It was an overcast spring afternoon with short spells of light rain, but over 100 attendees, including Avalon Waterways' executives, travel partners, and media from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and the USA, gathered on the dock for the traditional christening ceremony. Wilkinson blessed the ship with the following words, "The rivers of Europe are filled with the stories of humankind: Of civilizations past and present. May all who sail on these rivers in this vessel add their own tales to these fabled waters, and take from them the joy and friendship of a shared journey. I christen this ship Avalon Panorama. May her captain, her crew and her passengers be blessed and kept safe in their travels, and may she always enjoy clear skies and calm waters."
After reciting her speech, Wilkinson cut the rope tethered to a bottle of Champagne, which shattered against the hull of the new vessel. Before cutting the rope, she joked that if the first bottle didn't break, she was going to be forced to "skull" a second one. (The Australians on board translated this as "drinking in one gulp"). I'm sure she was happy when the bottle broke. The banners covering the name of the new ship were removed, and blue and white balloons added to the festivities.
One fun tribute--the Avalon Panorama crew stood proudly on the sun deck during the christening. After the bottle shattered, each of the crew members saluted the ship's godmother, who hosts Australia's "Today" show, by making the letter "T" with their arms. I'm sure she was thrilled, and I'll bet the salute will be featured on her television show when she returns home.
The rest of the celebration moved into the lovely observation lounge of the freshly-named Avalon Panorama and several dignitaries gave short speeches. Den Breejen Shipyard Owner Jacques den Breejen was happy to announce that his company had built eighteen river ships in the past decade, of which six were for Avalon Waterways. Den Breejen is currently building a shorter 110-meter version of the Panorama. Managing Director of Avalon Waterways Patrick Clark enthusiastically spoke about what an exciting time this was for his eight-year-old company and recognized all those who were contributing to its success. President of Avalon Australia Stewart Williams was proud the godmother was Australian, but he seemed just as happy that 24 percent of Avalon Waterways' total bookings and over 50 percent of the current bookings on the Avalon Panorama are from Australasia. Mr. Clark presented the official ship documents to the Avalon Panorama Captain Ralf Remus to wrap up the short ceremony, and the guests enjoyed a glass (or two) of Champagne to toast the new ship. After the party, a dinner was held in the Avalon Panorama restaurant. This gala christening dinner featured a smoked salmon appetizer, pumpkin soup, lobster, veal, and a combination of three delicious chocolate desserts .
I'm currently on a a special christening cruise of the Avalon Panorama from Mainz to Amsterdam and will be reporting more on the ship and post some photos over the next couple of weeks. My initial impressions are that it will be a great addition to the Avalon Waterways' fleet. I especially love the spacious Panorama suites. The new ship has 64 of these 200-square-foot staterooms, each of which has a 10-foot by 7-foot floor-to-ceiling window that opens into an open-air balcony. The best thing about this new-style balcony is that it doesn't take any space away from the cabin like a traditional ship balcony does, but transforms the entire cabin into a balcony. The baths in these Panorama suites are also spacious and have large showers with glass doors and premium L'Occitane bath amenities. The Avalon Panorama also has two 300-square-foot luxurious Royal Suites, and seventeen 172-square-foot deluxe staterooms (without the balconies) on the lowest deck. It might not seem that there would be much difference in 172-square-feet versus 200-square-feet, but those who have commented about the small size of river ship cabins in general will definitely appreciate those additional 28 square feet.
The new Avalon Panorama river ship will sail a two-week "Magnificent Europe" cruise itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest from May through November. This itinerary is virtually sold-out for the remainder of the year. Travelers still hoping to experience the Avalon Panorama on her inaugural year can do so on select holiday cruises from late November through December. For more information, visit www.avalonwaterways.com or call 1.877.380.1535.
Photo Courtesy of Avalon Waterways