Posts Tagged With: River Cruise


Get to the heart of the Douro in Pinhão

The Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for being one of the oldest wine regions in the world, is recognized for its production of Portuguese regional Port wines. Along the Rio Douro, which travels east from the Atlantic coast and the city of Porto (Oporto locally) through Portugal to the Spanish border, is the Douro Valley, the prime region for the wine growth of Port wine.

The rugged and remote 60 mile area of the Douro Valley is broken down into subregions. Within the central core Cima Corgo (land above the Corgo river) is where you will find the famous terraced vineyards that produce the finest Port wines of the Douro wine region. 

As you travel the Douro river east, witness breathtaking high mountainous terrain with vineyards that expand into steep granite sloping land. From the rio you can see the grapevines growing in what appears to be a quilted patchwork. At the heart of the Cima Corgo where the Rio Douro and the Rio Pinhão converge is the small unassuming town of Pinhão. The small sleepy vila is surrounded by approximately 47,000 acres of vineyards and some of those vines date as far back as the original plantings by the Roman Empire.

The wines of Pinhão, similarly to most of the Douro region, are primarily sweet, fortified wines produced from local grapes; Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tempranillo. Blended together, these grapes create wines that are both higher in alcohol and superior in flavor. Port wines are produced in varying styles based on an aging process ranging from the standard couple year aged Ruby Port to long aged and tawny colored wines. In addition to the popular Port wines, unfortified still and dry wines are also produced here using the same grapes. White Port wines are also found produced in this region as well as some Rose’ and dessert wines. 

To fully understand these wines produced here, it is recommended that you immerse yourself in the wine culture of the town of Pinhão and its surrounding areas.

Pinhão Rail Station – considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Portugal, many visitors begin their Pinhão experience here in one way or another. For those arriving by train, they disembark and discover 25 beautiful panels of azuelos tiles each designed to portray historic scenes of the Douro wine region. As the main, central site within the town, even visitors who are not arriving by train will find themselves starting their explorations of the town of Pinhão here.

Tip: If traveling between June and October, take a ride on the historic coal burning Comboio steam train that travels above the scenic Douro river. During the ride, enjoy local entertainment while indulging in a glass of port onboard. 

Originating in Regua, the train will arrive in Pinhão, with your next stop being one of the many local Quintas. 

Visit a Quinta or two or three….. – family owned estates that feature a large manor home or possibly even a small palace, stands as the base for a vineyard, winery and even for an olive grower. Quintas, which means one-fifth, was the amount of produce that renters paid to use the properties they farmed on. The Quinta is at the center of wine production in Portugal and is part of a classification system that ranks Quintas based on characteristics of the vineyard. These include location, age, yield and topography with the highest quality Quintas receiving the highest prices for their wines.  

Quinta hopping is part of the Douro experience and is the best way to experience some of the finest Port wines within the Douro region. Taking a vineyard tour of a Quinta provides understanding of the history and the vinification practices of that particular Quinta. 

A highlight of your visit will be sampling their Port, usually while sitting on an open terrace peering out onto the vineyard and possibly overlooking the rabelos floating on the Douro river. 

Rabelo Boat ride – Part of a Douro wine experience is understanding the history and culture of Port Wine production. In the late 18th to early 19th century after being put into oak barrels, the wines were sent downriver to the city of Oporto for bottling and distribution. The wooden flat bottomed boats used to transport the wine barrels are called “barcos rabelos”. Only found in the Douro region, the historic vessels can still be seen floating up and down the river. 

A rabelo boat ride is the perfect opportunity to explore the Pinhão area from historic wooden cargo ships that transport guests between vineyards or offer a scenic cruise along the river. On your cruise as you travel from Pinhão and then back again, you will see the terraced vineyards as they have been seen for centuries.

Enjoy a late morning ride before grabbing a bite at one of the nearby cafes.

