Our final port on our ‘Canary Island Explorer’ cruise saw us visit Portugal and the beautiful port of Lisbon. Situated on the banks of the River Tagus, the city is surrounded by nearly two dozen hills and the waterfront stretches for almost 20 miles. Famous for its majestic architecture, old wooden trams and Moorish features, Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal since the 13th century and is a picturesque and popular port with which to conclude our visits for this cruise.
We approached the River Tagus at 8am this morning and made our way through the sandbanks, towards the pilot station, 11 miles away, by the 25th April bridge. We embarked the friendly pilot who advised me that the strong current was just about to turn from ebbing to flooding so we should go port side alongside to stem the current. So we set our approach for this and on the final stages of the manoeuvre, the current suddenly turned to flooding which put this very strong current up our ster.
It was important not to get the angle too steep so the current can flow between the ship and the quay as you can be swept out again. So, using a lot of power and getting a spring line ashore foreward, I was able to land the ship gently alongside. The pilot told me he was impressed by that manoeuvre and how gently we landed and I told him my father, being a Captain for so many years, taught me well. The pilot also said his father was a Captain so we exchanged advice we had received from our respective Captains, and it is amazing how the advice is so similar.
Anyway we were soon all fast alongside in beautiful sunshine
The first tour off this morning, ‘Obidos, Nazare & Alcobaca’, was an all-day tour that gave our passengers the opportunity to discover a trio of traditional Portuguese towns. Obidos is a small walled town with cobbled streets and whitewashed houses all adorned with colourful blooms. Nazare is Portugal’s most colourful fishing village and this part of the tour also included a visit to Sitio, to enjoy lunch on the clifftops above Nazare, before heading on to Alcobaca which was Portugal’s spiritual centre until the 18th century. Here, our passengers had the chance to visit a 12th-century monastery, where the baroque facade conceals an early gothic interior. The tour time of eight hours meant that our passengers had a real opportunity to experience the port in a relaxed and laid back manner allowing them a chance to experience and appreciate the local culture and atmosphere.
Two tours went off in the afternoon, the first of which was the ‘Panoramic Coast and Wine tour’. This included visits to the popular coastal resorts of Cascais and Estoril including a trip to a local winery. Our passengers also enjoyed a stop at Cabo da Roca, which is the most western part of Europe. As well as the chance to take photographs along the way, the tour also included stunning scenic drives showing our passengers some of the countries incredible landscape and scenery.
The final tour was the ‘Lisbon Panoramic’ which let our passengers visit some of the most famous landmarks and places of interest that the area has to offer. These included the Monument to the Discoveries and Belem Tower and our passengers were also able to enjoy refreshments at Pasties de Belem, one of the oldest and most characteristic cafes in Lisbon, if not Portugal itself. On their return to the ship they were lucky enough to be able to stop at the top of Eduardo VII Park where they were able to enjoy a panorama of the whole city and then cross the suspension bridge to view the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
As always the Cruise Staff provided activities throughout the day for those passengers who chose to remain on board. We set sail at 7.30pm, again using the forces of Mother Nature to help us off the berth, opening the bow and allowing the current to get between the ship and quay, naturally, the ship drifted away from the quay. We then swung around and headed down the Tagus. After dropping the Pilot, we sped up and sailed down to the entrance, with the blood red sunset marking the last run home.
Come the evening there was another night of spectacular entertainment. Along with the chance for our guests to dance to the Saga Pearl II orchestra with our gentleman hosts, there was also a movie and another chance for them to test their general knowledge with some trivia before our classical group, the Rosina Trio, presented a classical collection in the Discovery Lounge. International vocalist Robert Craig also returned with a brand new show dedicated to the Rat Pack that delighted our passengers in Shackletons bar, with an enjoyable and fun filled trip down memory lane.
With our ports completed for this cruise we look forward to a couple of relaxing days at sea before returning to Southampton to say farewell to all the new friends we have made during our travels.
For me, this is my homeward journey. In a few days I will be off home to see my wife and beautiful son who I have missed. As a mariner, you do think of this part of the tour of duty, the breaking out of the suitcases and imagining the look on my son's face as I walk through the door. But I will be sad to leave the ship, to leave all my colleagues who have worked so hard and the crew, who are, as I always say, like my second family.
I am also very pleased for the joining Captain, Wesley Dunlop, who will be taking over for the first time in Southampton. Having sailed with him as my Staff Captain over the years and him proving to be an excellent right hand man, I was delighted to see him get promoted. So I wish him all the success in his new role, and like me, being a new father, I am sure he will be counting the days until I relieve him again so he can return to his family.
So I will sign off now. I cant believe how the time has flown. It only felt like yesterday I was being taken through the streets of Havana on a horse drawn cart.
I hope you have enjoyed the blogs and will be back in June.
Captain Alistair McLundie