The cruise gave you an excellent understanding of the history and culture of the Netherlands and Belgium. We are an active couple that enjoys walking and exploring on our own. This gives us comfort, the optional tours, and plenty of freedom to explore on our own at the same time.
4 out of 5
The embarkation was a little confusing. We were booked into a pre-night hotel and were told that we would be moved from the hotel to the boat at 5:00 the next day. However, someone from Avalon came to the hotel that previous morning and wasn't sure if we were supposed to move to another hotel mid-day or what was going to happen. Since we had plans, this was a little disconcerting. However, early the next morning, the cruise director was there and handled everything smoothly for us. He took our luggage, explained we were embarking on the ship at 11:30 but told us we could just make our own way to the ship whenever we wanted to. Everything from that point on was very well handled and convenient. We got on the boat by 12:30 to go on a planned excursion and got in our room when we returned (luggage was already in the room).
4 out of 5
River cruises have less entertainment options than larger ocean cruises but what they had was great. We personally weren't looking for extensive entertainment but enjoyed what there was. The piano player (Albert) was very entertaining. They brought a string trio on board that was very good.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
There are only two types of rooms on these boats - Standard rooms on Level 1 with small windows up high or Panorama Suites with a french balcony. There was a small couch, small table and chair, as well as one desk chair. The bed was two twins put together as a queen (and surprisingly comfortable). The room was always extremely clean, very comfortable, and I loved the floor to ceiling windows that we could open when the weather was warm. Space was never an issue for us but it did take staying organized and putting things away. There was a good sized closet and shelves.
Stay organized or the room will quickly become cluttered. We used packing cubes for our clothes and that helped us unpack quickly (put the cubes on the shelves and outer wear hanging in the closet). The quicker you get the suitcases empty and under the bed, the better.
Also, don't stress too much about dressing for dinner - hubby put nice sweaters on and I would change shoes and or use a nice shawl or scarf. Some people changed before dinner nightly but we just dressed up on the night before the last - celebratory dinner. Otherwise, you bring way too many clothes.
We had two days pre-trip and two days in port. There is no end to the things you can do in Amsterdam and getting around is extremely easy. You can do the offered excursions or just get out and walk. The Central Station is a couple of blocks from where we were docked and you can get anywhere in the Netherlands from that station. Also, most locals speak perfect English. Amsterdam didn't have a lot of damage during the war so the history is everywhere. Add world-class museums and you can't go wrong. As for excursions, my husband did the tour to the reconstructed village and thought it was very touristy but might have been interesting for anyone who knew nothing about the Netherlands and wanted an overview. We both went to the Muiderslot Castle and loved that tour. It is a really historic, traditional castle that really gave you an idea how people lived before the comforts of modern time conveniences. Anyone who has never been to Amsterdam before has to take the Canal Boat tour - it is touristy but the only way to really see all that Amsterdam has to offer.
Rotterdam was completely bombed during the war so much of the history has been lost but the city is extremely modern and the architecture is fascinating. I enjoyed the city but I think you go to Europe to see the history. We did not go on the tour to Delft and again, if you have never been, that is a must-see tour.
It was a nice area to walk around in and very interesting to see how the windmills work. Not as interesting as I expected but a fun morning. There were walking tours offered that were pretty easy to do.
4 out of 5
This is a fun, small village that was a little touristy. Easy to walk around and enjoy but not as authentic as Veere was. This was such a convenient stop that no walking tour was offered. It is very easy to walk around the town and see the bunkers left over from World War II.
5 out of 5
Most people went on the excursion to Kinderdijk (that explores the technological capability the Netherlands uses to recapture the land from the ocean) and those that went to this excursion found it very interesting. We didn't go to that; instead, we did our own exploration of Veere. It is a beautiful, non-touristy village that shows you how these little villages really look like. I think this village was a highlight of our trip. By the way, there wasn't time on this stop to do both.
4 out of 5
A very interesting town that was easy to get around in - walking tours were offered. It is larger than the two previous towns and a real view of current day life in the Netherlands.
There is an extra tour (additional cost) to Bruges that includes a tour of Ghent. My husband did this tour and enjoyed it but it is a full day's outing. Bruges is extremely historic but pretty touristy. Ghent is more typical. The dock was disappointing. Each previous dock was right in the middle of town, while the dock on this day was in an industrial area and took quite a walk to get to the interesting center of town (not the fault of Avalon, since this is where the dock was located in this town).
I personally loved Antwerp. It is a vibrant city with a very interesting and historic center of town. We enjoyed the walking tour immensely. We were there all day since many of the passengers went on an afternoon excursion to Brussels. Since we didn't go on that tour, we did our own additional walk through Antwerp and spent all afternoon touring around. Really enjoyed the extra time there. In particular, we went back to the Cathedral (seen on the walking tour) and paid admission to take the included tour and see some of the most amazing artwork on display.
We didn't take the Brussels excursion since we spent two post-days there. To be honest, Brussels was our least favorite stop of the entire trip. We thought it was busy, not a very well maintained city and once you've seen the Grand Place, the rest is pretty routine (just our opinion). Also, expect nice meals to be ridiculously priced and not very good. We got on the train on one of the two days and went to Namur for the day. This was another highlight of our trip - a beautiful town that was interesting, non-touristy, and easily walked.
5 out of 5
The cruise director explained the process in complete detail two days prior to disembarkation and everything went very smoothly. We were disembarked at 9:00a.m. and were at our hotel before 9:30a.m.
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