We explore the latest new ship from Avalon Waterways, and find out why this is a cruise line that continues to go from strength to strength
Avalon Waterways is becoming one of the most recognised river-cruise brands, boasting the youngest, quietest and most spacious fleet of ships on Europe’s rivers. Last year’s launch of their first suite ship, Panorama, raised the bar for river cruising, with its modern approach to technology and design. Now, it has added a further two ships to the suite ship family: Vista and Visionary. I was lucky enough to take a trip around Holland on board Vista to decide whether she could measure up to her older sibling Panorama.
Whether you’re more accustomed to ocean liners or you’re new to cruising altogether, there’s no denying that Vista is a real looker. Natural light pours into the vessel through the large floor-to-ceiling windows, giving an instant sense of warmth and space. Boarding the Vista was a breeze. The reception area was bright and contemporary, and there was very little queuing to be done before I was shown to my stateroom. There is, of course, a standard check-in procedure but it seemed a lot less intrusive and much more friendly, making it the ideal start to a relaxing river cruise.
Vista features 17 Junior suites, 64 Panorama suites and 2 Royal suites. Each option is fi nished to an impeccable standard, with crisp Egyptian cotton bedsheets, luxury marble bathrooms, premium L’Occitane amenities and fl atscreen satellite TVs.
Though all staterooms would make for a wonderful holiday, I recommend the Panorama and Royal suites to really make the most of your time. Both feature a generous six-person seating area and incredible 10ft x 7ft wall-to-wall panoramic windows, which transform into a large open-air balcony for you to relish the river views. There’s plenty of storage, along with complimentary water and wi-fi to keep you refreshed and connected during your holiday.
The service on board Vista is truly five-star. Whether it’s showing you to your room, serving you breakfast or giving you directions, the crew are always happy to help. Your stateroom is cleaned and replenished every morning, and beds are turned down every evening. The size of the ship compared to larger ocean liners means it’s a delight getting to know the staff day by day. Consequently, the service becomes tailored to you and your personality.
I particularly appreciated the restaurant staff recommending what I should eat for my lunch, as there was so much to choose from. By the time my trip had ended, they knew exactly which desserts would suit my fancy, which was great for my taste buds but not so good for my waistline! Polite, friendly and professional, the entire crew are a testament to Avalon Waterways.
The food is consistently delicious for every meal. Breakfast features a full buffet, complete with sparkling wine and a made-to-order egg station. You can ponder away the morning over porridge, pastries, cereals, fresh fruit or a traditional English breakfast.
The lunchtime menu is equally tasty, serving an array of carved meats, pasta, salads and soups. Foodies can appease their rumbling tummies in the Panorama Bistro or the Sky Deck, where a selection of grilled lunches are available on sunnier days. However, the four-course evening dinner is very special. Influenced by western and regional dishes, guests can choose from a wide selection of appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts. Complimentary regional wines, premium beers and soft drinks accompanied the food.
If you enjoy large theatrical productions then this may not be the cruise for you. Instead, guests can enjoy a wide range of activities, from informative on-board lectures during the day to live music in the evening. A compelling after-dinner performance by classical trio La Strada was so fantastic it gave me chills.
A choice of themed cruises is available for those who wish to nurture a special interest. The Legendary Danube and The Blue Danube Discovery itineraries, for example, offer specialised wine cruises.
Similarly, Magnificent Europe delivers a jazz and music cruise, where cool cats can attend Vienna’s Jazz Festival and explore Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg. What’s more, there are delightful extras that you can add to your cruise to make it more suited to the occasion, including a Celebration Package, a Wedding Vow Renewal Package, onboard movie nights and cycling excursions.
The décor throughout is elegant and demure. Decorated with bursts of orange upholstery and dark brown wood furnishings, the start of any social gathering begins in the large Panorama Lounge. The layout of the Panorama Bistro is extremely clever too. Thanks to carefully placed partitions, large gatherings can feel right at home alongside romantic meals for two.
The impressive Sky Deck stretches along the entire length of the ship and comes complete with premium lounge chairs, a Jacuzzi, a giant chess set and a shaded area for those heady summer months. There’s a fitness centre and an on-board hairdresser too. The overall success story of Vista has to be the Club Lounge. Small but perfectly formed, it’s the perfect place to watch a film, grab a complimentary beverage, play a game or simply while away the hours admiring the panoramic views.
Vista hosts an array of informative and well-organised shore excursions, many of which are included. I went on sightseeing trips with local, professional guides to Amsterdam, Hoorn and Alkmaar.
Sailing the rivers of Europe on Avalon Vista is an extremely serene experience and is the perfect getaway for culture vultures. If you are happy to relax and unwind in luxury, then you should seriously consider a holiday on board Vista.
Click here to see more photos of the Avalon Vista or read more about the Vista‘s christening.