Dine like a local – When in Rome or in this case, Pinhão, sampling the local gastronomy is an integral part of your experience. Portuguese dining is essentially a farm to table experience. The Douro is well known for its fortified wines, and also grows many ingredients, like olives, almonds, mushrooms and chestnuts and more used in the fantastic dining experiences here. Honey and cured meats are also locally produced and served in Pinhão restaurants. Dining in Pinhão is all about the rustic flavors of the hearty meals and pairing them with the locally produced vins. 

Some of the recommended local fare to try; Bola de Lamego, sandwiches made with fresh breads and fillings, Alheira smoked sausage and Arroz de Cabidela, a Portuguese risotto-like dish. While there are some great dining opportunities in and around Pinhão, some of the best dining can be found in the Quintas throughout the region. Pinhão even has a Michlin rated restaurant, Rabelo, known for its high standards and reputation as being the “best of the best” in the area. Located in a small hotel overlooking the river, Rabelo offers a modern take on local Portuguese fare. Of course don’t forget the Ports and unfortified wines that will make every bite taste better then the last. 

Now that you are well nourished, you are ready for some adventure in the vineyards.

Hike the Douro Valley – One of the experiences that separates the Douro Valley wine region from others is the ability to hike your way through the area. The public trails through the villages and vineyards allow you to familiarize yourself with the famed wine region and its terraced slopes. 

If hiking on your own seems risky,  then take advantage of the opportunity to arrange a guided tour or hop onto a guided trail tour offered by one of the many Quintas throughout the region. 

As the center of wine production in Portugal, Pinhão offers plenty of experiences to immerse oneself into fully understanding the famed region. Familiarizing oneself with the grapes grown in the locally produced Port wines, learning about the historic production methods and of course sampling some of the Douro’s finest offerings are all included in time spent here.  Pinhão is the perfect base for exploring the central Douro Valley and enjoying the region’s highlights.

*Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Many of the experiences discussed above are provided excursions on a Douro river cruise from the main city center of Northern Portugal, Porto. Enjoy seven days of travel on the scenic river stopping along the way to enjoy the amazing sites and flavors that this beautiful region has to offer. 

Categories: Active Travel, Eat like a local, Eco-Friendly, Experience, Food, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lets Hike the Douro Valley

The Douro River flows west from central Spain through Northern Portugal to the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean in Porto, Portugal. The region is agricultural, known for prehistoric archeology and the entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the most scenically impressive locales in the world but Douro is most notable for its fortified wine production of port.

Photo by AmaWaterways River Cruises

Even if you are not a wine drinker, the beautiful landscapes of the region and the active experiences of exploring the terraced vineyards, olive groves, meeting the friendly people from the small villages and stopping along the way for some authentic local gastronomy makes this a special place to visit and must add to the bucket list. 

I have already mentioned that Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage site. What does this mean? In general, as one of the oldest regions in the world, the landscape is almost unchanged from hundreds, maybe even thousands of years ago. As you travel the roads along the river you will experience the terraced vineyards high above the river. Along the lower banks you will find a landscape of trees meeting with vineyards and villages filled with churches and rows of houses along narrow roads along with the Douro quintas that sit as major landmarks.

The valley offers absolutely amazing landscapes and the best way to experience them is hiking through the valleys where for generations terraced staircases were built on a terroir of steep hillsides along the river transforming unusable lands into award winning vineyards. 

You can start your experience in the town of Pinhão known as the “Valley of Enchantment” for its beautiful hillsides and never ending valleys. Not what you would expect for being the heart of the wine country, Pinhão is a small town in the Northern Douro region. It is here where some of the best wines in Portugal are grown, vinified and fortified into the popular Port and table wines. 

From arrival at the beautiful train station as you embark on the preserved historic trails you will find a different view of the Douro river from every bend. As you walk the beautiful Vineyard trail exploring the area from Quinta to Quinta (wine estates) sampling both the local Ports and the stunning views of the river and river valley from their terraced vineyards.Some of the Quintas will offer their own hiking maps of trails located within their properties for you to explore.

