Last month we took a 7 Night “Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley” River Cruise with Uniworld onboard the Queen Isabel and we were so excited to try it because the feedback from some of our clients who have taken cruises all over the world said that it was one of their best yet… So we couldn’t wait!
Port Wine, the pristine beauty of the Douro River Valley, and 5 UNESCO World heritage sites (Lisbon, Douro River, Salamanca, Guimaraes and Porto) were awaiting us.
We flew into our embarkation city of Porto, Portugal two days early so we could get adjusted to the time difference, enjoy it’s famous Port wineries, immerse ourselves in the Portuguese culture, eat local food (pan fried octopus, fresh caught Sardines, sausage, etc) and walk about this riverside city to see the city’s highlights. Above is Shawn enjoying the scenes in Porto but you can See more of our pictures and our time in Porto here.
TIP: Porto is very hilly and will give you a good workout but if you have any mobility restrictions a Hop on Hop Off Bus will take you all over this incredible city.
We boarded the ship at 4 pm… we’d suggest to not go to the ship earlier than this for this itinerary as the ship and staff will not be ready to greet you like you are used to on a typical Uniworld river cruise as most guests start this itinerary with the 3 day land extension to Lisbon first so by joining that group you will automatically arrive to the ship when she is ready with open arms.
A quick note on Lisbon: We would recommend taking the River Cruiseline’s 3 day extension in Lisbon (all the lines offer that option, we didn’t do it as we were just finishing another cruise when that started so timing didn’t work out) before your Douro River Cruise as you won’t need to worry about transporting yourself from Lisbon to Porto (our train ride on our own wasn’t very pleasant) because the Cruiseline will take care of that for you, plus it will help you get over the jet-lag & adjust to the time zone before the cruise starts (you want to be fresh for that) AND more then anything Lisbon is a FANTASTIC unique city to explore and should not to be missed! Take a look at our pictures and tips of our time in Lisbon.)
We acquainted ourselves with our gorgeous ship (you can see our pictures and videos of the ship here), unpacked, spent some time on our balcony as we sailed away from Porto with a glass of bubbly and then enjoyed the river views from the top deck.
…that evening we attended a welcome aboard celebration with a glass of Port Wine and then had a tasty dinner as the scenes of the Douro River slowly passed by.
We docked this and each evening so we could sleep soundly and not miss any of the sites during daylight hours. What a great first day!
We woke up to gorgeous scenery again as we sailed down the river. At 10 am we had a Lecture by our Cruise Manager, Ferran, an overview of what we were going to see on this cruise which got us really excited!
Once we docked in Regua, we took in a lecture in the historic Douro Museum where once upon a time many of the wines were tested inside these very walls. We learned about the history and culture of Port wine, the UNESCO World Heritage Douro Valley and tasted a couple of Port wines. It was a great first excursion as it helped us understand the sites & history we’d be exploring over the next week!
Olive, almond and elder trees grow here, along with the valley lined vineyards which makes the landscape so incredibly beautiful. Be sure to take your camera & have lots of memory for it… you won’t believe your eyes!
After lunch we took a scenic bus ride and our final destination was to a 18th Century Palace called Mateus Palace. It had the most beautiful gardens filled with fruit trees, flowers, fountains and of course the Palace itself was stunning. What made it interesting was that it had original furnishings and the Count & his family still lived in a wing of the house.
Our final stop was to have dinner at a winery estate called Quinta Da Avessada, where the owner himself took us about the property after we had Hors D’oeuvres in the backyard overlooking the hectares of vines growing as our backdrop. Stunning!
Dinner was a 6 course meal that rivalled any 5 star restaurant and delicious wines from the estate were free flowing while a two piece band played for our entertainment a mix of toe tapping, hand clapping Portuguese songs… It was a memorable day & evening. Below you can see that we were getting ready to taste the various delicious desserts that lined the entire table.
This morning we woke early to join our fellow guests on the sun deck to listen to commentary about the area we were sailing… What a treat!
