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Avalon Danube River Cruise Review

To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to take a river cruise on the beautiful Danube River. We were glad we went in mid-May because the weather was mild and the tourist destinations were not as crowded as in the summer. We chose Avalon Cruise Lines over Viking because of the larger cabins and bigger windows. The price was about the same. We traveled with friends who had previously sailed on Viking on the Rhine River. They felt that the cruise experience in both cases was very comparable. We sailed on the Avalon Envision which is only 6 years old and looks identical to other Avalon ships we passed on the river. It has a capacity of 164 passengers with 4 decks. There are no tall ships on the river because of the many bridges. There were no kids on our cruise and the average age was probably 65 to 70. We sailed up-river which is slower than sailing down-river so we had more time on the ship and less time in port. However, since most days we sailed after dark it didn't matter. We thought our time in port was about right. We passed through several sets of locks on the river, some at night. The sailing itself was very smooth the entire way.

Our cruise started in Budapest, Hungary. We flew in a day early just in case there were any travel delays and to have extra time to see the city. We bought some Euros at the airport for tipping and small purchases. Then we heard that Hungary's currency is the Forint not the Euro so we ended up buying a small quantity at a vending machine on a street in Budapest. As it turned out most merchants in Hungary also took Euros. BTW... it's a little cheaper to get foreign currency at your local bank before you leave but you have to allow a few days for it to arrive. We used our credit card for most purchases..

Budapest, like all the port cities on our cruise, is a very old city. From Budapest we made stops in Bratislava, Slovakia, Vienna, Austria, Durnstein, Austria, Linz, Austria and Passau Germany. All the stops were very interesting but our favorite was Vienna, Austria. The large town squares were very clean with a lot to see, full of shops, many of them high-end, and there were restaurants and coffee shops all over. Vienna is known as the world's music capital because Mozart and Beethoven resided and performed there so we decided to take in a symphony. Another interesting, but depressing, stop was to visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz, Austria. It would take almost a whole day there to see it all but we only had a few hours.

We visited or saw a lot of very old churches, palaces and statues on our trip and it turned out to be more interesting than I thought they would be. I wish I would have read up on the history of places we went before we left. I think I would have got more out of the daily excursions we went on. Speaking of excursions, all of our tour guides were very good and with the audio headsets it made it very easy to hear them. We found out that most of the tour guides are independent contractors and work with many different river cruise lines. One thing I was surprised about was how many different cruise companies are sailing on the Danube. The different companies served people from different countries around the world. Avalon and Viking serve mostly an American market. BTW... we had no problem communicating with the locals on our trip. Almost everyone spoke or understood English.

The food was good but portions were small but you could ask for more. We never did because they always had a dessert, and sweets in the evening in the lounge and the library. Breakfast was buffet style with a good selection. The only negative was the main dining room at dinner time. It was crowded and very loud. So much so that it was hard to hear the person across the table. Even so we had many interesting conversations with people from all over the U.S. You could eat in the lounge if you preferred but the selection was very limited. You could also do room service.

All-in-all it was a great trip and we would highly recommend it.

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