There is a new battleground in the world of European river cruising, and it very well may be Portugal’s Douro River.
Viking River Cruises has very quietly added a third ship to its Douro presence in 2016. Viking Osfrid will be a brand-new sister ship to Viking Hemming and Viking Torgil, both of which debuted in March of 2014. She makes her debut on Viking’s popular, Portugal’s Rivers of Gold itinerary that begins with a two-night stay in Lisbon prior to embarkation in Gaia, the port for Porto, Portugal.
Viking Osfrid makes its debut on March 27, 2016 – but the plucky little 106-guest ship, patterned after Viking’s highly-successful Viking Longships, won’t be the only new vessel on the Douro next year.
Scenic will also enter the Douro market for the first time in 2016, with its 96-guest Scenic Azure. Measuring 262 feet in length and derived from the same basic design as Scenic’s highly-successful “Space Ship” class of river cruise vessels, Scenic Azure will feature the same standard of inclusive service that Scenic offers on its larger European-based river cruise vessels, including private butler service and unlimited complimentary beverages throughout the voyage. As with Scenic’s other voyages, the company’s Douro voyages will include all tips, gratuities and excursions ashore in the cost of the cruise.
When it comes to dining options onboard, Scenic Azure will feature three distinctive venues: traditional French degustation specialties at Table La Rive; fine dining at Portobellos; and casual fare served at the aptly-named River Café.
“We are delighted to announce the addition of the Douro in Portugal to our river cruise collection,” said Aleisha Fittler, Scenic’s General Manager, Product. “Behind the undulating hillside curves of the beautiful Douro Valley through years of research we have uncovered some extraordinary and diverse experiences for our guests which we can’t wait to share. Both on board and off board, this sets a new level of luxury for the region.”
What makes Scenic’s three forthcoming cruise-and-cruisetour options in Portugal so enticing is that this new offering can also be combined with river cruises in France throughout the Bordeaux region and along the Seine river. Tour extensions are also available for guests in Lisbon, and an optional land tour can be added that takes guests from Porto inland to Spain’s capital of Madrid.
There’s one other newsworthy feature about Scenic Azure: Unlike nearly every river cruise line on the Douro, Scenic will not use de-facto operator Douro Azul to build and outfit its first ship. Scenic Azure will instead be built directly for scenic by the West Sea Viana do Castelo Shipyard. It is the same shipyard that will be constructing Viking Osfrid for Douro Azul and Viking River Cruises.
Scenic Azure sets sail in April 2016.