Selected departures up to October 2018 and April to November 2019
Immerse yourself in the eclectic charm of this vibrant capital, with its wide tree-lined boulevards and an atmospheric Moorish quarter with its maze of cobbled streets plus delightfully picturesque Sintra and the beautiful Roman city of Coimbra, steeped in history and tradition.
Commencing in the Roman city of Porto, 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 valley's 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, monasteries and vineyards, and feel you have been away for months!
Fly to Porto where we’ll meet and transfer you to your five-star cruise ship in Porto. From the moment you board, the welcoming crew are at your service. In no time you’ll be settled into your luxurious, thoughtfully furnished accommodation and familiarising yourself with all the first-class aspects of this floating boutique hotel.
As dawn breaks, the ship slips away from Porto and you awake to the gentle sound of water lapping against the sleek hull and – that most relaxing of travellers’ joys – you’ll witness the ship’s stately process upstream. The Douro is one of Europe’s most captivating rivers, and you can acquaint yourself with its natural beauty from the comfort of your cabin.
You’ll be welcomed in the restaurant for your first breakfast and immediately spoilt for choice – the omelette station is a favourite of many! In the late morning, the ship approaches its first port of call at the small town of Peso da Régua. We’re in port wine territory, where the lush hillsides have largely given way to a patterned landscape of terraced vineyards. Inland from the Atlantic, the climate has changed, too; it’s noticeably warmer and drier, while the area has a Mediterranean appearance with orangey, earthy colours replacing verdant greens.
This afternoon, we take a short drive to historic Lamego, home of Portugal’s sparkling wine, Raposeira, and one of the first places to be reclaimed from the Moors in the 12th century. Situated atop 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 characteristic painted ceramic tiles. We then enjoy a little indulgence as we visit one of the region’s best port quintas, or estate-vineyards, to learn how the legendary fortified wine is produced. This experience culminates in a much-anticipated tasting of the delicious final product.
Tonight as you enter the restaurant for the Welcome Dinner, feel free to choose your table. All are expertly set with four or more seats and have excellent views through the large panoramic windows.
The Douro was once a wild river, notoriously challenging to navigate, especially for the traditional flat-bottomed boats, which often foundered in its waters. Today it has been tamed by a system of dams and locks, which have raised the water level to produce a topography reminiscent of Scotland’s lochs that enhances the valley’s charm. As we cruise into ever more rural territory towards the Spanish border, the river here is at its most peaceful. It’s the perfect time to take a refreshing dip in the Sun Deck pool – a rare treat on a cruise ship – or catch up on some reading, perhaps with a cool pre-lunch glass of vinho verde, the local, gently fizzy white wine. Portuguese wine is simply outstanding but production is low, so the best is rarely exported. Our on-board wine list includes some excellent regional wines and the friendly and attentive restaurant staff will gladly guide you through them. Do experiment a little and you’ll be greatly rewarded.
This afternoon we visit Castelo Rodrigo, a delightful 12th-century walled village tucked away in the picturesque highland ranges bordering Spain. Its church was a resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and it is said that Saint Francis himself stayed here. The views are simply stupendous, stretching across almost-deserted ochre hillsides. This evening after dinner head up on to the sun deck to listen to the unmistakable sound of crickets and breathe in the scents from the surrounding valley slopes that pervade the warm evening air.
Today we visit historic Salamanca, one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this journey, regarded by many Spaniards as their nation’s most beautiful city. Founded by the Romans, who erected its 389-yard-long bridge, Salamanca is mostly built from local sandstone that emanates a gorgeous rose-coloured glow in the sunlight. Perched on a hill on a bend in the serene River Tormes, the city is a picture of tranquillity but its history is turbulent, having been successively fought over by Hannibal, the Moors, then the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.
Salamanca is dominated by its two cathedrals and its university. Founded in 1218, the university is the oldest in Spain and was one of the civilised world’s most important seats of study for over 400 years. The Spanish Inquisition’s records are still kept here, and as early as the 16th century it boasted some 12,000 students. Seeing its immaculately preserved lecture halls with their vaulted ceilings, it’s easy to conjure an image of Christopher Columbus addressing the learned men of the day or legal experts constructing the international laws that originate here.
Over lunch you enjoy a traditional flamenco show, then you are free to explore Salamanca as you wish. You may choose to linger, admiring the ornate interiors of its cathedrals – the more recent dates from the 16th century – or explore its tiny streets, medieval squares, traditional shops, gardens and marketplaces. The main square, the Plaza Mayor, is unmissable. Possibly Spain’s finest public square, it was built in the 18th century in Spanish Baroque style with colonnaded walkways all around at ground level, ideal for finding a shaded spot to sit and watch the locals go about their daily lives.
During breakfast, the ship slips its moorings and cruises towards Peso da Régua. One of the benefits of life aboard a river cruise is the sheer sense of relaxation it brings. There is plenty of time for a spot of pampering in the on-board spa, or simply watch the ever-changing scenery pass by from the comfort of the lounge. In the late afternoon you may wish to stroll along the quayside, watching the occasional river traffic or enjoying a coffee in one of the many cafés.
