2 Porto (Leixoes) Luxury Cruise Reviews

My husband and I took the advice of our Travel Agent when booking a birthday and retirement celebration cruise for my 70-year-old Mom. Our Agent assured us Scenic was a "luxury cruise line," up to our standards. However, our ... Read More
My husband and I took the advice of our Travel Agent when booking a birthday and retirement celebration cruise for my 70-year-old Mom. Our Agent assured us Scenic was a "luxury cruise line," up to our standards. However, our time on board had disappointing service challenges, even bewildering at times. I wanted to take this opportunity to share our experiences aboard the Scenic Azure during the Delightful Douro Sailing. We have cruised extensively, including multiple sailings with Aqua Expedition River Cruises, Regent, and Crystal Cruises. When we booked "Scenic Luxury Cruises," we were expecting a similar service experience to the brands mentioned above. We had two cabins on this cruise, one for my Mom and the other cabin for my husband and me. Disappointments & Challenges: The Crew, especially the Cruise Director, Butlers, and the Ship's Manager were not particularly friendly or service oriented in our opinion, and this created multiple service failures that were not anywhere near to a luxury line. We learned early into the sailing that this was the entire Crew's last sailing. The boat was going into dry dock for the winter, and we were the last group they had to endure. The Crew was burnt out, provisions were sparse, and food was absolutely awful during our cruise, prompting us to take Uber's at every Port with a street into town and eat ANYWHERE else but in the Scenic dining room. It was raining in Porto; we had a Scenic outdoor walking tour booked with 45 minutes in the rain. I asked our Butler for an extra umbrella. Navigating the slippery, uneven cobblestones is severe enough, trying to share an umbrella while doing so - impossible! Also, this excursion specified a high difficulty because we needed to go down a considerable number of stairs or hills. Butler's answer to my umbrella request, "No, only one umbrella per suite, sorry, that's just the way it is." We bought an extra umbrella in town, but I got soaked first. What kind of company denies their guests an umbrella on an outdoor tour day when the forecast is rain? Unbelievable, but in alignment with our other experiences onboard. Crew: We found the Cruise Director, to be aloof, and not particularly keen with assisting in our minor requests. For example, on our first day, Mom asked for a piece of cake that was on display in the River Cafe. She remarked that they had been put away for the evening and she could not, under any circumstances, enjoy that cake (not even through room service) until the next day at 4 pm when they would be on display again. It was almost as if she delighted in telling us "NO." How difficult could it be to get my sweet old Mom a piece of cake? After all, this cruise was her birthday gift. Perhaps a, "My pleasure, please have a seat while we get you one" would have been more in line with what we were expecting from a company with the word "Luxury" attached to their name. Front desk young man was very unhelpful. He failed to deliver messages to our Butler on multiple occasions and sometimes didn't answer the phone at all. Also, he provided no help whatsoever when we tried to figure out how my Mom could have breakfast at 6 am before her 7 am morning walk with the Wellness coach in Port. He condescendingly said breakfast information was in our rooms, including the breakfast card for the door. None of this was previously pointed out to us by the way. The young man begrudgingly handed us another breakfast order form for the door... when I looked at it, I pointed out to Jose that it didn't start service until 7 am. He said, "Well, I guess you'll have to wait until after your walk." Once again, just perplexing guest relations. Excursions: Excursion planning was unnecessarily involved in our opinions. Instead of being able to choose all tours pre-trip we had to wait for a talk about the port excursions while on the cruise. None of the pertinent details for the port excursions were printed out ANYWHERE- they were only briefly discussed during the port talk slide show. We checked off the boxes of the tours we were interested in for the upcoming week, and we turned in the sheet to the cruise director. It occurred to us we had nothing at all to refer to for future reference, and nothing was provided. We NEEDED to know: 1. Start times and duration of each tour we booked for the week ahead. 