Along the banks of Portugal’s Douro River, vintners have made wine for more than 2,000 years, gradually adapting the landscape to their trade and transforming the river valley into a place of unique beauty. Aboard the MS Amalia Rodrigues, named for Portugal’s beloved fado singer, cruise the Douro from Porto to the Spanish border, visiting picturesque villages, country wine estates and historic cities along the way. Poised at the mouth of the Douro, Porto is a city packed with architectural treasures. As you cruise across northern Portugal, pass between rolling hills carved into sinuous terraces — a confluence of engineering, agriculture and nature that has earned the area a UNESCO World Heritage designation. Enjoy included excursions to the splendid Spanish city of Salamanca and to seaside Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal. Take in the stunning scenery from the comfort of your riverboat and soak up the sights, sounds and tastes of Iberia.
Oct 29-Nov 5, 2020
Explore the architectural highlights of Porto on a guided tour and delve into Portugal’s traditional fishing culture on a visit to Aveiro.
Take a walking tour of Vila Real and stroll the formal gardens of the baroque Casa de Mateus.
Visit the pilgrimage site of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, perched dramatically atop a zigzagging staircase in the medieval town of Lamego.
Spend a day discovering the medieval university town of Salamanca, a World Heritage site built of carved sandstone.
Follow the Porto wine route, stopping at wine estates and age-old villages along the way.
Arrive in Porto and transfer to the quay in the early evening to board the MS Amalia Rodrigues, your home for the next week. Settle into your cabin and join the crew and your fellow travelers for a welcome cocktail and dinner. (D)
After breakfast, set out to discover Porto on a guided tour. This captivating city straddles the Douro River, crisscrossed by noteworthy bridges such as the Ponte Dom Luis I, a two-tiered work of iron designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. Explore Porto’s historic heart, which dates back 2,000 years and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its eclectic range of architecture and its urban planning. Take a tour of the neoclassical Stock Exchange Palace to see the opulent Golden Room and the exquisite Moorish artistry of the Arab Room. Visit the Igreja de São Francisco, a baroque church with a gilt interior, and then cross the Dom Luis I bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia. Here, stop in a wine cellar for a tasting of the eponymous local specialty: porto. Return to the boat for lunch and enjoy the changing scenery as you cruise east along the Douro this afternoon. (B, L, D)
Dock in the wine trading port of Peso da Régua or further upriver in Pinhão and take an excursion to Vila Real, a charming town of whitewashed manors and baroque churches with bright terra-cotta roofs. Then head just out of town to Casa de Mateus, the original estate of Portugal’s famous wine-making family. Stroll through the formal gardens of this beautiful 18th-century manor house, replete with a 115-foot tunnel made of cedar trees and a tranquil reflecting pool that mirrors the estate’s stunning baroque façade. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon sailing toward Spain and cap off the day with a lively flamenco performance on board this evening. (B, L, D)
Wake up in Vega de Terron, a Spanish village just over the border from Portugal. Travel by coach to Salamanca and spend a full day exploring this spectacular city with guides. One of the oldest university towns in the world, Salamanca has drawn scholars and students since 1218. Take a tour of the World Heritage-listed old town, where carved sandstone buildings glow rose and gold. Visit the intriguing cathedral, begun in the early 1100s and modified over the centuries with different architectural styles, from Romanesque to Byzantine. Wander through the courtyards of the university and examine the extraordinary carved façade of the main entrance. Step into the library, the oldest in Europe, and admire the intricate carvings on its ceiling and staircase, full of symbolism that dates back centuries. Discover this glorious city on your own this afternoon before returning to the boat. Cross the border back into Portugal tonight. (B, L, D)
Enjoy a leisurely morning on the water as you cruise between steep, terraced hills covered in vineyards. In the afternoon, dock in Ferradosa for an excursion along the Porto wine route. Look out over the river valley from the viewpoint at São Salvador do Mundo and take a walk through the picturesque town of São João da Pesqueira to see its chapel and arcaded main square. Then visit a quinta, a traditional country estate, and sample the porto produced there. Rejoin the ship in Pinhão and gather for a gala dinner tonight. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, take a morning tour of Lamego, a charming town of winding lanes and leafy boulevards presided over by a medieval castle. The town is best known for its hilltop 18th-century church, the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, perched atop an immense staircase that zigzags up the hill and is decorated with baroque spires, statues and azulejos, Portugal’s famed blue-and-white tiles. Visit the church — which can be reached by road or by climbing the 686 steps — and return to the boat for lunch and an afternoon of cruising. Tonight, enjoy a performance of fado, Portugal’s soulful traditional music. (B, L, D)
During a free morning, relax on the boat or explore Porto at your own pace. Later, travel south on an excursion to the seaside city of Aveiro. Set among salt marshes and lagoons on the Atlantic coast, the medieval fishing village has evolved into an important port as well a center of salt production. Here, stroll among the historic monuments and narrow alleys of the old city and visit the harbor to see brightly painted wooden fishing boats called moliceiros along the water’s edge. Stop in Costa Nova, where fishermen’s wooden storage huts have been transformed into cheerful dwellings set among palm trees along the beach. Return to Porto by coach and enjoy your final evening on board. (B, L, D)
After a final breakfast on board, disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for individual flights home. (B)