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Published: November 16th 2021
In my everyday life, I tend to live fairly simply. I work a great deal and when it comes to decisions of spending money on coffee, fancy clothes or extravagant dinners, I usually opt to pass. That money is then put in my “Vacation Fund” bank account (yes, it is named this on my bank’s website) so when it comes time to travel, I am fully funded and ready to go. Although I usually don’t buy Starbucks on my day off, I will gladly use the money so I can travel comfortably and enjoy my time on the road to the fullest. My brother Ted used to call it the Pamper Brendan tour. But seriously, travel for me is a priority, and this river cruise is one prime example of this in action. We had decided to do the Douro River cruise, and Tauck River Cruising was the company we chose. I travel alone, so having the single cabin supplement waived on the river cruises meant that this tour was a go.
From the hotel we were taken on motor coach to the dock. Walking along the pier towards the ship, I was as excited as a kid on the
last day of school. Up the plank, I guess you would call it a plank, I went. The crew was assembled to greet us with a welcoming drink and damp cloth. The ship can hold up to 84 passengers with a crew of 36, but on our sailing there were only 41 passengers. I could go on and on about how over the top beautiful this ship is, but I will try to refrain. Ha ha. Did you really believe that? Psyche! This ship was amazing. It was christened in August of this year, and we were onboard the 6th
sailing of her. Everything was shiny, clean, fresh, and elegant. At the check in desk, we were photographed for our swipe card/room key, given our cabin assignment, and escorted to our cabin by a friendly crew member I love when I am walking through a place I have seen on videos. Prior to leaving, I had shown the christening video and video of the ship to so many people that I felt at home already. Down the stairs, past the dining room we went, stopping at Cabin 107, my home for the next 8 days.
My cabin is in
the lower level of the ship but was much more spacious and lighter than I had expected. There is a window that runs the length of the room allowing a nice view. Of course, I had joked about being in steerage, or the basement, but I was ok with that. On the movie Titanic, steerage looked a lot more fun than the stuffy first class, so I was hoping for some Irish dancing and drinking. Sadly, that never transpired, but honestly, I had a feeling that could be the case. We were given time to unpack and explore the cabin before the welcoming reception in the Panorama Lounge. Dave and Merry Jo were directly across the hallway, which was very convenient, as was the fact that our luggage was already in the cabin waiting for us. I took time to hang my dress shirts, trousers and jackets in the closet. Everything had made it without too much wrinkling for which I gave myself a mental high five for my superior packing skills. Yeah, I know that I had literally sat on the suitcase to close it back in Lisbon, but the clothing forgave me and were ready for their time
in the spotlight. No, I don’t dress up often, so this was going to be an “occasion” for me. Truthfully, I don’t think that either Dave or Merry Jo has ever seen me in something other than jeans or my chef’s uniform.
The welcoming reception was oddly like the first day of school. (yes, for some reason school is popping up a lot in the blog). We were all sitting in our little groups checking each other out and getting a feel for things. Jeremy the cruise director, Manuel and Halsey our tour guides were there to welcome us, introduce the crew, and give an overview of life on the ship .Captain Manuel Alves then took the microphone to say hello, give a toast, and just like that, the adventure began.
While we passengers enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and mingled, the captain took the ship out for a quick spin on the Douro. Dave, Merry Jo and I took the time to walk up to the Sun Deck to enjoy the damp evening air as we glided along the river. Captain Alves had told us that he had an open wheelhouse, and welcomed passengers to visit him, so
we stopped in to say hello, and spent a few minutes watching as he navigated the ship. The wheelhouse was very quiet, very modern and quite high tech. Screens and digital displays showed all the information he needed as he used two hand levers to steer. We soon left him to it and headed down for dinner.
Now, I am going to spend way too much time waxing on about this experience. As we go along through the days, I will not spend this much time writing about every nuance, but tonight was special. It was the first dinner of the cruise and was worthy of each and every adjective, descriptor, and emotion. We had already enjoyed hors d’oeuvres up in the lounge, so as we settled in with a glass of wine to examine the menu I was in my element. I opted for the Chef’s Suggestions, a tasting menu of three courses paired with wine. The first course was a smoked trout mousse with buttered crostini, followed by a cauliflower soup with smoked salmon. To be honest, was shocked at how light and flavorful the soup was. Soups are notoriously difficult to make because there isn’t much
room for error with the few ingredients needed. This was sublime and made me happy. I sighed as it was whisked away and replaced with a slow cooked beef with double baked potato and vegetables. My dessert selection was a Pasteis de Nata with pistachio ice cream. Glorious! Tonight was a truly glorious dining experience with great friends, food and wine. Yes, this is why I prioritize travel, because this was a grand evening and one I will not soon forget.
After dinner, I went up to the lounge while Dave and Merry Jo went back to their cabin. A local college musical group called Tuna was going to perform for us, so I wanted to see it. I sat with a couple from the Detroit area while we watched these very talented men sing, dance and put on a great show. From where I was sitting, I had a view of the bar, hidden from view from most of the lounge, and had to laugh as I watched a bartender and the ship’s musician dancing along with the group where they thought no one could see them. It was the end to a perfect day, and I called
it a night. Check back, there is more to come.
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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Chef Brendan looking sharp
Chef.... you were looking extremely good!.... actually you were the sharpest dressed person on the trip. The soups the entire trip were amazing. They provided us with many memories. The crew was top notch and made the trip all it was.
Thank you. It was nice to dress up and enjoy life on the other side of what I do for a living. This was a most excellent trip, and I am glad you were there with me.
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Going big is the only way to go
What a time we had! The glitz, you in a suit...man, we had it going! - The Dangerous One
We Definitely Had it Going
I think we need a Theme Song for the Masked Bandits. We truly had it going on, and rocked it like there was no tomorrow. Glad you were there rocking it with me.
Looks like a superb vessel Brendan. Magnificent profile. Only 41 passengers instead of 84. You must have had plenty of elbow room...no fighting to get to the front of the cuisine queue! We always stand back so no problem for us also!
This was a cruise that won't be replicated. The new ship, small passenger count were a huge part of it. Of course my travel companions made it special as well.
I agree 100%! Living simply to go BIG on travels is one lifestyle I subscribe to. No fancy jewellery or branded fashion items for moí. But yes to the occasional dining adventures. Anything for food hahaha. Don't we know our priorities? Swell ?
For those of us who make travel a priority, it is a good way of life. But yes, I do agree with anything for food. Can't always put things away for tomorrow when food is involved.
Wow, this looks amazing! I would've been excited too, like my first day of school also. I'm very similar in my money - I have a separate bank account called "Travels Account", and haven't bought any new clothes or Starbucks coffee for ages. Then when the trip comes, one splashes out - yay! Great that the single supplement was waived for you, I'm not a big fan of that either! What a great start to your river cruise ?
Yes, you so understand what I mean about travel being a priority. I am very glad you enjoyed this blog. I am going to hop over and read your latest blogs in a few minutes.
Ren & Andrew
OH. MY. GOODNESS!
Brenno! What a beautiful look feast. We go with the Chef's Menu whenever we can, and are seldom disappointed. I've never been interested in cruising; but a small river boat cruise like this may tempt me one day - especially if the food is guaranteed to be this good :)