Sitting back lazily on our comfy deck chairs we gazed ahead as we went through valley after valley and snapped pictures like this breathtaking scenery…
After a scrumptious lunch, we had a nap– because we could!! 🙂 and once we docked near the border of Spain & Portugal (where we stayed for 2 nights) we took a bus and zig-zagged up a hillside filled with rows of almond, fig, cork and olive trees… stunning!
We stopped in a historical village called “Castelo Rodrigo” that was first inhabited in 500 AD. It is surrounded by a fortified wall and within those walls contain both abandoned ruin houses and 50 people still live a simple life here to this day.
After our walk with our guide we went to a shop for a lovely wine tasting and a dozen flavoured types of Almonds (we liked the chocolate best) and other treats. Here are a few pictures of our time there:
…We sat in the lounge for a night cap and some live music before bed.
This morning we drove to Salamanca, Spain to explore the city but on the way we were delighted with a different scenery of flatlands so we saw lots of bulls, sheep, many birds of prey and the famous black pig.
Once in Salamanca we took, in small groups, a guided tour to see the stunning Plaza Major, the Mercado, the house of shells, the old university, the Cathedral and much more. This city guided tour is not to be missed!
After lunch, we took in a fantastic Flamenco show that was vibrant with color and certainly memorable:
Starting at 8 am we started sailing the Douro River so we sat on our balcony sipping coffee and took in the landscape & scenery… It was super relaxing. The River is very quiet & not near as busy as other parts of Europe so you could actually hear fish jump and the birds sing. What a morning!
At 2 pm we pulled into “Pinhao” and took a fantastic winery tour at “Quinta do Seixo” and tried their famous “Sandeman” Wine at the very top of one of the hillsides. The Port wine tasting out on the terrace was by far one of the most picturesque places we have EVER tasted wine. Take a look at our pics:
At 11am we crawled out of bed (what a treat!) which NEVER happens at home as we are usually up at the crack of dawn but when on vacation you get to savour these little moments. 🙂
At the same time, if you prefer, there was lots of gorgeous scenery to take in on the patio or the sun deck if you happen to rise early. You could have done a complimentary stretching class or spent time in the gym… Whatever you prefer!
After lunch, we sat outside and enjoyed the views as we entered back into beautiful Porto, Portugal. You get the VERY best views of the city entering from the river… it is a very special feeling- hopefully you will feel as blessed as we did! Check out the video we took for you while entering back into Porto, Portugal.
Once docked, there were 2 tours to choose from- a Ribera district guided walking tour or a bus ride to the historic town of Guimaraes.
TIP: If you have not been already, be sure to do the Ribera walking tour that is along the Douro River… Don’t forget your camera as it is super scenic. ***If considering the tour to Guimaraes this might be a good time to take a break, read your favourite book, etc, as the 2 hour bus ride round trip is NOT worth the visit in our opinion. So don’t feel guilty if you want to rest, we promise you won’t miss anything. 🙂
Tonight we enjoyed our Farewell dinner while the captain took us for one last River cruise to the edge of the Douro that goes out into the Atlantic Ocean, very nice scenery during dinner. Afterwards, we were treated to a musical Soprano singer and Piano player duo in the lounge.
Another memorable day!
This morning we headed out to sight-see the lovely city of Porto, Portugal.
We started at the Cathedral and had a private viewing, sorry we weren’t allowed to take pictures so you’ll just have to go see it for yourself in person. 🙂
Then we saw sites like the architecturally beautiful library & tower and free time was given for shopping and time on our own before heading back to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon there was a wine cellar visit and port wine tasting plus there is a courtesy shuttle to take you to a shopping area afterwards… there is lots to see and do in Porto and on River Cruises in general!
Unfortunately this evening packing was in order and we had one last breakfast the next morning before saying our goodbyes to the ship and staff. Lucky for us we were not done traveling though. We then took a Lower Danube River Cruise in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia & Hungary onboard Avalon Waterways!
If you have questions or want to inquire about booking this beautifully scenic cruise (can’t blame you if you do 🙂 ) then you know where to find us! We are always here to help.
We Appreciate You!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!