River cruises on the Douro River

There can be few river cruises throughout the world which allow the traveller to experience the very essence and spirit of a people and their way of life. A trip along the River Douro in Portugal can be said to do just that.

River Douro

The river flows through the famed Alto Douro wine region, declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001, and with good reason, too.

According to UNESCO, the world heritage status was deserved because the cultural landscape found there was an outstanding example of a traditional European wine-producing region, and reflected the evolution of wine making over time. All the components of the landscape were representative of the full range of activities associated with wine making – terraces, quintas (wine-producing farm complexes), villages, chapels, and roads.

Wine has been produced in the region for at least 2,000 years, archaeological evidence has indicated. Indeed, grape seeds have been discovered at other archaeological sites of even greater antiquity than Roman sites dating from around the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Later, Cistercian monks developed the wine making story even further, with their medieval activities centered around the monasteries of Salzedas, São João de Tarouca and São Pedro das Águias.

By the 17th century, the production of Port wine – named from the northern seaport city of Porto where the wine was brought to market and exported – had reached such proportions in the region that it became an important part of the Portuguese economy. In fact, the area became the first in the world to be defined formerly in terms of the production of wine through the granting of a Portuguese royal charter in 1756.

Britain had much to do with the historical spread of Port and thus its consequent rise in popularity across the world. It is interesting to note how the influence of this early trade with Portugal has lingered on, even to today. The majority of Port wines are blended and aged in Vila Nova de Gaia, located in the Porto District, south of Porto on the other side of the Douro River. Many of the wineries there have well known English names, for example, Croft, which was one of the first big shippers of Port wine. Other well known names include Cockburn, Niepoort, Graham, Warre, Taylor, Krohn, Dow and Churchill.

No visit to the area would be complete without a trip to the city of Guimãraes, regarded as the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. Its historic centre is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Guimãraes was the first capital of Portugal and was also where Afonso I, the first king of Portugal, was born.

cruise up the Douro River

A cruise up the Douro River takes the traveller to the small village of Bitetos, fairly remote and once a prosperous Roman village. Well worth visiting for its medieval lanes, alleys and baroque churches dating back centuries. And, of course, the area has many wineries well worth sampling, too!

Further along the river is the town of Regua, the official centre of the Port wine growing region, where historically barrels of wine were transported downriver in wooden sailing ships called rabelos to Vila Nova de Gaia.

Cruise Deals Allow You to Go On Great Holidays For Less!

Saving money is the mission of just about every household, and when it comes time to go on holiday, they definitely want to keep the tradition of saving money wisely alive. There’s nothing wrong with that at all — after all, who purposely wants to spend money without thinking about it? While that’s something popular with the rich and famous in some circles, it’s not something that you want to adopt. Trust us, you would definitely run out of money quickly!

So why not look for great deals instead of paying full price? In the world of cruising, looking for deals means looking at a cruise line and trying to stay within that family of cruise ships if at all possible.

winter cruises

Right now, winter cruise deals are very hot. Christmas is upon us and many people want to go cruising. However, when money is tight and the economy is uncertain, it can definitely be hard to justify the full cost of a cruise. Instead of creating hardships, cruise deals actually help people find a balance. That way it’s never one thing or another, but two concepts equally represented.

Like with most other forms of travel, the time that you take your cruise will influence the price dramatically. Last minute deals are good when you’re not picky, but you will have to take whatever you can get. By booking early you actually do your part in saving money while still having the freedom to customize your travel plans.

Don’t forget that the length of your cruise also plays a role — the longer you cruise, the cheaper your cruise becomes in many ways. Deals like these are just some of what you’ll find when you start looking for cruise special offers — why not check it out today?

Stop the Presses – Cruises Are Still in Vogue!

Are cruises dead? It’s the question that’s buzzing around certain travel circles. With so many people choosing to break away from cruises, you might be surprised that we’re still feeling the same love for cruises that we’ve had all along. If you really think about it, there are a lot of merits to cruising that just can’t be beat. Instead of trying to build all of the entertainment and all of the exploration options yourself, all of this is provided for you. Instead of trying to figure out where the best restaurants are, everything is already provided for you here as well. If you really look at it from the right perspective, the social side of cruises is also provided for you. A lot of people make friends for life on cruises. There are even clubs that are devoted to people going on cruises in specific travel groups.


If you’re trying to plan out your perfect cruise, here are a few things that you need to think about.

First and foremost, you have to think about where you want to go, as well as what time of the year that you want to go. A lot of people rave on and on about going to summer destinations, but there is also something special to be had about a wintertime cruise. You get to see nature in its most natural state, plus engage in a few great winter activities. If you want to have a quieter cruise, traveling during off-peak times of the year is definitely a good idea. Will you have fun in the summer? Sure you will but it goes without saying that it’s definitely going to be a lot more people traveling during that time of year. Read More

In Defense of Last Minute Cruises

In the travel industry, there is often a love hate relationship when it comes to the subject of last minute cruises. Now, we can definitely throw our opinion in the mix, but a little more explanation is required before we do that.

You see, the trouble is that getting good deals from last minute travel can be a bit difficult at times. It’s not that the deals can’t be found. On the contrary, these are heavily advertised because if they aren’t it can be difficult to have those slots filled. When slots aren’t filled, the cruise line loses money. So if you really have open availability and you want to get a vacation on the cheap, this is definitely the best way to go.

Last Minute Cruises

However, open availability is often a pipe dream. It can be hard to fit a last minute trip into your schedule — far too often, if you really want to take advantage of a last minute cruise trip, your money is non-refundable. So if you book a trip and suddenly can’t make it, the money that you put down for the trip is definitely not going to come back to you. The only exception to this is if you have travel insurance, but even this is a hard sell. It’s a lot better to make sure that you can absolutely make those travel dates before you reach for that last minute deal. This is something that a lot of travelers fail to think about it, and it ends up costing them big time in the long run.

Now, we just got done telling you that last minute cruises can be a bad idea. Does that mean that they are always a bad thing? Not necessarily. Let’s say that you know a few weeks in advance that you’re going to be free, you’re going to have spending money, and you want to get away from home. This is a great scenario for last minute cruises. Read More