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Douro River Cruises

The Douro River flows in a westerly direction for 557 miles through Spain and Portugal, making it the third longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. Scenic Douro river cruise guests will quickly discover that although it is less famous than other European rivers —at least from a tourism standpoint—the Douro has a rich history all its own, especially when it comes to wine. The Douro region of Portugal is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world; its inhabitants have produced wine for about 2,000 years. As such, the Vinhateiro wine-growing region is a protected World Heritage Site. Additionally, the more than 100,000 acres of vineyards throughout the Douro River valley transform the region each year, as the predominant colors of the hillsides that rise up from the riverbanks change as the fruit ripens on the vines. Also, almond trees that grow in the area paint the river valley in shades of pink and white as they bloom during the months of February and March.

Brightly painted rabelo boats moored in, or sailing down, the river also add color to the Douro River valley. Centuries ago, these flat-keeled, square-rigged Portuguese cargo ships were the primary means of transporting barrels of Port from the vineyards and wineries up river to the city of Porto situated at the mouth of the Douro on the Atlantic coast. However, traversing the river was far more dangerous then due to the river’s rushing waters; shallow, rocky areas; and rapids. Beginning in 1930, however, the river was dammed for irrigation and hydroelectric power, which since has tamed the river’s currents and made it possible for cruise ships like Scenic Azure (see below) to sail up and down her waters. As a result, Douro river cruises are now a sought after luxury travel experience, with Scenic leading the way.

Experience the Douro Wine Region 

Wine production along the banks of the Douro River can be traced to the writings of Strabo, an ancient Greek geographer who documented that inhabitants of the northwestern portion of the Iberian Peninsula drank wine about 2,000 years ago. When the Romans arrived in what is now Portugal, they cultivated vineyards and made their own wine. Centuries later, the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 solidified an alliance between England and Portugal, which was strengthened further in 1654 by the Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty. Within a few decades, English relations with France had soured to the point that King Charles II banned the importation of all French goods into Great Britain. As a result English merchants looked to Portugal as a new source of wine. The wines made along Portugal’s coast were too astringent and unstable; they also did not appeal to English consumers. This forced Britain’s merchants to seek the full-bodied red wines made from grapes grown on the rocky hillsides of the upper Douro. They were soon known in Portuguese as “Vinho do Porto” or in English simply as “Port,” so named for the city from which they were shipped, rather than the area of Portugal where they were made.

Today, those steep, rocky slopes of the upper Douro are home to thousands of acres of vineyards; and while more than 100 grape varietals can be used to make Port, only five—Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (better known as Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional—are typically grown. Wine-tasting experiences with Scenic Cruises occur at a number of significant and scenic locations, including Quinta Aveleda, a heralded sparkling wine producer in the region; the estate of Quinta Bomfim, which is home to the top-rated vineyard in the region; Morgadio da Calçada, one of 13 manor houses and farms that have preserved the stories of Port wine producers in Provesende; and Burmester Cellars, a wine cave that dates to 1750 that was (and still is) significantly involved in the exportation of Port.

Douro River Cruises

Flowing through Northern Portugal from Spain, the Douro River cuts a dramatic swathe through the Douro Valley, traversing a beautiful and flourishing region. Marvel at postcard-perfect landscapes, delight in local culinary specialties, savor port and wine tastings, and gain a fascinating insight into a region so spectacularly preserved during a cruise on the Douro river.

Douro River Cruising: History And Culture 

While a Scenic Douro River cruise is, in many ways, defined by wine-tasting events and experiences, Scenic’s various itineraries also provide guests with numerous opportunities to immerse themselves in the region’s culture and to learn its history. The city of Porto, itself, is a World Heritage Site and features Neoclassical palaces, such as the Palácio da Bolsa, which was built by the city’s Commercial Association to convey the city’s economic power and to draw investments from European businessmen. 

Other cities and towns along the Douro River include Lamego, the home of Mateus Palace (an early 18th-century estate that graces the labels of the region’s renowned Mateus rosé wine); Tarouca, a village that is home to the restored Monastery of Saint John of Tarouca; and Salamanca, a World Heritage City in Spain that was built entirely from golden sandstone. A tour of the city’s university reveals hundreds of Renaissance period manuscripts in the library, and allows guests to visit some of the same halls that Christopher Columbus once walked prior to his journey to the New World.

Scenic Space-Ships: All-Inclusive Luxury Riverboats

Every Scenic European river cruise begins aboard one of the company’s boutique vessels or custom-built Space-Ships, so named for their spacious guest cabins, dining, and entertaining areas. Each of these four-deck Scenic Space-Ships includes numerous dining and sightseeing areas, as well as a lounge and bar area that offers panoramic views. Additionally, guests can soak up the rays at the top-deck swimming pool or retreat to the wellness center, which is equipped with a fitness area, beauty salon, and massage rooms. These ships are also noteworthy for their luxury suites, which are outfitted with sun lounges, 32-inch high-definition TVs, and complimentary wireless internet access. 

Scenic’s Duoro River cruises take place aboard Scenic Azure, a 262-foot vessel built in 2016 that can accommodate 96 passengers in 48 cabins, as well as 36 crew members. The Scenic Azure was custom built with only one purpose: to navigate the waters of the Duoro, which are calm but punctuated by short and narrow locks, as well as narrow gorges and shallow rock-strewn sections.

Portugal River Cruises

Fly to Europe from $495

Unforgettable Douro

11 days
Porto > Porto
Cruise the beautiful Douro Valley on an 11 day river cruise. Discover the treasures of Porto, the vineyards in Regua, Vinhateiro & the Côa Valley Museum.
from $5,925
Fly to Europe from $495

Unforgettable Douro with Lisbon

14 days
Lisbon > Porto
Explore Lisbon before boarding Scenic Azure. Cruise the breathtaking Douro Valley and discover the vineyards in Regua, Vinhateiro & the Côa Valley Museum.
from $7,195
Fly to Europe from $495

Unforgettable Douro with Madrid

14 days
Porto > Madrid
Travel from Porto to Madrid in a 14 day wonder-filled journey. Explore the beautiful Douro Valley and vineyards before enjoying 3 nights in Madrid.
from $7,895
Fly to Europe from $495

Unforgettable Douro with Lisbon & Madrid

17 days
Lisbon > Madrid
Begin your journey in Lisbon before discovering the Douro river on a luxurious cruise on board Scenic Azure. Finish up your tour with 3 nights in Madrid.
from $8,795
Up to Fly Free to Europe

Iberian Grandeur

21 days
Porto > Madrid
Explore the picturesque Douro Valley and the great sites of Spain – Seville and the beautiful Andalusian Mountains on a 21 day journey from Porto to Madrid.
from $11,595
Up to Fly Free to Europe

Gems of the Seine & Unforgettable Douro

21 days
Paris > Porto
Embark on a 21 day adventure from Paris to Porto & cruise through of Europe's two most magical rivers on a luxury Scenic Space-Ship, the Seine & the Douro.
from $12,490

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