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stlrod

Douro 2020: AMA, Uniworld or Tauck?

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We are looking into booking a Douro cruise with a few nights in Lisbon in early June 2020 and have narrowed our options to AMA, Uniworld and Tauck.  We like new ships and the AmaDouro just launched this week and the other two will be new next year (we ruled out Scenic due to the lack of professionalism we experienced on the toll free line.)  We have only done one river cruise and it was with Tauck on the Danube.  It was outstanding, but Tauck does not appear to include Salamanca in its itinerary which many on here suggest is a highlight.  Pricing is better on AMA since it is not all-inclusive, but the deals on Uniworld are pretty nice.  Would appreciate feedback from anybody who has traveled the Douro on either AMA or Uniworld.  Thanks!

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We were on the Douro last summer with Uniworld and had a fantastic time.  Our trip began with 3 nights in Madrid (which I highly recommend) and ended with 2 nights in Lisbon, with a 7 day cruise on the Queen Isabel sandwiched between.  We had great guides in Madrid and wonderful included excursions to Toledo and a very passionate Flamenco dinner show while based in Madrid.  On our way to the Douro, we spent several hours in Salamanca. The Douro River is beautiful, and in our travels has probably some of the prettiest scenery we've had on any of our river cruises.  If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to try to answer.

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Had to pull this thread because OP mentioned a TA by name.

 

stlrod: if you give me permission to edit out the TA name, I can restore the thread.

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Yes please restore.  I went back to edit and was unable to do so.   Thanks.

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So, now to address your questions!  We find that AMA is inclusive enough for us.  The main extra expense is gratuities, and we can budget them beforehand.  The included wine at meals is quite good, plus you can drink your own wine at meals (or in your cabin) with no corkage fees.  They are very inclusive when it comes to shore excursions [some that are extra-cost on Uniworld are included on AMA].  And everything on AMA is top notch.

 

When it comes to Douro itineraries, the one that appeals most to me is AMA's Flavors of Portugal and Spain, starting with the 3-day Madrid pre-extension [meaning I would choose a sailing in the direction Madrid to Porto].  You can do Madrid on your own easily enough, but this way you have someone taking care of you while you get over jet lag and the extension also includes a day trip to Toledo and the transfer from Madrid (via Salamanca) to Vega de Terrón.  I would also consider the extension in Lisbon, which includes the transfer from Porto to Lisbon [much easier to fly back to the US] and a day trip to Sintra.  This combination is a great 13-day introduction to Portugal!

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I have cruised the Douro twice, in 2012 with Uniworld and last year with Emerald. For interest, I compared the price of my Emerald cruise with a similar Uniworld one and Emerald was thousands less expensive.  The only significant difference I could see in inclusions was that bar drinks were extra on Emerald (beer and wine at meals was included) and that a few of the Emerald excursions were at extra cost.

 

The Emerald Radiance, launched just last summer, was clearly superior to the Uniworld ship at the time, although to be fair I can’t compare it to the present Uniworld offering, Queen Isabel. You might want to do a ship to ship comparison from the respective websites.  I found the service and quality of food on both on a par, but would give Uniworld a slight edge on the quality of its excursions.  I don’t think, however, that this would justify for me the substantial differences in price.

 

Most of the passengers on Emerald were Australian, Canadian and British, although there were also a few Americans aboard as well. This might make a difference to you. 

 

Of course if you are looking for a luxury, completely all-inclusive cruise, there’s also Scenic, Emerald’s partner line, but like Uniworld and Tauck, you will pay considerably more for it.

