Fine Travel Founder, Paul Collins, experienced an Avalon Waterways River Cruise which is an excellent combination with discounted UK / Europe Business Class airfares. The airfare and cruise combination could help you to save more.
I have just completed my second European River Cruise with Avalon Waterways and I am now even more of a champion of this holiday experience.
Last year was a 7 night cruise from Paris to the Normandy beaches that was superb in its quality of accommodation, onboard service and onshore tours. This year's 14 night river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam delivered the same but on a grander scale due to an itinerary with multiple rivers, countries and visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
I have set out some of the detail of the itinerary to demonstrate the complexity and diversity of the European journey you take: from close to the Black Sea in the south to the rim of the North Sea (full details of each river cruise can be found on the cruise itinerary pages on our website). It is quite remarkable.
The rivers on this itinerary are The Danube from Budapest to Kelheim, the Main Danube Canal to Bamberg crossing The Continental Divide, the River Main to Mainz and then the Rhine River to Amsterdam. The number of locks is 68, the distance travelled 1,814 kilometres. The highest point is a surprising 1,320 feet above sea level.
The countries we passed through were Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Netherlands plus there is an option for a day excursion to Cesky Krumlov in The Czech Republic (which I did).
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are: Benedictine Abby of Gottweig, Cesky Krumlov, Bamberg and many of the small towns that weren’t destroyed during WW11 are also preserved as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is a journey you take in the comfort of your small luxury ship with a crew there to assist, guide and educate. The day-to-day itinerary is planned so not to be arduous and to allow rest time on most days. We certainly didn’t find them full-on regimented.
None of the towns and cities visited left us thinking…why did we stop there? Although in Nuremberg I recommend you take the shore excursion to the Nuremburg Rally Grounds as the "Old Town" excursion was relatively new because the area was heavily targeted by Allied bombers.
You certainly notice the contrasts between cities that were under Soviet rule and those in Germany and Austria. The Slavic languages, 1950’s housing blocs, the repair requirements of some infrastructure like roads are evident, however the people are proud, positive and have progressed enormously in re-building their economies.
Many of the towns and cities you visit source the bulk of their tourism from River Cruises so the tourists you see are your fellow travellers or those from other cruise ships. With the help of the local guides you are able to see and experience daily life as if you were visiting a friend or relation, who are proud to show you around.
We got to experience the local cuisine, wines and craft beers both onboard and during our free time. We were not disappointed with the variety or flavours. Many of the towns you visit are surrounded by vineyards and in Bavaria you are in a beer region. Beer is a part of their tradition like wine is in France and compliments their dining experience as well being a social thirst quencher.
We had no issues with personal security at all. We received the usual warning about pick pockets in the big cities but felt free to wander without concern.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Avalon Waterways and this itinerary in particular. There are many towns that I would like to revisit and spend a week wandering the streets, enjoying the cafes, garden bars, markets and the joy of life which was often on display.