Crossing On The SILVER SPIRIT, Part Two

Spend a day in lofty Madeira with Peter Knego on the second leg of his latest Sea Trek aboard Silversea Cruises’ ultra-deluxe MV SILVER SPIRIT during the ship’s leisurely fifteen night transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Barbados.

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Silversea Cruises

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Early AM Fuhchal over the fo'c'sle.

At 6:00 AM, a temperate breeze blew across the Observation Deck as SILVER SPIRIT quietly approached a ridge of twinkling lights. Funchal was awakening.

La Terrazza breakfast selections.
Flags of Madeira, Portugal and the European Union at Funchal.

Although a number of intriguing excursions to the far reaches of the island of Madeira were offered, Rob and I chose to spend the day wandering the scenic capital of Funchal. A lofty breakfast in the Veranda (omelets, muesli, smoked salmon, etc.) would help fuel a very active day afoot.

Fortress and rainbow at Funchal.

By the time we were ready to disembark, the steep slopes of Madeira were bathed in an alternating vista of sun, fog and passing cels of rain.

Twin SPIRITed at Funchal.

A shuttle at the Funchal cruise terminal conveniently whisked us into town where we walked along the sleepy waterfront before heading to the Teleferico.

Bottom of the lift.

No visit to Funchal would be complete without a ride up the Teleferico to Monte for the ultimate view. The cable car is open year round from 9:30 to 5:45 daily (except for Sunday when it closes at 1:00 PM). Round trip tickets are 15 Euro but most opt to take the car up for 10 Euro and return to the city center by toboggan and taxi.

SILVER SPIRIT in the sky.

The fifteen minute ride travels to a height of 1,800 feet via a network of towers, the tallest of which rises 125 feet above the steep mountainside.

Monte station.

In the hills of Monte, there is dense tropical vegetation, which makes it an ideal spot for a nature park, various botanical gardens and hiking trails.

Toboggans and tourists.

We took a short walk from the cable car station to watch as toboggans filled with tourists embarking on a downhill run through the narrow streets of Funchal.

Sculpture and scriptures at Our Lady of Monte.

Just above us, the picturesque Church of Our Lady of Monte loomed. From its courtyard overlooking Funchal, we could hear the Sunday morning sermon.

Cable cars and cemetery.

Budget and the unstable weather helped coax us from taking the toboggan ride down. On the way back to the cable car, we were intrigued by a terraced graveyard.

SILVER and the spirits.

The view from the cemetery was utterly spectacular. Not a bad place to spend eternity.

Two coffees/one Euro.

Upon our return to sea level, we found a friendly local coffee shop for a Portuguese coffee and one of those delicious pastries.

Timeless terrazzo.
Tiles and spires.

We meandered the terrazzo streets of the old town and savored its many classical details.

Fortified fortaleza.

The Fortaleza do Pico looked like another great vantage point, so we hiked up a series of streets only to find the fort, itself, off limits.

Bougainvillea blossoms and ....

From the streets next to the fort, the colorful views of Funchal were well worth the hike, nonetheless.

Lichen and flaking paint in Funchal.

Funchal’s finer details were a non-stop fest for our lenses.

Sopa and torrada.

Back at the marina, Rob suggested we sample a bit of local cuisine. Madeira is known for its tomato, onion and egg soup (Sopa de tomate, cebola y ojo) and fresh baked garlic toast (torrada). As a small but powerful squall drenched the terrace just outside the friendly Marina Restaurant, nothing could have tasted better.

Leaping lizards!

When the rain cleared, we took a walk through Parque de Sta Caterina overlooking the marina. Exotic birds and colorful lizards emerged from their wet domains for another sun-drenched frolic.

Gangway to Barbados.

I spent some time soaking up the free wifi in the Funchal cruise terminal before returning to the ship just before the gangway was stowed and she embarked on her south by southwesterly course to Tenerife.

La Terrazza charger.

Whether on formal, informal or casual nights, dinner in La Terrazza is a semi-formal affair.

Bread in La Terrazza.

I continued to succumb to one of my greatest weaknesses, a potent combination of superbly baked breads, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly-ground sea salt crystals.

Insalata Caprese-me!

An Insalata Caprese started off a grand procession of authentic Italian courses, all accompanied by a Banti Sol di Saso 2007 from Tuscany and sparkling San Pellegrino water.

”Aquarius Dawning” on board MV SILVER SPIRIT.

Later, for a standing room only crowd in the Show Room, the SILVER SPIRIT’s cast put on their “Modd-est” mettle for the “Aquarius Dawning” tribute to the great tunes of the 1960s. The standout was lead singer Ron, who definitely has “X Factor”-worthy talent and appeal.

We relished a chance to sleep in before a trio of long, activity-filled days in the Canary Islands. Tomorrow: Tenerife.

End Of Second Post: Much More To Come…

Special thanks: Brad Ball, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Gina Finocchiaro, Paolo Percivale

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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