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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
Unfortunately our cruise on the River Douro got off to a bad start as a radar fault at Porto airport meant that our TAP Portugal plane was prevented from leaving Gatwick for 24 hours. On our delayed arrival in Porto we were taken by coach ... Read More
Unfortunately our cruise on the River Douro got off to a bad start as a radar fault at Porto airport meant that our TAP Portugal plane was prevented from leaving Gatwick for 24 hours. On our delayed arrival in Porto we were taken by coach to a quay further up river to join Douro Elegance. The ship has defined booking times at the five locks on this river so she had to move. On boarding ship the excursion staff led by Cruise Director Carmem Maria Do Carmo was at considerable pains to point out at every turn that our issues were not their fault. Whilst we knew this, their implacable stance did not go down too well with the fifty plus guests affected. In fairness that aside, every effort was made to make up for what we had lost, including arranging for us to have a tour of Porto on the last afternoon. The ship is modern and very smart though the cabins are a little tight for space, slightly smaller furniture would make all the difference. The bathrooms are well equipped with a good shower. Our one issue in Cabin 216 was the wind whistling through the window when it was closed.The only way to stop the extremely irritating sound was to open the window which was not always practical or acceptable. The ship’s crew were pleasant and helpful and the food pretty good though limited in choice. We paid for the drinks package which for us was wine at lunch and dinner. Some waiters were a little reluctant to refill glasses though this did seem to become less of a problem as the cruise progressed. The excursions were well organised on modern smart coaches which accompany the ship along the river. The long haul to Salamanca was worth it (no comfort stops en route), the city has many interesting buildings and the included lunch at the hotel Hospes Palacio de San Esteban was extremely good. There were also flamenco dancers and a splendid singer as entertainment. The dinner, one evening at the Quinta Da Pacheda was by contrast disappointing. The main course was veal which is not something we would eat and there was a two piece string ensemble which played, too loudly, the most depressing music. The venue was billed as overlooking the River Douro which it did not. So, for us, a mixed trip, enjoyed at the correct pace I am sure that it would have been more relaxing, but these things happen when you travel. Fortunately the weather was good throughout. Despite giving no indication regarding compensation during the cruise, Riviera Travel promptly refunded an amount to cover the lost portion of our holiday, by the time we arrived home ~ very impressive. We have already booked another river cruise with them. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first venture into river cruising, and we were not disappointed. We enjoy wine and looked forward to learning more about Port and seeing some amazing scenery. The itinerary looked fairly daunting and full on, it was! ... Read More
This was our first venture into river cruising, and we were not disappointed. We enjoy wine and looked forward to learning more about Port and seeing some amazing scenery. The itinerary looked fairly daunting and full on, it was! Embarkation/Disembarkation We were met at Oporto airport by one of the tour escorts, and after a short wait taken to a coach. Then a 20 minute transfer to Villa Nova de Gaia, where MS Douro Elegance was birthed. To get to our ship we had to cross another ship, this appears to be quite normal for river cruising. Once on board we were taken to the bar/lounge for tea and cakes, and our cruise director Carmen and hotel manager Roseline. We then received our cabin keys/cruise card, our cabin was not difficult to find and our cases were already inside. Disembarkation is equally efficient. Luggage tags were provided the day before disembarkation, cases needed to be outside the cabin by 09:00. We were not due to leave for the airport until 14:00; this left us with a full morning to explore Gaia and Porto. We had lunch off the ship although a light lunch was provided in the bar. If you needed to freshen up two cabins were available on request. When you did board the coach for the airport you did need to see that your luggage had been loaded. Dining The restaurant is open seating with a fixed meal time in the evening. A light breakfast was available at the coffee station or a full buffet in the restaurant. Alight lunch was available in the bar or a full buffet in the restaurant. Some of the choices at dinner were a little ‘unusual’ particularly the starters. In general the food was to a good standard, although choice was limited. Vegetarians did struggle, and risotto appeared regularly. The wine in the restaurant was very good and locally produced, most evenings the recommend wines were €16 to €18 which was very reasonable and drinkable. The coffee station was a bit of a disappointment, whatever you selected from the machine it was too sweet for our taste, we are not great coffee drinkers and there was a good selection of teas. Bar The bar/lounge was spacious and comfortable. Pedro the bar manager was not only highly skilled