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  #1  
Old July 12th, 2014, 06:16 PM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Default Live from Portugal's Douro-- and a wine-themed cruise!

If you’re considering a river cruise on the Duoro, one of the most exotic (and under-touristed) rivers in Europe, come along with us! We’re taking a seven night cruise, roundtrip from Porto, on AmaWaterways’ AmaVida. Highlights of the itinerary, which is pretty similar on all lines that offer the Duoro, include tours and wine tasting in the darling city of Porto, known of course as the home of port wine, as well as visits to pilgrimage sites, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Salamanca, and fortified, medieval villages.

The trip begins on Tuesday, July 22 and, Internet permitting, we’ll post daily about our experiences (we’ll share our photos on Facebook and will let you know when they’re launched). Have a question about anything to do with the Duoro or AmaWaterways? Feel free to ask away here. And for those of you who are veterans of a Portugal/Spain Duoro River cruise, please – please! – feel free to share your advice and insights about your trip here.

On another note, this is a special wine-themed sailing for AmaWaterways, which does a fantastic job with its wine and culinary programs. Christopher Silva, who’s president and CEO of Sonoma County’s St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, is the featured guest. He’s an interesting guy (here’s a story on him in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/jobs/15boss.html?_r=0) whose favorite wine is the hearty old vine zinfandel. Tasting zins and port wines all on one trip – might get pretty interesting.

I’m also plenty sure we’ll be learning a lot – a lot – from Portuguese makers of port wine, so if you’re interested let us know.

Thanks.

Carolyn




Carolyn Spencer Brown
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  #2  
Old July 12th, 2014, 07:37 PM
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Where will you be posting your photos on Facebook? Under your name or under Cruise Critic?
We did this cruise in 2008 and had a great time. If you have any extra time in Porto you should take the HoHo bus...........you can really see a lot.

Have fun and will follow along.
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  #3  
Old July 12th, 2014, 08:56 PM
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I'm looking forward to this.....
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  #4  
Old July 13th, 2014, 08:45 AM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Great tip, H20tstr, re the HoHo bus, will hopefully have extra time (I'm not doing the pre-cruise land part of the trip but do have a full day in Porto).

The photos will be on Cruise Critic's Facebook (facebook.com/CruiseCritic) -- will let you know when we start to get them up.

Thanks.

Carolyn

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Originally Posted by H2Otstr View Post
Where will you be posting your photos on Facebook? Under your name or under Cruise Critic?
We did this cruise in 2008 and had a great time. If you have any extra time in Porto you should take the HoHo bus...........you can really see a lot.

Have fun and will follow along.
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  #5  
Old July 13th, 2014, 09:59 AM
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Thanks for the report!
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Old July 13th, 2014, 09:57 PM
jojocmcla jojocmcla is offline
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I'm looking forward to reading your comments. My husband and I are interested in cruising the Douro soon.
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  #7  
Old July 14th, 2014, 10:07 AM
pacmom pacmom is offline
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Carolyn,
The white port is sooooo good==my favorite. We brought home a bottle--DH was putting things away and it was off balance--crash. There went my white port. Had plans to replace it on an Oceania cruise--Porto got socked in by fog. Guess am not meant to have it. Be sure to try it. AMA does a wonderful job on this trip. Pat
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  #8  
Old July 14th, 2014, 10:17 AM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Ouch, pacmom!!!

Will toast to your (and DH's) honor

Carolyn

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Carolyn,
The white port is sooooo good==my favorite. We brought home a bottle--DH was putting things away and it was off balance--crash. There went my white port. Had plans to replace it on an Oceania cruise--Porto got socked in by fog. Guess am not meant to have it. Be sure to try it. AMA does a wonderful job on this trip. Pat
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  #9  
Old July 14th, 2014, 10:25 AM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Default Duoro Slideshow

One of our contributors took a Duoro cruise a few years ago -- and wrote this slideshow. Worth checking out! Link: http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1216

Carolyn
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  #10  
Old July 14th, 2014, 02:59 PM
CDreamer CDreamer is offline
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"And for those of you who are veterans of a Portugal/Spain Duoro River cruise, please – please! – feel free to share your advice and insights about your trip here."

