And so to the Christening itself. A joint christening of Poetry II and the slightly larger ship, Impression, moored side by side, at Dordecht.
All gathered in our finery there were some wonderfully touching speeches beforehand in the lounge with a passage from Longfellow thrown in for good measure. The Captain of our ship, Lazslo Frey, his brass buttons practically bursting from his chest with pride at his own “new zarling ship” didn’t stop smiling all day and reduced many to tears with his enthusiastic and heart-felt speech. And our very own Olympic gold medalist, Katharine Grainger – charming and clearly delighted to launch her first ship – was the perfect choice as godmother.
As part of her blessing, she said, “May all who sail on these rivers in this vessel add their own tales to these fabled waters, and take from them the joy and friendship of a shared journey. I christen this ship the Avalon Poetry II. May her captain, her crew and her passengers be blessed and kept safe in their travels and may she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”
After smashing the champagne bottle first time against the ship – the US godmother of the Impression was not so lucky – we all returned inside for champagne and canapés followed by a six-course gala dinner. And what a gala dinner! Avalon’s executive chef and his team produced a spectacular gourmet five star meal that will linger in the taste buds for some time.
Several hours later, several pounds heavier, listening to the jazz band on the ship, the launch party a fitting climax to this inaugural cruise. And some of us even got to wear Katharine’s gold medal and get our picture taken. The ship sailed at midnight to our final destination, Amsterdam, as everyone partied well into the next morning. Sadly I retired to my stateroom before the Captain led the assorted night-owl party stalwarts in Poetry II’s very own version of the rowing song – but I’ve seen the photos! Assorted arms and legs akimbo, there wasn’t too much unison in the rowing but with Katharine Grainger at the rear all was under control and a good deal of money raised for Sport Relief.
The weather next morning, like most of the passengers, didn’t look too promising and was rather overcast. Suitably restored though after another great breakfast, most passengers headed off to sample the delights of central Amsterdam as I headed to the airport for home.
Reflecting on my short break, a river cruise with Avalon Waterways ticks an awful lot of boxes for a luxurious, interesting and hassle-free holiday experience for everyone. With an average passenger age of 60, it is particularly suited for Silver Travellers who enjoy meeting like-minded people.
As well as a diverse selection of inclusive guided on-shore excursions with private audio headsets you can also do you own thing, if you prefer. With full board a la carte dining and complimentary local wines and beers, as well as onboard gratuities and transfers all included in the cost you really wont need much pocket money once on board. Added to which Avalon also include a private chauffeured transfer from your home to the nearest UK airport or Eurostar station (within a 75 mile radius). So you leave and return home in comfort, with everything taken care of. How good is that?
But don’t take my word for it: treat yourself to one of Avalon’s wide choice of European cruises. And if you can’t get on Captain Laslo Frey’s “zarling” Poetry II, don’t worry because the majority of their 12 ships are less than five years old, which perhaps explains why 2014 is already a staggering 95% sold. I’m not usually one to be swayed by statistics, but with an apparent 98% customer satisfaction rating they already have a large fan base, to which my name can definitely be added.
I’ve already got my eye on their themed Opera cruise in July next year: on-board performances as you glide down the Danube from Budapest to Prague. I can’t think of a better way to experience Europe’s rich heritage.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Avalon Waterways
• Read Part 1 – First Impressions and Cologne
• Read Part 2 – Cruising through Europe’s rich and turbulent heritage