I recently returned from this fabulous trip and will post a review soon.
We were on the last voyage of this year - 11 Nov to 22 Nov - Madrid to Lisbon - with added pre and post tour days.
KLM from LA to Amsterdam to Madrid. CDC cards were checked at the LAX counter. Comfortable and uneventful flights with superior service. QR code related to the required Spanish Health Certificate was scanned in Amsterdam before boarding flight to Madrid and once again in Madrid. The process was fast and efficient.
Air France from Lisbon to Paris to LA. Results of antigen tests were scrutinized by Lisbon counter agent. Attestation affidavit required by France was collected but not checked at all upon boarding flight to LA. Again, comfortable flights.
The antigen test was arranged by Tauck at the hotel and results were e-mailed to us within one hour. I made sure to keep all the forms, CDC cards and test results in one place just in case someone would unexpectedly ask for them.
We have stayed before at the Westin Palace Madrid. This is an elegant hotel situated around the corner from the Prado Museum and within easy walking distance to many plazas and parks.
The Intercontinental Hotel Lisbon was acceptable but certainly not like The Four Seasons Ritz which is directly adjacent. I noticed that next year there is an option to stay at the Ritz. I would highly recommend choosing that option.
Built specifically for the Douro River, it is a stunning ship with beautiful appointments. Its layout is different from the other river boats insofar as the lounge overlooks the main dining room below. Arthur's, the alternative dining venue, has hydraulic lifts to raise and lower it depending on water levels. Although it is a smaller ship, our category 5 cabin was the same square footage as our category 7 cabins on the larger boats.
With a maximum capacity of 84 guests, we were a group of 43 (9 men and 34 women.) Masks were required at all times except when eating, drinking or on the top/open deck. With the exception of one couple who blatantly refused to wear masks, everyone else obliged.
As always, the crew was extraordinary. I really wanted to adopt one young lady from Bulgaria. We had two tour directors and one cruise director.
The food was good and varied, with the soups being my favorite. I need to put my blender/food processor to work this winter and replicate those pureed soups! Several times upon returning from an excursion, the piano area in the lounge was outfitted with such delicacies as clams and mussels, oysters, fruit and a chocolate fountain, ice cream sundaes, etc.
The onboard entertainment was always fun. The crew had a hilarious talent show one evening and a dance contest another evening.
TO BE CONTINUED.....
Having visited Madrid several times we passed on going to the Royal Palace, but please do not miss this treasure. I did visit the Prado by entering with the group but then went off on my own after letting the tour director know. The tapas tour was somewhat of a disappointment. Touted as a "walking tapas tour," I thought it would be just that...walking from one tapas bar to another and enjoying the local cuisine. It turned out to be a short walk from the hotel at 1900 (7 PM) to only one tapas bar. Since Spaniards eat quite late, the little bar was virtually empty, but we did enjoy the tapas. If anyone is planning on adding days, I'd be happy to offer suggestions on what to do.
We passed on all the Lisbon excursions, as well. Having done them twice before, I can attest to how nice they are. One comical and perplexing development was when the tour directors panicked after learning that a marathon was occurring the same day as these excursions. None of us understood how they did not know that in advance. The day's activities were rearranged so that no planned excursion was missed. There were, however, some grumbles because people felt that the timing of the final excursion did not allow enough time to get ready for the farewell dinner celebration.
The Douro River was the highlight of this trip. It is calm, narrow and surrounded by breathtaking views of vineyards, olive trees, almond trees, estate wineries and quaint villages. Due to the time of year, the vineyards were in full fall foliage. It was spectacular! Because it is so narrow the Captain explained that the ship could only sail during the day.
Because we have not traveled since April 2019, we opted to make this a very relaxing travel experience, and the river certainly afforded us that opportunity! The ship would set sail right after guests left for their excursions and would pick them up at the next docking location. I realized that the breathtaking views surpassed many of the excursions. This is in no way criticism of the excursions. I did several of them and found them enjoyable. We simply decided to watch the scenery. Besides, the Captain had an open door policy to visit with him in the wheel house. My husband was delighted to chat with him while traversing through the locks, virtually one lock daily. Once, the ship had to be lowered 20 meters (~ 70 feet). Since most outings did not start until late morning, there was always ample time to disembark and walk through the quaint little towns to explore and get some exercise.
