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Tauck ushers in its first Douro river vessel, custom-built Andorinha

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Longtime Tauck employees Sharyn Cannon, left, and Jennifer Tombaugh served as the godmothers
Passengers on the maiden voyage of Tauck's Andorinha along Portugal's Douro River were the guests of honor for Saturday's christening ceremony.

They were traveling on Day 3 of the company’s 12-day 'Exploring the Douro, plus Lisbon & Madrid' itinerary, and after a two-night hotel stay in Madrid, they were surprised by the bonus celebration when embarking at the Portuguese village of Barca d'Alva.

'It’s very gratifying to surprise our guests with a sense of wonder and delight, and for this lucky group of guests, we were able to provide an especially memorable experience,' CEO Dan Mahar said.

Serving as godmothers were two long-time Tauck employees, President Jennifer Tombaugh and Chief Culture Officer Sharyn Cannon, who Mahar said embody Tauck’s 'ethos of caring for others.' Both have been with the company more than 20 years.

Regional design details

Andorinha's décor and design are inspired by the Douro Valley’s culture and climate. Design elements include traditional painted ceramic tiles, or azulejos, and decorative metalwork suggestive of grapevines that evoke Portugal’s 2,500 years of winemaking tradition.

The name Andorinha refers to a migratory swallow that travels to Africa every winter and returns to Portugal each spring. The birds mate for life and return each year to the same nest, and small porcelain figurines of andorinhas are a popular national symbol of family, fidelity and home.

Sun Deck features

The vessel's Sun Deck features canopied Balinese day beds for shaded lounging and an infinity-style pool that’s five times the size of the plunge pools featured on Tauck’s other riverboats. An outdoor grill and full-service bar are found on the Sun Deck, too.

Its most notable feature, though, is a pop-up restaurant that rises from the stern on hydraulic lifts to become a fully functioning eatery with commanding views. Named Arthur’s for Tauck Chairman Arthur Tauck Jr., the restaurant offers a mix of steak house-style classics and regional fare, serving as a more casual alternative to the main Compass Rose restaurant. Arthur's is lowered to clear low bridges.

Spaciousness

Andorinha accommodates just 84 passengers, versus up to 112 passengers on other lines’ Douro ships of the same approximate size. The vessel is staffed by a Tauck cruise director and three Tauck director guides.

The 42 cabins include a dozen 300-square-foot suites on the upper deck and 20 225-square-foot staterooms primarily on the vessel’s mid-level deck. The remaining accommodations (six 200-square-foot cabins and four 150-square-foot cabins) are on the lower deck.

This year Andorinha is offering the 12-day 'Exploring the Douro, plus Lisbon & Madrid' journey that bookends a seven-night Douro cruise with two-night hotel stays in Lisbon and Madrid, and an eight-day 'Villages and Vintages: Cruising the Douro River Valley' cruise-only itinerary. 2022 will add an eight-day cruise plus Madrid, part of the Tauck Bridges program for families.

Strong bookings

According to Mahar, Douro sales in both 2021 and 2022 are very strong. This derives from bookings for the canceled 2020 program and pent-up demand for travel following the COVID shutdown.

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