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Madeira (Funchal), Portugal (4/16/18)

We have never been on a cruise that docked in Funchal and knew nothing about it. I'd noticed that a number of transatlantic cruises stopped there and wondered why. After doing the research below, I was blown away and am now very excited to visit this "Lost Jewel of the Atlantic!"

Funchal is the largest city in the Madeira Archipelago and the capital of this autonomous region of Portugal. The Island of Madeira is rather small at 286 sq. miles, but represents 93% of the archipelago's total area. Ninety percent of the landmass is above 1,640 ft., with the tallest peak over 6,100 ft. The archipelago sits in the Atlantic, 323 miles west the African coast and 250 miles north of Tenerife, Canary Islands. This sub-tropical location makes for an almost perfect climate with winters being extremely mild and summers long but with relatively modest heat.

Madeira Island is about 30.8 miles long (west to east) and approximately 14 miles at its widest point, with a rugged coastline of 90 miles. The island is the top of a volcano, that rises 20,000 feet from the floor of the sea. When the Portuguese discovered the island in 1419, they found no signs of human habitation. The island was then settle by the Portuguese, many being farmers from far north region of Portugal. Today the archipelago has about 270,000 inhabitants, with most residing on Madeira Island. The capital, Funchal, has a population of over 110,000. They have built their city up the gentle slopes of a natural amphitheater-shaped valley to a height of almost 4,000 ft. A cable car (gondola lift) is available to take you to the neighborhood of Monte, for an incredible vista of the area from a height of over 3,300 ft. Watch one of the videos below to see an optional way to get back down.

Funchal, Medeira pic

The cruise port is right near the center of the city, but the dock is still some distance from the main oceanfront drive. You can see a ship docked in the picture on the left. Most cruise lines have shuttles to the center of town. It's walkable at around half a mile. Cabs are also readily available and are quite reasonably priced ($5 each way, more or less).

EXPLORE THE PORT:

Here is a list of sites that could help you plan your day in port. Be sure to explore the links on each page for a wealth of information.

Funchal, Madeira Cruise Port Page - Cruise Critic port page for Funchal, Madeira.

Funchal, Madeira Attraction & Activities - Tripadvisor's Things to do in Funchal, Madeira, with a ranked lists of attractions & activities.

WhatsInPort - Great info about the port including a webcam (some ports), printable map and ships in port: the Aida Prima will also be in port.

Frommer's Madeira - a well respected travel guide, has their take on Madeira, with lots of links to explore like a walking tour.

Lonely Planet's Funchal, Madeira - Lonely Planet's list of things to do in Funchal, Madeira.

Tours by Locals Funchal - Experience Funchal and/or Madeira through the eyes of a local private guide! Browse our tour 'suggestions' - each can be customized just for you.

Viator's Funchal, Madeira Tour Offerings - Viator is a consolidator, meaning that they source tour companies and resell them. What is nice is that you can pay in USD with your credit card before you leave home. I've used them in a few places and was very pleased. If you can find the company they are using to book directly, you can save a bit.

Madeira Island Tours - A private tour company that is based in Funchal. They have a number of interesting tours. I've linked to the tours for cruise ships. A nice feature is that you don't have to prepay, or make a deposit.

Madeira Tours - Another private tour company, whose prices seem better than the company above. I didn't find info on the site about the company, but I like the website with maps of the tours.

Madeira Happy Tours - A third private tour company, whose prices also seem excellent and hard to believe: 8 hours for 25 Euros. They are located in Funchal.

Funchal Port Guide - Tom Sheridan has created a series of Port Guides for ports around the world. They are in PDF format; thus, can be loaded on your tablet, or printed, to have handy. Tom's website is tomsportguides.com, where he gives travel tips and explains how to best use his guides

Madeira Islands - The official website for Madeira Islands Tourism.

Madeira - The most beautiful sights - A 24-min, hi-def video of the sights and sounds of Madeira. There are sub-titles, sounds and music, but no narration. An excellent overview of the highlights of the island.

Madeira Island on Travel Channel - A 7-min, med-def video of the island and her capital. This video is narrated with music. It is a bit more informative than the one above, but both are well worth watching. Eh, would you ride one of the "sleds" down the mountain?

More to come...

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