Avalon Envision will sail on the Danube River in 2019. // © 2018 Getty Images
Feature image (above): Staterooms such as this Royal Suite on Avalon Illumination feature Open-Air Balconies. // © 2018 Lighthouse Productions / Dirk Verwoerd
By the end of the year, Avalon Waterways’ entire fleet will be made up of the line’s Suite Ships. Avalon will retire two vessels — Avalon Felicity and Avalon Luminary — at the end of 2018 and will launch Avalon Envision on the Danube River in 2019.
The 166-passenger Envision, the company’s 13th Suite Ship in Europe and 16th worldwide, will have 67 suites and 16 staterooms. It will debut in April, sailing between Budapest, Hungary, and Prague on the 10-day Danube Dreams, the 10-day Legendary Danube and the 12-day Blue Danube Discovery programs. All itineraries include overnights at the beginning and end of the cruise.
Avalon’s signature design for the 200-square-foot Panorama Suites is its answer to the river cruise line dilemma about taking living space away to include balconies for fair-weather use, since the width of the ships is limited by the locks they must pass through in Europe. Avalon’s solution is floor-to-ceiling windows that open 7 feet wide on its ships in Europe and 11 feet wide in Southeast Asia — making the room itself an open-air balcony. Another distinctive feature is the placement of beds so they face the huge windows and guests can watch the scenery float by.
The decision to ensure that the entire fleet is made up of Suite Ships was partly fueled by a recent survey of 652 past passengers: 95 percent indicated that they preferred Avalon’s Open-Air Balconies to traditional French balconies, and 92 percent said beds facing the views is “important” or “extremely important” when booking a river cruise.