Joining Avalon Expression in Amsterdam
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The Dutch capital of Amsterdam is, without a doubt, one of my favorite European cities. It’s hard to not fall in love with the narrow, slanted buildings that line its canals, and with its plethora of attractions, both famous and obscure. The Dutch passion for life is on display at every turn. Foodies will love Amsterdam’s amazing culinary scene, while history buffs will delight in its world-class museums. Bicycles outnumber cars, coffee is served in cafes, and asking for the nearest “Coffee Shop” will get you marijuana-related goods instead of a latte.
I’ve been coming to Amsterdam now for five years, and its status as a capital of European river cruising is only growing. Today, I’m here to embark on another river cruise, my first-ever voyage with Avalon Waterways. Over the course of the next week, the 166-guest Avalon Expression will whisk me down the Rhine and Main (pronounced “mine”) rivers, bound for Nuremberg, Germany.
The full itinerary:
Avalon’s Magnificent Europe – Amsterdam to Nuremberg
|September 12, 2017||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Embark Avalon Expressionin Amsterdam|
|September 13||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Culinary Walking tour in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district; Dutch Painting Class|
|September 14||Cologne, Germany||Cologne Off the Beaten Path|
|September 15||Rudesheim, Germany||Hiking and Wine Tasting|
|September 16||Miltenberg, Germany||Hiking and local flavours excursion|
|September 17||Wurzburg, Germany||Hike to Marienberg Fortress|
|September 18||Bamberg, Germany||City cycling tour & Rauchbier tasting|
|September 19, 2017||Nuremberg, Germany||Disembark Avalon Expression|
My KLM flight touched down at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport just before eight this morning. By the time I’d retrieved my luggage, Avalon’s representatives were already waiting outside the arrivals hall, waiting to whisk me to the Avalon Expression.
Most river cruise ships in Amsterdam will conveniently dock adjacent to the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA), where oceangoing ships making the trek to the Dutch capital tie up. It’s also just a five-minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station, which offers rail connections to Schiphol Airport and beyond, along with local transit just outside.
Avalon Expression, however, was tied up further to the west, on Westerdoksdijk near the Room Mate Aitana hotel. At first, I thought this was a major negative – until I actually timed my mid-morning walk from the ship.
From the pier, you can walk to the Centraal Station in just 10 minutes, or to the heart of old Amsterdam in just 15 minutes. It’s maybe two or three minutes longer than the other river cruise docking locations near the PTA, without the hustle and bustle of being docked next to ten other river cruise ships. Here at our Westerdoksdijk location, it’s only the Avalon Expression that’s tied up.
Further beyond Amsterdam Centraal that lies a world of museums, cafes, and some incredible English-language bookstores. If you’re wandering around at night, Amsterdam has a supercool cocktail and bar scene. Head on up to the Doubletree by Hilton next to the Centraal Station for a great view of the city from the top-floor SkyLounge. Avalon Expression is docked near the Jordaan district, home to the super-cool Haarlemmerdijk shopping area and, further south, the moving Anne Frank House. You’ll want to buy tickets for that online well in advance of your visit.
Built in 2013, Avalon Expression is one of Avalon’s Suite Ships; a class of vessel that has its origins in the 2011 launch of the Avalon Panorama. This class of ship introduced the Wall-to-Wall Balcony concept, along with a host of other features that have become the backbone of Avalon’s fleet ever since.
At 443 feet in length, she’s on-par size-wise with Viking River Cruises’ Viking Longships, though she carries 24 fewer guests. That means everyone can find a seat in the ship’s spacious Main Lounge, which is done in shades of red with earth-tone accents and walnut wood paneling.
While her décor isn’t going to overly wow you, it does create an onboard atmosphere that is soothing, relaxed and understated. Avalon Expression also has some additional niceties, including an onboard Hair Salon; a Fitness Centre; a hot tub located on the Sun Deck; and six bicycles that are available for guest use.
My favorite space so far, during the few short hours I’ve been onboard: the aft-facing Club Lounge. While other lines have turned similar spaces into alternative restaurants, Avalon has mercifully left these aft-facing lounges as they were intended. It’s a great space for reading, or enjoying a cup of coffee while the rivers of Europe pass by.