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The scenery, culture, and spirits will overflow on this revelatory river cruise through the Douro River Valley, one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. You’ll spend three days discovering Lisbon’s seven hillsides - and a cultural capital that has cemented its place as a gastronomical powerhouse - before embarking on a scenic exploration of the Douro’s treasures and bucolic villages. From Porto’s cobblestoned center and signature tipple to the vineyard-lined hills that nurture Portugal’s finest varietals, you’ll revel in castles and cuisine, views and vintages, and discover the charm and medieval hearts of towns including Óbidos, Lamego, and Salamanca, until falling under Madrid’s regal spell. Experience even more luster on this fabled “river of gold” with 14 included tours, five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, multiple winery visits, a stirring flamenco dinner in Madrid, and immersion into the Alto Douro wine region’s idyllic way of life.
Depart home for Lisbon
Depart the U.S. and board an overnight flight to Lisbon, Portugal.
Arrive in Portugal’s capital city. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, our representative will meet you outside the arrivals area and assist with your transfer to the hotel. Travelers who took the optional pre-trip extension to Madeira will meet up with fellow travelers on Day 2. 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 Religious History & Monuments Walking Tour, which takes you inside the city’s historical religious sites, including Sé Cathedral, the Alfama Quarter, the Baixa district, and more!
During your city tour, you’ll sample a classic Portuguese pastry: Pastéis de Belém. One taste of this creamy egg custard wrapped in buttery, flaky crust, and you’ll see why this is Portugal’s favorite treat!
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 restaurants. 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. You will overnight on the ship in Porto.
An exploration of 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!
No visit to Porto is complete without enjoying its signature wine, of course, so we’ll seek our port-wine at one of the city’s best-known cellars. Learn about and sample the varieties of this digestif while enjoying views of Porto and the river. Back on the ship this evening, a local artisan will give a talk on “Portuguese Filigree.” Following dinner, enjoy a lively performance by a local tuna band.
Roam the historic center of Guimarães
This morning, enjoy your choice of experiences: first, a morning 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. Or, take a guided tour through one of Porto's liveliest neighborhoods, Ribeira, known for its colorful buildings and cobblestone streets. Return to the ship for lunch, and enjoy scenic sailing toward Bitetos with live commentary. Before dinner on board, learn about Portugal's thriving cork industry during another enlightening lecture; then, let music transport you back in time when local performers come on board to play music from the '60s, '70s, and '80s.
Sample vintages and regional delicacies at Aveleda Winery before touring Régua
A plethora of cultural delights awaits you today! We begin the day in Bitetos, where a short drive brings us to Aveleda Winery, a producer of a variety of popular Portuguese wines (many of which are favorites in New England, as well). You’ll enjoy a tasting of Vinho Verde and some small snacks before returning to the ship for lunch. Back on board, enjoy an authentic Portuguese tea experience complete with pastries while learning about the traditions surrounding tea drinking and tea production as we sail to Régua. You'll learn some interesting factoids about tea and its worldwide distribution, of which Portugal plays a significant role.
This afternoon, we’ll head off on a short walk to Régua, where we'll visit its Douro Museum to learn about the storied Douro River Valley you’ll be admiring from the deck of the ship. Later, delve into the recipe behind pastéis de nata, one of Portugal’s favorite treats, during an onboard cooking lesson.
Tour the highlights of Lamego, followed by a regional tasting at a quinta, and a Captain's Dinner on board
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. We'll begin our tour at the church, then you can descend all 700 steps and admire the surrounding gardens filled with monuments, terraces, fountains, and pretty tile mosaics. We’ll also visit a former episcopal palace that’s now the Lamego Museum, which houses a collection of works by Portuguese painter Grão Vasco.
We'll have lunch on board and enjoy an afternoon at leisure, during which we cruise to Pinhão. Early this evening, we'll venture to another local quinta
to sample more fantastic regional wines in yet another breathtaking Douro setting. This evening, experience the tradition of Portuguese fado music as you enjoy a performance on board and attend dinner.
Wander the fabulous Mateus Manor House and Garden before sampling vintages at Avessada Winery
Watch the magnificent palace depicted on Mateus rosé wine bottles come to life as we spend the morning at the 18th-century Mateus Manor House and Garden. This sweeping baroque property houses a maze of manicured hedgerows, elegant parterres, and a lake that reflects the palace in its mirror-still surface. We'll head to Avessada Winery for lunchtime, and even the drive through these vineyards is an experience in and of itself. Avessada is a guaranteed highlight of your time in Portugal, as you'll savor a complete experience today: meeting the winery host, viewing generations of wine production, and coming to a true understanding of this region's way of life. Many of our travelers also rave that this is the best meal on the cruise, too!
Revel in more Portuguese culture at Figueira Castelo Rodrigo
After sailing from Pinhão to Barca d'Alva (where travelers can see Spain in the distance!), we’ll venture on shore this afternoon 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. You’ll also enjoy a small tasting of local products here, introducing you to the culinary culture of the area. A tour of a local home allows you to explore the interiors of the centuries-old architecture. This is also a great place to purchase Portuguese cork products! Enjoy the Captain's Farewell Dinner on board this evening.
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. 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 along the town's main street. Lunch (typically tapas) will be on your own.
We’ll depart for Madrid after lunch; practice your pronunciation during the drive with a Spanish language lesson and an introduction to Spain. We'll reach Madrid and check into our centrally-located hotel, close to many restaurants, the Royal Palace, and the famous El Corte Inglés shopping mall across the street. Tonight, regroup for a Farewell Dinner at the hotel.
Uncover Madrid’s charms during a city tour, and experience stirring Spanish history during a flamenco show
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 through Plaza Sol and Plaza Mayor, savoring city views, and passing multiple other historic monuments. Embark on a panoramic drive and walking tour that includes the Atocha Station, Retiro Park, Gran Vía, and an outside look at the Royal Palace. Later, visit the city’s Mercado Central for an included tapas tasting!
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to further explore, or head to the renowned Prado Museum on an optional tour.
Tonight, witness Spanish history and intoxicating culture come to life during a stirring flamenco dinner show. While its history is a big foggy, this renowned music and dance combination is reported to have originated in the southern region of Andalusia while it was under Arab rule. Locals and, later, gypsies adapted Arab music and instruments into a hybrid genre still practiced and celebrated today.
Welcome to Madrid’s treasured Prado Museum, one of the world’s greatest art galleries. Located in the eponymous street, El Paseo del Prado, you’ll find a dazzling display of priceless works by European masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens, and Bosch. The sheer scale of this museum’s collection can be daunting, so you’ll begin your tour with the expertise of a guide before having free time to explore further on your own. (You'll spend two hours in the museum, and another two hours factoring in lunch, sightseeing, and transfer time.)
Spend a day exploring Madrid at your leisure, or opt for a tour of Toledo
Enjoy a free day to pursue your own interests with recommendations provided by your Cruise Director. 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 next heading 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 on our special harvest itineraries, winery visits may occur on days other than advertised.