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Full trip report Overview We researched the various cruises available on the Douro, including Viking, Scenic, AMA, and CroisiEurope who all run their own ships. We also looked at Agents who buy blocks on other boats. We chose Emerald as, for us, they had the best overall offering, a new ship. We had cruised with them before on the Danube and knew the standard to expect. We booked direct, and early, to get the best discounts and cabin choice. We had a chance to have a tour around their Scenic sister ship, Azure, whilst moored alongside. They are the same size with identical sun deck, although we preferred the partial shade on Emerald rather than the solid awning on Scenic. Scenic is all suite (white-chrome, and a bit clinical) with butler service (who wants their smalls unpacked!) with less guests/different crew ratio (96/33 against 112/37 on Emerald) and more dining options. We were told by our crew, who swap between boats when required, that the food is the same on both boats but all silver service in Azure. They also far preferred working on Radiance as although busier, the guests were more friendly and inclusive. I genuinely think it was their honest view, not said to please. Inclusive liquor packages are the same but they have a 3-piece band at night rather than a pianist! Apparently, they play to an empty lounge after dinner as the Scenic guests all were in bed, unlike the Emerald bar which was lively most nights until midnight. We honestly couldn’t see the extra value in paying thousands of £/$ to sail Scenic rather than Emerald. Pre/Post Cruise The Emerald price includes air fares to/from the UK. From our own experience, we knew that this generally included transfers in Paris/Frankfurt or Amsterdam if not flying from London airports. When our flights were offered they included a 06.15 departure and a 55-minute connection-a disaster waiting to happen. We took a price reduction of £250 each, booked direct flights to Oporto the day before departure and stayed at the OPO airport hotel and still had some change. Our advice-investigate the alternatives. Other guests, who had lost luggage/missed connections/late arrivals wished they had knew this option. Joining The Emerald price includes collection/drop off at the airport so we made our way, refreshed after a good sleep and breakfast, to Porto Arrivals to be collected with two other guests and transferred to the Emerald Radiance just as the last group were disembarking. We were the first of the new guests to arrive. Bliss. We had the ship to ourselves, and a private guided tour, until after lunch when the next few arrived. We sat in the sun, watching the Red Bull Air Race Practice and enjoyed a delightful buffet lunch with local wine & beer before we were shown to our suite promptly at 3pm. 10/10 The Ship The newest on the Douro, it’s first cruise was in June. The early cruises attracted criticism with early teething problems with cabin fittings and service levels but the all Portuguese crew had got their act by the time we joined the September cruise. As you would expect, everything is new-and it shows. The Horizon Bar & Lounge are the hub of the ship and the service from head barman Abel, supported by Sandra, sparkled. Guests had an option of having a light breakfast/snack lunch here or on The Terrace whilst the full buffet breakfast and lunch was laid out in Reflections 9/10 Suites (as they are called) Although they vary in size from 150to300 sq ft and you get what you paid for. Everyone we spoke to seemed to be happy with their rooms, however grand or modest, especially the comfort of the beds. We heard of only one flooding and one complaint of noise, a cabin directly below the crane which started up at 06.30 am as we prepared to depart each morning-note there is no night sailings on the Douro. Our suite at the stern was very quiet with only propeller noise at 7am on departure. 9/10 Dining and Beverages The Emerald price included, for most guests, all liquor and future cruises are fully inclusive. This included fine Spirits included premium Gins and Black label whisky, Vintage Port and included Cava/Prosecco but not Champagne. The Douro wines stocked and served were excellent. We thought the food was of very high standard with a wide choice to match all tastes. Lobster, crab, scallop and prawns were a feature on one night and every evening included a local signature dish. The Captains Gala dinner was excellent but we, and many others, enjoyed the buffet evenings rather than waiter service. Much wider choice, hotter food and we ate at our own speed. The farewell dinner should have been buffet-instead it was table d’hote. A big error by management with guests wanting an early night and still waiting for their main course at 9pm This is however the only real moan as the food and service was really good, well cooked and presented, a wide choice to meet all tastes and always the alternatives of Chef’s Specials of Grilled Salmon, Chicken or super Sirloin steak with fries-delicious! Two final points, both frequently reported and taken on by Management. Everyone was banging their legs, and there were a few near tumbles, because of the splayed rear legs of the chairs. Change them… And there are no soup spoons, only dessert shovels which are useless for soup. Buy some… 7.5/10 Crew All Portuguese, they have only been together for 3 months but are now working as a team. Good English, big smiles and always willing to help, The Captain Alfonso Ribeiro, speaks perfect English and is full of stories, some not printable. He is the most senior captain on the river, poached from Viking, and was originally a DS trawler captain. The waiting staff are worked really hard, especially at dinners as do the bar staff who despite the pressures from thirsty guests, smile through it all. Housekeeping is immaculate and the laundry service is spot on. The cruise director Luis Gomes worked on large cruise ships catering for the US market and it shows. (-: 8/10 Cruising and Excursions The highlights for us was the actual cruise itself, up (and down) the magnificent river Douro winding through the steep sided vineyards. We were blessed with fabulous weather, a warm 21c in Porto climbing as we passed through the mountains and onto the Spanish high plain to 36c in Salamanca. Sitting in the sun, G&T in hand watching the vineyards of Taylor, Crofts and Sandemans go by, was a real treat Passing the locks was a great experience but we soon learned to take shelter from the sun deck when leaving the lock to avoid getting wet with drips from the overhead gantry. Only two optional excursions were offered- Mateus Palace and Guimaraes and although guests who took the Mateus tour enjoyed the house and gardens they did not like the trip to Guimaraes as it was long motorway journey with little to enjoy or see in Guimaraes. All other excursions are included and our favourites were Porto itself, the lovely river side town of Pinhão and the full day in Salamanca. For those on board, when cruising, there was always an afternoon activity-cocktail making, tile painting and talks. In the evening, there was always music in the bar or a quiz or competition for those up for it although many, knackered, preferred an early night. 8.5/10 Guests Mainly from the UK, making up 75% the rest a mix of Australians, Canadians and from the US. Only a few aged under 45 (travel agents?) with the average age in the high 60’s with a good smattering of lively 80’s (affectionally called the “sticks”) A really good mix and, as the meals are free seating, most guests had a chance to mix and mingle. 10/10 Summary The Douro is a lovely river and has fascinating micro climate winding through vineyards, olive groves almonds and eventually, just over the border with Spain, oaks with the famous black pigs. Porto is a great City to explore and Salamanca is a must Emerald has a well-paced cruise with excursions to meet all tastes, and cabins to meet most pockets and seems to attract a good mix of guests. 8.5/10

