TravelAge West | by Marilyn Green
Exploring ice caves, drawing a bow in archery lessons, climbing a mountain and eating vegetarian dishes are miles away from what travelers normally associate with the river cruise experience. But it appears the sector has come of age, demonstrated by Avalon Waterways’ new themes and partnerships.
Avalon has announced that it is teaming up with brothers Karl and Leo Wrenkh, two of Vienna’s rising culinary stars of vegetarian and healthful dining, to design Avalon Fresh, a line of healthful onboard meal choices. At the same time, the company is adding an Active Discovery on the Danube cruise to its list of special-interest cruises, presumably the first of several such programs.
Travel agents have speculated that the two initiatives are likely to bring in a younger demographic, but Patrick Clark, managing director for Avalon, says the company is targeting a mindset rather than an age group.
“We understand that many people are looking for vacations where they can be active and healthy,” he said. “By offering them enriching experiences — on excursions meant to help them discover the world around them in new and exciting ways, and at the dining table — we’re delivering what they’re looking for.”
The new veggie-friendly menu will be available to guests who just want to try a dish or two or for those who want to stay with it throughout the cruise. Although specifics haven’t been announced, vegetarian dishes that can be found at the Wrenkhs’ restaurant and cooking school include potato-spinach strudel with sunflower seeds, Tyrolean pea soup and asparagus quinoa soup.
“We think our travelers deserve healthful, vegetarian food options that taste great,” Clark said. “While we have always provided travelers with a selection of nutritious, delicious recipes, Avalon Fresh is taking this idea to a new level.”
Clark describes the offerings as “wholesome menu items where garden-fresh, local ingredients from small farms are married with a sprinkle of ingenuity — so mouthwatering, it will be hard to believe it’s healthy.”
Avalon dinners include a specialty dish from the day’s destination, as well as a choice of wine, including special wines from the region — all complimentary and selected by a professional sommelier. And on each cruise, the company brings a local chef onboard to interact with guests and prepare a dinner that gives them an authentic taste of the local culture.
The line’s Active Discovery itineraries sail nine days between Linz, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary, and provide cruisers with the opportunity to bike, hike and canoe along the Danube River. Clark says other Active Discovery options include exploring an ice cave, taking an archery lesson, descending into an underground salt mine or taking a guided climb up a mountain. Guests can choose from activities such as a hiking tour that retraces the route of World War II smugglers; a beer tasting at an abbey brewery; a Linz music theater performance; or a pub crawl. Passengers might also take a canoe tour down the Danube; bike from Spitz to Durnstein in Austria; jog or bike through Vienna; hike the Viennese vineyards; and attend a medieval knights’ tournament in Visegrad, Hungary.