OVERVIEW OF THE TRIP
This Douro river cruise is one to remember, and so I have tried to blog each detail that I could collect or remember and to even add information found on the internet after I came back home. Winding through hills and mountains of vineyards and rock, we were the only ship on the river. And I only saw three small motor boats with people the entire trip.
How delightful to be so solitary!
Of course, it was off season. It was cold. Few flowers bloomed and the vines were left pretty much untouched except for some pruning, so there was little activity there. It would be a very different trip in summer weather or when it was time for a harvest with maybe a local festival thrown in the mix.
Because it was off season, the price was right.
And while there was much we probably missed that was dormant, there were no crowds and no heat.
However, I prefer off season visits. We did the same thing in Southern France and liked that as well.
I just dressed for the cold. Many did not.
The only down sides were letting Viking book us on a blind deal and thinking they would do right for us. The journey to Portugal was long (Tampa, Washington, Munich, Lisbon) and very, very risky because it sent us back in to possible winter storms.
Luckily, in all our travels we danced between snow storms.
Still I was over 24 hours of travel to get from Porto back to our home in Homosassa (Porto-Brussels- Washington-Tampa-cab to Brooksville- van drive to Homosassa)
This all was acerbated by a rare and intense flareup of my psoratic arthritis which gave me a great deal of pain for the entire trip. In the Washington airport I needed a wheelchair to make it between planes. Part of that may have been that in Brussels we had to go through security once again, and that 7 times someone asked us for some documentation as we wandered through the maze to find out flight. Good thing we had a long layover.
Viking has a feature called Custom Air, but they did not have offer for this trip because it was so near the holidays. It costs a bit more, but you see your itinerary up front and before you pay.
The most ridiculous feature of the air fiasco was that we were willing to pay the same amount and just catch the flight we had booked its second leg of the journey in Washington.
United wanted $350 just for us to catch our itinerary at Washington.
I guess not, United. Screw you!
So United airlines lost a chance to resell our Tampa to Washington and our Washington to Tampa seats.
Instead, we did spring $125 each for extra comfort seats going over the ocean and we actually got a free upgrade to them Washington to Tampa. Well worth it for the leg room to keep the arthritic leg stretching.
By the way, don't count on any seats you arrange on line. Ours were not what we had reserved. Those were "busy" as the clerk said in her interesting English.
However, Elizabeth, in her wonderfully persistent and assertive way, just kept asking at every point of our journey, always looking for two seats rows, for better seats.
As it worked out, we were lucky. Our itinerary starting from Tampa got us out on time and only hours after a huge Washington snowstorm had cleared. Had we changed and flown from Washington we would have been driving into that school closer of a storm.
Then too, as we knew, we were exhausted when we got back and delighted to just pick up the van, unpack a bit, and go to bed for a few days.
And something happened in Washington so 45 expected people from another flight did not make the connection and that gave us a delightfully spacious plane just before Christmas when we had expected crowds.
So, it was like being dealt bad hole cards, say 7-2 offsuit, and having the flop deliver them against the odds, say 7-7-2.
Other than that the trip was just wonderful: great food, great people running the program and great common folks in Portugal as well. Well planned and full of top notch visits and loads of information. It was like a small course in Portugal.
And a great price too. A real sale.
Here is an outline of what we did on our trip. We extended for two more days at the beginning in Lisbon. Otherwise, this was it: