28th November, 2019
Well, it was another busy day in Southampton dropping off guests at the end of their holiday, before picking up guests anticipating their upcoming sunshine holiday to the ‘Volcanic Isles.’
Not only did we exchange guests on the Sunday, but also offloaded and loaded several thousand bags, as well as food, beverage and technical stores to load. All this was done in just over 6 hours, before we were ready to depart Southampton to head south towards the winter sunshine.
Three days at sea lay ahead, prior to our anticipated arrival in Funchal, Madeira on Thursday. This allowed everyone ample time to settle in whilst indulging in Executive Chef Gavin’s gourmet delights, enjoying all-inclusive drinks whilst being entertained by a an array of different artists and speakers.
As an example, this cruise we have travelling with us a Mr Derrick Evans – better known as ‘Mr Motivator,’ and he is guaranteed to get everyone in the mood for a healthy, positive day with his lively and characterful exercise sessions every morning. We also have a lecturer on board who specialises in talks covering infamous and controversial murder trials; these sessions are covered in a series of lectures where guests assume the position of jurors, and consider their verdicts…
On Thursday morning the sun shone and the seas were calm as we rounded Porto Santo island, just north of Madeira, at lunchtime, prior to rounding Madeira’s impressive rocky east coast in the early afternoon. Skirting the southern coast paralleling the airport’s runway, we approached Funchal’s harbour at 15:30 before swinging off the entrance and backing in to berth just in front of one of the largest, oddest looking cruise vessels I have ever seen. Fortunately, this behemoth was due to depart shortly after we berthed, meaning there would be about 8,000 less people on the streets of Funchal for our guests to negotiate.
Madeira is a volcanic island, literally covered in trees. Hence its name – ‘Madeira’ – translating as ‘wood’ in Portuguese. They were very creative with names back in those days. Name aside, the island is lovely, mountainous, with a great climate and a small population. It also boasts some great meat, wines & of course seafood. With an evening in port, this provided a super opportunity for everyone to head into town and sample local culinary delights at their leisure. For anyone interested in the night sky, we rain a ‘stargazing’ trip that evening to take guests high above the clouds to view the unspoilt astronomy.
The following day dawned a sunny one, and bursting with enthusiasm our Saga guests ventured off to various corners of the island, exploring everything from botanical gardens, mountains, rivers, wine tasting, quaint fishing villages or even views from one of Europe’s tallest cliffs – Cabo Girao.
Exhausted but happy, everyone returned to the ship and just before pre-dinner drinks were served, we sailed back out of the harbour southward this time, towards the nearby Canary Islands. Next stop, little La Palma tomorrow…
Captain Kim Tanner
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