This evening we enjoy a truly authentic experience as we take the short drive to a traditional quinta for tonight’s delicious dinner. You will have time to wander through part of the quinta’s fertile estate, set in a beautiful location with spectacular views over the magnificent Douro landscape, before sampling a selection of its finest wines over dinner
This morning we visit the grounds of the splendid Mateus Palace. Anyone familiar with Mateus Rosé and its characteristic ‘squashed’ bottle will recognise the palace from the label. Whatever your opinion of the wine, it is an impressive 18th-century Baroque edifice, mirrored in its stunning pond, surrounded by landscaped French gardens. By the time we return to our ship, our chef and his team will be adding the finishing touches to another delicious lunch, ready to be served as we depart for Entre-os-Rios.
This afternoon is spent cruising. It’s a perfect opportunity to avail yourself of some of the ship’s range of five-star facilities – maybe a little gentle exercise in the fitness room before heading up to the Sun Deck to enjoy the ever-changing kaleidoscope of the Douro.
This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, a truly memorable experience featuring exquisite regional specialities, followed by a colourful performance of traditional Portuguese folk music by a local cultural group.
We arrive in Porto this morning, passing under the city’s spectacular bridges. Strategically sited overlooking the Douro as it empties into the Atlantic, Portugal’s second largest city was originally a Roman town, but its wealth is derived from its knowledge of the sea routes to India, with fortunes made from trading spices, silks and other fine goods. Porto is synonymous with wonderful port wine and all the famous port producers are here, such as Cálem, Sandeman and Ferreira, so a visit here would not be complete without a tour of one of them. You’ll learn about this fortified wine’s fascinating history and its close British connections. Port is made from grapes still pressed in the traditional way – by feet – then lovingly matured, sometimes for decades, before you can enjoy its subtle flavours. Of course, you’ll get the chance to sample various port styles at the end of our visit.
After lunch on board, our guided tour of Porto 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 townhouses and fine views to the wine lodges across the river. Gustav Eiffel designed one of the bridges, 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. Porto is wonderfully free of the chain shops prevalent elsewhere, and it’s a joy to see what the many traditional traders have to offer, from fine art, antiques and ceramics to some of the most wonderful cakes you’ll ever taste.
This evening, enjoy a final dinner on board expertly served by our restaurant staff under the supervision of the maître d’. Afterwards, perhaps settle into the lounge to chat into the evening and reflect on the splendours of the remarkable River Douro – over a glass of port, of course.
We depart the ship and leave behind the terraced hillsides of the Douro Valley. Heading south, our journey takes us inland as the wild seascapes of the Atlantic coast gradually give way to a hinterland of fertile fields and pine forests.
Our first destination is the ancient city of Coimbra, renowned for the impressive Roman aqueduct striding across the city and the historic university, one of Europe’s oldest and a rival to Salamanca’s. With its labyrinthine lanes, charming Moorish quarter and pretty squares, this city is a fascinating place to explore and its many historical buildings are collectively classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once a capital city, Coimbra became a major cultural centre during the Middle Ages with the university at its heart. We have the privilege of a visit to the university, which is situated on a hill overlooking the city. Its Baroque library – rich in giltwork, exotic woods and with a dazzling frescoed ceiling – contains over 200,000 leather-bound, centuries-old volumes. Equally extraordinary is the chapel, so exquisitely decorated it would be considered a cathedral in most places, and in complete contrast to the university prison, which is suitably austere and dates back to the mid 16th century.
We drive on through olive groves and wheat fields to Fátima, an unremarkable small town until 1917 when three children experienced an apparition of the Virgin Mary and it suddenly became an important Catholic pilgrimage site and a national shrine. The original chapel built to mark the site of the apparition is now part of a large and impressive Sanctuary Complex, which is well worth exploring.
Later we arrive in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and the country’s finest natural harbour, situated at the mouth of the River Tagus. Nestled amid seven hills, the city’s skyline is a mosaic of pastel and ochre shades, peppered with elegant domes and soaring spires.
We stay three nights at either the Hotel Marques du Pombal or the Real Palacio Hotel. The Hotel Marques du Pombal is located on the famous Avenida de Liberdade at the very heart of this vibrant capital. The hotel has a contemporary feel with stylish public areas, elegant restaurant and bar, plus a gym sauna and hairdresser’s salon. The Real Palacio Hotel is creatively constructed around the renovation of a historic 17th-century palace giving the hotel a modern yet classic feel, with elegantly furnished public areas, restaurant, bar, health club and spa. Well-located in close proximity to plenty of restaurants and cafés, it provides the perfect base from which to explore the city.
After a leisurely breakfast, we set out to discover Lisbon’s highlights, many of which have attained the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. On our tour we’ll see the strikingly modern Monument to the Discoveries and its 16th-century fortified counterpart, the Belém Tower, then visit the Jerónimos Monastery. One of the most magnificent buildings in Europe, the Monastery is a symbol of Portuguese wealth and power during the Age of Discovery. Founded by Henry the Navigator and containing the tomb of Vasco da Gama, it is an enormous, dazzlingly white edifice in classic Portuguese Gothic style, intricately decorated throughout with maritime motifs. We also see the impressive Terreiro do Paço square, facing out to sea, the majestic castle and Sé, the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral. There’s also Alfama, the Moorish quarter of timeless cobbled streets, and the wonderful belvedere at São Pedro de Alcântara with its expansive views across the rooftops.
