"After 10 years in the river-cruising industry, Avalon Waterways has evolved with its own distinctive style of ships through its Scenery and Suite Ships classes, which have become favorites in the European river-cruising market, writes Marilyn Green. In its Suite Ships vessels, in particular, cruisers get a luxury cruising experience not found in other ships thanks to ample space and open-air viewing available at its staterooms. Avalon continues to focus on exotic destinations such as China's Yangtze River and the Mekong River, while drawing new cruisers with short voyages."
Read Excerpts from Marilyn Green's Travel Age West Cover Story:
Avalon started operating its first ship, the Avalon Artistry, in 2004. By the end of 2014, the line will have 13 ships in Europe, despite having taken its first five vessels out of service. The company also operates ships in the Amazon, Galapagos, Mekong and the Yangtze. New ships are on tap for the Mekong and Irrawaddy and two more for Europe, all in 2015.
The Avalon Fleet
(Avalon’s) two styles are the Scenery class, launched in 2008, and Avalon’s Suite Ships, which debuted in 2011. The Scenery vessels have four decks with all outside staterooms designed from 172 square feet to 258 square feet for junior suites and featuring a very clever arrangement of storage space. It is the Suite Ships, however, that the company points to as the chief differentiator for the Avalon brand.
Avalon's Solution To The Balcony Problem
A big topic in European river cruising is the style of balconies utilized on a ship. Square footage on conventional balconies, taken away from footage in the accommodations area of the stateroom, becomes unused space when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Avalon’s solution to the balcony problem is an 11-foot-wide wall of glass that opens to make the stateroom itself an open-air experience while keeping the living space intact.
Avalon’s smallest ships sail on more exotic river itineraries. The 32-passenger Avalon Angkor debuted on the Mekong River in 2012. Its success prompted the company to add a new 36-guest Suite Ship, the Avalon Siam Reap, to the Mekong starting next year. A sister ship, Avalon Myanmar, will also debut next year on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, a hot destination for North Americans.
The line also has charters in China on the Yangtze River.