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We were picked up at our hotel on time. We were transferred to another tour bus - there were 24 participants. Marina was our guide - she did a nice job and even included a stop in Amarante. The trip up to the Douro took longer than I expected, but Marina described the areas, topography, and process of wine-making. We arrived at the first winery and tasted wine out of doors - then got an explanation of the wine-making process there (Vanessa - was exceptional) - we moved inside and had a sumptuous lunch with plentiful amounts of both food and wine - a nice meal, nice wait staff, and stories from Vanessa. We departed and headed to the river and a nice, calm cruise - there were blankets to keep warm (it is December); on to Croft for tasting and a nice explanation of their ports. Getting home was a chore bc it was crowded in Porto (there was a marathon) and many streets were closed. Marina and our driver got us to our hotels or very close - good work. It was an interesting day - I would recommend.
It was the worst bus ride every imagined. They crowded us onto a bus that could have seated 24 comfortably but chose to have 28. Four of were crammed into the last row of seating with no leg room, no air and over the axle of the bus. You felt every bump in the road. I felt car sick from the ride, so who wants to drink wine? They did not take us to the wineries that were listed. On top of it the wineries gave bottles of wine to the driver and the guide. What about the people who paid for the trip? Very disappointed to the say the least.
The tour was really nice!! Douro Valley is certainly one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world! During the tour, we had the opportunity to visit two different wine producers: a familiar estate, where we were lead to a very cosy visit around the place and got close to the grapes and a bigger producer, where we could have an approach to production in larger scale, what was also very interesting. In both visits, we tasted different wines and learned about wine production in the region. Besides that, the tour also included a small cruise along Douro river, which was super relaxing and extremely beautiful. Lunch was not bad, but nothing special at all - and this is the only point to be improved. Our guide during the tour was kind and informative. I trully recommend the tour!
Apologies to readers for length but for us this experience was consistently superb. First, organizing foreign tours from home is daunting. Viator's website helped by doing the best job at information integration and communication that we experienced we used a few other sites and they were merely OK TIP: As soon as you've figured out your destinations, dates, and flights get, on tour selection ASAP. Procrastination leads to late booking attempts for tours that occasionally are filled up. Second, the tour operator in this case was Living Tours. They assembled a few great tour elements that worked well together. Perhaps most importantly, they engaged a tour guide who excelled at EVERYTHING. Problem with that is that not every tour guide is that good and there's a reasonable chance he may not be available for the next Dour River tour. For the most part though, our experience has been that virtually all tour operators provide value for your money in relation to trying to explore a country on your own. Catch is that the tourist's expectations have to be reasonable. Tip: You will have a MUCH better tour experience if where the guide communicates exclusively in your language. One of our other tours required the guide to communicate in three different languages at the expense of tour quality.
Competent logistics management , , , morning pickup to get us to the departure site was well communicated and on time. We were never promised a drop off at our Air BNB apartment, however getting back home was nicely co-ordinated by the guide who took pains to get each participant off the bus as close to convenient walking distance to home as could be expected. Before the tour, we phoned the tour operator about the pickup and their responses were friendly, well communicated with no language issues.
Our guide Tiago/James - superb all around. Including recent vacations in Asia and Europe we've had 12-15 similar tour experiences involving a guide. James was close to, and probably THE most effective in delivering great customer service. Competent, communicative, genuinely interested in our needs, smart, etc.etc. Quality assurance in terms of his group's experience - awesome. Co-ordination with the operators of the two sites we visited - outstanding. For example, our daughter is a vegetarian so lunch at the winery involved a different meal plan for her. He made sure that happened after a 15 second request from us during the trip out.
Bus trip - inbound/outbound. approx 2 hours both ways. Could have been boring but wasn't thanks to James. Visually interesting scenery, infrastructure, and nicely educational and comprehensive presentation about Portuguese history, economics and industrial sectors, cork production and so on. If you are tempted to sleep - good chance you'll miss something interesting.
Winery tour - Asseda winery, say 2.5 hours These folks not only produce wine but are also tourism pros. We learned much of their business comes from cruise line passengers. Been there, done that, and seen other tour outcomes that did not meet Asseda Winery standards Good mix of on-site activities. initial reception with snacks, encouraged walking around to take photos, a professionally delivered wine production presentation, lunch, and helpful and appropriately keen staff who were more than willing to talk about their winery if asked. Lunch quality - excellent, including great Portuguese food and wine. Great swap-in vegetarian lasagna for our daughter. TIP: One's lunch experience becomes richer if one engages table companions in conversation! We shared our table with a couple from Texas and four young men from Hong Kong. All willing to share and chat.
Dour River cruise - approx 1 hour. Kind of a sleepy but being on a boat is always neat and there's no arguing the scenery is striking. Lots of photo ops. .
Port Tour - Symington/Dow port production site. Approx 1.5 hours. Enjoyable and informative. In addition to intriguing historical info, featured just a touch more of the business operations end of things than the winery did. Included a closer look at working equipment and technology.. Should not lose anyone's interest. Ended with port tasting session accompanied by more info about tawny, ruby, and vintage port. Overall enjoyable and classy delivery.
Overall value - we were impressed.
We only had two days in Porto so was hesitant to book the tour but so glad we did! All the locations we went to were so amazing and of course nice to taste all the wine along the way. The lunch was yummy and they had several choices. Most of all our guide Ricardo made this trip even more awesome!!
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