Down the verdant Douro valley
Based in Porto, Portugal’s historical second city, and specialised in river tours, Sea Keys Cruises (SKC) in Porto is a local luxury yacht company focused on custom itineraries along the Douro River, from Porto and Douro Valley regions in Portugal up to Spain and the Atlantic coast.
The swanky river cruise yachts on the marina of SKC in Porto definitely stand apart from the crowd, if not in terms of luxury hardware, then in terms of the personal service.
The journey starts on Pier 4 on the Gaia side of the Douro River. We then walked down the ramp to one of the several marquee boats that SKC owns. If there are kids in the party, they will immediately take note of the schools of robust koi and mullet fish that line the marina. Grown- ups will find it hard to take their eyes of the yachts at the marina, with SKC’s Pershing boats standing a cut above the rest.
The short two-hour private river cruise takes us upstream in the direction of Spain and away from the Atlantic, though SKC is equally strong in sea cruise tours as well.
The journey is surreal, for before our eyes is the teeming historical centre of Porto. The restoration of historical buildings and the placement of medieval trading boats, means you feel transported to the past, going back 500 years when Porto was a global hub of trade connecting the global east and west.
SKC’s well informed tour guide regales us with anecdotes connecting cultures to the sights on either side of the river. For example, the gold merchants of Dubai’s old souqs would be familiar with filigree gold jewellery, and here it was in front of us, town of Gondomar where the art of filigree was invented.
The interaction is intimate, friendly and customised to guests. A taste of some of the best Douro DOC grape beverage and old ports are part of the itinerary. In fact, SKC are specialised in extending the trail with stops at wineries, private tasting events and meetings with the beverage maker. For slightly longer tours, the journey can extend all the way to Spain with immersive experiences either side of the river as highlights including having one of the most prestigious Portuguese chefs on board.Sea Keys Cruises are the only Douro tour operators that provide a choice of Pershing yachts and their crew is multilingual. Top features being a spacious passenger capacity up to 16 guests, opulent interiors and exteriors, 360º of panoramic views, comfortable seating and large sunbathing aft and stern, living rooms, kitchen, suites and rooms inside. Yachts are fitted with the latest technology including CHIRP scanning sonar, radar, GPS, scan fish finder for secure and most exciting outcomes. Jet ski, jet buoy, gangway, stand up paddle and fishing material are provided upon request.