One thing that sets Avalon apart from other river lines is its suites, which are larger than the norm and ingeniously laid out. Most of the cabins are 200-square-foot Panoramic Suites, so named for their huge floor-to-ceiling sliding window, which takes up an entire wall. (Opening it turns the sitting area into a de facto balcony.) Even better, the bed faces the window, allowing passengers to wake up to the sight of vineyards or castles instead of a wall or a cabinet. The larger 300-square-feet Royal Suites also have a panoramic window and window-facing bed, while the 172 deluxe staterooms do not.
Avalon is known for its specialty cruises. Passion hosts the line’s beer-themed cruise in Holland and Belgium, which includes a visit to the Heineken brewery, beer-and-food-paired meals onboard, and lectures by beer experts.
In the main dining room, regional flavors rule. For dinner, choose from dishes like potato pancakes with smoked salmon, and braised German-style beef with potato dumplings and red cabbage. Those in the mood for classic cruise fare can opt for grilled salmon, chicken, or rump of steak. There’s also complimentary beer, white, rosé, or red on the menu each night.
Good news for anyone stressing about gaining weight on their next cruise: in 2017, Avalon is rolling out its new Avalon Fresh program fleetwide. The line partnered with Viennese chefs Karl and Leo Wrenkh to create healthy, regional dishes made with ingredients from small, local farms for its menus—and some are even gluten free.
Avalon recently introduced new active-themed cruises for passengers who want to bike, hike, and waltz their way through Europe. There are none scheduled for Passion yet, but the ship does have a fleet of bicycles onboard, which passengers can take out for free in port, or use during an organized tour led by local bike companies.