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Funchal, Madeira

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

18th November, 2015

Our final port of call this cruise saw us visit the beautiful island of Madeira, and its capital Funchal. Discovered by Portuguese explorer Joao Goncalves Zarco in 1419, it was originally formed by a volcanic eruption and became part of Portugal’s vast empire. Sugar plantations first brought wealth here and many British emigrants were drawn to the capital after our own King Charles II granted it an exclusive franchise to sell wine to England and its colonies.

Our pilot was on hand to board Saga Sapphire shortly before 8am, and as the clock struck 9 we were safely alongside and all fast on our berth.

The first tour to depart this morning presented our passengers with the chance to experience something a little bit different. The ‘Levada Walk’ excursion presented the opportunity to follow a ‘levada’ trail, the irrigation channels that were created by Portuguese settlers in the 19th century. All painstakingly carved out of the rock by hand, it was these channels that carried fresh water from the north to the drier southern regions of the island. This helped to create its lush landscapes and the guided walk allowed our passengers the opportunity to enjoy mountain views of the green farmland that covers Madeira.

Slightly less strenuous was the second tour, as the ‘Leisurely Madeira’ coach trip was exactly that, a leisurely way for our passengers to enjoy some of the island’s finest sights. Travelling from Funchal, through the popular suburb of Sao Martinho, to Pico dos Barcelos and then on to the winding scenic roads to Eira do Serrado, our passengers were able to relax and enjoy the views of Madeira’s highest peaks. Carrying on they took in some wonderful landmarks, including Madeira’s largest statue, a beautiful baroque church, a tropical garden and the island’s famous toboggan run, all situated in the picturesque village of Monte.

The final tour also took our passengers to Monte but this time, along with enjoying all of its famous landmarks, they were able to enjoy the botanical gardens, home to a variety of plants and flowers from all over the world which thrive in the temperate climate. As if this wasn’t enough, fabulous views looking over the coast and across the ocean made sure that it was a trip to remember, although as the tour finished with a visit to a wine lodge for a tasting of some of the island’s famous wines, perhaps one or two memories might be a little hazy!

As I gave the order to cast off our lines many passengers were out on deck to enjoy the view as we departed from Madeira. We now make our way north towards Southampton, following what has been another truly fantastic voyage aboard Saga Sapphire.

Captain Wesley Dunlop

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.