Douro River Cruising Spain and Portugal

May 21-May 28, 2023

Itinerary | The Ship | Pricing | FAQ | Reserve

Porto cruise

In May 2018, Northwest Travel Service offered a special Washington Winemaker Cruise tour of the Douro River. The event sold out quickly and was so uniquely different than other European rivers, that it made sense to arrange another tour.

The Douro River Valley, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, has become the top European destination for many cruise lines. We’ll have two well-known Washington winemakers aboard SS Sao Gabriel. Brian Carter of Brian Carter Cellars and Paul Beveridge of Wilridge Winery will bring over 70 years of winemaking expertise to share with our guests on board.

Uniworld utilizes one of the newest and most luxurious ships in the region for this sailing which begins in Porto, cruising upstream almost to the border of Spain, before returning seven nights later at its point of origin. This tour is completely inclusive. Accommodations on board, taxes, gratuities, shore tours, meals, airport transfers, and beverages of all types are built into the cost of the cruise.

Seven nights on the river is a fantastic holiday, but I would encourage you to come early with a pre-cruise stay in in Basque country, touring Bilbao, San Sebastian, and the Rioja wine region. Porto itself and the surrounding countryside is worth a few more nights as well.

Guests will have the opportunity after the cruise to Madeira for a 3-night extension to tour that incredible island. Details for both of these options are found later in this publication.

Itinerary

Day 1: Porto, cruising the Douro River, Entre-os-Rios

People enjoying wineFEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Porto city tour OR exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tour

The epicenter of the Port wine industry, Porto is experiencing a booming cultural revival. Choose how you wish to experience the city, either with a panoramic tour or an intimate tour of the city on foot. Get a feel for this vibrant town, which is simultaneously profoundly urban and moodily romantic, on your panoramic tour. Take in the UNESCO-designated 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace, seeing its famous Moorish Revival–style Arab Room, before visiting Porto’s austere hilltop cathedral and the bustling pedestrian shopping street, Santa Catarina. For those wishing to experience the city on foot, climb 249 steps to the top of Clérigos Tower for the best view in Porto. Other views of another kind, no less spectacular, await you at the magnificent interior of the São Bento railway station.

Day 2: Cruising the Douro River, Régua, Pinhão

FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Douro Museum or Mateus Palace and Gardens, and dinner at a quinta.

Should you wish to learn more about the region’s unique winemaking history, be treated to a special lecture at the Douro Museum. If you prefer, you can visit the legendary Mateus Palace, which has one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. During the evening, enjoy a special dinner at a local quinta.

Day 3: Pinhão, cruising the Douro River, Vega de Terrón

Porto cruise photoFEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Quinta do Seixo guided tour and tasting OR Quinta da Avessada

You have a choice to visit one of two quintas. Journey to Quinta do Seixo—a prestigious Port wine estate— for an enlightening tour of its state-of-the-art facility. Sample some of their famous Sandeman Port, learn more about the production and admire breathtaking views from the estate’s tasting room. Others may prefer to enjoy a scenic drive through Pinhão before visiting Quinta da Avessada, complete with an interactive museum—the first of its kind in the country, celebrating the Douro’s history and culture of wine.

Day 4: Vega de Terrón (Salamanca), Barca d’Alva

FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of full day Salamanca tour OR half day scenic cruise at the Douro International Natural Park.

Join a full-day excursion to Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Called the “Golden City” for its tawny sandstone buildings, Salamanca boasts a dozen beautiful and historic churches, including two cathedrals. If you prefer a different type of experience to better understand the flora and fauna of the land, you’ll want to go on a half-day scenic cruise at the Douro International Natural Park.

Day 5: Barca d’Alva (Castelo Rodrigo), Pocinho, cruising the Douro River, Régua

Douro River ValleyFEATURED EXCURSIONS: Castelo Rodrigo and Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley

Travel through wonderfully scenic countryside to the walled village of Castelo Rodrigo. Take a tour of this fascinating site that dates back to the 12th century, and while here sample delicious local treats, such as honey, olive oil and cheeses. Later in the day, venture to the UNESCO-designated Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley, considered the world’s most important Paleolithic open-air rock art site.

