Our 7 day cruise took place in late August/early September 2021. HM Government’s traffic light system was in force; Portugal and Spain were amber countries so appropriate Covid checks were in force.
The Good News
Riviera Travel and Douro Azul, the company that operates MS Douro Elegance and supporting motor coaches, provided excellent service throughout. The itinerary was well planned with six inclusive shore excursions; Porto and Salamanca were our favourite destinations. The Douro itself flows through magnificent scenery, cutting through steep hills, terraced with many vineyards. MS Douro Elegance was deep cleaned between each cruise, so on our first day we were taken to an hotel and given lunch and time to meet fellow guests whilst ship cleaning was completed. The ship has a five star rating – well designed, spotlessly clean, good food and, especially the captain, a really friendly and helpful crew. Given continuing travel restrictions relating to Covid, the ship was only just over half full of guests. This meant that only two Douro Azul coaches were needed on excursions. The same coaches and drivers followed the ship throughout to cruise, which was a nice touch. Riviera Travel had organised PCR Covid tests by post to Source Bioscience, Nottingham pre- and post- holiday and a lateral flow test on ship the day before flying home. All tests were paid for by Riviera Travel.
The not so Good News
Due to poor administration at Source Bioscience, our pre-holiday test results had not been received by email by the late afternoon before our early morning flight to Porto from Manchester Airport the following day. However a call to Riviera Travel’s 24 hour line resulted in excellent help from Riviera’s Operations Department. Lateral flow tests within the hour were booked and paid for by Riviera at a testing site at Manchester Airport Railway Station near our airport hotel. Negative lateral flow results were acceptable for Portugal so all was well. Zero points for Source Bioscience; full marks for Riviera Travel. We later learned that ours was not an isolated case and Riviera Travel stopped using Source Bioscience.
I was unfortunate to be directed to lane 3 of cabin baggage security checking at Terminal 1, Manchester. The input was “managed” by a very officious lady. She shouted at each passenger and literally threw part of the contents of each passenger’s case onto a table whilst looking for electrical devices which she shoved into separate trays before x-ray. My turn was no exception. I had already placed electrical devices in a separate tray but she had to rummage through my case and remove certain non-electrical items. When I came to unpack in Portugal, I found that a small case of mini-DVDs for my camera was missing. So I regret that due to this over-zealous lady is responsible for the lack of pictures in this review.
I repeat that Riviera Travel and Douro Azul provided an excellent holiday. Unfortunately two third parties not under their control did their best to spoil it.