AmaWaterways river cruise review: The Enticing Douro

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Although I have sailed twice previously with different river cruise lines, this was my first trip with AmaWaterways, and also my first time on the Douro river. The name of our itinerary, 'Enticing Douro', was certainly apt.

We sailed from Porto, the beautiful 'City of Bridges', with its winding streets, trams and the famous bookshop Livraria Lello, said to have inspired JK Rowling when she lived in the city. Embarking at Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from the main town, my sister and I were shown to our comfortable stateroom on the Douro (lower) deck of the AmaDouro, with a panoramic window at water level. This deck is also where the small spa is located.

AmaDouro is a new ship, launched in April 2019, and carries a maximum of 102 guests. The restaurant and small fitness room are on the next deck up (Lisbon deck), while the lounge, reception and gift shop are on the main deck (Porto deck) and the Sun deck is equipped with a heated plunge pool, tables and chairs, as well as plenty of sun loungers and daybeds.

AmaVida sun deck

On our first evening we enjoyed a welcome cocktail and dinner, followed by an illuminations cruise showcasing the beautiful architecture of Porto. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off on the City of Bridges tour and a port wine tasting, before sailing on to Entre os Rios for a visit to Régua's Quinta da Aveleda. Here we enjoyed a dinner of local fare including corn bread, cheese and chorizos, followed by the traditional roasted pork loin with potatoes and rice. Upon our return to the ship, we were entertained by the young university students from the Tuna Academica, who are keeping the region's traditional songs and dances alive.

Douro river valley, Portugal

On day three we spent our morning relaxing on the sun deck before watching a demonstration of the traditional way to open a bottle of vintage port, all the while sailing on to Lamego, passing scenic countryside and vineyards. In Lamego we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, with its 686-step baroque staircase - we declined to climb up, but managed to come down this way! This was followed by a visit to Quinta da Roêda - a Croft wine estate - to learn more about port wine production and enjoy the inevitable port tasting!

The afternoon saw us sail from Lamego on to Pinhão, and after dinner a local group entertained us with traditional Portugese folk music. After a good night's sleep (thanks to all the port tasting!) we sailed from Pinhão to Vega de Terrón, arriving after lunch and ready for the afternoon tour in Castelo Rodrigo, an historical village with narrow streets, the Rocamadour Church, ruins of the former palace and an old Jewish Quarter - in past times, this village is where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in peace and harmony.

Nossa Senhora de Remedios in Lamego, Portugal

That evening we enjoyed the AmaFamily Reunion party - when you have sailed with AmaWaterways once, you are part of the AmaFamily! This was in addition to the daily complimentary 'Sip and Sail' pre-dinner drinks, when we received our briefing for the following day.

Day five involved an early start for the coach crossing into Spain and an excursion to Salamanca. This is one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in all of Europe, and over the centuries the sandstone buildings have taken on a golden glow, giving the city its nickname of 'La Ciudad Dorada', the Golden City. Here we visited the Plaza Mayor, the Central Market, the University of Salamanca and the 12th century cathedral, a prominent landmark of the city. A luncheon at the Alameda Palace hotel with a flamenco show was followed by free time to explore this beautiful city. On our return to the ship we were served a wonderful Portuguese dinner in the restaurant - this really is a food and wine cruise!

Salamanca cathedral, Spain

We relished our lie-in the following morning as we sailed back to Pinhão. In the main lounge the pastry chef showed us how to make the traditional Pastel de Nata (custard cream tart) before our arrival in Pinhão. Here we were taken to the Quinta da Avessada in the village of Favaios, famous for its Moscatel wine. Alongside the wine we were served typical sausages and cod cakes of the region, followed by stewed veal in red wine sauce and a selection of desserts and fruit. Upon our return, we had enough time to change before we sailed on to Régua and enjoyed another Sip and Sail, then dinner in the restaurant. The Disco Night in the lounge was just what we needed to try and dance off a few of the pounds that we had gained on the cruise so far!

Our final day included a visit to the Mateus Palace and Gardens - the wine is not actually made on the estate, but the grapes are grown here and sent to a local winery for production and bottling. The bottle is well known for its unusual shape and the picture of the palace on its label. The gardens are based on the Gardens of Versailles, and part of the palace is still used by the family who own it as their summer retreat, and is therefore closed to the public.

Mateus Palace, Portugal

Free time in Porto after lunch gave us an opportunity to buy some last minute souvenirs, before preparing for the Farewell Cocktail and Captain's Gala Dinner in the evening. What a wonderful experience we had, and I will certainly sail in this part of the world again.

Cathy Ellis - Cruise Consultant, Mundy Cruising
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Cathy is a Cruise Consultant at Mundy Cruising

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