Lisbon’s charm is its mix of ancient, modern, bustling and peaceful, so this afternoon is free to explore. You might be tempted by the chic shops of the elegant Baixa quarter, rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1755, or decide to seek out a café to enjoy a bica – a strong espresso often taken with a nata, the city’s devilishly moreish custard tart. Art-lovers can savour the Gulbenkian Foundation, established by an Armenian oil magnate who bought art from Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage after the Russian Revolution for bargain prices. This world-class institution has exhibits ranging from ancient Egyptian treasures to Impressionist paintings to a superb collection of Lalique jewellery and glass. And don’t forget to take a ride on one of the clanging, rattling yellow trams; seemingly well past their sell-by date, they’re still the best way to negotiate the sharp bends of the historic quarter.
We take a short drive to the hillside town of Sintra, whose verdant slopes were memorably described by Byron as a ‘glorious Eden’. Spectacularly perched on a hillside with views towards the nearby Atlantic coast, this is where Henry the Navigator grew up and doubtless gazed out to sea, imagining what lay beyond the horizon. It was also the retreat of Portugal’s royalty during the hot summer months. The narrow streets of the Old Town wind their way to the main square where you’ll find the National Palace, a wonderful mix of Gothic and Moorish styles crowned by a pair of huge white conical chimneys. Today this landmark is a museum with grand rooms and priceless art collections.
You may also choose to make your own way to the romantic 19th-century Pena Palace. Built as a summer residence, it is a living fairy tale; its colourful turrets, ramparts, gargoyles, domes and Moorish arches are a mystical mix of styles, while the interior is extravagantly decorated and features a ballroom and magnificent Arab Room. The surrounding park and lakes display an equally eclectic mix of ferns, rhododendrons and exotic plants from the former Portuguese colonies. Should you wish to spend a little longer in Sintra and return to Lisbon under your own steam, your Tour Manager will be able to advise how this can be done easily by train.
Otherwise we return to Lisbon along the coastline where Atlantic rollers crash onto endless golden beaches. Lisbon has an amazing old quarter that still follows the original Phoenician street grid, so spend this evening wandering through its atmospheric lanes lined with bars and restaurants, often decorated with the colourful ceramic tiles so typical of this city. Many will be buzzing with the sound of fado – a unique and infectious musical mix evolved from folk, colonial African and Brazilian styles. Don’t leave Lisbon without experiencing this.
Today we transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight after a memorable tour into one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe.
River Cruise: 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 (except for one lunch on the Seine Cruise); 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
Please note that on-board Wi-Fi speeds may vary.
Extension: The price of this extension is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability and are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes three nights accommodation in Lisbon with breakfast, all tours as mentioned, transfer to the airport and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
While we include everything you might need in our prices, we never charge for something you might not. If you prefer to pre-order your drinks, you can purchase our drinks package which offers superb value and includes a selection of drinks during lunch and dinner.
Simply relax and when it’s time to dine in the restaurant, take your pick from a range of: draught beer; non-alcoholic beer; soft drinks; juices; red, white and rosé house wines; and wine recommendations from the menu by the glass.
The cost of the drinks package is €119pp for 2018 departures and €129pp for 2019 departures.
If you choose not to purchase a drinks package, there is a vast selection of drinks on board each ship available for individual purchase. To see an example bar list please see our dining information.
Drinks packages must be purchased by all guests in the same cabin or suite, and do not include drinks from the bar. To book the drinks package please call the reservations team.
"Demarcated in 1756, the Douro Valley is one of the world’s oldest delimited wine regions. It’s also one of the most visually stunningly. Legend has it that it was an Englishman from Liverpool who discovered the monks of Lamego making the first ever Port wines back in the 17th century. A visit to the region wouldn’t be complete without tasting all the various styles from Ruby to Tawny, Vintage, even White Port (perhaps mixed into a refreshing sun-downer). Since Portugal’s accession to the EU, there has also been significant investment in table wine production and the quality of both whites and reds is impressive."
Susie Barrie & Peter Richards
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitabilty of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependant on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Airport or train station||Ship or hotellocation||Transfer time|
|Porto Airport||Porto (ship)||
|Lisbon Airport||4 hrs including comfort stop|
|Lisbon Airport||Lisbon (hotel)||30 mins|
My wife and I have recently returned from our second holiday with Riviera Travel, which is outlined above. Once again, we thoroughly enjoyed an extremely well organised tour. We are both elderly pensioners and I suffer from P...
Deb and Chris
What an amazing holiday we have had and we are in awe of South Africa. We were a little apprehensive at the size of the group (43) but other than a couple of people everyone was lovely. Ian and Patricia our guides were fabulous an...