This post is sponsored by Avalon Waterways. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
River cruises are not what they used to be. Gone are the days of meeting in port for stuffy tours on big busses with boring itineraries. Avalon Waterways has created something unique for a new generation of thoughtful travelers, their Active and Discovery river cruises. I just returned from this river cruise on the Danube and it was the perfect blend of immersive cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, and personalization. Here are 7 reasons an Avalon Waterways Active & Discovery Cruise should be your next vacay.
7 Reasons An Avalon Waterways Active & Discovery River Cruise Should Be Your Next Vacation
1 – During River Cruises, You Only Have To Unpack Once
One of the biggest benefits of river cruising is the luxury of unpacking only once while also being able to see multiple destinations. Unlike planning your own trip, or going on an overland tour, with river cruising you get the restful benefits of slow travel — a trend that focuses on a more mindful, less rushed schedule — while also feeling like you’re getting the most out of your vacation time.
It’s like having a floating hotel where you get the experience of visiting multiple places and cities without the extra hassle or effort of traveling in-between them.
Also, Avalon’s Panorama Suites have open-air balconies and wall-to-wall panoramic windows that open up and turn your whole room into a balcony. So, you can lay in bed and watch the world casually drift by, the scenery constantly changing from big cities, to small villages with ancient castles, and rolling hills of green vineyards. A room with a revolving view? Now that’s what I call smart luxury.
2 – Access To Unique Experiences
Having previously visited Budapest, and then spending a week in Vienna after the cruise, I can honestly say that Avalon Waterways opened doors to unique cultural experiences I would not have easily been able to schedule on my own.
We sipped champagne during an opera performance at Hungarian State Opera House, learned about the history of absinthe, had private tours of museums before they became crowded, spent an afternoon cooking local cuisine, and enjoyed a breathtaking evening at Palais Niederösterreich for a private classical music concert. The performance was truly an event of a lifetime!
Being a foodie, the cooking class at Andante Vienna was equally one of my favorite highlights. I’ve taken cooking classes while traveling, but never during a cruise since it usually seems there is never enough time to sign up for something so immersive.
Since we were in Vienna for two full days, it gave us time to spend a relaxed afternoon in a beautiful theatre kitchen, with sunlight pouring in (and wine pouring freely) while learning to make schnitzel, potato salad, and strudel. It was a feast for the senses!
Also, quite serendipitously, and certainly unique to the time of year we were traveling, we visited Burg Clam while Foreigner was performing a concert along the hillside beside the castle. Nothing quite beats the memory of sipping wine on a castle balcony during a summer sunset while listening to “I Want To Know What Love Is” being performed live. (Now the Clam Live concert series is on my music bucket list!)
All of these experiences individually would have taken a considerable amount of time, energy, and planning to schedule on my own – if they were even available. Having access to all of these wonderful experiences during a river cruise made the trip feel even more exciting and special.
3 – A Focus On Fitness
Avalon Waterways has a focus on fitness unlike any cruise I’ve ever seen. A dedicated Avalon Adventure Host is on board to help you coordinate activities throughout your river cruise. There are bikes available for guest use on shore, regularly scheduled yoga classes on the ship, and the included excursions have hiking, biking, and kayaking scheduled throughout the week. There was even a running tour!
In all the years I’ve been traveling, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a running tour offered until now. It was like having a guided jog around the city of Vienna! And it felt great to get in a four mile run to balance out all those extra delicious indulgences that happen while traveling. We stopped for a few photo opportunities and water breaks along the way. And overall the pace was manageable as they set it to the slowest runner (me!). I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for a morning run if I had not signed up for the excursion, so I appreciated the accountability while traveling.
The hiking was really nice too. Usually, you’d have to plan a special trip out to the mountains or countryside to go hiking. In Visegrad, we walked right off the boat and went on a guided hike up to Count Drakula’s prison tower! The views were amazing and worth the effort.
It felt great to be truly active each day. And all the actives felt fun and not too challenging. The bike tours were along the river, so the bike paths were mostly flat and easily accessible. We went on a 22k ride out to an organic farm one afternoon, while others biked through vineyards and beside the river alongside the ship moving to the next port.