Day 6: Cruising the Douro River, Porto (Guimarães)

FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Guimarães city tour OR “Soul of Porto” Ribeira district walking tour

Enjoy a panoramic city tour of historic Guimarães, Portugal’s first capital and the home to its first king. The wonderfully well-preserved Old Town, with its unique architecture and charming little plazas, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, you can explore Porto’s UNESCO-designated Ribeira district on foot. In the evening, enjoy a Gala Dinner onboard your ship.

Day 7: Porto (disembark), transfer to the airport

Disembark the ship and transfer to Porto Airport for your flight home, fly to Madeira, or extend your stay in Lisbon or Porto.

The Ship

Uniworld’s SS Sao Gabriel is a new ship of just 50 cabins and suites. Purpose-built for Douro River cruises, she entered service for the abbreviated 2020 season, making her the youngest ship operating on the Douro River. You’ll find images of the ship on this page, and many more available online.

Accommodations on board

Grand Suites (4) Azores Deck 307 sq. feet French Balcony
Suites (12) Azores Deck 220 sq. feet French Balcony
French Balcony (20) Cape Verde Deck 156 sq. feet French Balcony
Deluxe (10) Madeira Deck 156 sq. feet Window
Classic (4) Madeira Deck 135 sq. feet Window

Pricing

Cruise pricing is per person, based on double occupancy.

Accommodation Category Uniworld Rate NW Travel Pricing Check Discount*
Grand Suite $10,699 $9,730 $550
Suite $8,899 $8,030 $450
French Balcony $7,999 $6,730 $400
Deluxe $6,399 $5,130 $300
Classic $5,999 $3,230 $250

Above prices are per person, based on double occupancy. *Check Discount is per cabin, and is deducted from the final payment.   Initial deposit and balance must both be paid by check to secure this discount.

Above prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Northwest Travel Prices include port taxes of $220 per person.

Pricing includes accommodations aboard SS Sao Gabriel for seven nights, all taxes, gratuities, meals, beverages, educational events on aboard, and shore tours coordinated by Uniworld. Guests arriving in Porto by air on May 21 and departing by air on May 28 will be provided with complimentary transportation to and from the ship.   As we have done in the past, optional tours with a wine focus will be offered. These tours will be listed in early 2023.

Early booking discount for new bookings confirmed prior to September 30th, 2022. 

  • Suite and Grand Suite                                     $900 per person
  • French Balcony                                                 $700 per person
  • Deluxe and Classic                                           $500 per person

Because cabin pricing is based on double occupancy, singles will pay 2x the share price, minus $210 port tax for the second guest.

To reserve your stateroom:

A deposit of $2800 per person will confirm your reservation.   Balance of payment is due by January 15, 2023.

Bilbao and San Sebastian Tour program       May 17-21

 Four-night hotel accommodation in the historic center of Bilbao*

  • Airport transportation
  • Air-Conditioned motor coach transportation
  • Welcome Cocktail
  • Breakfast each morning
  • Tapas (Pintxos) Evening
  • Services of a local guide
  • Walking tour of the historic center of Bilbao and La Ribera Market
  • Guggenheim Museum admission
  • A day touring the Rioja Wine Region
    • Three winery visits and tastings with tapas
    • A tour of the medieval walled city of LaGuardia
  • A day in San Sebastian (Donostia)
    • Visit to a cider house for tasting
    • Funicular ride to the summit of Monte Igeldo
    • Free time for lunch, the beach, shopping or exploration
    • Wine tasting of Txakoli, an effervescent white wine unique to the area

* Bilbao has so much to offer in terms of cuisine, architecture and night life, that it was decided to spend all four nights in Bilbao with a day trip to the beach resort of San Sebastian. This tour is limited to 20 guests. Cost is $2380 per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement is $500. Deposit of $400 per person dues at time of reservation.  Balance paid with cruise balance.  Discount of $65 applies to those guests paying by check.

Island of Madeira                  May 28-31

  • Flight from Porto to Funchal, Madeira
  • Flight from Funchal to Lisbon
  • Three nights accommodation close to the water and center of Funchal
  • Breakfast each morning
  • Services of a Local Guide
  • Wine tasting tour
  • Tour of the historic town of Funchal and Market
  • Catamaran Boat cruise
  • Farewell dinner

This tour is limited to 20 guests.  Cost is $1,995 per person, based on double occupancy.  Single supplement is $400.  Deposit of $400 per person dues at time of reservation.  Balance paid with cruise balance.  Discount of $60 for guests paying by check.

