THE DOURO – PORTUGAL & SPAIN
Porto to Salamanca
The Douro weaves through one of Europe’s most striking natural regions. Sun-drenched vineyards, charming villages and historical landmarks pepper the banks of the river, breaking up the sloping fertile lands and providing a rustic backdrop for your river journey.
Before reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the Douro dissects the ancient city of Porto on its final leg. The entire Portuguese nation owes its existence to the Douro, around which the country was founded. Our Secrets of the Douro river cruise starts and ends in Porto, offering a cultural bookend to a journey boasting beautiful scenery every step of the way.
With much of the region remaining untouched and unchanged over the past few centuries, the Douro Valley provides a wonderful step back in time. From the peaceful wineries producing Portugal’s much-loved port wine to the ancient Spanish city of Salamanca – the Douro is a rustic region of simple pleasures.
Porto to Porto
Terraced vineyards rise from riverbanks and Baroque villages remain a marvelous reminder of the past. Experience Roman Salamanca for its vibrant nightlife and try Porto’s famous fortified wine.
This 8-day roundtrip sailing from Porto introduces some of the region’s most inspiring destinations, including Régua, Pocinho and Vega de Terrón, and includes a visit to the exquisite Spanish city of Salamanca. Your journey on this rousing waterway begins and ends in Porto, one of Portugal’s oldest and most beautiful cities, and sees you travel upstream through the twists and turns of the World Heritage-listed Douro Valley, calling at charming destinations like Pinhao, Vega de Terrón and Pocinho.
THE SHIP – THE DOURO SERENITY
Vegan Culinary Cruises is pleased to offer another spectacular luxury river expedition on Portugal’s most spectacular waterway operated on the brand new, state of the art vessel, the magnificent five-star MS Douro Serenity. This world class vessel is without doubt one of the most exceptional ships afloat on any European river.
If cruising is an art, then this ship has truly mastered it; constructed with the very latest technology and a strong environmental ethic in mind, yet simultaneously retaining a classic, refined elegance reminiscent of cruising from a bygone era, this five-star, fully-air-conditioned river cruiser has been purpose built to fit the unique size limitations of the Douro’s five locks and features all the facilities you would expect in a top-class hotel and more so your cruise will be as relaxing as possible and your stay on board will be a uniquely memorable one.
Accommodating just 126 guests in the most exquisite of surroundings, the ship’s spectacular design and high specification ensures this vessel feels exceptionally light and airy. The generous ratio of 2:1 guests per crew member ensures a first-class personal service plus the friendly ‘small ship’ feel so beloved of Kosher River Cruise aficionados, enables the ever-attentive crew to revel in taking care of all those little things – leaving you to simply sit back, relax and enjoy every minute of your sensational river cruise experience.
Boarding via the welcoming entrance lobby on the Upper Deck, immediately you will be struck by the crisp, contemporary yet classically stylish décor befitting this five-star ship; its discreet lighting, sparkling surfaces and highly polished marble floors create a sophisticated, designer elegance which is reflected throughout the entire ship. Conveniently located alongside the entrance lobby is the reception desk where the helpful friendly crew are on hand to welcome you aboard.
Complimentary tea and coffee are always available here too and there is a small boutique stocking a selection of essentials and souvenirs. Then forward you will find the magnificent lounge and bar, the very heart of the ship, styled by a leading Portuguese designer and sumptuously furnished with elegant settees and comfortable armchairs; plump cushions in smart complementary fabric invite you to sink in and relax – your holiday starts here! Enjoy a freshly made cup of tea whilst soaking up the refined ambience, complemented by high quality fittings, thoughtfully positioned lamps, a thick carpet, beautifully polished hardwoods and fabulous fresh-cut flowers. A well-stocked bar with friendly professional staff taking delight in attending to your every wish in sampling local wines or preparing whatever takes your fancy completes the convivial scene. So just sit back and enjoy the stunning view from the magnificent panoramic windows as the ever-changing river scenery slips effortlessly by. When evening falls, the subdued lighting creates the most gentile ambience so unwind over a digestif or perhaps partake in the Vegan Culinary Cruises signature lecture and entertainment programming. There really can be few holidays quite as relaxing as this! All three air-conditioned accommodation decks are connected by a lift for your convenience and an elegant wide staircase with gleaming handrail.
