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SCHappilyRetired

Review - AMAVida - Enticing Douro 9/29 - 10/9

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Hello Everyone.  I have finally gathered my tour information to start a review.  This is our 5th river cruise with AMA and we were not disappointed.  We decided to cruise in the fall because of the harvest and had no worries about water levels.  I did much research for this river as I did see mixed reviews.  The main one being the lack of towns at the actual dock site and busing involved.  I found the busing to be a perk!  Most of the time it was 30-45 minutes with spectacular views!  Its always nice to see the true workings of a country and that we did.

 

We started with a pre-cruise in Lisbon but arrived a day early as we had a private tour to Fatima.  AMA met us at the airport with not problems and brought us to the Inter-Continental Lisbon Hotel.  Because we arrived at 11 am our room wasn't ready but we were able to drop our bags and take a walk across the street to a park.  We had some lunch at the hotel and our room was ready at 12:30.  Our room had a city/river view and perfect in every way.  Staff at the hotel surpassed our expectations.  The hotel is away from the city center but we found taxi's to be very inexpensive throughout Portugal.  We had dinner "up the hill" at LaTattoria.  They don't call Lisbon the 7 hills for nothing!  The next morning we met our guide in the hotel lobby at 8 am and off we went to Fatima for a day we will never forget.  We arrived back in time for the 6 pm group meeting.  Our guide, Luis Ribeiro, greeted us and we enjoyed a glass of wine while he spoke on what to expect on the tour.  He is best cruise manager we have had with AMA so far.  Truly went out of his way for many passengers throughout the cruise...…….

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We picked up our documents and Luis had a 6:45 pm short orientation walk in the surroundings of the hotel which lasted about 35 minutes.  The next day we had a buffet breakfast between 6:30 and 10 am.  They did have a few items a la carte.  The breakfast at the hotel was the same everyday.  At 9:15 am we departed for a Lisbon City Tour at which time we were given our audio devices.  We headed to Jeronimos' quarter where we visited the Monastery.  Breathtaking!  There was a little bit of free time and then we were treated to the famous Pastel de Belem.  They were still warm and melted in your mouth.  We were hooked!  The tour continued toward the Belem Tower and Discoveries Monument.  After the tour you could choose to stay in the city centre at Rossio square or return with the bus back to the hotel.  We stayed and poked around sitting having a Starbuck's watching the world go by.  There is a taxi stand at Rossio square so no problems getting back up the hill to the hotel.  Lunch and afternoon was at our leisure.  The hospitality desk hours for AMA was 2 to 6 pm.

 

Next day we went down for breakfast and met our group at 8:45 for the 1 hour drive to  Sintra.  AMA gave a choice of going on the bus for Pena Palace or National Palace.  Because we were with the "gentle" walking group we took the bus to National Palace then a small road train around town.  Both Palace's were quite a hike on cobble stone to say the least.  Pena Palace is all uphill approx. 350 ft, cobble stones and over 100 steps.  National Palace involves approx. 200 steps inside the Palace from room to room.  Around 12:15 we had a wine tasting at Café Paris which was quite enjoyable then free time.  Lunch on our own.  We departed Sintra at 2:30 and dropped some guests off at Amoreiras Shopping Centre who made their own way back to the hotel.  The rest of us stayed on the bus and went back to the hotel.  The afternoon and evening were at our leisure.  Desk hours were from 3 to 6 pm...…….

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The next morning we needed to have our suitcases outside our room to be collected at 9 am.  Breakfast was served from 6:30 to 10:30.  At 10 am one of us needed to go down to the lobby to identify all our suitcases to be sure none were left behind.  I like that AMA does this.  The luggage truck departed at 10:30 and our bus transfer to Santa Apolonia train station left at 11 am.  We were given our train seat assignments by Luis prior so once we boarded, we knew exactly where to go.  The Alfa Pendular 125 was clean and very comfortable. We arrived Porto - Campanha around 3 pm at which time buses were waiting for us to transfer to AMAVida.  Our embarkment was at 3:40 pm. at Vila Nova de Gaia.     96 passengers on the ship. We were in Cabin B207 Lisbon Deck which had a large window and balcony with 2 chairs and a table, quite tight but we did sit out there to soak in the views. Soaps, shampoo, cream rinse, lotion and hair dryer provided.   BTW, for the 2 1/2 weeks we were in Portugal it was sunny, blue skies in the mid to upper 70's.  Couldn't ask for it any better.   A welcome cocktail and safety briefing in the lounge started at 6 pm with dinner at 7 pm.  At 9 pm the captain sailed for an illuminations cruise....