I tracked everything daily on my Apple Watch, but Avalon Waterways does provide FitBits if you’d like to borrow one to track your steps during your vacation.
And did I mention the regularly scheduled yoga and stretching classes? Usually I’m trying to pull a warrior pose and stretch out in downward dog in my hotel room, so this was wonderful to have classes scheduled during the cruise.
4 – Choose Your Own Adventure
This is one area where Avalon Waterways really stands out from other cruise companies. They offer three types of excursions — all included with the price of your cruise! So, there’s no feeling like you’re being sold add-ons at each port.
You can pick from Classic excursions where a guide shows you all the highlights of a city, to immersive Discovery tours that’s a bit more hands-on (such as cooking classes), or Active excursions that get you moving and enjoying the outdoors.
It’s also easy to walk off and explore on your own, including checking out bikes from the Avalon Adventure Host. You get to decide your own travel style and choose the pace and excursions that are best for you.
5 – Variety Of Food Experiences
Of course, I have to talk about the food. There’s a delicious variety of culinary experiences both onboard the ship and off. We had Bavarian themed dinners while sailing past iconic landmarks, tours of the kitchen, and barbecues on the top deck during gorgeous sailing days. Most of the food on board is sourced from the river ports, so you’ll notice fresh baked breads, pastries, and other local delicacies offered.
Plus, on shore, we were treated to a traditional Viennese breakfast in a cafe, tried absinthe, indulged in beer and cheese pairings, and went on an evening hike through vineyards to a Viennese Heurigen (wine tavern). Overall I was really impressed with the variety of food experiences offered.
The best part is that you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything, because if there’s a restaurant you heard about that you want to try, and you want to go out to dinner on shore, you can do that too! One night in Vienna I went out with Caroline (Healthy Voyager) to check out the Speakeasies in Vienna and we had an amazing time!
6 – Avalon Waterways Is Family Friendly
This is the first river cruise I’ve experienced where the guests were truly multi-generational. There were whole families aboard celebrating big birthdays, marriage engagements, and important milestones. Children 8 years+ are welcome aboard, but I have to say, this isn’t a “kids club” sort of cruise with a swimming pool. The kiddos I met were very much into the culture, history, and food. One little guy even had some very good questions about WWI, so his history teachers should be proud! In addition, the variety of excursions and different level of activities offered make Avalon Waterways a great choice for group and family travel.
7 – Sustainable River Cruises
There is so much talk these days about sustainable travel, so it’s refreshing to find an environmentally conscious company that really steps up their efforts to have as little impact on the environment as possible while also promoting positive change.
“The vibrant and beautiful natural surroundings of the world’s rivers are a benefit of river cruising. And, it is up to Avalon Waterways – and other river cruise companies – to preserve this precious environment around us and limit our impact.” -Avalon Waterways
Avalon Waterways has reduced their paper waste by 80% by sharing maps and shore information primarily via their AvalonGo app. In the bar and dining areas, you’ll notice plastics have been replaced with wooden stirrers, biodegradable straws, and compostable lids on to-go cups.
Whenever there’s a way to utilize something that is washable and reusable, they employ it — such as washable fabric gloves and laundry bags. There’s also on board recycling systems that separate glass, paper, plastics and organic waste. And the ships are fuel efficient, featuring top-of-the-line technology that limits energy use and consumption. Each has a propulsion system that uses 20% less fuel than the industry standard.
In addition, they give back. When guests choose e-documents over printed ones – eliminating paper and plastic waste – they donate funds to The Ocean Cleanup. Plus, their corporate gifts aren’t your typical plastic tchotchkes, but instead are thoughtful handmade gifts that employ women in Cambodia through Landmine Design.
Overall, at the end of the cruise, I felt rejuvenated, having experienced a balance of rest and activity, reflection and play, city life and the great outdoors, and certainly plenty of fun stories to share back home. It’s truly one of the best cruises I’ve ever experienced.
This post is part of the #AvalonAD campaign in collaboration with iambassador and Avalon Waterways. However, all views and opinions are my own.