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24th January, 2014

Funchal, Madeira

We docked in Funchal at 1pm today after spending three days at sea. Passengers are nicely settled into cruising life with lots of activities to keep them entertained during our sea days.

On arrival, it was indeed a satisfying moment to see the Island of Madeira on the horizon after a few days at sea. It really is a beautiful place and as we embarked our pilot, and manoeuvred into this very familiar port, the wind calmed from the very fresh breeze we had. So I spun the ship around off the breakwater and “Backed” Saga Sapphire into her berth, a manoeuvre I have done so many times, and we were all fast about before 1300.

After lunch and once the ship had been cleared by local immigration officials, passengers were able to go ashore. There was a complimentary shuttle bus service which took passengers into the heart of Funchal, allowing them to explore this beautiful city independently. However there were several shore excursions on offer for those who preferred to go on an organised tour.

The ‘Leisurely Madeira’ tour took passengers through the popular suburb of Sao Martinho to Picos dos Barcelos, where they could look out over Funchal and the South Coast. Passengers on this tour also visited Madeira’s largest statue which was created as a result of the islanders’ vow to build a statue if peace was restored to the island after the bombing in 1917. This impressive statue was built in honour of Our Lady of Monte.

The ‘Palheiro Gardens’ tour took passengers to visit one of the most beautiful and best known gardens in Madeira. The gardens were laid out in the eighteenth century and is a mecca for camellia lovers.

For those who were after something a bit different, the ‘Levada Trail Walk’ is supposed to be one of the most enjoyable ways of seeing Madeira, with irrigation channels created by the Portuguese settlers in the 19th century, who painstakingly carved them out of the rock by hand and were designed to carry water from the north to the drier southern regions of the island.

For the thrill-seekers, the ‘Four-wheel Drive Safari’ was full of fun and excitement taking passengers off road through some of Madeira’s hidden valleys and mountain roads.

We remained alongside in Funchal until 11pm, and with this late sail we were able to provide our passengers with some local entertainment. At 9.30pm our ‘Folkloric Showtime’ commenced with performances by ‘Folclorico Da Boa Nova’ with traditional songs and music from the island. This performance was very well received and it is particularly nice to get a further insight into some traditional culture of this beautiful island.

Sail away was a very straight forward affair as we were pointing in the right direction so it was straight out. I could see the Christmas decorations were still erected on the breakwater and I so wanted them switched on just to have one last glimpse of these wonderful lights, one last time this year, but sadly not, will have to wait another year before we can see them again!

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.