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2 Vantage Porto (Leixoes) Cruise Reviews

After numerous international ocean cruises, my husband and I decided three years ago to sample some river cruising. We have travelled the Rhine, Danube, and this year we chose Vantage for our Douro River cruise. In order to keep this ... Read More
After numerous international ocean cruises, my husband and I decided three years ago to sample some river cruising. We have travelled the Rhine, Danube, and this year we chose Vantage for our Douro River cruise. In order to keep this brief, I am going to list why I believe Vantage is the best choice for the Douro: 1. We have had countless cruise directors, and by far, Carmen was the very best Cruise Director we have ever had. She was constantly visible and available; she had the ability to communicate across the board from those that required limited information to those that required some pretty significant “adult supervision – there’s always at least one! LOL!” Finally, Carmen demonstrated a “genuine” concern and caring for all of the passengers. A “rare” attribute in a Cruise Director from my experience. 2. From the time we were warmly greeted at the airport upon arrival (even though our flight had been DELAYED by an hour and a half), to the time we were returned to the airport for our return flight home, Vantage took exceptionally good care of us. So much so that we weren’t just “dropped off” in Madrid to navigate our way through the airport. We had a dedicated agent who walked us to the counter to check-in, and then walked us to security. Very impressive service! 3. Vantage is the “ONLY river cruise” that I could find that began in Porto and ended with a tour of Salamanca and on to Madrid (with an optional tour to Toledo); both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was the perfect itinerary with more days for far less money in comparison to competitors. 4. The Pre- (Lisbon) and Post- (Madrid) hotels that were included in our package were simply spectacular from service to location to accommodation to breakfast buffet; 5-Star rating. 5. Onboard the Douro Serenity, the longboat was kept meticulously clean, we had the French balcony, which was beautifully appointed with loads of storage. The bed was extremely comfortable. We did ask for a top sheet as we are used to sleeping with one. There is a blow dryer provided in the cabin. Vantage also surprised us with the gift of a VANTAGE water bottle that we could refill daily, although, there were also additional water bottles offered on all of our excursions. In the staterooms you will find replenished bottles containing wonderful smelling toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and soap.) I am a huge advocate for reducing plastic waste, and was appreciative that Vantage has taken the lead of being more mindful toward that effort. 6. In comparison to our other two river cruises (both well-known brands), the evening entertainment was far superior. Vantage provided far more variety, and it was excellent quality. What I found more interesting is that the Captain was far more visible on this cruise, and he was very gracious. 7. In regard to dining, my husband and I are both fairly good cooks, so I would say that we are somewhat fussy eaters. We found Vantage’s food to be mostly on par with its competitors, and found the food to be well-prepared and delicious. Hats off to Chef and his staff. They did an amazing job! (a) Breakfast: There is a buffet along with an egg station. Hands down, Vantage wins the prize for the best egg station. There was a young lady chef who cooked the best eggs to order – by far – on any cruise (ocean or river) that we’ve taken. She actually asked HOW you wanted your omelette, or your eggs cooked, and she cooked them to perfection. Last year’s river cruise on the Danube produced over-cooked BROWN omelettes (even after speaking with the Maître d’hôtel, I finally gave up!) She was always very pleasant and constantly smiling. On the last morning of our trip, I inquired if the eggs next to her where hard boiled. She responded that they weren’t. A few minutes later, I had hard boiled eggs delivered to my table. Now, THAT is Service! (b) Lunch: Also served as a buffet with many hot items offered as well as a daily soup, a variety of salads, sandwiches and desserts. (c) Dinner: Full-service dinner with menu options served with wine or beer. 8. Added Meals: What took us mostly by SURPRISE were all the additional meals that Vantage included with our tour. These were really NICE restaurants that included a starter, entrée, and dessert, along with beer or wine. Meals in Europe are fairly expensive, so this was a very NICE added touch. 9. Tour Guides: The guides are Contractors. Honestly – hands down – the Very Best Guides we have ever had on any vacation, bar none, and we have taken literally hundreds of tours. These guides could easily have worked at these vineyards, museums or historical sites. They were so knowledgeable of the history and art. Their English was beautiful. They were articulate, good-humoured, patient, kind, and kept the cats herded. Also, Vantage included MORE tours in our package than our previous river cruises. There were only 4 “optional” tours; we took three out of the four. They were EXCELLENT tours; very affordable. Also, something else to consider when making your river cruise carrier selection. In our two previous river cruises, we spent literally hundreds of dollars more in just tours alone. Also, please do note that in Europe you will need (.50 Euro) for public bathrooms. Having said that, not ONCE did I have to pay for a bathroom as Vantage made every effort to locate facilities for us that did not require payment. But, do keep a couple coins on you just in case. 10. We were traveling with two other couples. One couple had their Lufthansa flight cancelled due to a strike. Fortunately, they had purchased their flights through Vantage, and Vantage took care of everything. Having said that, I found that Vantage did an excellent job with our flights from cost to providing the most “direct” flights. Therefore, I highly recommend booking your flights through Vantage. Also, as a side note, always, always, always purchase travel insurance when traveling abroad either directly through Vantage, or your preferred carrier. 