By Jason Leppert | Published to TravelAgeWest.com
Sailing down the river after a good night’s sleep, you awaken to a splendid view. You prop your head on the pillow and look toward your feet at the passing vista just beyond.
Avalon Waterways’ claim to fame is its Suite Ships’ Panorama Suites. Beds are angled toward floor-to-ceiling windows that slide to the side to become an open-air balcony. It’s a simple but brilliant configuration, and now that the entire European fleet consists of this room type, the line is aiming to take the brand to the next level.
There’s no question that Avalon’s Panorama Suites will continue to be a selling point. After all, the layout affords more usable cabin space overall, especially in the bathroom. Showers are larger than average and easy to turn around in, and there’s plenty of room surrounding the toilet and sink. His-and-hers towels, colored dark and light, are easy to tell apart, and L’Occitane toiletries are always sublime.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the bed and along the balcony railing, a sofa and a chair flank a height-adjustable table. The suite’s bedding can be adjusted on a four-tier scale from soft to firm, too.
Avalon also plans to differentiate the brand with its programming. Pam Hoffee, managing director for Avalon Waterways, calls it “building beyond the view.” That means inviting guests to river cruise in their own way, customized to their tastes. Keeping to that formula are Avalon Choice and YourWay programming. The former identifies experiences in three categories: Classic, Discovery and Active.
As it applies to shore excursions, Classic focuses on history and culture such as a city tour; Discovery delves into interactive opportunities such as a cooking demonstration; and Active highlights energetic activities such as caving. Onboard drink menus are similarly divided into these three themes. Additionally, adventure hosts are now available to serve as concierges for leisurely strolls as well as activities requiring bicycles, walking sticks and even picnic blankets.
Wellness is a consideration in the dining room thanks to Avalon Fresh healthy options. Aiming for relaxed luxury, the restaurant does not enforce a specific dress code. FlexDining removes rigid dining times and changes the Panorama Bistro menu daily. Onboard Avalon, it’s all about feeling at home and being casually comfortable.
Beginning in 2020, YourWay will let guests customize their vacation further by packaging cruise tours in another three ways: with an Avalon land extension, a Monograms vacation package or a Globus escorted tour. Monograms and Globus are sister brands to Avalon, and they bring their own regional expertise and local hosts to the itinerary. For those looking for a shorter journey, three-night sampler sailings are also available.
Also enhancing the bespoke experience are technological advances. The AvalonGo mobile app puts a concierge at guests’ fingertips with a daily schedule, destination maps and a list of shoreside points of interest. Directions are GPS-enabled and do not require a data connection. The latest Avalon Envision even has kiosks in the reception area that serve as extensions to the app.