6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
I had heard from family and friends that Portugal was a great country to tour: beautiful, safe, tons of history, warm, and Mediterranean. Also, the American dollar has strong purchasing power. We had loved a previous self-toured trip of ... Read More
I had heard from family and friends that Portugal was a great country to tour: beautiful, safe, tons of history, warm, and Mediterranean. Also, the American dollar has strong purchasing power. We had loved a previous self-toured trip of Spain, but missed seeing the Northwest corner, including Santiago de Compostela. We went in early May, so Portugal was warm but not stifling, and outside of forest-fire season. This trip allowed us to add on a couple of days in Lisbon (beautiful city) and to also see medieval Sintra through a Viking one-day special on the front end, and then add to our 8-day trip on the back end with a trip into NW Spain for Santiago de Compostela, famous medieval site for pilgrimages to see St. James' holy relics. Portugal is not large, so we had plenty of time on our coach from Lisbon to Porto for a lovely stop and tour (included in the price) at Coimbre, site of a medieval university and town where J.K. Rowling lived and was influenced for her imaginary Hogwarts Wizarding School. Lunch included live, haunting fado performance. The Douro River is short, so you spend more time in ports touring (or shopping). Viking arranged several interesting presentations on board--history, Port wine, olive oil, a cork merchant (great gifts in jewelry, hats and bags), two entertaining musical groups (Don't miss the male college performers)--in addition to exciting architectural tours and wine tastings on land. We enjoyed our fellow travelers--many from Britain, as well as U.S. Our coach Portuguese tour guide, George, was very knowledgeable and interesting. We recommend it! Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Our latest Viking Voyage (we go on our 6th trip with them this year) was absolutely wonderful. With a 2-day pre-extension in Lisbon (and a 2-day post on our own in Lisbon), we ended up spending 6 phenomenal days in one of my new favorite ... Read More
Our latest Viking Voyage (we go on our 6th trip with them this year) was absolutely wonderful. With a 2-day pre-extension in Lisbon (and a 2-day post on our own in Lisbon), we ended up spending 6 phenomenal days in one of my new favorite cities on the planet. Lisbon is gorgeous, very compact and highly accessible. Don't even think about going unless you book the Lisbon pre-extension. And whatever you do, don't miss the Taste of Lisbon optional excursion. The river part of our serene journey started on September 6, 2016 on the Viking (baby longship) Osfrid. While I will tell you many ways the whole trip could have been better still, my five star rating stands. Overall, we had an absolutely fantastic time. And, man oh man, did I get some great pictures. Portugal is one very picturesque country. (Photography and traveling are my hobbies. You can see my best pictures from our recent vacations here: www.RhodesVacations.com) LISBON PART OF TRIP From the time we got to the lovely Tivoli Hotel, we were already having a great time. The hotel has much to recommend it. When you go to breakfast (a large buffet in a beautiful room full of rich wood paneling and large picture windows), be sure and get a table that looks out onto the Avenida in front of the hotel. This is one of the most tranquil streets I've ever seen. With a very wide central pedestrian median that goes on for at least a mile, it is lined with huge trees hundreds of years old and has large walkways made of colorful stones set in mosaic patterns. I could spend days sitting on one of its park benches. So relaxing. But I digress. Back to the hotel. One final note, be sure and go up to the bar area on top of the hotel at night. It’s a hopping scene with great mood lighting and music. Half of the young adults in Lisbon seem to be there. But, most of all, it has great views of Lisbon's lights at night from the top. Be sure and take your camera when you go up to it. We had such a fabulous time in the endlessly charming Lisbon that it's hard to list everything we did, so I'll just stick to some of our favorites. We heard a lot of excellent fado music (something I didn't even think I would like), but none was better than the performance we got during the optional Taste of Lisbon excursion that we went on. But more than just the music and the dinner were the acting and dancing on the stage. It was a near perfect evening. My favorite was of one of the leading singers, who was so emotive in her acting and so compelling in her smiles that I couldn't stop trying to capture pictures of her. The best walking tour of trip was the one of the Bairro Alto in Lisbon, which is part of the pre-extension. In contrast, the tour of the Alfama District of Lisbon, which is part of the regular tour, was good but way too much of it was done on a bus. The Bairro Alto tour was all done on foot, so you really got to see the lovely tiled buildings with their intricate grill work, the enchantingly narrow and colorful streets and the