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Tea and Coffee is available all day at the coffee station in the main deck.  On our embarkment day there was soup and sandwiches in the lounge from 11:30 am to 3 pm for those not doing the pre land part.  Rooms were ready at 3 pm.  Tea time usually 3:30 to 4:30 with Ricardo playing the piano.  Late night snacks served at 10:30 pm.  We stayed overnight in Porto.  Early Risers pastries served in the lounge from 6:30 to 7:30 am.  Morning stretching with the spa therapist was held in the lounge from 7 to 7:30 am each morning.  Daily buffet breakfast with egg station served from 7:30 to 9:30 usually unless there was an early tour then they started at 7 am.  Late risers pastries in the lounge from 9:30 to 10:30.  AMA had everyone covered for food!

 

At 6:30 am we set sail to Regua and we arrived at 7:50 am at the first lock of the river, Crestuma.  Forgot to mention, Luis did hand out with the packet neighborhoods to explore in Lisbon, places to see, go and eat, some useful phrases in Portuguese, important info about the cruise, info on the water locks, map of the river etc so you were well informed what to expect. At 10 am Luis had a cruise overview presentation in the lounge.  We arrived at Carrapatelo lock at 10:50 am, the highest single life in Europe.  Daily buffet lunch was served at noon.  We arrived in Regua at 1 pm.  

 

The ship left at 1:45 to set sail to Pinhao.  We left the ship for our tour of Mateus Palace and Gardens. The gardens were beautiful!  There is a very nice shop across the street which I managed to hit on our free time and bought some port.  The shop lady was nice enough to let me taste before buying to be sure I was satisfied.  We followed with a 50 min bus ride, which was very scenic, to Quinta do Seixo tasting tour.  There was a short guided visit inside the property with wine tasting of Sandeman's port wines.  Elevator for those in the gentle walking group.  We had our port outside enjoying the stunning views of the Douro Valley.  We got back on the ship for the Sip and Sail (daily).  Dinner at 7:30 with a Portuguese folk music show following in the lounge.  Ricardo on the piano afterwards, late snacks at 10:30.  Are we tired yet?.....

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Up the next morning for the usual then at 10 am Luis had a Douro Valley and river presentation which was quite interesting.  He showed film and pictures of the rapids on the river before the locks were installed.  Amazing how these men journeyed up and down with the harvest.  He followed by a Vintage Port Opening learning one traditional way to open a bottle of Vintage Port.  Quite fascinating!  We arrived at Pocinho lock at noon, lunch at 12:30 and docked at Barca D'Alva at 2:15. We left at 2:45 for the Castelo Rodrigo Excursion/Hike, one of my favorites.  It is a 45 minute bus ride and there we enjoyed a wine, cheese, almond and bread tasting under beautiful vines.  They greeted us with Almond Green Wine.  Actually Green Wine with Almond liquor.  Besides various wines to taste they had liquors.  I found the Green Wine similar to Prosecco so I managed to purchase the Almond liquor and will add it to the Prosecco at home. If you like chestnuts, try the chestnut liquor.  Very tasty.   I asked Luis at the start of the cruise which port is the best to purchase cork.  Ladies, if your in the market for a truly beautiful cork pocketbook, this is the place to purchase cork!!  Across from the tasting there is a marvelous shop with handbags, wallets etc.  Pretty much half the ladies on our bus managed to drop some Euros in that shop!  AT 6 pm AMA Waterways had their Privilege Guest Reception.  There were very few on this cruise that have never cruised with AMA before.  Luis had a briefing on the next days program at 7:15 pm in the lounge.  We were docked overnight in Barca d'Alva…….

