We got to Funchal at 1PM on Nov 7th. We booked a shore excursion (4x4 adventure) with Royal Caribbean. The tourv stated we would go to areas most tourists do not vvisit and they were right! We went up steep roads and around the island for about 4 hours. The tourguide was very knowledgeable and knew the area well. We really enjoyed the tour. This was the only day that we did not have dinner on the Ship - we were uin Funchael till 10PM so we ate at the Golden Gate Restaurant downtown. The food was deliciious - I had roast pork with, what else? Madeira Sauce. We did try Madeira wine (semi-dry) which was potent, but delicious.
Be careful of one thing - they tell you it's a 10-15 minute walk from the ship to downtown - It's more like 45 minutes!! Take a Cab!!
We booked the tour at the end of the cruise with a dropoff at the Airport. Again, the tour guide was very knowledgeable and the tour included a stop at El Morro, the largest Spanish fort in the Caribbean. Very interesting.
We flew into London from Dallas USA on Sat-Sun Nov 2-3. Rented a car to drive to Southampton, On the way, we stopped at Beaulieu at the Royal Motoring Museum which was great. The weather in Southampton was horrible - cold and rainy - and it took us over 2 hours to find the Hotel (all of this, of course, having nothing to do with Royal Caribbean). We stayed at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, on High Street, which was over 500 years old. We were going to have breakfast at the Hotel but were so jet-lagged we slept right through and just had time to get to the Ship.
The boarding process was a dream. We are Gold Crown and Anchor Society members, so we had priority boarding and were on the Ship within 15 minutes.
Everyone involved in the boarding process was great.
We took the Caribbean Rail and Sail Tour which was the Scenic Railway with a catamaran instead of a bus. Both parts of the tour were excellent - the catamaran was 1st, and was very relaxing with drinks and a snack included. The railway was an old sugar cane delivery train which was picturesque and very nice. The tourguides again really knew their stuff.
We rented a car in St Maarten/St Marin which was the only port on which we did NOT take an excursion. We booked a small car with Leisure Car Rental, which company I would definitely recommend, however the car we booked was not available so we got a larger car with no additional fee. Leisure, by the way, is the only rental car agency on the Island that will include NO DEDUCTABLE insurance WHICH I HEARTILY RECOMMEND! Parking, both in Marigot on the French side and Philipsburg on the Dutch side was almost non-existent. The island is really beautiful.
We booked a sailing/snorkeling tour on a schooner type ship as opposed to a catamaran. The crew was wonderful - one of they guys even saved my waterproof camera after i lost it in the water. The provided lunch was chicken and ribs and was delicious. This was an all-day tour and make sure you use plenty of sunblock -