but also very amusing. There was a good selection of drinks at reasonable prices. White port and tonic became our favourite pre-dinner tipple. The drinks package changed after we had booked and it only provided drinks with meals which seemed a bit restrictive (though people found ways round this!) They need to make this a simple package that covers all drinks and limit the price per drink. Cabin Our cabin was starboard middle on deck 2 (209), the cabin is a reasonable size, with a large opening windows, though half the evenings we were against another ship or a wall, the half we had very pleasant views. There was a large LED TV, two USB charging sockets, a proper hair drier, a small fridge, two small bottles of water that were replaced daily and a kettle for tea and coffee making. There is plenty of space under the bed to hide your luggage. The safe on the top shelf of the wardrobe is awkward to say the least, and I’m average height. The bathroom is very good and there was always plenty of hot water, it just lacked storage space. Most mornings we were woken when the ships engines were started at 06:30, but it wasn’t particularly load and there was no vibration. The information pack in the room was excellent, a detailed map of the Douro was provided along with maps of all the places we were to visit. There were also two wireless headsets for use on the trips. Entertainment This took place in the bar on three nights, a quiz, the port ceremony where Pedro opened a bottle of vintage port using port tongs and a Portuguese folk music evening. If you wanted to avoid these, you could take a drink up to the sun deck which was very peaceful. Photography There wasn’t any! How nice not to have photographers trying to snap you. Gym This was a token gesture comprising a treadmill and an exercise bike. Excursions The organisation of the trips was very good, at the beginning of the cruise you picked your bus number (1,2 or 3), and that was your bus with the same escort for the whole cruise. The pre-cruise itinerary covers all the trips in some depth, here are my thoughts on some of them: Sandeman: This seemed a bit light weight; you are taken round a visitor centre with a quick tasting afterwards, and a retail opportunity. The view of the Douro from the terrace is spectacular. But it takes nearly as long for the coach to get up to the quinta as the actual visit; those of a nervous disposition should not look out of the coach windows! Salamanca: A long day with a good if chaotic lunch and some large flamenco dancers. The city is quite compact, and we were easily able to do the cathedral ourselves, and then take the organised tour in the afternoon. Quinta da Pacheca: This was a dinner at a quinta that included a brief tour of the winery. The food was very good with plenty of local wine, and live music. Mateus Place: Famous for featuring on all those bottles of rosé! Beautiful gardens, and well worth taking the time to walk round. The visit does not include going inside the palace. Calem: Just a short walk down the picturesque Gaia quayside and a tour of this port lodge with a tasting and another retail opportunity. Well worth seeing if just to get an idea of the scale of port production. Anything Else? The five locks that we pass through are very impressive and worth seeing. There are also some very low bridges that the ship can only just squeeze under, the sun deck has to be cleared for these. The sun deck is a great place to sit and watch the scenery go by, but it could use a bar service up there and some way of listening to a commentary. Also, beware of the static electric sock you might get when going down the stairs! There was a very good atmosphere on the ship, the crew all got on very well together and nothing was too much trouble for them. With only 120 passengers it was more like a large house party, and by the end of the cruise you had probably spoken to everyone else. And finally, Carmen our cruise director did a fantastic job of making sure everything happened when it was supposed to. Carmen is very hands on, she give the talks in the morning about what we are doing that day, goes on the trips and is dancing in the bar at night! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first river cruise and proved to be most enjoyable overall. The scenery was wonderful, the weather glorious, the staff were friendly and helpful and we had a superb cabin - number 325. The general organisation on board was ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and proved to be most enjoyable overall. The scenery was wonderful, the weather glorious, the staff were friendly and helpful and we had a superb cabin - number 325. The general organisation on board was mostly good, the excursions we did were excellent and we enjoyed the flexibility to join a group when sightseeing or explore on your own. The coach was also most comfortable. The evening dinner at Quinta da Pacheca was most enjoyable. There were, however, some disappointments and surprises:- 1. The breakfasts and lunches were far more enjoyable than the dinners! A "superb 4 course dinner" as advertised was certainly not served. The vegetarian food showed little imagination, although hey did try to accommodate my requests. The waiting staff, although very friendly and helpful, did appear rushed and more often than not we had to serve ourselves with our wine which was held in a communal cooler serving other tables too. There appeared to be a distinct lack of vegetables to accompany the meat and fish dishes. The choice of dessert was very poor - often fruit/cheese and only one other. 