The Douro, Oporto & Salamanca - Five-star MS Douro Spirit

8 Days - River Cruise

Shares

The Douro is one of Europe’s most photogenic river valleys with tourism being almost completely undeveloped. Furthermore the topography has prevented extensive riverside roads to be built. You immediately feel you are discovering something the masses are completely unaware of!

Highlights

  • Return flights
  • Guided tour of Oporto with visit to Port Wine cellars
  • Scenic cruising through the picturesque Douro Valley with its dramatic cliffs and vineyards
  • Enjoy a full day excursion to Salamanca with guided tour and Flamenco show
  • Tour to the castle and medieval village of Castelo Rodrigo
  • Traditional music recital with dance display
  • Guided tour of Mateus Palace and gardens
  • Experience dinner at a typical Portuguese quinta
  • Visit to the picturesque town of Lamego and its Sanctuary of Our Ladies of Remedy church
  • Lunch at Alpendurada Monastery overlooking the river
  • Price includes full-board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day

Inclusions

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on the all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; morning/afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure, airport transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.

Itinerary

Day 1

On arrival you will be met and taken to the MS Douro Spirit in Oporto. Here her attentive crew will welcome you aboard ensuring you settle in to your comfortable and extremely well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship, your first-class floating hotel.

Day 2

One of the great delights of river cruising is the sensation of awakening in somewhere completely different from where you dined and retired to your cabin the evening before! The MS Douro Spirit has slipped quietly away from Oporto you will awake to gentle sound of water lapping against the sleek hull and that most relaxing of travellers’ joys as you witness the ship’s stately progress upstream. Your first breakfast, you will be welcomed in the restaurant and immediately spoilt for choice, with the omelette station being a real favourite of many! Lingering over another coffee, you can really appreciate the scenery’s beauty as we penetrate the delightful hilly hinterland, winding around seemingly impossibly steep bends. Even on the first day it is so apparent that the Douro is one of Europe’s most photogenic river valleys with tourism being almost completely undeveloped. Furthermore the topography has prevented extensive riverside roads to be built. You already feel you are discovering something the masses are completely unaware of! Lunch is served as the ship is approaching its first port of call at one of the river’s few small towns, Peso da Régua. The observant will have already noticed that the lush covered hillsides have largely given way to an intricate patterned landscape of steeply terraced vine covered slopes, as we enter Port wine territory. The climate has evolved too; leaving the Atlantic behind it is noticeably warmer and dryer. The topography has a much more Mediterranean appearance with browns and ochre’s replacing verdant greens. This afternoon we take a short drive along sinuous roads to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine Raposeira and one of the first places to be re-conquered from the Moors in the 12th century. Late afternoon involves a little indulgence, as we visit one of the region’s best quintas (vineyards) learning how legendary Port is produced – naturally ending with a tasting! After dinner we are entertained by a cultural group performing traditional Portuguese folk music.

Day 3

The Douro was once a precariously wild river, rendering navigation extremely tricky for the traditional flat bottomed boats which often foundered. Today the river has been tamed by a series of locks and we navigate several of them, always intensely fascinating, the resultant almost loch-like river topography really enhances the valley's charm. Cruising into ever more rural territory towards the Spanish border, the river here is at its most peaceful, a perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the pool, or catch up with some reading perhaps with a cool pre-lunch glass of local Vinho Verde white wine. It’s worth mentioning Portuguese wine is really outstanding but as the production is not huge, the higher quality wines tend to be consumed locally, so if you are a wine aficionado, experiment a little – you are in for a real treat! We are now on the River Duero, as we have crossed into Spain - however the northern bank remains in Portugal! This afternoon we visit Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th century walled village tucked away in the peaceful border hills, whose church was a resting place on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela – indeed it is said that St Francis himself stayed here. Perched atop a hill, the views are stupendous - stretching across almost deserted ochre-coloured hillsides. This evening is the Captain’s Dinner where some superb local specialities are served.

