With a proud maritime history stretching back 600 years, Porto, Portugal’s picture book northern city, is the obvious launching pad for any shipboard adventure. My home for the next 11 days, the sleek 80 metre Scenic Azure
, is moored at the city’s historic Cais da Estiva wharf.
A river cruise is the ideal way to explore the magnificent Douro Valley, a region which is rich in archaeological sites, baroque churches, monasteries, ancient forts and ravishing scenery but is also celebrated for its olives, beef cattle, wheat, almonds, kiwifruit, citrus and grapes.
Although the Douro is synonymous with port, the region also produces some magnificent table wines, including youthful vinho verde, quaffable rosé and its food-friendly reds made from indigenous grapes.
Despite the obvious pre-voyage preparations aboard the Scenic Azure, our 11 day Unforgettable Douro
cruise begins with a full day of sightseeing in Porto itself – ample time to get over the long flight from Australia.
By the time Scenic Azure pulls away from its mooring in the late afternoon, I’m already comfortably ensconced in my suite – a balcony suite on the Diamond Deck – next to the reception area and the Panorama Lounge & Bar.
Having just spent two weeks in a cramped cabin of a sailing clipper, my balcony suite seems grand. Apart from the comfy queensize bed, the cabin has a well-stocked minibar (restocked daily), satellite TV, writing desk and a snazzy bathroom. With just 48 cabins and a crew of 36, personal attention is a hallmark of Scenic Azure.