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Room with a view: aboard the Avalon Water’s Poetry II on a cruise on the Rhône

You don’t have to leave the ship to see the rolling landscapes of the French countryside. Trupti Biradar reports from Poetry II of Avalon Waterway.

THE BOAT The Poetry of Avalon Waterways II

THE ROAD Sailing on the Rhône in a northerly direction from Arles to Lyon in eight days. On its long journey to the sea, the river meanders through Lyon, the third largest city in France; Tournon, an idyllic village; medieval city of Vivers, 4000 inhabitants; Avignon, once the seat of power of the Catholic Church; Camargue National Park, wetlands home to wild horses and flamingos; and, of course, Arles, where Van Gogh resided before his infamous descent into madness.

BEDROOM My stateroom is a panoramic suite featuring wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling picture windows that open to the only open-air balcony in the river cruise industry. My bed faces the window, which means there were many times during my eight days on board that I was perfectly content to lie there and look out at the spectacular pastoral landscapes of southern France parade like an animated Van Gogh painting.

L’Occitane toiletries are stocked in the bathroom, and you’ll find all the other amenities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel. There is an extremely comfortable double bed, a small fridge, a coffee table, a sofa and a TV that plays a comforting fire video and classical music when I return to my room after dinner each evening.

READ MORE:
* Avalon Waterways France River Cruise: Imagine Van Gogh’s Perfect Landscapes
* River cruises: A hassle-free vacation tailored to your personal tastes
* Cruise to Lyon, France: If these painted walls could talk

THE FOOD The food on board is simply amazing and the variety is impressive. Three meals a day are served in the Panorama Dining Room – often incorporating fresh produce and wines from the region we just passed through. Expect everything from salad bars, pasta and carving stations to four-course dinners and countless dessert options. There are also many healthy options available and options that meet almost any dietary need.

If you get peckish during the day, head to the back of the ship where there’s coffee, tea, games and snacks – including incredibly fresh donuts – a crowd favourite.

Avalon Waterways Poetry II stops at quaint towns on the Rhone.

PROVIDED/Material

Avalon Waterways Poetry II stops at quaint towns on the Rhone.

GET OUT OF The wide variety of included and additional shore excursions means your biggest problem is trying to deal with the constant feeling of FOMO when you hear what the other group has been up to while sharing notes over dinner. Excursions are divided into a choice of ‘classic’, ‘active’ and ‘discovery’, and range from food walking tours and painting lessons to bike tours, hikes and kayak tours. During my time on board, I learned to paint like Van Gogh, explored Avignon on a walking tour, rode a railbike along the Gorges du Doux, ate all the sausages in Lyon, and climbed hundreds of steps to at the top of the Notre-Dame Basilica. Dame do Fourvière – the highest point in Lyon. Excursions can be as active or as leisurely as you wish.

THE ATMOSPHERE A relaxed mix of luxury and comfort, ideal for Kiwi travelers who want to see Europe, stay in shape and do it in style.

You can do as little as you want on board a river cruise.

PROVIDED/Material

You can do as little as you want on board a river cruise.

FIGHT AGAINST OVERTOURISM The cruise line is serious about not contributing to overcrowding and therefore partners with every town and village on the itinerary.

“We work with local authorities and businesses to ensure that our tours are mutually beneficial and do not negatively impact the community,” said Pam Hoffee, president of Avalon Waterways. Initiatives include employing local guides and drivers, purchasing local produce, and supporting jobs in the area.

Avalon Waterways has what they call a “small traveler footprint”. Their ships in Europe accommodate a maximum of 166 passengers, while those in Southeast Asia only carry 36 travelers.

“We are also visiting new destinations that want to welcome travelers and increase tourism, and we have been actively pursued by new towns along the rivers,” Hoffee said.

“An example is Engers, Germany. A charming port town on the Rhine. They were interested in having our ships stop over. Working in partnership with the local community, we are now hosting an evening concert with local musicians for our guests. in their magnificent castle providing income for the community and a memorable experience for our guests.”

The views just keep on giving.

PROVIDED/Material

The views just keep on giving.

DURABILITY Avalon’s fleet is equipped with technology that limits energy consumption. Each vessel is equipped with a propulsion system that uses 20% less fuel than the industry standard.

“Our ships provide captains and crew with the tools they need to review and monitor fuel consumption as they sail. Careful planning of sailing schedules also ensures a higher level of fuel efficiency,” Hoffee said.

Avalon Waterways has implemented several strategies designed to be effective, including improved wastewater treatment plants – ensuring clean water is discharged into rivers, installing energy and water efficient washing machines on every ship, as well as several waste management strategies that include encouraging passengers to use the AvalonGo card, rather than paper maps and directions.

The cruise line has also adopted a fleet-wide “smart shopping” plan to reduce food waste. “We buy and prepare only the food we need, based on a sophisticated monitoring and measuring system. And in Southeast Asia, when there is waste, we deliver it to farms and local villages for farm animal feed,” Hoffee said.

THE STRONG POINT Cruise Director Jean Loup was one of the most charismatic and endearing hosts I have ever met. He took a great experience and elevated it to an utterly unforgettable experience. It’s not often that one person can have such a profoundly positive effect on a travel experience. If you happen to be cruising with him, seek him out to chat.

THE ESSENTIALS Avalon Waterways Poetry II sails the Rhône and Saône through France between March and October. Prices (at press time) start from $4,355 for bookings through July 31. The price is $6255 after that. See avalonwaterways.co.nz for the latest offers and inclusions.

The writer was a guest of Avalon Waterways.

* This price for this cruise has been corrected.


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