A bit on the cool side early morning and evening, but sunny skies throughout the trip. We did encounter a rain shower while approaching Lisbon's city limits, but it was dry upon arrival at the hotel.
FAVORITE PART OF TOUR:
The gondola ride in Porto, the gorgeous Douro River and, of course, simply being able to travel once again.
I hope I have enticed some of you to book this tour. I do not think you will be disappointed.
Finally, I wish those of you who celebrate their Jewish faith, a very Happy Chanukah.
Great report. We are signed up for Oct. 2023.
You mentioned that one couple did not comply with the mask requirement. I have not read all the paperwork we need to sign before we start the tour but isn’t there somewhere notice that if you don’t follow the guidelines you will not be allowed to continue on the tour?
What did the Tauck Directors do about the non-compliance?
Great report…thank you. We are on this trip in September 2023…it all sounds wonderful!
Tauck's Travel Well Pledge, which must be signed and turned in at the start of the tour, discusses consequences for non-compliance with the mask policy. From the very start, the couple in question were quite vocal about mask wearing, even going as far as interrupting the tour director during the welcome dinner and proclaiming that masks were useless. I do know they were spoken to many, many times by the tour directors, ship staff, ship security officer and even hotel restaurant management. Because of this and other despicable behaviors, I suspect they will be receiving a letter from Tauck, hopefully banning them from future Tauck tours. I hope so.
They should have been evicted from the tour. Not good enough Tauck! Actually, disgusted to hear that… we as customers, are relying on Tauck to help us keep safe. I’ve known other tour xompnIes evict customers for less!
Please don't blame Tauck. Be angry at the rude, self-serving, entitled Americans who used this tour to espouse their political agenda. I do believe this couple will be banned from future Tauck travel.
With respect, you were not on this tour and did not witness the extraordinary measures taken by Tauck to keep us safe.
Rules are rules. Receiving a future letter doesn’t protect you or the rest of the group.
They should not have have been allowed to continue the trip.
From the Tauck Travel Well document:
agree to take personal responsibility for my health and well-being, to follow COVID-19 protocols – such as wearing a mask and social distancing – as mandated by Tauck, our supplier partners and local authorities. I understand that noncompliance with these measures by myself or my traveling party will result in our party not being able to continue on this Tauck journey.
cathyandsteve - Thank you for the kind comments. I wish you all the best on your upcoming tour.
Nancy - Thank you, as well. You will have a great time on your Savoring France tour and on this one.
TravelGuy - Please don't shoot the messenger. I understand your frustration. I and many others felt very safe because our masks protected us from that couple. Moreover, they were shunned throughout the trip.
Thank you for your honesty, no shooting form here, great review, but people need to know what to expect on a tour in the age of an ongoing Pandemic.
Just one question, were you able to sit and have a meal on a separate more isolated table at meal times away from this couple? I won’t ask anything else about this. Sorry everyone.
No shooting here either. I am just concerned that Tauck did not follow through with what they have plainly stated in their pledge document.
We are going to Hawaii in February and hope we don’t experience this.
Glad you enjoyed the cruise.
With only 43 guests and two dining venues, there were plenty of empty tables at meal times. As mentioned before, this outrageous couple was shunned throughout the trip. Moreover, two full-sized buses were used on the two long bus rides...Madrid to the Portugal border and Porto to Lisbon, affording ample space to social distance.
In all fairness to Tauck, were they really expected to throw this couple overboard? That's a rhetorical question.
I do sincerely believe they have been banned from future tours.
Yes, they probably will be banned from future tours. But how many people might Tauck lose reading about broken pledges and promises. There are still people who might only travel with strict mask compliance. Who wants to test positive and not be allowed to get back into the US.
kfnknfzk, thanx for the review. Since that's our next Tauck tour I was interested in the details.
