5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
Avalon is primarily aimed at English-speaking markets in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. Amenities include hotel-style twin beds that can be combined to form queens, nightly turndown service and 24-hour tea and coffee with cake or cookies. Ships have English-speaking crews and continental cuisine that appeals to the North American palate.
Breakfast is buffet-style with additional entrees cooked to order. Lunch buffets include two hot dishes, as well as soups, breads, cold cuts, salads and a generous dessert table. Passengers enjoy open seating for four- to six-course dinners, with a choice of entrees (including vegetarian options) as well as a standing menu of fish, chicken and pastas and complimentary red or white wine. Other dining options include light lunch and dinner options and, on nice days on European itineraries, a grilled outdoor lunch on the top deck. Food focuses on regional selections and Western favorites.
European and Galapagos sailings provide entirely nonsmoking interiors, and smoking is restricted to specific areas on China sailings.
The Avalon fleet doesn't aim for lavish entertainment. The European ships have congenial bars and lounges with piano music after dinner, as well as some local entertainment from musicians. Cruises include a captain's dinner and might offer special features like wine-tastings.
Avalon does a standout job with its onboard enrichment, focusing on the region through which each ship travels. Expert tour directors -- for example, a naturalist (on Galapagos departures) -- deliver educational commentary as you pass through interesting landscapes. Local entertainment is also a feature on cruises as part of the cruise line's Local Favorites program. When sailing the Yangtze, for instance, there might be lessons on Tai Chi, painting, calligraphy, mah-jongg or the Mandarin language, as well as the option of Western or Chinese massages. Or, in France, travelers can enjoy on- and off-ship culinary demonstrations.
As is generally the case with most river cruise lines, most guided tours are included in fares, though tipping is encouraged.
Avalon primarily targets upscale North American, U.K., and Australian passengers in their mid-50s and older. Four- and five-night river cruises are aimed at a younger (40-something) crowd. These shorter-than-average cruises also appeal strongly to first-time river cruise passengers.