Saga Canaries and Cape Verde Cruise

Shopping in La Palma

The island of Madeira is famous for its cake and fortified wine. Perhaps not so well known is that its airport in Funchal, officially Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, is one of the world’s most hazardous. As my plane approached the airport we were flying so low between the mountains that we could see into people’s homes perched on the hillsides.

I admired the lovely mountainous scenery on my twenty-minute drive to the picturesque port where my ship, Saga’s Spirit of Adventure, was waiting. The neighbouring marina was full of small boats and surrounded by gorgeous views plus, of course, a statue of the island’s famous footballer son. There’s even a museum dedicated to him on the dockside.

After a day enjoying walks and great views in the warm November weather, Adventure set off overnight for Santa Cruz, La Palma, where we arrived early the next morning. It was Sunday and the town was full of people strolling along the pedestrian main street, sitting outside with drinks, enjoying ice-creams and checking out shops which were full of inexpensive but stylish and unusual items, such a contrast to the ubiquitous high streets in the UK.

Shopping in La Palma
Shopping in La Palma

After a relaxing day, a little light shopping and a swim in the ship’s pool, another overnight sail took us to La Gomera, one of the smaller Canary Islands. Its tiny capital, San Sebastian, has a pedestrianised centre next to the marina and is easily explored on foot, gentle exercise in the warm sunshine.

The Ship

Then it was back on board to sail south to Cape Verde, a group of ten islands four hundred miles off the coast of Senegal and the Gambia. A couple of sea days gave me a chance to explore the ship.

Adventure accommodates 999 passengers in 554 balcony cabins and over 100 of these are designed for single passengers. The standard facilities include a gym, fitness centre, theatre, main dining room and buffet which, on some evenings, transformed into a peaceful table-service restaurant.

There were also three speciality restaurants offering top-class cuisine. Amalfi, as its name implies, is an Italian restaurant serving both traditional favourites and more unusual dishes. The Supper Club is an intimate location with musical entertainment offering some of the best steaks I have ever tasted. However, my favourite was Khukuri House, a Nepalese restaurant with a great ambience and an enticing range of food. All three speciality restaurants are included in the fare.

There was also a library, craft room and card room providing onboard activities, and numerous bars to enjoy relaxing drinks which are also included in the price, as are insurance, door-to-door transport, wi-fi, gratuities and some shore excursions.

Cape Verde

When the Portuguese first came to Cape Verde in the fifteenth century the islands were uninhabited. Shortage of water and barren landscapes made for a difficult way of life, but things have progressed since then.

Our first port of call was the island of Santiago, home to Praia, the country’s capital. It boasts three universities and the national library It has a number of colonial buildings and is very much the country’s commercial and cultural hub. With more rainfall than the other islands, the interior gives it a much greater diversity of flora and fauna and there are plenty of trees, unlike the holiday island of Sal where the ‘trees’ are mainly mobile phone masts in disguise. Santiago also has an airport, although it is not as busy as the one on Sal which handles international holiday flights from the UK and Portugal.

Another overnight sailing found us in busy Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente. Heavy traffic, crowded streets, fishermen selling their wares and multiple shops and bars give it a metropolitan feel with a strong African vibe, its focus being on island rather than tourist trade. The town beach proved popular with locals and just a few visitors.

Then it was a two day sail back to the Canaries. I popped up to the top deck to chat to one of the four people on board from ORCA, the charity that carries out whale and dolphin sightings. The three decades of data they have gathered has led to better protection for whales and dolphins and Saga supports this activity by offering places to members on certain cruises.

Our next port of call was Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital and originally capital of all the Canary Islands. Since 1927 it has shared this honour with Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. Although a major business hub, Santa Cruz is an elegant and relaxed city with a large marina crammed with yachts. Again the shops were filled with stylish and attractive items we don’t see at home.

Returning to the ship and my final night on board sailing to Lanzarote, next morning I enjoyed my final buffet breakfast before heading off to the airport and my flight home.

Find out more

Call our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678 to book your Saga cruise on Spirit of Adventure and her sister ship, Spirit of Discovery. They both voyage in Europe, the UK and further afield.

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Mike Pickup

Award-winning travel writer & photographer

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