Madeira is a port I have been fortunate to call into many times when working onboard P&O cruise ships. It was also the port of call I was most looking forward to during our recent family cruise around the Canaries and Mediterranean. Anyone who has visited the Portuguese island of Madeira will understand why. Simply put, the island of Madeira is stunning. An island of paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Located near the Canary Islands and off the coast of North West Africa. The island has so much to offer for visitors which makes it difficult to know how to make the most of a cruise ship call into Madeira.
I have written this article to give future cruise ship passengers into Madeira a little helping hand! During my three years working onboard cruise ships I experienced many of the most popular attractions and excursions in Madeira. A jeep ride through the mountains, afternoon tea at the famous Reid’s Palace Hotel, a whale/dolphin spotting adventure on a high-speed boat…
I can honestly say, these experiences are all truly memorable. If however you are visiting the island for only one day there are five experiences that you absolutely CANNOT miss! Fortunately, if you are visiting onboard a P&O Cruises ship you can book a tour via your shore excursions department which includes all five of these experiences!
1. A scenic cable car ride up to Monte
Our four-hour excursion started with a short drive to the Funchal cable car station. We then jumped on a cable car, (similar to a ski lift) for the 12,000 foot long, 15 minute ride which rises over 1,800 feet to the peak of Monte.
The views from the cable car are breathtaking. My boys loved ‘flying’ over Madeira and excitedly pointed out the dramatic mountains, colourful gardens and banana plantations.
We loved this view overlooking the town of Funchal. If you look closely you will see our floating home for the fortnight, @pandocruises #Ventura! A cable car ride up to the hillside town of Monte is an absolute must for all visitors to Madeira. We booked it onboard as a half day shore excursion including toboggan ride and wine tasting 🍷It takes about 15 minutes to reach the top on a lift similar to a ski lift. The whole time my eldest son asked none stop questions about how the cable car works (which luckily his daddy was able to answer 😂) whilst I took 100's of photos of the spectacular views! #ourtraveltimes #madeira #inspiringtravelpics
The instagram image above shows Funchal Harbour from Monte. The harbour is known for being one of the most spectacular in the world. Apparently it is now common to see four cruise ships in port at any one time.
2. A thrilling toboggan ride in a wicker basket
In complete contract to our relaxing slow ride up to Monte, the two-mile ride down the hillside was exhilarating! The sledge drivers you see below are known as “Carreiros”. They wear all white, a straw hat and most importantly, rubber soled boots to run behind the toboggan, pushing and steering along the curvy roads, using only their boots as brakes!
Our second port of call during our Canaries and Med cruise with @pandocruises was into #Madeira. I have always been a huge fan of this stunning island and I was keen to let my boys experience the famous toboggan ride! I had actually forgotten how quickly the wicker baskets travel down the two mile road being stopped only by the rubber-soled boots of the toboggan drivers! I spent the whole ten minute experience screaming, my youngest went really quiet and held on tight to me and his fav teddy, whilst my husband and eldest son laughed all the way down the hill! It was great fun and you have to give it a go if you are ever in Madeira! I have photos of us mid way down but I look like a mad women so they are not being shared on here 😂 #inspiringtravelpics #tobogganing #funchal #shoreexcursion #cruise #ftb100 #familytravelmoment
Our Carreiros expertly dropped us off at a cafe half way down the hillside. The atmosphere at this meeting point was contagious, everyone excitedly discussing the curvy roads, the skill of the drivers and the smell of heated wood created by the friction of the basket against the road.
3. Experience views over Madeira from 6,000ft
The panoramic views from Pico dos Barcelos are incredible. We were able to view the Funchal bay and city, with the Desertas Islands in the background.
4. Tasting the famous Blandy’s Madeira wine
Of course it would be rude to visit Madeira without trying its famous wine! Our excursion included a short tour and wine tasting at Blandy’s Wine Lodge which was a perfect way to end our morning. The wine lodge has a gift shop where we picked up a bottle as a souvenir of our time at the island.
5. Take a stroll in Funchal to people watch and soak in the atmosphere
The last not to be missed experience, for making the most of a cruise ship call into Maderia, is a stroll along the cobbled streets of Funchal. We enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere, people watching and searching for souvenirs in the many craft and flower shops.
Madeira is famous for its flowers and it is worth noting that the local flowers, including birds of paradise and flamingo flowers, can be packed into special boxes for safe transport home for cruise ship passengers.
Booking a shore excursion verses exploring Madeira independently
You can of course explore independently and enjoy these five unmissable experiences in Madeira without booking through the ships shore excursions department. However, to attempt to replicate this excursion independently would involve paying for the cable car, toboggan ride and wine tasting, the inconvenience of arranging several taxi rides, hunting down the toboggan ride meeting point and Blandy’s wine bar all without the experience and knowledge of a local guide.
The cost of the P&O Cruises Cable Car and Toboggan shore excursion is £49 per adult and £25 per child (over the age of 3). As an ex Shore Excursions Manager for P&O Cruises, I firmly believe this offers good value for money and most importantly, ensures passengers make the most of a cruise ship call into Madeira.
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Disclaimer – We travelled as guests for our tour of Madeira in return for this honest review. All opinions and words are, as always, my own.
Copyright – All images are copyright Travel Loving Family