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1st January, 2020


It was a lovely run up to Funchal, long gentle swell, blue skies, albeit a relatively brisk breeze on the starboard bow. Last night was some New Year’s party.. ah yes, Happy New Year to all our Blog readers. I do hope you have had a fabulous festive time, now it time to trim that waistline!

We anchored, in prime location yesterday morning  at 0630. It was pitch black at the time and it was going to be a busy day with 12 ships in town and, seemingly, a complicated ‘tender’ operation; with the best part of 7 to 8 thousand passengers wanting be ferried ashore form their respective ships, yep, is was scheduled to be  a busy day..

The anticipated ‘departure’ from ‘plan’ occurred as soon as one the cruise ships jumped the gun, arrived early and attempted to anchor in a slot other than prescribed. A bit of a  guiding ‘chat’ cleared the way for that ship to come to its senses and organisation resumed.  We had our first ender running ashore by 0800; it was just daylight.

The day progressed well until the local wind got up late morning and Tender operations became a more focused event with the need to swing the Saga Sapphire from one side to another to create a lee for Tendering, allowing  safe embarkation and debarkation of our Guests.

By 1300 I was increasingly concerned at the sea conditions and shortly thereafter cancelled all shore leave, only permitting returning Guests from ashore; 20 at a  time. Whilst  a slow process, it was a safe operation and all we accounted for, back onboard, by 1800.

The ship was in full Formal New Year’s eve mode as the sun set and with the setting sun came calmer conditions; it was coming together beautifully.   The Cocktail party was thronged, as you can imagine as we dressed the Haggis, courtesy of a fine Scot, one of regular Guests.

We had a few operational challenges, requiring me to be on the Bridge all evening, which meant that I was unable to attend the Gala New Year’s Dinner and left it to my good lady, Leigh, whom held the fort fantastically.

Midnight arrived and the countdown synchronised  ‘spot-on’ with the fire work spectacular in Funchal; what an event. After seemingly a long firework display, I was quickly off to bed, I had been on the ‘go’ all day and was up early to oversee the landing of a Guests requiring the rigging of Pontoons and launching one of our Tender.  Jemma and the Ents team kept the Veranda deck party, dancing under stars, going  well into the early hours.

With the Passenger landed, and the operation of recovering the Launch and Pontoon completed at 1000 this morning, we were on our way back to Southampton.

It is a beautiful day so  I close-coasted around the southern and eastern shores of Madeira before clearing the Sao Lourenco lighthouse, on the Eastern extreme of the Island, at 1130, setting a NNE’y course for Southampton.

It has been a great cruise, fabulous weather and great Guests. What a way to spend Christmas and New Year.

Captain Stuart Horne

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.