Photo by AmaWaterways River Cruises

As you travel the area you can visit a Quinta of choice (Portuguese for the country estates that act as a base for the wineries throughout the region) and there are many of them throughout the area. These are also where you will find some of the best restaurants in the region. If you are looking for a unique experience, some of the Quintas offer overnight accommodations to relax and immerse deeper into a Quinta bed and breakfast experience. 

Tip: If you are interested in wine, when visiting the town of Pinhão schedule time to visit the Quinta Nova. One of the larger Quinta’s features a wine tour and tasting plus the Museu do Vinho (Wine Museum) takes you on a tour of the history of the region, the ancient practices and how winemaking has developed over the past few hundred years. They also offer one of the top restaurants in the region and a winery home that can be rented out for extended visits. 

The weather in the Douro Valley is always temperate with annual highs around 85°F and the lows averaging about 60°F so you can truly visit anytime of year. However, for the best scenery while hiking, visit in the spring, April to June when the tree’s and vine’s begin to bloom or in the fall September to November, although a little more chance of rain, the colors will provide the best scenery with the best temperatures for hiking. Note that September, depending on that years weather is typically harvest season and may be more active with visitors and annual activities. 

Pinhão is but one example of a hiking experience that is available in the Douro Valley. There are multiple other options for hiking tours from the popular trails to off the beaten path scenic hikes that also vary from 3 – 6 hour tours to multi-day excursions hiking throughout the entire region. The perfect opportunity to immerse in the landscape, culture, vinology and people of the Douro River Valley. 

Note that when looking for a more extensive hiking experience, there are public hiking trails marked with red and yellow stripes on signs, posts, stones and trees leading you from point to point. Note that these may not be maintained to levels that you will find in the United States. For extensive longer hiking experiences, hiring a local guide is highly recommended and will enhance your experience on hikes from a few hours long to a few days, also providing information and historic details you will not get exploring on your own. 

Photo By AmaWaterways River Cruises

Hiking is one of the included activities on a 7 night river cruise from the city of Porto, known for the production and distribution for Port Wine. Travel along the scenic Douro River stopping along the way to hike, bike or explore the villages, Quintas and amazing sites that this beautiful region has to offer. 
For more information on river cruising check out our River cruise page.

Categories: Active Travel, Eat like a local, Eco-Friendly, Food, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel, Travel Bucket List, Wellness, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Find Luxury when visiting Egypt

When you think of Egypt, your mind immediately goes to pyramids, desert and the cradle of civilization. Egypt is a bucket list venue, it is exploration, archaeology, archaic monuments and more or less venturing into a world embraced by Indiana Jones. 

Traveling to Egypt as one of the most luxurious places in the world like Rome, Dubai or New York city it is hard to imagine that Egypt would rise to the level of modern amenities and opulence that you would find in one of these other locations. But it does, with many options for high-end accommodations, spas, golf, sun and sea and even diving to make your bucket list experience a well rounded luxury experience. 

A country that is part of the continent of Africa, Egypt’s culture is more associated with the middle east. And yes while it does date back to ancient civilization to the time of Pharaohs, millennia old monuments, tombs and ancient historical relics, all were centered around the luxuries of the time. Even during the Greek and Roman Empire, Egypt was the playground of the rich and powerful. So as Egypt has become a modern city, it is not unexpected that it is to this day filled with luxuries and affluence just as it was many thousands of years ago. 

In fact Egypt in 2019, was a top spot for visiting elite (billionaires) who were flocking to the many locales that make Egypt so alluring:


The capital city of Egypt, set on the Nile river has a history that dates back to the 26th Century BC. But today’s Cairo is a modern city with over 9 million residents. It is the largest city in Egypt and the largest within the middle east. 

Cairo boasts some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in the middle east. The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Sofitel and St. Regis to name a few are all present. Additionally there are many options for boutique brands with postcard-like amenities for the ultimate experience. 

Travelers also have many unique options, like a stay at luxury hotels centered around archeology, dating back to the colonial era offering acres of landscaped gardens and the splendors of the old-world providing views off your balcony of the ancient Pyramids.

