By Debi Lander

River cruising on ships smaller than ocean liners and with only 100 – 250 passengers have gained tremendous popularity, especially with the Boomer generation. The trend includes what is called “experiential travel” or connecting the visitor with the history and culture of a destination. I recently took a Viking River Cruise in Portugal that met those goals.

Portugal rests in southwestern Europe bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. It is only about half the size of North Dakota. I flew into Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and spent two nights in a downtown hotel included in the itinerary. The arrival day allowed travelers to adjust to jet lag and have free time to explore. Next morning, complimentary tours to the major historical monuments showcased Portugal’s famous explorers. Later, I visited the Tile Museum featuring the famous Portuguese blue and white tiles. I got to paint a tile of my own, too.

Affordable Water

On the third morning, we were bused about 200 miles, stopping along the way for a visit in Coimbra. While riding, we practiced pronouncing some Portuguese words. Once we reached Porto, we boarded our ship and from then on, did not have to unpack again.

The Douro River has been the historical lifeline through the region, nicknamed the River of Gold. It is a narrow river with magnificent gorges and steep banks. Today, it contains many locks that enable ships to move faster and more safely. Because of these locks, boats never travel at night; so, on this cruise, all sailing would occur during daylight.

Exploration of Porto’s Cathedral and other historic properties happened the next morning. I especially enjoyed the Lello Bookshop with staircases that inspired author J.K. Rowling. Later, we took a tasting tour through the wine cellars of a port wine producer. All fortified wine called port comes from the Douro Valley, a designation similar to the official champagne region.

Learning the history of the cities we’d visit and about the local cuisine was provided during daily onboard presentations. Additional, on-site guides reinforced what we’d learned. Trust me, understanding the production of port took a few lessons to fully grasp.

We toured a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites as well as a stop at the Mateus Palace. You might recall its picture on the odd-shaped bottles of Mateus wine that were popular in the 1970s. My favorite stop was the pilgrimage shrine in Lamego known for its myths and miracles. Built in 1791, the small hilltop chapel provides dramatic views and a picturesque 686-step double staircase. Before descending, I dallied in the chapel taking photos and was discovered by an elderly nun. She took me aside and showed me treasures in the back chapel. I’ll never forget her.

When our vessel reached the border of Spain, we made a day trip into the city of Salamanca. This famous university town contains many buildings made of sandstone that produce a golden glow, especially in the afternoon sunshine.

All meals plus wine or beer were included and some dinners took place in a monastery and winery. Evening entertainment featured local performers like flamenco dancers, a Fado performance — Portugal’s traditional songs accompanied by three guitars and a folk dance troupe.

By the time I flew home, I had indulged and embraced the people, culture and cuisine of Portugal. I would heartily encourage others to consider a river cruise.

Visit to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.

Photo courtesy Debi Lander

Mateus Palace in Portugal.

