The Douro river. It cuts across Portugal from east to west, emerging from the Picos de Urbión mountains in Spain and meeting the Atlantic in old Porto. The “golden river” cuts through one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, famous for it’s port wine — dry whites, rubies, tawnies, and vintages.
Barco rabelo boats, traditional Portuguese wooden cargo boats, still sit along the banks of the Douro in Porto, heavy with wine casks as if from another era. Each winery has it’s own — Graham’s, Sandeman, Cálem, and so on. Nowadays, much larger, comfortable modes of transportation travel up and down the river. Whether you’re a wineo or just a honeymooner looking for a cruise, the river provides great options for day or weekend trips in and out of Porto.
There are many different river cruise companies to book through, however, Cruzeiros Douro (Barcadouro) had the most straightforward and simplest booking process.
We booked our Douro river cruise online (€64/person) and received an email with confirmation. The company offers day trips that either start in Porto or the eastern city of Peso da Régua. If starting in Porto, you cruise upstream to Régua and take a train back to Porto in the afternoon (upstream cruise). Another option is to take a train to Régua early in the morning and cruise back to Porto in the afternoon (downstream cruise). We chose the former.
Overall, the experience was lovely. When we arrived to the port, they took our names and showed us our reserved dining seats. The boat was clean and quaint. We received plated meals (both breakfast and lunch) with free, local wine. The coordinator tracked all guests down during the trip to Régua, gave us complimentary train tickets for the way home. However, note that your train ticket IS complimentary (included in the price of the cruise) and don’t let anyone heckle you, as a foreign language speaker, into paying an extra fee for the train tickets!
The river tour started early in the morning and embarked upstream right on time. The dining area had big windows allowing views of Porto’s riverside.
The boat offered multiple viewing decks as an alternative to the dining area; one on the bow, and two above the dining room. We finished our breakfast rolls and snagged a corner seat in the enclosed deck with unobstructed views of the river.
Along the way, the captain came over the intercom in first Portuguese and then English, sharing history about the surrounding areas.
We sipped complimentary coffee and rested our weary feet. It was our last excursion of the honeymoon, so we happily accepted someone else taking the lead. We even journaled about our adventures to date.
The boat floated along passing villages, abandoned buildings, and even a shipwreck!
Around midday, after going through a lock and dam, the rugged wilderness and isolated villages gave way to rolling hills of green terraces.
When we arrived at Régua, we were given a couple hours to explore before finding our way back to the train station.
The city of Régua was smaller than we anticipated. But we found a strip of small wine rooms and sipped our wine before boarding the train and heading back to Porto. Again, don’t let anyone make you pay 20 euros, or any amount, really, for the complimentary train ticket.
Douro River Cruise Details:
- 7:40 – meet at Cais de Gaia
- 8:00 – eat breakfast (bread, butter, jam, coffee, juice)
- 8:15 – cruise starts
- 1:00 – eat lunch (served lunch)
- 3:00 – arrive at Régua
- 5:00 – train leaves for Porto
- 7:00 – arrive in Porto