Emerald-a great Douro cruise

Emerald Radiance Cruise Review by silverswimmer

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Trip Details
Full trip report

Overview

We researched the various cruises available on the Douro, including Viking, Scenic, AMA, and CroisiEurope who all run their own ships. We also looked at Agents who buy blocks on other boats.

We chose Emerald as, for us, they had the best overall offering, a new ship. We had cruised with them before on the Danube and knew the standard to expect. We booked direct, and early, to get the best discounts and cabin choice.

We had a chance to have a tour around their Scenic sister ship, Azure, whilst moored alongside. They are the same size with identical sun deck, although we preferred the partial shade on Emerald rather than the solid awning on Scenic.

Scenic is all suite (white-chrome, and a bit clinical) with butler service (who wants their smalls unpacked!) with less guests/different crew ratio (96/33 against 112/37 on Emerald) and more dining options. We were told by our crew, who swap between boats when required, that the food is the same on both boats but all silver service in Azure. They also far preferred working on Radiance as although busier, the guests were more friendly and inclusive. I genuinely think it was their honest view, not said to please.

Inclusive liquor packages are the same but they have a 3-piece band at night rather than a pianist! Apparently, they play to an empty lounge after dinner as the Scenic guests all were in bed, unlike the Emerald bar which was lively most nights until midnight.

We honestly couldn’t see the extra value in paying thousands of £/$ to sail Scenic rather than Emerald.


Pre/Post Cruise

The Emerald price includes air fares to/from the UK. From our own experience, we knew that this generally included transfers in Paris/Frankfurt or Amsterdam if not flying from London airports. When our flights were offered they included a 06.15 departure and a 55-minute connection-a disaster waiting to happen. We took a price reduction of £250 each, booked direct flights to Oporto the day before departure and stayed at the OPO airport hotel and still had some change.

Our advice-investigate the alternatives. Other guests, who had lost luggage/missed connections/late arrivals wished they had knew this option.

Joining

The Emerald price includes collection/drop off at the airport so we made our way, refreshed after a good sleep and breakfast, to Porto Arrivals to be collected with two other guests and transferred to the Emerald Radiance just as the last group were disembarking. We were the first of the new guests to arrive. Bliss. We had the ship to ourselves, and a private guided tour, until after lunch when the next few arrived. We sat in the sun, watching the Red Bull Air Race Practice and enjoyed a delightful buffet lunch with local wine & beer before we were shown to our suite promptly at 3pm. 10/10

The Ship

The newest on the Douro, it’s first cruise was in June. The early cruises attracted criticism with early teething problems with cabin fittings and service levels but the all Portuguese crew had got their act by the time we joined the September cruise. As you would expect, everything is new-and it shows. The Horizon Bar & Lounge are the hub of the ship and the service from head barman Abel, supported by Sandra, sparkled.