The Sao Gabriel is equipped with a large deck area with a pool, fitness center, spa, wine cellar, coffee station, dining room, and bistro.

Porto cruise

Grand Suite (Azores Deck)

Beautifully appointed Suite (307 sq ft) has a French balcony, hotel beds draped in fine linens with choice of pillows, built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flat-screen television, radio, alarm clock, iPhone/iPod charger and player, bottled water daily. Bathrooms with L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, a choice of bathrobes, and slippers.

SuiteSuite (Azores Deck)

Stateroom (215 sq ft) amenities include French Balcony, built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flatscreen TV, radio, alarm clock, and bottled water.

Bathroom amenities include L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, comfy bathrobes and slippers.

SuiteFrench Balcony (Cape Verde Deck)

Stateroom (156 sq ft) amenities include French Balcony, built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flatscreen TV, radio, alarm clock, and bottled water.

Bathroom amenities include L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, comfy bathrobes and slippers.

StateroomDeluxe (Madeira Deck)

Stateroom (156 sq ft) amenities include built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flatscreen TV, radio, alarm clock, and bottled water.

Bathroom amenities include L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, comfy bathrobes and slippers.

Classic (Madeira Deck)

StateroomStateroom (135 sq ft) amenities include built-in closets, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flatscreen TV, radio, alarm clock, and bottled water.

Bathroom amenities include L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, comfy bathrobes and slippers.

Links for more information:

Porto Portugal
Castelo Rodrigo
Lisbon
Douro Valley
Salamanca, Spain
Portuguese Wine Primer
Uniworld
Bilbao
Rioja Wine Region
San Sebastian
Madeira

I have cruised most of the European rivers with a variety of different ships and cruise lines. I can say that Uniworld sets the bar extremely high with an extraordinary level of service. This is why I have chosen them to host each my cruise program the past 9 years. I hope you’re able to join us for this Douro River experience.

SS Sao Gabriel

FAQ for 2023 in Spain and Portugal

Uniworld Experience

In July 2015, Northwest Travel chartered the River Royale for seven nights in Bordeaux. My previous river cruising experience up to that time had all been with Viking River Cruises. I could not have been more pleased with my personal experience as coordinator and with the comments and reviews provided by my guests during and after the cruise.

When the time came to develop a cruise program on the Douro in 2018, Uniworld was an obvious choice. As usual, the service provided by the staff and crew on Uniworld’s Queen Isabel was unparalleled, though the Isabel was starting to show some age. Uniworld decided to build their own state-of-the-art ship (most Douro ships are owned by a local company, and not the individual cruise line), to replace the aging Isabel in 2020. It’s this new vessel, paired with Uniworld’s outstanding staff, that will host the 2023 program.

If you have enjoyed other river cruise companies, I guarantee you will love what Uniworld has elevated the experience to.

Air Transportation

The ship departs from the port of Porto late in the afternoon on the 21st. It’s suggested that you plan to arrive early to take full advantage of your time aboard. You’re able to board the ship as early as 1:00 PM. The ship departs from Porto to head upriver at 5:00 PM. Plan to arrive at least three hours prior to the scheduled departure. If you’re not participating in the Basque tour program, consider spending a few days in Lisbon or Porto and environs before the cruise.

There are a few carriers that will get you to Porto from the US. Lufthansa operates a connection via Frankfurt. United has options via its hub in Newark, and British Airways takes you through London/Heathrow. Those are the carriers that travel with one connection from Seattle. You may also consider flights into Lisbon, then either take an hour-long flight to Porto or travel by train.

Flights to Porto from Seattle will range between $1200-$1500 depending on when your ticket is purchased and the carrier used. I suggest you set a “fare tracker” at Kayak.com to provide an alert when costs are lower. For guests in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver BC has provided much lower ticket prices to Europe over the past 5-6 years. Consider the drive to YVR to save $500-$600 per person in flight costs. Long term parking costs are lower there than Seattle.

Tour Extensions

Northwest Travel Service has published a pre-cruise tour to the Basque Region, featuring the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian and a visit to the countryside to sample Rioja Wines. After the cruise, a three-night extension to Funchal on the island of Madeira is planned.   If you’re limited for time, staying a few extra nights in Porto is a great idea, and Lisbon is just a short flight south from Porto.

