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Mike Davies

Age: 56

Occupation:Cruise Agent

Number of Cruises: 135

Cruise Line: Uniworld

Ship: Douro Prince

Sailing Date: July 28th, 2002

Itinerary: Douro River Porto-Salamanca-Porto

For those of you who have 'been there and done that' here is something totally different. Riverboat sailing offers access to cities and sights unavailable to the �Regular� cruise ships.

The Douro Prince has room for 48 passengers. On our sailing there were 26 passengers. Most of them had sailed on many cruise lines. The river cruise was something new to them. Some of the passengers had selected the river cruise for their first cruise as a protection against seasickness and to avoid the large number of passengers on the cruise ships.

We arrived in Porto in the middle of a local Port Wine festival complete with fireworks display. We thought it was just for us but alas no! The ship has recently been refurbished. The cabin is 130 sq. ft. and well laid out with plenty of hanging space and draws. Some of the cabins had small balconies. One person could turn around in the bathroom. No telephones in the cabins. You put your name on a list to be �knocked up� in the morning. No computers. There are televisions in the room which had CNN, Sky News and a local channel. They only worked occasionally. The ship had a lounge with a small dance floor in the middle and a restaurant that sat all passengers in one sitting. A small reception area and a little shop.

The whole of the top of the ship was open with a covered area at the front. There was comfortable seating for viewing and sunning.

Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style with a great selection. Breakfast included eggs, bacon, cheeses and meats along with many cereals. There were also many fruits, yogurt, fresh breads, croissants, fruit juices coffee and teas. Lunch included local Almonds, Olives, Soup, meats, fish and cheeses. Freshly baked breads and cakes were available each day. Dinners were a fixed menu that was different each day. We had vegetarian and Kosher requirements for passengers. This caused no problems.

River cruises offer an up close view in different way to cruise lines. All excursions are included at no extra cost. There was an air-conditioned double-decker bus waiting for us when we needed it. We had a wonderful guide who was with us everyday and gave us a narration on the sights we passed on the river. When we visited a city we also had the services of a local guide.

On the second day we were provided with a tour of Porto including the magnificent Cathedral.

Each of the major Port producers have replicas of the original boats that were used for transporting the barrels of Port down the river. This is a great sight to see from the many bridges.

The night�s dinner was served in a hotel high on the hillside that had been converted from a monastery. The food was cooked in the stone ovens and accompanied by local wines.

Day 3 brought us to the beautiful 18th century gardens of Mateus Rose which included excellent gardens and a 100 ft cedar tunnel.

Day 4 was an all day trip to the city of Salamanca in Spain famous for its 12th century Romanesque church and University. Plaza Major is one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. Lunch was served in a City center hotel and included authentic Paella and local wines.

Day 5 Pinhao with its great railroad station.

Day 6 brought us to Lamego home to the gothic church located high above the city that has 700 steps to reach it. Once a year pilgrims come here and climb the 700 steps on their knees. Yes, we started at the top and walked down! At the bottom 2 Coffees and two pastries cost $1.80. There was a local leather merchant cutting belts, wallets and purses.

The sides of the river are covered in tiered wine terraces from top to bottom. These terraces are blasted from the granite hillsides and receive no irrigation except rain during the year. Along the river we passed through may locks one was 150 ft deep. Going through some of the locks the top of the wheel house had to be taken off and we had to lie on the deck chairs to pass under the bridges after the docks. This was a fascinating experience.

With the small number of passengers it only takes a small amount of time to start new friendships. On the last night the passengers got together and created a comic review of the cruise. It was very enjoyable. All passengers signed up for an after cruise e-mail list.

$10 per person per day was requested for tips which were divided among the crew.

This form of cruising is a very relaxing way to travel and with the shore excursions included represents a good value. For any questions contact me

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