Nicole Edenedo
Nicole Edenedo

To Douro or not to Douro? 

That is hardly a question for the river cruise lines, which continue to deepen their investments on this Portuguese river and expand their product offerings there.

A number of river cruise lines are adding new ships and itineraries, more departures and extended seasons on the Douro River, which say they're seeing increased demand for cruises through Portugal's wine region.

From the steep, rolling hills flanking the Douro and the symphony of colors like green and gold that appear there in the fall, to the opportunities to learn about the rich history of winemaking in the region, including the origins of Port wine, it's no surprise that sailings on the Douro River continue to be a best seller.

New Douro offerings from Riviera River Cruises

Riviera River Cruises is the latest river cruise company to announce the expansion of its product offerings on the Douro River. The line said it would launch a new ship, with a new itinerary, next July.

That ship, the Porto Mirante, will accommodate 118 passengers. It will include an atrium bar and lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows, a restaurant and a fitness center, and a sky lounge,  bar and splash pool on the sun deck.

The Porto Mirante will sail 10 departures of the eight-day Highlights of the Douro Valley and Salamanca River from July through October 2024. That itinerary will operate roundtrip from Porto and include a guided tour of Porto's Old Town; a visit to the Quinta da Pacheca winery, including dinner and a selection of its wines; a visit to the 12th-century, walled village of Castelo Rodrigo; and a tour of Salamanca, Spain, with a traditional flamenco show over lunch.

"Our only itinerary on the Douro River has grown to become one of our most popular cruises, so we're launching a new ship and a new itinerary to keep up with demand there," said Marilyn Conroy, executive vice president sales and marketing North America for Riviera River Cruises.

The Porto Mirante will join the existing Douro Elegance and Douro Splendor on the waterway, both of which sail Riviera's eight-day Douro, Porto and Salamanca River Cruise voyage.

Fares for the Highlights of the Douro Valley and Salamanca River Cruise start at $2,849 per person, per double occupancy. Guests who book this itinerary, along with all of Riviera's 2024 cruise itineraries, will automatically receive the line's Superior Drinks package free of charge.

Avalon Waterways' first Douro itinerary, aboard a new ship

Avalon Waterways will debut its first Douro River itineraries aboard a new ship next year.

The Avalon Algeria, a 102-passenger Suite Ship vessel, will give guests an up-close view of the hillside vineyards and historic villages that dot Portugal's Douro Valley.

The ship will operate roundtrip from Porto on an eight-day Vida Portugal: Vineyards & Villages Along the Douro itinerary that will feature Avalon's Classic, Discovery and Active excursion choices in each port. Guests can expect to visit the ancient community of Amarante in the picturesque Minho region, which is known for its golden church that dates back to 1530, as well as see the sandstone architecture in Salamanca and visit Unesco World Heritage sites.

The company announced the expansion last September.

"We've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to add Portugal to our robust vacation portfolio, and that day has finally arrived," said Pam Hoffee, president of Avalon Waterways, at the time of the announcement. "Inviting our guests to sail the Douro for the first time, we're bringing the Suite Ships of Avalon, the grandest views in cruising and whim-powered itineraries to Southwestern Europe, and we couldn't be more excited."

Emerald Cruises' Additional 2023-2024 Douro River offerings

Emerald Cruises is extending its Douro River sailing season this year with the addition of two departures this fall.

The line added Nov. 18 and Nov. 25 departure dates for the eight-day Secrets of the Douro itinerary aboard the Emerald Radiance.

Tours on the Secrets of the Douro itinerary include a visit to the 18th century Quinta do Tedo vineyards, where guests will learn about the estate's traditional methods of cultivating and harvesting grapes; a visit to the town of Regua, an important winemaking town in Portugal; and a dinner experience at Quinta da Pacheca.

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