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Avalon Romantic Rhine - Basel to Amsterdam - We are there now


KarenRivera
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Hi just to let everone know how the comeback to river cruising is going I will try to post everyday and answer questions.  My husband and I, in our 50s, my sister, 40s, my 21 year old son and my 83 year old dad are traveling on the Avalon Expression from Basel to Amsterdam 7 n.  This is our first ever river cruise.  We embarked yesterday, no problems whatsoever, after spending 3 wonderful days in Lucerne on our own (at the Hotel Cascada, BTW excellent well located and amazing breakfast).  We flew into Zurich, and transferred on our own the train to Basel, easy.  
 

All passengers and crew were required vaccination.  Only about 40-50 passengers.  Several families like ours.  Crew bending over to please everyone.  Mask wearing is required in public areas but can be taken off while eating or drinking.  No hassle at all.  
 

Weather has been hotter than normal,  highs in the 80-90s.  Blue skies.  We were able to swim in the lakes in Switzerland and in the Rhine river in Basel just like the locals do.  We went up Mt. Titlis and visited the Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum.  We went to the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, amazing place.

 

The ship is in good condition, the food so far very good to excellent so far, wine free flowing.  Lunch offered was buffet style, dinner in the dining room.

 

For Switzerland we got the QR code easily on the Swiss government website. You get it instantly bu email.   For France we applied by email for the Pass Sanitaire, but after 5 days, have not received anything but an automatic response.  Tomorrow we are going on a private tour of the Alsace from Breisach and will let you know how it goes in France.

 

So far, thanks God, everything is fantastic. 

 

 

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Lovely to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to post. It will be interesting to see how the logistics go getting into France.

 

Alsace! Oh, I would love to go. From Breisach? Many people go to the Black Forest or Alsace with the ship excursion offered. But private sounds great, too. Would like to know what they show you. Riquewihr tends to be very busy with tourists, but right now I am sure it is less than usual. Anyway, enjoy. The landscape is beautiful.

 

notamermaid

 

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4 hours ago, notamermaid said:

I see you are rafted next to the Joy. Breisach looks busy with ships. Are you in the harbour area? How far is it into town?

 

notamermaid

 

Hi, yes we are in a dock called Angeler 3, in sn industrial area north of the village; we went by bike into Breisach in around 7 minutes.

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Hi @KarenRivera, glad you are out on the river!  We loved our Rhine cruise with Avalon, so hope you do as well.  They certainly do go above and beyond in making sure you are happy with the service.

 

I am curious about the buffet lunch (and hopefully breakfast).  Do you line up and they serve you behind the glass or is it like a regular buffet where you help yourself?  I loved the buffets, as you could take as much as you wanted (for me, fruit, cheese and a bit of meat, DH was another story - he liked to try everything!) and what you wanted over a regular sit down meal.  Don't be afraid to ask for anything, it wasn't until the last day when I found out they had cranberry juice available every morning, they just didn't always put it out.  

 

You say you are on a private tour of the Alsace, make sure you know what time and where to meet the boat, as things can change.  We took the tours Avalon offered and they were pretty good.  If you have any photographers, take the gentle walkers, the guides know how to walk and talk at the same time, so you can easily take pictures.

 

Enjoy, looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

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13 hours ago, KarenRivera said:

Hi just to let everone know how the comeback to river cruising is going I will try to post everyday and answer questions.  My husband and I, in our 50s, my sister, 40s, my 21 year old son and my 83 year old dad are traveling on the Avalon Expression from Basel to Amsterdam 7 n.  This is our first ever river cruise.  We embarked yesterday, no problems whatsoever, after spending 3 wonderful days in Lucerne on our own (at the Hotel Cascada, BTW excellent well located and amazing breakfast).  We flew into Zurich, and transferred on our own the train to Basel, easy.  
 

All passengers and crew were required vaccination.  Only about 40-50 passengers.  Several families like ours.  Crew bending over to please everyone.  Mask wearing is required in public areas but can be taken off while eating or drinking.  No hassle at all.  
 

Weather has been hotter than normal,  highs in the 80-90s.  Blue skies.  We were able to swim in the lakes in Switzerland and in the Rhine river in Basel just like the locals do.  We went up Mt. Titlis and visited the Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum.  We went to the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, amazing place.

 

The ship is in good condition, the food so far very good to excellent so far, wine free flowing.  Lunch offered was buffet style, dinner in the dining room.

