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Follow the “river of gold” on this sweeping cruise through Portugal and Spain that showcases the culture, history, and wine of the Douro River Valley, arguably the world’s most beautiful wine region. From craggy granite bluffs to vineyard-laced hillsides, you’ll savor the views — and the vintages — of quaint quintas and picturesque wineries lining the storied Douro. You’ll also explore Lisbon — Portugal’s romantic cultural darling — as well as Porto, the seaside town renowned for its signature tipple, and Madrid, Spain’s regal and energetic metropolis. Experience as many as five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Salamanca’s Old City and the preserved ancient town of Guimarães, Portugal’s original first capital and the cradle of the Portuguese identity.
You’ll discover the bucolic hideaways, timeworn charm, and grand palaces of Portugal and Spain aboard the 124-passenger ms Douro Serenity, a brand-new, privately chartered river vessel. Maximize your time with pre- and post-trip extensions to Madeira and Barcelona on this traveler favorite, now with additional dates for the 2019 season!
*Note that in this special itinerary, winery visits may occur on days other than advertised.
Depart home for Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon
Depart the U.S. and board an overnight flight to Lisbon, Portugal.
Arrive in Lisbon
Arrive in Portugal’s capital. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, our representative will meet you outside the arrivals area and assist you with your transfer to the hotel. Enjoy a Welcome Briefing and Dinner this evening.
Tour Lisbon’s famed monuments, optional Religious History & Monuments Walking Tour
Wake up to views of Lisbon’s famed hillsides. This sloping city is a delight to explore on foot, with cobblestoned alleyways lined with shops, historical discoveries, and endless nooks and crannies — not to mention cinematic views of the Tagus River the higher you trek.
Begin the day with a guided panoramic tour of Lisbon’s famed monuments, including Belém Tower and the courtyards of the Monastery of Jerónimos, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure by exploring Lisbon’s cobblestoned charm on your own, or join an optional Jewish Heritage Walking Tour, which takes you inside the city’s historical Jewish sites, including the local synagogue, the Alfama Quarter, the Baixa district, and more! Cultural Connection: During your city tour, you’ll sample more pastéis de nata from a local bakery.
Further explore historical Lisbon on your own, or opt for a scenic coastal tour
Enjoy a day at leisure today. You might take our optional day tour down the scenic Portuguese coast to the UNESCO town of Sintra — home of the opulent, Moorish Sintra Palace — and onward to the fishing village of Cascais and its dramatic seaside cliffs, sweeping beaches, and bustling marina.
Or, further your Lisbon explorations with a taste of the city’s dynamic culinary scene at a gourmet market or by sampling local seafood in one of Lisbon’s celebrated eateries. Portugal is renowned for bacalhau — dried, salted codfish — as well as its tinned seafood, much of which is sardines, and you’ll find these delicacies almost everywhere.
Active travelers can embark on a hike through Lisbon’s trademark seven hills for must-see views of the city or head over to the Castelo neighborhood for a trek up to Sao Jorge Castle. This Moorish fortress offers a stunning overlook of the entire city and shopping opportunities for everything from local pottery to Portugal’s famous azulejo tiles.
Beginning in Lisbon, your coastal trek first takes you to the town of Sintra, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the wealth of Romantic architectural monuments it contains, including the 18th-century Queluz Palace. You'll visit this ornate palace before enjoying some time to explore the town of Sintra on your own. Later, your tour continues with a scenic drive along the coastline to the quiet fishing village of Cascais. Once you have arrived, you can enjoy lunch on your own and take in the postcard-perfect scenery before returning to the hotel this evening.
The storied walls of Óbidos and the seaside town of Nazaré, then embark your ship in Porto
Today, head to the port wine capital of Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city featuring a charming tangle of alleyways, a walkable and historic center, and an unmistakably hip vibe that juxtaposes the city’s myriad architectural styles.
But first you’ll explore Óbidos, where a walking tour will introduce you to one of Portugal’s prettiest towns — so pretty, in fact, that Óbidos was gifted to Queen Isabel from King Dinis on their wedding day in 1282. You’ll also venture to Nazaré, a beach town famous for its monstrous waves and surfing culture, where we'll have lunch before continuing on to Porto. Here, we’ll embark the ms Douro Serenity and enjoy a Welcome Reception with fellow travelers
Scenic sailing: We’ll also begin our sail down the UNESCO-listed Douro River, lined with terraced vineyards and quintas, or rural estates. During the length of our cruise, we’ll pass multiple locks and offer onboard commentary on certain stretches, and you’ll enjoy slow sailing to enjoy every view!
An exploration of celebrated Porto, topped with a port wine sampling at a local wine cellar
Following breakfast on board, get to know Porto better with a full city tour and panoramic drive, including a visit to the historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the market area. You might also visit stunning Livraria Lello, named one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores. Make your way up its famous red spiral staircase (be sure to pause and admire the stained glass skylight as you climb!) and peruse the shelves of this landmark — reportedly an inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series!
Cultural Connection and Unforgettable Moment: No visit to Porto is complete without enjoying its signature wine, of course, so we’ll cross the Douro for a visit to one of the city’s best-known port-wine cellars. Learn about and sample the varieties of this digestif while enjoying the ambience of the surrounding gardens and river views below. Cultural Connection: Back on board this evening, a local artisan will give a talk on “Portuguese Filigree” as you cruise through the Douro River Valley. Following dinner, enjoy a lively performance by a local tuna band.
