THE BEST

13 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Cruise

Location

Date of travel

May, 2024

Product name

Helgrim

Product country

PoRTUGAL

Product city

Porto

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Relaxation/Wellness

Druro river Cruise with Viking holidays. 21-28 May 2024
This was definitely one of the best river cruises we have done., along the river Druro from and back to Porto.
We flew from Gatwick to Porto 21st May. We had decided to go down to Gatwick the afternoon before just to be sure and as our 3 hour drive took 4.5 we decided it had been a good decision(long queues on M25 and a rolling road block!). We stayed at the airport so on the morning we just took a leisurely stroll over to check in and then get breakfast before our flight. Happy to recommend the Hilton at Gatwick South, linked to Maple meet and greet. No issues dropping off or collecting our car. The flight was with TAP airlines(just under 2 hours) and again very happy with our journey both ways. A word of caution though some other UK travelers were booked on indirect flights which meant they were enroute for 9plus hours, suggest you ask about flight options before confirming your booking.
Viking collected us at Porto airport and at 3:15 pm we were the first passengers to arrive on the Helgrim in Porto. We were greeted with a white Port cocktail, very tasty( white port, tonic water, fresh lime and a sprig of mint).
The bulk of the passengers arrived from their pre-cruise addon trips in coaches over the course of the next two hours. The official meet and greet with all the officers and guests was after the mandatory safety briefing and before dinner, with champagne. This set the tone of the trip with evening meetings to inform us about the next days events in the lounge before dining.
We were aboard the Viking ship Helgrim. The river Cruise ships on the River Druro are purpose built to fit in the locks which are slightly shorter than on other European waterways. Hence their carrying capacity is 106 passengers and 36 crew, slightly less than Vikings other river cruisers and it made for a very much more family feel during the whole voyage. We cannot speak highly enough about the crew. Everyone went out of their way to ensure that the whole cruise was trouble free, relaxed and enjoyable. The ship was in excellent condition, well maintained and very comfortable. We had one of the lower cabins without a balcony, we never spend much time in our room on these trips so it suites us very well. The room offered us everything we needed and we were well looked after.
Part of each day was spent sailing along the river and part would be visiting a local point of interest. The first was to the Mateus Palace and Gardens ( so beautiful), then the Castelo Rodrigo (a medieval town steeped in history), a day out in Salamanca (just fascinating), the Quinta das Carvalhas (the Sandeman port establishment),the town of Pinhao with its winery, bakery and museum plus lunch at a local Quinta (a real insight in the area and its issues with a fabulous lunch) and a foot tour of Porto itself. Onboard activities were also arrange including a visit from a local cork artisan, flamenco dancers, “Tuna” group from Porto University(nothing to do with the fish), talks about other local arts and crafts, and the history and economy of the area, plus making local dishes and tasting local ports and wines. All this was accompanied by fantastic scenery and we were so lucky with the perfect weather(the previous three weeks of solid rain had finally left and we had glorious sunshine every day)
The food onboard was excellent. The Chef, Ceasar came everyday to the predinner briefing to talk about what he and his team of three would produce in their miniscule but superbly designed kitchen, all local produce and all fresh. He was a local man, raised and living 15minutes from the ships docking point in Porto, as were the captain, cruise director and the three guides who worked on board. I am sure that this made a difference to the whole voyage because they were all so proud of where they came from and just wanted us to appreciate everything about this part of Portugal.
We had booked an evening flight home so were also the last to leave the ship after a lovely final lunch onboard. We had spent the morning wandering in Porto, visiting the market and recalling a previous visit to the town. It was about 23:30 when we got home but the UK roads were quiet by that time of night so it was an uneventful trip home.
If I was to recommend a river cruise, this would be the one. Not too far to fly, fabulous food, wonderful scenery and so many interesting place to see on the way.

Sue

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