2. We were astounded on our first morning to be woken by the extreme engine noise - not merely loud, but quite deafening. We were unsure how other areas of the ship fared in comparison. 3. Daily briefings were somewhat tedious, although our tour director, Carmem was a lovely lady. One felt obliged to attend in case important information was missed, but it was most inconvenient to disturb our relaxation on the sun deck. We felt it would have been better to impart the information in written form. 4. The sun deck was most relaxing, but surprisingly there was no bar service. 5. We were also surprised when the sun deck had to be completely evacuated at one point and for quite a long time owing to lack of clearance at a lock and a bridge. Read Less
30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
My wife and I with two friends have just returned from the Riviera Five Star River Douro Cruise from Porto, Portugal on the Riviera Douro Elegance boat. The Riviera Representative met us at the airport on arrival and after a little ... Read More
My wife and I with two friends have just returned from the Riviera Five Star River Douro Cruise from Porto, Portugal on the Riviera Douro Elegance boat. The Riviera Representative met us at the airport on arrival and after a little delay we boarded the coach and the transfer to Porto was about 45 minutes. The staff on board were very helpful and friendly as expected. The quality of the boat was beautiful having been brought into service in April of this year. We had a Balcony Suite, although the balconies have been amended to large sliding windows. The cabins are well appointed and the balcony/window modification worked well. The new boat in itself certainly deserved the 5 star rating. I must say that the scenery on the Douro is quite breathtaking and we would really recommend the Douro for it’s beauty and tranquillity. Sadly though, we have a number of observations and complaints which certainly marred our trip. We and a number of other passengers were extremely disappointed with the food served on board mainly during the evening restaurant service. Firstly the actual menus themselves were presented on flimsy paper which looked like they had been run off on photo copy paper. Zero for presentation. The soups tasted like packet soup and possibly were not freshly made. The menu on most evenings consisted of strange combinations of ingredients and on the whole fairly tasteless and lacking in seasoning and always tepid. We found many of the dishes or accompanying sauces contained bacon, pork, lamb or sea food leaving my wife and I very little or in some cases no choice of menu as we are non meat/chicken eaters although we do eat fish. With that in mind the fish dishes available were nearly always Sea Bream again lacking in seasoning. On one evening the menu consisted of Sea Bream with Tomato Rice. As an alternative, Mango Risotto with Salted Olives. It’s rice all round! Cheap and easy! Also a lack of accompanying fresh vegetables. There are a number of issues with the food including the food was always tepid when served and in some cases almost cold. We sent food back at times because of this. Other areas of concern. On a number of occasions at breakfast we had to clear used crockery and tableware from tables ourselves as the staff had not cleared and reset available tables. The breakfast buffet was a “bum fight” each morning particularly when an early excursion was planned. The so called hot food in the chafing dishes was always either cold or just tepid. Same at lunch time. There was always a lack of prepared fresh fruit choice. Strips of water melon, slices of orange was more or less the choice. There was however a bowl with some apples in it that did look a bit past their sell by date. There are two help yourself coffee machines available 24 hours a day. The coffee produced from these machines is again tepid and is only just recognisable as coffee. Being a coffee drinker it would seem that the beans are of poor quality. Just my opinion! The coffee served in the restaurant is the same. Couldn’t wait to get a decent cup of coffee on shore! There was no service at all on the sun deck. If you wanted a drink or whatever, you had to go below to the bar and bring it up to the sun deck yourself. Certainly not five star service. On our departure day, due to the flight time being later in the day and after vacating the cabins at 9.00am, absolutely no refreshments were made available to late departing guests despite my enquiring. I have to say that the member of staff with whom I spoke clearly indicated “cost cutting”! It was as if “we’ve got your money and you’re on your own now”. I do recall on previous river cruises a light lunch was made available for late departing guests. Not on this one! There were about 25 passengers on the late departure timed for 2.45 from the boat. Amazingly the boat had provided one toilet only for all of those passengers and was located in the lower lobby area. The Urinals for men had a ‘Not In Use’ notice leaving one WC only to be available for all of those people. When I enquired as to another toilet facility I was told this was the only one. People were queuing to use it. On previous cruises the boat has put aside a couple of cabins for toilet use. In addition to the passengers waiting to leave, early arriving guests whose cabins were not at the time ready, were also using the same toilet. This was an absolute disgrace. All in all I regret to say that we were very disappointed with Riviera and this was certainly not a five star cruise. The boat in itself was five star but the food and general service was no more than three star. We feel badly let down by Riviera and shall now give Riviera a miss for future cruising. Currently awaiting Riviera's response ! Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
