Europe » A Review of the Avalon Poetry II River Cruise Ship  

A Review of the Avalon Poetry II River Cruise Ship  

From the ship’s panoramic staterooms and plentiful dining options, to the on-board facilities, find out more about my cruise on board the Avalon Poetry II.

As I lay back on the comfy bed in my suite on board the Avalon Poetry II and watched picturesque snapshots of French countryside breeze past my panoramic windows, I felt like I might have found one of the most comfortable ways to travel.

You might find yourself taking lots of photos
You might find yourself taking lots of photos from your room on the Avalon Poetry II

River cruises are a popular choice for those who like to see a lot in a small amount of time, without the hassle of planning or logistics. There’s no need to think about transport or hotels or tours for each place you’d like to visit, it’s all taken care of. As someone who travels a lot, it was a novelty to unpack my suitcase entirely and know I’d be in the same suite for an entire week, all while the scenery changed each day!

My adventure would take me on an 8-day cruise down the Rhone in France. One of the biggest selling points for me was that this was an Active and Discovery cruise, designed for those who love to make the most of their travels. Every day I’d have a different list of activities to choose from including hiking, wine tasting, history walks, cycling, painting workshops, ghost tours and kayak trips. I could customise my itinerary each day, depending on what I fancied doing. I should also mention that this was my first river cruise, so I was starting the trip totally open-minded.

Sunrise is a beautiful time on the Sky Deck
Sunrise is a beautiful time on the Sky Deck

So, if you’re thinking of booking a river cruise, hop on board the Avalon Poetry II with me and I’ll show you exactly what to expect. This detailed review will focus on the ship itself and feature lots of photos, but you can read more about the route I took in my South of France itinerary.


Review: Avalon Poetry II River Cruise

I spent 8 days on board the Avalon Poetry II, a sleek vessel with stylish interiors and comfort at its heart. As mentioned, this was my first river so as soon as I boarded I went off to explore.

Panorama Suites on board the Avalon Poetry II

One of my favourite things about this ship is that there are two full decks of Panorama Suites. Each suite has incredible wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows. The doors slide too, so you can enjoy the breeze as you go.

My panoramic suite
My panoramic suite
My panoramic suite
My panoramic suite was a great size

There were a few daytimes where I relaxed on my bed and watched the world go past. I learned from other passengers that some cruise companies they’d travelled with in the past angle the beds to face the walls – madness when there’s a stunning ever-changing view right outside!

The view from my panoramic stateroom
The view from my panoramic stateroom

My 200-square-feet suite had everything I needed for a comfortable stay on board, including a sofa, table and two chairs, mini-bar fridge, TV, dressing table area, mirrors, large wardrobe and drawers, USB ports and main electric plugs (with European connectors).

The rooms were cleaned and refreshed after breakfast each day, then there was a turndown service during dinner. I was so impressed by the fact the rooms were serviced twice a day! I also loved how any loose items were scooped up and arranged neatly on the desk, as well as clothes being folded. Oh, and you can even request your mattress to be harder or softer. What luxury!

Settling into my panoramic suite
Settling into my panoramic suite

The bathrooms in the Panorama Suites have a shower, toilet and basin area, hairdryer, make up mirror and lovely L’Occitane toiletries. What could be more fitting for a cruise through the south of France than the scents of Provence!

Bathroom in my panoramic suite
Bathroom in my panoramic suite
L'Occitane toiletries
L’Occitane toiletries

There are two other types of room onboard, Royal Suites which are larger at 300-square-feet and the smaller Deluxe Staterooms which don’t have a balcony but could be a good option if you’re on a budget.

I had quite a few questions before I took my first river cruise. To help you out I’ve written these up in my post 17 useful things to know before your first European river cruise.


Areas on board the Avalon Poetry II

I think I made use of every single area on the ship during my trip – even the gym! The dining room is located downstairs and has lots of tables in various arrangements (usually set for two, four, six and eight people). At one end is the buffet area used at breakfast and lunch.

The lobby area on the Avalon Poetry II
The lobby area on the Avalon Poetry II

Beyond the main lobby is a huge bar and lounge area with wraparound panoramic views. I tended to visit here for a drink before dinner and to enjoy the music and entertainment after dinner.

The main bar and lounge area
The main bar and lounge area
The main bar and lounge area
The main bar and lounge area

At the back of the ship is the Club Lounge, which is a lovely area to relax with a book or a hot drink. There was a selection of board games in there too. Also within this lounge is a corner with complimentary tea, coffee and tasty treats including cookies and muffins. This is stocked 24/7 so is ideal if you get cravings for a late-night snack!