Not shooting the messenger but I agree the pair should have been booted if that many Tauck and Scylla employees attempted to rectify the situation. No doubt Tauck got lots of feedback on it in the evaluations from fellow passengers. On our Switzerland land tour we had a pair that sort of skirted with non-compliance - would get on the bus then remove their masks. Most of the other guests found them "charming" so no one complained and the TD just ignored it. In her defense, making a TD who is dependent on tips being the ogre isn't a great situation especially if others aren't complaining. In France, our tiny group decided after a couple of days not to wear masks on the bus. Since we were eating together every night in close contact it made no sense to wear a mask on the bus where we had much more distance between us. We did agree that if you were seated in the front seat near the driver you had to wear a mask. At all other times everyone complied with local requirements.
I am in no way defending Tauck. Everyone was exasperated by this couple, and not just because of their refusal to wear masks. All I can say is that the situation will be handled after the fact. I understand that might not be palatable to some.
I mean no disrespect, but I disagree with the belief that if everyone agreed to disobey the rules, it would then be acceptable. I fail to understand the logic there.
I'd rather stay focused on the wonderful aspects of this trip and not have it marred by the idiocy of two individuals.
To kfnknfzk---Thanks for the comprehensive review. We were booked on this trip next May and just had to cancel due to health related issues. Safe traveling to all.
I'm sorry you had to cancel this remarkable trip. I hope you can rebook it at a later date.
Hope you feel better soon Ed!
I was on the same tour at the same time. Mostly, I agree with kfnknfzk's remarks, with a few exceptions. The crew was indeed fabulous. I was amazed that on the first day Christian, the dining room captain, was able to greet each guest by name! Never having been to this part of the world before I participated in all the tours. I agree that the Tapas tour was disappointing. My group actually went to 2 venues, but still not memorable.
I was COMPLETELY unaware of the issue regarding the mask wearing of one couple. Had no idea. Not only was I unaware, but it was never mentioned by the people I was interacting with.
All in all, this was a wonderful trip and I recommend it highly
So, are you saying you never saw this couple without masks when there were so few people on the boat, how strange.
I am booked for the Douro tour next year. I was comfortable in August on my Tauck Spain/Portugal cruise because everyone wore masks onboard the ship and while traveling on the daily excursion buses. The ship provided plenty of distancing due to the small number of guests aboard the Windsurf... less than half capacity. Seville was hot, as expected in August. We were masked on our walking tours outdoors as well, although we felt it was excessive to do so. But... it was what we had agreed to. Compliance by all guests with rules & guidelines allows for an enjoyable experience for all and is expected. It demonstrates respect for others. The portion we will travel by bus especially concerns me as it is an enclosed space. Hopefully my fellow travelers will abide by the Travel Well Pledge as we did in August.
The Spain and Portugal land tour was our favorite of all time. I am glad you enjoyed the small ship cruise. Please don't be too concerned about the bus portion of the Douro tour. Tauck will ensure enough buses are available to allow for distancing, as well as providing hand sanitizer as you board the bus.
I look forward to your review next year.
We were impressed with how thoroughly Tauck cared for our safety. I am confident Tauck will continue this level of care. Thank you kfnknfzk for a fantastic review. Much appreciated!
Thank you, Patrice, for your kind words. Stay safe and well.
We are scheduled for the May 11-22, 2022, Westbound itinerary. First trip with Tauck, first trip on the Douro, and I greatly appreciate all you are sharing. Thank you!
I think after this trip you will be taking many more with Tauck! Please be sure to write a review after your tour. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Stay safe and well.
TOUR REVIEW 11-22 MAY 2022 WESTBOUND
First ‘big’ trip since the pandemic, first with Tauck, and we kept it simple with no extensions. We started with a couple minor hiccups – delays finding the driver after arriving early in Madrid and then not being given the welcome packet at hotel check-in (tucked under our door later in the day). Otherwise, we were delighted to have Tauck handle every detail, enjoyed most curated excursions, and we will travel with them again. Our expectations for comfort, travel coordination, and catching a taste of two countries by skimming the surface yet having some unique experiences were met and exceeded. We had 62 on our tour, 2 TDs plus one more as ship liaison, 2 touring buses with the same drivers throughout and plenty of room to spread out.