Hi Carolyn, am new to this board but not to CC. Thought I would chime in about our recent experience with AmaVida on the Douro since you asked for some input and I never got around to posting a trip report!

We took AMA's 'Port and Flamenco' cruise this year and throughly enjoyed it. AMA's excursions were, for the most part, very well organized and provided a great introduction to the Douro region.

Ship: AmaVida was built last year but is not owned by AMA (typical of river cruises on the Douro) - in fact, we were docked right next to a UniWorld ship that was an exact twin of our boat! The lounge and dining areas were spacious and comfortable, & even during "peak times" it never felt cramped. Our cabin was very clean, well appointed, and comfortable, and it was nice having a little step out balcony with a small table & 2 chairs.

Food: breakfast and lunch were buffet style AND/OR you could order off a menu. Dinners were very well presented and tasty though don't expect "5 star." That said, the crew could not have been more personable or engaging: nothing was too much trouble if requested (some passengers had very specific dietary requests which always seemed to be met).

Internet: available in each cabin but sometimes connection was lost due to the steep hillside terrain. During some of these times many of us found that internet connection could still be made in the Main Lounge area.

Weather: ideal. So the upper deck was busy at times but never felt "crowded" due to its layout: there was a pool with lounge chairs around it & plenty of tables & chairs available for those who wanted shade.

Wine and port, coffee/tea: Wine & port were poured/sampled quite frequently on this trip so we certainly didn't go thirsty! Really enjoyed trying the white ports as well as learning more about some of the local Vintage ports. There is also a handy little 24/7 coffee/tea/cookie self serve station on board. Would have liked to have had a small fridge in the room, though not sure if this is the "norm" with river boat cabins?

Scenery: simply gorgeous and very peaceful - hillside after hillside sculpted with beautiful lush, green (at that time of year) vineyards everywhere you looked!

Tour guides: locals who were engaging, interesting, knowledgeable about the area, and fun.

Excursions: We really enjoyed the fun dinner at the Quinta da Avessada winery and the Mateus Palace is a must see: such beautiful grounds! Porto is an interesting city to explore and we loved spending time in Madrid and Lisbon, pre and post cruise.

On the way to/from the ship: Salamanca is an attractive and interesting town but felt the lunch, which included a so-so Flamenco show, was a bit of a letdown. Enjoyed the interesting stop in Fatima on thenway to Lisbon though.

So overall it was a fun, scenic, and relaxing cruise with very friendly passengers on board. We love river cruising now and were very happy with our first AMA experience.
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  #11  
Old July 14th, 2014, 04:57 PM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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This is a fantastic trip report, CDreamer -- thanks for sharing your experience.

Carolyn

Quote:
Originally Posted by CDreamer View Post
"And for those of you who are veterans of a Portugal/Spain Duoro River cruise, please – please! – feel free to share your advice and insights about your trip here."

Hi Carolyn, am new to this board but not to CC. Thought I would chime in about our recent experience with AmaVida on the Douro since you asked for some input and I never got around to posting a trip report!

We took AMA's 'Port and Flamenco' cruise this year and throughly enjoyed it. AMA's excursions were, for the most part, very well organized and provided a great introduction to the Douro region.

Ship: AmaVida was built last year but is not owned by AMA (typical of river cruises on the Douro) - in fact, we were docked right next to a UniWorld ship that was an exact twin of our boat! The lounge and dining areas were spacious and comfortable, & even during "peak times" it never felt cramped. Our cabin was very clean, well appointed, and comfortable, and it was nice having a little step out balcony with a small table & 2 chairs.

