The Douro, Oporto & Salamanca - MS Douro Serenity
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.
Commencing in the Roman city of Oporto the home of Port wine, Portugal’s once wild river Douro has been tamed by locks into resembling a series of finger lakes adding greatly to the valleys ambience. Leaving behind the Atlantic influenced greenery of the coast you are soon immersed in a Mediterranean-land of olives, vines, and picturesque, medieval hilltop villages. Our destination is the higher reaches of the valley from where we visit Salamanca home of one of Europe’s oldest universities, two of its finest cathedrals, Spain’s finest city square and even the Inquisition.
You will adore the away from it all experience and visit some of Iberia’s most beautiful medieval towns, monastery’s and vineyards and feel you have been away for months.
- 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
- Return flights from selected airports
- Seven night's full-board cruise accommodation
Staying seven nights full board on the five-star MS Douro Serenity
Late morning, the ship approaches 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 ochres 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. Situated on top of 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 famous painted tilework.
We then enjoy a little indulgence as we visit one of the region’s best quintas (vineyards) learning how legendary port is produced – culminating in a tasting of the delicious final product!
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 on a hill, the views are simply stupendous - stretching across almost deserted ochre-coloured hillsides.
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.
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 with their vaulted ceilings and you can imagine Christopher Columbus addressing the most learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws 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 exceptional. Visit the two cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th century! Salamanca is a wonderful place to just wander through: tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces 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 whilst absorbing the lovely atmosphere.
This afternoon is spent cruising so there’s the opportunity to truly unwind whilst the skilful captain and his crew navigate the ship effortlessly through the winding bends of this truly magnificent hilly hinterland. Head up on to the Sun Deck for spectacular viewing; as the invigorating river breeze revives you, you’ll be captivated by the ever-changing riverbank scenery slipping past – it really doesn’t get more relaxing than this! This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, hosted of course by the Captain himself, a delightful experience featuring some superb local specialities. After dinner, we are entertained by a cultural group performing traditional Portuguese folk music.
We enjoy lunch on board before starting our sightseeing tour which unveils some of the city’s 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.
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!
Staying seven nights full board on the five-star MS Douro Serenity
We are absolutely thrilled to announce that for 2017 our highly successful Douro cruise on Portugal’s most spectacular waterway will be operated on a brand new state of the art vessel, the magnificent five-star MS Douro Serenity. Painstaking research over many months with our highly regarded Portuguese shipping partners, the first luxury ship operator on the Douro, who have been involved in river cruise ship building for over a quarter of a century, has resulted in the creation of a world class vessel which is without doubt one of the most exceptional ships afloat on any European river.
All the outside facing cabins on the MS Douro Serenity are finished to an exceptionally high standard with superior quality fittings in the most refined taste and at 15 square metres (161 square feet) these are amongst the largest on any European river cruise.
Best of all the Standard Cabins on the Upper Deck and Main (middle) Deck have from full floor to ceiling windows which slide down halfway so you can watch the stunning river scenery drifting past without leaving the comfort of your cabin!
For something a little special, you may choose to upgrade to one of the Superior Balcony Suites; there are 6 available on the Upper Deck. These suites measure a substantial 22 square metres (237 square feet) for your additional comfort so you’ll really feel completely relaxed in your stylish surroundings.
If you really fancy treating yourself to a little more indulgence by taking your cruise to another level again, the MS Douro Serenity also boasts two Deluxe Balcony Suites on the Upper Deck. These suites are a huge 30 square metres (323 square feet), offering the ultimate in space and comfort during your cruise.
Heading down to the Main (middle) Deck you will find the chic restaurant where your comfort is assured in high-backed chairs at impeccably laid tables with pristine linen cloths and fine cutlery. Tables seat just four to eight and in common with all our river cruises, we offer ‘open dining’ arrangements giving our clients the freedom to sit wherever and with whoever they wish. This is a dining experience of the highest order and one to be savoured! Breakfast is a hot and cold buffet with a fine omelette station so your eggs are just how you like them – an early risers’ breakfast is also available in the lounge. Lunch is another deliciously fine array but if you fancy a simple salad instead then that’s available too or you may opt for a slightly more informal, lighter lunch either in the main lounge or up on the Sun Deck. The culinary highlight of the day though is the superb four-course dinner, served at your table by the most highly trained, attentive yet discreet waiting staff who will attend to your every need without hesitation. Featuring the finest Portuguese, Mediterranean and International cuisine to delight your taste buds this will be a dining experience to remember as you enjoy a kaleidoscope of river views from the huge panoramic windows. If you feel like a little extra indulgence during your cruise why not book in for a special treatment in the ship’s Spa which is also accessed on the Main (middle) Deck. Or for something a little more energetic, you will find a small fitness room on the Lower Deck – ideal for working off the ship’s wonderful cuisine!
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day (excluding one lunch); 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/station transfers, coach travel as mentioned, travel to and from port of embarkation and the services of a Riviera Travel Cruise Director.
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