How would it feel to sail on a passenger ship built in 1961? A New Year’s cruise on vintage liner FUNCHAL would tell us.

What a glorious way to start our winter cruise in Lisbon.

Shortly after Christmas we boarded the elegant ship in Lisbon, for a trip to the city of Funchal, on the island of Madeira, after which she was named.

Portuguese entrepreneur Rui Alegre saved the Danish-built liner from the breakers, after her previous owners went bankrupt. He founded a new company, Portuscale Cruises, put lots of money in refurbishing, and lots of passion too. Something you immediately feel when you’re on board.

One picture says more than a thousand words. What about a whole series of photos? We believe you will understand what this ship and trip is about when seeing our photographs.

The main goal of this seven-day cruise was the New Year’s firework display in Funchal, where a dozen cruise ships were expected. Afterwards the ship would sail to Safi, Morocco, before returning to the Portuguese mainland.

It is winter and we are having breakfast outside. December 29, FUNCHAL is heading for Madeira.

Although the Atlantic Ocean was kind to us, the shop shelves didn’t like the long waves.

Véronique in silent contemplation on the forward deck. Serenity.

A day at sea? Ideal for some paint work.

December sun and almost 20°C.

The elegant sea, wave after wave.

It’s magnificent to stand on the bow of the FUNCHAL as the sun sets.

P&0’s AURORA sails past us. She’s going to join the other big ships in the port of Funchal, while we stay at anchor.

Early wake up, worth every cent.

Luis Miguel, his daughter Inês, and Véronique enjoying themselves in the first sun rays of the last day of the year.

And they’re not alone.

A touch of pink…

Time to go ashore by tender.

Luis Miguel has friends on the island, and off we go with this lovely sailing yacht.

Our goal? Some ship photography of course.

The first ship we meet is the good old MARCO POLO.

A grand lady in front of a great island.

Fred. Olsen’s BRAEMAR makes a nice composition with the reflection.

And there she is, “our” vintage lady, the ship that never changed name since she was built in 1961.

She has the elegance of an classic private yacht.

After the photoshoot, time for some Madeira wine and Bolo de Mel cake. A yummie way to end 2013.

Funchal town gives plenty of opportunities for creative ship compositions.

Time to go “home” and prepare ourselves for the gala evening.

In the meanwhile another old lady has dropped anchor in front of us, the SAGA RUBY on her last cruise before retirement.

Happy to see our friend Douglas Ward on board too. For those who don’t know him: he is the author of the famous Berlitz Cruise Guide.

We love pink skies.

The New Year starts with eight minutes of massive fireworks. For decades these were the biggest fireworks in the World.

The day after we discover that we’re alongside. Time for a little walk in Funchal town.

A festive mood, and mild weather.

Beautiful clouds gather above the port.

The warm saturated light makes us regret that we can’t discover more of the island.

Mike searching for the best vantage point.

Rua de Santa Maria is more than the oldest street. There’s creativity behind every corner, on every door.

Madeira wine, of course. Happy New Year!

Good night Funchal.

The day after… on our way to Morocco.

Another sunny breakfast on teak deck. Genuine luxury.

Strolling around on the classic promenade deck.

Time to read.

Time to photograph.

Early morning arrival in Safi.

As most passengers are on excursions it is time for some interior photography.

Porto Bar

Vasco da Gama lounge.

The end of a sunny day in Morocco.

A winter gale in the Atlantic affects us too. Instead of returning to Lisbon we’re off to Portimao.

Our authentic experience seems not to have an end. Sunny all over.

The proud shipowner, Mr Rui Alegre who made it possible to keep FUNCHAL in service.

As the sun sets our cruise comes to an end. Some hours later we’re back in Lisbon.