overall charm of the byways of the city. Our Bairro Alto guide was terrific. She realized that the best guides aren't rapid-fire fact machines but entertainers who know how to weave humorous stories and make cute little remarks. Also, the Alfama tour spent time at the Maritime Museum. It's almost always a waste of time when a guided tour includes museum visits. You will have a fair amount of time on your own in Lisbon, and there is so much to do. Taking one of the fun old trams is a must but follow the Viking guides recommendation, as we did. Don't go on the public trams, which will have you waiting hours to get on and quite likely make you stand for its hour and a half trip. Instead go on one of the private trams, which look exactly the same. While they cost more, they will save you hours of wasted time standing and waiting for the public ones, and they will always have a seat for you once on board. Supposedly too, the public one is frequented by pickpockets. The tram whips around narrow streets and provides a constant steam of great visuals. Arguably the most stunning site in Lisbon is the Jeronimos Monastery, which should be on your must-see list. Also good is the castle, which, although in ruins, provides breath-taking views of the city since the castle is set high on the hill above the city. The way to get to the castle is with a taxi. Taxis in Lisbon are reasonably priced and easy to hail. The coach museum near the Jeronimos Monastery is well worth a visit. Filled with restored coaches, it really takes you back in time to when traveling was particularly elegant. One day we hired a private car and driver, which wasn't that expensive, and went to Sintra, most of all to see Pena Palace. A fantastical and ridiculously colorful place, it is a palace as Walt Disney might have imagined one. The town itself too was pretty. Later we went to the westernmost part of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca, and admired its jagged cliffs and crashing surf. An extraordinary day out. Finally, just walking around Lisbon's various squares and narrow streets provide endless delight. We ended up eating outside several time at LVSO Central Italian Restaurant in Rossio Square. The people watching there is great fun, and the waiters are real charmers and clowns. We always got one of the tables closest to the wide sidewalk. And, while we were in Lisbon during an unseasonable heat wave with temperatures in the upper 90s, the trees, the awnings and the good breezes made for very relaxing and quite comfortable outdoor dining nonetheless. SHIP PART OF THE TRIP Of the 13 days we spent in Portugal, 7 of them were on the ship, so let's talk about that part of our adventure. First and foremost, the staff and the people we met on the ship were extremely friendly. Our tour director Elia and our guide Iuri were uniformly terrific. My wife has mobility issues, and Iuri was constantly checking on her as we were walking to make absolutely sure she was always ok. The restaurant staff, which sometimes weren't quite as organized as they should have been, were extremely friendly and hard-working. On land and on the ship, everyone spoke very clear English, and they were able to easily understand a wide variety of accents easily, even my thick Texan. Quite a surprise was that, unlike all of the other Viking cruises we've been on, the captain was around a lot and liked to strike up conversations with the guests. His English too was perfect, and he proved to be a good story teller. The part of the ship we liked the least was the food, which was at best ok and was the worst of any Viking trip. Ironically, the best food, which was consistently fabulous, was on the Viking Truvor this summer in Russia. The chef on the Truvor is scheduled to move to one of Portugal ships next year. Almost made me wish we'd waited. But, to be honest, we didn't care much for the food off the boat either. The worst meal I got was some inedible cod for lunch in Lisbon. Being a baby longship, everything was shrunk, but it was a still a longship. On the regular size longships, there are many round tables for six at dinner, so meeting people is easy. The baby longship has many fewer such tables, and they are oblong rather than circular. The problem with an oblong table is that there are almost always 2-3 conversations going on simultaneously while, with round tables, it is usually just one. One conversation makes it a lot more fun and easier to hear people. But the ship did have a very large top deck, which proved to be a great place to gather while cruising and after dinner, when the lights on the hills were truly magical. And, speaking of magical moments, one of the best occurred the first evening on the ship when, just after dinner, the captain took us on a slow ride up and down Douro River to see the lights of Porto at night. All I can say is WOW! The Douro River provides endless scenic vistas while cruising. The high hills (or low mountains or whatever you call them) are full of vineyards, olive trees and almond trees. While you are there you live in a blue green world. Lush green hillsides are on your left and right while the rich blue of the sky and river are above