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Douro River Cruise: Into the Heart of Portugal
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11 days

from $9,760 AUD

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Travelers can choose light or moderate activities throughout the trip. They should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, and easy hikes, with options each day for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Tour some of the Douro Valley’s most prestigious vineyards, sip port at a celebrated cellar in Porto, and enjoy interpretive wine tastings on board as we sail.
  • In the company of a National Geographic expert, see the fascinating engravings of Foz Côa—widely considered the world’s most important open-air Paleolithic rock art site.
  • Take in a festive flamenco performance in Salamanca and a private concert in the spectacular gilded nave of Porto’s Igreja de São Francisco.
  • Attend on board photo talks led by a National Geographic photographer, and practice landscape shots on the sinuous vineyards that flank the Douro.
Itinerary

In northern Portugal, the Douro River curves through the terraced vineyards of Douro wine country, a World Heritage-designated region celebrated for its spectacular beauty and centuries-old viticulture. Step back in time in medieval villages, examine world-renowned rock art, and cross into Spain to roam the Renaissance streets of Salamanca. Along the way, taste excellent wines in the cellars of Porto and historic countryside estates, and listen to traditional rhythms of fado and flamenco in spectacular settings.

Days 1-2: Porto, Portugal

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Arrive in Porto, a World Heritage-listed city straddling the Douro River. Embark the Scenic Azure and enjoy a welcome reception and dinner on board. On a walking tour of Porto’s historic old town, explore medieval treasures, examine azulejo tiles, and visit the Palácio da Bolsa—the city’s old stock exchange. Later, we begin our cruise along the Douro.

Days 3-4: Guimarães/Douro Valley

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Delve into history at the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança in Guimarães, the country's first capital; or venture to the stunning Quinta da Aveleda winery and gardens in the Vinho Verde wine region, where we’ll sip on sparkling whites. Glide into the stunning Douro Valley this afternoon and get an introduction to the area at the Douro Museum in Peso da Régua. The next day, visit the 12th-century Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca, Portugal’s first Cistercian monastery; tour the elegant town of Lamego; or join a guide to explore the opulent Mateus Palace, famously featured on bottles of Mateus rosé.

Day 5: On the Douro

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Take in scenes of the Douro Valley from the comfort of the ship lounge as we wind our way past the charming terra-cotta-roofed towns and vine-striped hillsides that earned the region its World Heritage designation. Enjoy the amenities on board, including a plunge pool, fitness center, and expansive sundeck; and spend time with our National Geographic photographer documenting scenes along the Douro’s picturesque shoreline.

Day 6: Salamanca, Spain

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Cross into Spain for a visit to Salamanca. Take in the city’s Renaissance splendor on a guided city tour, then enjoy some time to explore on your own. Have lunch in town with live entertainment from flamenco dancers, and visit the historic university in the afternoon.

Day 7: Côa Valley, Portugal

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Venture into the Côa Valley and visit the Côa Museum to learn about the prehistoric rock art at the World Heritage-listed Foz Côa. Opt to ride a 4x4 vehicle to the archaeological site, and hike to these fascinating carvings. You may instead choose to paddle a canoe along the pristine Sabor River, a rugged tributary to the Douro. Or set out on a culinary excursion to the Casa Painova estate and taste their delicious almond and olive products. Tonight, local musicians join us on board to perform traditional Portuguese songs.

Day 8: Provesende

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Drive into the hills of the Douro Valley to the time-locked town of Provesende. Wander this quaint village and get a glimpse into daily life here while meeting with local residents. Pop into the town bakery, enjoy a special recital in the church, and sip on wine at the charming Morgadio da Calçada manor house. Later, visit the Quinta da Roêda estate to try their famous ports and, if you wish, walk among the vines for a special al fresco tasting.

Days 9-11: Porto

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Relax on board and enjoy a tasting of Douro Valley wines as we sail back toward Porto. Upon arrival, head to Igreja de São Francisco for a private concert in this baroque church’s spectacular gilded nave. Tour the Douro Estuary on foot, spotting birdlife amid the salt marshes; and meet fishermen returning with the day's catch. There are also options to visit Porto’s oldest canning factory, or go for a tasting in one of the city’s most celebrated port cellars. Disembark on our final morning and depart for home.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Madrid, Spain

¡Bienvenido a Madrid! Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.

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Day 2: Madrid

This morning, begin our exploration of Madrid in the historic center, Los Austrias, built during the reign of the Hapsburg dynasty. Explore the quarter’s highlights including the elegant Plaza Mayor, which is dominated by the Casa de la Panadería (Bakery House)—the city’s municipal center. View the impressive Almudena Cathedral and meander through the neoclassical-style Sabatini Gardens, located in front of the 18th-century Royal Palace and named after the Italian architect who contributed to the palace’s design. Then continue to the Cibeles and Neptuno Fountains, two of the most majestic fountains in the city, which were commissioned by King Charles III. In the afternoon, you may opt to visit the world-renowned Prado Museum and its superb collection by Spanish masters, including works by Goya and Velázquez. Or choose to venture inside the sprawling Royal Palace, which boasts over 3,000 rooms. This evening, enjoy fine Spanish cuisine at a local restaurant.

