Recently, myself and my ship family got the opportunity to sign up for a crew tour at one of our ports of call. While I’m not normally a fan of organized tours while travelling, the limited hours of docking and the cheap prices make for a bargain I couldn’t pass up. Crew tours allow you to see much more of the port than you normally would, without having to worry about making it back to the ship for all aboard time. I definitely recommend you participate in them when they happen.
The day started with meeting my mates on the gangway. While usually we only go out with a few people, it was a refreshing change to see over 20 good friends all waiting for you beside the ship. We quickly made our way out of the terminal and onto a tour bus for the day.
Greeted by a local guide, we found our seats and broke out the cell phones. Our guide gave us some Funchal history as we drove to the mountain village of Monté, just up the hill from Funchal. The bus winded back and forth up narrow streets and curving tunnels, eventually reaching the peak. We hopped off, and after a brief walk, the entire tour group boarded toboggans.
In a must-do activity, we were guided down the mountain streets in a toboggan-basket by two local gentlemen at high speeds. It’s a wonderful way to see the city, with a bit of an adrenaline rush on the side. The ride ends midway down the mountain; our bus collected us, but if you’re looking to get back to the city centre and don’t mind a 20 minute downhill walk, I’d recommend it. At the ending terrace, you have the option of purchasing a souvenir photo and some nicknacks, but my professional selfie capabilities eliminated the need for that.
Our tour group boarded the bus, and after careening though twisting tunnels, we made our way slowly out of Funchal. With over half of the island’s population residing in the capital city, it makes Funchal the number one place to see in Madera. Outside of the city, you find terraced landscapes, towering mountains, banana plantations, and friendly faces.
We made our way to Cabo Girao, the highest sea cliff in Europe, and the second highest in the world. The island has built an extended platform that curves out over the cliff, allowing you to get the best possible views. If you’re not too nervous, make sure you tread on the glass floor for a look straight down to the Atlantic. Myself and a mate upset more than a few people by jumping on it – so I wouldn’t recommend doing that. We snapped tons of pictures, in more and more creative ways, and eventually boarded the bus to grab some lunch back in the city centre.
On our current itinerary, the crew knows Funchal best for it’s beautiful landscapes, and it’s delicious food. It’s by far the best place to eat in the Canaries. I’ll recommend the garlic bread, and any of the steak breakfasts at numerous restaurants around the city; they all seem to be world class.
After a productive day off the ship, it was time to get back to work – dancing like an idiot on the dock to welcome passengers back to the ship. Not a bad life, eh?