Cruising the Douro

Hi! We have rebooked this trip 4x. We are now on the April 13 sail. Does anyone know if masks will be required? After the trip ends in Madrid, we are flying to Barcelona. Any tips? I haven't booked a hotel yet. Keeping our fingers crossed that we will actually get there this time!!


  • KathyEvans,

    Masks were required on the boat when I did the Douro River cruise in Nov 202i. I do not know if restrictions have eased since then, but be prepared to wear them at all times except when in your cabin or when eating and drinking. Masks were also required on the bus, hotels and at all venues. In no way did this requirement detract from my enjoyment of this fabulous trip, however.

    Barcelona's Las Ramblas, also known as La Rambla, is a pedestrian boulevard that is one of the city's major attractions. It can be very crowded, noisy and full of pickpockets. Just be aware of your surroundings at all times.

    The Sagrada Familia is a church that has been in the process of being constructed since the late 1800s. It was designed by the famous architect Gaudi and is worth a visit.

    La Boqueria is a very large market where you can spend quite a bit of time strolling through all the lanes and food stalls. It is located on La Rambla and is a great place to get a bite to eat. The Barcelona Opera House is close by and is a nice place to take a look inside.

    All these suggestions are based on pre-COVID times. The best thing is to do your own on-line research based on your personal interests.

    Regarding hotels, we stayed at a Tauck hotel located right on La Rambla when we did the northern Spain tour years ago. Perhaps you can research that trip to see if they still stay there. Its name fails me.

    Good luck and please post a review after your trip.

  • The hotel on La Rambla we stayed in was Le Meridien.

  • Kathy, we're on this cruise in Oct so you're way ahead of us. We are adding a couple of days at the Tauck hotel in Madrid then taking the high speed train to Barcelona for 3 nights. The train station is about 5 minutes drive from the hotel (which the Tauck transfer will cover), cost seems to be about 100 euros and the trip is 2 1/2 hours. We have reservations at the Citidines Ramblas which is a sort of combination hotel/apartment building. They have regular hotel type rooms, studios with kitchenettes, and 1 bedroom apts. It's right on La Ramblas very close to the market mentioned above. As she mentioned, tons of things to see and do nearby. We opted for the studio which runs about $263/night.

    I highly recommend Rick Steves pocket Barcelona guide. Useful info including several walking tours.

  • edited February 2022

    A fantastic place to eat in Barcelona is Los Caracoles. While I'm not a fan of its namesake (snails), they had excellent paellas, seafood, roasted chicken (cooking on spits in the window). Google it. It is on a narrow side street about two blocks to the right of the Ramblas as you walk away from the waterfront. The food was excellent and it is a very popular place so reservations are likely needed. I haven't been there in years. Just reading the online menu made my mouth water!

  • Thanx Alan. I'm building a list of places to eat in Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon when we're on our own.

  • edited February 2022

    We are not on this trip until Oct 2013. Would love to hear of restaurants and places to go (not visited by Tauck) from you travelers going later this year. TIA!

  • edited February 2022

    Claudia Sails
    Thanx Alan. I'm building a list of places to eat in Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon when we're on our own.

    Los Caracoles was popular with folks from the wardroom. I never realized it was so big/had so many rooms until I looked it up on Google.

    If your hubby is into building models, another place I frequented on the Ramblas on at least two different deployments was a model shop that sold very detailed and relatively expensive wooden sailing vessel kits for adults (had hundreds of parts- tiny strips of wood to plank the hulls and decks, rigging, brass canons, etc. etc.). I finished one except for the rigging, but the other two I purchased are still in the original boxes in the attic. :)

  • In Lisbon, “Ha Tapas no Mercado”, a very small tapas restaurant that has around 900 five star reviews on Trip Advisor including mine. Just tell them to bring on the food, and don’t stop until you are full.

  • I forgot to mention that if you have added days in Madrid, the Westin Palace Hotel has an Opera Brunch on Sundays which is very nice. I'm not a fan of buffets but found both the food and entertainment quite nice. You must make reservations since the brunch is immensely popular with the locals, and they will be given preference over hotel guests. You will see extended families in attendance and even the children are dressed impeccably. So refreshing!

  • Oops. I edited my post regarding restaurants and it then disappeared. I know BSP51 saw it because of the "like." If anyone else is interested, I will recreate it.

  • Nope I didn't see your restaurant post. If you can, plz recreate it.

  • Okay. It will be later this afternoon. It really isn't a list of restaurants just areas where you might find places to eat.


    The Spaniards eat their main meal in the afternoon and a light supper (usually tapas) in the late evening. They also like to dress up for the main meal.

