When a group of Avalon Waterways managers assembled in 2009 to discuss how to best use space on their European river cruise ships, they were confronted with the same restrictions all riverboats face: the size of European river locks.
The maximum width of riverboats in Europe is 37.4 feet, and the maximum length is 443 feet. “It’s a box that everything has to fit in,” said Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways.
Clark said that in providing for the best comfort and most enjoyable experience for passengers, “we wanted a design concept that was unique from others — the next generation.”
So they looked at the ships’ balconies. “When you put in balconies, that space is taken away from the interior,” said Clark. “You can’t use them all the time, so it was not very useful. So we took that space and built a bigger cabin.”
Avalon’s new concept suite ships, which debuted in 2011, feature a seven-foot-wide sliding floor-to-ceiling window that “essentially is an indoor balcony. We offer the experience of a balcony but not have to use all that space,” said Clark.
The extra space allows for a larger shower and an angled wall that lets the bed face the window.
The 166-passenger Impression and 128-passenger Poetry II were christened in late March, with the Illumination set for a June debut.
Two more suite ships will be added in 2015, giving Avalon a total of 15 ships in Europe: 10 suite ships and five scenery-class vessels.