Aboard Ship

The order of the day is casual. There is no reason to pack any formal wear for your time aboard. The cruise line asks that you dress appropriately for dinner and evening time. There will be evening events scheduled both on and off ship.

You need not be concerned with motion during the cruise. River cruise ships are not subject to the same type of side to side motion common to ocean-going vessels.

There are three scheduled meals per day with table sizes ranging from two to ten guests. Seating is not assigned. Dine with a group of friends each evening or mix it up to enjoy your meal with friends met along the way. Wine, beer, and liquor are included with your cruise. 

Documentation

You’ll need a valid passport, which much have at least 6 months’ validity from the date of entry in France. No additional visa is needed for US or Canadian citizens.

Your stateroom

The SS Sao Gabriel, Uniworld Cruise Lines’ newest Super Ship, entered service for an abbreviated season in 2020. It’s a beautiful vessel, with every amenity you can imagine. Plenty of deck space, a large lounge with panoramic views, a fitness center, spa, guest laundry, coffee station, and a pool topside.

Keep in mind that you will spend much of your time ashore and in the public areas of the ship. River cruising is different than an ocean cruise in that the sun deck, lounge, and shore access are just steps away from your cabin.

Dining

The ship provides three meals a day, beginning with a breakfast buffet, plated lunch and dinner. Tables are not assigned. You’re free to dine with different group of friends each evening. The ship is able to accommodate a wide range of dietary restrictions and allergies. Be sure to include any dietary details when you make your booking.

Sightseeing

All shore tours offered by the cruise line are included in the cost of your tour. There will be additional wine touring options arranged by Northwest Travel at additional cost. I anticipate that additional wine visits will cost approximately $40-$55 each, mostly to cover transportation costs. Early booking guests will earn priority in selecting these tour options.

Early booking incentive

Guests who book early will have priority in stateroom selection. In addition, early booking will secure priority in selecting optional wine touring throughout the week and well as pre-cruise and post-cruise tour extensions, which will be limited to 20 guests for each tour.

Weather

Mid-May is an excellent time to visit the region. Summer tourists have not yet arrived, and the weather is fairly moderate with average temperatures ranging from 54°-72° in Porto. On average, Porto gets about 1.5 inches of rain for the month. We’ll have over 13 daylight hours per day for touring during the week.

Port or Starboard? Which side should I choose?

The ship sails round trip out of Porto. The benefit of port and starboard side is shared, so there is no particular reason to choose one side over another. Guests should understand that cruise ships on the river raft together in the evening to share the available piers.

Deposit and payment schedule

Payments made to Northwest Travel Service are non-refundable. If you need to cancel, I will do everything possible to find someone to take your place. Cancellation insurance is an option to protect your deposit. Trip cancellation will cost between 6% and 10% of the total cost of your tour. Please request details about insurance when you make your reservation. An initial deposit of $800 per person is required to hold your reservation. An additional deposit of $2000 per person is due by August 31, 2022 with the balance due by January 15, 2023.

What if I need to cancel my cruise?

Payments for this cruise are non-refundable. Because it is a chartered vessel, the flexibility exists to change names and resell cabins with late notice without penalty. I have had great success in refilling cruise cabins vacated due to cancellation. Because payments are nonrefundable, travel insurance is suggested. Both of the companies listed below have a policy rate calculator online. Enter the cost of your tour and personal data to receive a no-obligation cost estimate.

Two recommended companies are: Generali Travel Insurance and Travelex Insurance.

Cancellation insurance will range in price based on the cost of your travel and the age of the applicant. Get a quote at the websites above before making a purchase. If you have a pre-existing condition to cover, you usually must purchase your policy within 2 weeks of the initial deposit.

For the 2018 cruise program for Portugal, I had a total of 5 previously booked staterooms that had to cancel for various reasons. In each case, I was able to rebook these cabins from a waitlist and provide a refund to the original booking. I can’t guarantee those results each time, but it’s likely that I would be able to fill canceled space to refund canceling parties.

Make Your Reservation!

If you have any questions about this tour, please contact Brad Cilley at brad@nwtravel.com or by phone at 425 375 2676.

    Basque Country pre-cruise
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    Madeira post-cruise
    YesNo

    Payment (required)
    I would prefer to pay by check to take advantage of the discountI will pay by Visa or MasterCard (secure link will be emailed to you for payment)