2. Level of difficulty of each excursion we chose (need to prepare my Mom) 3. Please provide footwear suggestions (athletic shoes for hills, or casual) 4. Please give the duration times of transportation in the motor coach to each destination. This reasonable request for information necessary for our adequate planning and comfort of my 70-year-old Mom who has weak knees, a weak bladder, and hip spurs. I didn't think it was an unreasonable request. This information is also STANDARD on every other cruise we have ever taken and provided pre-cruise. However, the Butler informed us that the Ship Manager denied this information to us stating," You must attend all Port talks each evening (even though we were tied up) or make an appointment during our cruise vacation to meet with the ship manager privately so that he could discuss how Scenic corporate does things." REALLY? I was dumbfounded. I asked the Butler, "So he refuses to provide this information? This simple information, am I understanding you correctly? I have to take time out of my vacation to make an appointment to see him so he can explain why he will not supply this information?" The Butler said, "Yes, that is correct." I was so infuriated by this I hardly slept the entire night. I couldn't even begin to comprehend what kind of manager or company withholds the most basic of information from its guests. Outrageous. Information You Can Use: The Taylor Made audio devices in our cabins were a nice touch for Port tours. However, no one mentioned they could also be used during the cruise (back on board) to learn about the areas we were cruising through. We were up on deck every single day of the cruise - for hours, we would have LOVED to know that feature was accessible. We only learned about it because we saw another passenger on the last day of sailing listening to hers on deck. We asked her, "What on earth are you listening to? Taylor Mades are for the Port tours." She explained that she had been to a Scenic presentation (she was a travel agent), and had learned about them from the marketing video. Wow! Why on earth wouldn't Scenic mention this to guests? Why not have a sign or note of some kind in the rooms letting guests know? Why didn't the staff or Butlers mention this? What a disappointment, we would have loved this, especially my Mom. We asked several other guests if they knew about this great use of the Taylor Mades while cruising, and not a single one knew about it - they too were disappointed. We missed out on what could have been a memorable highlight to our sailing. Other frustrations that didn't line up with our expectations: - Bottom shelf Alcohol. A luxury cruise with only Jose Cuervo? We would have gladly paid more to have some top-shelf brands on board. My husband ordered Jose Cuervo Silver as the only tequila choice on board, and they were out until the 2nd or 3rd day of the cruise. They were also out of Pringle's, Bellini ingredients and other items we were told they needed to restock at Port on day 2 or 3. - Dining room service for lunch was slow. Fountain Sodas were flat and if you were drinking anything other than wine you had to wait a while for the only waitress to go downstairs and get your beverage order. - We waited through our entire lunch only to get flat Coke Zero. When I told Food Bev Mgr, the Coke was flat, he argued that I am just not used to Coke Zero in this country, "It's different here" he firmly exclaimed. It was uncomfortable. Why is the Scenic staff so combative? Later they fixed the issue with serving cans of Coke Zero that had adequate carbonation. - Food choices at all meals were minimal and not very good. Though the head Chef, was a lovely man, and passionate about his job, the food was far from great, and some dishes were inedible (pretty much all of the seafood). On our last night, we had rotten avocado tempura. We left the ship and ate in Port every chance we got, even paying an Uber $60 each way just to get into town. The port excursions could have been better managed. Would have loved more time in Salamanca, especially after the two-hour coach ride in. The lunch at the Hacienda Zorita was hardly edible, except for the dessert. Would have preferred an option to stay in the town of Salamanca and had an authentic Spanish lunch instead of the funky, undercooked salmon and campy tourist dance show at Hacienda Zorita. What we LOVED: -Our cabin steward. Our cabin was flawlessly clean each and every day. She's the only crew member we tipped. She deserved it. -Our tour guide in Salamanca -The Fado concert in Porto - The Captain was absolutely amazing. Incredibly genuine and friendly, we really enjoyed time chatting with him. - The adjustable beds were fantastic, my Mom purchased one back home she loved it so much. - Showers were incredibly spacious for a ship. - The open-air balconies were spectacular. - The coach drivers on the tours were great, felt safe. - All three of us loved the onboard tile painting class - our tiles came out great. My Mom was thrilled with her keepsake. All in all, I could not feel comfortable recommending Scenic to my friends and colleagues at this time, considering the service challenges that experienced. I did hear from Scenic's Senior Director after a letter I emailed about our consistent service challenges. He didn't have much to say, he said he would follow up with me on these issues and never did (it's now been 7 months). I was eager to learn if this is simply Scenic's standard level of service or if our disappointments were merely a result of a tired crew ready to be done for the season. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Extensive Review of Uniworld cruise… Very Disappointing!!! We expected a 10 but experienced a five. September 2016 Douro River Cruise Beware…this is not a Uniworld product. The ship and crew are leased from Douro Azul River ... Read More
