Although a Douro cruise sets a pretty leisurely pace, there are some wonderful experiences along the way. We wandered around medieval hilltop villages that have barely changed over the centuries. We visited the cellars of some of the big port-growing dynasties and saw their names gracing the steeply terraced vineyards along the river in huge letters. And we ventured outside the area, too, spending a day across the border in the magnificent Spanish university town of Salamanca, one of the best-kept secrets in the whole of Europe, thanks to its exquisite beauty and history. And then there are the simpler pleasures like eating freshly-grilled sardines at a deck barbecue organised by the crew.
While many cruise travellers have yet to stumble across the Douro River, U.K. operators have been plying the river for years. After all, it was the Brits who started the port wine industry 300 years ago with their Portuguese allies, and strong ties remain between the two countries. British operators include Titan HiTours, Saga, Page & Moy, Noble Caledonia and Cosmos.
The Douro is increasingly popular with international river lines and companies like AmaWaterways, with its AmaVida and Uniworld with its Queen Isabel, have added new and upgraded ships in the region. In spring 2014, Viking River Cruises christened two new ships — Viking Torgil and Viking Hemming — in Porto. CroisiEurope also offers Douro cruising — the French line has three ships in the region.
Wondering why you should give the Douro a try? Click on the photo above to view the slideshow of our top eight reasons to cruise down this Portuguese waterway, based on my sailing on Uniworld's Douro Queen, which previously sailed there.