Pair of Avalon ships will echo Panorama's features


Avalon Suite ShipsAvalon Waterways will expand its river cruising fleet with the dual naming of two new "Suite Ships," the Avalon Vista and Avalon Visionary, in May.

The 66-suite, 17-cabin Avalon Vista will be a sister ship to the 443-foot-long Avalon Panorama, which launched Avalon's new class of Suite Ships when it debuted last May. The Avalon Visionary, meanwhile, will be a smaller, 52-suite, 12-cabin vessel measuring nearly 361 feet in length.

The two new ships will echo the Panorama in delivering two full decks of suites, providing cruisers with a total of 185 Panorama and Royal suites, measuring 200 and 300 square feet, respectively, on three vessels.

Thanks to its smaller size, the Visionary will provide passengers sailing Avalon's most popular itinerary, on the Rhine River, with the chance to enjoy a "suite experience." Various ports along the Rhine require smaller ships.

Patrick Clark, Avalon's managing director, said the company's mission is to "exceed guest expectations by pushing the boundaries of the river cruise experience." To do this, the new ships will join the Panorama in providing "indoor/outdoor living" onboard.

Both the Vista and Visionary will feature wall-to-wall, panoramic windows in each suite. When the windows are opened, the suites are transformed into open-air balconies. The design, according to Clark, enhances the cruise experience by bringing the beauty of Europe inside.

Christmas MarketsThe Vista and Visionary, which are being promoted in concert with the Panorama as a trio, will boast identical services as the Panorama in terms of dining and overall offerings.

Clark said the ships are being promoted as a trio because they offer travelers three times the opportunities to sail with the Suite Ship experience.

"The Panorama sold out in 2011, so now travelers will have more opportunities to book panoramic suites in 2012 on both the Danube and the Rhine rivers," he said.

The only discernible difference between the Panorama compared with the Vista, its twin, and the Visionary will be the color schemes featured on each ship. Highlights from the Panorama, such as marble bathrooms, Avalon-branded bedding, love seats in the suites and L'Occitane bath amenities, will be offered on the new ships.

As with other Avalon ships, the three Suite Ships feature a club lounge, main lounge and dining room, hair salon, open-air bistro and sky deck with a whirlpool. However, fitness rooms aboard the newest ships are larger and boast additional equipment.

Avalon invested between $45 million and $50 million on the two newbuilds, which mark the company's 12th and 13th new ships in Europe since 2004.

Nicole Mazza, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Travelsavers and the Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel, has been named godmother of the Avalon Visionary. She will join Vista godmother and Canada travel industry insider Vanessa Lee in Avalon's first dual naming for the ships in May.

The new ships will also share the date of their first sailings. On May 13, the Visionary will begin sailing the eight-day Romantic Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, with rates from $1,849, and the Vista will sail the 15-day Magnificent Europe from Amsterdam to Budapest, starting at $4,149.

Several Christmastime cruises on the Rhine will also be available on the Visionary. The Vista will also sail the 11-day Legendary Danube, starting at $1,389, and the 13-day Blue Danube Discovery, which is priced from $2,249.

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