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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Sailing Through Unforgettable Portugal

Houses and large buildings on a hill in the cit of Porto, Portual

When you think of a vacation to your favorite, long-sought destination, you probably realize you're not likely to see EVERYTHING in one brief trip. One way to take maximum of advantage of your time in-country without increasing to a frenetic pace and allowing yourself the enjoyment of the moment is to journey on a country's rivers. Rivers were the first highways, after all, and are to this day effective modes of transportation for merchandise and travelers alike.

Cruising on rivers is favored by travelers who seek maximum relaxation, sightseers who want informative tours, as well as by connoisseurs of fine cuisine and wine. On a Douro River sailing, you can put your feet up, savor delicious Portuguese gastronomy and see the best of the Douro River Valley.

One of the first things you will do when you step aboard the finest ships on the Douro River, is see Porto: you will also enjoy the romantic sight of Porto illuminated at night during a complimentary cocktail hour. I highly recommend heading up to the Sun Deck for a peek at this romantic sight.

You will be able to venture into this “City of Bridges” on a walking tour or hike that includes a visit to a Port wine cellar for a tasting. You will discover the colorful homes, famous street markets and amazing blue and white azulejo tiles at Porto’s São Bento Station, and in many other places during your journey, including Palacio Anadia.

Another one of my favorite Portuguese ports is Pinhão. Located in the heart of the Douro River Valley, this town has the perfect conditions for producing high-quality wine. And, with its beautiful terraces and vineyards, you feel like you’re walking into a postcard. It is absolutely magical and has a very nice promenade as well as a train station with tiles depicting the story of Port wine.

Yes, Portuguese cuisine and Port wine. The beauty of Portuguese ports aside, one of the best reasons to visit Portugal is to indulge in its food. First, dessert: pastéis de nata (Portuguese cream tarts), a delicious 200-year-old tradition; and you can’t come to Portugal without trying a recipe that includes codfish. It is said that there are 365 codfish recipes, stemming from the country’s centuries-old fishing history. I highly recommend bacalhau à brás, which is a dish with codfish, potatoes and onions made into a delicious fish cake.

As for wine, the Douro River Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, so you must try a few varieties of Port wine (a sweet fortified red) while sailing through the stunning heart of Port Country. During your onboard meals, the complimentary wines will include Port tastings too.

In addition to wonderful onboard meals and impeccable service, you will also enjoy two locally-prepared meals at traditional wine estates, known as quintas, on shore. At Quinta da Avelada, you’ll stroll through the English-style gardens and hear historic stories, and savor a sumptuous meal in a beautiful room overlooking the vineyards. At Quinta da Avessada, you’ll be treated to a unique welcome with live music you won’t soon forget. Spot the cork trees, from which Portugal’s famous cork products are produced.

Make it Count – Beginning with Lisbon. Expand your visit to Portugal with a three nights in Lisbon either before or after your cruise. Relax in a hotel conveniently located near one of the best shopping districts so you can easily shop and browse for souvenirs in your free time, and take a fantastic excursion to many of Lisbon’s landmarks, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the famously beautiful Belém Tower (where you will get to taste the famous Pastéis de Belém, and the exquisite Jerónimos Monastery. You will also have free time to visit the city’s museums, including my top recommendation, the Fado Museum, and Sintra renowned for its colorful Palacio da Pena.

Before embarkation, you will be taken on a special excursion to Tomar Castle, the castle of the Knights Templar, the walls of which envelop the elaborate UNESCO-designated Convent of Christ.

Think about this: extend Your Journey in Madrid. Why not? You're practically there. I'm a firm believer in maximizing that long transatlantic flight by creating a journey that provides unexpected luxury and enjoyment. Not only do you get to add another country and fascinating excursions to your international experience, but you have a little more time to relax and enjoy yourself before heading home.

Join the excursion to Salamanca, the “Golden City,” the same day you disembark the ship with free time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site before you tour the New Cathedral and the distinctive House of Shells – you will definitely want your camera out for them both! Later, check into a wonderful hotel in Madrid and spend the next two days touring Madrid and the UNESCO-designated walled city of Toledo, as well as its cathedral and Synagogue Santa María La Blanca.

Touch base with me to start planning your vacation to Portugal. The details of ideal itinerary for you takes time to research, design and book, so tarry no longer.

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