Food: breakfast and lunch were buffet style AND/OR you could order off a menu. Dinners were very well presented and tasty though don't expect "5 star." That said, the crew could not have been more personable or engaging: nothing was too much trouble if requested (some passengers had very specific dietary requests which always seemed to be met).

Internet: available in each cabin but sometimes connection was lost due to the steep hillside terrain. During some of these times many of us found that internet connection could still be made in the Main Lounge area.

Weather: ideal. So the upper deck was busy at times but never felt "crowded" due to its layout: there was a pool with lounge chairs around it & plenty of tables & chairs available for those who wanted shade.

Wine and port, coffee/tea: Wine & port were poured/sampled quite frequently on this trip so we certainly didn't go thirsty! Really enjoyed trying the white ports as well as learning more about some of the local Vintage ports. There is also a handy little 24/7 coffee/tea/cookie self serve station on board. Would have liked to have had a small fridge in the room, though not sure if this is the "norm" with river boat cabins?

Scenery: simply gorgeous and very peaceful - hillside after hillside sculpted with beautiful lush, green (at that time of year) vineyards everywhere you looked!

Tour guides: locals who were engaging, interesting, knowledgeable about the area, and fun.

Excursions: We really enjoyed the fun dinner at the Quinta da Avessada winery and the Mateus Palace is a must see: such beautiful grounds! Porto is an interesting city to explore and we loved spending time in Madrid and Lisbon, pre and post cruise.

On the way to/from the ship: Salamanca is an attractive and interesting town but felt the lunch, which included a so-so Flamenco show, was a bit of a letdown. Enjoyed the interesting stop in Fatima on thenway to Lisbon though.

So overall it was a fun, scenic, and relaxing cruise with very friendly passengers on board. We love river cruising now and were very happy with our first AMA experience.
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  #12  
Old July 14th, 2014, 10:10 PM
CDreamer CDreamer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editor@cruisecritic View Post
This is a fantastic trip report, CDreamer -- thanks for sharing your experience. Carolyn
You're welcome, Carolyn. Will look forward to reading all about your upcoming cruise on AmaVida. Enjoy!
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  #13  
Old July 16th, 2014, 07:16 AM
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Default CroisiEurope Douro Review

A review of my CroisiEurope trip from 7th to 14th July.
I travelled on the Infante De Henrique which is one of 3 CroisiEurope ships operating the Douro. Being a family owed French company I expected a majority of French passengers on board. I could not have been more wrong. There was a large number of French on board but they were outnumbered by all other nationalities. A very large number of English speakers mainly from UK but one couple from USA one couple from Russia and a very large Norwegian group. In addition we had Belgians and Spanish on board. Announcements were made in French, English and Spanish by the Portuguese Purser/Cruise Manager Suzanna. The crew consisted of 24 Portuguese and 3 French being the Captain, Head Chef and one of the entertainers.
The ship has 3 pasenger decks plus sun deck. My cabin on the lower deck was larger than I had expected and (like the rest of the ship) was spotless.
Restaurant situated on lower deck with one sitting for all passengers. As to be expected from a French Chef food was to a very good standard. I know there is no choice of menu. However lunch and dinner menu is posted early on TV and should you not be able to eat what is on offer then the chef was always willing to find an alternative. Breakfast is a buffet with cereal, cold cuts, hot food and fruits etc all available.
The Bar and Lounge on deck two was also the venue for the evenings entertainment. This consisted of singers one night, Flamenco Dancers the night we were docked at the Sanish border, The crew show and a 24 person folklore group of Musicians and Dancers. I felt all of this entertainment was very good.
Excursions are not included in the cost of the cruise but can be purchased on board. I felt they were reasonably priced and offered value for money. The local guide stayed with us for 5 of our 7 excursion days. In Spain we had a spanish guide and on the Sunday in Portugal we had an alternative guide. All three were excellent and went out of their way to explain and answer questions.
The ships all seem to Dock in Gaia which is on the opposite side of the river to Oporto. CroisiEurope has its own dock which is just outside the main area. On the first night we double docked on the inside of sister ship (or is it brother) Vasco de Gamma. This was reversed on our last night. I did notice there was double and triple docking in the center of Gaia when we cruised there on our last night.
As I stated there was a good mix of nationalities on board as there was ages. The oldest I met were 2 83 year olds (both on my table for meals) then a good mix of people in their 70's right down the their 20's. The youngest on board were the captains daughter who was about 10 and one young man who celebrated his 1st birthday on the first day of the cruise. When docked alongside the Vasco de Gamma I could see at least 4 youngsters under 12 on board. If I read the CroisiEurope brochure correctly (is in French) they operate a kids club for 4-12 year olds on certain sailings.
Tipping at the end of the cruise is by envelope placed in a box at reception. Although if one wishes to give to an individual crew member this is possible.
This was my 3rd Croisi Cruise and once again I cannot complain about any aspects of my holiday. CroisiEurope was the largest operator of river cruises in Europe but since Viking has built so many ships recently it is now down to number 2 with I think 27. Certainly not the top end of river cruising but certainly offering good value for money in the UK market. I am already considering the River PO and Venice with CroisiEurope for next year.
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  #14  
Old July 16th, 2014, 12:25 PM
laverendrye laverendrye is offline
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Carolyn, I would not normally criticize another poster for a misspelling, but as an editor you really ought to know that it is the Douro River, not the Duoro.
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  #15  
Old July 17th, 2014, 12:29 PM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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My bad, laverendrye, sloppy on my part! Thanks for the heads up....