11. In summary, the Douro is truly one of the most memorable trips we’ve taken to date. The landscapes are truly breath taking, and I can’t tell you how many rainbows we counted along the way. It was truly magical. Are we going to choose Vantage again for a future trip? The answer to that is simply -- yes. Practically every passenger that we spoke with on this trip had travelled with Vantage at least one other time. Many of our fellow passengers had travelled with Vantage multiple times, and all spoke very highly of the brand. We were so pleased with this experience that we are already looking to book a future trip with Vantage. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
We sailed on the Serenity in April, 2018. We cruised with Vantage. The trip began with two nights in Madrid. Then we were bused Salamanca for lunch and a walking tour before proceeding to Vega du Terron, Spain where we embarked. As soon as ... Read More
We sailed on the Serenity in April, 2018. We cruised with Vantage. The trip began with two nights in Madrid. Then we were bused Salamanca for lunch and a walking tour before proceeding to Vega du Terron, Spain where we embarked. As soon as everyone was on the ship, we took a short ~10 minute cruise to Barca d Alva, Portugal. It turns out that it’s a lot easer to load luggage at Vega du Terron. While most Douro cruises run from Porto to Porto, Vantages cruises are one-way, from Vega du Terron to Porto or vice versa. Most Douro cruises do the same excursions: Castelo Rodrigo, Mateus Manor, Avessada Winery, Lamego, etc. So I won’t dwell on these, but focus on the ship. Ship The Douro Serenity was launched in 2017, and is a beautiful ship. Like most ships on the Douro it is owned and staffed by Douro Azul. Both Vantage and Riviera lease the ship, and Douro Azul operates the ship for Portuguese cruisers. It has a steel-gray exterior rather than the traditional white, and has a very sleek look. The public areas are nice and comfortable. We stayed in a Junior Suite. The 237 sq. ft. cabin was comfortable and quiet. It had a balcony, but we didn’t use it that much. Despite being a large cabin, it seemed a little tight at times. We were a little frustrated that Vantage discriminated with the soaps and toiletries. Only President’s Club members (at least 3 previous Vantage trips) got the L’ Occitane toiletries. Food We’re not foodies. We found the food to be good, but not great. It’s on a par with food we’ve had with other river cruises. Service in the restaurant and bar was always excellent Tours/Excursions Douro cruises differ from typical European river cruises in that they don’t tie up to a town where one might take a walking tour. The ship docks, and cruisers board buses to be taken to sites of interest—typically bus rides are 1 hour or less. The same Douro Azul guides conducted tours at every stop. They lived in Porto and would either commute to and from the ship or stay in accommodations along the way. All of the excursions were interesting, although we encountered some harsh weather in early April. Of course, the Douro can be unbearably hot in the summer. You’ll pass some spectacular scenery on the bus going to or from the excursion destinations, so if you’re a photographer, you should take a polarizing filter to avoid glare from the glass bus windows. The only extra-cost optional tour we took was the Toledo excursion from Madrid. We highly recommend a visit to Toledo. Post Cruise Lisbon Disembarkation from Porto was staggered in 30 minute intervals. This allowed the buses to make rest stops and town visits without overwhelming facilities. We stopped for lunch at Nazaré. Unfortunately, the first bus arrived before the restaurants opened, so they either ate very quickly or not at all. We also stopped at the old town of Obidos and had time to stroll around the old town. Vantage chose the Pestana Palace as their Lisbon hotel. While the hotel is not close to the downtown area, it is a gorgeous facility. The main building (restaurants and common spaces) is an old mansion. Vantage offered a bus tour on the first full day in Lisbon with the normal stops. We were treated to the delicious pasteis de Belém pasteries at the monasteries. For those who wanted to spend the afternoon downtown, they were dropped off with a couple of pickups scheduled later in the afternoon. The second day was free for cruisers. The third day cruisers were transported to the airport to head home or participate in the optional extension to the island of Madeira. Trip Interrupted On our first day in Madrid I noticed blood in my urine, and we decided to cut the trip short. Vantage CD Eleuterio worked with us to reschedule flights and had a taxi ready to take us to the airport the next morning. So we missed our last day in Madrid and the Madeira extension. Long story short I had a softball-sized tumor on my right kidney. The tumor and kidney were removed two weeks after we left Lisbon, and I’m now cancer-free with a promising prognosis. Vantage really performed well in helping us deal with the situation. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
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