We’ve compiled 2020 pricing comparisons for the Douro River. The comparisons derive true per diems that allow readers to determine how much they will actually spend on their Douro river cruises once all items are factored in – port charges, gratuities and other expenses that are not always included in the initial cost of a river cruise.
Our charts serve as a worthy guide to compare cruise line prices for 8 day/7 night itineraries for the 2020 summer and autumn seasons on the Douro river in Portugal. In addition, our charts compare what’s included; what’s excluded; cabin square footage; incentives; discounts; and the cost of balcony upgrades. Cruise companies offer many different cruise durations. Cruise lines also offer add-on extensions to their cruises and pre/post cruise trips. That information is not represented in the comparison charts.
This post sets out to answer the following questions: What is the average cost of a Douro river cruise 2020? How can I save on a Douro river cruise 2020? Should I make my decision about which company to cruise the Douro based on the lowest per diem? What’s the best value for a Douro river cruise?
Douro River Cruise 2020 Price Ranges & Averages
Prices on the Douro for summer 2020 range from a low of $402 per person a day (Emerald’s June 27, 2020 sailing) to a high of $756 per person per day (Tauck’s June 21, 2020 sailing). It is worth noting the cabins and suites that are represented on the chart. For example, the reason that Tauck’s pricing is higher is because there are no entry level cabins available; they are fully booked. The price in the chart shows Tauck’s Category 2 stateroom measuring 200 square feet. To save money it is worth exploring other dates on the cruise line’s website to find entry level cabin availability. Also noteworthy, Tauck has not cruised the Douro before; 2020 marks Tauck’s first year to offer cruises in Portugal.
The average per diem of a 2020 summer Douro river cruise for the dates we researched is $530 per person. AmaWaterways, Tauck and Uniworld are above that average. CroisiEurope, Emerald, Scenic and Viking fall below the average price.
Scenic, Tauck and Emerald are all-inclusive, but Scenic and Emerald’s aggressive incentive offers result in the lower true per diems of the all-inclusive cruises. You will want to visit Scenic and Emerald’s websites for expiration dates of the incentives they offer. To save even more, look to the shoulder seasons; spring and autumn for 2020.
For the 2020 Douro river cruise shoulder season (autumn in this case) per diem rates range from $342 per person on CroisiEurope’s new cruise ship (October 21, 2020) to $841 per person on Tauck (September 3, 2020). For the Tauck cruise, there are no more entry level cabins available, so again we chose the next available suites Category 2. The rates for Tauck are lower in summer than autumn.
The average autumn season rate across all eight river cruise companies is $527 per person. Amawaterways, Tauck and Uniworld come in above the average. CroisiEurope, Emerald, Riviera, Scenic and Viking are below the average per diem.
In most cases, you should expect to pay just above $1,000 per stateroom, double occupancy, for each day of your cruise (excluding disembarkation day) during peak season and shoulder season. The variances between the seasons is not that much.
Those numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story. Upgrading to a balcony, for example, skews the per diems. Per diem rates for summer 2020 balcony staterooms range from $488 (Emerald) to $888 (Uniworld) per person for the duration of your Douro river cruise. For the autumn 2020 season, balcony upgrade per diem rates range from $535 (Riviera) to $938 (Uniworld). Worth it? Yes, if you have the discretionary income. We’ve enjoyed waking up in the mornings and stepping out on our balcony (or sliding open the doors of a French balcony) to admire the river. We’re sure you’d enjoy the convenience of a balcony too.
If the upgrade to a balcony stateroom does not break your budget, then we emphatically recommend going for it. Remember, you are buying an experience, and you want that experience to be as good as it can possibly be. This is not the time to be a parsimonious river cruise passenger. Splurge. You’re paying for your experience, after all.
How To Save On A Douro River Cruise
Cruise prices in shoulder seasons such as autumn or spring are generally lower in price than cruising in summer (peak season). However, on the Douro River, September generally seems to be the peak river cruising month for the cruise companies. There are some exceptions; we recommend letting the charts be your guide. Rates for September 2020 Douro River cruises tend to be the highest for the year. Within each season there are pricier peak months as well. If you want to travel in summer season, rates for the month of June are usually higher than July and August. Also cruise lines tend to offer more discounts and incentives in July and August rather than the peak month of June. In autumn 2020 Incentives are factored into the per diems in the pricing charts.
Choosing an entry-level stateroom will also save you money. If a balcony would break your budget, then by all means, opt instead for a fixed-window stateroom. You can leave the stateroom and go to the top deck for your “balcony” experience. It’s not quite as convenient as having a balcony right beside your bed, but if your budget is tight, go for the entry-level stateroom. In summer season of 2020 on the Douro, balcony upgrade fees range from an additional $600 per person (with Emerald) and can go up to an additional $1,800 per person (Uniworld). Often times an upgrade to a balcony adds extra square footage to your cabin, but this is not always the case. The charts include the balcony suite square footage.