Carolyn

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Carolyn, I would not normally criticize another poster for a misspelling, but as an editor you really ought to know that it is the Douro River, not the Duoro.
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Old July 17th, 2014, 12:32 PM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Terrific review, squarevanman -- we're hearing more and more about CroisiEurope these days (one of my colleagues has been out to try the line). Loved reading your report, and thanks for posting it here. Croisi is doing a fantastic job at the more reasonable price point, which is bringing in travelers who balked at the somewhat higher cost of river cruising. Croisi also is interesting because it's a pathfinder in France in terms of creating new rivers and destinations (it was the first in Bordeaux, and next year it's unveiling a purpose-built ship, complete with paddlewheel, for the Loire River).

Carolyn

Quote:
Originally Posted by squarevanman View Post
A review of my CroisiEurope trip from 7th to 14th July.
I travelled on the Infante De Henrique which is one of 3 CroisiEurope ships operating the Douro. Being a family owed French company I expected a majority of French passengers on board. I could not have been more wrong. There was a large number of French on board but they were outnumbered by all other nationalities. A very large number of English speakers mainly from UK but one couple from USA one couple from Russia and a very large Norwegian group. In addition we had Belgians and Spanish on board. Announcements were made in French, English and Spanish by the Portuguese Purser/Cruise Manager Suzanna. The crew consisted of 24 Portuguese and 3 French being the Captain, Head Chef and one of the entertainers.
The ship has 3 pasenger decks plus sun deck. My cabin on the lower deck was larger than I had expected and (like the rest of the ship) was spotless.
Restaurant situated on lower deck with one sitting for all passengers. As to be expected from a French Chef food was to a very good standard. I know there is no choice of menu. However lunch and dinner menu is posted early on TV and should you not be able to eat what is on offer then the chef was always willing to find an alternative. Breakfast is a buffet with cereal, cold cuts, hot food and fruits etc all available.
The Bar and Lounge on deck two was also the venue for the evenings entertainment. This consisted of singers one night, Flamenco Dancers the night we were docked at the Sanish border, The crew show and a 24 person folklore group of Musicians and Dancers. I felt all of this entertainment was very good.
Excursions are not included in the cost of the cruise but can be purchased on board. I felt they were reasonably priced and offered value for money. The local guide stayed with us for 5 of our 7 excursion days. In Spain we had a spanish guide and on the Sunday in Portugal we had an alternative guide. All three were excellent and went out of their way to explain and answer questions.
The ships all seem to Dock in Gaia which is on the opposite side of the river to Oporto. CroisiEurope has its own dock which is just outside the main area. On the first night we double docked on the inside of sister ship (or is it brother) Vasco de Gamma. This was reversed on our last night. I did notice there was double and triple docking in the center of Gaia when we cruised there on our last night.
As I stated there was a good mix of nationalities on board as there was ages. The oldest I met were 2 83 year olds (both on my table for meals) then a good mix of people in their 70's right down the their 20's. The youngest on board were the captains daughter who was about 10 and one young man who celebrated his 1st birthday on the first day of the cruise. When docked alongside the Vasco de Gamma I could see at least 4 youngsters under 12 on board. If I read the CroisiEurope brochure correctly (is in French) they operate a kids club for 4-12 year olds on certain sailings.
