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Review: Cruising Portugal's Douro River on the new Avalon Alegria

Karryon was lucky enough to be invited to the christening of Avalon Waterways' newest Suite Ship - the Avalon Alegria setting sail on Portugal’s Douro River. DANI TUFFIELD reviews the experience and offers her top tips for passengers.

Karryon was lucky enough to be invited to the christening of Avalon Waterways’ newest Suite Ship – the Avalon Alegria setting sail on Portugal’s Douro River. DANI TUFFIELD reviews the experience and offers her top tips for passengers.

As a first time river cruiser I was very much looking forward to experiencing everything I have heard about Avalon Waterways and this picturesque part of Portugal.

First things first. Upon arrival at Porto airport, Avalon can arrange a pick up and I highly recommend it as there is not much better after a long flight than seeing your name on a sign with a friendly welcome and a private car transfer.

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

As mentioned the cruise starts in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city and one of the oldest European centres with its core proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The city sits on the Douro River with the Atlantic Ocean in view. It really is a very beautiful destination with a fascinating history.

Boarding the Alegria it was immediate to see that the view is paramount on an Avalon Waterways ship. Floor to ceiling windows and thoughtful design have really brought the outside in and invited the destination inside. In particular the “Suite Views”, in the amazing Panorama Suites, really showcase the concept.  Lying on the bed facing the windows with them flung wide open and watching the picturesque scenery glide by was one of the most relaxing and immersive experiences.  

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

Speaking of an immersive experience, that was one of the things that really impressed me. I was worried that you wouldn’t really feel the uniqueness of the destination but nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from the amazing views and presence felt coming from outside in, it was also felt from within. The Alegria was purpose built in Portugal for the Douro and this allows the design to also focus on the region as it won’t be relocated. The majority of the staff and crew were from Portugal, the restaurants served regional food and wine and local entertainment and presentations were showcased.  

Choice is an important word for Avalon and they weave that into their experiences on offer in each port of call. With options spanning across classic, active and discovery you can sightsee the destination your way. You can also opt to head out on your own or spend however much time you want onboard relaxing.  I opted for a mix of all on offer and again was pleased to find out that all tour guides, transportation services and companies visited were local. 

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

The staff onboard can make or break your overall experience.  It’s the difference between having a lovely time and having a warm and real connection. All of the staff were so lovely and the cruise director in particular made us all feel a part of something. Valentine was certainly a character, so much so that he even made the safety briefing entertaining. Informative but still fun and engaging.  

Some additional points that I loved and some hot tips for your clients:

Avalon blends elegance and ease to create a relaxed luxury vibe. The level of service and attention to detail were incredible but never felt stuffy. You could dress for happy hour and dinner but also one time when I came back late I went straight into the dining room in the clothes I’d been touring in and did not feel uncomfortable. Alternatively there is a more relaxed grill option on the sky deck, by the pool.  

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

The seating for dinner allows you to eat alone or mix and mingle with your friends and fellow passengers, which I thought was great for solo travellers. I met many people onboard and doing the tours and it was lovely to connect. I did meet a lot at the bar and on the dance floor too!  

At the back of the ship is a relaxed club lounge, a lovely place to while away time and most importantly stocked with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies daily. I will not share how many I ate.

The sheer luxury of unpacking your clothes, having them pressed and storing your suitcase, whilst you visit multiple destinations really cannot be undervalued. It instantly makes you feel more at home.  

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

You can pick your tours/ experiences online before you go.  dvise your clients to do so to ensure they get their top picks. However if they do want to make any changes the staff onboard are very helpful.

Avalon Waterways is pretty much paperless so have your clients download the Avalon Go app for the most up to date information on the daily schedule. It is also shown on the TV screens in your room and on monitors around the ship. You won’t struggle to find the information.

I mentioned the attention to detail. A couple of things in particular that I loved are they provided readers in the dining room for those of us who forget our glasses, they had blankets and umbrellas ready to go anytime the weather was not co-operating and misters/ sprinklers on the observation deck to keep cool on hot summer days.  

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

Starlink is the WiFi provided for free so your connection to the outside world (if you want it) is guaranteed.   

Alegria means happy in Portuguese and it will no doubt make your clients happy, which in turn makes you happy! It was my first but definitely not my last river cruise. Avalon Waterways has made me a convert and I can’t recommend the experience enough, either solo or with my family. Probably older teenage kids I would say are best suited. Final words – get onboard and eat the cookies. 

Avalon Waterways Avalon Alegria

Read more about the christening of the Avalon Alegria on the banks of beautiful Pinhao in Portugal.