and below you. Because of a broken lock on our trip, they had to re-sequence the days, which ended up giving us a full day cruising at the end. This proved to be a blessing, not a curse. Just about everyone spent the day on the top deck enjoying the great views and the lovely weather, which had cooled back into the normally seasonal 80s. We only had one early morning of rain the whole trip, and the rain was gone by the time we left the boat. Since I've been writing for a while now and still haven't mentioned any of the places we visited from the ship, you might wonder why. It's because this isn't a trip where you go to see a few big sites. It's more one of enjoying the smaller ones. But we did visit some pretty sites during the cruise. Castelo Rodrigo was fascinating and beautiful. A stunningly pretty little rocky and isolated town set high up on a small mountaintop, it was perhaps the best thing we saw while on the ship part of the trip. I am very glad that I chose the "strenuous" walking tour that day. Very mislabeled, it wasn't even up to a moderate level. Lamego was a peaceful little town to wander through, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Salamanca was quite pretty, but the included lunch there was almost inedible, and the flamenco dancing we were shown wasn't very good. My wife had suggested we skip the included lunch and flamenco performance and wander around Salamanca instead. Should have taken her advice. Others did this and had a much better time than we did. One night we had a dinner at old monastery. The setting was lovely and the fado singing was pretty good but not nearly as good as in Lisbon or Coimbra. Actually, the only part of the Coimbra visit I really enjoyed was the excellent fado performance after lunch there. DISAPPOINTMENTS Some of the places like the inside of the Mateus Palace, the library in Coimbra, the main church in Lamego didn't allow photography even without flash. This is just plain stupid in my opinion. I saw many people ignoring the rule and snapping pictures with their cameras and cell phones. The low point of the tour was Favaios, where we saw one of the world's smallest and most boring bakeries and visited a not very interesting small museum. On the optional tour to Guimaraes, the only good part was a brief walk through the streets of the town. There just wasn't much else there other than a very plain castle. Don't waste your money. Stay on the ship and enjoy the cruising instead. A couple of times after dinner, the crew led us all in a big conga line, which proved to be a whole of fun. What was very disappointing was that there were no team games as entertainment as there have been on every other Viking trip we've taken. For example, in Russia they had a game called Liar. Three members of the staff would give us the definitions and derivations of obscure English words, but only one of them was telling the truth. We divided into small teams to guess who was truthful each time. It was hilarious and marvelous fun. Internet, internet, internet! Viking, come on. In this day and age, there is no excuse for painfully slow speed internet. The days of dial-up class speeds are so last millennium. Airplanes and other cruise ships are adopting faster technologies and so should you. We ignored this failing by chewing up lots of cellular data at very pricy rates. OVERALL We had a terrific time that we will never forget. We are busy having fun now thinking about our 7th (and maybe 8th) Viking trip for 2017. So many places; so little time! FYI - The regular Veranda rooms on the baby longships that Viking uses in Portugal are much smaller than on the regular longships. While the bathroom is fine, there is no space on either side of the bed for a chair. Because of this, it makes good sense to go for the Veranda Suites, which have lots of room and are extremely well laid out. Couldn't have been more comfortable. LOVED our Veranda Suite! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Great trip on viking on douro river. two night stay in lisbon prior to trip, we stayed at the tivoli lisboa hotel-very nice and great location. had a half day tour provided and then time to explore on our own. we then coached to porto. ... Read More
Great trip on viking on douro river. two night stay in lisbon prior to trip, we stayed at the tivoli lisboa hotel-very nice and great location. had a half day tour provided and then time to explore on our own. we then coached to porto. stopped in coimbra to see university and have a fado lunch. on board ship we were upgraded to a balcony cabin-nice!. Staff is all portuguese which helps with comradery(sp). First morning was a short tour of porto--not very extensive but had opportunity to return in afternoon. Set sail then the next day--you sail during day as you can't at night due to narrow river. the scenery is amazing. tours on each day in the small towns and also a bus ride to salamanca spain. Positives: our timing--celebration of the virgin de la vega in salamanca complete with small procession to the cathedral. also the crush of the grapes was just beginning-we took an optional tour to pick grapes and stomp them--great highlight of our trip. dinner in a monastery. Negatives: nothing major-but weather was hot-102 one day. The schedule is very busy-not much down time. you do spend a lot of time on buses but it was ok--usually had commentary from tour guide. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We have the recommendations of multiple friends on Viking and took the plunge. We went on our own, but met at least ten couples that were delightful and like-minded. There were more UK than US folks, so the dialog was absolutely unique ... Read More
