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Cruises to Madeira (Funchal)

Madeira (Funchal) (Photo:saiko3p/Shutterstock)
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.

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DAY 1: New York

14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
King's Wharf, Ponta Delgada ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Rome

15 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Florence, Cannes ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Rome

14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Cartagena, Lisbon ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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DAY 1: Galveston

16 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Galveston
Visiting:
Madeira, Lisbon ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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13 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Malaga, Seville ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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24 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Tenerife, Madeira ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Cartagena, Malaga ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Lisbon
Visiting:
Madeira, Tenerife ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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17 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Lisbon
Visiting:
Madeira, La Palma ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Lisbon
Visiting:
Madeira, Tenerife ...
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Cruise Line:
Azamara
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14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Cartagena, Malaga ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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29 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Dubrovnik, Kotor ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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20 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Martinique
Visiting:
Guadeloupe, Barbados ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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22 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Florence, Portofino ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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15 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Lisbon
Visiting:
Madeira, Miami ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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17 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Cartagena, Malaga ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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16 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
King's Wharf, Ponta Delgada ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Southampton
Visiting:
Lanzarote, Gran Canaria ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Madeira, Seville ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Madeira, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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40 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Cape Town
Visiting:
Luderitz, Walvis Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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13 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Madeira, Barbados ...
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Cruise Line:
SeaDream Yacht Club
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11 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Southampton
Visiting:
Gran Canaria, Tenerife ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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50 Night
Cruise to Madeira (Funchal)

Leaving:
Cape Town
Visiting:
Luderitz, Walvis Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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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

Explorer of the Seas
upwarduk
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Funchal was the most attractive island that we visited, yet we didn’t have long enough. It’s pointless arriving at 6am when most people are still asleep.... Read More
Independence of the Seas
kaz2y5
Sail Date: Jun 2019
Madeira is a truly beautiful island. We took the bus to the top and the view is incredible. Had a lovely lunch at harbour and visited the Ronaldo museum with a Tuk Tuk ride back to the ship... Read More
Explorer of the Seas
Mad RCI fan
Sail Date: May 2019
I really enjoyed Madeira nice food near the ship and of course a glass of Madeira wine... Read More
Eurovisionfan
Sail Date: Dec 2018
All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our... Read More
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