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We had an early breakfast starting at 7 am as this was our day for the Salamanca Excursion.  We left at 8:30 and returned at 6:30.   About a 2 hour bus ride each way but well worth it. We had an orientation of the city, which is quite beautiful,  then some free time followed by lunch and a Spanish Folk Show at the Alameda Palace Hotel.  Absolutely beautiful hotel.  Lunch was buffet style and consisted of a  salad bar, Paella (vegetarian also) and Tortilla, dessert with wine.  The show consisted of 3 women, a singer and 2 dancers.  I enjoyed the singer but after seeing Flamenco dancing in Barcelona, the 2 dancers weren't quite at that level. There was a walking tour after lunch.  Needed to burn up some of those calories!  At 7:30 pm the ship served a typical Portuguese dinner.  Ricardo had "disco night" which we passed on.  We were just too tired.  We docked in Vega Terron overnight..... 

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We departed Vega de Terron at 6:30 am towards Pinhao arriving at Pocinho lock at 8:30.  Luis held a history lesson at 11 am and we arrived at Valeira lock at 11:50.  At noon the pastry chef held a cooking demo:  Custard Cream Tart, also know as Pastel de Nata.  OMG!  He handed out the recipe and I will be making a batch up next week.  We arrived at Pinhao at approximately 2 pm.  At this point we left to have lunch at Quinta da Avessada.  We were greeted with wine on their terrace with a magnificent view of the land.  The village of Favaios is famous for its Muscatel wine.  Once inside they served lunch consisting of typical sausages, cod fish cakes, stewed veal, potatoes, veggies family style.  A large selection of desserts and sliced fruit.  We were entered by 2 gentlemen which eating.   I asked about purchasing some of their red wine and Luis directed me to the front counter.  They never mentioned they you could purchase wine there which I thought odd.  Back onboard dinner was served at 7:30 with a music quiz in the lounge afterwards......

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We set sail for Regua at 7 am.  At 8:30 we stopped at Folgosa pier to depart for the Lamego Tour visiting the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies.  You had the option of hiking up the baroque staircase with 686 steps or the bus would take you to the top.  The church is truly beautiful.  There is a religious gift shop next door.  We had free time in town so we chose to go through the museum.  We arrived back at the ship at 12:30 for lunch.  Can't miss lunch! Luis held a disembarkation briefing at 4:45 asking at least one guest attend which I did.  We arrived in Bitetos at 6 pm and left for dinner at Alpendurada Monastery.  They served vegetable soup, roasted pork loin with roasted potatoes and rice along with salad.  Custard cream for dessert.  Once back to the ship we stayed overnight in Bitetos and Ricardo was playing in the lounge....

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At 6:30 am we departed and arrived at Lixa pier around 8:15 am to depart for the Porto City Tour.  This was a part coach/walking tour which ended at Ferreira Port wine cellars for a tasting.  There was an option to do the active hiking tour of approximately 3.2 miles.  We chose not to do either as we were staying on our own in Porto for a couple days after the cruise.  We had a late breakfast as people were leaving for the tours.  About a dozen of us stayed onboard.  We arrived at Vila Nova de Gaia dock around 10:45 am.  It was quite nice enjoying the views, quietly on the top sun deck.  Lunch was served at 1 pm and after we went off shore as there were several vendors at the dock to shop and browse around.  AMA provided shuttle buses to Porto's city center at 2:30 and 3:30 with a return to the ship at 5:15 pm.  Many walked across the bridge and took the funicular.  The captain hosted a farewell cocktail in the lounge and the Gala dinner was tonight.  After dinner we were entertained by Tuna Academica show.  A group of about 12 Portuguese college students came on board to sing, play and dance.  What a great bunch of men! 

 

Oop!  At the disembarkation briefing there was a list on a board in the lobby with times and luggage tags for us to take.  We were given a form earlier in the cruise as to when our flights were, taxi needed etc......

