Tom Sheridan's Port Guides
Azores and Madeira
By Thomas Sheridan
It's difficult to find the location of the cruise ship dock relative to tourist sites and public transit. The solution is to create maps and combine them with photos, public transit routes, and links to the best websites. Tom's website, www.TomsPortGuides.com is uniquely useful for self-guided touring from a cruise port. And it's FREE.
There are many compelling reasons to include the Azores or Madeira on your cruise itinerary. Select a transatlantic cruise between Florida and the Mediterranean that stops at one of these islands; you won’t be disappointed. There are nine islands in the Azores, whereas Madeira is essentially one large island. The Azores and Madeira are of volcanic origin. The fertile soil, adequate rainfall, and moderate year- round temperatures create the “perfect” environment for lush plant growth. Residents are keenly aware of and proactive in preserving their beautiful environment. There is no noxious industry nor pollution. • There are 60 plants unique and only found in the Azores. Plants that are scrub brush in other parts of the world are transformed in growth habit to become commercial timber. Over 700 varieties of plants have been introduced and thrive in the Azores. • Madeira has the largest laurel forest in the world with thousands of species of plants and flowers. There are parks with flowers and well manicured botanical gardens near the port. Cruise ships dock at Ponta Delgada in the Azores and Funchal in Madeira. Building architecture and street cobblestones are of typical Portuguese construction. The cities are spotless, locals are friendly, and crime rate is very low. Cruise ships dock downtown so you can walk off the ship to explore the city, but you’ll need transportation to explore the island. Ponta Delgada is tiny compared with Funchal. You can walk or take a carriage ride in Ponta Delgada. Funchal has an outstanding public bus system, HopOn buses, and cable car rides up the mountain. My preference for the Azores is to take the ship’s excursion, a private tour, or rent a car. In Madeira, my preference is a shared cab tour. Topography of the islands is very different. The Azores have gently rolling hills with flowers along the roadside, cattle grazing in the hills and white washed, well maintained, small buildings. It’s reminiscent of Switzerland without the high mountain peaks. Our tour guide was from Switzerland. She told us Europeans wanted to retire to the Azores, but it’s an expensive place to live. Madeira is a large, high mountain with the second highest sea cliffs in the world. There’s a cable car from center of the city up the steep ascent of the mountain. A drive around the island offers scenic views of lush forests, streams, nature trails, fishing villages, beaches, and the second highest sea cliffs in Europe. Cruising to these islands is an opportunity to decide if you wish to vacation there. Madeira is a year- round resort, but the Azores are more convenient to the US. Ponta Delgada is only a six-hour flight from Boston with round-trip ticket prices as low as $ 700/person if you stay a week. Think of a week’s vacation in the Azores: • Comfortable 52-76 F year-round temperature • Nine islands to explore, • Hiking trails and roads with breath-taking views of unspoiled scenery, • Whale watching, and • Some of the best sports fishing in the world!
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