Scenic Azure Portugal cruise: At port in a picture-book city; Mark Chipperfield; Traveller

Portugal – Alto Douro Wine Region

A meander through the majestic Douro Valley on a luxury river cruise ship begins in Portugal’s history-rich second city.

Is there anything quite as mesmerising as the preparations for a long voyage? There’s a buzz of activity on the wharf as supplies are loaded, suitcases carried up the gangplank, brass work polished and decks swabbed.

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.

Under the patronage of Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), Portuguese expeditions travelled from Porto to Africa, Asia and the Americas, laying the groundwork for a lucrative trading empire and, less gloriously, the slave trade.

My home for the next 11 days, the sleek 80-metre Scenic Azure, is moored at the city’s historic Cais da Estiva wharf.

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