Agent Mike Sullivan, who owns Professional Travel in Shifnal, Shropshire recently sailed along the Douro on A-ROSA ALVA, the newest ship in the cruise line’s fleet. With expectations high, did A-ROSA score an A-plus? Travel Gossip asked Mike to tell all.
We travelled on the Rhone last summer with A-ROSA. We had a great cruise and as a result we had high expectations for our Douro trip – the bar was set very high last year.
A seven-night cruise on the Douro from Porto (pictured, below) and back, including the first night and last night in Porto, which means guests can explore this amazing city too. The ship travels through the beautiful Alto Douro Valley to Vega De Terron and back with stops at Pinhao, Barca D’Alva, Regua and Bitetos.
Embarkation was efficient, professionally handled and very straightforward. We had to provide proof of our vaccination status, which meant we didn’t need to do any pre-boarding testing. We handed over our fit-to-travel declaration forms, had our temperatures checked and crew members took our luggage, provided us with receipts, sanitised the cases and delivered them to our cabin door. It simply could not have been easier.
Our documents provided the embarkation location in Vila Nova De Gaia, which is on the opposite side of the river from the old town of Porto, but extremely easy to reach. The quay area has absolutely loads of nice restaurants, market stalls, bars, wineries and shops. Once you have checked into your cabin, you are free to explore the ship, have a drink in the bar or on the lovely sun deck, swim in the pool, or if you prefer, disembark and take a stroll.
A-ROSA ALVA is the newest ship in their fleet. It is simply beautiful, classy and very comfortable. The cabin was stunningly clean, modern and really comfortable. There is plenty of storage space for luggage. Best of all, on a pretty hot day, the air conditioning worked brilliantly.
Favourite part of the ship
The restaurant. It felt really classy, yet relaxed and not stuffy. The tables were well spaced and sensible social distancing was observed. All meals are currently provided by waiter service and all the waiters were great. Apart from being attentive, they were friendly and soon got to know your preferences (red wine for me, rose for my wife). The food was gorgeous, although after seven days of meals varying from one to seven courses, I need to get back to eating a little less.
There we numerous British passengers on board, quite a few Germans, plus a number of other mainly European guests. The age range was mainly the over 50s.
Currently on the Douro cruises, all meals are served, with a choice of three or four menu options. Lunch and dinner consists of four courses with a choice of wine, beer or soft drinks. I thought that the food quality matched what you’d find in some of the best restaurants in any European city. The choices were varied, and vegetarian options were also provided for those who wanted them.
Overall experience and Covid protocols
Everything worked extremely well – from the meticulous cleaning onboard with an emphasis on attention to detail, to the friendly bar, reception and restaurant staff who went out of their way to ensure we had a great time on board. Hand sanitiser station were available widely throughout the ship, social distancing was in place and we were required to wear masks in the public areas below deck, except when seated at a table in the restaurant or bar.
One of the aspects of the cruise we most appreciated was the flexibility. We could choose between well organised excursions and do-it-yourself experiences. We loved the port wine tasting and an evening dinner at a quinta was another highlight.
We have a fairly mature client base and the relaxed, but really interesting, experience would suit them perfectly. What’s more, once clients appreciate the comfort and convenience of being able to simply stroll off the ship into a pretty riverside town or village practically every day, they will want to try it again. There are plenty of rivers to try out and a river cruise to suit all tastes and budgets.
We had a category D cabin on the top passenger deck with a panoramic window which was so lovely. Our cabin location was really handy for the restaurant and access to the sun deck.
The forward sun deck on the ship is a great place to watch the river, see where you are headed and enjoy a relaxing cold drink while you sit back and wonder why you don’t do this more often.