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11th November, 2013


Madeira is said to have been the location of the world’s first sugar cane plantation and so with that the islands sugar trade quickly became important. Formed by volcanic eruption, Madeira lies in the Gulf Stream. Today’s travellers come to Madeira for the varied and luxuriant scenery, from mountain slopes covered with vines to picturesque villages and a profusion of wildflowers.

We had sailed a fairly bumpy run across from Tenerife but with this ship being very good in the wind and swell on the bow, she rides it well. Soon we started to get into the shelter of the Island and the wind and swell abated. As we arrived I decided on a starboard side alongside manoeuvre, so I took the ship to the breakwaters, turned to starboard and then reversed the ship into the harbour and onto the quay. This meant I was pointing out the right way for departure.

Madeira is probably one of my favourite places in Europe with its quaint streets, exceptional views, and beautiful countryside. It has been many years since I went up in the cable car, only to come back down again, this time in the wicker baskets pushed by the local’s. Unfortunately the toboggan ride down isn’t as long as it used to be but it’s still very novel, Madeira being the only place in the world that does this. With temperature’s reaching 22 degrees, it was a fine sunny day to explore this beautiful island. A few discovered the wine lodge’s for a taste of the islands famous wines which were of course brought back to the ship in bagful’s.

Driving around the island, it’s lovely to see how it’s improved once again after the devastation from the land slide only a few years ago. There are many sub-tropical plants here as well as different wildflowers which have earned Madeira its name ‘the floating garden’. The African tulip trees are undoubtedly my favourite which of course grow well in this wonderful environment.

Today seemed to be a rather quiet start with roughly half of the ship going on tour through Madeira. Here they passed the village of Monte which actually passes the island’s famous toboggan run as well as tropical gardens and a handsome baroque church. They also enjoyed views of Madeira’s highest peaks whilst enjoying quick refreshments which I assume was the local cake. A few chose a rather fun and exciting jeep safari which took them both on and off road through hidden valleys and mountain roads. For those guests on the Palheiro garden’s tour, I’m sure they would love to come back to Madeira when the island has one of their annual flower festivals. Big floats are covered in many varieties of flowers parading down the streets, with both young girls and boys dressed in traditional costume dancing. Saga Sapphire will be back here once again for New Year’s Eve come the end of the year, which is once again another spectacle. The fireworks are undoubtedly some of the best in the world, so I’m disappointed I’ll be missing them this year. Unfortunately we only had half a day here today but with a long journey ahead of us back home this extra time is needed. 

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.