The Spirit of Chartwell: From the Thames to the Douro

The Spirit of Chartwell, shortly after its arrival from the UK, moored alongside Oporto’s ‘Ribeira’ quarter. Photo courtesy of Adelaide Carneiro

On Friday, 14th of September, just a couple of days before the vintage started at Malvedos, the Spirit of Chartwell crossed the bar of the Douro after completing its sea voyage from Ramsgate in Kent. Readers will no doubt remember that this was the Royal barge in which the Queen and other members of the Royal Family sailed down the Thames for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on June 3rd — the highlight of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Portuguese entrepreneur, Mário Ferreira, whose thriving company, ‘Douro Azul’ operates river cruises along the Douro River, acquired the Spirit of Chartwell from its British owner, Philip Morrell. The latter was unable to obtain from the relevant authorities a license to operate the vessel on a tourist route along the Thames.

The Spirit of Chartwell, in its new home: Oporto, from where it will sail up the Douro River on regular cruises from March 2013.

In a shrewd move, Mário Ferreira contacted Philip Morrell, whom he has known for a long time and made an offer to purchase Spirit of Chartwell. His approach was well timed as it pre-empted other prospective buyers and the deal was swiftly sealed in June, just weeks after the royal pageant on the Thames. The Spirit of Chartwell will join Mário Ferreira’s growing fleet of river cruisers whose customers are drawn from all over the world, attracted by the magnificent scenery of the Douro and — of course — by its renowned wines.

Mário Ferreira (left) presents a bottle of Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Port to Oporto’s Mayor, Rui Rio, as Johnny Symington looks on.

The 64 metre Spirit of Chartwell, fitted with 14 luxury cabins and one royal suite, will operate exclusive luxury cruises on the Douro, whose theme will be centred very much around the valley’s fine wines, which the cruise programmes will showcase amidst the exceptional surroundings of the Quintas’ terraced vineyards. It is likely that Spirit of Chartwell will become the Douro Azul flagship vessel and given its royal associations it will undoubtedly attract a great deal of interest from travellers from around the world, keen to experience for themselves The Spirit of Chartwell’s regal comforts. According to local press reports, the vessel will begin regular cruises from March next year.

Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Colheita Port

On the evening of September 15th, Johnny Symington attended the inauguration party on board Spirit of Chartwell, which served to present the unique craft to local dignitaries and to other guests. Johnny has reached agreement with Mário Ferreira for Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Port to be served and sold to guests on board Spirit of Chartwell. This will mark an interesting and meaningful association between two participants of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. During the reception aboard Spirit of Chartwell, Mário Ferreira presented a bottle of Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Port to the Mayor of Oporto, Rui Rio.

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