We have the recommendations of multiple friends on Viking and took the plunge. We went on our own, but met at least ten couples that were delightful and like-minded. There were more UK than US folks, so the dialog was absolutely unique and enjoyable. The service during meals was extremely attentive, thoughtful, and friendly. The quality and tying in of local culture and dishes was well thought out and presented. We knew the staff names by the end of the cruise, and they knew almost all the guest's names as well. We had an add-on excursion after the cruise to Spain, and unfortunately we were completely spoil by the Viking Cruise staff, so it was pleasant, but not with the attendant service and comradely of the cruise. More of a testament to the river versus land portions of the package. This is the epitome of a satisfying experience that we were expecting. It was an experience-based event that well repeat again with Viking in the future. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
The cruise up the Douro river was nice but every stop had a LONG bus ride to get to all of the shore excursion towns & destinations. This included the bus ride from Lisbon to Porto. I also found it strange that the transpiration ... Read More
The cruise up the Douro river was nice but every stop had a LONG bus ride to get to all of the shore excursion towns & destinations. This included the bus ride from Lisbon to Porto. I also found it strange that the transpiration started in Lisbon but ended in Porto. For those of us who book our own airfare to and from cruises, it presented a bit of a challenge. Other than that, the food and the scenery during the trip were OK. On board - the service was very good. The waiters and bar staff were very accommodating. Unlike most other cruises, on this particular trip, the entire cruise staff was from Portugal. One bright point about the trip was the food. It was excellent with a mixture of American and local Portuguese cuisine. The bar had a limited stock of liquor. I favor Bombay Sapphire Gin but there was none to be had on board. Nor were there any descent Bourbons or Scotches. The wines served at dinner were so-so. For the shore excursions, we had the same tour guide every day. Her English wasn't the best so there were times when we had a tough time understanding her. Each time we docked, we were in a small town with practically nothing to do. We have taken several ocean cruises and one other Viking River Cruise on the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg and this was the worst as far as itinerary. Unfortunately, although I think that the Viking line is quite nice, I would not recommend this particular cruise to anyone. Use Viking but go somewhere else. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
My daughter and I had a most enjoyable first experience with Viking Cruises. We chose The River of Gold Itinerary travelling the River Duoro. The excursions were most interesting, the staff was outstanding (they anticipated your needs!) ... Read More
My daughter and I had a most enjoyable first experience with Viking Cruises. We chose The River of Gold Itinerary travelling the River Duoro. The excursions were most interesting, the staff was outstanding (they anticipated your needs!) and the quality of the food was at the five star level. We liked the size of the ship (only 108 passengers) and with unassigned dinner seating it gave us the opportunity to meet quite a number of interesting people. We were so delighted with our experience that next year both my daughters will be accompanying me on yet another European cruise with Viking. We are all looking forward to a memorable vacation!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
My husband and I traveled on the Viking Hemming in December. Overall we were pleased with the experience. Our personal preference, however, is to travel with all-inclusive ships and that is reflected in this review. Viking’s ... Read More
