Mediterranean Cruise Oceania Marina – Part III: Santa Cruz de la Palma to Lisbon and Home

Monday 10 June: Santa Cruz de la Palma: Roger

After another night of smooth sailing we arrived at Santa Cruz de la Palma. La Palma is another volcanic island; with its base 4000m under the sea and rising to over 2400m and with sea clouds giving it plenty of rain, it has a good supply of fresh water flowing for the cultivation of many crops. With a population of ±85,000, bananas and tourism are its main sauce of income. Since 1470 there have been 8 volcanic eruptions on the island, the last in 2021. One can see by the size of the drains here they get some big rains.

We had decided to have a relaxing day, spending most of our time on board, only wandering into town for a couple of hours late morning. The centre of town has cobbled streets, and lots of shops, pubs and nice old buildings.

At the northeast end of the town is a replica of Cristopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria, which houses a naval museum. It has an interesting collection of memorabilia from the 1400s onwards. The Germans had submarines based here during WWII  even though Spain was supposedly neutral. A life jacket is on display from a British pilot, John Carr, who, after running out of fuel, splashed down in the sea after the carrier he had taken off from was sunk by a German submarine. He was rescued by some fisherman when he washed up on the island, eventually making has way to Gibraltar and getting back into the fight again. 

The museum also highlights the various raids of pirates on the island – at one point a major hazard for those living here.

There is an old fort at the waterfront and like the other islands there have been a few scraps here including an invasion by the French after which a few locals banded together and sent them packing.

During the 1500’s it was the one of the busiest ports in the world, as traders stopped here on the way to and from the Caribbean and the Americas. Tobacco seeds were bought here from Cuba and the island still  produces cigarettes and cigars.

As we wandered back along the waterfront the emergency services were packing up after a static display, including army, police, ambulance, search and rescue, and the fire service.

Back on board we enjoyed a long relaxing lunch and a relaxing afternoon. Just after 1700 again we headed out to sea. There is now quite a strong wind blowing so the smooth sailing may be over. We opted to try out the room service and enjoyed a delicious dinner from Jacques, the first of the specialty restaurants we had eaten at, while watching an old Western on the TV.


Tuesday 13 June – Madeira: Sylvia

After a very quiet day yesterday we were back into full touring mode. After a quiet and relaxing light breakfast in the main dining room, we met our guide (from Guide Madeira) for a full day tour of the island. While it has similarities to the Canary Islands, Madeira is much more fertile and has a real charm about it. We quickly decided that this was our favourite stop of the cruise.

Our first stop, a little west of Funchal, was the small fishing village of Camara de Lobos. Winston Churchill spent time painting in this village after WWII and we took the obligatory photos with his statue before wandering around the town. Fishermen apparently pray at the small ornate church close to the harbour before heading out to sea. Once they come back, after a week or so fishing, they sit around in one of the squares playing cards.

There is a festival coming up and the town was festooned with lots of decorations made from recycled trash. There is a permanent installation of a sea lion on the wall by the harbour, again made out of recycled junk. I found this super clever.

Driving a little further westward, we arrived at Riberia Brava, another small fishing village. This one has a really attractive church in the centre. We had a Quick Look at the fruit and vegetable market, did a spot of souvenir shopping, and Roger even had a couple of cups of coffee before we moved on.

Like in Tenerife, the road infrastructure on this small island is super impressive. There is a vast network of tunnels that makes it fairly easy to get around the rough, volcanic terrain. Again, the roads are well maintained and lined with concrete blocks.

We headed north, over the mountains to the other side of the island. It had been lovely and warm and sunny but as we gained altitude the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. We stopped in the Chao de Louros Picnique, a picnic spot in the Laurel forest. Our guide had very kindly packed some local bananas and a rather delicious local specialty of Madeira spice and honey cake for us to have for morning tea.

We arrived at Sao Vicente on the north side of the island, where a small chapel has been built into the rock. In the town we visited Justino’s Madeira wines, inside a beautiful stone building, where we tasted three different types of Madeira wine, 3, 5 and 10 years old. Then Dave and Roger each tried the local poncha, a drink made with fresh fruit, sugar cane, honey and rum. Roger had the traditional regional citrus one and Dave had one with passion fruit.

Heading west again, we reached the small town of Seixal, with its very narrow streets leading down to the ocean, a black sand beach and the first of several natural lava swimming pools we would see. At one point people had made lots of little piles of stones on the rocky beach.

We continued further west stopping to look at the different pools, with varying degrees of naturalness. At Porto Moniz, the busiest area, it would feel like swimming in a goldfish pond there were so many tourists wandering around taking photos (including us). And the last pool was man made rather than natural.

We headed back east, passing several tall narrow waterfalls, and stopping for lunch at the Cataplana restaurant, where we tried the local bread (delicious) and Dave sampled local specialties of limpets (chewy) and the beef skewered with laurel (very tasty).

Lunch over we headed back south to the sunny side of the island, where we stopped at a glass viewing platform 580m above the sea. This provided great views over the coast back towards the city of Funchal, where we had docked this morning.

It was time to head back, to make our all aboard time. We had one last brief stop for Dave and Roger to take photos with the statue of Ronaldo before heading back on board. We were all still pretty full from our late lunch so settled in for some R&R before attending the very good show, Dancing Fool at 9:15pm, followed by a salute from the crew. It was quite impressive to see many of the crew filing on stage… it is no wonder the food is so good when you see the number of chefs on board… they made quiet a site in their chefs’ hats. As we left the theatre, the crew were all lined up on either side of the hallway applauding us!