My husband chose this cruise to celebrate his 70th birthday. We have done many ocean cruises on various cruise lines and one river cruise - the Mekong. I had done a considerable amount of research into all the cruise companies who ... Read More
My husband chose this cruise to celebrate his 70th birthday. We have done many ocean cruises on various cruise lines and one river cruise - the Mekong. I had done a considerable amount of research into all the cruise companies who offered cruises on the River Douro and chose Riviera Travel because of its reputation in the UK and the fact that the Douro Elegance was a new ship. The lauded five star experience was also a big draw. The cruise is a return trip from Porto on the Portuguese coast as far as the Spanish border where the Douro is no longer navigable by large river cruise ships.. There were good and bad points to this cruise and overall we had an enjoyable time but our main disappointment was with the food which we regard as an important part of any cruise holiday. I completely agree with raymond4868's comments about the food and the service associated with the dining experience. It is by no means a five star experience. Food was mostly luke warm, no thought seems to have been given to the accompanying sauces with the meat although we did like the fish. Soups were tasteless and often cabbage based, salads were unimaginative. No ice cream was ever available, desserts were a joke and every day radioactive looking jelly was an option for dessert at lunch. I like to have fresh fruit at breakfast and on our cruise the selection wasn't bad but it was sliced so thinly you could see through it. Cook to order service at breakfast was very slow. We did talk to the Maitre D of our concerns about food and service early on in the cruise but it didn't improve. Our best meals by far were lunch on our day trip to Salamanca and the evening meal at Quinta de Pancheca (thank goodness, this was on my husband's birthday!). The ship certainly had the wow factor on boarding. It looks very modern and stylish. The sun deck is lovely and all the furnishings and bed linen were excellent quality. However, after a while we came to realise that something didn't seem quite right and made it seem a bit dowdy. The colour scheme is centred on brown and there are very few other colours injected into the decor. Portugal has some wonderful colourful ceramics but the ceramics on display in the dining room are brown mounted on a brown wall. The 'net' curtains in the lounge area are also light brown. Our cabin, whilst fairly compact, was adequate for a 7 night cruise but the bathroom definitely needs more shelving. I was concerned that our cabin entry cards had the cabin number on them which meant that if you did mislay your card, anyone would have access to your cabin. I did point this out to the deputy hotel manager and hopefully this matter will be addressed. We were encouraged to use the safe in the room but it has been placed high up in the wardrobe and I needed to stand on a chair to access it. Apart from the waiters in the dining room, the staff provided excellent service. Douro Azul is the managing company for all the cruise ships on the Douro and it is their policy to charge for water ordered in the bar despite the fact that bottled water is freely available in the cabins. We found this out when we returned after a long day sightseeing and went to the bar to order a pre-dinner drink and my husband was refused a glass of tap water whilst we waited for our drinks to arrive. The organisation of the holiday was very good from the time we were picked up at the airport and transported to the ship to our journey home. All the tours off the ship were in brand new air-conditioned coaches (thanks to Pedro, our brilliant tour guide) and the maps and information provided were good. Vox boxes are used on the tours. At present, the itinerary includes a trip by coach to Salamanca (a two hour drive) which is a beautiful university city in Spain but unfortunately it is on a Monday when all the museums are closed which was disappointing. The scenery along the Douro is wonderful and the lovely weather showed it off well. We thoroughly enjoyed going through the locks which was an amazing experience and certainly required a good deal of precision from the Captain manoeuvring the ship into position. In our opinion, the scenery travelling along the majestic Douro and the included excursions made this holiday. Riviera Travel has taken note of my feedback and has promised to pass on our comments about the dining experience to Douro Azul. I only hope that there is a definite improvement in the food and service because this would then truly make this holiday a Five Star experience. Read Less
Douro Elegance Ratings
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