My husband and I traveled on the Viking Hemming in December. Overall we were pleased with the experience. Our personal preference, however, is to travel with all-inclusive ships and that is reflected in this review. Viking’s organization was superb. Transfers from and to the airports was efficient and timely. In Lisbon we traveled in two coaches, while on the Douro we rode comfortably in three specially designed vehicles. We didn’t discover the reclining feature until the last day, but were still able to nap as we returned from excursions. The local tour guides, Sylvia (in Lisbon) and Carma (on the Douro) were top-notch. They are not employed by Viking, however, and the gratuity offered to the Program Director (Patricia) is for her alone, not shared by her team. Had we known, we would have been less generous with the amount recommended for her, as the entire staff and crew (including drivers and coach guides) share from the larger pot, not much when so many of them added to our enjoyment. In fact, Patricia, we think, is the only Viking employee, the remainder of the staff and crew are apparently contracted by DouroAzul. We had originally booked a standard stateroom, the least expensive option. As my husband had a bad cold, we had already discussed the possibility of an upgrade on the plane to Lisbon as he has COPD and often needs to get up in the night to relieve chest congestion. When we were shown to our room, we immediately knew it would not work for us. The Douro River is narrow and the ship must have the dimensions to negotiate the 5 locks, thus accounting for the stateroom sizes, smaller than in Viking’s normal fleet. Joaquim de Sousa, the hotel manager, showed us other options and we chose a veranda suite, extra charge, of course, but having two spaces allowed both of us a comfortable journey. If you are at all claustrophobic, consider room size when you book. Fellow cruisers found relief in the lounge, but after a week onboard, this single option paled. In nicer weather (remember this was December), the terrace and sun deck would have been available as well. Carlos Silva and his team provided wonderful food. Breakfast included a generous buffet as well as made-to-order options. The porridge was exceptional, especially when you could add ingredients to your personal taste. Lunch included a salad bar and 3 choices from a menu. Salads and dressings were different each day. Everything I sampled was delicious. Dinner, too, was well-prepared with ample choice. After a week, my husband wished for an alternative dining option, not feasible on a small ship; we will take this into consideration when choosing another river cruise. The galley tour was fun as was the lounge demonstration of preparing pastel de nata, my caloric downfall of the trip. Shore excursions, many with meals, were varied and informative, helping us learn about Portugal’s history, geography, culture, and wine production. We skipped those to Porto, Salamanca, Castelo Rodigo, and Lamego (rainy), but Coimbra and Favaios were marvelous. Patricia’s enthusiastic nightly overview of the next day’s activities often ran long and became repetitive. We were more than ready to go to dinner and enjoy the generous pouring of Douro wines. Three ingredients made this trip special. The first was the stunning Douro River valley, still untouched by rampant tourism. The second was the congenial mix of our fellow cruisers, most Viking veterans, which says a lot for the company. Finally, the professionalism and enthusiasm of Joaquim de Sousa, always visible and attentive, made our first Viking cruise memorable. His aim is always to provide service and he more than succeeded. We wish him well in his studies for a PhD.   Read Less
65 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
We've been sailing with Regent, predominantly, for 15 years, our most recent prior cruise being on the Navigator, through the Panama Canal, in spring, 2011 (and we loved it). We were really looking forward to this cruise and, for the ... Read More
We've been sailing with Regent, predominantly, for 15 years, our most recent prior cruise being on the Navigator, through the Panama Canal, in spring, 2011 (and we loved it). We were really looking forward to this cruise and, for the second time, traveling on the Mariner didn't meet our expectations (the prior 2008 trip in Alaska was our least favorite). To start, they booked us in a 5 star hotel that had anything but 5 star service, including the chaotic luggage collection and transport to the ship. We've never seen any Regent embarkation that was so disorganized and it certainly wasn't a good way to start the cruise. We were pleased that they had our luggage in our suite by 2:30 (earlier than in the past), but we were in the first group bussed to the ship. We spoke to many others who experienced very long waits to get on their bus and it was raining by the time they got to the ship, making an unpleasant situation even worse. The public areas of the ship were recently remodeled and were very attractive, as was a lot of the artwork around the ship. We were pleased to see some familiar faces managing and serving in La Veranda and Compass Rose, and the dining room staff was unfailingly pleasant and friendly. Even so, we couldn't overlook the many service shortcomings, especially regarding repeated delays in wine and coffee service at lunch and dinner. I don't drink coffee, but my husband agreed with a previous reviewer, saying it wasn't good, even if it arrived in a reasonable period of time. Apparently they are training many new staff in anticipation of inaugurating a new ship in 2016, but knowing that didn't help our disappointment. This certainly isn't the service we'd experienced on past Regent cruises. The food was decent, not outstanding. Particularly disappointing was the selection at breakfast and lunch buffets; not nearly the variety we'd seen on