15th Sep 2024 | 11 nights | Avalon | Avalon Poetry II
Begin with two overnights in captivating Nice on the French Riviera, and relax along the remarkably blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. Take a wondrous European river cruise through beautiful views of France along the Rhône and Saône Rivers with guided sightseeing in the well-known French treasures and some hidden gems too! Embark your ship in Arles—famous for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh and site of a 1st-century Roman Amphitheater. On a guided tour of historical Avignon, see the 14th-century Palace of the Popes—the largest Gothic fortress in the world. Take a guided walk through a medieval treasure of Roman ruins and a fascinating 16th-century castle in the city of Tournon, beautifully nestled among vineyards. Visit Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital and a showcase of medieval and Renaissance architecture at the junction of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Visit the popular Place des Terreaux and stand in front of the famous fountain seen on postcards. This French river cruise vacation would not be complete without a stay in Paris—one of the world’s most romantic and vibrant cities! Discover its true heart on a guided walk through the sites of Paris’ rich history, or take a tour to see the iconic landmarks of the Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and more.
Avalon Poetry II is one of the smallest of Avalon Waterways' suite ships. The 128-passenger vessel launched in 2014 along with suite ships Avalon Illumination and Avalon Impression, but it's a full 82 feet shorter than most of the ships in its class. Poetry II does have sister ships -- Visionary and Artistry II, launched in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
The size difference between the smaller twins and the rest of Avalon's suite class of ship is most evident in two areas: the number of staterooms onboard (nearly 20 fewer) and the smaller square footage of the ships' forward lounge and dining room. Despite its smaller stature, Poetry II features the same innovative design in its cabins and forward social spaces that have become Avalon's signature.
Avalon's panorama suites boast retractable windowed walls known as open-air balconies or French balconies, which are arguably the biggest sell for these ships. The innovative design allows 11-by-7-foot panoramic sliding-glass doors to open up the accommodations. Apart from the breezy views, though, a secondary benefit to these cabins is the added square footage. Tacking on the space that would be used for a balcony inside the stateroom means that panorama suites measure 200 square feet, larger than the industry average.
Avalon has also opted to drop the prow section of its ships slightly, creating an interesting split-level design that creates both cosy nooks and a pleasing sense of spaciousness, particularly on the ship's third deck and upper deck. If you look down the third floor stateroom corridor, for example, the view opens from a narrow passage to the expanse of the reception and main lounge. The split-level top deck has the same effect, making the ships feel longer than they are, while also creating two separate spaces -- one full of loungers for sun-seekers and one full of tables for those who want to chat or read a book. The lower decks, too, feel tucked away. Only three decks can fit in the dropped prow, so the dining room is positioned midway between the bottom and middle decks, and it's much closer to the waterline than on most river cruise ships.
Avalon has much to offer in addition to these signature designs, particularly in décor and dining. Cabins are comfortably furnished, with memory foam mattress toppers and plush pillows and duvets. Flat-screen televisions offer a plethora of options (including nine fireplace settings), and spacious bathrooms feature marble countertops, glass shower doors and L'Occitane bath products.
Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet-style, but the quality of available fare is notably high. Dinners are superb, and whether you're adventurous or prefer to stick to the "always available" menu, you'll find something tasty.
Finally, cruises on Poetry II are port-intensive, so they're great for anyone who enjoys European history and sightseeing. And, unlike sailings on mega-ships, most shore excursions -- and wine and beer at lunch and dinner -- are included in the pricing.
The dress code for all sailings is listed as casual, which generally means nice trousers and collared shirts or blouses. Jeans are acceptable on shore excursions, and comfortable shoes are a must, as you'll be doing a lot of walking over uneven terrain. There are no formal nights, but passengers do tend to dress up a bit more for the captain's welcome and farewell dinners -- jackets (no ties) for men, and dresses or skirts or pants with blouses for women.
Like most other river cruise ships, entertainment onboard Poetry II is simple and low-key. Typically, days are spent ashore exploring, and an onboard musician provides light musical entertainment in the main lounge. A couple times per sailing, the line will bring onboard musicians and lecturers from the local area to entertain and inform. On our cruise, a swing band (guitar, bass and percussion trio) came onboard and rocked the house one night; on another, the line laid out a spread for a cheese and Dutch liquor tasting.