Guests had an option of having a light breakfast/snack lunch here or on The Terrace whilst the full buffet breakfast and lunch was laid out in Reflections 9/10

Suites (as they are called)

Although they vary in size from 150to300 sq ft and you get what you paid for. Everyone we spoke to seemed to be happy with their rooms, however grand or modest, especially the comfort of the beds. We heard of only one flooding and one complaint of noise, a cabin directly below the crane which started up at 06.30 am as we prepared to depart each morning-note there is no night sailings on the Douro. Our suite at the stern was very quiet with only propeller noise at 7am on departure. 9/10

Dining and Beverages

The Emerald price included, for most guests, all liquor and future cruises are fully inclusive. This included fine Spirits included premium Gins and Black label whisky, Vintage Port and included Cava/Prosecco but not Champagne. The Douro wines stocked and served were excellent.

We thought the food was of very high standard with a wide choice to match all tastes. Lobster, crab, scallop and prawns were a feature on one night and every evening included a local signature dish. The Captains Gala dinner was excellent but we, and many others, enjoyed the buffet evenings rather than waiter service. Much wider choice, hotter food and we ate at our own speed. The farewell dinner should have been buffet-instead it was table d’hote. A big error by management with guests wanting an early night and still waiting for their main course at 9pm

This is however the only real moan as the food and service was really good, well cooked and presented, a wide choice to meet all tastes and always the alternatives of Chef’s Specials of Grilled Salmon, Chicken or super Sirloin steak with fries-delicious!

Two final points, both frequently reported and taken on by Management.

Everyone was banging their legs, and there were a few near tumbles, because of the splayed rear legs of the chairs. Change them…

And there are no soup spoons, only dessert shovels which are useless for soup. Buy some… 7.5/10

Crew

All Portuguese, they have only been together for 3 months but are now working as a team. Good English, big smiles and always willing to help, The Captain Alfonso Ribeiro, speaks perfect English and is full of stories, some not printable. He is the most senior captain on the river, poached from Viking, and was originally a DS trawler captain.

The waiting staff are worked really hard, especially at dinners as do the bar staff who despite the pressures from thirsty guests, smile through it all. Housekeeping is immaculate and the laundry service is spot on. The cruise director Luis Gomes worked on large cruise ships catering for the US market and it shows. (-: 8/10

Cruising and Excursions

The highlights for us was the actual cruise itself, up (and down) the magnificent river Douro winding through the steep sided vineyards. We were blessed with fabulous weather, a warm 21c in Porto climbing as we passed through the mountains and onto the Spanish high plain to 36c in Salamanca.

Sitting in the sun, G&T in hand watching the vineyards of Taylor, Crofts and Sandemans go by, was a real treat

Passing the locks was a great experience but we soon learned to take shelter from the sun deck when leaving the lock to avoid getting wet with drips from the overhead gantry. Only two optional excursions were offered- Mateus Palace and Guimaraes and although guests who took the Mateus tour enjoyed the house and gardens they did not like the trip to Guimaraes as it was long motorway journey with little to enjoy or see in Guimaraes.

All other excursions are included and our favourites were Porto itself, the lovely river side town of Pinhão and the full day in Salamanca.

For those on board, when cruising, there was always an afternoon activity-cocktail making, tile painting and talks. In the evening, there was always music in the bar or a quiz or competition for those up for it although many, knackered, preferred an early night. 8.5/10

Guests

Mainly from the UK, making up 75% the rest a mix of Australians, Canadians and from the US. Only a few aged under 45 (travel agents?) with the average age in the high 60’s with a good smattering of lively 80’s (affectionally called the “sticks”)

A really good mix and, as the meals are free seating, most guests had a chance to mix and mingle. 10/10

Summary

The Douro is a lovely river and has fascinating micro climate winding through vineyards, olive groves almonds and eventually, just over the border with Spain, oaks with the famous black pigs. Porto is a great City to explore and Salamanca is a must

Emerald has a well-paced cruise with excursions to meet all tastes, and cabins to meet most pockets and seems to attract a good mix of guests. 8.5/10
silverswimmer’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 325
As there is no night cruising on the Douro we jumped at the opportunity of trying this suite at the stern of the Radiance.
Larger than the Owners suite it has 3 picture windows, a bathroom with a real bath, and a large sitting area.Complimentary mini bar replenished daily and four items of laundry each day.
If you are going to splash out go for this suite...