BEING PUSHED TOWARD AMA ON THE DUORO: SHOULD I BE WINE-TASTING ON ANOTHER LINE?

Q – We are extremely interested in a Duoro River Cruise. We are thinking about a Tauck unless you think there is something better. If we wait a year or two is it likely that Crystal will enter this market. They seem to be among the three top lines. My TA belongs to a larger travel consortium that just declared AMA the best company and they also do the Duoro. That is who she is recommending. Are we the only ones confused by these marketing “geniuses”.

This will be a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and it needs to be really special. We are drawn to the Duoro because it seems to a quieter, less touristy destination and we are into warm reds with lasting notes and lingering “fruit on the tongue”. It also seems that the ships that do the Duoro are smaller. Love some feedback from your excellent team.

A –  Travel marketing is designed to confuse you. Ads sell the dream, the perception of perfection, and the stated or implied value. No one in marketing is an upside/downside personality. It is sales nonsense penned by some of the same people who were hawking dishwashing detergent and Cialis commercials in a previous life. So, yes, confusion is an induced travel state brought on by a glut of phony advertising aided by travel writers doing pay back for their own free travel. There is now an entire sub-culture of “bloggers” who get paid to travel and tell you what a great time they are having.

The Duoro itinerary has special appeal to those who appreciate grape juice. More than the places you will visit or the tastings you will experience, the Duoro River Valley route passes numerous vineyards instead of Castles and fairy-take villages of the type seen along the Rhine or Danube routes. AMA is a wonderful semi-inclusive product with some of our highest CSI Ratings Reports. But for this special celebration, we like the new Tauck  ms Andorinha, the company’s new Douro riverboat, has been completed at the Vahali Shipyard in Serbia, and the hull was recently transported by tug to Hardinxveld, the Netherlands, where final outfitting will occur.

The new ship will have a crew of 36, and it will measure 263 feet in length with a beam of 38 feet. Guests are accommodated in 42 cabins, including 12 300-square-foot suites on the upper Diamond Deck, and 20 225-square-foot staterooms primarily on the vessel’s Ruby or mid-level deck. The remaining accommodations – six 200-square-foot cabins and four 150-square-foot cabins – will be on the lower or Emerald Deck. The ms Andorinha will also feature a Panorama Lounge, Compass Rose restaurant for fine dining, and a second dining venue, Arthur’s (named for company chairman Arthur Tauck Jr.), serving more casual fare.

To ensure a relaxed and intimate ambiance, Tauck is intentionally limiting the ms Andorinha’s capacity to just 84 guests; far fewer than other Douro ships of similar size which accommodate up to 112 passengers. And while the ms Andorinha will have far fewer guests than other ships, it will still have more director-level personnel to ensure Tauck’s guests enjoy the highest levels of care and service. As on Tauck riverboats fleet-wide, the newbuild will be staffed by a Tauck Cruise Director and three Tauck Director guides. 

AMA Waterways is an excellent line representing true value. For a majority of first-time river cruisers, it is the best choice so we fully understand why your TA recommended it. But Crystal and Tauck are the two top-tier lines in Europe and Crystal does not sail the Duoro – its ships are too large to navigate the river and its bridges. The clear best option for you is Tauck.