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Day 3: Madrid

Spend the day at leisure exploring this marvelous city. Stroll amid the boutiques that adorn the famed Barrio de Salamanca, or relax in one of Madrid’s many beautiful parks and gardens. Venture to the “Golden Triangle of Art” to visit the city’s celebrated museums, including the Reina Sofía, home to Picasso’s Guernica, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses works by a diverse collection of masters, from Rubens to Cézanne. Savor the eclectic cuisine of this culinary capital at a local restaurant, or venture to the historic San Miguel market to browse colorful stalls selling cured meats, cheeses, and seafood. Or simply wander along the city’s lively streets, taking in a contrasting mix of baroque, neoclassical, and contemporary architecture, and soak up the vibrant energy.

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Day 4: Madrid

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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Day 1: Lisbon, Portugal

Arrive in Lisbon and transfer to your centrally located hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, and gather for dinner this evening.

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Day 2: Lisbon

The capital of Portugal since the 13th century, Lisbon rests on a series of hills at the mouth of the Tagus River, the longest waterway of the Iberian Peninsula. Step into Europe’s Age of Discovery on a historical tour of the city—the departure port for celebrated Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias. This afternoon, venture to Sintra, summer residence of Portugal’s royal family for four centuries, and climb to the eclectic Pena Palace. Or, travel just outside Lisbon to seaside Cascais for a guided stroll through this former fishing village.

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Day 3: Lisbon

Enjoy a full day to explore Lisbon at your leisure. Climb the cobbled streets of the historic Alfama neighborhood, explore multicultural Mouraria, and take in views of the skyline framed by sparkling waters from the ramparts of São Jorge Castle—a Moorish stronghold that presides over the city. This evening, savor upscale Portuguese cuisine at a local restaurant.

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Day 4: Lisbon

After breakfast, journey to Porto for your cruise along the Douro.

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What to Expect

Enjoy an all-inclusive experience aboard a world-class river ship featuring fine dining and butler service. Choose from a variety of excursions suited to a range of activity levels, from short walking tours to options for extended hiking and biking.

ACCOMMODATIONS
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Launched in 2016 and custom built to sail Portugal’s sinuous Douro River, the Scenic Azure joins luxury with cutting-edge technology. The ship is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art amenities and a variety of casual and upscale dining options; and a one-to-two staff-to-guest ratio ensures the highest level of service. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each departure.

Capacity: 96 guests in 48 outward-facing suites

Overall Length: 265 feet

Public Areas: The vessel is outfitted with four decks, including a spacious all-weather sun deck with comfortable lounge furniture for relaxation and al fresco dining. The ship also holds three elegant dining areas as well as indoor bar and lounge areas, all equipped with expansive panoramic windows.

Meals: Fare served on board is inspired by regional Portuguese and Spanish cuisine. The main dining area offers buffet and à la cart options three times daily, and exquisite multi-course meals with wine pairings are served upon invitation in two intimate dining rooms. The more casual café offers light meals and snacks, and a bar and lounge has a robust menu of wine, beer, and spirits.

Suites: All suites face outwards and are equipped with en suite bathrooms, and most have private balconies that can be converted into all-weather sun lounges. Select suites offer spacious lounge areas and large bathrooms. All accommodations are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi.

Special Features: Plunge pool, wellness center, fitness center, and gift shop. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each voyage.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Sep 22-02 Oct
  • Prices From $9,760 AUD Per Person
  • Ship Scenic Azure
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Trip PricesPer Person

Accommodations
Double Occupancy
Single Occupancy
Standard Suite (E)
Double Occupancy
$9,760 AUD
Single Occupancy
$18,820 AUD
Standard Suite (D)
Double Occupancy
$10,155 AUD
Single Occupancy
$19,610 AUD
Balcony Suite (PA)
Double Occupancy
$16,350 AUD
Single Occupancy
$22,115 AUD
Riverview Suite (C1)
Double Occupancy
$11,755 AUD
Single Occupancy
$22,810 AUD
Balcony Suite (C)
Double Occupancy
$12,455 AUD
Single Occupancy
$24,210 AUD
Balcony Suite (BB)
Double Occupancy
$12,705 AUD
Single Occupancy
$24,710 AUD
Balcony Suite (B)
Double Occupancy
$12,755 AUD
Single Occupancy
$24,810 AUD
Balcony Suite (P)
Double Occupancy
$13,155 AUD
Single Occupancy
$25,610 AUD
Junior Suite (BJ)
Double Occupancy
$13,355 AUD
Single Occupancy
$26,010 AUD
Junior Suite (RJ)
Double Occupancy
$14,355 AUD
Single Occupancy
$28,010 AUD
Royal One Bedroom Suite (RP)
Double Occupancy
$16,555 AUD
Single Occupancy
$32,410 AUD

Deck Plans

Jewel Deck
Sapphire Deck
Diamond Deck

All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to change without notice and do not include airfare.