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Sadly, this was our day to leave our AMA family.  There was an early risers breakfast served in the lounge from 4 am to 7 am.  Since we were staying in Porto a couple extra days, I don't know what that consisted of.  I can assume more of a continental breakfast with no hot items.  Regular breakfast was from 7 to 9 am so we settled in then as we weren't getting off the ship until 11.  Bags needed to be outside your room no later than 9 am, not the night before.  We were asked to be out of our rooms by 9 so we enjoyed a couple hours up top soaking up Porto.  Luis called us from the lounge promptly at 11 am stating our taxi, which he arranged, was outside waiting for us.  The crew managed the luggage to the taxi for us.  It was sad leaving.  We made so many friends and hope to keep in touch with them.  There was a large group from Michigan, around 30.  Another large group from California.

 

Our 2 days in Porto were well worth it and I would highly recommend staying  We enjoyed Porto more than Lisbon.  Porto had a true feeling of the people and land.  We stayed at a B and B across from where we were docked, right on the river.  A bit pricey but you are on the river and everything was readily available within walking (hiking) distance.

 

The only negative thing I have to say about AMA is a lot of us noticed they did not enforce the dress code at night.  I'm not sure if this is new?  A few of us approached the Maitre d' as a several men in their group wore tee shirts, shorts and flip flops to dinner asking about the dress code.  We were greeted with "shrugged shoulders".  We then went to the Hotel Manager. He stated he didn't want to upset them.  What about us?  Either you have a dress code or you don't.  We live by the beach and my husband would have loved to wear shorts but didn't out of respect to others.  Even the Captain's Gala Dinner they wore shorts, tee shirts and flip flops.  Did they think they were still at the beach?!  I guess I just don't get some people.

 

If there is anything I can answer, please feel free to ask.   We are off traveling later this week but I will check in over the weekend.  Obrigada!

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Thanks for the review. Should like you had a great trip. I really like the fact that AMA sends you from Lisbon to Porto via train. The bus ride is a long one.

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22 hours ago, SCHappilyRetired said:

If there is anything I can answer, please feel free to ask.   We are off traveling later this week but I will check in over the weekend.  Obrigada!

 

Many thanks for this wonderful review, SC! I am so happy to see so much info on the cruise and the Vida! I have many questions and haven't had a lot of luck finding answers so this is much appreciated!  (If there are other places I should be looking for information, do advise!)  

 

I am so new here that I didn't realize members can't send messages to other members? (Or am I missing something?)  I had a few questions for you SC that I had hoped to message but looks like I will have to do so here? 

 

We are debating the pre-tour package in Lisbon. How many did you have on your pre-tour group?

 

We are also looking at staying in Porto after the cruise! Is your B&B one you would share info on? 

 

Edited by cazbg
Additional information requested of poster

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6 hours ago, cazbg said:

I am so new here that I didn't realize members can't send messages to other members? (Or am I missing something?)  I had a few questions for you SC that I had hoped to message but looks like I will have to do so here?

 

This site does not permit member to member messaging as a matter of policy.

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We had around 30 or so on the Pre-cruise in Lisbon.  Its a beautiful city with lots of hills.  As I said, Hotel is beautiful but a bit away from the city center.  There are restaurants around the hotel, just a hilly walk.  Taxis are cheap enough to get around and readily available.

 

We went with Rick Steves recommendation and stayed at the 1872 River House on the Ribeira.  It also got very good reviews on TripAdvisor.  I needed to find a place that had an elevator due to my mobility issues and served eggs in the morning due to my diet of low carbs.  It is pricey but you are on the river with a fantastic river view from you window and the lounge area.  Actually, when we boarded the AmaVida we could see the B and B across the river.   HoHo bus stop right in front of the main entrance door and restaurants on that level and river level galore.  It had everything we needed within walking distance.  Ladies that run the B and B were very accommodating and made our dinner reservations (highly recommended) and arrangements for a 7 am taxi to bring us to the airport which was a flat 25 Euro fee.

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