previous cruises. I ate fish almost every day which turned out to be in my favor because we heard from red-meat lovers that they were disappointed with the beef/pork/lamb quality. We used room service several times. Although delivery was prompt, half the time the staff left something off the order, or added something we hadn't requested. Our standard mid-ship suite had been partlaly renovated, with a new bathroom, including a very nice stand-alone shower, a bonus for my husband who is moderately disabled. Otherwise, the suite had the same furnishings and linens they've had for several years and was overdue to be refurbished. Our stewardess/steward were exceptionally sweet and gave us outstanding service. The gym was well equipped with up-to-date machines and auxiliary equipment. There were many classes offered, but most often they were scheduled early in the morning (7:00 or 7:30) or late in the afternoon (4:30 to 6:30), not particularly convenient times if you want to sleep a little later or get ready for cocktails and dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed Edward Peck's lectures; the other lecturers offered weren't worth our time. Some of the evening entertainment was quite good (the new Jean Ryan production company and a couple of the pianists)but the rest were average, or even substandard. We loved Madeira and the Canary Islands. Seeing these out-of-the-way-places-for-U.S.-residents was almost worth the high cost of the cruise alone because it's prohibitive to fly there from the U.S. Most of our tours were adequate, although we did have to choose the easier ones because of my husband's disability, so can't speak to the more adventurous ones. For those of us that were again using the Regent transport services, the disembarkation process was almost as chaotic as the embarkation process. Given that many of the ship's passengers were challenged, it was especially distressing to have so little help getting our luggage from the dockside to our bus. When we reached the airport, with so many passengers arriving at once, there were very long lines to check in, even though we had first-class tickets. Definitely not first class service, and a poor way to end the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
Viking River Cruises' River of Gold cruise was a wonderful experience. From beginning with a hotel stay in Lisbon, including city tour and coach trip to Porto for embarkation through the entire cruise, everything worked beautifully. ... Read More
Viking River Cruises' River of Gold cruise was a wonderful experience. From beginning with a hotel stay in Lisbon, including city tour and coach trip to Porto for embarkation through the entire cruise, everything worked beautifully. The staff was super -- friendly, efficient, helpful and fun. The food was as wonderful as usual. The beverages -- many local wines and ports included -- were delicious, too. What was exceptional, however, was the scenery. The Douro, or Golden River in Portuguese, isn't your typical European cruise river. This was our sixth Viking cruise, and we were blown away by the wilderness aspect of it. Almost every excursion required a brief to medium-length coach trip to and from the bus, but that was not a problem as Viking owns their own coaches and the drivers stayed consistent throughout the trip. The spots we visited were unspoiled and beautiful -- quaint little villages without too much of the generic commerciality we often see these days. We felt we had had a truly unique experience, and would recommend people go before globalization catches up with this river. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
I just returned last night from the Douro River Cruise on AmaVida. And I have a lot to say! First, the area is beautiful. We went to dinners at local wineries and they were, for the most part wonderful. The tours are the usual church, ... Read More
I just returned last night from the Douro River Cruise on AmaVida. And I have a lot to say! First, the area is beautiful. We went to dinners at local wineries and they were, for the most part wonderful. The tours are the usual church, museum lot. There is very little free time if you want to shop or explore on your own unless you skip a scheduled tour. The Ama Vida was sorely understaffed. So much so that at the first port they brought in more help. They had very little help at the bar throughout the cruise. The rooms were really small...........and I have been on other river cruises. The shower ran hot and cold all during your shower. The food was the same every day at lunch and breakfast. The dinners did not have much of a selection and were mediocre at best. the dining room was very small and it was so loud you couldn't hear the people at your own table. It was very difficult to get waited on in the bar. There was a bug problem in the dining room. It was so bad I took pictures of the light fixtures containing dead bugs! We asked questions of several of those in charge about various things and got different answers each time. Ama Vida is very expensive and not worth the price. One of the staff told us the best line for the Duoro River is Viking. The only saving grace is that we travelled with a great group of friends and made the best of the situation.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Wow! What s terrific experience. Beautiful scenery in the Douro valley, outstanding personalized service by the crew of the Viking Hemming - particularly chef Carlos Silva and the galley crew; excellent schedule of interesting, fun shore ... Read More
