Getting out on the water doesn't have to mean jostling for space with 5,000 other people and choosing between an afternoon at the casino and the surfing simulator. On these five cruises, the experiences are as unique as the ships themselves.
Douro River Cruise Napa, Burgundy, and Tuscany may get all the attention, but Portugal's Douro River valley—home to the vineyards that produce the country's famed sweet, sticky port—is quickly joining the ranks of those go-to wine destinations. The river meanders through steep terraced hillsides, past medieval villages and elegant manor houses, before arriving in Porto, an ancient mercantile city that is experiencing a much-needed architectural and culinary renaissance. Barcos rabelos, ornamental pine cargo barges, once brought casks of port down the river from the vineyards to the riverside warehouses where they were processed and stored. Unlike other river touring companies in the region that use larger vessels, Arisdouro maintains a fleet of three of these traditional barcos rabelos, which accommodate between 20 and 30 passengers each. Tours typically run between the villages of Pinhão ("the heart of the Douro") and Tua, though the tour operator is more than happy to design a specialized itinerary, including anything from wine tasting to on-board lunches of Portuguese-style tapas, creamy cheeses, and seafood carpaccio from the nearby D.O.C. Restaurant (011-351/254-858-123, arisdouro.com/en, 2.5-hour trip from $27). —Caroline Patience