Into the Douro Valley with Avalon Alegria

If you happen to had requested me 10 years in the past if I loved a river cruise, my reply would have been a tough no. However a decade later, river cruises have come a great distance, child! We lately boarded the Avalon Alegria in Porto, Portugal, for a cruise into the Douro Valley. This European River cruise felt extra just like the small ship expeditions we’ve taken prior to now than the outdated commonplace river cruises that stopped at packed ports and spent extra time on the bus than exploring the vacation spot.

What’s it Like on a Douro Valley River Cruise

Avalon Alegria Douro Valley Cruise

We boarded our all-suites ship in Porto, the place we started our journey into the gorgeous hills of the Douro Valley. The Avalon Alegria was designed to make the most of probably the most area whereas creating the last word stress-free and opulent expertise.

The Ship – Avalon Alegria

The Avalon Alegria Ship

The Avalon Alegria is the most recent of Avalon’s ships. It’s an all-suites ship with 14 deluxe staterooms or 37 Panorama Suites. We toured all the rooms, and irrespective of which room you select, you can be comfortable. All Panorama Suites characteristic floor-to-ceiling home windows that open to show your room into one big balcony, and all beds face the water.

Avalon Alegria Top Deck Pool

Onboard facilities embrace a bar and dance ground, nightly leisure, a eating room, a membership lounge, and a health club. The Sky Deck has a swimming pool, out of doors grill and bar, and loads of lounge chairs and tables. If the climate is sweet, that is the place to be to absorb the beautiful vistas of the Douro Valley.

Avalon Alegria Suites

Avalon Alegria Suites

Let’s start with the suites. With a most capability of 102 individuals, each room is spacious and opulent. We stayed in one of many fourteen 200-square-foot panorama suites, which was good for our journey.

Whereas different cruise strains we’ve taken line their beds up towards a wall with a view of the opposite wall, the Avalon Alegria ship units every mattress dealing with the floor-to-ceiling home windows for views of the river. We loved afternoon siestas in our room whereas watching the Douro River views go by.

Avalon Alegria Stateroom

However that’s not all. Most individuals need a balcony when river cruising, but it surely’s tough to offer everybody one as a result of dimension limitations of the river and the locks. Avalon has fastened this downside by creating floor-to-ceiling home windows that open extensive, reworking your suite into an open-air balcony. By taking away the out of doors balcony, they’ve created 30% extra dwelling area.

Breakfast in our room on the Avalon Alegria in the Douro Valley

We loved breakfast in our room every morning with our home windows open to see the hills of the Douro River. With plush robes, slippers, and gorgeous views, we by no means wished to go away our room! Oh and did I let you know that they not solely have a pillow menu, but additionally a mattress menu? There are 4 totally different settings for the mattress. Simply let the crew know the way you want your mattress, they usually’ll set it up for you.

Membership Lounge

the Club Lounge on the Avalon Alegria ship

Subsequent to our room, the Membership Lounge was our second favourite area on the Avalon Alegria. Earlier than breakfast, we walked to the lounge in our robes and slippers to seize a cappuccino, freshly baked cookies, and vitamin water.

I cherished filling my refillable water bottle with my alternative of water for the day. Would it not be Vitamin B water? Glowing grapefruit or ginger. The alternatives had been superior.

Usually, cruise ships reserve this area for upgraded suites, however Avalon makes this coveted area on the stern of the boat open for everybody. You’ll be able to sit again and loosen up, have tea, or ship an e-mail on the quick Star Hyperlink Wi-Fi that’s included within the journey.

Avalon, the Greenest Ship on the Douro

Green initiatives on the Avalon Alegria

We all know the rap cruise ships get, however Avalon works laborious to journey sustainably. Avalon has partnered with locations to generate sustainable electrical energy whereas docked. They use shore energy at any time when they’ll and have put in LED lighting all through their ships.

You’ll discover that I discussed a water station above and Avalon has zero plastic onboard. There are glasses which you could refill, however we suggest packing your personal water bottle to tackle excursions. We weren’t provided bottled water on our excursions (which I used to be grateful for), so we stuffed up our bottles earlier than leaving the ship.

They’ve decreased paper by 80%. In contrast to different cruise ships, you gained’t see your day by day schedule and a great deal of paper in your beds. Avalon has an app for visitors to make use of with schedules on the TVs.

Be well water stations on the Avalon Alegria

They’ve additionally partnered with The Ocean Cleanup to help of their mission of eradicating 90% of ocean plastic. This can be a daunting activity, and I do not know the way it will occur, however with firms investing and partnering, good issues can occur.

Actually, in right this moment’s world, we’re all contributing to the destruction of the planet, so the one factor firms can do is give again. Avalon vegetation two bushes for each passenger on a cruise, has state-of-the-art oil filters to maintain oil adjustments to a minimal, and is trying to change to electrical ships within the close to future.

What’s Included – Avalon is About Selection

Since we talked about premium coffees and free web, I assumed we’d contact on what’s included in your Douro River Cruise with Avalon Waterways. The phrase we stored listening to was the Avalon is about alternative. Passengers have flexibility relating to eating, excursions, and issues to do onboard.

Meals

Meals included on the Avalon Alegria Douro Valley Portugal

All meals, together with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, are included. Breakfast will be loved in your stateroom or within the eating room. Lunch is a buffet within the eating room or gentle snacks within the bar. You can even all the time order sure meals, like burgers and sandwiches, off the menu.

