MAINZ, Germany It’s not every day a river vessel gets christened
with an oompah band playing in the background. But, that was the
scene when Avalon Waterways introduced its new European river-going
vessel, the Artistry.
A division of the Littleton, Colo.-based tour operator, Globus
and Cosmos, Avalon began operations in Europe earlier this year
with the 146-passenger Symphony. With the launch of the
178-passenger Artistry, built by German shipbuilder Premicon,
Avalon hopes to establish a “new standard in river cruising,” said
Mike Schields, Avalon’s managing director.
Avalon is targeted exclusively at the North American market,
which has become accustomed to “bigger, better and newer ships” in
the traditional cruise arena, Schields said.
“It’s time for river cruising vessels to offer the same level of
amenities that you’d find on a larger cruise ship,” he explained
during a hosted christening cruise on the Rhine River.
Though the weather during the christening cruise was dreary, the
Artistry was a welcoming and floating five-star hotel for her first
passengers. She also lived up to Schields’ claim about “setting
standards.” The vessel is 426 feet long, and as wide as allowable
on the European waterways that will be her home: the Rhine, Main
and Danube rivers.
But where the Artistry really makes a splash is in cabin size
standards measure 172 square feet while two junior suites are 258
The vessel’s decor is elegant and upscale, with a unique,
two-story lobby adorned with a spiral staircase and skylight.
Cabins feature lots of light wood paneling, built-in cabinetry,
granite bathrooms and extra spacious closets. All cabins are
equipped with satellite television, offering U.S. and international
programming; mini-bars; hairdryers and safes. Cabins don’t have
Internet access, but there are Internet terminals elsewhere on the
ship, and the crew will give passengers directions to Internet
cafes at each stop. The Artistry has no triple occupancy rooms, but
does offer connecting cabins on each of her three passenger
In addition to cabin size, the Artistry is also setting
standards with cabin design. Seventy percent of the cabins (all
those on the Royal and Sapphire Decks) come with so-called French
balconies that include a sliding glass door spanning the width of
the room. You can’t actually step out on the balcony, but you can
lean out, against a protective railing.
The wall of glass provides a great view of the dense forests,
castles, vineyards and picturesque villages along Europe’s rivers.
In fact, the windows might be too revealing. On the christening
cruise, the Rhine was surprisingly bustling, with barges, cargo
ships and ferries whizzing close by. More than one barge operator
craned his neck to gawk curiously into the Artistry’s windows.
(Perhaps an unwitting travel agent flashed him while dressing for
dinner.) Cabins on Indigo Deck lack the French Balconies, but do
have picture windows, which are larger than portholes.
Cuisine on board the Artistry is tailored to North American with
a little Continental flair thrown in. Breakfast is a Euro-American
smorgasbord, of breads, sausages, cheeses, fish, eggs, yogurt and
pastries. Lunch includes soup and sandwiches, a choice of hot
entrees, and a dessert, cheese and fruit table. Dinner is a tad
more formal, with passengers choosing from a set menu selection of
three appetizers and three entrees, plus a range of desserts. Wine
is complimentary at dinner. Though not yet up and running during
the christening cruise, the Artistry will feature an enrichment
program consisting of lectures, wine tastings and local
entertainment, on each cruise. Activities will take place in the
Artistry’s cozy lounge, surrounded by windows, a bar and small
On top of the ship, the Sky Deck offers patio chairs and tables,
and an unobstructed view of the sights along the river. The
Artistry also has a small workout area and hair salon, as well as a
whirlpool tub. Massages are available.
Because of its affiliation with Globus, guided tours at each
stop are included in the base fare of every Avalon cruise. “Globus
has a 75-year history of superior travel experience. Who better
than Globus to come in and offer a seamless, cruise-land
experience? If we had started this company from scratch, it would
have taken us a much longer time to build up the brand name,”
Speaking of brand name, Globus owns and is the exclusive
distributor of Avalon Waterways. But, the company has a partnership
agreement with Amadeus Waterways, distributed by Brendan Tours.
(Brendan and Globus own equal interests in the Artistry, which is
being leased from Premicon.)
Schields explained that agents can actually book Avalon cruises
four different ways. “If they’re a cruise-only agency, they can
book through Avalon Waterways or through Amadeus Waterways. Both
companies sell into each other’s inventory. But, if they’re in
preferred relationships with either Globus or Brendan, then by all
means, book through them,” Schields said.
“The bottom line is that everyone is booking the same two
ships,” Schields said. “It’s like a Star Alliance code-share-type
Avalon will introduce its third ship, the Poetry, next year.
|All About Artistry|
Company: Avalon Waterways
Size: 426 feet
Year Built: 2004
Passenger Capacity: 178
Plugging In: 220v, with dual 220v/110-120v plug in the bathrooms
for shavers. Hits: French balconies offer a wall-sized window on 70
percent of the cabins. Large standard staterooms are 172 square
Misses: Octagonal showers in the otherwise spacious cabin bathrooms
might be a tight squeeze for hefty passengers. No elevator or
Itineraries: For its inaugural season, the Artistry will cruise
three different itineraries The Blue Danube Discovery, a 14-day
cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg, with three nights in Prague; The
Legendary Danube, 12 nights, from Nuremberg to Budapest, with three
nights in Prague; and Magnificent Europe, a 16-day cruise from
Amsterdam to Budapest.
Cost: Fares include air from New York, and start at $2,833 for The
Blue Danube Discovery, $2,433 for The Legendary Danube and $3,750
for Magnificent Europe.