 

For Switzerland we got the QR code easily on the Swiss government website. You get it instantly bu email.   For France we applied by email for the Pass Sanitaire, but after 5 days, have not received anything but an automatic response.  Tomorrow we are going on a private tour of the Alsace from Breisach and will let you know how it goes in France.

 

So far, thanks God, everything is fantastic. 

 

 

So glad to get your information!  We sail on Avalon Imagery II Sept. 22-Oct 4.Basel to Amsterdam with the Mosel River 13 nights.  Flying fro Las Vegas to Zurich 2 precruise nites in Avalon Radisson Airport hotel.  Not many booked on our ship, just 17 cabins, I hope it goes!  I am looking at the required forms for entry to Amsterdam and Switzerland to make sure everything is in order.

Karen

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I am also happy to see a post regarding the Avalon cruise.  We are doing the same trip October 2nd.  More concerned about the requirements to get into each country right now.  Curious - where did you fly in from and what was your routing? 

 

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We stayed in Alsace (Strasbourg) for a week a few months pre-covid.  We loved the area, although it was winter, not summer as it is now.

 

We also did a private tour visiting Riquewihr and Ribeauville as well as three or four wineries.  It was a great day.  Another day we caught the train to Colmar, yet another very pretty town.  It is a stunning area.

 

Enjoy your cruise.

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Hi everyone, sorry late post- been quite busy.  We flew into Zurich from Dulles.  Yesterday went excellently well- clear blue skies, only a bit too warm.  We did a private tour from Breisach with Alsace Safari which was from 9:30 am to 5 pm, to visit the stunning Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg, beautiful alsatian villages Riquewhir and Kaysrberg, and also wine tasting at a local winery near Colmar.  Were promptly picked up at our docking station in a very comfortable Mercedes minivan by guides Ana and Eric, and returned on time.  The tour was amazing especially the castle.  The wine route is movie-caliber picturesque. We also made a quick detour to see the ramparts of Vauban- designed Neuf Brisach. Highly recommend Alsace Safari.

 

Before the tour my husband and I used the ship’s ebikes to do a quick visit to the village of Breisach, which was quite deserted on a Sunday at 7 am but very pretty.

 

We passed on the ship’s included Black Forest tour because we had visited the Swiss Open Air Museum -which is the same concept as the one visited in the ship’s tour,- 2 days earlier and we would rather  experience the Alsace for a whole day.
 

The ship is having buffet breakfast snd dinner, no restrictions only mask wearing, you can help yourself, as usual.  The food and service have been outstanding.

 

I applied for the french pass Sanitaire, and did not get it, however we were able to go everywhere in France (castle, winery, shops, etc). with our CDC vaccination card.


So far, everything’s great and the temperatures are in the 70s today.

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Thanks @KarenRivera, I remember how busy days can be.  Great to hear that the buffets are back and running normally, as I said, I loved being able to select what I wanted rather than off a menu.

 

Enjoy your cruise and if you want to stay out of the sun when cruising the castle area, we found we had almost the full section in front of the lounge (at water level) to ourselves...and with the bar right there, we had great service.  The top was ok, but our day was hot, so we wanted shade.  You can see all in the comfortable lounge seats and I think we only had 2 other couples with us, and they didn't stay the whole time.

 

Let me know if I can give you any info about tours, they may not be the same, but if I can help, I will.

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3 hours ago, KarenRivera said:

....The ship is having buffet breakfast and dinner, no restrictions only mask wearing, you can help yourself, as usual.  The food and service have been outstanding.....

 

........, however we were able to go everywhere in France (castle, winery, shops, etc). with our CDC vaccination card....

2 things I was hoping to hear!

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Glad to hear from someone on this cruise.  I'll be on the same ship in October doing the reverse route. I'll be hanging on every word of this review. I did happen to be on this ship before (my only other river cruise) on the Danube.  I don't remember eating lunch onboard, but then again we only cruised once during the day on that trip, so I don't even remember if lunch was always buffet style.  I can't imagine having so few passengers. Two questions:

Is the cafe/gameroom open and stocked in the aft of the ship? I was always back there getting as much ice as possible and cookies.

What is the cruise director's name? Curious if it happens to be the same one I had before.

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Good to hear. I think here is Paris they are much more strict with the Passe Sanitaire regulations. We had another COVID test this morning so we could get the needed QR code for our visit to Versailles tomorrow. Dinner other than hotel room service would be nice too. 🙏

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Following this cruise as we are going June 2022.  This was rescheduled from this year.  So many rules changing from day to day.  No way to know what next June will bring.  We have add on to Paris/London scheduled but thinking of canceling that part.  We are vaccinated but do not want to spend our time being tested and filling out paperwork for using trains or getting into countries, etc.  Any thoughts on this or/and has anyone gone on this add on?

