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Best river cruise ports for Wineries and Vineyards


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We are debating taking a river cruise and really do not enjoy castles, and churches.  We prefer to be active -- hiking, biking or specifically going to wineries.  We are looking at AMAWaterways and wondering whether the Douro River options or the Provence and Burgundy options in France would give us more opportunities to visit wineries and be active.

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We did the Douro on Viking - Rivers of Gold.  We loved it.  Of 14 cruises we have done, the best cruise for us outside of The Nile and Antarctica was the Douro River.

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On the Douro you have the added bonus visiting the various Port wine suppliers. Port is definitely not just a fortified sweet red wine. On our cruise Croft had only just introduced their Pink Port superb over ice on a summers day. We went to several different wineries for tastings and the Portuguese do use their home brew in the cuisine quite a lot.

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Further to what @Canal archive said about Port, we are not huge Port fans, but we grew an appreciation for White Port when on this cruise.

 

I have recently read that a new drink that it challenging the Aperol Spritz is a dry white port and tonic.

 

In any case, we loved the visits to the Port wineries while on the Douro.

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As you like to be active, and enjoy visiting wineries, I highly recommend you look at Scenic's sailing in the Bordeaux region of France. We had an option to bike nearly every day, and the sailing had a wonderful focus on wines and vineyards. 

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It's hard, if not impossible, to think of a river cruise in Europe that doesn't go though wine country as rivers were used to transport wines to the rest of the world.

 

On any river cruise the opportunity to visit wineries is dependent on the ships routine; self touring is nor impossible but what time - and if - the boat calls at a destination depend on river congestion and water levels.

 

You could look at the various cruises and see which ones have excursions to wineries. Unfortunately cruisers generally don't seem to be wine enthusiast. Indeed on my  2022 Bordeaux cruise some passengers were grumbling about visiting too many wineries.

 

So you could think about going on a wine cruise - a cruise aimed at wine lovers and emphasising wine.  American Wine Society organises an annual one, details on their website, and Avalon have  dozen 'Special Interest' wine cruises, including Douro and Provence.

 

The Douro is spectacular, cruising inland from Porto one travel through increasingly narrow gorges lined with vines. As well as the fortified wines Porto has given its name to, there are an increasing amount of excellent table wines. I don't know  if you get many in the USA yet, but they really are good, and inexpensive. Problem is the navigable part of the Douro is quite short, and most cruises are seven days in duration, going up the Douro to the Spanish border and back down to Douro. If you select Douro, I suggest you add on a stay in Porto where you can easily visit some port lodges on your own, and they have recently opened a wine museum complex

 

The Rhone offers the chance to cruise through more famous wine regions, including Chateau Neuf du Pape.

 

Although an excursion to Beaune is offered on some Rhone cruises, there's no river cruises in Burgundy of which I'm aware.

 

 

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Just back from the Douro on AMA.  It is *very* winery focused...  Also, if wine is a "big deal" for you, AMA has a sommelier on board who pairs the wines with each dinner. 

 

We did the cruise that started with 3 nights in Lisbon - then up to Porto to cruise for 7 nights - then over to Madrid for 3 nights.  We had quite a few passengers on board that either owned wineries or vineyards. Our cruise went one way (most do round trip Porto...). 

 

Just a heads up about sailing and cabin choices.  There is *no* sailing at night.  So, at almost every port, we were rafted --. sometimes on both sides.  I would have been very frustrated if we had booked a balcony and were not able to use it.  For almost every meal, the blinds were down on one side of the dining room. 

 

Fran

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The way to avoid rafting on the Douro is to book Scenic's 10-night itinerary.  When we did this last September we weren't rafted at all.   Scenic even has their own landing stage in Porto [the others were all across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia]

 

All the 7-night cruises hit the same ports on similar schedules;  Scenic is stopping at different places and in a difference rhythm.  [I'm surprised that AMA's one-way itinerary couldn't avoid this with a similar rhythm change, because almost all the other cruises are 7-nights round trip Porto]

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4 hours ago, franski said:

Just back from the Douro on AMA.  It is *very* winery focused...  Also, if wine is a "big deal" for you, AMA has a sommelier on board who pairs the wines with each dinner. 