Today’s Cairo is a food destination, offering high end dining experiences with fine dining and Michelin rated to local standouts for superior dining experience. Le Pacha 1901, once a floating palace, is today a dining and entertainment facility on the Nile in Cairo offering 8 award winning restaurants.

Explore Cairo on private tours with English-speaking Egyptologists to the pyramids and many other historical sites that draw visitors with exclusive VIP experiences escorting you to the highlights of the area in luxury and based on your travel style.

 Luxor to Aswan along the Nile River

Travel the Nile river as the Pharaohs once did between Luxor and Aswan visiting archeological sites and temples with breathtaking ancient views that still reflect a time when the eastern banks of the Nile were the place of birth and growth and the west bank was reserved for the eternal rest of royalty as their place of death.

The best way to experience this part of the Nile is on a luxury river cruise from Luxor, the original Egyptian capital, to Aswan. Enjoy the bucket list panoramic views as you travel the waters from your luxury ship’s balcony. If you prefer to stay on land near Luxor, today a modern day city, travelers can find refuge in luxury boutique hotels featuring inspirations of ancient Egyptian history and architecture. 

When visiting Aswan you will also find a luxurious five star private resort on Elephantine Island located in the middle of the Nile river. The hotel is completely surrounded by elegant gardens with modern rooms offering amazing views of Aswan across the Nile. Explore Aswan and her islands as the ancients did, by felucca, an oar driven boat with sails, symbolic of the region. 


Alexandria is a port city in Northern Egypt on the Mediterranean sea. The second largest city in Egypt and the largest city on the Mediterranean, her history has influences of Greek, roman and Cleopatra’s Egypt. Today Alexandria is referred to as the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” for her cooler weather, location on the sea and modern amenities, making her a popular locale for resident summer visitors. 

The city, founded in 331 BC, by Alexander the Great, is home to the Alexandria Lighthouse one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the great library and the necropolis catacombs both considered seven wonders of the middle ages among many other Roman ruins that still stand scattered throughout the city today. 

With its rich history, Alexandria is historic yet also contemporary with modern skyscrapers, and experiences throughout the culturally-rich city. At two miles wide and 12 miles long it is often compared to Nice in France.  As one of the lesser visited Egyptian cities, there is a strong attraction for high end visitors looking for less touristy yet high luxury regions to visit. 

You will find multiple 5 star hotels along the coast offering luxury accommodations, dining, entertainment, spa services and may also offer private beaches.

The Red Sea Riviera

A lesser known destination on the Northeastern African continent, along the Red sea in Egypt connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The region offers a relaxing and luxurious cosmopolitan beach resort experience.

Enjoyable climate, warm sea, many miles of shore and multiple underwater parks make this a popular scuba diving and surfing destination. 

Made up of resort cities along the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and the eastern coast of mainland Egypt offering inclusive luxury resorts providing pampering spa treatments, championship golf, beautiful beaches, high end dining, local entertainment, snorkeling and diving all are strategically placed along the coast for intimate relaxation and fun.

For anyone wanting a more private beach destination away from the popular Red Sea resorts, Agiba Beach in Marsa Matrouh offers a remote beach and the Fjord hole a small bay outside Taba is another option for its spectacular diving and amazing display of marine life. 

Egypt can be so much more then adventure but a truly luxurious bucket list experience. If you would like to discover the culture of old and modern Egypt spending a few days in Cairo and then traveling from Luxor on a 7 day river journey, discover more about river cruising with the option of some additional time in historical Alexandria or the resorts of the Red Sea.

Categories: Bucket List, Dream Vacation, River Cruise, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How a River Cruise can Boost your Travel Experience

“River cruising, that is for older less active people”. That is the common stereotype and based on the cruise line can be somewhat true.

But, what if I told you that the industry has evolved and river cruising is so much more then just a vehicle for transporting you to remote river towns so you can disembark for a bus ride and possibly a stop for lunch? Would you believe me?

