No matter when you choose to travel, a river cruise along the Douro enables you to discover and taste as many ports and port wines as you could possibly wish for. All whilst cruising through the rugged, yet scenic terrain of the North of Portugal.
We began our weeks cruise with AmaWaterways from the beautiful city of Porto. Built along the hillsides overlooking the mouth of the Douro, this historic city, with its iconic Dom Luis I bridge, can be explored on foot, by tram, tuk-tuk, cable-car, coach, or a mixture of all, especially as most cruises have overnight stays onboard the ship here.
It's neighbouring city of Gaia, just across the river, is where AmaVida, and most river cruise ships, dock, to provide you with walking-distance access to the many port caves and cellars that line the banks so elegantly. It was here that we began our next six days of port and wine tasting with one of the most popular port producers, Calem, before setting sail eastwards to the towns and villages of Regua, Pinhao, Barca D'Alva and a penultimate visit to the ancient city of Salamanca across the border in Spain.
There are various locks along the Douro, with one of the deepest being Carrapatelo at 115 feet. One of the best things about a Douro river cruise, is that you only ever sail during the day, therefore you will never miss a lock or the chance to gaze upon the stunning scenery, unless you prefer to nap! This also means that you're overnight in each destination, which gives you the opportunity to take a short walk ashore, if you so wish.
Rather than begin to slur my words in writing about every wine estate we visited and each port tasting we tried, I shall tell you about the other types of experiences to be had on this particular voyage.
To help soak up all the vino, a traditional Portuguese lunch, dinner or appetiser accompany the visits to some Quinta's along route, with our favourite being Quinta de Avessada, near Regua. This muscat wine estate is surrounded by breath-taking views of the Douro valley and gorgeous vines that were turning the fiery, autumnal colours of yellow, amber and red as we were on the very last cruise of the season. Their 4 course traditional Portuguese Sunday lunch was delicious and our time here was capped off by playing with 6 of the owners cutest little puppies that you ever did see!
Hikes to Castelo Rodrigo, up (and down) the Holy Staircase, tours of the Palace of Mateus and the city of Guimaraes, and to Salamanca (which is a full day tour of a very beautiful, charming and historic Spanish city), break-up the days and help burn off a few calories before the next round of drinks and carb-heavy Portuguese delights take place.
We had a large American wine group on our cruise, which provided relevant lectures onboard, but other entertainment on the ship included cooking demonstrations and folk music performances.
AmaVida has a heated pool on its Sun Deck, perfect for the cooler weather, a gym and massage room to relax and unwind in, or you can opt to enjoy the shore side views and read a book in the lounge. The restaurant onboard is the only place to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and features 2 private rooms which sit 8 people should you wish to celebrate a special occasion or get to know your new group of friends better in the evening.
Our stateroom onboard was a Category D Panoramic Window. I've always been dubious about these fixed window cabins with water-level views, but they do let a lot of light in and as you cruise through the day on the Douro, any noise is minimal. The only thing I did miss, was to opportunity to have fresh air by opening a balcony window or door that the other grades of stateroom and suites provide.
AmaWaterways include everything in the upfront cost of the cruise, except gratuities and drinks outside of mealtimes. However, with the amount of alcohol you consume ashore during this 'Enticing Douro' voyage, you should come back with quite a small bar bill.
A cruise along the Douro is perfect for any wine-lovers, those who want to see and learn more of Portugal rather than just its cities and coastal towns, and those who thoroughly enjoy the Portuguese cuisine. If this sounds like yourself, then please do get in touch and we'll be happy to discuss things further with you.