All of Queen Isabel’s staterooms are outside and offer special amenities for guests. // © 2014 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
In 1492, Queen Isabel of Spain sent Columbus on the voyage that brought him to America. Today, Uniworld’s 118-passenger Queen Isabel is bringing Americans to Spain and in far more luxury than Columbus could have imagined. Queen Isabel replaced the 130-passenger Douro Spirit and will take guests to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Douro River Valley.
Reducing its passenger capacity allowed Uniworld to provide more of its coveted suites — two 323-square-foot full suites and eighteen 215-square-foot junior suites — on the top deck with step-out balconies. Accommodations on the Main Deck have French balconies and Lower Deck staterooms have large windows. The staterooms on the Main and Lower decks are 161 square feet. All accommodations are outside, and all have iPod/iPhone chargers and players, L’Occitane bath products, waffle bathrobes and slippers.
Although Douro vessels are chartered from a local company, Douro Azul, they are distinguished by many of Uniworld’s signature features — beautiful silk, dark woods and brass fittings. They are furnished with comfortable chairs, heavenly beds and large stools in the stateroom that open up to provide extra storage space.
Queen Isabel offers a wide variety of onboard amenities for optimal comfort and convenience. The sun deck has a small heated swimming pool, a sheltered seating area, loungers around the pool and solar panels that help supply energy for the ship. The ship also features a library, free Internet access and a complimentary coffee and tea bar that serves snacks, sweets and continental breakfast items. The open-seating restaurant offers ample choices for breakfast and a nice selection of regional specialties at lunch and dinner. Unlimited complimentary beverages, from wines and spirits to craft and regional beers, make for a congenial atmosphere while guests mingle before and after dinner. Isabel’s fitness center includes free weights, a treadmill and a massage service that can be booked onboard.
The itinerary provides dramatic scenery and plenty of opportunities to sample local culture. Wine is king on this cruise — with daily tastings, lectures and winemaker meet-and-greets — and guests will spend a lovely evening with a winemaking family at the Quinta de Avessoda, with traditional music and regional specialties at dinner. Tell your clients to save room for the exquisite creme brulee.
One of the most popular stops is Salamanca, a buzzing university town where visitors can stock up on saffron, pata negra ham and olives at the picturesque market hall and visit the cosmopolitan shops and beautiful churches. On my cruise, all Uniworld guests were given approximately $20 to sample the restaurants and cafes of the Old City.
Encourage your clients to book the pre-cruise program in Lisbon. During the five-day land tour, guests fell in love with Lisbon and Porto, from the Manueline Baroque Jeronimos Monastery to the pastry shops, and enjoyed both guided sightseeing and time to explore on their own. Most of the guests on my cruise described it as a highlight of their experience, and it is perfectly timed to bring passengers onboard when their rooms and food are ready.
Queen Isabel sails the 11-day (including the land tour in Lisbon) Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley cruise from the end of March to mid-November, priced from $3,599.