On a recent river cruise up and down the Seine, between Paris and the beaches of Normandy, the crew played a little trick on the travel writers aboard.
This was a preview voyage, at the beginning of the season for Avalon Waterways’ new Tapestry II in France, and the company wanted to prove a point about their terrific innovation for improving passengers’ river views from their cabins.
One day, while the 128-passenger vessel was docked, and we were out touring one of the cities along the river, the crew moved our bed.
For several years, Avalon has been bringing out fancier river vessels, 10 of which they call "Suite Ships." These ships have two full decks of 200-square-foot cabins with beds that face floor-to-ceiling windows.
Passengers may lie in bed and watch villages, farms, and other river vessels roll by, while feeling the fresh air, like on a balcony.
Just to make certain that a group of writers could visualize the impact of beds not turned toward the outside, our beds were moved half way through the cruise, to a more traditional setting -- headboard on a side wall, river view either on the right or left from the bed.
The case was made. We said: Please return our bed to where it belongs.
River boat vacationing in Europe is a growing, highly competitive business, and each cruise company has its own style of cabins, common rooms, itineraries, menus, and lecturers. Potential river cruisers may want to contact a reliable travel agent that specializes in cruises to see which company and ships fit their needs.
If you are looking for a sophisticated, contemporary design, contemporary menus, and beds that face the river, consider Avalon, which is affiliated with the tour operator, Globus.
Expanding fleet and itineraries
Avalon added two ships this year in Europe -- Avalon Tapestry II and Avalon Tranquility II -- and two more in Southeast Asia, Avalon Siem Reap (launched on the Mekong River in January) and Avalon Myanmar (launching on the Irrawaddy River later this year). New to Europe next year will be the Avalon Passion on the Danube and Avalon Imagery II on the Rhine.
Next year, Avalon also will become the first river line doing Belgium’s Meuse River. Itineraries will include Dutch towns as well as Ghent, Antwerp, and Namur, Belgium, and a stop in Gavere, Belgium, to explore Ypres and the World War I battlefields of Eastern Flanders. The 138-passenger Avalon Luminary and 128-passenger Avalon Artistry II will do those routes in April 2016.
Views are a huge part of the Suite Ship design. Big windows line both sides of the dining room and the lounge, on separate decks at the front of the ship. A sitting room at the aft end has big windows on three sides.
Angling the bed from an angled wall
As for Avalon’s unique position in offering hundreds of cabins with beds facing the river, I asked the company why its competitors haven’t copied the design. Avalon has been wondering about that since the beds were introduced in 2011.
Turns out that the interior design is not that easy to copy, and would be very difficult to refit into a traditional boxy, rectangular cabin.
With the width, length and depth of riverboats severely constricted by the size of locks and bridges, inside design is somewhat like fitting pieces into a jigsaw puzzle.
To make space for an end table and for each person to slide out of bed on his own side, the bed needs to be angled away from one side wall. The best way to do that was to angle the interior cabin wall that separates the bedroom from the bathroom, opposite the sliding windows. That’s where the headboard goes.
The bathroom, then, is not square, which the designer remedied by enclosing a shower at the deep end that is larger at the back than at the front, making good use of the extra space.
Consumers may call 877-380-1535 or visit www.avalonwaterways.com. The 128-passenger Tapestry II is doing eight-night Paris To Normandy cruises and 16-night trips on the rivers Soane and Seine.
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com