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26th January, 2018


After 3 days at sea it was great to be heading into Madeira. I always enjoy the arrival into Funchal as it’s such a spectacular setting at the foot of the hills. As we approached the pilot station at 0730 the wind was gusting 25 knots which is normally when I would be ordering a tug, however with an Easterly wind it was going to be down the line of the dock and on the bow so we were able to control the ship without one. With the pilot on board we headed up to pass 200m off the breakwater before swinging to starboard and then “backing” down towards the berth. We were all fast alongside by 0815 and within 30 minutes our Guests were soon heading down the gangway.

Our Shore Excursion Team headed up by Cassie and Grazia offered a variety of tours including the “Four-Wheel Drive Tour”, “Madeira Sidecar Experience”, “Volcanic Caves at Sao Vicente” and “Scenic Madeira”. For those going ashore independently there was a also complimentary shuttle bus service which took our passengers into the heart of Funchal.

Formed by a volcanic eruption, Madeira lies in the Gulf Stream about 500 miles due west of Casablanca. Discovered by Portuguese explorer Joao Goncalves Zarco in 1419, this beautiful Island became part of Portugal’s vast empire and was named for the dense forest which cloaked it - Madeira means wood in Portuguese.

I was invited out for lunch by a very good friend whose family have substantial interests on the Island, so at 1300 a taxi rolled up to take me to the North East coast and a unique free trade zone where the family have a large warehouse. Octopus was the order of the day and this did not stay on the plate for too long. It was so tender and I understand had been boiled and then grilled with paprika, olive oil and some lovely soft “sweated” onions.

Whilst we were alongside 2 of the deck crew, Mel Pepito and Djozer Pol Canezo, were given the task of adding a “mural” of Saga Sapphire to the breakwater wall. The wall is is littered with 100’s from past and present ships, but never one from Saga Sapphire. We fixed that!!

With everyone back on board by 1730 we slipped our moorings and Staff Captain Tom took the ship out to sea. Once clear of the port, and with the pilot away, we set a SW’ly course towards the Caribbean.

Captain Julian Burgess

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.