Scenic Azure Cruise Review by Hunt1530
- Sail Date: October 2018
- Destination: Europe River
But every kind of Scenic cruise is also different in its own way, and the one along the Douro is no exception. What stood out for us most of all was the authenticity of the experience. It’s a relatively short distance cruise with the total distance sailed about 400 km (beginning in Porto, going to the Spanish border, and back again) so there is a lot of time for excursions. Overnight cruising is not allowed on the Douro, and in some cases, you’ll stay moored for two nights. You’ll therefore do a lot of walking both on ships excursions and exploring on your own, frequently up and down hills on cobblestones. Not a trip for a person with mobility issues, or someone who doesn’t like to walk.
All excursions are in Portugal aside from a visit to Salamanca, Spain. The entire ship’s crew is Portuguese and they are proud of their country and want everyone to experience it. We went to small villages, churches, castles, and wineries and in every place, we got to appreciate some different aspect of Portuguese culture and history. You’ll learn more about port wine, sardines, cork, the Portuguese royal family, the 1910 revolution, and fado singing than you ever thought possible. Scenery along the river is beautiful particularly in port wine country where there are terraces containing grape vines, olive trees, and almond trees, along with pretty villages with red roofed buildings.
The Azure is smaller ship, with only room for 96 passengers. Cabins are on the small side too but were very comfortable. We appreciated that the beds could be adjusted into chairs (like a hospital bed) and that the balcony was integrated into the cabin, thus increasing the efficiency of the cabin. By the way, be sure to book on the starboard (right) side as we did, for we usually faced the river than a wall or dock with all the limits to privacy that can bring.
Small ship size is necessary given the size constraints of the five locks along the way. Ship was built in 2016, so it has amenities such as pool up top that we’d not seen on other scenic ships.
Food was very authentic too with a special focus on Portuguese dishes and wines. The executive chef and the drinks manager would tell us each day about the special choices on offer. Be aware that the Portuguese diet includes lots of fish, pork products, cheese, olive oil, and eggs. For those that don’t like such things, there are lots of more standard choices available.
There’s no getting around the fact that Scenic cruises are more expensive than offerings from other cruise lines such as Viking. But you get what you pay for – there are no extras (including service charges; tipping is expressly forbidden) and we ended up paying no incremental costs whatsoever.
We choose Scenic’s three day add on to Lisbon prior to the cruise and the three add on to Madrid afterwards. These were also excellent in every respect.
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