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Avalon Artistry II

Avalon Artistry II

Postby Arizona » 26 Apr 2017 22:09

Tulips of Northern Holland on Avalon Artistry II April 2017

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This was our very first river cruise and we found it excellent. Included were chauffeur driven transport from home and on return, Eurostar or flights, transfers, a choice of excursions, tips and a choice of wines with meals.

Artistry II is described as a suite ship. All 50 cabins on the higher 2 decks are 200 sq ft, with 2 even larger. Each one has floor to ceiling and wall to wall siding glass French balcony windows. this effectively gives a balcony without losing space in the cabin. The furnishing are simple and contemporary, including a small sofa, armchair and glass table, giving a light spacious feel. Storage is plentiful, lighting good. The comfy king size bed faces the window enabling a lovely view of the passing scenery as you lie in bed in the morning. The bathroom is spacious with a good sized glass enclosed shower, marble worktop and storage cupboards underneath. Toiletries are L’Occitane. Low lighting enables easy use of the bathroom during the night.

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There are 12 cabins on the lower deck which are slightly smaller with small, high windows.

The whole ship is immaculate and spacious. The large windows give excellent views in both the restaurant and the lounge, which has ample comfy seating. The open top deck has plentiful seating, a games area, a Jacuzzi, shaded areas and a collapsible wheelhouse to navigate low bridges. We found the crew friendly and hard working, willing to undertake any task as needed.

On this cruise the passengers were two thirds American, some from other English speaking countries and the rest British. The atmosphere was very inclusive and sociable with open seating at mealtimes on tables for 4 or 6. As an alternative to meals in the main dining room lighter options are available at mealtimes from a small buffet in the lounge. Every menu features meat, fish and vegetarian options as well as chicken, salmon or steak basics. At the stern of the ship is a small additional panoramic lounge with tea, coffee, juices, cookies and pastries freely available. Smoking is in this area but outside. Complimentary bottled water is continually replenished in the cabin and also handed out for excursions. Every cabin has a minibar. We used ours to store our purchases of Dutch cheese.

We were picked up from home and taken to St Pancras (our choice over flying) to board the Eurostar to Brussels where we changed for Amsterdam Schiphol. There we were met and taken briefly to The Radisson Blu before being transferred, along with passengers from flights to Schiphol, to the ship in Haarlem. On disenbarkation we were taken at 9am to the Aitana Hotel in Amsterdam where we were able to leave our luggage until the time for our transfer to the station in the afternoon. Despite passengers having a multitude of different travel arrangements, every effort was made to accomodate individual needs.

On one evening we had a visit from some folk dancers, on another a band. Two ladies in traditional Dutch costume presented an entertaining cheese and genever tasting one afternoon. While sailing one morning we had an illustrated talk on Dutch art, history and culture. Every evening the excellent cruise director gave a talk with background information for the next day. Most of the rest of the time entertainment was provided by a pianist. Audio sets were used for the excursions. These took place in fairly small groups and where coaches or boats were used they were not filled to capacity. There was often a choice of excursion, with sometimes more than one a day. Onboard bicycles were available. Sailing was mostly in short sections during the day which enabled a good view of the Dutch waterways and countryside.

Itinerary:

Day 1: By car to St Pancras then to Amsterdam Schiphol Station via Brussels and then transferred to the cruise ship in Haarlem. Welcome reception. Sailed to Hoorn

Day 2: Hoorn - Enkhuizen
Morning coach excursion from Hoorn through the bulb fields to a bulb growing farm. Over lunch sailed to Enkhuizen, a typical fishing town with cobblestoned streets and a quaint town centre on the Zuider Zee (now known as the IJsselmeer). In the afternoon a guided visit by ferry to the outdoor ZuiderZee Museum, dedicated to the culture and history of this area. The museum focuses on the past and present of the IJsselmeer, and features actors in costume. Docked overnight in Enkhuizen.

Day 3: Enkhuizen - Sneek, Friesland
A choice between a guided walk of Enkhuizen, or a "Dutch Experience" to meet some locals in their homes in the morning. Over lunch cruised across the Ijsselmeer to south-west Friesland. Docked in Lemmer, for a coach excursion to the 18th-century Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium, which has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We opted to stay onboard to enjoy sailing the waterways on to Sneek, where the coach parties rejoined the ship which docked here overnight.

Day 4: Lelystad - Kampen
A morning of cruising through Friesland to Lelystad for a guided visit of the Batavia Shipyard, where ships that were important to the Netherland's maritime industry during the 'Golden Age' have been faithfully reconstructed, including the Batavia itself, a reconstruction of a 1628 Amsterdam-built Dutch East India Company ship, wrecked on its maiden voyage on June 4, 1629 off the coast of Western Australia. Later this afternoon, we enjoyed a local cheese and genever (gin) tasting on board while sailing to Kampen, where we docked overnight.

