10 Reasons To Take A Douro River Cruise

10 Reasons To Take A Douro River Cruise
Cruises along Portugal’s Douro River are rapidly growing in popularity. These cruises travel along the river from Portugal into Spain, sailing through beautiful UNESCO World Heritage areas and national parks. Douro river cruises are an excellent choice for those seeking a relaxing cruise experience filled with lush vineyards and wineries, friendly people, memorable cultural experiences and exquisite cuisine.

If you’re planning a European cruise vacation, here are ten great reasons to take a Douro river cruise:

1. Sample The Wines. Touring Portugal’s wineries and vineyards is one of the major reasons for taking a Douro river cruise. The region is famous for its outstanding port wines, which have been made in the Douro River area since around the 17th century. The Douro Valley is home to vineyards filled with hundreds of different grape varieties and approximately 26,000 wine makers. On Douro river cruises, guests can sample a wide variety of ports and other types of wine at local wineries, restaurants, and vineyards. On CroisiEurope cruises, for example, guests have the opportunity to tour terraced vineyards and visit wine farms along the Porto Wine Road, sample “Vinho Verde” (green wine) in Lamego, and do wine tasting at the famous Real Companhia Velha Port wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia. Wine tasting options are available on board your ship as well. Make sure to try several varieties of ruby port, tawny port and white port to find your personal favorites.

2. View Portugal’s Breathtaking Scenery. It's easy to see why Portugal is quickly becoming one of Europe's most popular travel destinations. The country is filled with dazzling scenery, welcoming people, historic architecture and a wealth of fantastic dining opportunities. Cruises along Portugal's Douro River showcase all this beautifully, providing a wonderful way for travelers to take in the country's stunning scenery. "The Douro is a spectacular river for cruising - outside of Porto with its historical center and Port Wine houses, the river is mostly undeveloped," said John McGlade, CroisiEurope's General Manager for North America. "The days are spent cruising past steep terraced vineyards and quaint villages with winemakers and fishing boats," he adds.

3. Visit Fascinating Cities And Small Towns. There are so many marvelous cities and villages to explore on a Douro river cruise. Cruises begin in the enchanting city of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. CroisiEurope includes guided day and evening tours of Porto on their Douro river cruises, allowing guests to experience the magic of this city during the daytime and illuminated at night. Make sure to wander through the city’s colorful historic neighborhoods, visit the Stock Exchange Palace built in 1834, and take in the magnificent ceramic tiles used in fresco scenes in Sao Bento station. Additional fascinating places on the Douro River voyages include historic Guimaraes and Lamego, with its impressive baroque Shrine of our Lady of Remedies sitting atop the hill. After touring the church, make sure to walk down the spectacularly adorned 686 steps cascading down the hill for the best views. Another memorable spot on the Douro river cruise itinerary is the Mateus Palace in Vila Real, where guests can marvel at the magnificent manor and wander through the lovely palace gardens.

4. Savor The Regional Foods. It’s not just the wines that are memorable on a Douro river cruise. Portugal’s local cuisines are truly a delight. Don’t miss sampling some of Portugal’s famous Pasteis de Nata – heavenly custard tarts full of pure deliciousness. It’s hard to just eat one. Then there’s Porto’s francesinha, a tasty sandwich filled with ham, sausages and steak smothered in melted cheese and loaded with spicy sauce. They’re so good. So are the grilled sardines, fried or roasted octopus, sausages, cod fish fritters, and Portuguese caldo verde soup. In addition to the tasty morsels ashore, river cruise guests will be rewarded with delectable meals on board their ships.

5. Explore The UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Douro river cruises are filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In fact, the entire Douro Valley has been designated as a World Heritage Site. Guests start their Douro river cruises in Porto, where they can explore its lovely UNESCO World Heritage city center. Many cruises also take guests to Salamanca, a historic UNESCO World Heritage city constructed entirely in gold-colored sandstone. Salamanca features Spain’s oldest university opened in 1218, as well as a magnificent cathedral and much more. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site included on this itinerary is the historic center of Guimaraes. Many Douro cruise guests often stop in Lisbon pre- or post-cruise and visit its UNESCO-designated Monastery, the Tower of Belem and nearby Sintra.

6. Enjoy Portugal's Perfect Climate. While Douro river cruise guests can easily marvel at the magnificent views through their ship’s windows, it’s even better to get outdoors and bask in Portugal’s wonderful weather. Vacationers in Portugal can generally enjoy plenty of sunshine. The Douro Valley is a perfect destination for a river cruise, even in the shoulder seasons and the prime summer months when other parts of Europe are sweltering. On some well-appointed ships, such as CroisiEurope’s MV Miguel Torga, guests can lounge on their sun deck and relax in the swimming pool while enjoying the Douro Valley’s magnificent views.

7. Experience Portuguese and Spanish Culture. In many countries such as Portugal and Spain, traditional song and dance are an important part of the national culture. Travelers should make sure to have the opportunity to listen to live Fado music when in Portugal. Fado music is full of passion, sadness and despair. It’s quite beautiful, as is the famous Flamenco dancing found in Spain. On some Douro river cruises, such as those on CroisiEurope, guests often have the opportunity to experience moving performances of live Fado music and spirited Flamenco dancing on board their ships. Festive Portuguese folk evenings may be offered as well.

8. Pass Through Some Of Europe's Deepest Locks. Transiting the locks is often one of the highlights of a European river cruise. On the Douro River, cruise guests have the opportunity to marvel even more as their ship passes through Europe’s deepest locks, sometimes with as much as a 30 meter difference between river levels. Make sure to be on deck and have your camera ready as your ship transits the locks – particularly Carrapatelo’s Lock and Valeria’s Lock. Some of the bridges along the Douro River are quite low as well, making the journey even more exciting.

9. Plan An Active Adventure. Portugal’s Douro Valley is a great choice for those seeking a more active vacation. It’s possible to spend the day getting off the beaten path, hiking to centuries-old villages and scenic vistas. Some river cruise lines offer opportunities for guests to more fully experience the Douro region while hiking and/or biking. On CroisiEurope’s Discovery excursions, for example, guests can explore historic Salamanca by bike and go hiking along the Douro River. Visits to wine cellars and regional food tastings are also included on some of these more active tours.

10. Cruise On A New Ship. There’s something special about experiencing an amazing region of the world aboard a beautiful new ship. CroisiEurope’s new ship, the MS Amelia Rodregues, will begin sailing 6-day and 8-day Douro river cruises in the spring of 2019. The ship will feature 66 cabins situated on three decks, holding a total of 132 passengers. "CroisiEurope will have six ships on the Douro beginning in 2019 with the launch of the MS Amelia Rodregues, the most owned and operated by the major river cruise lines," noted CroisiEurope's John McGlade. As the sister ship to CroisiEurope’s MS Manuel Torga, the MS Amelia Rodregues will delight guests with its panoramic restaurant, beautiful lounge and spacious sun deck complete with a pool.

If You Go:

For more detailed information on CroisiEurope Douro river cruises, visit their website at www.croisieuroperivercruises.com.

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