Dinner is a scrumptious multicourse meal of native and worldwide dishes paired with high quality native wine. Portugal has unbelievable wines, and I really like that Avalon serves solely native wines. When I’m in Portugal, I don’t wish to be consuming a California Chardonnay; I need a wealthy Douro Valley crimson, and that’s precisely what they delivered.

In contrast to different cruises, passengers are provided flex eating and might eat anytime throughout the eating window. Seating is versatile, with tables for 2, or you may be a part of massive teams.

Drinks

Happy hour drinks on the Avalon alegria Douro Valley Portugal

Talking of wine, beer and wine are included at lunch and dinner. All specialty coffees, tender drinks, and water are additionally included. And, not like different cruises, the Douro Valley River cruise gives free cocktail hour drinks. And let me let you know, they make scrumptious cocktails.

Excursions

Tour to Amarante from the Alegria by Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways actually stands out with its excursions and shore excursions. They’ve damaged down excursions to swimsuit totally different wants. You’ll be able to select from Traditional, Discovery, or Lively Tour choices. Every day you are able to do one thing totally different from lively adventures that embrace kayaking and mountaineering to cultural experiences that take you to historic districts and meals and wine excursions to benefit from the Douro Valley Wines and Ports of Porto.

There’s something for everybody, relying in your mobility and exercise stage. Plus, there’s an onboard journey host that leads yoga within the mornings.

Leisure

Nightly entertainment onboard the Avalon Alegria

Every night after dinner, there’s native leisure. We loved a Fado Present of gifted native guitarists sharing their tradition, tales and music.

The subsequent night time was an excellent quartet of strings placing their very own spin on fashionable rock and pop music.

We additionally loved being serenaded by a finalist from The Voice and had nightly dancing. That is a kind of journeys that brings the native tradition to you.

The Crew

The amazing crew on the Avalon Alegria

One thing that basically stands out on the Avalon Alegria cruise by way of the Douro Valley is the employees. Your hosts could make or break a visit and the Alegria employees goes above and past. Inside the second we stepped onboard, they felt like outdated buddies.

At cocktail hour, they knew precisely what sort of cocktail I’d be within the temper for and even created specialties not on the menu.

Dave has a Gluten allergy, and the waitstaff paid cautious consideration to providing him alternate options and informing him of what we might eat and should keep away from.

They had been all the time smiling, and you could possibly inform that they actually loved their jobs. It wasn’t an act; the crew cherished what they had been doing. From the blokes grinning from ear to ear as they tied the strains to the entrance desk, answering our each want.

Ports of Name

Ports of call on the Vineyards & Villages Along the Douro itinerary by Avalon

Don’t fear, you might be inspired to get off the ship and benefit from the native ports of name. Avalon docks downtown or near the city facilities the place a brief (and low-cost) Uber journey can take you to the place you wish to be.

8-Day Itinerary – Vineyards & Villages Alongside the Douro

The cruise begins within the UNESCO World Heritage Metropolis of Porto. We advise arriving early to actually soak on this stunning vacation spot. Avalon gives a guided tour of Braga and Guimaraes, which we extremely suggest seeing. However you must also spend at the least two days in Porto to benefit from the Historic Middle, the Gaia District, and the gorgeous waterfront.

The cruise then leaves within the night to cease at totally different places alongside the Douro Valley. The 8-day itinerary consists of these stops after which returns to Porto for an additional day of touring. We selected the choice of wine tasting in Gaia with a tour of the Cork Museum, which was fascinating and scrumptious!

  • Caldas – Day tour of Amarante
  • Peso da Regua – Maria
  • oldest farms within the Douro Valley 
  • Pinhao – Douro Valley Vineyards
  • Poncinho
  • Barca d’Alva – Salamanca, Spain – That is the place you may add one other nation to your itinerary.

Can Solo Vacationers Be part of Avalon?

Can Solo Travelers join the Avalon alegria

We all the time journey as a pair, however I do know many individuals surprise about solo journey on cruises. Avalon waives the solo complement. On Avalon, you by no means really feel alone. From my observations, a river cruise is a good choice for solo vacationers.

Avalon is About Selection

The Avalon Waterways river cruises are all about choice

Most individuals select the Danube or Rhine Rivers for his or her first river cruise. We did 10 years in the past, and it turned us off river cruising for a decade. When Avalon invited us to pattern their Douro Valley route, we had been intrigued to offer it one other strive. I’m glad we did. This river cruise was precisely the kind of journey we love—small ships with fewer passengers and loads of choices for shore excursions.

Fewer ships are on the river, and the stops really feel intimate and untouched. With solely 102 passengers on the Avalon selecting from totally different excursions, we had small group excursions that felt tailor-made to our wants.

The Douro Valley is likely one of the most stunning locations to cruise in Europe, with rolling hills and terraced vineyards. It’s actually a bucket checklist cruise the place immersing in tradition and experiencing the native delicacies is on the coronary heart of the itinerary.

Deb standing next to the Avalon Alegria in the Douro Valley

These are the most well-liked routes stuffed with different river cruises and crowds at ports of name. I’m not saying to by no means do one, however I feel the Douro Valley is the proper introduction to river cruising.

So there you might have it—our Douror Valley River Cruise—the primary European River Cruise we’ve taken in 10 years. Will we do one other one? You wager! As we age, we love the concept of unpacking as soon as and crusing by way of Europe’s most stunning countryside.

Once you get to ports, you don’t must observe the guides; everyone seems to be free to do as they please. Keep in mind, Avalon is about alternative, and our alternative is to return quickly.

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