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AmaWaterways or Avalon for Your Next River Cruise?

River cruises provide an entirely new way to see breathtaking destinations from the comfort of a luxury ship. They provide a relaxing and romantic atmosphere and are far less crowded than massive ocean cruises, plus they are a great way to see multiple destinations at a fraction of the cost of traveling overland. 

If you’re considering a river cruise for your next getaway, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tour operators there are to choose from. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve compared our favorites to help you make the best decision, and our river cruise specialists are here to answer your questions and help you finalize your booking. 

This short article compares AmaWaterways and Avalon, two of Europe’s most widely recognized river cruise tour companies. Read on to learn more about each one and start planning your next river cruise today. 

Avalon Overview

Avalon river cruises visit multiple destinations across Europe and parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. Typical cruise lengths vary from 4-28 days. The best of what the area has to offer is highlighted on Avalon’s special interest cruises that cater to passengers’ passions, such as history, nature, photography, wine, or cuisine.

There are 18 ships in Avalon’s fleet that feature some of the most stunning views the industry can offer thanks to the massive floor-to-ceiling windows in their Panorama Suites. Beds are placed to face the window so you get to wake up to a new breathtaking view every single day of your cruise. Most of these suites include an open-air balcony to enjoy your morning coffee as you sail past castles, farms and vineyards. Avalon’s cabins are also quite a bit larger than those of other cruise operators, which means that Avalon river cruises are far less crowded than other boats.

When you get tired of spending time in your cabin you can head to the open-air sky deck and enjoy the scenery from the warmth and comfort of the whirlpool or from the observation lounge with a drink in hand. If you’d rather stay inside, you can enjoy 360-degree views from the Panorama Lounge. 

AMA Waterways Overview

AmaWaterways has a fleet of 25 ships and offers cruises to destinations around Europe’s waterways and stops along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. However, if you’re looking for something a bit different, AmaWaterways offers packages that other tour operators, including Avalon, do not. 

In addition to cruises along the Nile River in Egypt, AmaWaterways has packages combining a Chobe River tour with safari programs through some of West Africa’s most stunning national parks. Not only that but in early 2024, AmaWaterways will be the first river cruise company to offer tours of the Magdalena River in Colombia. 

Most AmaWaterways cruises last only a week or two, but this spring they are set to launch their epic Seven River Journeys which take passengers through 14 European countries along 7 rivers. There will be an edition every season until the summer of 2024, lasting 45-49 nights each.

AmaWaterways also offers a golf tour, cruises through Europe’s wine country, and a Christmas river cruise through southern Europe. Complimentary land packages are included with select cruises. 

Staterooms are spacious and include both a shower and bathtub as well as complimentary high-end bath products. Some suites include private balconies. For solo travelers, AmaWaterways has suites designed to comfortably accommodate one person without sacrificing space. 

Most river cruises don’t have much in the way of onboard amenities, since most of your time will be spent exploring ashore. However, AmaWaterways features extras like a fitness center, a salon and spa, and swimming pools. 

AmaWaterways or Avalon: Cost 

Avalon river cruises start at around $1000 and can go as high as $7000, depending on cruise length, season and destination. Fares are all-inclusive of shore excursions, meals, and alcoholic drinks, but only during mealtimes. Some cruises that begin in Europe include airfare in the ticket price.

AmaWaterways follows a similar pricing structure, however, AmaWaterways does not offer an unlimited drinks package, so the cost can add up if you plan on drinking onboard. Passengers can bring their own alcohol onboard both cruises. 

To secure the best price without cruising during the off-season, consider working with a river cruise travel agent. They know all the secrets and can land you a great price.

AmaWaterways or Avalon: Activities and Entertainment

Compared to ocean liners, river cruises have fewer onboard activities because the boats are smaller and the stops are not as far apart. There is a library, onboard fitness center, and yoga and pilates classes are available daily, but most of your time will be spent on land tours.  

Avalon offers 3 types of excursions – classic, active or discovery tours. 

If you take a classic tour, a local guide will show you around, introducing you to the area’s most popular landmarks and explaining the history and local traditions unique to the location. Discovery tours are more hands-on and offer passengers the chance to try their hand at local specialties like painting, cooking, or dancing. 

Active tours are planned with active guests in mind. Spend the afternoon exploring the area on a bicycle, take a hike into the wilderness or kayak down the river. 

These optional excursions don’t interfere with passengers’ regularly scheduled activities since they are planned outside regular tours. Of course, if you want to spend the day doing your own thing, complimentary bikes are available to use on land and you can use the AvalonGo app to find things to do and places to eat. The app also includes directions to their recommended destinations. 

If you’re bringing children, you might want to pack some extra activities to keep them occupied. Avalon cruises do allow children as young as 8 on their cruises, but they don’t offer kid’s programs, so very young children might get bored spending long mornings and evenings on the ship. 

AmaWaterways not only include city tours at each destination, but passengers have a few options to choose from at no extra cost, including special interest tours that delve deeper into the city’s roots, perfect for passengers who have already seen staple landmarks. Sightseeing tours can be either Gentle or Active, depending on passenger mobility and they also offer a Late Start option if you need some extra sleep. Guided bike tours and hikes are available for guests who like to keep active. Some additional tours are also offered for a cost. 

Like Avalon, AmaWaterways includes itineraries to suit children on select cruises, but childcare is not offered and most activities aren’t catered to them. 

AmaWaterways or Avalon: Dining

Avalon cruises include 3 delicious gourmet meals every day, and its FlexDining program allows for flexible seating times and more menu options than other river cruises. A buffet breakfast includes all of your favorites from back home, and guests can choose between a buffet lunch or a la carte menu options from the two other onboard restaurants. Guests enjoy afternoon tea every day, and world-class chefs prepare 4 gourmet courses every evening for dinner complete with wine pairings. 

Tours around  Asia and South America feature local dishes for lunch and dinner, prepared with a Western twist, so there’s something for everyone regardless of where your tour takes you. 

Meals aboard AmaWaterways are included with your fare and are served a la carte. Menus feature regional dishes as well as staple Western options. One dinner at The Chef’s Table per passenger is included with every meal. Unlimited wine is offered during lunch and dinner and during their Sip & Sail cocktail hour. 

AmaWaterways or Avalon: Atmosphere

River cruises are sociable but have a much more laid-back vibe than ocean cruises. Most river cruises attract an older crowd who appreciate the opportunity to appreciate the landscape that river cruises provide. Nature lovers, history buffs and photographers especially love river cruises. 

There are only so many rivers in the world, so cruises don’t differ very much in what they offer destination-wise and it’s impossible to say that one river cruise is ‘better’ than another. The activities, dining options and price points are what sets them apart, so it’s a good idea to work with a river cruise travel agent to help you decide which one is right for you. Both AMA Waterways and Avalon can take you to spectacular places and offer a wide range of activities that immerse you in the local culture. However, if you’re looking for a longer tour that’s off the beaten path, AmaWaterways has slightly more to offer. 

Here are a few other comparisons for different cruise lines: