MS Gil Eanes
Launched in 2015 by family-owned French line CroisiEurope, 132-passenger Gil Eanes — named after a 15th-century Portuguese explorer — navigates Portugal’s Douro River. The sleek, contemporary ship delivers a laid-back and adult-centric experience on eight-day round-trip voyages from Porto with upbeat, French-accented charm.
What We Love
Bright, Light Design: Gil Eanes’ turquoise, pearl gray, and white ship-wide décor is easy on the eyes, with whimsical feather-festooned and glass-tile artwork created by CroisiEurope-founder Gerard Schmitter. Beds in the modestly furnished cabins face windows — perfect for gazing at the moving river-scape. At the push of switch, a TV unfolds from a slot in the ceiling.
Informal Atmosphere: Passengers dress casually, ID key cards are not scanned when guests embark or disembark, and the most popular activity is relaxing at the inflatable pool on the sundeck. Evening entertainment is mostly low-key, with CD music curated by the cruise director, or local talent showcasing Flamenco and traditional Fado music.
Best Known For
Serious Value: The competitively priced, all-inclusive fares wrap in Wi-Fi, excellent shore excursions led by English-speaking guides, and unlimited drinks (except for Champagne and a few premium brand beverages). Tipping is optional.
Local Cuisine: Gil Eanes dishes up Portuguese favorites such as sweet custard tarts, caldo verde (a hearty soup of onions, kale, potatoes, and garlic), and feijoada (a bean, pork, and beef stew). Fortified local wine called port, the region's signature beverage, is amply poured.
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Who It's Best For
Francophiles: Gil Eanes’ Gallic pedigree tends to attract mostly French passengers and then Brits, Germans, Australians, and other English speakers, though enthusiastic efforts to woo more North Americans are underway. If you're up for an immersion in French, this may be a great way to brush up on your language skills.
Retirees: Baby-boomers are the target crowd. And, even though children are encouraged on summer sailings, most would be restless since there are no specific kid-friendly activities.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Set Dining. Unlike most cruise lines, CroisiEurope only offers one dish for each course. Expect no alternate choices, unless you have made a dietary request (which the chef will agreeably accommodate). Dining room hours and seating arrangements are also firmly fixed, meaning you’ll eat with the same people at every meal.
No Extras: If a fitness center, spa, multiple restaurants, butlers, elaborate pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres, resident musicians, in-cabin minibars, plush bathrobes, deluxe toiletries, enrichment programs, room service, and similarly swanky indulgences are high on your desired vacation-o-meter, then Gil Eanes, which features none of the above, may not be for you.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.