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SHIP - Avalon Tranquility II
Review of ship/cruise
Ship: This is our first time on the Avalon Tranqulity II, our first time with Avalon and first River cruise. We have always preferred the smaller ocean cruise ships. This ship had about 112 passengers. It was nice because you got to know more people and recognize others from your ship. Like a lot of the big ships they have Sanatizer dispensers by the entrance to the ship and dining room. They also do not have trays at the buffet meals. Sanitation seems to be a priority with them. The ship is kept very clean.
We had the Royal Suite. This is the largest cabin. It has two sliding glass doors, no balcony, just railings. The bed is set off to the side and there is a sofa, 2 chairs with a desk and a bookcase. The toilet is in a separate room. The bathroom has a very large shower and 2 sinks. Beds are very comfortable with 2 pillows. There is a large closet with lots of hangars. Another cabinet has shelves and had the safe and bath robes/slippers provided for on board use. There were two TV sets, one in the main room and another by the bed. It had several movie and news channels. Every evening after dinner we came back to the cabin and there was a fireplace scene flickering on the TV. Like other ships, you get steward service twice a day.
There are 3 decks of cabins. Most of the cabins are suites slightly smaller than ours with a sliding glass door and the lower deck has smaller staterooms with small windows. There is a main lounge/bar and a small lounge at the back of Deck 3 with some seating and 24/7 coffee/juice. The sky deck was closed for most of our trip because of low bridges and locks. The grill and bar were never open up there but they did put out lounge chairs after a few days.
There is only one seating for meals. Breakfast and lunch are buffets and table service for dinner. There are tables for 2, 4, 6 and 8. The tables for 2 are all in a row so even if you are at one, there are people on both sides of you. Everyone was very friendly and we met lots of people. The servers were efficient, friendly and attentive.
Food was good but not exceptional. Buffets had a small selection of items. They did cook omletes or fried eggs to order in the morning. Dinners were appetizers, soups, entree and dessert. The entree included a pasta, vegetarian, fish and meat choice. They do serve light meals in the main lounge when the dining room is open.
Entertainment: There was only a string trio brought in 1 night and a duo playing dance music another. There were no talks or lectures which I expected.
We were told you either had to prepay your tips before the cruise, or tip in cash (local currency) at the end. That was incorrect. You can put it on your credit card on the ship. They do give you envelopes and suggested amounts. Tips are pooled among all crew.
We flew into Zurich and spent 2 nights there. We stayed in the old town at Hotel Adler. This was a very fun area with lots of shops and restaurants off of a plaza that is about a mile long.
We did a bus tour of Mt. Pilatus and Lucerne. This was a wonderful tour and the scenery is spectacular. I would highly recommend this tour - with one exception. We took the tour starting in Zurich. The bus had to make a stop to drop off one group at Mt. Rigi which delayed our arrival in Lucerne. We only had an hour in Lucerne and then we went to Mt. Pilatus along with a group who joined us in Lucerne. We took a small cable car to a platform and then got on a large cable tram that took us up 7,000 ft. We spent almost 2 hours up there and took the steepest cog wheel train back down. While we were up there 2 people set up a parasail and jumped off the mountain, sailing around for a long time.
Back down, there was an hour long boat ride on Lake Lucerne. When we returned to Lucerne we had to walk about 15 minutes to get to our bus. We passed the Lucerne train station on the way. The bus returned us to Zurich. We realized we could have taken the train to Lucerne and back to Zurich and still had the same tour. The bus ride was uncomfortable and did not allow us the time we wanted in Lucerne. You do need warmer clothes when you are on the mountain. Dress in layers so you can be comfortable in Lucerne.
We also did a tour of Rhine Falls. While not as large as Niagra, it was very impressive with some unusual rock formations. They have a lot of food stands and souvenir shops before you get to the falls. There is also a boat ride along the lake below that takes you closer to the falls.
Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam
The ship leaves from Basel. There is not a lot of fuss for check-in. You board the ship, no security searches, give them your passport (they return it the next day) and they take you to your stateroom. You don't have the long lines as with Ocean cruises. You don't need those bulky documents Avalon sends you in the mail. You give them your credit card for shipboard expenses at your leisure over the next few days.
They don't have all the computerized controls of who is on board. When you leave the ship, you get a shore pass from the Reception desk. When you come back, you return it. For their tours, they have Receivers you take with you. There are lanyards & headsets in your stateroom for each person. You hang the receiver on your lanyard and plug in your headset to hear the tour guides so there is no shouting. You can clearly understand what is said. They have different color receivers for different groups. White is for "Gentle Walkers."
Pay attention to the Cruise Director when she explains the following day's shore excursion. Some have a lot of walking/stairs and even the gentle walkers might have a problem. Avalon's description on their website and in literature does not clearly explain what to expect. You can book the optional excursions while on board if you need more information before booking.
I found that there is rarely enough "free time" in a port. I would have liked to go to a cafe for tea or coffee (or even a meal) to sit and relax but never had time for that. I did feel like I was always rushed on tours.
We arrived in Amsterdam the day before disembarkation. This is the only time we had enough free time and we found a local restaurant for lunch and got a burger - something we couldn't get on board.
Disembarkation is easy. They tell you what time the bus leaves for the airport. You put your luggage out 45 minutes before you leave the ship. The luggage is stacked up in front of the bus. You identify yours and they put it on the bus. If you need a taxi, they arrange for it.
Note: If you are not booking the air through them, they tell you not to book your return flight until after 1:00 pm. However, we noticed that most people did have flights before then. Some as early as 9:30 and it did not appear to be a problem. Our flight left at noon and we got the 8:30 bus. We rarely book air through the cruise line as we've had bad experiences with those flights. We prefer to choose our own unless they give you a fantastic deal.