 

I should conclude that I have been a fan of Uniworld, having cruised with them five time (last time in 2016) but I do think that of late they do not offer nearly the value for money that they used to do. In fact I was impressed enough with Emerald that my next river cruise will be a 21 day cruise tour with them next year from Hanoi to Siem Reap, a longer version of a cruise I took with Viking/Pandaw  back in 2013. 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just got home from the Douro using AMA for the first time.  It was a marvelous trip!  This was my 7th river cruise and probably the best one yet.  I have sailed 2 Viking, I Grand Circle, 2 Scenic and 1 Uniworld before.  Scenic has been my number one choice up to this cruise but AMA has now tied for my affection.  Scenic is, of course, all inclusive and it's wonderful being able to walk off a boat not owing anything.  The food is exceptional and the wines and spirits very good.  If you are sailing with them the first time they will send you a very nice backpack as a welcome gift.  I was on the AMADoro and it is a very comfortable boat.  They serve beer and wine with lunch and dinner, champagne with breakfast and every night has a free cocktail hour before dinner.   So unless you drink more than that you will not have a bar bill.  The suggested tips for the river cruise is $130 euros total which includes all guides, bus drivers and entire staff.  We had 2 lunches at wineries and 1 lunch at the hotel in Salamanca that were outstanding.  Do not even consider this trip without seeing Salamanca.  So the bottom line as far as I'm concerned is:  choose AMA.  

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for all the feedback so far.  Tauck is definitely out so we are down to AMA or Uniworld.  I appreciate the reassurance concerning the AMADouro.  The pricing on Uniworld though is actually about 15% lower than AMA so pricing may make the decision easy.

Edited by stlrod

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Just noticed this thread. I wanted to book the brand new AmaDuoro for Lisbon to Porto but it was booked for when we wanted to go. We booked Uniworld instead and I’m sure it will be a wonderful trip. One thing I noticed that on Amawaterways Sintra is included but Uniworld its optional. 

 

Madrid is a fabulous city, we visited as an extension of an ocean cruise that ended in Barcelona. Highly recommend that if you haven’t visited Madrid do all three— Madrid, Porto, and Lisbon. 

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Posted (edited)

Got2Cruise, I started looking at Madrid as an option which was what convinced me to book cruise only on Uniworld Gabriel May 3, 2020.  I figure I can do 3 nights in Madrid and a couple of nights in Lisbon (or vice versus) for close to the same price as Uniworld’s rate for the Lisbon land portion.  Plus, if we can work it out so we don’t fly in or out of Porto, we will save a few $ on airfare and have shorter flights.   I will miss having the trip to Combria  on the transfer from Lisbon to Porto.

Edited by stlrod

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Agree, the flights in or out of Porto are challenging. We are flying into Lisbon directly from JFK when we visit this area in November.

 

And Coimbra looks like a cool town to visit! We have left a few hours in our itinerary to visit there along the way.

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Don't necessarily rule out Viking either.  We used them in the fall of 2017 and had a wonderful trip.  We did the pre-trip extension in Madrid and Toledo too.  I thought the Douro was probably the best overall cruise we have taken with Viking.  We also did the Rhine and Bordeaux itineraries with them.  The Douro kind of has it all -- great scenery, fantastic wines, and nice port stops.

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We are considering a Douro trip.  My biggest hesitation is that I read at most of stops I think you are bused to town rather than being able to walk off the ship and being right there...Is this true?

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Posted (edited)

Loved the beautiful Douro cruise on Uniworld. I booked Uniworld over Viking because of a low promotional price. I'd pick my line by the different tours they offered given similar pricing. On Uniworld I loved their excellent Côa Valley Archaeological Park visit.  Ride a 4X4 to the top of the valley site then climb down the valley sides to view etchings in the rocks from 30,000 years ago to 300 years ago.  Moderate at worst case mobility skills needed. Nice museum on site. U also visits Salamanca (the only long bus ride) as do most of the cruise lines. Hotel Corinthia in Lisbon was not downtown but was right next to the train station and the excellent Gulbankian museum a 10 minute walk away. A beautiful river.

 

Edited by philw1776

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We did the Douro River cruise with Vantage World Travel.  It was fantastic.  At the time I checked AMA, Uniworld and Viking, all were a fair amount higher than Vantage and Vantage's deal included three days of touring prior to the cruise.

 

I still check several lines for the best value.   I did see AMA's prices were pretty nice for the Bordeaux, France, river cruise.

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I booked my own flights on TAP and their Executive Class (business) was thousands less than Delta. The routing to JFK was fine from Porto. 

