'Eat Pray Love' author christens Avalon Envision

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Avalon Envision godmother Elizabeth Gilbert and the ship's crew. Photo Credit: Avalon Waterways

BUDAPEST -- Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert on Sunday christened the Avalon Envision, Avalon Waterways' latest Suite Ship.

Gilbert, who wrote the memoir "Eat Pray Love" about traveling the world alone after a divorce, cut a rope tethered to a bottle of Hungarian sparkling wine, smashing it against the ship's hull during a traditional naming ceremony on a sunny afternoon. The ship then made an evening cruise to see the lit-up landmarks of Budapest as the Envision prepared for a short maiden voyage Monday on the Danube with a group of travel professionals.

"In these dark times of division and fear and anxiety, never is it more important than to travel. Never is it more important than to leave your home and to go face to face, not on the internet, but in the flesh and meet people who are not the same as you," she said. ... "I have never been afraid of the world. But I am afraid of people who are afraid of the world."

She then read a christening prayer for the vessel.

Avalon Envision godmother Elizabeth Gilbert with Avalon Waterways managing director Pam Hoffee.
Avalon Envision godmother Elizabeth Gilbert with Avalon Waterways managing director Pam Hoffee. Photo Credit: Jeri Clausing

"Let every curious soul who steps foot upon this vessel have a safe and blessed journey," she said. "May we all be changed for the better by what we discover along this river." 

The Avalon Envision, which will stay on the Danube, will sail its first trip with paying guests later this week.

With the recent retirement of some older ships, Avalon managing director Pamela Hoffee said the company's fleet now consists entirely of its panorama-style Suite Ships, featuring large floor-to-ceiling glass doors. When the doors are opened, the cabin is transformed into an open-air balcony.

The first Suite Ship entered service in 2011 and the 16th is scheduled for delivery in 2020.

Hoffee said that while the company continues to evolve and improve on the original design, the core concept of panorama suites with beds facing the glass doors remains key for guests. The only cabins that don't have the feature are those on the bottom deck.

The public areas are also designed to offer maximum views from every possible angle, including large window-type openings in the wall that separate booth seating in the main dining room.

The concept, she said, has been "a winning ship design for us and will continue in the foreseeable future."

And while the company's core ship design remains unchanged, Hoffee said Avalon "is doing everything it can to reinvent river cruising," including the addition this year of three choices of excursions on every sailing -- active, classic and discovery -- and offering more ways for guests to personalize their trips.

Avalon recently introduced three-, four- and five-day trips. It also recently launched its Your Way program, making it easier for guests and travel professionals to combine an Avalon river cruise with land packages through Globus and Monograms.

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