  • Ackerman Urology We specialize in Prostate health, sexual health, bladder health, and Kidney health
  • Smiles by Glenos & Hadfic Orthodontists
  • I.T. Promise Inc. Computer Services Professional Computer Services business and residential
  • Pavers concrete and more Free estimates
  • Snip's Tree and stump service over 25 years experience
  • The right cleaners, LLC House cleaning services
  • Premier Homes Realty Inc. Michael Taylor and Tari Taylor
  • Quality Eye care 25+ years of experience
  • Vote Rod Hardwick for st johns county sheriff Working together for the strength of our community during challenging times
  • Preddy law firm estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, guardianship
  • Starling Nocatee, 360 degree virtual tour
  • Advertise in our May Issue The Creek Line
  • Staverman Hearing Centers Hear loud and clear
  • Support Community Journalism The Creek Line
  • Tutoring club of st johns. Text tutoring to 484848 for a chance to win one month of free tutoring
  • Being Well Florida News line is excited to introduce Being Well magazine
  • Westminster Woods on Julington creek. Live well. Be Happy
  • Ackerman cancer center. We're here for your cancer treatment
  • Anytime Fitness! Summer is Here! We Are Open!
  • Have questions about your medicare benefits? Call a SHINE volunteer.
  • Forever Vets Animal Hospital coupon for free exam and discount on preventative care for dogs and cats!
  • Ellegant earth solutions complete lawn maintenance with 28 years experience, complete lawn maintenance
  • Prudential Financial Planning Services with Andrew Laino
  • Support Community Journalism in Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Vote for Dr. Erick Aguilar Republican candidate U.S. House Fl 4th district
  • Academy of Dance Open House & Registration August 19th and 20th 3pm to 6pm Classes start August 24th! Ballet, Pointem Jazz, Hip Hop Contemporary, Modern, Lyrical, Music Theatre, Vocal
  • Affordable Water
  • All About Ballroom
  • Do you only want cremation?
  • Craig Funeral services, Funeral, Crematory, Memorial Park
  • Cronin Ace Hardware
  • Vote for Christian Whitehurst! for St. Johns county commissioner, District 1
  • Doug Nunnery, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,
  • Finding the right doctor just got easier, Dr. Levine Baptist primary care
  • DIscount up to 30% Jim Register state farm agent
  • Nemetz Dental Associates! Your new smile awaits!
  • Deerwood Academy register now for 2020-2021 VPK
  • Eye center of st augustine, The eye surgery Center of St Augustine
  • Famous Automotive and tire center
  • Fruit Cove Baptist Church
  • The Goddard School summer camp
  • Havana Printing and office supply Call us today for all your cutome printing needs
  • Ian MacDonald Mortgage loan originator with Regions Mortgage
  • Julington Creek Chiropractic & Wellness Center P.A. serving st. johns county for nearly 21 years
  • Future home loans. North Florida's Premier Mortgage Expert Ryan Proffitt
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue! Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Wild Birds Unlimited Nature shop. Have you watered your birds lately?
  • Legends of Real Estate call Kim Kessler
  • Creeks Air Conditioning & Heating. We service all makes and models for residential and commerical!
  • Crosswinds Veterinary Hospital. Preventative Medicine and wellness, Surgery, Dentistry, Labs and Imaging, Farm Animal Medicine, In-Patient and Emergency Care
  • Deborah Lennon, AAMS. Edward Jones Making sense of investing
  • Florida Waterways Inc. Your trusted Waterway Advisers
  • Harbor Chase Independent & Assisted living Memory Care Mandarin. Immerse yourself in a rewarding community that enriches your body, mind, and soul.
  • JJs Bistro $10 off lunch or dinner
  • Dont Forget to vote for John Turner School Board member
  • Julington Creek Family Dentistry. Implant Cosmetic and Restoration Dentistry. We are following Advanced Safety protocols set forth by CDC, OSHA and ADA guidelines for dental practices
  • Lori Hershey for School Board, District 7. A school system we can all believe in.
  • Alicia Washington for Circuit Judge
  • Matt Schellenberg. Dependable Leadership for these challenging Times. School Board District 7
  • Re-elect Mike Orfinger for circuit judge
  • Concrete Works! Free Estimates, driveways, Patios, Walkways, Concrete removal, Driveway extension, Pavers
  • Family Remodeling Contractors! Bath, Kitchen &ADA Remodeling
  • Mobile Notary Service. 15 years experience, 24 hour services
  • River Garden Senior Services, However and whenever you need us we're here
  • Starlight Gymnastics! Our #1 priority is your children!
  • Chris Strickland for ST Johns county sheriff!
  • Sugar Bear Antique Mall Summer spectacular sale July 10th-12th
  • Baptist Health, Great tools for motherhood
  • A Green Cleaner, Free pickup and delivery to your home!
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue!
  • Luxury living and compassionate care come together at starling. Welcome Home.
  • Tailored living Premier Garage solutions
  • Westminster St. Augustine. were here when you need us
  • Alive Credit Union Start banking healthier today!
  • Clara's Tidbits Now in Mandarin!
  • Brian E. Floro DMD, PA Dental services
  • JR Dental General, Specialty and Dental lab
  • Support community journalism! Subscribe to the Mandarin Newsline today!
  • Railing Chiropractic & Acupuncture
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our may issue!
  • Dottie Lay. When selling or buying choose the top sales agent that works for you!
  • HarborChase independent & assisted living Memory Care Mandarin. Your safety and peace of mind is always our Top Priority
  • Fieldd Cadillac of St. Augustine
  • Advertise your business in The CreekLine!
  • Bring your print projects to us! The UPS Store
  • Westminster St. Augustine Gracious living a world apart
  • Willie Jewell's BBQ! Every meal comes with a side of southern hospitality
  • Advertise your business in The CreekLine!
  • Advertise your business in The CreekLine!
  • Advertise your business in The CreekLine!
  • Smart Choice Medical healthcare membership! No VoPay, No Deductibles, No Hassles
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021