Madeira, Portugal cruise holidays

You’ll soon see ashore on a Madeira cruise holiday why this destination is known as the Garden Island: it has such a lush covering of colourful, sub-tropical plants, trees and flowers, the sweet fragrance fills the air. Waterfalls in the forest and Funchal’s flower markets are just a couple of visual delights that feature in Madeira. From Funchal, you can choose to visit the Botanical Garden and the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos where Churchill went to paint. There’s also Camacha, the wicker centre, and Reid’s Palace Hotel for traditional afternoon tea - just a few of many wonderful ways to spend your time on Madeira during your Portugal cruise.

Top sights and attractions on your Madeira holiday

Visit Madeira’s Botanical Garden

This beautiful garden is home to over 2,000 species of plants, including orchids, cacti and succulents. Located in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, the garden offers jaw-dropping views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. The exotic and varied collection displayed here is the pride and joy of the Garden Island of Madeira and is well worth some time on your cruise holiday to this Portuguese treasure.


Teatime at Reid's Palace

This iconic Belmond hotel on the beach in Funchal is known for its exquisite afternoon tea service. The tea is served in the hotel's elegant Palm Court, and the menu includes a variety of sandwiches, pastries and cakes. It’s an elegant, sophisticated and traditional way to make your time ashore even more special on your memorable visit to Madeira.


Enjoy a Levada Walk

Although built as irrigation channels, levadas make for gorgeous natural walks where they wind through the mountains of Madeira. Ranging from easy to challenging, these walks are a terrific way to experience Madeira's beautiful landscape. Certain routes will take you past ‘25 fountains’ and those that are harder are always worth the effort for the rewarding views.


Things to do in Madeira

From thrilling toboggan rides to soaring cable car journeys and exquisite wine tastings, embrace all that this enchanting island has to offer and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Madeira Monte toboggan experience

Taking a Monte toboggan ride is an exhilarating memory to add to your unforgettable time in Madeira. Hop into a two-seater traditional wicker toboggan guided by the skilled carreiros who wear white clothing, straw boater hats and rubber boots for brakes! A mode of alternative transport since around 1850 on Madeira, the toboggans glide through pretty neighbourhoods, taking in the stunning views of this beautiful island. Feel the rush as you speed down the slopes, waving at passers-by. What a thrilling blend of history, culture and excitement.


Funchal Cable Car

For breathtaking panoramic views of Funchal and the Garden Island of Madeira, an unforgettable journey aboard the Funchal Cable Car is a must. As you glide up higher and higher above the tropical greenery, you’ll see the sparkling blue waters all around. Capture stunning photographs to remember from your cruise holiday to Madeira. Day or night, this scenic ride is an enchanting experience that will stay with you forever.


Wine tasting

No cruise holiday to Madeira would be complete without a few sips of the island’s world-renowned wines. Why not join a wine-tasting journey with expert sommeliers through vineyards that have been producing exceptional wines for centuries? Immerse yourself in the rich history and tradition of winemaking and enjoy the robust reds, delicate whites and fortified varieties of Madeira dessert wine. You can taste the passion passed down through generations. Maybe you’ll discover new flavours and a favourite or two to buy and enjoy when you return home from your Portugal holiday.


Food and drink

Madeiran cuisine is influenced mainly by Portuguese and African flavours. The island’s world-famous fortified wine, typically made with Tinta Negra Mole grapes aged in oak barrels for at least three years, can be sweet or dry and is often served as an aperitif or dessert wine. Local dishes include espetada grilled meat skewers served with rice, potatoes and vegetables; small lapas, sea snails in a garlic sauce; peixe espada com banana, swordfish with banana sauce and bolo do caco, a traditional Madeiran bread cooked in a wood-fired oven with a crispy crust and soft interior.


To drink, the medicinal ‘local poison’ is poncha. Made with rum, honey, lemon juice and orange juice, it’s typically served in a small glass and has a sweet and tart flavour. Coral beer, a light locally brewed lager, is an excellent choice for a hot day as is Brisa passion fruit pulp.


Shopping in Madeira

MadeiraShopping is the island’s largest shopping mall with a food court, a cinema complex and over 100 stores, including international brands like Zara, H&M and Mango. La Vie Funchal Shopping Center is smaller and more niche with around 40 stores in the heart of Funchal. The traditional Mercado dos Lavradores market has fresh produce, and flowers, and is a wonderful place to experience the local culture. Be sure to have a haggle for any goods you buy here – it’s expected! Pedestrianised Rua Fernão de Ornelas is lined with clothes and shoe shops. Nearby Camacha is known for its wickerwork which, as well as embroidery, lacework and maybe even a bolo de mel delicious fruit cake, makes a good Madeiran souvenir.


Culture and history of Madeira

In the 15th century, Portuguese navigators settled here and named the island Madeira meaning ‘wood’ after all the forests. The island's culture has been heavily influenced by all things Portuguese ever since and the language is the official language of Madeira. Food and architecture all have distinctive Portuguese flair. The musical tempo is fast-paced with the ‘vira’ being a famous dance performed at weddings and festivals. On this Catholic island, ceremonies and religious traditions are an important part of the culture with Christmas, Easter and Corpus Christi being the key dates. Locals love their annual classic car rallies and honour their flowers and wine through festivals and celebrations. Arts and crafts such as embroidery, lacemaking and basket-weaving have been passed from generation to generation. It won’t take long on your holiday to Madeira to see what the people are so proud of.


Madeira Port facilities

Your ship will usually dock close to the centre at Madeira cruise terminal in Funchal, Madeira. It’s not a large port and therefore is never too busy (only three cruise ships at once). Funchal’s top attractions such as the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum, Casino Gardens, Madeira Wine Institute and Botanical Garden are near the centre within walking distance (about 15-20 minutes slightly uphill). Shuttle buses are also available. You may also choose to hire a private taxi for travelling around. The port itself has a few shops, ATMs, Tourist Information and free Wi-Fi. There is no duty-free shopping.

Frequently asked questions about Madeira, Portugal

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