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.
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.
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.