Possibly not and until I experienced it for myself, I may have not believed me either.

Now I know how a river cruise can boost your travel experience;

Travel Through Countries

Fairy Tale cruising the Rhine’s castles*

Arrive into a must see city that sits on or near a European river. Start in Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Prague or Lisbon just to name a few. Imagine spending a few days engulfing yourself in a beautiful city taking in the sites, sounds and tastes of the local culture. Culture is one of the characteristics that makes these urban cities a must visit and perfect way to start your journey. Explore the beautiful gardens, historic locations, iconic buildings and enjoy the local gastronomy.

Then from that city you embark on a voyage that takes you through Europe’s beautiful countries. Experience them as they have been seen for hundreds of years from their waterways. This is truly the best reason to embark on a river cruise. Get to know the cities, countries and regions you are visiting intimately boosting your travel experience.

Beautiful Scenery

Douro River Valley view, Portugal*

The travel experience takes you on a journey to explore the many beautiful landscapes of Europe on a single itinerary. Transporting you from the mountainous regions of southern Europe, along the hills of the uplands, the rolling plains and lowlands to the mouth of the rivers where they empty into greater and inland seas, lakes or urban cities.

Sight castles and monasteries as you glide past them, witness endless miles of vineyards as they seasonally change color, embrace the vision of medieval architecture and modern bridges. As you spot historic villages and approach cities that have been beautifully built and to this day flourish along the rivers offering fantastic views into the past and present before you even arrive into your destination for the day.

The changing scenery and beautiful views can only viewed from your private yacht as it transports you from point to point on a breathtaking journey and is another way a river cruise will boost your travel experience.

Floating Hotels

AmaWaterways AmaPrima personal spaces and service*

Your ship is not just your vehicle for moving you along the river banks. A “floating boutique hotel”, offering you mostly all-inclusive modern luxuries from arrival to departure is another way to boost your travel experience.

Arriving at the ship, a bellman collects your luggage so you can check into your cabin from the lobby desk and quickly transports you both to your stateroom so you can unpack and settle in with a quick nap or with time to relax on your private balcony.

Ready for some activity, head out to the fitness room or sun deck for some exercise or a dip in the pool. Need a beverage or a bite to eat, there is always something available for you when you need or want it. When it is time for your next meal, try regional favorites at the restaurant style dining room offering locally inspired menus and locally sourced cuisine to enjoy with a glass of regional wine or beer to accompany your meal.

After dinner you can sit back and enjoy local entertainment before you retire to your bed to awake the next morning in a new locale. When you awake, enjoy a cup of coffee on your balcony or take advantage of the many breakfast options available before heading out to venture your next destination.

Regardless if you are an early riser or prefer to sleep in, the extensive time you have for visiting your destination allows you to travel on your terms. When you return to the ship, relax with a local spirit or wine as you wind down and reflect on your day. Most ships offer spa and beauty services as well as laundry service to round out your “floating hotel” experience.

Intimate Experiences

Socializing on the Sun Deck aboard the AmaPrima*

The small size of the ships, allowing for up to 200 passengers or less, provide unique opportunities to boost your travel experience.

With high staff to guest ratios, you get personalized service with staff who get to know your wants, needs and habits and are personally available to assist you if and when you need it. Having a room steward who has the extra towels available for you daily, the servers who know your name and drink of choice, or the chef who remembers how you like your eggs cooked, personal service is provided for you every step of the way.

With less people on board, that provides more space for you to enjoy the restaurants and lounges without waiting in lines or feeling crowded. It also offers an intimate experience among the other passengers who are traveling with you.

Local Immersion

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Amsterdam*

Travel styles like guests are unique but most travelers when visiting new destinations are looking for the opportunity to immerse in the places they are visiting.

Onboard concierge and cruise managers can guide you to the off the beaten path destinations or assist you with reaching some of the more popular not to be missed venues.