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On 8/16/2021 at 6:46 PM, SCBarker said:

Glad to hear from someone on this cruise.  I'll be on the same ship in October doing the reverse route. I'll be hanging on every word of this review. I did happen to be on this ship before (my only other river cruise) on the Danube.  I don't remember eating lunch onboard, but then again we only cruised once during the day on that trip, so I don't even remember if lunch was always buffet style.  I can't imagine having so few passengers. Two questions:

Is the cafe/gameroom open and stocked in the aft of the ship? I was always back there getting as much ice as possible and cookies.

What is the cruise director's name? Curious if it happens to be the same one I had before.

We arrive by train to join cruise Oct 5 in  Basel after 8 days in Germany. Wondering if we will need another test before leaving Germany to cross into Switzerland.

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10 hours ago, waltsonwater said:

We arrive by train to join cruise Oct 5 in  Basel after 8 days in Germany. Wondering if we will need another test before leaving Germany to cross into Switzerland.

If that is your beginning of journey with Avalon, then I would suspect you would need one no more than 72 prior to boarding the ship.

The way I read it is that you need a test before your trip begins with them. For some people it is the plane ride over if they bought included air. Some it would be boarding the ship if they bought nothing else through Avalon prior. This would be for the company's rules, separate from the country's rules.

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4 hours ago, SCBarker said:

If that is your beginning of journey with Avalon, then I would suspect you would need one no more than 72 prior to boarding the ship.

The way I read it is that you need a test before your trip begins with them. For some people it is the plane ride over if they bought included air. Some it would be boarding the ship if they bought nothing else through Avalon prior. This would be for the company's rules, separate from the country's rules.

According to the Pre Screening and Health information at the Avalon web page all that is needed to board the ship is your vaccination card with approved vaccinations.  That is also the requirement that was emailed to me by Avalon and my TA.  Children under 12 must have the negative COVID test.  Switzerland, where our cruise embarks only requires the proof of vaccination.  No negative COVID test is needed if you are fully vaccinated and from an approved low risk country.

 

If in doubt, call Avalon.

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@KarenRivera marinetraffic.com signals the Avalon Expression as being in Koblenz, so I guess this is the right ship, if you are on the Rhine. A snapshot taken from the webcam on Ehrenbreitstein:03300_611d6676-519dVid.thumb.jpg.6ecdbbd1c1ce6fd04c6787f4985b8b37.jpg

 

https://www.feratel.com/en/webcams/germany/koblenz.html

 

I hope you have had a great day seeing the castles.

 

notamermaid

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello everyone, we are back from our trip since last Friday.  I apologize for not being able to continue the report live from the ship; things got reaaally busy and I literally could not find any spare time to continue writing.  I will try to update during the next few days until I cover the whole trip.

 

To recoup, we boarded Avalon Expression on Saturday, August 14 from Basel.  We had stayed in Lucerne at the Cascada Hotel since August 11 and had a wonderful time.  We made our own pre-cruise arrangements, had a triple room, very large, and a double room. ( Included breakfast at Cascada was amazing, a huge varied buffet with all the breads, pastries, cereals, juices, cold cuts, made to order eggs, breakfast meats, waffles, pancackes, etc. Cascada also had free bikes for the guests, which we used to bike across town to the Lucerne beach, and a free transport pass for public transport in the city.)  We travelled as a multigenerational family group of 5 adults from 20 to 83 year old. Everyone had a blast.  It was our first time river cruising and we are hooked.

 

One other thing that made our trip extraordinary (besides travelling during the COVID pandemic) is that my dad is a hemodialysis patient so we had to arrange for him to receive dialysis treatments while travelling from Switzerland to the Netherlands and then during a 1 week post-cruise stay in Spain.  He had a total of 7 dialysis treatments during our 17 day trip.  We did this thru an amazing company called Nephrocare who coordinates dialysis for patients while travelling.   I have to say everything went wonderfully well thanks God.  Avalon crew was most helpful in assisting us to arrange transfers from the port to the dialysis centers in the ocassions my dad had treatment.  They were definitely stellar and went above and beyond their call of duty.  

