hairdresser and manicurist (available by appointment only, no Spa massage services).
 
Entertainment
On board general entertainment was provided by a musician in the main Lounge, with local artists coming on board from numerous ports - music, lecturers, wine tasting, beer tasting etc., generally all good fun. The evening entertainment onboard the Avalon Illumination  is low key and usually features a regional group or artist and mirrors the area that the ship has just visited.  If you are someone who is looking for a disco with loud thumping music and lots of nightlife, you will need to consider another option.  Oh the other hand, if you enjoy traveling with well travel people who love history, wine, food and culture, then maybe this is what you’ve been looking for.
 
Avalon Illumination's evening entertainment offerings are adequate if not exciting. There is a solo pianist who plays background music before and after dinner, and local talent was brought aboard on a couple of occasions (singers, small classical ensembles, etc.).
However, the daytime offerings delivered were superb, ranging from dynamically presented talks on history, art and culture to fun port talks. Handouts were also excellent and included hand-annotated port maps. These materials made it easy to know exactly where we were and which landmarks we were passing.
 
The daily, gratis, off-ship walking tours were almost universally superior. The ship issues passengers personal headsets, which plug into wireless receivers. The off-ship guides are issued microphones and transmitters so that each group of about 20 passengers gets a private tour, conducted through a discreet wireless link. The ship has three lounges, with the covered Sky Lounge situated forward on the Sky Deck; the larger Panorama Lounge, with a bar, in the same position on the Royal Deck; and the smaller, quieter Club Lounge located aft on the Royal Deck. There is also a whirlpool and games area on the Sun Deck. Other onboard amenities include a fitness center, Internet room, hair salon and elevator.
 
The “Panorama Lounge” is the Illumination ship’s main show venue and also a great vantage point to enjoy the passing scenery. The main lounge has a full-service bar, dance floor and a grand piano for the live entertainment program in the evenings. Evening entertainment includes piano performances (by resident pianist), shows by the crew, music by local performers (folklore, classical, dancers), cocktail hour. Depending on the visited ports along the Avalon Illumination itinerary, the Panorama Lounge also hosts local food and wine tastings, tours/excursions- and culture/history related lectures and multimedia presentations by expert guest speakers. Afternoon Tea is served here at 4pm.
 
Next is the ship’s 2-decks high Atrium Lobby – spacious, with open-floor design, glass-domed (lit by natural daylight). In the Lobby area are the Reception Desk (24-hour assistance, information), Cruise Director Office (tours/excursions booking, information on daily activities and special events) and the Internet Corner (with 2 Internet computers, a small Library).
 
Staterooms
Avalon Illumination has 83 cabins -- 65 Panorama Suites, 16 Deluxe Staterooms and 2 Royal Suites -- across six categories. The majority of cabins measure 200 square feet and have queen-sized beds that can be configured as twins. There are king-sized beds in the two 300-square-foot Royal Suites. Cabins on the lower Indigo Deck have fixed high-level windows, and all the other suites on the Sapphire and Royal Decks have the aforementioned French balconies.
 
Standard cabin amenities include flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, bathrobes and slippers, L'Occitane bath products, in-room safes, minibars, air-conditioning and complimentary bottled water. Continental breakfast and beverage room service are available on request.This beautiful vessel features two decks of Panorama Suites, all with panoramic Wall-to-Wall Windows which transform the space into Open-Air Balcony. Sapphire Deck cabins from 201 to 233, all of which are Panorama Suites of categories A (24 Suites, cabin #201 is wheelchair accessible) and B (9 Suites).
 
Tipping
Gratuities are included in cruise fares for services during meals and land stays (including porter tips for one piece of luggage per person). Gratuities for the Cruise Director, local hosts, local guides, driver and ship's crew are not included and are discretionary. Avalon recommends $5 to $7 per person, per day, for the Cruise Director; $3 to $5 per person, per day, for the local guide; and $5 to $7 per person, per day, for the crew. All transactions aboard the riverboat are in U.S. dollars.
 
Fellow Passengers
Passengers consist mostly of older couples (55-plus) who are well-traveled. Many have come to Avalon through prior experience with Globus, so the land-touring aspect of the cruise may hold a higher priority for them. Mostly English-speaking travelers from USA/Canada/UK/Australians and New Zealanders. An Avalon passenger is typically near retirement age or retired.  Avalon's experience is not designed to be compatible with families (especially those with younger children).
 
Our recommendation
A river cruise is about the ever-changing scenery, the ports and the people you meet along the way. Now well under way, sailed up the Wachau Valley in Austria with its craggy hills, vineyards, castles and villages. The Danube — more of a muddy green than the Strauss blue — may flow from the Black Forest to the Black Sea but this is surely its most picturesque section. at Weissenkirchen — “White church” — with its fortified white church in a medieval village.A shore tour option is a bike ride through the village then along the banks of the Danube, part of a cycle track that runs the length of the Austrian section of the river. It is a brilliant way to drink in the views and fresh air. The historic colourful buildings are something out of a fairy tale, the sort Hansel and Gretel might see as a gingerbread house, while the peaceful valley and Danube are good for the soul.