Tipping at the end of the cruise is by envelope placed in a box at reception. Although if one wishes to give to an individual crew member this is possible.
This was my 3rd Croisi Cruise and once again I cannot complain about any aspects of my holiday. CroisiEurope was the largest operator of river cruises in Europe but since Viking has built so many ships recently it is now down to number 2 with I think 27. Certainly not the top end of river cruising but certainly offering good value for money in the UK market. I am already considering the River PO and Venice with CroisiEurope for next year.
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  #17  
Old July 18th, 2014, 10:32 AM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Default AmaVida

I haven't said much about the ship we'll be on. AmaWaterways' AmaVida is a 106-passenger ship that, from the brochure, looks very similar to the AmaPrima and others. But it, like the two ships that Viking River Cruises christened earlier this year, is a smaller version of the two and that's because the river can't accommodate the larger riverboats. Love the idea of a pool on top (figuring Portugal can be pretty hot in summer); hope there's time to use it!

Otherwise, it has all the usual amenities, bar, restaurant, free WiFi, and a massage/spa space. I'll keep you posted; we board on Tuesday.

Carolyn
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  #18  
Old July 20th, 2014, 05:46 PM
editor@cruisecritic editor@cruisecritic is offline
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Default Advice?

A question especially for H20str, Pacmom, CDreamer and Squarevanman though not limited to anyone who's already done the Duoro: We're told ceramics are beautiful in Portugal and Spain and of course port (white port, Pacmom!) is a good souvenir. Anything else you'd recommend we keep an eye on?

Carolyn
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Old July 20th, 2014, 05:52 PM
apuleius apuleius is offline
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Textiles, ceramics and salted roasted almonds. We did the Douro trip last year with croisieurope and it was great.


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Old July 20th, 2014, 06:25 PM
CDreamer CDreamer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editor@cruisecritic View Post
A question especially for H20str, Pacmom, CDreamer and Squarevanman though not limited to anyone who's already done the Duoro: We're told ceramics are beautiful in Portugal and Spain and of course port (white port, Pacmom!) is a good souvenir. Anything else you'd recommend we keep an eye on? Carolyn
Definitely agree about the white port....really tasty! I could kick myself for not bringing some home with me!

We brought home some hand painted tiles and several cloth linen baskets which were a big hit with some of my 'baker' friends - they are flat and lightweight so very easy to pack. (Am going to attempt to attach a pic below).

One thing I forgot to mention about our AmaVida Douro cruise: tips at the end of the cruise must be made in cash - no credit cards. This was briefly mentioned at the beginning of our cruise but not everyone heard it, so many passengers were caught off guard when they were reminded the night before we disembarked. Of course by then it was too late to head to an ATM so some felt bad and upset over this last minute notification since it must have cut into some the crews' tips which they all so well deserved. So just be prepared to set some cash aside if you plan to tip the crew at the end of your cruise. Enjoy!
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