Day 4

Today we visit historic Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site, acknowledged by many Spaniards as one of the country’s most beautiful cities and once you see it really is difficult to disagree. Renowned for the gorgeous rose-coloured hue emanating from almost universal use of local sandstone for its construction, the city appears to glow and its beautiful setting, perched on a small hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, is a picture of tranquillity but, founded by the Romans, who built the still used 400 yard long bridge, Salamanca was repeatedly fought over by Hannibal, the Moors then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon. Salamanca is dominated by its two cathedrals and Spain’s oldest university founded in 1215, which for four centuries was one of the civilised world’s most important seats of study. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the sixteenth century it boasted some twelve thousand students. You can see beautifully preserved lecture halls, their vaulted ceilings and you can imagine Christopher Columbus addressing the most learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international law’s originating here. Over lunch you enjoy a traditional flamenco show, then explore as you wish. Whilst the buildings themselves dominate the skyline, their internal decoration is just as breathtaking. Visit the two cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th century! Salamanca is a wonderful place to just wander though: tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens, market places all add to its atmosphere. The main square, the Plaza Mayor, is widely acknowledged as Spain’s finest and the hub of Salamantine life, with plenty of cafés and places to sit and watch the locals go by and absorb the lovely atmosphere. This evening we have a delicious, typically Portuguese barbecue, served on the sundeck (weather permitting) as the unmistakable sound of crickets and scents from the surrounding hillsides pervade the warm evening air.

Day 5

The MS Douro Spirit begins the cruise downstream, lending a different perspective to the now familiar terraced hills, with another chance to marvel at the much photographed tortuous hairpin bend at the confluence of the River Sabor. You’ll notice how calm the waters are here, due to the various dams effectively creating the series of long thin lakes, look out for the traditional, flat bottomed Rabelo boats there are still a few preserved vessels sailing here. This afternoon we visit the magnificent Mateus Palace, somewhere that may seem vaguely familiar. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé, the wine with its characteristic “squashed” bottle shape, will have seen the palace featured on the label. Whatever your opinion of the wine, the palace is an impressive 18th century Baroque edifice beautifully mirrored in the stunning “reflecting pond”, and the extensive “French” gardens are beautifully landscaped and decorated with elegant statues.

Day 6

Another relaxing start this morning, cruising effortlessly downstream, offering another opportunity to relax, perhaps reflecting on the delights already discovered and those yet to come with a refreshing glass of juice or a speciality tea whilst you admire the surrounding hills! We berth at Entre-os-Rios, at the confluence with the Tamega River, visiting the 11th century Benedictine convent of Alpendurada. This stunning building retains many of its original Romanesque features, and the medieval kitchens are particularly impressive. Alpendurada is now a luxury hotel and we enjoy a delicious lunch in this lovely location before returning to the ship. As the heat of the day subsides, and there’s a chance to enjoy the twinkling lights as the valley becomes a little more populated and a fine vista of Oporto by night over the gently rippling waters.

Day 7

Originally Roman, Oporto’s wealth derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India. Spices, silks and other fine goods made the fortunes used to build Portugal’s second largest city. Our tour unveils its major and more surprising sights. You’ll experience the tangled lanes of the medieval quarter, the splendid Praça da Ribeira square, with its characteristic tiled town houses and fine views to the wine lodges across the river. One of the river's bridges was designed by Gustav Eiffel - and you can immediately see the connection with his more famous Parisian creation! You’ll gaze up at the city’s imposing fortress, its fine cathedral and baroque Clérigos Tower. Wonderfully free of the chain shops dominating other countries, enjoy the tiny antiquated shops specialising in fine art, antiques, ceramics and some of the most wonderful cakes you’ll ever taste. Oporto is obviously synonymous with Port wine and we will be guests of Cálem – one of the best know port brands in Portugal, learning the fascinating history of port wine and its close British connections. The wine is made from grapes still staggeringly trod by foot!, then lovingly tended, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavours. Of course you’ll get the chance at the end of a fascinating visit to sample various styles. Lunch is served on board the MS Douro Spirit and the afternoon is free to explore as you wish or perhaps just relax on board. This evening and after a final delectable dinner then perhaps the bar beckons and a chat into the evening with new-found, like minded friends, reflecting on the splendours of the remarkable River Douro, from its busy lower reaches to those beautifully peaceful terraced hillsides and the tiny unspoilt villages of the river’s delightful heartlands - over a glass of port of course!

Day 8

After a final breakfast you will be transferred to the airport at the appropriate time, refreshed and revitalised, with memories of one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe to savour for a long time to come.

Life on board

Launched in 2011, the magnificent MS Douro Spirit has ushered in a new and luxurious era on Portugal’s most famous river, the Douro, bringing standards of service and on-board facilities of the very best that Europe’s rivers offer. Many decades of experience in construction have been brought to bear in the unique design and materials featured throughout the MS Douro Spirit, creating a top quality, fully air-conditioned four-star superior floating hotel, thus ensuring that your splendid cruise along this most underrated of rivers will be a truly memorable experience.

Accommodation

  Cost per person: €0pp
  Number of nights:

Tour supplied in Partnership with:

atol iconatol icon
  Call:  01 905 6300