Highlights of a Douro River Cruise
Cruises on the Douro River usually run between March and November and start with a multi-day visit to Portugal's capital city of Lisbon. This lovely city is very hilly and sits on the Tagus River. Many compare Lisbon to San Francisco, primarily because of its hills and suspension bridge that looks much like the Golden Gate Bridge.
River cruise tours leave Lisbon and drive to Porto on the coast of Portugal north of Lisbon, where you will board your Douro River cruise ship.
From Porto, the river vessels sail eastward up the river into Spain, stopping at historical sites along the way. One of the best things about a Douro River cruise is the unspoiled scenery and fascinating towns, monasteries, and gardens. Of course, participants will also have the opportunity to learn all about Portugal's famous beverage, port. Towns and villages such as Coimbra, Salamanca, and Guimarães will each add special memories to your Douro River cruise.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has been sailing Portugal, and Spain's UNESCO World Heritage Douro River Valley since 2001, providing all English-speaking staff and fully guided excursions in this spectacular part of the world. Over the past decade, demand for Douro River cruises has grown, and Uniworld's ten-night Portugal, Spain and Douro River itinerary has become one of their best-selling programs.
In the spring of 2013, Uniworld introduced a newly-built ship to the Douro River-- the Queen Isabel. This new ship replaced the Douro Spirit, which was just launched in 2011.
Uniworld's Queen Isabel is slightly smaller than the Douro Spirit. The ship carries 118 passengers and allows Uniworld to offer 18 junior suites at 215 square feet and 2 larger suites at 323 square feet.
These larger accommodations are on the top deck and have full balconies. The style of the Queen Isabel river ship is the same classic Old World style and elegance similar to Uniworld's other ships in Europe.
Uniworld named the ship Queen Isabel after one of Portugal's most beloved queens.
Viking River Cruises sail the Douro River with 10-day cruise tours starting with two days in Lisbon, followed by seven nights on the 106-guest Viking Hemming or Viking Torgil, both launched in 2014. Guests who want to spend more time in the region can add a 2-night extension to Braga, Portugal and Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
AmaWaterways joined Uniworld and Viking on the Douro River in 2013. This river cruise line has two river cruise itineraries. The first is a 12-day cruise tour called the "Enticing Douro" and is similar to that of the other river cruise lines, starting in Lisbon and ending with a 7-day cruise on the Douro on the 108-passenger AmaVida.
The second AmaWaterways itinerary, the 15-day "Port Wine & Flamenco" is identical to the first, but adds three days in Madrid.
CroisiEurope has been sailing European rivers since 1976 and features English-language 6- and 8-day Douro River cruises that sail roundtrip from Porto.
Some itineraries feature the Douro Valley of Portugal; others go to Salamanca, Spain and return. These are a good option for those who have already spent time in Lisbon or prefer to explore the area from Lisbon to Porto on their own.
CroisiEurope has three ships sailing the Douro River -- the MS Fernao de Magalhaes, MS Infante don Henrique, and MS Vasco de Gama.
Australian river cruise line Scenic Cruises has three different Douro River itineraries, ranging in length from 8 to 14 days. The 8- and 11-day voyages sail roundtrip from Porto, whereas the 14-day itinerary includes three days in Lisbon before a 10-day cruise.
In addition to the three basic Douro River cruise itineraries, travelers looking for a longer itinerary can combine their Scenic Cruises' Douro River cruise with a cruise in France either in the Bordeaux region or on the Seine River.
Alternatively, Scenic offers pre- or post-cruise add-ons in Paris, Lisbon, and Madrid.
Emerald Waterways is a sister river cruise line to Scenic Cruises and launched a new ship, the Emerald Radiance on the Douro in 2017. This cruise line also has four cruise tour itineraries: "Secrets of the Douro", an 8-day cruise tour round-trip from Porto; "Secrets of the Douro & Lisbon, an 8-day cruise round-trip from Porto and 3 nights in Lisbon at a hotel' and "Secrets of the Douro & Madrid, an 8-day cruise round-trip from Porto and 3 nights in Madrid in a hotel; and "Secrets of the Douro & Lisbon to Madrid, 8-day cruise round-trip from Porto, 3 nights in Lisbon, and 3 nights in Madrid.
Emerald's Douro River cruises can also be combined with Emerald's river cruises in southern France, which makes a truly memorable extended cruise tour vacation.