The ship's main lounge is also home to the only onboard bar. Two beverage menus are offered there -- one for wines, beers and drinks like juice and soda, and one for spirits and mixed drinks. The first list offers a variety of white, red and rose wine from Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland.
On select "movie nights," movies are shown after dinner on the flat-screen TV in the ship's secondary aft lounge on Deck 3.
Although most shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise, Avalon does offer a few optional half- and full-day tours for an additional fee. Guides are knowledgeable, friendly and speak fluent English.
The top deck spans the entire length of the ship, and the signature split-level design is employed to good effect there, too. The upper aft tier offers a hot tub and a decent number of sun loungers from which passengers can enjoy 360-degree views as they sail through quaint villages. The lowered bow area has clusters of tables and chairs perfect for a relaxed chat (or a good book) over a cup of coffee. On nice days, this space sometimes hosts the line's Sky Bistro, an outdoor eatery that features grilled fare. The forward deck design also allows passengers the ability to safely remain outside when the ship passes under low bridges. There are also collapsible awnings over the sun loungers that come down when the ship is passing under low bridges.
There's no swimming pool on Poetry II, nor is there a spa, but a small salon is found near the aft of the ship on Deck 3. It offers haircuts, styling, head massages, colouring and highlighting for both men and women. Manicures and pedicures are also available.
Passengers will find a very small workout room midship on Deck 1. It has enough space for one treadmill, one recumbent bicycle, one regular exercise bike -- all Life Fitness brand -- and a TV. There's also a tower of dumbbell free weights. Water and towels are available at no additional charge at the back of the room. No fitness classes are organized onboard.
You enter the ship into the lobby and reception, which is small but welcoming, with a modern chandelier and natural light filtering through a skylight. The reception desk faces the cruise director's desk and adjacent seating area. Next to that, passengers will find two computers. They're free to use, as is the bow-to-stern Wi-Fi for those who wish to bring their own laptops. Reception is quite good throughout the ship, particularly when in port, and load times seemed faster than those on most other vessels.
The main lounge, used for pre- and post-dinner drinks, alternative dining, and nightly entertainment, is located just forward of the reception desk. With its panoramic windows, the room is bright and airy, and it's the only space on the ship that deviates from the blues, purples and beiges of the onboard colour scheme. The main lounge's chairs, stools and couches are upholstered in red, grey or cream, and the carpet is a flamboyant swirling pattern of similar colours.
The ship's other lounge, the Club Lounge, is a small space at the aft of the ship on Deck 3. With purple accents in the pillows and carpeting, the room's décor consists of dark tables and chocolate-coloured wicker loveseats and chairs. If you're feeling peckish between meals, pastries, cookies and a variety of hot beverages are always available there, along with fruit and juice during the day. There's a small library of books and board games in the Club Lounge, and the space also serves as the location for Avalon's past-passenger meetings.
A first-aid kit is available at the ship's front desk, but there are no medical facilities onboard. Because river cruises sail so close to land, qualified medical professionals are only a phone call away in case of an emergency.
Self-service laundry facilities are not offered to passengers, but washing (no dry-cleaning) and pressing services are available for a fee.
The ship itself is wheelchair-accessible throughout, but passengers with limited mobility might find getting on and off most river cruise ships to be difficult, if not impossible, at times due to the variety of docking arrangements. The onboard lift also does not go up to the sun deck, as low-hanging bridges don't allow for that sort of height. The line advises that anyone sailing on the ship should at least be able to walk up the gangway and one flight of stairs. None of the cabins is specifically wheelchair-accessible.
Note: Smoking is banned on all Avalon ships, with the exception of designated areas. On Poetry II, these are found at the bow of the ship, just outside the main lounge, and at the rear, just past the aft lounge.
Poetry II's main -- and only -- dining room, which is big enough to accommodate all passengers at the single dinner seating, is yet another interesting onboard space created by the lowering of the decks in the bow. On the lowest deck (between decks 1 and 2) in that section of the ship, the dining room sits just above the waterline. This gives the space a cavern-like feel, kind of low and dark, which is comforting. On the other hand, when you're docked alongside a levy wall or another ship, only one side of the dining room has a view.
