So your thinking of booking a cruise but you don’t know where to. Decisions, decisions! Do you like sunshine? Scenery? A great choice of excursions? Then the Canary Islands could be the perfect choice. When you think of the Canary Islands you think of warm weather, sunny skies, volcanic beach scenes and spectacular scenery. The topography here is excellent and with the gorgeous climate the area enjoys, the islands never fail to impress. Often the most common excursion choices here are to head for the beaches and soak up the sunshine. Alternatively, families love it here as the range of water parks for children really is brilliant but take the time to explore beyond these options and you’ll love what lies in store. These islands are truly stunning; from the magnificent sands of the Sahara in Gran Canaria’s Maspalomas to the Lanazarotian home of artist Manrique.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ports of call involved in a Canary Islands cruise:
The cruise port for Gran Canaria is located at the islands lively capital, Las Palmas. This charming capital was discovered by Christopher Columbus aboard his famous voyage in 1492. If it is a beach day you feel like then you’re in for a treat here and make sure you head for Playa del Ingles, considered by many to be the liveliest and most popular beach in the Canaries. Las Palmas itself is a lovely place to explore and we definitely recommend an excursion if you wish to do so. P&O Cruises offer a very well put together “Sights of Las Palmas” tour, which is also available with Cunard but all operators visiting here will run their own version. The harbour is the first sight you will see and sets the tone for a great day in port.
Heading further afield and away from Las Palmas, you have the chance to see the dramatic scenery of Maspalomas. This location really is amazing and the desert scenery here is a sight to experience. You can even choose to explore the desert further on your very own camel ride. Close by to Maspalomas you also have the option of paying a visit to some of the peaceful old towns on Gran Canaria including Arucas to see the banana plantations or perhaps Teror to take in the traditional housing and architecture that lines the streets.
The Palmitos Nature Park is another great place to see when visiting Gran Canaria. This can found close by to Maspalomas and boasts an incredible collection of tropical plant-life, birds and fish. It’s often a nice experience to combine a visit here with Maspalomas. Alternatively there is also the extinct volcano Bandama to see. The panoramic views from Bandama are outstanding as you will find yourselves 1,900 feet above sea level.
Cruising into Tenerife is fantastic. There is so much to see and do here that you will never leave disappointed. The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is a hugely diverse destination when it comes to dramatic landscapes and scenery. One moment you are passing by lush plantations and the next dark sand beaches.
The cruise port here is Santa Cruz, a city that has experienced a huge increase in growth and splendour over the years. Santa Cruz began as a simple, intimate fishing village and has developed into the capital of the island. The city boasts a great range of lavish bars and sublime restaurants and shopping lovers will relish a visit here for the many local boutiques. The city also has a great collection of fascinating museums and the architecture is truly exceptional to see.
Speaking of shopping, the stores are right on your doorstep here as when you step foot off your ship and stroll through the port gates, you will find a superbly designed café lined boulevard, which leads to the Plaza de Espana, located right at the heart of the city’s main shopping district.
Museums include the highly impressive Museo de Bellas Artes featuring works from Bruegel. Alternatively, to learn more of the islands history and topography, head for the Museo de la Naturaleza y El Hombre.
We cannot forget about the breath taking scenery available to take in at Mount Teide National Park. The volcanic moonscape of this wondrous location really is phenomenal and a must see when visiting Tenerife. Other exciting options include excursions to see locations such as the lively popular resort of Playa de Las Americas where you can spend the day meandering the hotels and enjoying the pleasures of the volcanic beach.
For children Tenerife holds the perfect family excursion for waterpark thrills. The Water Kingdom is absolutely huge with so much to do. The adrenaline fuelled slides test the bravery of adults whilst children will love the many brilliant features here. You’ll even find one of the largest surfing simulators in the world here to see if you can ride the waves.
The majority of cruise lines also feature a great range of port options along the way to the Canary Islands in their itineraries. Two of the best include Madeira and Lisbon.
When visiting Lisbon it is important to know that the city is divided into three main districts. These districts are known as Baixa, Bairro Alto and Alfama. Each district boasts its own unique charms and style but it can be difficult to take in everything if you have limited time in port so choose carefully when planning your day.
Alfama is the old town is traditional cobbled streets and an atmospheric insight into the traditional side of the city including the medieval architecture. Bairra Alto continues the historic old town feel with its narrow streets. This district can be accessed from Baixa but this is a steep climb so be sure to look out for the Elevedor do Carmo, a 100 year old lift that makes the trip a lot easier. Baixa offers the modern side of the city with its cosmopolitan feel and streets of inviting shops, cafes and restaurants. These three districts enable Lisbon to offer a wide variety of choice and provide cruise passengers with a great balance of contemporary and historical sights to see.
Funchal is the cruise port here and welcomes passengers to a wonderful array of colour. Madeira is known as the Garden Island and from the moment you arrive you understand why. The island glistens with colour from a collection of sub-tropical plant life and flowers. The flower markets are some of the most popular attractions to see.
One factor that is definitely worth considering when visiting here is the steepness of the streets. When you first arrive you are greeted with the close by market town, just a short walk from the cruise port. It is only when you head further inland that the streets begin to get steeper and narrower along the way. If you’re feeling up to it however, it is certainly worth the walk. The inland areas of Madeira provide so much to see and do. Madeira wine is always a popular feature when visiting here and you also have the pleasure of local goods to enjoy such as the famous Madeira wicker furniture and lacework, ideal for holiday purchases.
If you wish to see the island from a truly special point of view then opt for the “Cable Car and Toboggan” excursion and view Madeira from a unique dimension. The cable car journey provides amazing views and this is followed by the exciting experience of the toboggan ride back down, something the island has become famous for over the years. This trip is definitely worth doing as an excursion with your cruise operator. It can be done individually but often works out much better value with your cruise line, plus you get the added benefit of avoiding some of the annoying queues that would otherwise eat into your day.
From Funchal, other popular tour options include the islands botanical gardens, which are always a pleasure to see. Alternatively, head for the traditional charms of Camars de Lobos, an intimate fishing village close by and the location where Churchill went to paint. For a touch of glamour there’s the option of the world renowned Reids Hotel and the superb traditional afternoon tea. Tea at Reids Palace Hotel is not only a wonderful experience in itself but the views make it even better as you sit overlooking the Bay of Funchal.