Avalon Panorama a breath of fresh air (Michelle Baran)

May 2011 - Travel Weekly

ONBOARD THE AVALON PANORAMA - They got it right.

"Avalon Waterways and parent company Globus unveiled a novel idea a year ago: a sliding glass door for river ships that would essentially transform cabins into open-air balconies. That was the theory. The reality of the 200-square-foot stateroom was unveiled this month during the christening cruise of Avalon's newest ship, the Avalon Panorama. And it works, resolving a design conundrum that had the river cruise industry stumped.

River cruise operators, restricted by the confined measurements of river ships, were forced to choose between balconies or larger staterooms. Instead, Avalon decided to try to let passengers have their cake and eat it too.

The ship has 64 of these "Panorama Suites," which feature a small sitting area, beds that face toward the French balcony windows, and a marble bathroom with standing shower. The newly designed staterooms include a minibar and an upgraded entertainment system with a broad menu of TV, music and movie options. Avalon also offers room service for breakfast. The 17 lower-deck cabins measure 172 square feet and have the more familiar window portals, as is common on lower-deck cabins that sit partly below water level.

While the public areas are similar in look and feel to other ships in the Avalon fleet -- a design aesthetic that Avalon executives have described as "modern" and "clean" -- there have been changes and enhancements in several other facets of the Avalon cruising experience, namely with the menu in the main restaurant. With the Panorama, Avalon introduced greater variety into its dinner menu, with healthy food options, as well as nightly alternatives to the chef's menu that include standbys such as Caesar salad and salmon.

The lobby and reception area has an airy and open feel, with a skylight above and a wide entrance into the windowed lounge and bar area. The aft lounge is home to a cappuccino machine and cookies, available all day. The sky deck features a hot tub and a grill for al fresco lunches, weather permitting. The ship also has a hair salon, Internet computer stations and a fitness center that is a bit roomier than its predecessors, housing two treadmills, two stationary bikes and weights".