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 savored, all under the auspices of our master chefs; 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!
Accessed by stairs from the Upper Deck, head on up to the magnificent and spacious Sun Deck from where you can enjoy the stunning 360 degree views as they glide past from the comfort of your sun lounger whilst sipping a long refreshing drink or chatting with your fellow companions. You might choose to enjoy a glimpse of the wizardry ‘on the bridge’ as the Captain skillfully negotiates the twisting river with reassuring ease.
When the temperature rises, you will feel the benefit of the fantastic outdoor swimming pool – a rarity on a river cruiser. For many though, just to lean against the ship’s rail and breathe in the invigorating river breeze whilst casting a relaxed eye over the fascinating scenes of life ashore or the wonderful river wildlife all around you, is what it’s all about; this is surely the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life so let us take you on the cruise of your dreams!
Day 1 - Arrival Porto
Welcome to Porto. You will be met at the airport and transferred to the ship where a warm welcome awaits you from your Captain and crew as you board your luxury river cruise ship. Tonight, enjoy dinner on board with your fellow travelers. Your Cruise Director will also conduct a port talk to review the activities and itinerary for the days ahead.
Day 2 - Porto – Pinhão
Today, enjoy a full day sailing the windy turns and twists of the Douro Valley. A UNESCO world heritage site this area is sparsely populated by small quaint villages and typical communities working vineyards and small farms. In the afternoon, your Cruise Director will host a lecture on board showcasing the history and wine culture of the region followed by a very special hands on vegan cooking class. Later, arrive in the village of Pinhão which is situated on a river bend surrounded by terraced hillsides producing some of the world’s best Port. Tonight, your captain will be delighted to host the welcome dinner and cocktail reception.
Day 3 - Pinhao - Vega de Terrón
Begin your day with a visit to a beautiful Quinta vineyard in the heart of the Douro Valley. Alternatively, join and active vineyard hike. Later, sail to Vega de Terrón, your gateway into Spain.
Day 4 - Salamanca
Founded in Roman times, the city of Salamanca is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the seat of the Spanish language, and still a lively student town. Board your coach this morning in Vega de Terrón and travel to this beautiful golden city for a guided walking tour passing through its grand squares and medieval structures, where you will feel like stepping back in time. Tapas bars feature on every street and traditional Spanish music trickles out of buzzing bars and restaurants. You will also have plenty of free time to explore independently before returning to the ship later this afternoon.
Day 5 - Pocinho
This morning arrive in Pocinho and either embark on an excursion to the Côa Valley Museum or take part on in an active canoeing experience. The Côa Valley Museum is a concrete structure that details pre-historic stone carvings made by the early inhabitants of the Douro, which were uncovered during the construction of the nearby dam. Later return to your ship for lunch and enjoy your idyllic surroundings as you sail towards Régua complete with our lectures and vegan cooking classes.
Day 6 - Régua
Today you will have a choice to visit the marvelous baroque village of Lamego and the picturesque Our Lady of Remedies Sanctuary where history stands still as you descend the famous stairs.
Day 7 - Porto
Located at the mouth of the Douro River, Porto is a fascinating eclectic mix of modern and ancient architecture. Enjoy your city tour passing by numerous landmarks of this beautiful city.
Day 8 - Porto Disembarkation
After breakfast disembark your river cruise ship and transfer to Porto airport for your onward or homebound flight.
* Please note mooring and casting off times are only guidelines. We reserve the right to make changes to the itineraries and excursion programs. If due to low or high water or a defective ship a section of the river is closed to travel, the ship-owner reserves the right to transport guests along this section by bus, accommodate them in hotels and /or change the course of this part of the journey. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to transfer to another ship. These situations are rare but do happen from time to time and are all part of riverboat vacations. There’s nothing anyone can do to control mother nature.