Wow! What s terrific experience. Beautiful scenery in the Douro valley, outstanding personalized service by the crew of the Viking Hemming - particularly chef Carlos Silva and the galley crew; excellent schedule of interesting, fun shore excursions along the river - including a visit to the Quinta do Seixo-Sandeman (port wine) vineyard at harvest time, and a visit to Salamanca, Spain. Starting the trip in Lisbon we were a bit underwhelmed by the city - it was dirty and graffiti riddled when compared of other cities (like New York). The city tour was interesting, but mobs of tourists detracted from the experience. We found a lovely family restaurant near the central area for dinner "Restaurante Bom Apetite Avenida da Liberdade", Portugal address:Travessa da Glória, 20, Avenida da Liberdade, Lisboa. On the way to Porto, the visit to Coimbra - along with the Portuguese lunch & Fado show - was excellent. Embarking in Porto was a pleasure - the Viking Hemming is a new ship with a gracious crew. Like Lisbon, Port is an interesting city, but perhaps a bit dilapidated. The 'euro crisis' was mentioned frequently. Our introduction to Port wine at the Calèm Wine House was fun. Cruising on the Douro River was great. The food on board was consistently excellent, as was its service. Other than cruising itself, visits to the Sandeman vineyards (harvest time - trucks full of grapes everywhere), Salamanca Spain with a Flamenco show and lunch+ at Favaios were highlights. The biggest highlight of all was the breath-taking scenery along the river and the amazing driving by our bus driver on narrow, steep, winding country roads. On board activities during the week were fun - galley tour, Portuguese folk music show, cooking demonstrations, even just sailing through the four locks on the Douro. We took the extension to Santiago de Compostela. Perhaps a bit more costly than it should have been for what was offered, but very interesting nonetheless. The cathedral, old city and large number of pilgrems who traveled there held our interest. The city tour was very well done. lots of restaurants in Santiago old town, but watch out, most of them open at 8 PM for dinner. We found a lovely restaurant in 'Restaurante Xantares' and another in "O Lagar do Franco". We had great Galecian seafood at both. Overall a truly excellent trip - well done by Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
This was our first ever cruise of any type and, having always been independent travellers, we weren't sure it would suit us. However, from beginning to end we loved every minute. We started with 2 nights in Lisbon. We were picked up ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise of any type and, having always been independent travellers, we weren't sure it would suit us. However, from beginning to end we loved every minute. We started with 2 nights in Lisbon. We were picked up at the airport by a Viking rep and taken to the Tivoli Hotel. The hotel was fine. There was a bus tour of Lisbon in the morning which was good to get an overview of the city but, apart from that we were left to our own devices. We then headed towards Porto where the ship was docked. On the way we stopped off at Coimbra to visit the University and also to have lunch, during which we heard traditional fado singing. Finally we reached Porto and the ship. Instantly we felt at home. The whole crew was there to greet us. The embarkation process was completed quickly and efficiently before being shown to our cabin. The cabins are fairly small but the space is well used so not at all claustrophobic. The service onboard was outstanding. The crew were all pleasant and helpful. Officers were very visible and interacted with passengers. Meals were fantastic. We had two meals off the ship- dinner at a converted monastery and lunch at a winery- both of which were good. Entertainment onboard was limited but enjoyable. There was the opportunity to visit the galley and the bridge. I went to a Portuguese lesson , a cookery demonstration and a talk about cork (more interesting than it sounds!) My husband went to a talk on Portuguese history. On one evening a folk group entertained us. It was a hoot and greatly enhanced by the participation of the crew. We went on all the included excursions. We enjoyed them all though the pace was a bit slow. However, the guides were all knowledgeable and spoke good English. It's difficult to identify a high spot from so many but probably the best excursion was a full day to Salamanca. When we returned there was a 'surprise' BBQ on the sun deck as the sun went down. Magic! The passengers were a fairly even mix of British and American with a few Australian which worked well. Disembarkation went smoothly with the buses shuttling passengers to the airport to catch a variety of flights. I would just like to mention the standard of Viking organisation, which was outstanding from the day we booked out cruise until the day we returned home. I'm not sure if we'll do another river cruise but if we do it will certainly be with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