Extensive Review of Uniworld cruise… Very Disappointing!!! We expected a 10 but experienced a five. September 2016 Douro River Cruise Beware…this is not a Uniworld product. The ship and crew are leased from Douro Azul River Cruise Lines, according to the ship hotel manager who was one of only two Uniworld employees on board. Both of the Uniworld managers had only been on the ship since the day before we arrived. They were as frustrated with the staff and as disappointed as my nine guests and I. The manager stated that he had never encountered a crew that cared less about customer service and pride in performance than this one. The crew, I was told, is not trained by Uniworld but by Douro Azul. Throughout the cruise there seemed to be an element of animosity and contempt from the Douro Azul crew towards the Uniworld management. The attitude seemed to be that “we are Douro Azul, not Uniworld.” We all felt very sorry for the Uniworld manager. He seemed out of his element. Evidently they have partnered with Douro Azul since 2011 so you’d think they would have their act together by now. The capacity of the ship is 118 and I was told that there were only 90 passengers on board. I am a travel agent and veteran of over 30 cruises. Along with my wife I brought four other couples along on this cruise. All are discriminating travelers and foodies with whom we have traveled to Scotland (Awesome), Africa (Inspiring), Italy (Delicious) and South America, (Celebrity cruise in Aqua Class… Outstanding). We did the Douro River because they have done almost everything else. I convinced the group to take the Uniworld brand because it was named best river cruise line for 2016 by Travel + Leisure Magazine. I ended up rebating my full commission back to my clients…here’s why: First the hits: The ship was clean, the bedding was superb, the showers in the cabins were the best I’ve encountered on any cruise ship. Housekeeping was good. The river venue was pleasant and the day tours were well done with an excellent tour director. Now the many, many misses: The service and the food was not what we expected from the number one river cruise company of 2016. We expected superb service and over-the-top food as touted in all of Uniworld’s advertising. Unfortunately the service was extremely poor and the food was, at best, mediocre. There was only one public restroom on the ship just outside the dining room. This restroom was in constant use during dinner but was in a constant state of untidiness. Several times we complained to the manager on duty. His comments, without apology, was that his colleagues were supposed to have taken care of it. Even then, it was not handled. This was a nightly occurrence and was even a problem on the last evening. The personnel in the dining room always seemed understaffed. Requested drinks and water were often overlooked or entirely forgotten. There was no anticipation on the part of the wait staff. When asked for water or wine refills, only the person who requested the refill was taken care of then the waiter was off without filling other glasses. Some guests were almost finished with their meal before others were served. Orders were forgotten. Clearly the wait staff was not properly trained. At least four more wait staff or even busboys were needed to accommodate their guest adequately. On the pool deck, there were never enough towels for the guests. Even when requested, it took more than 30 minutes for additional towels to arrive and then only three or four were brought. There were seldom waiters on the pool deck. There were buttons to push for service, but seldom did any waiters appear. More often than not, passengers went down to the bar to get their own drinks. When we commented, they told us they were understaffed and took care of passengers in the lounge first so if you want drinks, come and get them yourselves. On the first day, during the passenger orientation, the temperature in the lounge was in the mid-eighties. Everyone was fanning themselves and requesting the air be turned up. The air conditioning could not keep up with the outside temperature which was in the nineties. We were told it had been even worse the last two weeks as the outside temp was over 100. If it’s always this hot, why don’t they have a/c that can accommodate? In two of our staterooms, the air conditioning was very poor as well. On the night we were in Porto, I felt badly for the passengers that were on the right side because they were tied up against the wall and had no view. We had a beautiful view of the city from the left side. During dinner, a Douro Azul ship pulled up alongside us and completely blocked our view too. We were there for two days with nothing to look at but the side of the other ship. Obviously Azul had more priority than Uniworld. At another port, we were pulled up alongside a parking lot with several dumpsters full of garbage only a few yards away. There were flies everywhere and they entered the dining room and our cabins in the evening. I noticed two Viking ships were moored on the other side of the river. The next day they were gone and we moved into their