This was our third Viking river cruise and we enjoyed it very much. We started with two days in Lisbon pre-cruise. This was a little disappointing - we had Viking book our flights and we did not arrive in Lisbon until 3 pm on day 1, so our first day was basically lost. The second day we had a half-day city tour that was very good, in spite of terrible rainy, cold, windy weather. Our tour guide Walter did the best he could under the circumstances. We saw the Belem Tower and Monument to Discoveries, and had a short walking tour of the Alfama. We did not go to the Monastery of Jeronimos because it was closed that day, did the Maritime Museum instead which was very interesting. We spent the afternoon on our own exploring the city. We liked the hotel Tivoli Lisboa, comfortable rooms and very friendly and helpful staff. On day 3 we departed Lisbon and stopped once for a quick rest stop along the road, and then in Coimbra for a tour of the university and lunch. The university was impressive, especially the Joanina Library, and it was fun seeing the students in their black capes, an inspiration for Harry Potter. Lunch was very good - choice of chicken or cod - I am not a fish lover but the cod was delicious! We could have tried both, the wait staff came by with seconds of each main course. Wine was also included, as was an excellent fado show. Our final stop was to join our ship in Porto.
We had cabin 309, a veranda cabin. It was small but functional. We loved the veranda and used it often. Unlike other cruises, we did not "raft" with other ships very often, only once or twice that I can remember. Bed was very comfortable, drawers and closet space were adequate, bathroom worked well.
Dining on the ship was good, but not as good as we have had on previous Viking cruises. Breakfast was the same, a buffet with menu option, and we always had a good breakfast. We didn't eat lunch very often, but had a good Portuguese sandwich (francesinha) one day. Dinner was very good some nights and so-so some other nights, but we always found something to eat without having to resort to the American side of the menu (steak, chicken, salmon). I wish there had been some more traditional Portuguese dishes.
The staff on the ship was wonderful. We really enjoyed Carmen the cruise director, loved Tom and Fernando at the bar, and our waiter (forgot his name, one of the side effects of aging!!). You are assigned a certain bus at the beginning of the trip and stay on that bus with the same tour escort throughout the week. We had Iuri and he did an excellent job describing the scenery and history of Portugal every day no matter where we were. Every member of the staff went out of their way to make sure we had a perfect cruise.
One small glitch - we always buy the Silver Spirits package and enjoy perusing the wine list and ordering and trying different wines. This ship did not even have a wine list available for the first two days and then had a different list for the bar and another for the restaurant. On other cruises we have been able to try a glass of something at the bar and then order a bottle for dinner if we liked it, not as easy to do on this cruise. However, once Tom and Fernando at the bar figured out what we liked, they were quick to recommend different wines for our dinner, and they did a great job!
On board activities included a piano player (Sal) who did a great job, playing lots of oldies for the senior crowd on the cruise. Other "enrichment" activities included a presentation about cork, along with a small sale of cork items, talks on Portuguese food, on the Douro River and region, and Portugal's history, a Portuguese language lesson, an evening of folk music, and a ceremony of vintage port opening with fire and tongs. All were very enjoyable and informative.
Because of the short length of the river, most days we were bused to different locations to see interesting things. We had a half-day tour of Porto including a visit to the impressive tile-covered train station and a port wine tasting before returning to the ship. There was an optional tour to Guimaraes that afternoon, but we opted to stay on the ship and enjoy a little cruising. Note that cruising often took place in the morning and tours in the afternoon - the ship could not sail at night due to restrictions on the river. Nice because we didn't have to get up really early, but sometimes it was a rush getting back from an afternoon tour and getting ready for dinner, with time for pre-dinner cocktails!
We enjoyed the visits to the Mateus Palace (beautiful gardens), Quinta do Seixo wine tasting, and Castelo Rodrigo (be sure to visit the food shop and gift shop, they are both small but we found some nice things and really liked the variety of almonds). The full day trip to Salamanca included a bit longer bus ride, but the scenery was beautiful and Salamanca was worth the trip. Note that you are not at sea level, and at the higher elevations, the weather can be cold in windy in the spring, as it was when we were there. Bring your jacket - you can always leave it on the bus if not needed. We had lunch at a hotel in Salamanca (not very good food, except for the Iberian ham), followed by an enjoyable flamenco show.
One of our favorite days was the trip to Favaios. We first visited a bakery to learn about bread making and tasted some delicious bread. Because it was Sunday, the bakery was not operational so we could only imagine what it was like when the ovens were working,. Then we went to the museum for more information and stopped at the wine cooperative for a taste of muscatel. We had lunch at the Quinta de Avessada, good food and wine, along with lots of interesting and humorous information presented by Luis Barros, who had a resemblance to the comedian Mr. Bean. Our final excursion was to Lamego where we saw the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of the Remedies on top of the hill. Some people chose to walk down the 686 steps to the bottom, but we went down on the bus. We also visited the Lamego museum, a small museum with a nice collection of art and other items from the Roman days to present.
Long review - but overall we really enjoyed ourselves. This cruise was a little different from other Viking cruises because the staff do not work for Viking (other than the cruise director), but there was no lack of service or any significant problems because of this. We would highly recommend this cruise primarily for the interesting excursions and wonderful Portuguese people!
Nice small room, very functional, adequate storage space. Loved the veranda and used it often.
Enjoyed the city tour, saw the cathedral at the top of the hill, the tile-filled train station, and bookstore where Harry Potter was written. Would have liked some better shopping - free time location did not have very many good shops.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
Nice tour of a few highlights, Belem Tower, Monument of Discoveries, Alfama District, Maritime Museum. Not as nice as it could have been due to very bad weather, not the tour company's fault.View All 88 City Tour Reviews