Wednesday 12 June – At Sea: Roger

Surprisingly after heading to bed last night in what were quite strong winds we woke having had a relatively smooth nights sailing. I chatted to a guy at the bar last night, who is the cooking instructor on the boat, who told me that when crossing the Atlantic a few weeks ago the sea was so rough he had to cancel 3 days of classes. We have been really lucky with very little rolling on board through the whole cruise.

Today is a sea day and night as we make the last leg to Lisbon in Portugal. After a late, light breakfast we headed to the Horizon room on deck 14, where Sylvia and Debbie were having another crack at the line dancing. Me, the spectator for just long enough to take a couple of pictures as the instructor called the steps and the participants went mostly in the right direction.


There is a great view out the front of the ship from this lounge. Photos taken as I headed to the gym to try and burn off some of the excess food consumed over the past few days.

We had a light lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing in the cabin.

Later at the bar I chatted to a couple of nice blokes from Florida, one of which showed me photos of his massive camper bus he travels around the US in.

Dinner was back at Polo Grill, favoured for its great steaks, seafood and variety of tasty deserts. 


Thursday 13 June – Embarkation, Lisbon: Sylvia

We arrived in Lisbon at about 7am this morning and had to be out of our rooms by 8. We had been scheduled to disembark at 8:455 so met Dave and Debbie for our last breakfast on board at 8am in the Terrace cafe. Unfortunately the pilot had been late coming on board so everything was delayed. We were quite relaxed, enjoying a long, leisurely breakfast and a chat, but many people were obviously anxious to get off as we had repeated announcements from the Cruise Director suggesting we didn’t need to all be queueing in the atrium. I also felt bad for the crew who already have a lot to do on a change over day. We eventually disembarked just before 11am.

We caught a Uber to our hotel and dropped our bags off before heading out to explore the city. We headed first to the Belem Tower, not realising it was a holiday here and a few of the attractions, including the tower, would be closed. No matter, we enjoyed wandering along the water front, past the huge explorer monument and the Jeronimo Monastery (also closed), where we collected our Lisboa Passes (tickets that provided access to all the attractions plus public transport). We then headed to Pasteis de Belem, famous for its Portuguese egg tarts. There was a bit of a queue for a table inside so we headed to the takeaway line and bought some tarts and bottled water and sat in the nearby botanic gardens to eat them.

Back in an Uber, we headed up the hill to Castelo de Sao Jorge, This is a pretty large castle overlooking the oldest part of Lisbon. It was fun to wander around the ramparts while enjoying the view. A partly white peacock wandered around quite unperturbed by the throngs of visitors.

After exploring the castle, we wandered down the narrow streets, back towards town, stopping briefly at the main square and again at the Pink Street to take photos. We headed to Time Out, a huge indoor, gourmet food court that was absolutely buzzing. After waiting and hovering, we eventually nabbed a few seats as some diners left and then took turns choosing and ordering our lunches. It was a difficult choice with the different stalls selling many local delicacies. I eventually settled on a Portuguese steak sandwich, which was delicious. Deb and I then finished our lunches with a couple of extremely delicious eclairs, one salted caramel and one passion fruit and raspberry, which we shared. YUM!

Lunch over, we grabbed another Uber and headed to Campo Ourique, the starting point for the famous No 28 tram. The older, traditional model trams run on this line winding their way through the narrow cobblestone streets. We were able to get some seats at the back of the tram and enjoyed a different way to see the city.

When we were in Barcelona we had done a bit of shopping at a Decathlon sports store and Dave was keen to find another ne here so this became our last stop for the day. Roger tried out a computerised machine that measured his feet, and asked a few questions about the type of shoes one wanted. He was very pleasantly surprised when the recommended shoes fit him perfectly – they are now in his suitcase.

We headed back to the hotel and up to the rooftop bar to relax and rehydrate before retiring for a quite evening of catching up and blog writing.


Friday 14 June – Lisbon to London: Roger

After a relaxing night at the Porto Bay Liberdade hotel, we headed by Uber back to the Jeronimo’s Monastery a National Archeological site. It had been closed yesterday. Sylvia and I had been here in 2019 but thought we had only visited the church part. As we joined the 130m plus line we were looking forward to taking a look through the rest of this huge, ornate building. After over an hour in the queue we finally entered the building to discover we had been to this small part of it before; the majority of the place is closed to the public. Curious as I am to see it I don’t think I will be joining the local priesthood any time soon, or later for that matter.

We headed back to the hotel, then to the airport and onto an Air Portugal flight to London. The big thing here is sardine shops, of which there are many very well presented ones, including at the airport. Immigration and customs in London now are pretty much a walk through with everything electronic – the US could learn a few lessons here. Unlikely I know.

An hour and a half in a van and we arrived at Sylvia’s favourite Charlotte St hotel in Fitzroy, Central London. Here we were joined by Dave’s son Luke and his wife Ashley, who are living in London and enjoying experiencing travel around Europe.

Over dinner we heard about their recent trips to Majorca and other places, while enjoying a nice meal.

Saturday we fly back to NZ.

4 thoughts on “Mediterranean Cruise Oceania Marina – Part III: Santa Cruz de la Palma to Lisbon and Home

  1. Carol Gibson says:

    Great blog.

  2. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Wow, looks amazing. I now want to go to Madeira; I’ve always wanted to go to Portugal. Thanks for testing everything out for the rest of us!

  3. Rosie says:

    Thank you again for a great travelogue and photos. If you’d had a hat, and a cigar in your mouth with the Churchill statue, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you apart Roger!
    The Lisbon photos brought back lovely memories of our time there, and of course, of the yummy portuguese tarts. Mmmm!
    Glad to know you’re safely home after yet another fabulous holiday. Thanks again for the vicarious experience. Xxx

  4. Stuart Hayman says:

    Great trip

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