spot. It seemed that everywhere we went, Viking ships had the best moorings and we were secondary. Each of my guests had a $50 per cabin credit. Other than the small gift shop there was no place to spend the money except for massages, so all of us used the credit for laundry. Upon checkout, we were indignantly told “It is the policy of Douro Azul that cabin credit cannot be used for laundry.” As the group leader, I told the front desk woman that there were no indications anywhere that this was not allowed. She looked me in the eye and angrily said “It is policy! You cannot use!” This was typical of the negative feeling we felt from the crew. I later talked to the Uniworld rep and he gave us the credit. The windows on the entire ship were never washed from day one on. Nothing could be easier on a river boat than washing windows in each port. The windows seem to have not been washed in weeks, if not months. Now the worst part… Two of my guests were in cabins that had a toilet blockage down the line that backed up into their cabins. The first guest encountered the problem at five a.m. when she arose to use the toilet. She stepped into two inches of sewer water. She called the front desk immediately. At five thirty she called again but was told that they could not find the engineer. The other couple awoke at seven to the same problem. Shortly after seven the engineer appeared. At this point their suitcases were wet as was everything on the floor. Getting prepared for the day tour was very inconvenient. They went to breakfast and after breakfast it was time for an all day shore excursion. They were told that they would be upgraded to a higher cabin but when they returned, their cabin had been cleaned and dried by an on shore flood repair company and they were not given a new cabin. The cabins continued to be very humid for the next two days. As an apology, each cabin was given a bottle of prosecco for the room and two massages. (As an aside, I had two clients on a Viking Cruise a few months ago that missed their connection because of weather. They had made their air arrangements through Viking. Their late flight was met at the airport by a Viking rep, they were taken to a five star hotel, taken to the next port the following day, given a $300 on board credit, two bottles of champagne, upgraded to a suite and given a 50% credit for their next Viking cruise. All Viking was obligated to do was get them to the next port.) Kudos to Viking. If you were a travel agent, which line would you send your clients on? We were a group of foodies. We chose Uniworld because of their advertisements showing lobster and oysters on the half shell among other wonderful taste sensations. We were so disappointed. The food was at best a five on a scale from one to ten. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with much the same selection every day. The daily specials were meager. The eggs benedict were served on a slice of un toasted white bread with no ham and a cloying, sticky, heavy cheese sauce. We had been in Lisbon, independently, for the previous three days and had eaten in some wonderful restaurants. In some of these restaurants we took pictures of almost every dish. On the ship, we took only one picture of a dessert on the very last day. The preparation and presentation of the food was unimaginative and pedestrian. There was not one outstanding dish the entire voyage. There was a coffee machine outside the dining room that was available 24 hours. It made coffee from a pre-mix and cappuccino, lattes, and other coffee drinks were available. We expected that in the dining room the cappuccino would be made from a dedicated espresso machine but, instead, the waiter went out to the mix machine for the caps. I was told by the hotel manager that they were getting a real espresso machine next month! When we were in the bar one of my guests ordered a coffee and Bailey’s. He was told (not asked) to go downstairs to the machine and get his own coffee because they were too busy! At mid-cruise a “How are we doing” questionnaire was handed out. After discussion with my guests, I filled out the questionnaire for all of us. Under service I wrote “very poor” and under food I wrote “mediocre at best”. I wrote my name and room number and said I was willing to go into detail if they were interested. When I returned from the daily excursion, I spent 90 minutes with the two Uniworld employees. They told me of their frustrations and said please don’t judge Uniworld by this cruise and that my group should try another one. I told them this cruise was ruining their brand and that they should take this voyage off line until they can fix it. We paid about $5,000 per person. Douro Azul River Cruise Line operates the same cruises for less than $2,200 per person. That is about what this cruise was worth. That is why I returned my full commission to my clients. Upon returning home, I see that the Cruise Critic rating on this cruise is only 63% positive whereas most of the Uniworld voyages rate 90% or higher. In reflection, I wish I’d checked CC before I booked this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016

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