The room itself is split in half by dark wood decorative shelving, which essentially creates two smaller dining rooms. Tan upholstered benches are built into either side of the divide, with chairs opposite. Tables seating between two and eight, set with white tablecloths, are placed throughout the space, accompanied by dark wood chairs upholstered in blue. Walls are cream in colour, and carpeting features a blue and beige floral pattern. Lighting is soft, and panoramic windows surround the dining areas. At the back of the dining room (forward, in ship terms), you'll find a marble-topped buffet station, which is where breakfast and lunch are served each day.
Breakfast is split between light options in the ship's main lounge (early riser from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and late riser from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and a full buffet in the main dining room (from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.). Don't let the buffet-style offerings fool you: the quality is great, and you'll be able to choose from varied options that include cereal, oatmeal, fruit, cold cuts, bacon, sausage, hash browns, yogurt, pancakes and more. Additionally, there's an egg station where a chef will make a fresh omelette or scramble right in front of you. Room service is available for breakfast only; the menu is small and includes continental items like coffee, tea, orange juice, croissants and pastries.
Lunch is also served buffet-style in the main dining room. Typical choices include vegetable and pasta salads; chicken, fish and beef dishes; soups; vegetables; and cooked-to-order pastas. There's also a non-buffet, always-available menu that includes items like minute steak and Caesar salad. Times vary based on each day's activities, but the standard lunchtime is generally from about noon to 1:30 p.m. Lighter fare (sandwiches, fruit, etc.) is available simultaneously in the ship's main lounge.
For lunch on nice days, a portion of the ship's sun deck may be converted to Sky Bistro, an outdoor dining venue offering grilled dishes. It wasn't available on our sailing, so we can't comment on the quality of the food.
Dinner, served at one open seating, generally around 7 p.m., is in the main dining room. Although passengers can choose their tables and tablemates, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you're dining with a group, be sure to show up early. Some two-tops are available, and tables for six or eight can be pushed together to accommodate larger groups.
Menus mainly consist of four or five courses: appetizer, soup or salad, sorbet, entrée and dessert or cheese plate. Some items, such as foie gras and carpaccio, have a French or Italian influence. Other dishes we tried included Canadian rock lobster, lemongrass-flavoured chicken consommé, dumpling soup, grilled North Sea bass, pistachio ice cream and a plate of assorted cheeses. Everything was skilfully prepared and beautifully presented. Options like Caesar salad, grilled chicken, grilled rump steak of beef and roasted salmon are always included on the menu and are available at lunch and dinner. "Healthy" selections like potato and watercress soup, glazed codfish and roasted plums are also on the list.
Although the food is superb, don't expect dinner on this ship to be a short affair; on some nights, ours lasted as long as three hours.
As on many other European river cruises, juices, sodas and a selection of alcoholic beverages (beer and wine, both white and red) are available free of charge during lunch and dinner.
For between-meal or late-night snacks, cookies and fruit are available in the ship's aft lounge, along with tea, hot chocolate, juices and an assortment of coffee beverages from a Lavazza machine.
Avalon Poetry II is part of the line's Suite Class, which means all accommodations on two of the ship's three cabin decks are considered suites. Of the 64 total cabins onboard, 52 are either 300-square-foot Royal Suites or 200-square-foot Panorama Suites, both of which boast floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors that convert the cabins into wonderfully serene open-air balconies. (A railing is just outside, with no additional outdoor space.) It's important to note that these cabins are not true suites, and, while the cabins are considered large by river cruise industry standards, they don't compare to suites on mass-market oceangoing ships.
The remaining dozen cabins are standards, the smallest of which come in at 172 square feet and offer two windows that peek out just above the waterline.
The colour palette for all cabins encompasses dark brown woods (desks, closets, headboards); white and off-white on the walls, duvets and pillows; a brown and beige print carpet; and a purple and brown bedspread.
