Avalon Imagery II

Try me a river: Cruising the Moselle on an active adventure with Avalon Waterways

ONBOARD AVALON IMAGERY II — I’m lounging on a white sectional under an umbrella in the sun, sipping on sparkling wine, when I’m awakened from my reverie. “More wine, Madam?” Why yes, don’t mind if I do.

The bubbles break the surface, dancing and sparkling, which is how I’m feeling right about now. But I’m not at a beachside resort or a rooftop bar. It’s happy hour on board the Avalon Imagery II, and I’m sailing, along with only about 100 others along the Moselle, from Luxembourg to Frankfurt.

At this time of day, I practically have the front deck to myself, with unobstructed views of some of the most charming towns I’ve ever seen. If we’re in port, many guests will still be exploring, but I prefer to relax on the ship during the golden hour before the port talk and then dinner, to unwind and recap in my mind the events of the day.

Mind you, not every day is all spent in port. We sail quite a bit as well, and Imagery II is one of the company’s 14 Panorama Suite ships. The suites really are sweet – the floor-to-ceiling windows slide nearly all the way open, giving the spacious staterooms a full-balcony effect for a near-panoramic view – adding a touch of luxury. On top of that, the beds are positioned facing the window, so you can wile away some of your time reclining and watching the world sail by.

And sail we do, by ancient castles, verdant vineyards, impressive cliff sides and charming, old world towns, seemingly postcard-perfect. Oh, and the beds? Another small luxury, the Comfort Collection beds are made up in a way that if you prefer a softer or firmer sleep, it can easily be arranged before the next evening’s slumber. Goldilocks would find it to be just right.

Club Lounge


“What we do best is land,” says Steve Born, Chief Marketing Officer, Globus family of brands.

Isn’t that a little counterintuitive, I say, during one of the two special top-deck lunches the chefs have prepared for guests. We are on a river cruise, after all. Plates are piled with cheeseburgers and German sausage served by the chefs fresh off the grill, along with all the fixings; this is not your average backyard barbecue.

I ask him why the river cruise company, which launched in 2004, puts such a focus on excursions, particularly with its Active & Discovery itineraries. “Our panorama suite design is completely unique to the industry,” he says, “but what happens on land takes it back to the heritage of our land-based touring company, Globus/Cosmos, which has been around for 95 years.”

Understanding that smaller groups are more sought-after by travellers, especially post-Covid, Avalon Waterways endeavours to break up guests on excursion into more intimate-sized groups, another thoughtful luxury.

The program was launched in 2017 as part of its Special Interest portfolio, first for the Danube, but has proven so popular, Avalon has added the Active & Discovery series to every major European waterway it sails; in 2023, it’s offering 12 itineraries with 52 departures.

And that’s not counting the pre- and post-cruise extensions that can be booked. River cruising, according to the company, is the most lucrative travel style for profitability for travel advisors.

While Avalon’s commissions are based on partnerships and programs with the travel advisor community, says Born, the average commission on an Avalon Waterways booking is Cdn$1,500+.

“Travel advisors are the lifeblood of Avalon Waterways,” says Born. “When our travel partners are successful, we are successful. With that in mind, we are focused on being the trusted partner of river cruising, committed to training, assets and building confidence in this travel style and the profitability it provides advisors.” The portal for advisors, he adds, provides them with an advanced booking engine with user-friendly reservation tools, support for advisors and, “home-based connect – a direct line to the sales team for home-based advisors.”

Travel advisors can tap into Avalon Waterways’ Travel Advisor Discount Program, adds Born. “Advisors can become an Avalon Waterways Specialist, which includes access to ‘Suite Rewards’” – a program, he adds, which provides the opportunity for a complimentary FAM to discover the secrets to small-ship cruising and sales success.

The Active & Discovery program gives guests three excursion options – classic, active and discovery – so guests are a bit spoiled for choice, and I’d say also perfect for multi-gen families, including the group of 10 – from grandkids to grandparents – celebrating a milestone that were on board.

It’s a more personal way to engage in river cruising, says Born, with an average of 20+ included Avalon Choice excursions, these special itineraries represent a different approach, inviting guests to indulge in their passions. “And,” he notes, “the average guest on our Active & Discovery itineraries is 10 years younger than traditional river cruise guests, which tend to be about the mid-60s.”

