I have recently returned from a holiday booked through Saga and going to Lisbon and the Douro, on board the river cruiser the Douro Queen. The experience was one that, rare for me, compels me to write this review. Saga website and brochure gives the impression that their guest are in for a VIP service, which is far from what is delivered.
Saga offers transfers using a “VIP transfer car” which whilst they indicate it could be a shared car and the journey time could take slightly longer, I was not expecting what was offered. On my return the driver informed me that they had a minibus and that the journey would include going to Berkshire to drop off two other couples, before turning back towards London to drop my partner and I off in North London. The journey proposed would have taken longer then the flight home from Portugal! Needles to say this option was declined and we opted to make our own way home. Not a VIP service in any sense of the word.
The Saga representative on board is great at being Invisible, only being seen 3 times during the whole cruise. There was an incident at the end of the cruise when the Douro Queen had a technical problem with its engine, not slowing as it approached its mooring and impacting another ship, demolishing a small jetty and coming to a stop at the riverbank. No damage or injuries but concerning for some guests none the less. Despite the serious nature of the incident there was no sign of the rep checking on the wellbeing of the Saga guests.
The Douro Queen is in no way a Queen, more an old lady who needs to be pensioned off. The cruiser is at least 30 years old, indicated by the age of the life rafts, and the cabins are small with little storage for your clothes. The décor is dark and shows its age, with the lack of any panoramic windows except in the cabins. The lounge windows are small with dividers between the windows having mirrors, so not only is the view restricted; so you have can see the direction of travel (but not a forward view) but also where you have been, reflected in the mirrors. The windows, at the front, that do look forward are blocked by equipment so views from the lounge are poor in all respects.
The dinning room is below the waterline in the lower deck, with windows so high unless you stand up you cannot see out. So, no views whilst you dine, so guests tend to leave as soon as they finish their meals to get back into some natural light.
Service on board is also poor; if you need a drink you have to go to the bar, in the lounge, and carry it up 2 decks if your sitting on the sun deck. Giving the age of some guests this is nether customer service or safe. Even in the lounge there is no waiter table service.
Dinner menu is very restricted with no choice as to starter or soup with the main course either meat or fish with one vegetarian option. Choice of what you et comes when there is a buffet. The food is fairly good with few complaints(except for choice).
To be clear, Lisbon and Douro are great locations to visits, especially the deep locks which are an experience in them selves, just not with Saga and on the Douro Queen.