The Club Lounge on board the Avalon Poetry II
The Club Lounge on board the Avalon Poetry II
Complimentary drinks and snacks in the Club Lounge
Complimentary drinks and snacks in the Club Lounge

Up on the top of the ship is the Sky Deck. We had great weather for our cruise, so I enjoyed a few Sky Grill lunches up here (more on that coming up). There are chairs and sun loungers up here for relaxation as well as the ship’s very own whirlpool where I spent a big chunk of my final afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

Enjoying the hot tub on the Sky Deck
Enjoying the hot tub on the Sky Deck
Relaxing views from the Sky Deck
Relaxing views from the Sky Deck

There’s also a fitness suite downstairs, which I used one afternoon when we were cruising towards the next destination. Inside is a treadmill, two exercise bikes, bench and weights. It’s very compact, but had everything I needed to burn a few calories after several days of overindulgence!

Fitness centre
Fitness centre

If you’re an active sort, you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s an activity host on board this ship, who offers daily classes. Across the week Zoran led yoga, stretching, pilates and a few cardio activities.


Dining on board the Avalon Poetry II

I’m a girl who travels with her stomach, and what better country to visit for cuisine than France?! I was very excited for a week of steak frites, onion soup, delicious cheese and local delicacies.

As mentioned, there’s a main dining room on board the ship. Breakfast and lunch are served as a buffet, although you can also order a few items via the serving staff to be made especially for you.

At breakfast there is everything from fruit and yoghurt, to freshly-baked bread and French pastries, fried items and eggs.

In general, I started my day with a bowl of yogurt and granola, but I’ll admit to trying a few pastries (how can you resist a buttery, oozy pain au chocolat?!) On one of my final mornings I discovered you could order a few extra dishes from the chef. Cue me ordering my favourite brunch dish, eggs royale, with tasty smoked salmon and a rich hollandaise. It was so delicious!

Brunch on board the Avalon Poetry II
Brunch on board the Avalon Poetry II

Lunchtimes were a casual affair as each guest had their own schedule. There was always plenty to choose from, including fresh salads, meats, bread, soup and a few tasty hot dishes (including a hearty beef Bourguignon one day). 

For a few of the lunchtimes, the staff set up on the Sky Deck to offer a Sky Grill lunch – basically a delicious BBQ in the sunshine with a view of the water. What could be better?!

A beautiful day cruising on the Rhone
A beautiful day cruising on the Rhone

For anyone who gets a little peckish between lunch and dinner, there’s a complimentary afternoon tea from 4pm. This always includes lots of pretty cakes, sandwiches and hot drinks.

Dinners on board the Avalon Poetry II are smarter affairs, with a 4-course menu served from 7pm each evening. It’s not just a set menu either, each course has multiple options to choose from. I think it’s amazing that the catering team can produce so many gourmet dishes, all for one seating.

One of my favourite things about the dinners on board the Avalon Poetry II were that there were always several traditional and local items. For example, during my cruise through France I could choose duck a l’orange, entrecote steak, French onion soup, fish from the region and even escargots. The menu changed every single night, but always included salads, soup, fish and a cheese board.

Delicious dinner on board the Avalon Poetry II
Delicious dinner on board the Avalon Poetry II
Escargots
Escargots

I wouldn’t describe the food as super high-end fine dining, but the dishes were always flavoursome, using quality ingredients and well-presented too. After having a quick peek inside the galley kitchen, I’m still amazed at how they produce so many dishes in that small space!

Dessert at our gala dinner
A chocolate dessert at our gala dinner

If you have any allergies or dietary requirements, there’s a meeting at the start of the cruise where you can chat to the chef to make sure you’ll be taken care of. There were always vegetarian and vegan options available at every meal, and the chef was happy to cater to specific needs.


Drinking on board the Avalon Poetry II

I could have included the drinks experience as part of my review about dining on board the ship, but to be honest, I think it deserves its own mention!

If you’re partial to a tipple, you’ll be very well looked after on the Avalon Poetry II. There’s a team of excellent bartenders and a broad menu of cocktails and drinks options. Every day between 6-7pm there is a happy hour where drinks are half price. There is always a ‘cocktail of the day’ too.

Cocktails in the bar of the Avalon Poetry II
Cocktails in the bar of the Avalon Poetry II

I often judge a bar on how good their mojito is, and I can confirm that the team on board definitely knew what they were doing! It was sour and tangy, with just a dash of sweetness. The other cocktails I tried throughout my week were also excellent.

Another thing I really liked about this cruise was that wine and soft drinks were included with meals. At dinner, there were wine recommendations to go with the dishes we were eating too, and I was impressed by both the variety and quality of the wines.


