Last month I returned from a great trip to Spain and Portugal. In addition to driving and land touring, a week of the Portugal portion was a river cruise on the Douro River.
I went on this cruise half-heartedly. I was happy to be traveling with friends that I really wanted to travel with, but my experience on the Viking River cruise two years ago (albeit with the same friends) was not 100% positive.
But what is life for if not to learn as you go along?
And what I learned on this trip is that the Viking German itinerary is exactly how I experienced it on all the boats that do that itinerary! It doesn’t matter the name of the line – that itinerary (Mosul to the Rhine) is spent mostly off the boat, visiting cities and castles along the way.
The Douro Cruise (no matter the line – ours was Uniworld) is a different experience. This is a river cruise – you actually spend time on the boat cruising on the river. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that boats cannot move on the Douro during the night. Whereas on the German trip, our ship was covering great distances during the night, on the Douro we had neither great distances to travel nor could we travel after dark.
Another thing I really liked about the Douro Cruise, and I do not know to what extent this differs from cruise line to cruise line, is that our shore excursions were very varied. We visited ruins, we visited museums, we visited factories. Naturally we visited wineries and we had tastings, but each was a little different, and those differences added up to wonderful memories.
The upshot is that I need to revise my negative opinion of river cruising. I will stress however, that the itinerary is the key. My tactic going forward will be to make sure I talk to people or read about the cruises from people who have taken them. Relying solely on the published description could lead to unpleasant surprises.
I very much want to try river cruising on a houseboat! That hasn’t changed…maybe next year?