Day 5: Gelderse IJssel - Arnhem
A morning on board, sailing along the IJssel River, also known as the Gelderse IJssel, which is a branch of the Rhine. During this morning there was an onboard talk about the art, history and culture of the Netherlands. After lunch there was a choice between a visit the Airborne Museum Hartenstein, dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem or a guided visit the Kroller - Muller art museum containing a large collection of Van Gogh paintings. This was well worth the visit. After rejoining the ship in Arnhem we sailed to Nijmegan and then onwards overnight.

Day 6: Rotterdam
This morning we sailed through the huge harbour of Rotterdam with a commentary from Tony, the cruise director. When docked, he offered to walk over, with anyone who wished to go, to the nearby market hall. This is a most unusual building with fascinating stalls to browse. After lunch the choice was a guided excursion to Gouda or a visit the gardens of Keukenhof where every year 7 million flower bulbs are planted - tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, etc.

Day 7: Amsterdam
Guided sightseeing was by canal boat, followed by a visit to Gassan Diamonds or a guided walk mostly around the Jewish quarter. The afternoon was at leisure to explore independently or there was a choice of optional excursions (chargeable).

Day 8: Amsterdam » UK
Transfer to the Aitana Hotel, giving an opportunity for further exploration of Amsterdam in the morning, then in the afternoon to the station for the journey to the UK where we were picked up and driven home.

We had a lovely holiday on a beautiful ship and will definitely travel with Avalon again.
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Avalon Artistry II

Postby Dave » 27 Apr 2017 07:11

Many thanks for posting your review Arizona. :thumbup:

I think the ship looks amazing and I'm delighted you enjoyed your first taste of river cruising. :D
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Avalon Artistry II

Postby judgegeoff » 27 Apr 2017 07:37

A really informative, enjoyable and well written review Arizona, many thanks for sharing it with us. :clap: :clap: :clap: My wife Chris and I have just recently returned from our first river cruise (with Viking) and we really enjoyed it - nice to hear that you too had such an enjoyable debut. :)

Many years ago, when our 31 year old daughter was about 6 years old, we had a holiday in Holland and visited the Zuider Zee Outdoor Museum near Enkuizen. We absolutely loved it and our daughter dressed up in the (supplied) traditional Dutch costume, including clogs and white bonnet, and played with a range of 19th century children's toys, including rolling an iron hoop along with a stick. In one of the buildings one of the staff, dressed as a fisherman, was frying sprats on an ancient stove and invited us to join him for a tasty treat. It really was an amazing place.

Here's to our next river cruises Arizona! :thumbup:
Geoff

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Avalon Artistry II

Postby Arizona » 27 Apr 2017 11:18

I thought it was about time I wrote a review as I have enjoyed reading so many on this forum. It's really useful to know whether what is in the brochure really lives up to expectations and on this occasion it definitely did. Other people we spoke to on the ship who had been on Viking felt that the standard was very similar to Avalon. Don't be put off by the brochure prices either as there are deals to be had when booking nearer the departure date. We paid a very good price. Interestingly it was only the Brits onboard who had gratuities included. The travel arrangements were very flexible too, with many regional airports available.

The Zuider Zee museum is certainly one of the best of its type I have visited. We were there for an afternoon but could easily have spent longer. We walked back to the ship through the town of Enkhuizen and found it really pretty.
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Re: Avalon Artistry II

Postby Gillzajoker » 27 Apr 2017 14:42

Thoroughly enjoyed your review, Arizona.
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Re: Avalon Artistry II

Postby Seamouse » 27 Apr 2017 15:26

I enjoyed your review of your first river cruise. As Geoff (Judge Geoff), has said, we recently did our first also., a lot of it sounds very similar to the Viking one we did. Water given out, open seating in the dining-room, pre dinner talks about what will be happening the next day, etc. We have been to Holland several times, and always enjoy it. The Zuider-Zee Museum was a good day out. We also visited Keukenof last year, on a sea cruise, a place I had always wanted to see.
Chris


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Re: Avalon Artistry II

Postby khkate » 28 Apr 2017 12:17

Thank you for sharing your review - it sounded lovely. We did a river cruise in the 1990's that started from Amsterdam and finished in Amsterdam - and as there was no Eurostar option then, we were coached there, as we did not want to fly. The itinerary sounds similar to the one we did - or I did as hubby's passport had expired and he had to do an alternative holiday. The ship you were on looks and sounds lovely too - another cruise to add to our bucket list.
Future Cruises - Baltics, Canaries Canada, Med, Scandinavia
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Avalon Artistry II

Postby grannyM » 28 Apr 2017 15:17

Great review and photos Arazona. I'm glad you enjoyed your river cruise and everything about the ship and service sounds excellent. :)
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Re: Avalon Artistry II

Postby jocap » 28 Apr 2017 19:34

Thank you- I enjoyed reading about this cruise. We've not tackled a river one yet, although we've had a few hours sailing on the Rhine, so will remember this for if and when we do.
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