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Having spent one week on-board Avalon’s The Tapestry II, travelling from Paris to Conflans as part of Avalon’s ‘Paris to Normandy Beaches’ cruise, HOT writer, Anna Sarjeant, spills the beans on Avalon.
A typical 24 hour day on-board a Europe Avalon river cruise goes a little bit something like this...
Wake up and smell the bacon
Inside your Avalon cabin, the signs advise you to keep the doors and curtains closed (on account of the pesky mosquitos), but Avalon’s Panorama Suites boast wall-to-wall panoramic windows and their trademark Open-Air Balcony®, which means you can awaken to beautiful natural light and the river gliding past your peripheral. A morning breeze also helps to dispel the sleepiness, so be a rebel at least once and sleep with the door ajar. Then saunter down to the dining room for breakfast. As well as fresh Italian coffee, there’s a continental buffet and a team of chefs to cook up a full English. Trust us, even the porridge is blow-your-mind delicious.
Insider’s insight: Need more caffeine? Make yourself a latte from the self-serve coffee machine available in both lounges (and accessible 24/7).
Well executed excursions
By 9am you’ll be in the main foyer grabbing your audio bundle for the first excursion of the day. With a colour-coded system that directly correlates to your coach (basically if you pick up a blue audio pack, you need to be on the bus with a blue plaque in the window), Avalon execute this operation better than the military could. It’s calm, effortless and above all, efficient.
Insider’s insight: On disembarkation all guests are required to take an ‘off-ship’ pass which you hand back on your return. This reassuring measure ensures Avalon always know which passengers are yet to board. No guest left behind.
Squeeze in some lunch
Unless you’re out for the full day, you’ll be back on-board by midday for a buffet lunch. If you’re still full from breakfast, or let’s face it, you bought a framboise tart from a French patisserie just one hour earlier, there’s also a light lunch option served in the lounge.
Insider’s insight: Weather permitting, the crew will also serve the occasional ‘Grill Lunch’ on the ship’s sky deck. Allowing for sun-soaked alfresco dining, and quite possibly a sun-soaked siesta too.
Excursions are never compulsory and if something doesn’t tickle your fancy off-board, it certainly pays to stay aboard. The Tapestry II boasts a myriad of amenities. There are two indoor lounges where you can sit, read or daydream. As well as a selection of board games, plenty of DVDs and the ‘help yourself’ coffee and cookie station. Try a gooey double choc chip, but beware, you’ll end up devouring five. If the sun is beaming, you can sit atop the sky deck and a catch a few European rays, or maybe you want to run a few laps in the gym? On second thoughts, grab another self-serve hot chocolate and book yourself in at the hairdresser – a new do for dinner is always nice.
Don’t worry, you’re not back at university, the Avalon Tapestry II is too modern to smell like a musky lecture theatre. However, Nigel Stewart, author, Francophile and WWII enthusiast, is a frequent Avalon visitor for this particular trip. Join him in the main lounge for a fascinating introduction into the D-Day Landings. He’ll detail all the interesting parts, from military strategies to espionage, and NZ’s very own ‘White Mouse’ AKA Nancy Wake. Born in Roseneath, Wellington, Wake was one of the Gestapo's most wanted - dubbed ‘The White Mouse’ due to her infuriating knack for eluding their capture. Thatta girl.
A brief briefing
During this particular Avalon cruise, our Cruise Director was Tony - a natural crowd pleaser. Good with people, great with an audience. He’s British, (clearly southern), so the cockney quips come hard and fast. Every evening, ten minutes before dinner, all Avalon guests (or ‘Avalonians as Tony likes to call them) meet for a quick briefing; a nifty overview regarding the following day. It’s also Happy Hour at the bar, so you can knock back a White Russian while Tony explains the happenings for the next day.
Insider’s insight: If you’ve knocked back one too many Russians and pay little attention, you needn’t fret, all details are printed and left in your bedroom during turndown service.
Most dinners are smart-casual, erring more on the side of casual, but once or twice a week, dinnertime will be a formal affair, and everyone gets to dress to the nines. We advise you to go with a good appetite because dinners are at least four courses, not including the piping hot bread rolls which are constantly replenished with olive oil, balsamic and butters. Wine is complimentary and trust us, you’ll never see the bottom of your glass, while the food is fresh, locally sought and features an international array of flavours.
Insider’s insight: At the very beginning of the week, inform your Maître D' if you have any food intolerances. Staff will ensure your needs are met for the rest of the cruise.
Some evenings call for nothing more than a night cap, or a dance in the main lounge with your fellow Avalonians. On-board entertainment occurs every evening until 10pm, complete with a light supper, drinks and snacks. River cruises are quite different to ocean liners and the entertainment is more subdued. Expect a two-man band with a keyboard player and a crooner to rival Sinatra.
Insider’s insight: As long as the ship isn’t sailing, you can disembark and take yourself elsewhere. Find a pretty bar with a band of its own and get to know the locals.
Time for bed
Retire to your suite, where you’ll find the maids have been busy preparing your room for slumber. Light music plays and the curtains are drawn (soon to be opened, no?)
Insider’s insight: We can’t not mention Avalon’s luxurious bathrooms. So pristine, you could spend an entire day simply admiring the tile work. And the assortment of ‘his and hers’ L’OCCITANE products will ensure you smell delicious - while treating those mosquitoes to super soft skin while you sleep!
Click here to read about a typical Avalon excursion.
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