Excursions are included in the price paid by U.S. passengers and not included for U.K. passengers and those booking in other countries. They can either be booked as a package in advance, through CroisiEurope or a travel agent, or booked individually when onboard with prices starting from around €27 per excursion, per person. Each cabin has a pair of portable headsets to use on excursions.
There is a good choice of tours (10 on our weeklong itinerary), including coach tours, guided walking tours and wine-tasting trips. They range from a 90-minute tour of Porto by night to half-day tours of local cities such as Braga and a full-day excursion over the border to see the Spanish city of Salamanca. Some, such as a drive along the scenic port wine route followed by a tasting, are suitable for people with mobility issues. At the daily briefing, the purser advises on the amount of walking involved. All English-speaking passengers have a dedicated guide.
* May require additional fees
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
As with most river cruises, exploring the destinations visited and enjoying the passing scenery is the main entertainment.
On some mornings (usually two per cruise), the host or hostess will organize light-hearted games and quizzes, which are made all the more enjoyable by a pregame aperitif such as port or a glass of sparkling wine. On our cruise, they included a film quiz; with nobody keeping a proper score, the prizes bottles of port and wine were opened and amicably shared between contestants at the end.
Gil Eanes does not have a resident pianist or musician, but the selection of CDs played in the lounge in the evening were enough to get some passengers up on the small dance floor; particularly on the last night. On one evening, a group of local entertainers came onboard to perform traditional Portuguese fado -- songs and music inspired by the sea -- and another night the crew members displayed their talents in an entertaining show.
There are no onboard lectures or workshops.
Lounge and bar: The ship has one main lounge bar situated forward on the middle deck. This roomy area, with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, has a modern feel and is decorated in attractive shades of blue and fawn, with clusters of armchairs and couches set around tables. There is a large TV screen next to the entrance to the lounge that is used to screen the daily program, as well as lunch and dinner menus. On request, passengers can also watch TV with the sound turned down low (during our cruise there was a soccer game that several people wanted to see).
Toward the front of the lounge is the rectangular bar, with seating along two sides, where drinks are served with bowls of snacks. In addition to the regular open bar, there is a featured daily cocktail, also complimentary, such as pina colada, along with a virgin nonalcoholic cocktail. The bartenders also serve tea and coffee throughout the day. The bar typically stays open until midnight. In front of the bar is a small dance floor with twinkling blue lights overhead.
The sun deck is a relaxation area that runs the length of the top deck. It is set out with loungers -- towels provided -- and tables with four chairs. Umbrellas are provided on sunny days. Aside from the balconies connected to the two suites, the sun deck is the only place on the ship where smoking is permitted, and it is allowed along the entire deck, not just in a designated area. There are no deck games.
When the ship is cruising, there is an open-bridge policy and passengers can visit the bridge to chat with the captain and officers.
The entrance to the ship is on the middle deck, and the lobby houses the reception desk that is manned from morning through evening. On the same deck is a shop selling a selection of souvenirs, locally produced handicrafts and jewelry. Opposite the reception desk is the entrance to the lounge and bar where passengers can pick up free copies of condensed daily newspapers, including an English version.
From the lobby, a staircase leads down to the dining room on the lower deck, and spiral stairs lead to the upper deck where there is a small library of books, mostly fiction, in English and French, that are free to borrow for the duration of the cruise.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, although the connection can be slow and sometimes non-existent. A complimentary tablet is available for passengers to use.
An elevator links all three passenger decks. The sun deck can only be accessed by outside staircases located on the middle deck.
The ship does not offer a laundry service.
The ship has a swimming pool on the sun deck, although in reality it resembles a larger version of a children's inflatable paddling pool (some passengers thought it was a life raft!). Although crew members cleaned and topped it up daily, nobody used it during our early-season cruise, but in the height of the summer it probably serves as a splash pool and place to cool off.
A gentle early morning stretching and exercise class is offered once or twice a week on the sun deck, weather permitting, or inside the lounge. There is no spa or gym and the ship does not carry onboard bicycles.
CroisiEurope welcomes children of all ages. That said, it is up to parents to judge if their little ones or potentially easily bored teens will enjoy the sedate nature of river cruising. Aside from a small collection of children's books, the vessel does not have any special facilities for youngsters and cabins can't accommodate more than two passengers. CroisiEurope offers discounted fares and deals for children under the age of 10.