Top 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
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Enjoy a cruise along the Douro and discover one of the best kept travel secrets!


A river cruise down Portugal's Douro River is simply spectacular.
The Douro River itself begins in the mountains of Northern Spain and flows westward for about 550 miles through Spain and Portugal before it enters the Atlantic Ocean at Porto, Portugal. For part of its length it actually serves as the border between the two countries. For river cruise purposes, the only navigable section of the river lies almost totally in Portugal.

Douro River cruises have it all: mile after mile of vineyards lining the steep hills overlooking the river; small, picturesque towns and quaint villages that line the banks of the river clinging to the almost vertical slopes; quintas, the traditional wine farms, many of which have been converted to upscale bed and breakfast getaways tucked away in romantic, scenic villages; and a beauty and serenity that makes this journey one through Europe’s most unspoiled and least traveled river valley. In fact it is so stunning that the entire Douro River Valley has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We know that there are no pots of gold at the end of a rainbow, but a journey down the Douro, also known as the “river of gold” will lead you to riches nonetheless. A relaxing, unhurried journey into the heart of this beautiful, pristine, and ancient region of northern Portugal is one that you will talk about with friends and family for years to come.

Due to growing popularity, more river cruise lines are now plying the Douro.
Much like France’s Seine River, the Douro River cruise itinerary is not offered by all river cruise lines. In fact, for many years, only a few knew about the beauty and charm of the Douro River, but that is no longer the case. Recently, there have been a number of cruise lines added to the Douro including Viking, Uniworld, AmaWaterways and most recently Scenic and Emerald Waterways.

Emerald Waterways' strikingly beautiful Emerald Radiance sails the Douro. Hosting only 112 pampered guest, she epitomizes what a state-of-the-art river ship should be: spacious staterooms, a wonderful swiming pool and, of course, something no rivership should be without – an outdoor barbecue on the top deck. All-inclusive cruises on the Radiance are very affordable (price includes all gratuities, wines and beers at lunch and dinner, shore excusions in each port, transfers to/from the ship and even your port taxes). She continues to sell out rapidly, so if you want to experience 2 gems this year — the Douro and the Radiance — you better call and speak to one of our river cruise experts right now! In fact, it is not too soon to start thinking about booking for next year, too!

What will you see and do on the Douro? Let’s start with the basic itinerary.
But, before we continue let’s clear up one little item that continually confuses people. A Douro River cruise does not, I repeat, does not spend any significant amount of cruising in Spain. The cruise companies that promote and market Douro River cruises always mention Spain but the truth is the only time the cruise ship will be in Spain is when you dock at the tiny, tiny town of Vega de Terrón, located just across the river from the Portuguese town of Barca D’Alva. This is really only for operational purposes, as it is from there that cruise passengers leave for an overland tour to Salamanca, Spain.

A river cruise on the Douro is the perfect blend of sightseeing, cruising, and relaxing. It may be my most favorite vacation (View a sample itinerary.) of all river cruises. It is a leisurely 130-mile journey through a landscape quite different from what you’ll experience on any other river cruise journey in Europe. The panoramic vistas from the sun deck of your ship will provide extraordinary photo opportunities. If you are into landscape travel photography you’ll want to bring along a lightweight tripod to steady your camera.

Your river cruise begins and ends in Porto.
You’ll begin your journey in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal and the center of the port wine trade. When you board your rivership, you’ll actually do so in Vila Nova de Gaia, a small town directly across the river from Porto. What’s nice about this is that all the major port wine companies literally have offices and storage facilities just steps away from your docking site! They all offer tours and tastings, so do not miss this first chance to acquaint yourself with Portugal’s most famous export. Oh, and did we mention that the historic center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too?

Once the elegant rivership has cast off from the dock, just picture yourself relaxing on its sun deck. The sun is shining, the sky is a clear blue in color, and the aroma of orange, almond, and grape blossoms permeate the air. You look up and stretched out before your eyes is a seemingly limitless expanse of vineyards rising almost vertically from the river’s edge. Do not pinch yourself! You are not dreaming. I am here to tell you that these are the sights and smells you’ll encounter every day as your ship wends its way down the river.



About half-way through the trip, you’ll arrive in Pinhao, a quaint, rustic town that is the true center of the port winemaking area. Wine has been grown in this region for thousands of years and the Douro Valley is the oldest, demarcated wine region in the world. That’s right. Not France’s Champagne district. Not the Wachau Valley in Austria nor the Chianti region of Italy can lay claim to this honor. To demarcate a wine region is to assure the quality and authenticity of the wine produced in that region. During your cruise you’ll not only enjoy complimentary regional wines and ports with your evening meal, your included shore excursions will incorporate many visits to local wineries which produce the world’s finest ports and wines.

Local sightseeing is a vital part of any Douro River cruise trip. There’s one exciting stop that has an interesting twist to it. Most itineraries offer a shore excursion to the Mateus Palace and Gardens located in Regua; it’s a masterpiece of Baroque architecture built in the 18th-century. You probably know the name Mateus because of its famous rosé wine and its distinctive wine bottle with the historic palace depicted on the label. Well, the two actually have nothing to do with each other — the idea of putting the palace on the label was a brilliant marketing idea and one which obviously worked well for many years. At one time, Mateus was among the world’s largest selling branded wines. Other intriguing stops include the village of Pocinho with a visit to its famous Coa Valley Museum, and Salamanca, Spain with its medieval structure, grand plazas and delicious tapas (appetizers or small plate cuisine).

Make sure you include a pre- or post-cruise stay in Lisbon.
We’ve talked about cruising the Douro, but a Douro River cruise, at least those offered by the major river cruise companies, usually include a special feature: a 2 or 3 day stay before or after the cruise in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The city of Lisbon is situated on the banks of the Tagus River and seamlessly combines both the historic and the modern. It is the heart of Portugal and has everything you would expect a world class city to have — an old town with narrow streets and alleys where time has seemingly stood still; breathtaking views from the fortress of St. George atop one of the seven hills and definitely worth the steep climb; UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Belem Tower, a monument to the Age of Exploration and a popular day trip from Lisbon to the lovely town of Sintra, once the summer residence of Portugal’s monarchs. Make sure you spend an evening strolling along the “Docas,” the old dock area along the river where many of the former warehouses have been converted into a myriad of restaurants, clubs and bars — all in all a very pleasant area with great views and food.

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