Sergio Coimbra
Writer
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Sergio Coimbra helped launch and served as the first Editor-in-Chief of the Portuguese edition of National Geographic magazine. He was born in Mozambique, a former Portuguese territory, then moved with his family to Portugal while still a boy. He began his journalism career traveling extensively in Europe and Africa and covering hard-news stories such as the siege of Sarajevo, the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, and the war of independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Sergio went on to become the Editor-in-Chief of Portugal’s leading travel magazine, where he explored the beauty and wonders of our world. In 2000, he was named the Director of National Geographic Portugal. In this role, he helped internationalize National Geographic’s Explorers Program, launched a Portuguese version of the National Geographic Bee, and encouraged other endeavors to promote a better understanding of the planet. In 2005, Sergio set off on his own voyage of discovery within Portugal to deepen his understanding of his country’s cultural and geographical resources. The result of the trip was his book Passeios com o Moby—literally Travels with Moby. In this tribute to John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charlie, he compares the Portugal he experienced at 12 with the country today. Sergio is a member of Sociedade Geografia de Lisboa, the guardian of historical documents from the Portuguese Age of Discovery and its overseas territories, and of Real Associacao de Lisboa, an institution that promotes and preserves Portugal’s heritage.

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  • Sep 22-Oct 2, 2020 - Scenic Azure
Gianluca Colla
Photographer
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Gianluca Colla has photographed around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Africa’s deserts and from the Amazon to the Alps. Originally from Italy and now based in Switzerland, he has traveled extensively around Europe. Gianluca’s work has been published in National Geographic magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times, and The Washington Post and for clients such as Apple, Canon, and Fujifilm, among others. He has covered a diverse range of topics including the secrets of the longest-living centenarians in the world, a lost Da Vinci painting, and hidden mummies in Sicilian crypts. Gianluca also lectures on photography and enjoys teaching and inspiring others through storytelling and imagery. His work is represented in the National Geographic Image Collection.

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  • Sep 23-Oct 3, 2019 - Scenic Azure
Krista Rossow
Photographer Photo Editor
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For more than a decade, Krista Rossow has worked as a photographer, photo editor, and educator for National Geographic. She began her career as a photo editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine, where she shaped compelling stories from world-class imagery. In her freelance career, she has shot feature stories as a contributing photographer for Traveler in South Africa, Morocco, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Japan, and various U.S. cities. She regularly judges Instagram contests for @NatGeoTravel and photo edits for National Geographic Books. Krista travels with National Geographic Expeditions teaching photography around the world–from the Galápagos Islands, Patagonia, and Peru to Alaska, Antarctica, and the Arctic. She sees the camera as a tool for understanding new cultures, meeting the locals, and exploring the natural world. Her images are represented by National Geographic Creative.

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  • Sep 22-Oct 2, 2020 - Scenic Azure
Tim Weed
Author Educator
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Tim Weed is a novelist, professor, and independent scholar, a National Geographic Intelligent Travel contributor, and a founding director of the National Geographic Student Expeditions program. He’s maintained a long love affair with the Iberian Peninsula dating back to his college years, when as a Spanish major at Middlebury he spent a semester studying in Madrid and often took weekend trips to Lisbon and Portugal’s southern coast. After receiving a master’s degree in international affairs from the University of California, he spent an academic year based in southern Spain, where he directed semester abroad programs. During this period he traveled extensively throughout Spain and Portugal, and his love for the land the Romans called Hispania has brought him back with regularity, including as an expert on National Geographic Expeditions programs.

Tim’s fiction collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, made the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Shortlist and his novel, Will Poole's Island, was named to Bank Street College of Education’s list of the Best Books of the Year. He’s the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award and a Solas Best Travel Writing Award and his writing on travel, history, outdoor adventure, and the writing craft have appeared in Literary Hub, The Millions, Backcountry, The Writer’s Chronicle, and many others. Tim is the co-director of the Cuba Writers Program and teaches in the Newport MFA in Creative Writing. In addition to his work in Spain and Portugal he’s served as a National Geographic Expeditions expert in Cuba, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego. Fluent in Spanish and conversant in Portuguese, Tim’s a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau and lectures frequently at writing conferences, museums, and educational institutions.

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  • Sep 23-Oct 3, 2019 - Scenic Azure