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When I found out that I was taking my first wine-themed river cruise on Portugal’s Douro River, I felt lucky to be sailing on AmaWaterways’ AmaVida. Not only is the cruise line one of the pioneers of wine-themed itineraries in Europe, but being onboard AmaWaterways meant I would have first-class accommodations.
On both points, I was not disappointed.
At times, the 106-passenger AmaVida felt more like a luxury yacht than a river cruise ship. It’s small enough to feel intimate, but large enough for plenty of privacy. The ship’s staterooms are elegant and comfortable, offering guests a calming space for rejuvenation after a day spent exploring the local vineyards along the river. Staterooms run from 161 to 215 square feet, with two suites that are 323 square feet. Most of the rooms have private balconies and come with in-room air conditioning; Egyptian linens; spacious bathrooms with multijet showerheads; flat-screen televisions with entertainment on demand; complimentary Wi-Fi access; and more.
Onboard activities take place in the ship’s main lounge, which also offers a great space to sit and check out the scenery as the ship floats by. Over the course of our cruise were daily lectures about different aspects of the destination; port wine tastings; a Fado music performance; and more. One of my favorite events was an onboard tuna performance in Porto. Tuna is the name for a group of university students in classic dress who play traditional instruments and sing and dance. The group of about 20 students who came onboard the AmaVida were not only talented musicians and enthusiastic dancers, but they could also tell a good story.
A late breakfast service is also served every day in the lounge — which comes in handy when you don’t want to get out of your comfortable bed in the wee hours of morning.
During the Enticing Douro itinerary, several meals are had at local restaurants and other venues. Onboard meals are served in the ship’s restaurant, but there’s also al fresco dining at the front of the ship. The food onboard is exceptional, with knowledgeable entree and wine pairings that take advantage of local sources. Breakfasts and lunches are buffet-style with plenty of choices, including cooked-to-order omelets at breakfast and customized pasta dishes at lunch. Meals are made even better thanks to the thoughtful service of the ship’s waitstaff, who seem to intuitively figure out the little things that make a meal feel more like home.
The other main public space is the top sundeck, which features a small heated pool and plenty of deck chairs. The top deck is also used for morning stretching and for barbecue dinners grilled outdoors. There is also an onboard spa and a fitness room.
Most of the daily excursions on the Enticing Douro itinerary are related to wine, from touring several vineyards to actually crushing grapes. There are other excursions, too, including a trip to the historic city of Salamanca, Spain, and an optional “Limited Edition” walking tour of Jewish historical sites in Porto, Portugal. The weeklong cruise itinerary can also be combined with an optional three-day pre-tour in Lisbon, also in Portugal.
Whether onboard or on land, agents who book clients on AmaWaterways’ AmaVida can be sure their customers will be treated to the highest-quality amenities, service, excursions and entertainment available on the Douro.