Daytime cruising on this new boat on a scenic, short river was a highlight for us and the reason we selected this itinerary. Overall the food and wine were good, little was memorable. The Andorinha was a lovely, delightful, compact riverboat, and because of its size, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much at full capacity (84 pax) with reduced staffing and Arthur’s only being used for a small continental breakfast selection. Hopefully, they will be at full staff when they are also at full capacity.
Most excursions were worth the bus ride, and Peso de Regua was the only location where we docked at the heart of a town. Complaints must have been voiced about docking in the quiet Vila Nova de Gaia marina instead of the bustling Ribeira section of Porto where the other riverboats dock. We were told that decision was made to avoid double-docking and the boisterous nightlife well into the wee hours of the morning. I would have liked to experience that (at least one night ). [In hindsight, the quiet docking was a smart COVID-deterrent]
HOTELS - Westin Palace Madrid is old-world elegance with modern amenities in a prime walkable location; great breakfast buffet and table service in the fabulous Rotunda. The InterContinental Lisbon is generic contemporary in design with spectacular city views from most rooms. The trade-off for the view is a bit of a hike if you want to walk and explore more outside of the bus shuttle times. Greatly enjoyed our brief time in Lisbon—the morning city tour and then taking the shuttle back to walk some neighborhoods; would love to return and spend more time in Lisbon.
EXCURSIONS – It’s difficult to choose when offered two options! I was surprised by, and appreciated, the flexibility offered to us to change our selected excursion up till the tour departure time. Is that flexibility the norm for a Tauck trip or because there were only 62 of us?
Memorable exursions for us were: the Provesende Hike, DOC Restaurant, the bike ride and Amarante, the grounds at Aveleda, Coimbra, Lisbon city tour and Belem.
You don’t have to be a hard-core road cyclist to do the bike ride; however, pay attention to the description that says “recommended only for experienced bikers” and take the “primarily downhill” with a grain of salt. LOL, we joked about learning the Portuguese definition of downhill! To be fair, a section of the bike trail was closed for construction work just before our tour. Knowing that, I would repeat the bike ride but make sure I did some “training” in advance.
I was only dissatisfied with one of my choices and wished I had taken the Porto by Land, River, Air instead of what was called a “Walking” Tour of Porto. We spent just as much time on a bus from Gaia through sections of Porto as we did actually walking in a small area.
COVID – Tauck arranged Covid testing at our Lisbon hotel for those who were leaving on the 22nd and the following day for those who extended one day. I’m pleased to report there were no positive tests in the first group to depart which was about half of those returning to the US. I doubt I’ll know about the others who extended. I was surprised by the lack of masking at the start of our tour and had to adjust my acceptance to the norms of the country we were visiting. Our TDs made it clear from the start that it was a personal decision and that they would routinely wear masks as their personal choice. Masking aboard the Andorinha was rare except for crew. The lack of Covid positives was amazing considering how much time we all spent, mostly sans masks, crowded into the Panorama Lounge for briefings and events. It was the last few days of the tour when it became mandatory to wear a mask on our buses and public transport (Porto and then on to Lisbon). We were told it was due to an uptick in cases in Portugal. However, there were still no masking mandates inside the hotels, museums and other sites.
Would I take this trip again? Yes, in a heartbeat!
Thank you Gafly for the detailed review. I am looking forward to the June 15 tour in the eastward direction. One question... when I was at the Lisbon Intercontinental in August 2021 (Tauck's small ship Exploring Spain & Portugal) we were limited, due to Covid restrictions, to 2/3 passengers in a taxi, rear seat only, no seating allowed in the front with the driver. We took taxis several times during our free time to the Baixa and Alfama neighborhoods and again to return to the hotel. You mentioned a shuttle. Was this offered by Tauck or by the hotel?
Anyone stay at the Intercontinental Madrid? Our October 2023 is not staying at the Westin and just wondering what this alternative venue is like.
Gafly, Thanks for a very informative review. To answer your question, in my experience with Tauck, they are indeed very flexible when it comes to tour choice.
So my DH and I will be going on the Douro cruise this fall…we’ll be staying post-cruise at Le Monumental Palace Hotel in Porto. Has anyone stayed there and can you share any observations?