European express: On board Avalon Waterways' new ship, Avalon View
On board new ship Avalon View, Vicky Mayer combines luxury river sailing on the Danube with some very memorable excursions.
Have you ever enjoying a meditation class in a forest in Hungary? No, me neither, but that’s where I found myself on day three of an express mini cruise on Avalon Waterways’ shiny new ship Avalon View that managed to pack in three eastern European countries and a host of memorable excursions in only four days.
Under a canopy of dappled sunlight, our mindfulness guide encourages us to find our inner chakras and listen to our breathing. In truth, this wasn’t too hard as we’d just spent the last hour hiking strenuously through the forest in Dobogoko near Esztergom in Hungary and our lungs were bursting.
This was my first time on an Avalon Waterways' cruise and I could soon see why the line is so popular with river cruise fans who are looking for something different on their trip. Each day, guests are offered daily choices of three included excursions – Active, Classic or Discovery.
As the names suggest, each excursion allows you to choose the activity that suits you best. So, for instance, if you’re sailing on a river or to a destination that’s new to you, you’d probably go for the classic option, while those looking to broaden their horizons should check out the active and discovery choices.
I’m in my fifties and no gym bunny, but I really enjoyed the hike and found it reassuring that the ship’s onboard adventure host gave me an honest opinion of how difficult it would be – ‘tough in parts but very rewarding’.
This was not the only excursion that impressed me. Over a very short period of four days, I had some amazing experiences in Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. My cultural journey kicked off on my first evening on the cruise with a private night view of some of Klimt’s finest work (including iconic The Kiss) at the Belvedere Palace Museum in Vienna.
The following day, I marvelled at some of the city’s finest buildings including the State Opera and Imperial Palace on a horse-drawn ride around the Ringstrasse and also got the chance to meet the famed Lipizzaner white dancing horses at their stables.
One of the joys of a river cruise is the chance to visit so many countries in a short space of time. I never thought I’d visit Slovakia, but here I was enjoying a tour of the old town of Bratislava, where the history of how Czechoslovakia came and went was as memorising as the city’s historical buildings.
The highlight though, was our visit to the contemporary Zoya Museum Art Gallery, which is about 20 minutes by coach from the city centre. Over a fantastic lunch with local wines from the onsite Elesko vineyard, we learned about the owner’s fascination with Andy Warhol and how he acquired more than one hundred works of the famed American artist that now hang in the gallery.
Find your ideal cruise
Avalon View joined the line’s fleet this spring and she’s a lovely addition to their other five-star Suite ships. On board you’ll find bright contemporary spaces filled with comfy airchairs and sofas in soft blues and taupes, while the cabins are some of the best in the business.
Passengers can choose from two full decks of Panorama suites, featuring wall-to-wall and floor-to ceiling panoramic windows that transform the space into a unique open-air balcony. In the 200-square-foot suites, the beds are turned around to face the windows so you can get a unique view of the river as you travel.Removing the step-outside balconies means the bathrooms with their gorgeous L’Occitaine products are larger than on most river ships, which feels like a total luxury.
Elsewhere you’ll find the popular Club Lounge, which feels like the heart of the ship. By day, it’s the perfect place to meet up with new cruise friends, enjoy a fresh coffee or just enjoy the endlesslychanging river view. By night, it’s the place to enjoy a post-dinner drink and maybe even hit the well-sprung dance floor for a bit of a boogie to that evening’s musical turn.
The food onboard deserves a special mention too. You can eat lovely freshly prepared dishes from breakfast to dinner in the Panorama Bistro, al fresco Sky Grill or spacious glass-walled Dining Room. I particularly enjoyed dinner when, apart from the classic menu with dishes like caesar salad and steak, the chef offered his take on a local menu. And yes, the Hungarian goulash was excellent.
And when you return from your excursions and it’s still sunny, the only place to be is the roomy Sky Deck at the top of the ship with its comfy lounge chairs, a whirlpool and giant chess set.
Avalon Waterways like to offer their guests ‘relaxed luxury’. What this means in practice is that you’re free to come and go as you like and there’s no strict dress code. Add to that free wifi, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks at mealtimes, included gratuities and a wide choice of daily complimentary excursions, and you can see how easy it is to travel with this five-star line.
Sailing down the Danube into Budapest on my last night was truly memorable. As we glided past the magnificent Parliament Building lit up in her full glory, I could instantly see why everyone raved about this noble city. Sadly, I had to leave both Avalon View and Budapest that morning but given half the chance I’d love to see them both again.
Get on board
A four-day ‘A Taste of the Danube’ cruise aboard Avalon View, from Vienna to Budapest, via Melk-Wachau and Bratislava, departs May 6, 2023, from £1,043 per person. avalonwaterways.co.uk
Seabourn expedition ships meet in Antarctica for the first time
Black Friday 2023: The cruise deals you won't want to miss
Seabourn announces 129-day ‘Ring of Fire’ cruise in 2026
Celebrity Cruises announces 2025-26 season
Celestyal Cruises adds former Carnival Corporation ship to its fleet
Holland America Line announces South America and Antarctica schedule for 2025/26
Wave Awards 2023: What the winners had to say
Wave Awards 2023: Cruise Mummy named favourite cruise blogger
MSC Cruises confirms order for two more LNG ships
What kind of food is on a cruise ship? Everything you need to know about luxury dining with Seabourn
A Taste of the Danube (Westbound)
- 3 nights, departs on the 10 Sep 2024
- Avalon Waterways, Avalon Illumination
- Budapest, Bratislava, Melk, + 1 more
Paris to Normandy
- 7 nights, departs on the 01 Apr 2025
- Avalon Waterways, Avalon Tapestry II
- Paris, Vernon, Caudebec-en-Caux, + 5 more
Discover the Galapagos & Peru
- 4 nights, departs on the 15 Oct 2024
- Avalon Waterways, Treasure of Galapagos
- San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos, Espanola Island, Floreana Island, Galapagos, + 2 more
Danube Dreams (Eastbound)
- 7 nights, departs on the 06 Apr 2025
- Avalon Waterways, Avalon Impression
- Vilshofen, Passau, Linz, + 5 more
Burgundy & Provence (Southbound)
- 7 nights, departs on the 23 Apr 2024
- Avalon Waterways, Avalon Poetry II
- Chalon-sur-Saône, Tournus, Lyon, + 5 more