A “Royal” Douro Cruise
This is a 7-day private charter cruise on the Spirit of Chartwell along the River Douro from Porto to Barca d’Alva.
Join us for a week of luxury aboard the Spirit of Chartwell, the Royal Barge used by the Queen as she sailed down the River Thames during her jubilee celebrations. The ship’s rich interiors, reminiscent of the fabled Orient Express, testify to why it was chosen for such an occasion.
The Sprit of Chartwell is well provisioned for cruising on the Douro. As well as a long sun deck, protected from the wind that occasionally blows along the valley, you can also use the Charles Dickens Solarium. On the lower deck we find the Somerset Maugham Piano Bar with a grand piano, and also the lounge. The chairs used by the Queen and Prince Philip during the Jubilee Thames cruise are here. All on-board meals are served in the George Bradshaw Restaurant.
There are only 14 double cabins and one suite, making this a very exclusive cruise experience.
Our seven-day cruise will take us along the river as far as the Spanish border, enjoying some quite spectacular scenery, and passing through five locks, two of which have a rise of over 30 metres. Also enjoy high quality meals, both on and off the ship, as well as visits to local wine and port producers. Drinks with meals are included.
If you are looking for luxury, then this is the trip to do.
Friday 11 August (D) Various flight options between the UK and Porto including direct flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Liverpool. Flights from Liverpool are not daily (see end of itinerary for options). Flight time is 2 hours. You will be met by the PTG Tour Manager and taken to Porto Quay for our late afternoon check-in on Spirit of Chartwell. There will be a welcome cocktail and dinner will be served on board. Overnight in Porto.
Saturday 12 August (B,L,D) Breakfast is served on board as we set sail from Porto travelling upriver to Regua, the centre of port wine production. We set sail during lunch and travel up river through a beautiful area of small villages and river beaches. Mid-afternoon we pass through the Crestuma Lever dam and into a stretch of the river with steeper valley sides and areas of woodland and vineyards. Later we reach the Carrapatelo Dam, at 35 metres the highest in Western Europe and an unforgettable experience as we pass through its huge lock. Our first meal off the ship will be lunch at Quinta da Aveleda, an important producer of the famous vinho verde, or green wine. We also have an opportunity to see their gardens, complete with the goat tower, Manueline window and vineyards. Returning to Regua, we have a guided visit to the Douro Museum, where we learn about the history and production of port wine, and the role of the River Douro. Dinner will be on board Spirit of Chartwell, and we will spend the night in Regua.
Sunday 13 August (B,L,D) We cruise towards the charming riverside village of Pinhão this morning, a village most famous for its tiled railway station. After lunch our luxury coach takes us to the splendid Mateus Palace and Gardens, the palace famous for appearing on the labels of Mateus rosé wine. However, Mateus Palace actually produce their own wine, which you will be able to taste. You will have a guided tour of the palace and free time to explore the beautiful gardens. Dinner tonight will be in a local wine producing “Quinta”. Overnight in Pinhão.
Monday 14 August (B,L,D) We continue our cruise to Barca d’Alva, on the Spanish border and the limit of the navigable part of the river. We are now on a stretch of the river with spectacular areas of rock cliffs, terraced vineyards and olive trees. There are few roads, and the Douro Railway Line follows the river almost to Pocinho, where we briefly leave the railway line as the river curves round in a long loop. After Pocinho, the railway continues to follow the river, but sadly this section closed in 1988. There will be an excursion to Castelo Rodrigo, an ancient hill-top village with great views of the surrounding lands and one of the twelve historical fortified villages in Portugal. To help us understand the role of Castelo Rodrigo and other historical villages, we will have a guest speaker who will deliver a fun but interesting talk about the history of Portugal. This evening we have the Captain’s Dinner, the most important meal on our cruise. Overnight in Barca d’Alva.
Tuesday 15 August (B,L,D) After breakfast we travel by coach to the fine Spanish city of Salamanca; Spain’s finest showcase of Renaissance and Plateresque architecture. Known as the golden city due to the stone used to build the fine collection of secular and religious buildings from the 15th to 18th centuries – now a World Heritage City. We have a guided tour of the historical sites including the fine Plaza Mayor and Cathedral. Lunch in a local Spanish restaurant with Traditional Spanish dances. We return to our river cruiser in time for a barbecue dinner. Overnight in Barca d’Alva.
Wednesday 16 August (B,L,D) We start our cruise back towards Porto today with a long trip through the splendid scenery and three dams to Regua. On arrival in Regua, our coach takes us to the old episcopal city of Lamego, which has a wealth of baroque churches and mansions. We see the 18th-century pilgrimage church and shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios (Our Lady of Cures), situated high above the city with magnificent views of Lamego and the valley below. Another guest speaker will talk to us about Portugal today, and later we will experience the “Vintage Port Ceremony”! The opening of a bottle of vintage port the traditional way. Overnight in Regua.
Thursday 17 August (B,L,D) We sail to Porto this morning to complete our journey on this famous river. Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city and we shall have a panoramic city tour of Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto. Discover, with our local guide, the different quarters of the city that gave the name to Portugal. In the old town you will see many of the charming 18th and 19th century buildings. Our Farewell Dinner will be on board the ship. Overnight in Porto.
Friday 18 August (B) We enjoy breakfast on board before disembarkation and transferring to the airport for our flights home or indeed to a local hotel if you want continue your holiday exploring this fine city.