Communication on board the Avalon Poetry II

As this was my first river cruise, I wondered how details would be communicated throughout the week. I have to say, I thought the team was excellent at this. Every evening at 6.45pm there was a Port Talk in the main lounge. The cruise director (the lovely Gayle for us!) would brief us on the next 24 hours, with lots of key information such as timings for tours, suggested clothing, and anything to do with the cruise itself.

One of the nightly Port Talks
One of the nightly Port Talks on board the Avalon Poetry II

This information was always available on a board in the lobby, as well as on the AvalonGo App. If you’re not a technophobe, I’d 100% recommend downloading the app for your cruise. It was great to be able to check information without leaving my suite, as well as seeing things such as the dining menus in advance. It also featured destination guides and maps for days when you were out exploring.

The captain and receptionist also addressed the guests a few times during the week. This added to the personal feel of the cruise. I thought it was lovely to get to know the team who were looking after us throughout the trip.

Captain giving a welcome speech
Captain giving a welcome speech

Special moments on board the Avalon Poetry II

There were a few special treats included as part of our cruise down the Rhone. On the first night and penultimate we were treated to a complimentary glass of champagne and canapes before dinner.

On another afternoon, as I boarded the ship again after a kayak excursion, I was handed a glass of bubbly. There was no reason for this, it was just a welcome back drink to put a smile on the guests’ faces!

Complimentary bubbly
Complimentary bubbly

After dinner most evenings there was musical entertainment. I’d admit that some was of a mixed standard, but there were a few really good acts.

On the penultimate evening, we were also treated to a celebratory Gala Dinner. The standard four-course menu extended to five-courses, with extra indulgent options including lobster! Before dessert there was also a thank you from the crew, with a chance to see all the staff who had contributed to our week on board the Avalon Poetry II.

Lobster as part of our gala dinner
Lobster as part of our gala dinner

On an afternoon when we were cruising, a top pastry chef held a cooking demonstration in the main lounge, teaching us how to make lemon meringue pies. This was a really fun interactive hour, and passed the time in a pleasurable way.

I think all of these moments added to the positive experience and the celebratory mood on board. There was never a dull moment!

Pastry chef demo on board
Pastry chef demonstration on board our cruise

Final thoughts on my first river cruise on board the Avalon Poetry II

Before my trip, I assumed the main reason people love river cruises is for the convenience. You relax on board your floating hotel, as the scenery changes around you. However, I realised there’s a lot more to it than that.

One of the most unexpected parts was how social the experience was. Each day I spoke to someone new, whether that was on one of the tours or simply around the ship. We’d swap stories and spark up new friendships. One of the most heart-warming sights was seeing several of the couples who had dined in their twos on night one, were sitting in groups of six or eight by the time the gala dinner took place! Contact details were swapped too – it really felt like there were some new special friendships created during the week.

Our final night dinner on board the Avalon Poetry II with lots of new friends
Our final night dinner on board the Avalon Poetry II with my new friends

These cruises are perfect for people who find travelling stressful, particularly in countries where you don’t speak the language. You’ll always have someone to ask for help, and all the little details are taken care of so you can truly relax and enjoy yourself.

I think one of my biggest fears was that the cruise experience might feel a little claustrophobic after a few days. I was pleasantly surprised as there was a lot more freedom than I’d expected. Don’t fancy doing a tour? You don’t have to! When we arrived in Avignon (a city I’ve visited twice before) I chose to go for a run around the city in the morning, then do a little bit of a shopping on my own (while most other passengers were on guided tours.) Often there were afternoons free too, meaning I could find a cute French brasserie for lunch, catch up on some work or even have a nap!

What a fun week sailing on the Rhone
What a fun week sailing on the Rhone

There were a few things that I think could be improved, including the evening entertainment which was of a pretty mixed standard (perhaps just not to my taste!) Also, I think that by travelling on a river cruise you sometimes miss out on some of the authentic travel moments, as everything is taken care of. Forget those ‘lost in translation’ moments trying to recall your GCSE French, or attempting to navigate your way around a city’s public transport network. Some of these moments add to the real experience of travelling abroad, but I can see that they often add to the stress too!


I hope you’ve found my review of the Avalon Poetry II useful. I know many of the Avalon ships are similar in layout, so even if you’re travelling on a different ship, this should give you a good idea of what to expect. Also, while this review has focused on the ship itself, you can read more about the route I took in my post: Lyon to Marseille – the perfect South of France itinerary.

I had quite a few questions before I took my first river cruise. To help you out I’ve written these up in my post 17 useful things to know before your first European river cruise.

A big thanks to Avalon Waterways and iambassador for inviting me to be part of the #AvalonAD campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.

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