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Cruises to Madeira (Funchal)

Madeira (Funchal) (Photo:saiko3p/Shutterstock)

About Madeira (Funchal)

In the early 1400's, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal sent his best sailors and cartographers to examine the coast of Africa. The party got blown off course and ended up 310 miles to the west, stranded on the beach of what is now Porto Santos, one of the Madeiran islands. When they returned to Lisbon and told the prince what had happened, he immediately sent them back to colonize the island, which led to the discovery of Madeira, just 25 or so miles away to the southwest.

Much richer in natural resources and natural beauty, the island of Madeira was colonized first, primarily by agrarians from the Algarve district in Portugal; the drier, smaller, sparser Porto Santos wasn't exactly ignored, but did play second fiddle to Madeira. There are two other (uninhabited) islands in the Madeiran archipelago: Ilhas Desertas and Selvagen. But it's Madeira, and the capital city of Funchal, that have flourished in the six centuries since its discovery.

The city of Funchal, named for the huge amounts of fennel (funcho) that grew wild, rises straight up from the sea. The full effect of this extraordinary geography is most evident when sailing out of the city after dark; funneling up from the harbor area to nearly 5,000 feet of mountainous terrain, the lights of the homes and businesses rise straight up as if suspended in air, twinkling aloft in the middle of nowhere. It's a stunning experience -- but that's not to say that the island isn't equally beautiful during the day. Its location on the Gulf Stream gives it ideal year-round weather; flowers, roses and bougainvillea cascade down the mountains in riotous color.

As Madeira is an "autonomous region" of Portugal (self-governing, but established under the Portuguese constitution), its inhabitants are, for all intents and purposes, Portuguese. They speak Portuguese, vote in Portuguese elections and celebrate Portuguese holidays.

Lucky trans-Atlantic voyagers who have Funchal as one of their stops will find cuisine that celebrates the freshest ingredients, a population that is joyous and gracious, activities that run the gamut from vigorous hiking to placid contemplation of nature, and great shopping opportunities for locally made crafts and embroidery.

  • More about Madeira (Funchal)

  • Why go to Madeira (Funchal)?

  • Madeira (Funchal) Cruise Port Facilities?

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Norwegian Epic
Norwegian Epic

10 Night
Europe - Canary IslandDetails

4,223 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Feb 15, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Viking Mars
Viking Sky

14 Night
Atlantic CrossingDetails

23 Reviews
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Mar 2, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Sirena
Sirena

16 Night
Transatlantic CruiseDetails

243 Reviews
Leaving:Amsterdam
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
Nov 3, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Epic
Norwegian Epic

15 Night
Europe - OtherDetails

4,223 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 22, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Repo - TransatlanticDetails

2,091 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 2, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Transoceanic CruiseDetails

14 Reviews
Leaving:Barbados
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Mar 19, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Repo - TransatlanticDetails

1,970 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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15 Night
Transoceanic CruiseDetails

Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Dec 4, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Repo - TransatlanticDetails

3,081 Reviews
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jun 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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13 Night
Atlantic Ocean PassageDetails

1,088 Reviews
Leaving:Barcelona
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Nov 17, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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16 Night
Repo - TransatlanticDetails

2,091 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 2, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

13 Night
Atlantic Ocean PassageDetails

1,920 Reviews
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Mar 21, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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15 Night
Portugal & Spain TransatlanticDetails

1,757 Reviews
Leaving:Tampa
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Apr 17, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Europe - Canary IslandDetails

2,091 Reviews
Leaving:Lisbon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Dec 11, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

46 Night
Grand Africa VoyageDetails

1,006 Reviews
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 10, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about Madeira (Funchal)

Why go to Madeira (Funchal)?

Pros:

Madeira is a picturesque locale with excellent food, plentiful activities and friendly locals

Cons:

It can get hot in Madeira, and facilities offering refreshments along popular hiking trails are sometimes sparse

Bottom Line:

Though nature is the top draw, Madeira is a well-rounded port offering something for everyone

Madeira (Funchal) Cruise Port Facilities?

There isn't much to do right at the cruise dock, although there are some tourist huts that are open most of the day when a ship is in port. The prices are reasonable for last-minute purchases of the Madeiran hats, embroidered goods, nuts and candy.

Good to Know?

Thirst! Walking the levadas (irrigation ditches-turned-hiking trails) is a time-honored tradition in Madeira, but it can get really hot even in the shoulder seasons of trans-Atlantic itineraries. Take a bottle of water with you; it could be over an hour before you reach a place that has something to drink if you don't.

Getting Around?

Taxis are plentiful in Funchal and rates are government regulated. You will see yellow taxis with two blue stripes at the pier and in town. Drop rates start between 1.30 and 2 euros (depending on the day and time) with an approximate rate of .50 euros per mile. This rate is good for up to four people.

Buses are also plentiful, reasonably priced and easy to take in both the city itself and to the nearby communities outside of Funchal. A one-way ticket costs between 1.30 and 6 euros, depending on the length of the journey (the bus conductor will tell you what you owe when you tell him your destination). For 15 euros you can purchase a week-long pass (at the tourist office); although you won't be staying a week, you can use the bus for the day as your personally chauffeured vehicle to go on any route you choose. Schedules and routes can be found at the tourist information kiosk in the city.

Car rentals are available through most major rental firms, but there's a caveat: Funchal now has a population of nearly 110,000 people on streets that are largely unchanged from the city's medieval beginnings. Unless you want a car to visit other parts of the island, don't frustrate yourself by trying to drive in Funchal.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency in Madeira is the euro. ATM's are located throughout the city. Monetary exchange centers (kiosks) are open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m., except on Saturday, when they are open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Note: You can exchange currency at banks, but there is a minimum 8 euro charge; there is no charge at the kiosks, but the rate is slightly lower.

Most shops, stores and restaurants take credit cards.

Language?

The official language is Portuguese, but both English and Spanish are widely spoken.

Where You're Docked?

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


Madeira (Funchal) Cruise Reviews
Would have enjoyed a longer stay in Funchal. Great walking around on land first time in a week since we left Fort Lauderdale. Weather was nice. Locals were friendly and shopping at the nearby shopping mall had a gRead More
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Msfreqflyr
Madeira is a beautiful island. We were unlucky with our tour experience but know from previous visits how lovely the island is. I highly recommend the cable car and toboggan tour that we took on a previous cruise. Read More
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Jo and Rob
very nice island, we took the HoHo red bus, 20 euros each directly at the bus stop.Read More
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xrayone
Lovely city and the complete opposite of Casablanca. We did the toboggan ride which was excellent on an MSC excursion, great fun and if you are fit and able, is a must.Read More
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jezzaR

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