The Douro river has been the new kid on the block for a couple of years now. Every year new ships are being built to try and meet the demand for cruises during April to November. Riviera Travel have been using the Douro Spirit, a ship which was originally built for Uniworld. So successful they now have their own ship – the new MS Douro Elegance.
MS Douro Elegance – What’s it like?
The MS Douro Elegance went on sale over 12 months before the first departure and our customers are contacting us for our opinion on this brand new ship to the Douro river fleet. It will be cruising from Porto to the Spanish border on a round trip as before and visiting the highlight of Salamanca. But how does it compare to the other luxury ships on the Douro such as Uniworld’s Queen Isabel and the lovely AmaVida as well as Viking’s Douro Ships and Scenic’s Azure Space ship? As an agent who specialises in river cruising and knows the Douro ships well, we thought we’d better find out!
The MS Douro Elegance will be being built by Douro Azul and the hotel and nautical staff will be being supplied by Douro Azul. All operators on the river such as Viking, Scenic, Uniworld and AmaWaterways are obliged to use this arrangement as Douro Azul are the river operators.
Douro river ships are not constrained in design in quite the same way as the river ships on the central European rivers. They can be wider and taller as the Douro only has 5 locks on the stretch that is now navigable and used by the river cruise tour operators. You won’t have times when you can’t go up to the sundeck due to low bridges, meaning that the Douro Elegance sun deck will be a place to grab a book and a sunlounger and watch the world drift by.
The Douro Elegance will cater for 126 guests. This is a 3:1 guest to staff ratio. Or put another way, that’s 1 member of staff for every 3 guests. Staff service will be the same as the rest of the Riviera Travel river cruise product as drinks outside teas and coffees will be extra. So bar service will be available in the main lounge and waiter service during dinner.
Dining on board will be hot and cold buffet for breakfast and buffet for lunch with open seating. Dinner will be open seating with tables for 4-8 people with multi courses served. Cuisine will feature Portuguese dishes and European inspired high level cuisine.
The ship will feature also a small swimming pool on the sundeck and this is something that only the luxury end of the Douro cruisers features and it is a very welcome addition when the sun shines in the summer months. If a few laps of the pool is not enough to work off the three meals a day, then there will also be a top level spa and fitness room.
Douro Elegance Staterooms and Suites
Standard staterooms are 161 sq ft which is a typical size of a Riviera French balcony cabin on all their ships. The “French balcony” will be an electric window which lowers horizontally so that you can lean out and enjoy the river. This tends to be a favoured design in the last 3-5 years as it means an uninterrupted view of the river flowing by and feels more like the inside coming in. You will be able to take advantage of the table and chairs next to the window for a pre or post breakfast read or an early evening pre-dinner drink. All grades of cabin will feature hotel style beds which can be split into twins or kept as a double and also an ensuite bathroom with shower and toiletries.
Lower deck cabins are smaller at 151 sq ft, but single travellers keen to try the Douro will be able to take advantage of no single supplement on the stern cabins, whilst available. These are usually the first cabins to sell out as Riviera charge 100% supplement for anything above the lower deck. Prices start from £1399 for the week full board cruise including flights from the UK and tours. This is an incredible price for the Douro in 2017 for a single traveller.
We now move onto the superior suites on the MS Douro Elegance. Situated on the upper deck and measuring a substantial 237 sq ft, these cabins feature a larger living area, floor to ceiling windows and separate French balcony area with two chairs. Furnished in understated, classic fabrics with marble featuring, there are only six of these cabins. With prices starting at £1999 per person, the price is without compare on the Douro for a stateroom this size. We expect these to sell very quickly and hope that customers won’t be disappointed when they are not available on their chosen date.
However, Riviera have gone one step further and included two enormous deluxe suites on the upper deck. At 323 sq ft with a larger living area, bathroom and two floor to ceiling windows as well as the drop down French balcony area with table and chairs. It is madness that Riviera are not charging more for them. Prices start from £2199 per person on 7th April.
So, in short a lovely ship which will take its place deservedly so next to the other luxury ships on the Douro. For the price, it does stand out, however, other ships such as Uniworld’s Queen Isabel and AmaWaterways’ AmaVida offer a different on board experience, as well as tours and unique inclusions such as off ship dining, so it shouldn’t always come down to the fixtures and fittings.
Any questions, then let us know and we’d be happy to assist.