Posted by: Jerry Garrett | April 27, 2012

Day 12: Adventure of the Seas Trans Atlantic Cruise

Funchal covers the hills that comprise a sort of natural amphitheater over its lovely harbor. (Jerry Garrett Photos)

FUNCHAL, Madeira Islands, Portugal

To exceed one’s expectations, perhaps it is easier if they are first lowered.

That would certainly explain our stop in soulless Lanzarote yesterday.

We back-tracked (northwest) about 400 miles today, on the 12th day of our 13-day Trans Atlantic Cruise on Adventure of the Seas, to make a stop at Funchal in the Madeira Islands. Wow! Expectations raised, met, exceeded, and blown away.

There was some debate here about whether we wanted to hyperbolate fully about just what a paradise the Madeiras are. The more people find out how great this place is, the more the tourists will come and ruin it, and maybe even the schlockmeister condo developers will follow…building more of those minimum security prison-type “planned communities” we saw so many of on Lanzarote.

Our captain, Ole-Johan Gronhaug, of course had a suggestion about how the Vikings might have handled the situation (see earlier days in this Trans Atlantic blog for more of Capt. Gronhaug’s exhortations on Viking wisdom and lore).

“When they discovered what is today Iceland, they came up with that name to keep people away,” he said. “They called it Iceland, and told people, ‘Oh, stay away from there. It’s a miserable land of snow and ice. Sail on to Greenland; what a place! The name says it all! You’ll like it so much better!’”

That strategy seems to have only worked short-term, however, as pretty much everyone is in on the joke by now. Except for possibly the residents of Greenland.

Funchal is no secret to mariners.

Anyway, Madeira has been no secret to mariners, for at least the last seven or eight hundred years. The place is deservedly well known for its famous wines, plus embroidered items and tons of fruits and vegetables (which grow to delectable size, consistency and ripeness in the pleasant climate). It seems everything people need to be self-sufficient is made here; very little is imported. Madeira has no trade imbalance with China.

A day here just wasn’t enough. And a lot of fellow passengers must have thought the same, as an unusually large number of them (at least three dozen out of the 2,800 or so passengers) tore themselves away from the Windjammer buffet long enough to snap a photo or two of us leaving port.

We are experiencing a rolling swell coming at us from the north, as we travel east. This is much different than plowing straight through swells, coming at you head-on – which is what we experienced on our six days at sea, earlier in this cruise. It seems best to find a place to sit or lie down and pretend someone is rocking you to sleep. Although it added something of a lighthearted element to the evening’s formal dinner to see folks in high fashion, wobbling along as they walked, grabbing on to poles, chairs, and each other to keep from losing their balance. At one point, we hit a big trough so noticeable, the lights in the dining room dimmed. I think that is when the ship’s internet connection went out. It took well into the night to restore it. While an internet communications black-out can interrupt a journalist, silence television and radio, and stymie commerce like credit card transactions, the modern-day mariner still has the old tricks of his trade to fall back on.

“We still have a magnetic compass and a sextant onboard, as backups,” Capt. Gronhaug said of the navigational device that has helped mariners for centuries. The sextant, unfortunately, was invented too late to help Christopher Columbus; maybe the Vikings were hiding knowledge of that too.

Unforgettable Funchal.

Tomorrow, our 13th day, is again spent at sea, churning our way to our destination in Malaga, Spain.

We have an entire day, therefore, to re-calibrate our expectations after unfortgettable Funchal. Malaga has a lot to live up to!

Jerry Garrett

April 25, 2012

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