Each cabin's twin beds can be pushed together to create one queen. The reconfigurable beds, while still two separate twin mattresses, are overlaid with a plush foam mattress topper. The combination of that and a comfortable mattress gave us one of the best nights of sleep we've had onboard a cruise ship in quite a while.
All cabins include desks, decently sized closets, safes, nightstands with reading lamps, stocked minibars, free bottled water daily, individual climate and loudspeaker controls, bathrobes, L'Occitane bath products, two colours of towels (convenient when identifying which are yours if you're traveling with a companion), hair dryers, shaving mirrors and flat-screen TV's that offer a variety of movies, television shows, music, a ship Web cam and info channel, and nine different "fireplace" settings to help you relax in front of a virtual fire. There are also red panic buttons located in each cabin, but they should only be used in case of emergencies. Other nice touches include a built-in clock on each in-cabin TV and a nightlight of sorts, which subtly illuminates the bathroom near the floor, making it easy to find your way in the dark.
Royal Suites, the ship's largest accommodations, each offer two flat-screen TVs (one that can be viewed from the bed and another that swivels to be watched by those lounging on the purple chenille sofa and chairs); a bookcase; a large bathroom with double sinks and a shower; a separate powder room with a toilet; and extra closet space.
Panorama Suites have only one TV each, no bookcases and bathrooms that encompass all facilities (just one sink instead of two) in one room with plenty of storage space for toiletries.
Standard cabins, although adequate, are pretty small at 172 square feet. There's no room for couches, chairs or coffee tables, and bathrooms don't seem to have as much shelf space for storage. Closet space is comparable to what's available in Junior Suites, however.
Bathrooms in all cabins consist of dark brown faux wood cabinetry, tan tiled floors and walls, and marble sink tops. All cabins offer showers only, and they're equipped with glass doors, rather than clingy shower curtains. Showerheads are large and detachable, and the water pressure on our sailing was decent.
Plugs in each cabin are European-style, so be sure to bring an adapter or two. There is a full-length mirror inside the cabinet that houses the safe, on the back of the door.
English-speaking travellers who want to sail the world by river, exploring at their own pace.
Families with young children or travellers who depend on wheelchairs.
Avalon caters to English-speaking travellers from North America, the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand. The average age of passengers is mid-50s to 60s, but the mix varies by itinerary, and on four- and five-night cruises, you'll find more 40-something travellers and others trying out river cruises for the first time. Children ages 8 and older are welcome onboard, but there is no formal youth program.
No, not really. You can't wear shorts at dinner, but, other than that the dress code is casual. At dinner you'll see mostly open-neck shirts and slacks for men; slacks, skirts or dresses for women. Some people op to dress up a bit nicer, though still relatively casual, for the welcome and farewell dinners (only on Europe river cruises).
Exactly what is included varies somewhat with the itineraries. In Europe, Asia and South America, coffee and tea are available free of charge all day long. In Europe a choice of complimentary wine, beer or soft drinks is included with lunch and dinner, and sparkling wine with breakfast. On the Mekong, Ganges and Amazon rivers, select soft drinks and local beer/spirits are available throughout the day and wine is included with lunch and dinner. Wi-Fi is free (except in the Amazon or Galapagos, where it's not available), as is dining (including breakfast in bed and picnic lunches to take on shore) and all onboard entertainment and enrichment. Most shore excursions are complimentary, including the line's Active Adventure options. You'll pay extra for gratuities, salon or spa treatments, laundry, onboard shop purchases and some special excursions.
Shore excursions are at the heart of activities on any Avalon sailing. Options can range from active excursions, such as canoeing the Danube or jogging through Amsterdam, to cultural experiences, like following the life of an Austrian worker or taking part in an Amsterdam painting class. Passengers who prefer to explore on their own can use the AvalonGO app loaded with a list of nearby attractions and hours of operation, historical facts, maps and directions as well as local cafes, restaurants, bars and entertainment options. Onboard, most passengers attend enrichment sessions, and the Local Favourites program brings regional performances onboard, as well as classes: tai chi or Mandarin lessons on the Yangtze, culinary demonstrations in France, etc.
Inclusions may differ depending on region. Please check with our team.