We have now sailed with Viking four times and were not disappointed, despite very hot weather throughout the trip! The entire crew was fantastic, especially Tatiana and Marcio in the lounge. They were as entertaining as they were ... Read More
We have now sailed with Viking four times and were not disappointed, despite very hot weather throughout the trip! The entire crew was fantastic, especially Tatiana and Marcio in the lounge. They were as entertaining as they were efficient. The Viking Douro is a rental from Uniworld as Viking enters the Portuguese market for the first time in 2013. We did not like the lower level dining room, which really killed the view and atmosphere during meals. In 2014 Viking will have their own two-ship fleet with their more passenger friendly design. There was a bit of a learning curve too with the meal quality compared to Viking's normally high standards. Chef Richard was saut'ing on his first trip and did a great job, but the menu was a bit limited compared to our past cruises. Surprisingly, there was very little seafood served aboard. Meals on the excursions were also a bit plain. Local restaurants were great when we could get away. We highly recommend the Cervejaria Ribadouro on the Avenida da Liberdade near the Hotel Tivoli. They offer a great selection of quality fresh meats and shellfish and are frequented by many of the locals. The Tivoli itself has a nice restaurant on the ground floor and a rooftop lounge that features great views of the city. Our room featured a nice balcony. We would strongly recommend avoiding Portugal and Spain in August! It was very hot with temps reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in both Lisbon and on the river up north. We spotted several forest fires not far from the river. The ship's climate was perfect and the sun deck was cooler and very enjoyable at night. Even though local regulations prohibit river travel at night east of Porto, our captain gave us a nice night tour of Porto bridges and traveled to the mouth of the Douro near the Atlantic following our first dinner on board. A very nice trip highlight! Grab a seat on the sundeck with a glass of port, or whatever, and enjoy this show. Other river traffic was almost nonexistent east of Porto and the locks were few and not crowded throughout the journey. The truly unique aspect of this trip versus river cruising in France, Germany, Austria, and even Russia, was the unusual topography along the Douro. The river displays 'big shoulders' along its entire route. The Douro carves its way through mile after mile of beautiful ravines with sculptured, rhythmic terraces dotted by the occasional tile-roofed quinta or whitewashed cylindrical pigeon tower. The excursions included very comfortable buses (new Mercedes and Volvo) with nice climate control. Virtually every excursion travels by bus due to the fact that most worthwhile sites are miles from the Douro River. Skip the first port wine tour because the Sandeman tour is superior and you can only hear so much about port. We arrived in Lisbon a day ahead of the planned tour and took a side tour to Sintra. It's a nice 40-minute train ride from Lisbon to this quaint, charming village. We hiked up the steep path for two hours to the Pena National Palace and it was a highlight of the trip. We also enjoyed the Alfama walking tour (see my website below for a view). Salamanca, Spain, was terrific (even though the program director touted the great shopping and the market but most shops were closed due to a national holiday when we arrived Feast of the Ascension, 8/15). We had a great hike through town to the old Roman Bridge (89 AD) and thoroughly enjoyed the cafes in the shade of the Plaza Mayor. We even enjoyed the two-hour bus ride with a chance to peek at the farms and pastures of rural northwest Spain. We flew from Porto back to Lisbon to return and would change that to another European capital on the next trip. We had seen plenty of the capital and its oppressive August heat. An overnight at a Porto hotel would be another good choice; it's a very scenic and interesting town. Prices in general on board and in Portugal were well below other major European cities. A nice glass of red wine on board (included with lunch and dinner) was priced at '3.50 after hours. Many local cafes charged '1.00 for a cold 10-ounce draft beer. The Portuguese people were incredibly friendly and helpful everywhere we traveled. A man ran a half block to return a pair of sunglasses I had left sitting on a plaza bench. The entire crew was from Portugal which was a genuine plus. Each person would share their personal story about their family and help explain the unique Portuguese culture. If you wish to see a glimpse of the sights along this journey (and other Viking trips), visit my photo website at: http://www.mikerophoto.com   Read Less

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