Lisbon, Madeira, and The Azores, in Photos


I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in at the Port of Civitavecchia, an hour west of Rome, on a hot and muggy day in early September. The plan was to spend a month on board for essentially free, taking advantage of a friend’s work perks as a First Officer. The ship was scheduled to stop at various ports in Italy, Spain, and Portugal before arriving in the UK.

We slowly cruised west across the Mediterranean. At one point, I turned to my friend and said, “You’re basically chauffeuring me around the Mediterranean on a cruise ship.”

He had no choice but to agree.

We crossed through the Strait of Gibraltar one warm night as summer was winding down. I stood on the bow of the ship for a while—sea wind churning my hair into a knotted mess—and watched the drifting lights of Europe to the north and Africa to the south.

We then hit high waves as we sailed to Lisbon.

When we disembarked, I felt immediately land-sick and didn’t feel better until we were at sea again.

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I made my way to Largo de Camões (Camões Square) to join a walking tour only to realize that ship time, kept at CET, was different from local time and that I needed to be back on board before the tour ended.

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Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is a huge, open square facing the Tagus River.

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Windblown at the Port of Lisbon. You can see the Christ the King statue, inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, below my arm across the water.

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Lisbon as seen from the upper deck of the Explorer of the Seas.



Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago off the coast of Africa known for its sub-tropical climate, flora and fauna, and namesake wine.

We were docked overnight at Funchal, the capital of Madeira and the crew members were ecstatic. Cruise ships are usually docked between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm and at sea the rest of the time, as fees at harbors are often too expensive for overnight stays.

Crew members on cruise ships have long contracts ranging from 3 to 9 months and spend the majority of their time at sea, therefore get so excited at the prospect of dinner and drinks on land that they start planning weeks in advance of an overnight.

For the most part, I explored the destinations the ship took me to solo since the crew members (the only people on board in my age range) were always working but Funchal was filled with crew from the Explorer of the Seas in the 2 days we were there. We ran in crew members in every restaurant, bar, and club we hopped to during the overnight.

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I rode a speeding public bus up the steep and winding roads of Funchal wondering if we’d slip on a sharp corner and tumble to our deaths but managed to make it alive. I then meandered into what seemed like a tropical forest and didn’t realize that I had found the Monte Palace Tropical Garden—and that I was supposed to buy an entrance ticket—until I saw the ticketing booth on the way out.

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The lake at the Monte Palace Tropical Garden would be the perfect location for a wedding shoot or a high-end fashion editorial.

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I ran into several crew members from the ship and rode the longest gondola I have ever seen from the top of Funchal back to sea level.

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Bright rooftops, ascending hills, and blue skies in Funchal.


The Azores

It took 2 days to sail from Madeira to the Azores islands and it was Sunday when we docked in Ponta Delgada, the main settlement in the Azores. I connected to WiFi in the port and immediately received upsetting news from back home.

As a result, I spent the day roaming Ponta Delgada and down its coastline in a daze, considering how to deal with the fact that my ex-boyfriend—whom I was already booked to meet in France the following week for what I thought would be a re-evaluation of our relationship—had met someone else.

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The Explorer of the Seas as seen from the Port of Ponta Delgada.

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Arches in the heart of Ponta Delgada.

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Colorful houses by the beach.