 

Day 1:  Saturday, Basel.  The five of us walked 4 blocks from Cascada hotel to Lucerne train station.  (We only had carry ons and pushed my dad in his manual wheelchair).  At 10 am we took a 50 m train from Lucerne to Basel, taxi from the station to the port.  Port was in an industrial area about 15 m taxi from Basel city center.  We arrived around 12 noon, were effusively welcomed by the staff;  check in was a breeze, delicious buffet lunch was served in the lounge, some passengers had already arrived and everyone was invited to partake immediately.   Only restriction was mask wearing, otherwise business as usual.  We had our staterooms keys by 12:30 pm.  

 

My husband, sister and I visited the Vitra Design Museum for a couple of hours (my husband is an architect and my sister an interior designer), went by taxi (15 m) and loved it.  Later my son, husband and I took another 10 m taxi to Basel city center to swim in the Rhine river as the locals do; it was 90 F and there were literally 100s of locals swimming in the Rhine, it was great to join them.

 

At 5 pm we were back on the ship.  Ship sailed around 6 pm, had complimentary welcome sparkling wine in the lounge to toast our departure.  We were the 2nd Avalon ship doing the Rhine route after the pandemic shut down.  There were about 50 passengers on board, I'd say about 1/3 capacity.  Our Cruise Director was Nico, he gave the welcome remarks and introduced the captain and crew, etc.  Other passengers were mixed, most older american friend groups, couples and 3 other multigenerational family groups like ours.

 

At 7 pm dinner followed in the dinning room.  Dining room attire totally informal; my husband was allowed to dine in his cargo shorts and polo shirt everyday.  The food was great and very varied, wine and beer plentiful and a great selection, service was incredible, there were about 3 servers per table, we cannot say enough about the dining experience.  Most everyone sat in their family group.  We did not have to stick to the same table, we sat wherever we wanted at every meal.  Lunch and breakfast was buffet style.  

 

Our 3 staterooms were awesome, just amazing.  We had 2 cabins in the bottom level (no balcony only windows), but they were a good size and extremely cozy, bed huge and very comfortable, soundproofing great, bathroom fixtures great.   We slept like babies all week.  My dad and son had the deluxe staterom on the 2 level with the balcony, incredible room, we all hung out there at times enjoying the views.   We had our mini fridges emptied by the attendants and were able to use them to store our own drinks/goodies.  Rooms were cleaned 3 times a day.  We did laundry on the ship since we were travelling very light and with few clothes.  Laundry services great and affordable.   Only negative I can mention about the cabin is the TV selection is no good, however we did not care since we did not watch TV.

 

Another note is that my son made full use of the ship's gym, since there were so few other passengers, it was almost like a private gym for him, and he spent 1-2 hrs there everyday in the evenings working out and he loved it.  He and I also used the jacuzzi one afternoon and several evenings and it was almost our private retreat since we only once coincided with other passengers there.

 

Day 2:  Sunday, Port was Breisach. Ship was docked in an industrial area 10 m bike ride from the village.  As said, we booked a private whole day tour of the Alsace region with Alsace Safari, which included transportation in a very comfortable minivan for 8 passengers.  Highly recommend these providers.  The weather was beautiful, a bit warmer than we would like but clear blue skies, we had an excellent day.  Before we were picked up for the tour, my husband and I used the ships E-bikes to explore the village of Breisach for 1 hour, small but scenic.   

 

Day 3:  Monday,  Strasbourg.  Port was on the German side in an industrial area.  I did not do the ship's included tours that day because I escorted my dad to dialysis in nearby town of Lahr.  My sister, son and husband did do the ship's Strasbourg tour and enjoyed it. They climbed to the roof of the Strasbourg cathedral.   I relaxed with my dad on board in the morning and then went with him to Lahr in taxi (30 m)for treatment in the PM, were back around 6 pm.  Transport was kindly and efficiently arranged by the ship's front desk attendant, Irena, who is a jewel.  I don't know how I would have accomplished such hassle free transportation without her.  Ship departed around 7 pm.  My husband did the optional Maginot Line tour in the afternoon and loved it.  My son took the ship's E-bike in the afternoon and biked all over Strasbourg on his own and had a blast.

