Tuesday, November 19, 2013

River Cruising: A Room with a (Constantly Changing ) View

 A Room With a View:  River Cruising on Avalon’s Panorama

The world’s most expensive book, in the Gutenburg Museum in Mainz, an historic mustard factory in Cochem, an underground disco in an abandoned subway station in Frankfurt, and a mechanical monkey that plays the violin in the Mechanical Instrument Museum in Rüdesheim,  – all are intriguing discoveries to be made on a Rhine and Moselle River cruise.
But even more attractive than that is the discovery that you can open the curtains in your new stateroom on board the Panorama and watch the castles drift by at 6:30 in the morning, still in your PJ’s if you like.  That’s the kind of sybaritic extension to the day that I can’t resist. 
It’s not that I’m lazy – the rest of my day will be active and full, but the possibility of starting the day like this, with the window open to the fresh river air, and a cup of coffee from the cappuccino machine in the club lounge is so appealing.
I’m not alone.  River cruising on ships like the Panorama is part of a growing demand from seasoned, and beginner, cruisers.
When Lisa Wilkinson, popular Australian media and television star, christened the Panorama, she was naming a boat that was already a success story.  Even before the ship’s official touring season began with its first passengers coming on board in the spring of 2011, the first season of the Panorama was 98% booked 
According to CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) the cruise industry is the fastest growing travel segment in the world, and river cruising has had a compounded increase of 10% a year since 2004. 
  So popular are the river cruises that Avalon's sister ships the Vista and the Visionary, have been added to the fleet.

The growth in river cruising is partly the result of a general increase in the number of people cruising, but is also due to the advances in design and upgraded amenities on the newer ships.  Instead of the dark and small cabins of early river boats, as on the first river cruise I took in the early 90’s, new river boats have adopted many of the features of their larger ocean-going sisters. 
The new Panorama boasts some of the largest cabins in the industry, at 200 square feet, with full length floor to ceiling windows that open to French balconies, marble clad bathrooms, L’Ocittaine amenities, wifi throughout the ship, a full fitness centre, larger viewing deck and elegant gourmet dining.  Wine and beer are included, as are excursions, guided walking tours and state-of-the-art digital earphones.  The Avalon fleet has some of the youngest ships in the industry.  Although the company only started in 2004, it has already retired two ships, and  expanded to eleven ships in 2012.
The charm of the river cruise, though, remains in its ability to give its passengers close and intimate connection with the countries they visit.  Shore excursions offer more time ashore, with a variety of excursions and an emphasis on the local culture. This all comes with the convenience of a cruise, one time unpacking, your own comfortable room, all inclusive meals and access to the ship-board amenities.

Avalon’s 2014 itineraries range from European river cruises to Yangtze and Nile sailings to Galapagos expeditions, and new itineraries on the Mekong River in Vietnam.

All good reasons to take to the river this cruising season.

For more information on Avalon Waterways Cruises, visit www.avalonecruiseline,com

© Barbara Ramsay Orr

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