Launched in 2015, Gil Eanes joins French-owned CroisiEurope's three other ships on Portugal's Douro.
Offering competitively priced itineraries, and more than a touch of French flair, the 132-passenger ship sails on five- and seven-night cruises out of Porto. Although the company is not as well-known as other operators, at least among North Americans, it was one of the pioneers of river cruising and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016.
In recent years CroisiEurope started marketing outside its homeland. Although most passengers are French, you can expect to meet a growing number of Americans, Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and other Europeans, which creates a fun, cosmopolitan vibe. Another big part of this international appeal is the onboard cuisine that features regional dishes and specialties, albeit restricted to set menus.
Smaller than ships that sail on rivers such as the Rhine and Danube, Gil Eanes doesn't have multiple dining venues, a spa, gym or other extras such as an enrichment program or onboard entertainer. However, the ship is well-designed with a bright, modern feel that makes the most of the available space. In a nod to the family heritage, contemporary wall decorations featuring funky designs created with feathers and colorful tiles are interspersed with artwork painted by CroisiEurope founder Gerard Schmitter.
The charming and friendly crew members -- French and Portuguese -- all speak excellent English and go out of their way to provide a great, personal service that includes bartenders remembering your favorite drink.
CroisiEurope cruises have a more laid-back atmosphere than some lines, with leisurely meals and a less rigid adherence to time schedules. This might initially grate with clock-watchers, but it makes for a very relaxing experience and encourages passengers to go with the flow and simply sit back and enjoy the delights of the Douro.