Vienna, Austria, sits on the Danube River like a crown jewel. The world-renowned city and the river that flows through it have been etched into the memories of many travelers and immortalized in “The Blue Danube,” a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss.
Indeed, Vienna and the villages along the Danube inspire music. Cruising along this majestic river and setting off on excursions to cities such as Salzburg, one does get the impression that the hills are alive with “The Sound of Music.” One of the highlights of any cruise along the Danube, in fact, is to take in an evening concert of music and waltz while docked overnight in Vienna.
I love the Danube, particularly on cruises between Budapest, Hungary, and the German cities of Nuremberg or Passau. On this gorgeous stretch of water, river cruise vessels sail past glorious palaces (the Melk Abbey, for example), hilltop castles and ruins, and the gorgeous Wachau Valley, one of my favorite regions to mix bikes and boats, as I wrote about recently here on the Cruise Specialists’ blog.
Another of my favorite rivers is about as far away from the Danube as you can get in Europe.
Put your finger on a map and drag it all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean until you reach the upper region of Portugal, where the Douro River begins in the colorful city of Porto, Portugal. As you probably know, this is the region perhaps best known for its production of Port wine, and certainly the food and wine that you’ll experience along a Douro river cruise will please your palates to no end.
But there are two other reasons that I enjoy this region so much. The first is the landscape along the river, where vineyards slope vertically from the blue sky to the river banks below. It should come as no surprise that the Douro Valley has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The scenery is absolutely stunning.
The second reason I enjoy the Douro so much resides in the people. The Portuguese are warm, friendly and inviting. Many river cruise operators use Portuguese staff, so you’re off to a good start the moment you step on board. In my experience, nearly every encounter off-the-boat was met with equally as pleasant people as on the river cruisers.
While most trips operate from Porto roundtrip, Douro river cruises typically venture all the way upriver to Vega de Terron, Spain. To gain a sense of what Douro River cruises offer, check out eight videos from a cruise along the Douro with AmaWaterways in 2014, then start planning your own trip to this wonderful region on the Iberian Peninsula.