Avalon Creativity, the line's eighth new-build, debuted in 2009. Inside and out, the lines are clean and contemporary, though a bit stark for some. It's much like the lobby of a major Swiss bank: beautiful carpeting and marble, wood paneling and inlays, a bit short on art. Gracefully spiraling stairways and a vest-pocket elevator link the interior decks at midship. Ample glass keeps the interior bright and airy during daylight hours.
Avalon Creativity cruises along France's Seine River, offering overnights in Paris before heading down this beautiful tributary to Monet country, stopping in places that range from the cathedral cities of Rouen and Normandy (for its military history) to Monet's Giverny.
Expedition cruising and river cruising share one aspect: each "stalks" its prey -- whether wildlife, as in the former, or art, culture and history for the latter. In either case, the "horizon" is never more than spitting distance away, so lots of viewing space is a must, and Creativity has floor-to-ceiling glass walls in 90 percent of its cabins.
Central to the concept of all these vessels is shore touring, and on Avalon Creativity, Globus' pedigree shines through. Invariably, the guides who shepherded our daily tours spoke virtually unaccented, nearly perfect English. As well, onboard enrichment was truly a highlight of our trip, with a wine- and pate-tasting, and a lovely classical concert being among the most memorable events.
Passengers consist mostly of older couples (55-plus) who are well-traveled. Many have come to Avalon through prior experience with Globus, so the land-touring aspect of the cruise may hold a higher priority for them. We also met a number of English-speaking travelers from Australia and the U.K. Avalon's experience is not designed to be compatible with families (especially those with younger children).
Since so much time during daylight hours is spent off-ship touring (much of that on foot), daytime wear is dictated by time of year (climate) and comfort. As well, many European itineraries include visits to cathedrals and churches, so conservative clothing or cover-ups should be brought by those who don't wish to risk being turned away.
Evening dress is the typical casual but elegant. There are two evenings that are slightly dressier -- the Captain's Welcome Aboard and Farewell evenings. Passengers' dress on these two nights ranges from jackets and ties to slacks and sports shirts or sweaters. Women's attire for these dressier evenings ranges from cocktail dresses to pantsuits. Though the onboard dress code is fairly relaxed, it is never a bad idea on this type of European itinerary to bring semiformal garb (sports jacket and tie for men), as the opportunity sometimes presents itself to enjoy dinner ashore at restaurants with dress codes.
Avalon Panorama offers 17 172-square-foot deluxe cabins outfitted with standard windows that offer limited views (read: no open-air balconies) and two 300-square-foot Royal Suites with panoramic windows.
The 166-passenger Avalon Vista is a "Suite Ship." Vista also features all the classic riverboat accouterments, including a top-deck whirlpool, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and spacious sun deck dotted with loungers.
The 128-passenger Avalon Artistry II will join the Avalon Waterways fleet of river cruise ships in 2013. One of the lines Suite Ships, Avalon Artistry II features 52 suites, at least 200 square ft.
Avalon Waterways' 164-passenger Avalon Illumination, part of the line's "suite ship" class, offers roomy cabins, multiple lounges and contemporary chic design.
Launched in 2015, the 128-passenger Avalon Tapestry II is one of Avalon Waterways' "Suite Ships," a term that reflects the company's pride in its all-suite accommodation.
One of Avalon Waterways' all-suite ships, Avalon Tranquility II features two full decks of suites with wall-to-wall sliding windows that create an open-air balcony with seating for six.