Other ways to save: Take advantage of promotions. They happen frequently and they can convey a significant savings, especially if the offer is an air credit or a deep discount. River cruise promotions are a moving target, and while we do our best to let you know about special offers, keeping up with them is more than our small team can manage. We recommend that you work with a travel agent. Travel agents can tell you about all of the promotions instead of you having to go to each river cruise company website to look for them yourself.
Moreover, you will often get equal or better rates from a travel agent, plus possible perks that you may not receive by going direct to the cruise line. That equation could change, however, if your travel agent charges a fee. There are plenty of travel agents who do not charge a fee. They are compensated with commission payments from the cruise companies. What this means is that the cruise company pays the travel agent, not you. What’s the catch? There isn’t one. The cruise will not cost you more from a travel agent than it does from a cruise company. If it does, let us know. Something’s wrong.
Shouldn’t I Just Go With The Lowest Per Diem?
The old adage is at least partially true: You get what you pay for. With river cruising, that isn’t always the case, because all of the cruise companies, with few exceptions, offer good accommodations, complimentary excursions, included wine and beer with lunch and dinner, and much more. Some cruise companies go above and beyond, however, and this is reflected in their higher per diems, so, in effect, you are getting what you pay for.
What do those cruise companies do that is above and beyond? One example is AmaWaterways, which spends millions of dollars a year to provide its guests with fast free internet, not an easy task on a moving ship. In our experience, AmaWaterways has the most reliable internet – and the fastest – on the rivers.
Emerald Waterways offers different levels of excursions which are included in their pricing. For example, on Emerald’s ‘Secrets of the Douro’ cruise, a canoeing activity in Pocinho is included in the itenerary.
Uniworld’s newest ship on the Douro River, the ss Sao Gabriel has included butler service in the cruise package.
Even companies with lower per diems excel in certain areas. Viking’s value proposition is what the company refers to as “affordable luxury.” To give you just one example of what Viking means by “affordable luxury,” the bathroom floors in your stateroom are heated.
Which Company Is The Best Value For A Douro River Cruise?
Let’s break it down by the cost of a Douro river cruise cruise on a daily basis per square foot of stateroom. Why? Well, why not? It gives us a place to start the discussion.
Riviera’s 205 square-foot Superior Balcony Suite on summer season Douro river cruise is arguably the best value, at $2.48 per square foot. Compared to other cruise line entry level cabins which are smaller in square footage without balconies that go up to as high as $4.29 per square foot. During autumn season, however, CroisiEurope commands the lowest spatial rates, at $2.44 for a 140-square-foot middle-deck cabin with a panorama window.
It’s a bit of an absurd suggestion. After all, I’m doubtful that you’re going to be standing in your room thinking that this square foot cost me a bit more than $2 today ($4, including traveling companion). It goes to illustrate, however, that choosing a river cruise can be challenging because of such factors, as well as the number of rivers in Europe and the number of river cruise companies operating on those rivers.
Even on a single river, such as the Douro, river cruising is full of complexities. Each river cruise company has its own style, and each has its own set of inclusives, which can make comparing companies difficult. It’s not like choosing a hotel, where all you get is a room, and possibly breakfast. With river cruising, you’re evaluating a number of variables, including room sizes, itineraries, excursions, costs and what’s included – and equally as important, what’s not.
The complexities are amplified for single travelers. If you have a travel companion to share your cabin that is one way to avoid single supplement fees. River cruise companies impose single supplements, which are typically 200 percent of the cost of the cruise. That is to say that if you are occupying a stateroom by yourself you may as well find a friend to travel along with you, because you’re going to pay what two would pay anyway.
Some cruise lines offer solo travelers good rates. Riviera, for example, offers three Douro River cruises in November 2020 for ‘Solo Travelers,’ when there is no single supplement. How’s the weather in November? We cruised on the Douro river in November of 2017, and the weather was ideal for us – sunny, pleasant and warm.
Other cruise lines will offer promotions where single supplement fees are waived. These discounts are usually offered in the shoulder seasons. A few cruise lines have cruise ships with one or two single cabins per ship. Shoulder season cruises or entry level cabins without balconies are also factors to explore for savings for single travelers. Some of the cruise lines offer single savings in those categories. So be sure to check with your travel agent or the cruise line’s website.
There are those at the other end of the spectrum, family travelers. Think you can cruise with your kids? Think again. Viking doesn’t allow them under age 18. Others have age-restricted policies as well. CroisiEurope is an exception. On Croisi’s “Douro, Spirit of Portugal” cruise, aboard Fernao Del Magalhaes, the company is advertising a 20 percent discount for children ages 2-9 for the October 2020 season cruise.
That’s a long way of saying that there is no best value in river cruising. There is only a best value for you. Do your research and if you get lost, feel free to complete by Get My Recommendations form.