 

Day 4:  Ludwigshafen/Mainz.  The ship docked in an industrial area near Mannheim at 7 am in order to transfer the passengers to the bus for Heidelberg all day tour that left at 8:30 am.  I did not participate in that tour since that day, my 20 yr old son and I took the train from Mannheim station down to Ringsheim (1:15 m) to visit famous German theme park Europa Park for the day.  We took a 15 m taxi from the dock to the train station, I had bought the train and park tickets on line.  We arrived at Ringsheim around 8:50 am, took the free park bus from the station to the park.  Park is requiring vaccination evidence for admission.  Line was long but moved quickly, we were inside by 9:20 am.  Europa Park is beautiful, a German version of Disney its like a Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Busch Gardens all rolled up into one.  Very clean, organized, beautifully landscaped.  It was fairly full of visitors, being the summer vacation, but we did not spot any americans.  We rode all the extreme rollercoasters (4), and other classic rides like the river rafting, water flumes, and pirates ride, had ice cream and other treats, and had an all around hectic but great day.  At 6 pm we took the park bus back to the train station and train back to Mainz (ship had continued sailing downriver to this other city) and arrived at the ship around 9 pm.  The ship was overnighting in Mainz, so there was no danger of it sailing without us.  We were glad we did this on our own and it worked out well.

 

My sister, husband and dad joined the ship's tour to Heidelberg and enjoyed it.  My husband pushed my dad in his manual wheelchair all over Heidelberg and then did the Philosopher's walk to the scenic viewpoint on his own during the free time while my sister hung out with my dad in a cafe at Heidelberg's main square.  Guided tour included the castle and was from around 9:30 am to 11 am.  Free time from around 11:15 am to 3 pm, enough to do lunch and visit the city on your own for a couple of hours.  Bus was back to the ship in Mainz left Heidelberg at 3 pm and arrived at around 4:30 pm.  My sister took my dad into Mainz for a PCR Covid test he needed for his next dialysis.  I had scheduled it at a testing center 9 m taxi from the port.  The ship docked right in Mainz downtown in a really nice waterfront area.  I was sorry to miss Mainz which looked beautiful (I had visited Heidelberg before), but oh well, you can't do everything.  

 

That night ship entertainment was classical trio La Strada which offered an excellent concert, a real luxury.

 

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW...

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On 8/18/2021 at 4:13 PM, notamermaid said:

@KarenRivera marinetraffic.com signals the Avalon Expression as being in Koblenz, so I guess this is the right ship, if you are on the Rhine. A snapshot taken from the webcam on Ehrenbreitstein:03300_611d6676-519dVid.thumb.jpg.6ecdbbd1c1ce6fd04c6787f4985b8b37.jpg

 

https://www.feratel.com/en/webcams/germany/koblenz.html

 

I hope you have had a great day seeing the castles.

 

notamermaid

 

 

 

YES, that was us!!!! We did have a beautiful, dreamlike sunny and breezy day sailing the Rhine Gorge that day, it could not have been more perfect.  We sat on deck and enjoyed the narration and incredible views for about 2 hrs, then another hour in the jacuzzi while sailing by the last section of the gorge.  When we arrived at Koblenz we took the ships bikes, and 4 of us biked the whole downtown for about 1.5 hours before dinner.  Koblenz is really nice and great for biking.

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On 8/16/2021 at 6:46 PM, SCBarker said:

Glad to hear from someone on this cruise.  I'll be on the same ship in October doing the reverse route. I'll be hanging on every word of this review. I did happen to be on this ship before (my only other river cruise) on the Danube.  I don't remember eating lunch onboard, but then again we only cruised once during the day on that trip, so I don't even remember if lunch was always buffet style.  I can't imagine having so few passengers. Two questions:

Is the cafe/gameroom open and stocked in the aft of the ship? I was always back there getting as much ice as possible and cookies.

What is the cruise director's name? Curious if it happens to be the same one I had before.

Yes the cafe/gameroom and all other ship's public areas were open and fully operational.  Cookies and ice plentiful.  Cruise director was Nico, very efficient, extremely affable and nice, spoke perfect English and Spanish, was very helpful to us in providing information.

 

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On 8/16/2021 at 12:11 AM, nursinadream said:

Karen, are you doing your own tour over to Alsace?  Love to read that your are traveling with your family.  Enjoy.  Thanks for posting.

 

Yes we did a wonderful private tour with Alsace Safari.  They picked us up in port and provided transport and guide, Ana and Eric.  Alsace region is picture-perfect beautiful.  We visited the Chateau du Haut Koeningsburg and 2 villages plus a wine tasting. 

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So glad you had a great trip.  We did the Rhine in 2018.  We met a great couple on the first day, and he was also in a portable wheelchair.  My husband pushed him around for the tours (much easier than his wife trying it on the cobblestones), and I remember touring Heidelberg well.  He was perfectly happy to sit and have a beer in the main square with my husband after the tour while his wife & I went to the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop.

 

So glad you were all able to enjoy the trip, and yes, Avalon is very good at going above and beyond to provide great service.  We moved our trip to Sept 2023, hopefully Covid will be more "normalised" by then and much easier to deal with.

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