Anna Harrison sails aboard the Avalon Envision.
Owners: Avalon Waterways, Globus
How big: 135m
How old: Brand new. I was on the christening cruise with a champagne-smashing ceremony and fireworks to celebrate.
Fellow passengers: The ship can take 166 passengers and we were about two-thirds full. The special guest was novelist Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love, as well as her parents and new partner. She is godmother of the vessel — a cruising tradition I knew nothing about — but she blessed the ship and its passengers, and named it Envision, breaking the bottle against the hull first try.
Destinations: The Danube between Nuremburg and Budapest. Ours was a four-day taster trip around the latter.
First impression: Very sleek. The crew were excited to be on a new vessel, friendly and professional, with good banter thrown in.
Accommodation: A 200 square foot panorama suite on the second deck with the bed facing the view. There was no balcony, but the floor-to-ceiling window opened right up so it felt like the whole room was on the water's edge. The cheaper deluxe staterooms downstairs have only small windows, while the two royal suites upstairs, inexplicably have a structural column in the middle of the view from the bed. But I was able to watch the world go by while comfortably snuggled up.
Bathroom: Cleverly designed with a slightly angled shower that had plenty of room and two selections of L'Occitane toiletries, so I could choose the scent I preferred.
Food and drink: An extensive buffet breakfast, bistro lunch and four-course a la carte dinner every night, with local wines. Also had Avalon Fresh options, created with the Wrenkh brothers from Vienna, which are vegetarian or healthier dishes — a relief from the meat-heavy daily menus. The club lounge also had tea and coffee and fresh pastries every day — if you're not careful you'll be rolling off the ship at the end.
Facilities: Observation lounges, a whirlpool and a small gym. The ship also has an adventure host who runs yoga and Zumba classes and has gear to loan including walking sticks, Fitbits and bikes.
Shore tours: Discovery and active options alongside the traditional sightseeing. I visited the local caves (quite tame compared to New Zealand) and then a Hungarian chocolatier who made marzipan chocolates with the spirit palinka in them (a lot more exciting).
What's great about this ship? Getting a bit more active on land and eating better on board.
What's not? There aren't too many spaces where you can hide away from people altogether.
Ideal for: Anyone wanting to watch the views of Europe slide by from the comfort of their own bed.