River cruises port for extended periods of time and it is not uncommon for them to overnight in the larger cities to allow you additional time to fully explore them. Leave the ship to enjoy dinner or attend a concert, hire a driver or jump on a train and explore further regions. Want to spend extra time in a city meet up with the ship in the next port. You have control over your experience and the opportunity to fully immerse in the areas you are visiting or want to visit to further boost your travel experience.

Small Group Excursions

AmaWaterways, Bordeaux, France*

Diversity of included excursions will accommodate travelers offering a more personalized experience that will enhance your visit and your travel experience.

Within each destination, you choose how you would like to spend your day. There are excursions included in your fare. Small group city tour options with 15 passengers or less guiding you to the highlights and landmarks.

You can also delve deeper into an immersive special interest tour to abbey’s, castles, historical sites, wineries and more all scheduled around your exploring pace and at a time that works with your daily schedule.

Local English-speaking guides lead the tours and they are not just knowledgeable but provide first hand experience and recommendations for connecting you with their local culture and understanding more about the locations you are visiting.

Active Experiences

Durnstein, Austria*

River cruising once was geared for the older less active crowd. With the increase of interest in visiting the many destinations that can be reached by river boat, amenities have become available to guests for a more active travel experience.

Many of today’s ships carry a fleet of bikes onboard to guide you through cities or to discover on your own seeing the sites as the locals do. One of the fondest memories of my time on the Danube was biking the Wachau Valley from Krem’s Austria to Melk Austria following the Danube through the vineyards and provincial towns at its banks.

Active goes beyond the biking option. Hiking, golfing and active wellness tours have become norms in the river experience. You can also find yoga, fitness classes and even private trainers available to round out your encounter and boost your travel experience.

Relaxing Included

AmaWaterways AmaPrima pool with swim-up bar*

With any well traveled globetrotter, relaxation can be an important part of the adventure to keep you going. The time spent onboard when you are not touring or actively engaging in your touring can be as enjoyable as the time spent touring.

Enjoy the sanctuary of your stateroom with beautiful balconies to provide serenity for relaxing, meditating, reading or enjoying a glass of wine or cup of coffee with fresh air and the calmness of the river.

The luxurious, but cozy uncrowded public spaces offer the opportunity to meet new faces, share experiences or observe entertainment provided in the lounges and bars. A cocktail at the pool, watching the world pass by from the sun deck or downtime on your own in the fitness center, enjoying a massage or with a salon appointment offer many opportunities to relax and further boost your travel experience.

Not like Ocean Cruising

A river cruise and ocean cruise both travel on water and will transport guests from destination to destination, but that is as far as the similarities go.

River cruising is boutique small hotel like ships. You will not find crowded spaces, lines for meals or assigned seats in the dining room or a different dining venue every night. You also don’t have large pools, kids activities, movie theaters, casino’s or Broadway shows. The small size of the ship allows the onboard staff to focus on safeguarding guests and crew with health and safety protocols also making it an easier path to sustainable travel.

River boat travel primarily occurs late night to early morning providing additional time in ports. No sea days or sea-sickness and land is seen throughout your journey.

Oceans take you to countries and rivers immerse you in the local experience as they take you through countries to boost your travel experience.

Endless Opportunities

Cruising the Chobe River, Africa*

A river cruise can be one of the best ways to immerse in a destination and truly connect with the location you are visiting. From the rivers of Europe, to farther off less traveled rivers in Asia, Egypt and even Africa. The world can be yours to explore!

River travel is no longer solely focused on an older less active participant. Today’s traveler is sophisticated, active and many times even multi-generational which is why river cruising has refocused its customer. With active itineraries, routes specifically designed to the under 40 crowd, family focused and themed tours, there is an option to connect rivers with all ages and can easily be added to a travel bucket list.

These are our tops for how a river cruise can boost your travel experience. If you would like to know “How a River Cruise is for You” check out our site for additional information and some FAQ.

*Photos courtesy of AmaWaterways

Categories: Active Travel, Bucket List, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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