 

We did the cruise that started with 3 nights in Lisbon - then up to Porto to cruise for 7 nights - then over to Madrid for 3 nights.  We had quite a few passengers on board that either owned wineries or vineyards. Our cruise went one way (most do round trip Porto...). 

 

Just a heads up about sailing and cabin choices.  There is *no* sailing at night.  So, at almost every port, we were rafted --. sometimes on both sides.  I would have been very frustrated if we had booked a balcony and were not able to use it.  For almost every meal, the blinds were down on one side of the dining room. 

 

Fran

Except when this beauty is rafted outside your balcony.  This was on AmaWaterway Douro cruise last year.  It is the Spirit of Chartwell, the royal yacht used for Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.  We were told it is used for private tours of the Douro.

20230902_063815.jpg

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13 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

The way to avoid rafting on the Douro is to book Scenic's 10-night itinerary.  When we did this last September we weren't rafted at all.

 

Which is one of the reasons why I've taken your advice and booked Scenic for our second Douro cruise.

 

Our first one, ten years ago was with Viking and we were not rafted at all, but since then a great many more lines cruise this little river.

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I recently completed a 21 night Ultimate France on Uniworld.  I selected them based on the itinerary and their inclusions as well as wines onboard.  Uniworld is all inclusive and thoughtfully provides a different red and white wine daily that is primarily selected to match dinner but they are available anytime during the day  The Bordeaux and Burgundy & Provence legs of the trip provided multiple tastings and experiences most of which were included which is what sets Uniworld apart for me.  The sailing days in Bordeaux were made extra special when they set up wines on the outside upper deck for us to enjoy while enjoying the scenery and fellow passengers.  I also cruised from Amsterdam to Bucharest with Uniworld, and while there were fewer featured wine excursions they still excelled with daily reds and whites from the countries we traveled through.  I was concerned about the German wines as we were in Germany for nearly 2 weeks, but I was thrilled by the introduction to the dry wines that they are producing.  I couldn't believe that on the Budapest transition day when most of the passengers departed and new passengers embarked they treated those of us that were continuing to a trip to two Hungarian wineries.  They had lunch provided where we all made our own Bull's Blood wine.  Lucky for us they didn't make us drink our creations, but it was fun and educational.  

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What you weren’t tied down and made to imbibe! 
I for some reason cannot drink Merlot it hates me so on our Bordeaux cruise our lovely sommelier search through every red on board and came up with a few suggestions for me to try all low in that particular grape. The guy was a star no problems at all and we found a few excellent wines on board that my body was happy with. Oh and by the way I know it’s not Champers but try the local Cremont hopefully they still have it on board a light not to sweet alternative worth a try, I certainly did! I really do not like anything to sweet.

Edited by Canal archive
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I'm taking a small leap of faith in regards to CroisiEurope. I've been curious about them for a couple of years, but have never booked before. For reference, we've sailed on more than 10 river cruises and canal barges, on several different lines, with our favorites being Scenic and AMA. (And no, I don't expect Croisi to be like Scenic or AMA.)

 

I booked us on a 5 night sailing in Provence, France, "A Trip to Admire...". I found an amazing price for the October 25-30, 2024 sailing on the MS Van Gogh. Croisi rates this ship as a 5-Anchor ship, which is the top of Croisi's rating system. We are already in Europe from the beginning of October until early November, then we sail home on a transatlantic cruise, so I figured that this was an excellent opportunity to give them a try. 

 

I'll let you all know how it goes!

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On 6/10/2024 at 10:23 PM, Host Jazzbeau said:

The way to avoid rafting on the Douro is to book Scenic's 10-night itinerary.  When we did this last September we weren't rafted at all.

 

Unfortunately someone on Scenic Azure's Douro cruise last September wasn't so lucky at avoiding rafting😁

 

On 12/27/2023 at 1:32 AM, Host Jazzbeau said:

we were now rafted to an AMA ship

 

 

Edited by pontac
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3 hours ago, pontac said:

Unfortunately someone on Scenic Azure's Douro cruise last September wasn't so lucky at avoiding rafting😁

Yes we were rafted for part of one day.  But because of the different schedules even that wasn't a full day.

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