River cruising on ships smaller than ocean liners and with only 100 – 250 passengers have gained tremendous popularity, especially with the Boomer generation. The trend includes what is called “experiential travel” or connecting the visitor with the history and culture of a destination.
Like other areas of Europe such as the Danube, Rhine and French rivers, Portugal is also gaining popularity with more vessels (smaller than their other European river counterparts), operating now that suit the incentive market.
Portugal rests in southwestern Europe bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. It is only about half the size of North Dakota. The Douro River has been the historical lifeline through the region, nicknamed the River of Gold. It is a narrow river with magnificent gorges and steep banks. Today, it contains many locks that enable ships to move faster and more safely. Because of these locks, boats never travel at night; so, on this cruise, all sailing would occurs during daylight.
Exploration of Porto’s Cathedral and other historic properties are included as well as the Lello Bookshop with staircases that inspired author J.K. Rowling. Also, a tasting tour through the wine cellars of a port wine producer are featured. All fortified wine called port comes from the Douro Valley, a designation similar to the official champagne region.
A number of UNESCO World Heritage sites are featured on this route, as well as a stop at the Mateus Palace. You might recall its picture on the odd-shaped bottles of Mateus wine that were popular in the 1970s. Another popular stop is the pilgrimage shrine in Lamego known for its myths and miracles. Built in 1791, the small hilltop chapel provides dramatic views and a picturesque 686-step double staircase.