Breathtaking Island of MADEIRA, Portugal
Last evening was formal night on board the Queen Elizabeth. It was cute seeing the young children dressed in Formal attire – even the babies were dressed for this special occasion.
There was a pre-dinner party where we met the Captain. He spoke with every passenger that went to meet him – this just wasn’t a quick photo opportunity for the on-board photographers. Complimentary cocktails were served and the Senior Officers were introduced by the Captain. He is very personable and has a great sense of humor.
When the Captain announced where the passengers on this cruise are from my group cheered when he announced Canada. It didn’t surprise me that afterwards a number of Brits came to chat with us. We have been made to feel more than welcome by them.
One thing that Cunard Cruise Lines is well known for is their elegantly themed, “Balls” which occur on formal nights. I don’t know of another cruise line that does anything quite like it. These are held in the Queens Room where the dance floor dominates the space. The event involved a number of people – Master of Ceremonies, Full Orchestra, Crooner Singer and British Champion Ballroom Dancers.
Extra chairs are set up because the, “Ball” is so well attended but very few people sit – the dance floor is packed mainly with those that do a beautiful job, Ballroom Dancing. It’s wonderful to be a spectator – a great place to people watch!
The production show in the Grand Theatre was well done too. The music consisted of famous songs that most would know – even some Tom Jones hits including, “Release Me”. The cast suited the show – 4 lead singers, 10 dancers and a full orchestra.
Today we visited the city of Funchal on the flower filled Island of Madeira, Portugal.
This really is an idyllic destination. The climate is pretty much consistent year round – never too hot and never too cold. Today was a very comfortable 22C – I wore summer attire – shorts and a short sleeve shirt.
The Scenic Tour that I suggested to my group didn’t depart until 1:30pm so I offered to take those interested on a, “Travel With Bradley Morning Tour” so we could make the most of our time.
The catch was we needed to head out when we reached port at 8am. Seven of my group jumped at the opportunity and we had a GREAT time. While we were waiting to get off the ship we chatted with a very young Gentleman from Vancouver who is traveling on his own. After he finishes this cruise he is continuing to Morocco.
We met an amazing young Taxi Driver when we exited the ship and he laid out the best way for us to visit the attractions that I suggested – the Cathedral, Toboggan, Cable Car, Botanical Gardens, Downtown Farmers Market and the Pedestrian Streets.
He suggested that we head to the Toboggan first to avoid lines. After we took pictures inside the Cathedral we were literally the first ones to board the famous toboggans that scream down the city streets – our two drivers controlled the direction and stopped the toboggan using the rubber soles on their shoes. It’s one a unique one-of-a-kind experience that Madeira is known for. At one time with was a public transportation method the locals needed a way to get down the steep hills. The tradition has kept alive due to tourists that want to experience this thrilling ride.
We continued on to the Botanical Gardens which are built into a slope. We started at the top of the gardens and walked down – this is not a massive garden but the displays are beautiful especially the one show garden – our driver was once again waiting for us.
He drove us back up very steep hills on very narrow roads until we reached the Cable Car station. We once again beat the crowds as we rode the Cable Car down instead of up. The views were wonderful. You may recall that Madeira endured a devastating fire that destroyed many houses and a forested valley. We sadly saw some of this damage while we were on the Cable Car. The quiet, smooth ride took around 20 minutes or so.
It was a short walk to the Farmers Market. We started by walking through the fish market. The locals enjoy eating an ugly looking, long black fish with an elongated head and manny of them were available for sale – its often served with cooked bananas.
The fruit and vegetable market smelled so much better than the fish market. The just picked Christmas clementines were so fragrant. We finished by touring the colourful flower section of the market.
We then came across a bakery so I purchased for everyone one of the famous Portuguese Custard tarts – I can never pass them up (as you have read in previous blog posts) SO good!
The pedestrian streets were filled with Christmas shoppers. Overall, I found that shop prices were quite good.
Madeira is known for their Christmas light displays that dot the city – over 1 million lights. They are famous for their fireworks display on New Years Eve that will attract 11 cruise ships this year.
This is currently high tourist season so hotel prices and food is quite expensive. We were told that there is just not enough hotel space to meet the demand this time of year.
Took a taxi back to the ship and had 15 minutes to spare before leaving getting off the ship again in order to join Cunard’s Scenic Island tour. I arranged to have my passengers meet me at a central point on board the Queen Elizabeth and then we walked off together. On this cruise you always meet your tours on the pier – it was well organized today.
The coach was beautiful and offered excellent wifi access on board so I was able to get a couple Facebook posts done and I got caught up on some emails during the tour!
At over 3000 ft we were above the clouds for the first portion of the tour. The views were just breathtaking. Everyone held their breath as our driver drove around hairpin turns the circled steep valleys.
We stopped at an Inn with a view where we had a choice of coffee, tea or the well-known Madeira Wine (sweet sipping wine) along with a plate of home-made cake and sweets.
The tour continued so we could see the terraced part of the island where the vineyards and market gardening is so impressive.
At another lookout they have recently added a glass floor attraction which is still free of charge but they are currently working on turning it into a pay attraction.
Of course all of the attractions had gift shops – cork products are so popular.
We arrived back to our Cruise liner around 5:20pm so everyone quickly got ready for our 1st sitting 6pm dinner in the Britannia Dining Room.
What an exceptional day!