Tour the historical center of Guimarães
Set off on a guided tour of the historical center of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inscribed on the city’s castle walls you’ll find the phrase Aqui Nasceu Portugal (“Portugal was born here”), a reference to the country’s first king, Afonso Henriques, who was purportedly born in Guimarães. Cultural Connection: Back on board, a lecture about Portugal’s cork industry will further enhance our understanding of regional wine culture and the ways in which the Portuguese are making use of this versatile material. Then, let music carry you back through the decades as you enjoy a performance by local musicians.
Sample vintages and regional delicacies at Aveleda Winery before touring Régua
A plethora of cultural delights awaits you today! Cultural Connection: We begin the day at Aveleda Winery, a producer of a variety of popular Portuguese wines (many of which are favorites in New England, as well). Harvest Season Exclusive: You’ll enjoy an upgraded tasting of Quinta da Aveleda and Casal Garcia rosé wines expertly paired with grilled Portuguese sausage, a cheese and jam spread, and other regional delicacies before returning to the ship for lunch. Back on board, enjoy an authentic Portuguese tea time, complete with pastries while learning about the traditions surrounded tea drinking and tea production.
This afternoon, we’ll head off on a walking tour of Régua, including a visit to the Douro Museum, where you’ll learn all about the storied Douro River Valley you’ll be admiring from the deck of the ship. Cultural Connection & Culinary Feature: Continuing today’s culinary theme, enjoy a demonstration of pastéis de nata back on the ship. Tonight, a musical trio comes on board for more evening entertainment.
Tour the highlights of Lamego, followed by a regional tasting at a local quinta
Today we’ll explore the quaint town of Lamego, filled with terra-cotta rooftops, tree-lined streets, and a 700-step staircase that leads to the grand Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. Climb all 700 steps to this church and admire the surrounding gardens filled with monuments, terraces, fountains, and pretty tile mosaics.
Reboard the ship this afternoon and hear a lecture titled “A Look Inside Portugal” as we continue to another local quinta to sample more fantastic regional wines in yet another breathtaking Douro setting. Harvest Season Exclusive: Before dinner, catch a demonstration on how to open and decant a fine vintage port in preparation for serving, followed by a tasting. Cultural Connection: This evening, experience the tradition of Portuguese folk music during an onboard performance.
Toast the season with a full-day Harvest Celebration at the Avessada Winery Estate
Harvest Season Exclusive: Today will definitely go down as a highlight of this journey after you make a special full-day “Harvest Day” visit to Avessada Winery hosted by Luis Barros, the estate’s fifth generation owner. Located at the highest point on the Douro, this winery produces a staggering 30,000,000 bottles of light, fruity, fortified Moscatel wine. Along with a tour of the cellars and museum, you’ll pick grapes in the vineyard, enjoy local entertainment, and channel your inner Lucille Ball during a grape stomping experience, a classic way to celebrate the culture of the UNESCO-listed Alto Douro Wine Region.
Savor Portugal’s culinary culture in Figueria Castelo Rodrigo
We’ll venture on shore today on a visit to the fortified hill town of Figueira Castelo Rodrigo. With its preserved medieval architecture, a visit here truly feels like turning back the clock 600 years. Visit the old walls, the 16th-century pillory, the local parish church, and more on a walking tour. Cultural Connection: You’ll also enjoy a small tasting of local products here, introducing you to the culinary culture of the area.
Explore Salamanca’s ornate architecture
The word “magical” is often used to describe Salamanca, and you’ll find out why on a walking tour of the city today. Unforgettable Moment: Explore Salamanca’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and learn about the revered University of Salamanca and its students who infuse the city with even more character and vitality. You’ll also see the town’s grand cathedral and baroque Plaza Mayor, where you can seek out churros and do some shopping and independent wandering.
We’ll depart for Madrid after lunch on our own; practice your pronunciation during the drive with a Spanish language lesson. Tonight, we’ll gather for a lively Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Uncover Madrid's charms during a city tour
Truly one of the world’s great capitals, Madrid is teeming with fascinating sights in a swirling, lively, cosmopolitan setting. You’ll begin exploring this vibrant city on foot, walking the new Madrid-Rio area, savoring city views, and passing multiple other historic monuments. Unforgettable Moment: Embark on a panoramic drive and walking tour that includes Plaza Mayor and tapas tasting at the Central Market. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to further explore, or head to the renowned Prado Museum on an optional tour. Cultural Connection: Tonight, witness Spanish history and intoxicating culture come to life during a stirring flamenco dinner show.
Spend a day exploring Madrid at your leisure, or opt for a tour of Toledo
Enjoy a free day to pursue your own interests — wander the city’s many squares, shop for espadrilles and other classic Spanish products, and get your fill of tapas — or set off on an optional tour to nearby Toledo and the charming, narrow lanes of its UNESCO-listed historic center on the Tagus River.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or remain in the city for your optional extension
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or continue your travels by heading next to Barcelona on an optional extension.
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itinerary is preliminary and subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert. In addition, should there be an extreme change in water levels, Vantage will do everything possible to provide either the included excursion or an alternate excursion at Vantage’s discretion.
Please Note: Port times & itineraries are subject to change. Fluctuating water levels may affect itinerary.
*Note that in this special itinerary, winery visits may occur on days other than advertised.