Taking a cruise on the Douro (the ‘golden river’) opens up a world of fine food and wine, along with insight into Portugal’s colourful culture and history. Discovering the region is best done slowly on the water, so you can appreciate the many flavours and sights along the way.
Portugal has featured in the ‘hot’ lists of travel magazines around the world for the past year or two. As more of us discover its charms, tourist numbers to this country – whose capital, Lisbon boasts the most hours of sunshine of any European capital – have been growing. And no wonder – visitors can’t get enough of exotic Lisbon, pretty Porto, enigmatic Madeira, the gorgeous Algarve, and one of the most popular areas of all – the Douro river. The Douro runs from Vega de Terron (in Salamanca, western Spain) to Porto, and wine is a huge part of the journey. The Douro Wine Region – the Alto Douro – has been producing wine for an astonishing 2,000 years and is one of four World Heritage-listed sites along the river.
DOWN THE DOURO
Just like a fine wine is to be savoured, the best way to experience the rural and historic beauty of this river is to step on board the spectacular Scenic Azure river cruise ship. Take in the verdant landscape, with family-run quintas (estates) and everywhere, rows and rows of vines kept neat and tidy on old stone socalcos or patamares (sloped terraces), producing a liquid gold of their own. The food is just as good, with traditional favourites like pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), Alheira sausage and polvo (octopus) on the menu.
THE SCENIC ROUTE
Unlike the original wooden rabelo boats once used to carry wine barrels down the river to Porto, the Scenic Azure was custom-built for the Douro and will ensure an unforgettable experience in five-star luxury.
The vessel carries just 96 guests in 48 suites, who are spoilt for choice from the moment of boarding, with the added bonus of all-inclusive luxury all day, every day – from unlimited complimentary drinks to on-shore excursions, tipping, gratuities and wi-fi – not to mention butler service for all suites.
Guests can also enjoy a Scenic Enrich experience – an exclusive classical concert in the glittering gold interior of the Church of São Francisco in the World Heritage-listed historic centre of Porto. And with Scenic Freechoice, they can choose from a range of 14 activities, including visiting the Ducal Palace at Guimarães – the seat of the first King of Portugal, or tasting the sparkling wines and strolling through the immaculate gardens at Quinta da Aveleda in the Vino Verde region.
Lovers of the famous Mateus can choose a guided visit at Mateus Palace, the historic icon depicted on the labels of Portugal’s famous Mateus rosé wine. Some more adventurous pursuits are also on offer, such as hiking through the vineyards at Pinhão or canoeing on an offshoot of the Douro at Pocinho.
When not out and about, guests can laze by the vitality pool, enjoy the wellness centre or just sit and enjoy the spectacular landscape passing by, a glass of port or perhaps a rosé in hand.
Emirates flies four times a week from Dubai to Porto, its second destination in Portugal, giving easy connections to passengers from New Zealand and Asia. Flights are on Boeing 777-200LR aircraft with two classes – Business and Economy. There are 38 lie-flat seats in Business Class and 264 seats in Economy. Passengers will enjoy the famed hospitality and service from Emirates’ multinational cabin crew, regionally inspired meals, complimentary beverages and over 4,000 channels of entertainment on ‘ice’, featuring the latest movies, music and games. Flights operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Emirates also operates two flights a day between Dubai and Lisbon.Blog and Image Copyright: MiNDFOOD Magazine (January 2020 Edition)