Riviera will be resuming its popular Douro River itineraries in early July aboard the 126-guest five-star river cruisers, the MS Douro Elegance and MS Douro Splendour, purposely built to fit the unique size limitations of the Douro’s five locks and featuring all the facilities you would expect in a first-class hotel.
Portugal’s once wild Douro river, notoriously challenging to navigate, has been tamed by a system of dams and locks into resembling a series of finger lakes similar to Scotland’s lochs, adding greatly to the Douro Valley's stunning natural beauty and ambience. Your 8-day Douro, Porto and Salamanca cruise starts in the Roman coastal city of Porto, mostly known for its bridges and the port wine production. Explore the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district with its narrow cobble stone streets filled with old merchant houses and cafes, visit Sao Francisco church known for its lavish baroque interior and ornate gilded carvings or Porto’s many sky-high miradouros (lookouts) from which you can view the city in a postcard format. Porto is made for exploring on foot and you never know where those steps or alleys will lead you. The laid-back vibe, outstanding food and wine, hospitable locals, extravagant churches and soaring bell towers make Porto a hard to resist destination. Consider arriving early and spend a few days before embarking on your cruise.
Leaving behind the Atlantic coast greenery, you are immersed in a Mediterranean like land of olives, vines, and picturesque, medieval hilltop villages. It will soon be apparent to you that Douro is one of Europe’s most photogenic river valleys!
Your first stop will be the pretty little town of Pinhão where you enjoy a visit to a local historic quinta to learn all about the stages of wine production - from the planting of the vines, harvesting, the wine-making process and finally tasting and labeling. Your next port of call is Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th-century walled village tucked away in the picturesque highland ranges bordering Spain. Its church was a resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and it is said that Saint Francis himself stayed here. The views are simply breathtaking, stretching across almost-deserted ochre hillsides.
One of the many highlights of this cruise is a visit to the historic Salamanca, one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this journey, and regarded by many Spaniards as their nation’s most beautiful city. Founded by the Romans, who erected its 389-yard-long bridge, Salamanca is mostly built from local sandstone that emanates a gorgeous rose-coloured glow in the sunlight. Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquillity yet its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, as well as the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon. Home of one of Europe’s oldest universities (it’s easy to imagine Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day about his discoveries), two of its finest cathedrals, and even the Spanish Inquisition, with its records still kept there!
Your full day visit to Salamanca is followed by a stop at the small town of Peso da Régua, from which you visit the grounds of the splendid Mateus Palace. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé and its characteristic ‘squashed’ bottle will recognize the palace from the wine’s label. Whatever your opinion of the wine, it is an impressive 18th-century Baroque edifice, mirrored in its stunning pond and surrounded by landscaped French gardens. In the evening guests take a short drive to the 126-acre Quinta da Pacheca for dinner. Enjoying dramatic views over the Douro, it dates back to the 18th century and is simply one of the most beautiful and distinguished properties in the region. It is also notable as being the first quinta – in 1738 – to bottle wine under the name of its owner, the aristocrat Mariana Pacheco Pereira. Guests have time to wander through part of the estate before sampling a selection of its finest wines at dinner.
Historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century, is the next place you visit. Situated atop the hill overlooking this lovely town is the ancient Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies church, its stairways adorned with attractive azulejos, the country’s characteristic painted ceramic tiles.
Your last day on board is spent in Porto, where you enjoy a guided tour of the city as well as a visit to one of Porto’s famous port producers. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connection. Of course, you’ll also get the chance to sample various port styles during your visit. In the evening, enjoy your final dinner on board before saying goodbye to your floating home-away-from-home the following morning.
Experience more with so much included
- Seven nights on board in your choice of luxury stateroom or suite, all with river views
- Eight guided visits and tours including a full-day excursion to Salamanca with a walking tour; lunch and a flamenco show; a guided tour of Porto with wine-tasting; tasting at a typical Portuguese quinta; and visits to Castelo Rodrigo, Mateus Palace gardens and Lamego
- Traditional Portuguese folk music show
- All meals on board from dinner on your day of arrival through to breakfast on your day of departure, including welcome cocktails, a welcome dinner and the Captain’s Dinner
- Five-star service from an English-speaking crew and knowledgeable local guides
- Complimentary on-board tea and coffee
- Complimentary on-board Wi-Fi
- Services of a Riviera River Cruises cruise director
Contact your travel professional for complete details or visit here.
Riviera River Cruises offers 20 itineraries on 10 rivers and waterways, including dedicated departures for solo travellers with no single supplement charged. Riviera’s fleet of 12 ships is one of the youngest in Europe, features spacious staterooms and suites, and its cruises include fine culinary experiences, from splendid breakfasts to four-course dinners featuring international and regional specialties, as well as expert-led excursions to classic sights and lesser-known places.
For your peace of mind, Riviera requires all guests on their cruises to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or to have presented a negative test before travelling.
With 2022 vacations on sale earlier than ever, along with flexible booking options, you can plan ahead and book with confidence. Book a vacation with Riviera River Cruises by June 30th, 2021 and you can enjoy the flexibility to change your booking before travel, with no fees and no questions asked. You can change your booking up to 45 days before departure for 2021 holidays departing after September 1. New bookings for 2022 can be changed for free up until September 30th, 2021.