Feel like an active bike tour in Rotterdam or an escorted hike to a monastery or castle on the Danube one day? Go for it. The next, take a chill stroll through town with a local speaking perfect English pointing out the sights along the Rhine or a leisurely guided kayak paddle along a lazy river in France.

And the next, discover a new wine, taste a traditional food or appreciate an artisan craft at a winery or restaurant or workshop – a DIY chocolate class in Belgium, perhaps? “The guests that choose these itineraries are like-minded travellers,” says Born. “They want a bit more, they’re actively engaged and want to learn about local cultures.”

Panorama Suite


Sitting in a wine cave out of the noon sun, I’m listening, along with about 20 others, to the house sommelier. We have a private audience, and she’s explaining to us the many nuances of Riesling. Yes, I said Riesling and, yes, it’s just for us.

I think I know a bit about wine, but what a delightful surprise it is to discover that there is so much more than sweet or semi-dry to this white juice. She takes us on a journey through the complexities, and goes on to introduce us to lesser known white varieties such as Auxerrois and Elbling also grown in the Moselle region.

On an earlier day, we take a walking tour through Remich, and then are led by our guide to a shady garden. After we take our seats, Corinne, the daughter of the winemaking family, emerges from their centuries-old home, and immediately breaks out a Blanc de Blancs, Cremant de Luxembourg, a sparkling wine from this region made in a similar method to Champagne. Light and crisp, it immediately refreshes us after our stroll. She speaks beautifully accented English and tells us the provenance tale of the wines and the vineyard, L&R Kox, named for her father and mother, Laurent and Rita. She is proud and reverent at the same time of the work her parents do. I purchase a bottle of the Cremant to take back on board for my own happy hour moment.

Wine here is somewhat of a religion, and we’re off to where the twain meet. At Eibingen Abbey, we’re introduced to the legend of St. Hildegard, a trailblazing, suffragette-type in her day and where today, the nuns (not monks), make delicious, award-winning wines.

After a historic tour and a quick tasting, our guide invites us to take a relaxed stroll back to town. As we take the road down that cuts through the vineyards, a young man emerges from the rows of vines with a broad smile on his face and a tray filled with glasses of chilled Riesling. He’s the son of the winemaker, and Avalon has engaged him to surprise us with this treat as part of this Discovery excursion.

Like our winery visit a few days before, this young man, Benedict, is equally proud and in awe of the work his family does to create such delicious juice. He explains the Riesling we’re drinking, then invites us to continue our leisurely stroll down the hill. He departs in his little van, passing the group, only to emerge again around the bend with a new vintage to taste and the same broad grin. We try three in all. Wine tasting has never been like this, and everyone is enamored with Benedict and this treat.


As we make our way to the ship, it’s clear all are delighted by this meaningful local interaction – the palette-pleasing wines don’t hurt either. It becomes an onboard shared affair as well, partly because there are fewer people, Born adds, everyone becomes part of the experience. At happy hour, guests share the stories of the day, whether they’ve hiked to the castle, taken a bike tour of the town or, as in my case, a tour of the Abbey and wine-tasting.

The crew seem as jovial as the guests. According to Pam Hoffee, President of Avalon Waterways, the company is the first river cruise line to have all crew working under a ground-breaking agreement with the trade union Nautilus. As the bar staff come round to take our orders, they give off a sense of empowerment and confidence; the ability to say yes to just about every guest request, without second-guessing themselves.

The lounge is alive, even after a long experiential day. It’s a cacophony of comparing notes, a happy networking that creates acquaintances. “The ships are not designed to ‘entertain’ the guests [as in big-ship cruises with casinos and theatrical extravaganzas], but they are designed to have all the guests need to be comfortable and to fully experience each destination,” says Born. “We take you inside Europe, we bring the destination and the life to you.” Based on the buzz of the ship’s lounge, clearly the happiness travel brings, as well.

Deluxe Stateroom

For more details see https://www.avalonwaterways.ca/river-cruises/special-interest-cruises/. For clients interested in the company’s sustainable efforts, visit https://www.avalonwaterways.com/why-avalon/cares/.

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