We chose the Viking River of Gold cruise on recommendation by friends and in place of our Elbe River cruise in 2016 that was cancelled because of low water. In order to ensure we would have airport transfers to and from the ship we asked that Viking make our travel arrangements The start was a disaster. Viking had booked the last possible connection for us to Lisbon through Toronto which failed because of bad weather earlier in the day. Hotels in Toronto were fully booked so we spent the first night of our holiday with no luggage in a taxi going from motel to motel looking for a bed. The Viking help line informed us that due to our delay in arrival, the Viking transfer in Lisbon would probably not be available and we would have to make our own way to the hotel.
Viking had also booked a 16 hour return itinerary which could have been competed in 8 hours with a more direct routing home. .We had to leave the ship at 3;45 AM on disembarkation day. We had tried well in advance to change bookings for a more convenient routing but, Viking replied that it was too late to alter the reservations.
No doubt the disastrous travel arrangements colored our appreciation of the cruise itself. Despite that we can say there were many enjoyable aspects. The ship although small is well arranged, the staff of mainly Eastern Europeans is enthusiastic and wanting to help at every turn. The kitchen and menus are high average but there are not many local specialties to sample. Free excursions were offered every day and several of them were one-of-a-kind experiences you would not find elsewhere. The summer landscapes of the vineyards and olive groves were spectacular. There was a good amount of shade on the top deck to shelter from the blazing sun in the afternoon and the pool although only a meter deep provided welcome relief from the intense heat.
One thing about the Douro is that even with 7 or 8 spectacular locks, the navigable portion is only 70 miles long so there is not much cruising. With 17 cruise ships on the river and few port facilities there are often two or three ships lashed side by side overnight in the dock obscuring river views from the common areas and rendering balconies virtually useless for those who seek a bit of privacy. Porto is the only city on the river but Viking offers a day trip by bus to Salamanca in Spain mid way through the cruise which is well worthwhile.
For people who like to be cocooned in luxury, Viking is probably a good choice. If we use them again, however, we will make sure to book travel to and from the ship ourselves and would strongly recommend that others do the same. .
Comfortable and sound proof. No sitting space except for the balcony. Lots of cupboards and hanging space. Safe and refrigerator were welcome extras. The air conditioning system was quiet and very efficient even in 40+ degree outside temperatures.