We had wanted to try river cruising for some time so a week on the Duoro on a 2-for-1 offer seemed the best way to start. Everything was included, drinks (except premium brands), excursions and gratuities etc and this made the experience all the better. Our travel arrangements were disrupted when Air Portugal cancelled our flights and the alternatives were much less convenient. We arrived at the AmaVida at 1.30 in the morning after missing the welcome party etc. However from then on everything was almost perfect - scenery, the boat, the cabin, the excursions and the staff. We were warned that the cabins would be smaller than we were used to on an ocean cruise ship. This was true, but ours was well decorated and comfy with a very good shower room. We did have a small balcony, but to be honest, in order to see the scenery properly you needed to be on the sun deck, so a balcony would not now be a priority for us on a river cruise. The buffet breakfast and lunch were very good. If we have a slight grumble it is with the evening meals on board. Service was slow because everyone went in at the same time even though it was open sitting and the staff struggled to cope and food sometimes arrived luke warm. Other guests who had cruised with Ama before said that this was not the usual for Ama standard. We were blessed with clear blue skies every day and this only made the scenery better. The Duoro is not a long river, and does not pass through cities, but winds it's way through hills and gorges as far as the Spanish border where navigation stops. It does have small villages and close steep hillsides where the vines for the port grapes grow in regimented rows. We seemed to be tasting port at every stop. We particularly enjoyed the excursions to Lamego, Salamanca and to the Sandemans port winery. We stayed with the same coach and guide all week, and our guide was knowledgeable without trying to overburden you with information as many guides tend to do. There were 2 evening meals off the ship, one at a winery where the owner entertained us with stories between courses, and one at a monastery which has become a hotel perched high on the hillside above the river - spectacular. There was a good pianist on board and some good quality local entertainments were arranged including flamenco dancing in Salamanca. All in all, a lovely ship, lovely scenery, and a very enjoyable week. We want to go river cruising again - as soon as possible!
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