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Deec,,

On Viking as I'm sure the other cruise lines too, the ship is docked in the small towns on the Douro.  The problem is,  there is not much to do in these little towns.  Therefore, you are bused for an hour or two to see the various sights and wineries.  Salamanca is about a 2 1/2 to  3 hour (with a stop) ride each way.  Even in Porto, the ship is docked across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.  You have to take a bus or taxi into Porto.

That being said, the Douro was a wonderful river cruise.

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Deec, as I recall, the only long bus rides were from Madrid to the port where we embarked on the ship (and this was broken up by a pit stop overlooking the beautiful walled village of Avila and several hours in Salamanca, where we had a great tour and delicious tapas lunch); and our trip to Lisbon from Porto, in which we had three stops, one just a pit stop, one at Nazare for the views and a drink and one at Obidos for a tour and lunch.  None of the bus rides on the Douro seemed long, perhaps because the scenery is so spectacular.

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I have not sailed on Tauck , but have been on both AMA and Uniworld. Both great companies. We were on Uniworld for the Douro in 2017 and it was a wonderful trip. AMA has very modern designs while Uniworld has more old world ambiance. Will give the edge to Uniworld as I love the all inclusiveness.

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Thanks all for the advice.  We ended up asking a bunch of friends if they would like to go with us and now we have a group booking on Uniworld for 6 cabins in May 2020.  We are very excited!

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We’re leaving Saturday for our Uniworld Lisbon - Porto Cruise. I just want to reiterate for anyone researching that the devil is in the details. For someone who is a big picture person this is sometimes a chore. Lol 

 

My cruise is finally here🎉 Here are some details I didn’t see on webpage when I booked but are in final documents mailed to us.

 

The optional tour to Sintra was listed previously for day 3 in Lisbon . There is an optional pm Tut Tut tour added for day 2 in Lisbon. 

 

In Porto there are optional tours to the Amorim Cork factory and a Let’s Go Portugal bike tour to the sea. 

 

Also in Regua an included excursion dinner at a wine estate is included. 

 

As as previously mentioned upthread Uniworld transfers to Porto by motorcoach. Stopping for in Coimbra for a tour and included lunch. Ama transfers with high speed train. 

 

Finally, there’s a huge thread on the Viking roll call board which gives ideas of other tours you might want to peruse on your own. Those folks really did their homework. lol 

 

 

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Got2Cruise,

 

Enjoy your trip!!  Please post about it when you return, we'd love to hear how it was.  Safe travels!

 

 

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5 hours ago, Got2Cruise said:

We’re leaving Saturday for our Uniworld Lisbon - Porto Cruise. ...

My cruise is finally here🎉

 

Have a great time! Looking forward to pictures and details. We will be in this area in November.

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23 hours ago, Got2Cruise said:

We’re leaving Saturday for our Uniworld Lisbon - Porto Cruise. I just want to reiterate for anyone researching that the devil is in the details. For someone who is a big picture person this is sometimes a chore. Lol 

 

My cruise is finally here🎉 Here are some details I didn’t see on webpage when I booked but are in final documents mailed to us.

 

The optional tour to Sintra was listed previously for day 3 in Lisbon . There is an optional pm Tut Tut tour added for day 2 in Lisbon. 

 

In Porto there are optional tours to the Amorim Cork factory and a Let’s Go Portugal bike tour to the sea. 

 

Also in Regua an included excursion dinner at a wine estate is included. 

 

As as previously mentioned upthread Uniworld transfers to Porto by motorcoach. Stopping for in Coimbra for a tour and included lunch. Ama transfers with high speed train. 

 

Finally, there’s a huge thread on the Viking roll call board which gives ideas of other tours you might want to peruse on your own. Those folks really did their homework. lol 

 

 

I enjoyed our Uniworld Sintra excursion very much.  Once again, to me the Coa Archeological Park tour was a cruise highlight.  Regardless, it's a relaxing, beautiful and interestingly different cruise from the Rhine, Rhone & Danube cruise.  Loved Portugal.

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