I just came back from an incredible experience with Nicko Cruises and I am super excited to share all the details with you!
As I am sure you have seen from my Instagram, I spend the last 8 days in Portugal! I traveled there to join a 1-week river cruise organized by Nicko Cruises and to be honest I never thought I would enjoy a river cruise that much!
I got invited to join the cruise two months ago, and at first, I wasn’t really sure about it, due to the COVID situation. Also, I have never been on a river cruise before and wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but I am so glad I accepted, as I really had an amazing week onboard!
We all got tested prior to boarding and all COVID measurements were followed throughout the journey, so I felt quite safe at all times. Currently, there are not that many cases in Portugal, which also made me feel more relaxed.
As I said the cruise lasted 8 days (7 nights onboard) and each day we slept at a different location through the Douro River. The Douro is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in Soria Province across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto. It is also the largest river in Portugal.
My cabin was on the third floor, with balcony, which was amazing, as I was able to stay on there and enjoy the breeze and the beautiful views when we were sailing. The sun deck was also great, as it had a bar area and sunbeds with a swimming pool! It was the perfect place to relax while sailing!
Each day we had organized excursions to touristic locations in the Douro Valley, and at night we had entertainment organized on the sundeck. One night it was a Portuguese music night, another a flamenco night, and so on! It was just so relaxing to have a drink on the sundeck after a day of exploring the beautiful Douro Valley.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were usually served at the ship’s restaurant and the food was super delicious. Each day, you had to pick your lunch and dinner menu from various options, which was great, as you always had different things to choose from and never got bored.
What is interesting about the valley is that the Douro Wine Region Valley, up to Barca de Alva (the border with Spain), is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. The views that you get passing by with the ship are truly impressive! Certainly the most beautiful vine terraces I have ever seen! It was no surprise that the valley is part of Unesco World Heritage. Apart from the beautiful vineyards on the river coast, the valley is also full of incredible towns and villages, full of culture and beautiful architecture.
We boarded the ship from Vila Nova de Gaia, the city opposite Porto, and we had the whole first day free to explore Porto. I have been there before, but it was great to return and go back to all my favorite places in the city.
On the second day, we visited one of the most famous Port wine factories, where we discovered how the wine is made. The visit was followed by a bus tour around all the famous places in Porto, we also went to the place where the ocean meets the river, and at lunchtime, we were all back on board and ready to sail to the Douro Valley. From then on we spent the week exploring the valley.
During the week we visited Castelo Rodrigo, which is a gated ancient town in the mountain area of the Valley.
We also spend a day at Viseu, a beautiful city and municipality in the Centro Region of Portugal, with a population of 100,000 inhabitants. One of the best things to see there was the cathedral as well as the museum at the main square, where you can find incredible paintings from some of the most famous Portuguese artists.
Another stop we had was to Pinhao, where we spent a night. I loved the beautiful railway station there, which is decorated with colorful tiles. From Pinhao, we went to Quinta Avessada, a famous enoteca in the area, where we had dinner and some wine degustation.
Another favorite visit we did was to Mateus Palace. It is the home of one of the Portuguese noble families, who still use the palace as their secondary home, and for that reason, only 70% of it is open to the public. The building as well as the lake at the front and the gardens are truly beautiful.
Lamego was the place whit the most beautiful Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. It is a historic chapel dating to the 18th century with a Baroque & Rococo facade & an ornate altar.
We also passed through the highest lock in the area – Carrapatelo lock, which is 35 meters high.
On the last day, the ship returned to Vila Nova de Gaia and the views entering Porto were so beautiful! I am working on my Youtube video from the trip, but once it’s published you can get a better idea of how incredible the views were!
The last trip we did was to Guimaraes, a city 50 minutes away from Porto, which is known for well-preserved medieval buildings like the hilltop, 10th-century Guimarães Castle, with its sweeping city views.
It was really an amazing experience spending a week on board of one of Nicko’s cruises ships, and since everything was very well organized, I had a very relaxing holiday!
If you have never been on board a river cruise, I would highly recommend you to check out the list of river cruises that Nicko Cruises offer, as it is a truly enjoyable experience, where you get to relax and discover new places at the same time!
Tina J xx