    Plaza Mayor is an easy walk from the Westin Palace Hotel and is a great place to sit at one of the many outdoor cafes and people watch. On one of the adjacent streets is Restaurante Sobrino de Botin which has been in existence since 1725. It was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Reservations are mandatory. It is best to have the hotel concierge make the reservation for you. Also close to the Plaza is Calle Cava Baja (I added this one since my last post.) It has tapas bars and more tapas bars. My favorite market in Madrid is also close to the Plaza and is called San Miguel Market. It is small and crowded but offers a great selection of food.

    The hotel has an Opera Brunch every Sunday and is extremely popular with the locals. Extended families will go there for their weekly outing. Even the young children come dressed in their finest. So refreshing to see! Again, reservations are mandatory and preference will go to the locals.


    Avenida da Liberdade is the main shopping street and is a short walk from both the InterContinental Lisbon and the Four Seasons Ritz. You can stroll this avenue down to the river and find many cafes along the way.

    The Alfama area is one of the oldest and offers many mom and pop cafes offering traditional Portuguese cuisine. Some of the side streets are quite hilly, however.


    I haven't been in Barcelona since 2013, so I can't offer much beyond the market I mentioned previously. You will find places along Las Ramblas but most are tourist traps. Due to the cruise ships and the influx of cruise passengers, unfortunately you will find American junk food restaurants all over the boulevard. Please, I am not maligning cruise ships; I am merely stating facts.

    Unless they have cleaned it up, you need to be careful of pickpockets. Just be mindful of your surroundings.

    Have fun and good luck.

  • edited February 2022

    We have been to Barcelona several times, but we’ve avoided Las Ramblas ever since we were mugged there on our second visit. I would only go there with a small amount of cash and a copy of my passport and my Timex travel watch … no camera, no backpack, no wallet, and no purses. Eloise lost a bunch of stuff but was most upset about the ‘Coach’ purse which apparently had the strap cut. She did not even know it was gone for a minute or two. They work in teams … one or two work to distract you while another steals your stuff.

  • edited March 2022

    Yes, Las Ramblas is notorious for pickpockets, probably even worse than Rome. With the proliferation of those huge cruise ships comes a proliferation of tourists and the opportunists who follow those tourists. Again, I mean no disrespect to those who enjoy cruising with thousands of other people.

    But if you have never been to Barcelona it is worth the trip, especially as a starting point for visiting northwestern Spain. As Sealord indicated, just don't draw attention to yourself by looking and acting like a tourist.

  • How do you avoid looking like a tourist?!!

  • Of course that is difficult! But it does help if you avoid wearing expensive or even expensive looking jewelry, that’s an easy one. We sometimes don’t even wear wedding rings. This past few years we discovered silicone rubber gold, silver looking wedding rings that cost about a dollar each, so we sometimes wear those. Several fellow travelers have asked me about them. We wear cheap watches. Not wearing expensive looking clothing and bags etc helps. We have found Rome and Paris the worst for pick pockets and scams….the wedding ring one twice in one day in Paris and htst was in a February. Iwas nearly knocked off my feet in Rome when police took chase after a couple of guys as they whisked by me. We also try not to have expensive looking luggage.

  • Along with not wearing expensive jewelry, try to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Don't have a camera hanging around your neck. Don't stand with a map in your hand. Go inside a shop to ask for directions. Avoid taking big purses. Have your crossbody purse under a sweater or jacket. Years ago my husband purchased some shirts and slacks that have very deep and zippered pockets. He wears them only for traveling. In certain cities (Barcelona and Rome especially), he carries the money and credit card(s) in the deep, zippered pockets.

  • Thanks for the tips! Don't have any expensive jewelry, clothes or luggage!! I bought one of those ebags that is supposed to be theft proof. It is ugly as all get out. When we went to the casino in Monte Carlo the gentleman had quite the laugh as I had to disengage my zipper lock to get into my bag for ID. I was raised in New Orleans which is not the safest place anymore. I don't wear any jewelry except earrings. I am hoping that this trip actually happens in 29 days. Rather uncertain with the War.

  • edited March 2022

    I don’t see any reason why your trip won’t happen. Portugal is the farthest away from Russia you can get in Europe.if it is not safe to travel there, the next land is the US.

  • We are spending a few days in Lisbon in late April, 2022 (prior to our Northern Spain & Rioja Vally tour). Does anyone have any restaurant suggestions within walking distance of Corpo Santo Hotel in Lisbon? Must see attractions in Lisbon (we have a trip planned to Sintra)? Thank you!

  • edited March 2022


    There are several threads that might be helpful. See the A Week in Portugal thread that is currently open on the Home page. You can also research the Spain and Portugal category to the right of the Home page. I am unfamiliar with the hotel you are referencing but a Google search of Restaurants near xxx might help.

    .....I researched your hotel. It looks lovely and is on the banks of the Tagus River. You will already be close to some of the "must see" sights!

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