We took the full day cruise from the Rota do Douro Quay in Vila Nova de Gaia to Regua, returning by train. It cost 65 Euros per adult; half price for children. The quay is virtually opposite the Sandeman cellars.
The boat leaves at 8am prompt. They accept cash or advance payment by money transfer - no credit cards. Everyone advises that you book ahead and the cruise doesn't run every day of the week, though I have to say there was plenty of space when we visited in June 2012.
You are given Breakfast (continental) but it's worth looking put of the windows, because the morning views of Porto are stunning. Very quickly, the town disappears and you are into the winding Douro, which starts wide and then becomes narrower and the banks more mountainous as you head upriver and deeper int the mainland of Portugal. There are a few very small towns dotted on either bank and some interesting large houses, but the banks are thinly populated and as you advance, the vineyards start to appear.
We also enjoyed watching the man fish leaping from the water, though it was a bit disconcerting to see so man dead ones floating as we moved upriver.
After about 1hr 45mins, the ship arrives at the first dam (Crestuma-Lever) where you rise 14 metres. It's a fascinating sight and experience, but modest next to the Carrapeto Dam 3 hours later when the rise is 35 metres (well over 100 feet).
In between times at 11am, the cruise serves everyone a glass of port.
Lunch is served at 1pm including wine - it was plentiful and we couldn't eat it all. Very pleasant.
Throughout the cruise there is a multi-lingual commentary pointing out places of interest, interspersed with music - some of it local, though we had Abba's Greatest Hits for the last 30 mins!
I'd also point out it can get very hot on the open deck of the boat. Take sunscreen and hats, and be prepared to go inside occasionally for the air conditioning.
The cruise arrives at Regua at 3pm and there's a flight of steps and then a sloping walk up to the railway station. There doesn't see to be much to do here; there are trips to nearby vineyards for those who have time, but in the heat of June we simply bought drinks at the railway station and waited for the train.
The train leaves at just before 5pm (though it was late) and boarding it was a rather chaotic scrum - it's a regular train scheduled trai service, not put on by the cruise company, so there are plenty of locals on board. There are some nice views of the Douro along the way, and you can also see more clearly how high the hills are on either side of the river (when you're at river level you can't see beyond the first rise). The train journey takes abut 2 hours to reach Porto, where you can always admire the fabulous tiles in the entry hall.
Remember you will end your journey in a completely different place frm where you started - on the opposite side of the river and in the main town of Porto, rather than Gaia.
So the day pans out like this:
8am: Leave Vila Nova de Gaia. Breakfast.
9.45am: Crestema-Lever Dam (14 metres).
11am: Port wine
12.45pm: Carrapatelo Dam (35 metres)
3pm: Arrival at Regua
4.56pm: Train leaves Regua
7pm: Arrival at S. Bento Railway station, Porto
It's a long day on the boat, the heat can actually make it quite tiring, and there's little at Regua. But seeing the Douro, the way it changes in character, the dams, the food and port, and having a railway ride, this is a great and I thought good vale day out. One we'll remember.
The company we sued was Rota Ouro do Douro. I understand there are several others to choose from.
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