Ponta Delgada, Portugal

First Cruise Port Call

We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the first stop being Ponta Delgada.
Ponta Delgada is 3,198 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 914 sea miles southwest of Portugal and it is the largest municipality (concelho) and economic capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal. It is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the Azores archipelago.
Ponta Delgada is the largest city on São Miguel Island, which is 290 square miles in size. The island has a population of 68,809 which is a population density of 760 per square mile. The island has been populated since 1444 and Ponta Delgada was started in the year 1450.

 Quick History Lesson 

In 1427, São Miguel became the second of the islands discovered by Gonçalo Velho Cabral to be settled by colonists from continental Portugal. This date is uncertain, and it is believed that the island was discovered between 1426 and 1437 and inscribed in portolans from the middle of the 15th century. Its discovery was later recorded by Father Gaspar Frutuoso in the seminal history of the Azores.

The first capital of the island was Vila Franca do Campo, which was devastated by the 1522 Vila Franca earthquake and landslides. The tragedy helped to elevate Ponta Delgada to the administrative and economic status of capital and business centre from 1546.

The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

If you have never been to Ponta Delgada & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;

Ponta Delgada Arrival & Exploration

The ship's scheduled arrival was 12:00PM and the assigned docking location was alongside the Molhe do Porto. This entire pier is also occupied by a series of shops, bars and restaurants so it was an interesting stroll into the city. No need for a taxi here, the walking distance into town was brief, the weather was nice, and it was great to be ashore after 7 days at sea!

As an ex-Navy sailor & a boat owner for many years, I was repeatedly impressed with the manner in which the Norwegian Epic was manuevered by the ship's Captain, let me explain; If you look at a map of the harbor you will be able to see that the harbor, although compact, has a long combined dock & breakwater named "Molhe do Porto", which is where the Norwegian Epic was going to tie up. Now because this is a compact harbor, without sufficient room for the Epic to turn around for departure, the Captain/Pilot backed the ship into it's berth along the dock. This is technically interesting, but once I read that the Norwegian Epic has bow & stern thrusters I knew that docking would not be difficult. The ship was brought into the vicinity of the Molhe, the bow was swung about, and the ship was then backed into it's berth easily without any tug boats being required.

Now to put the above into perspective and to further explain why I found our docking so interesting, the Norwegian Epic size; 1,081 feet in length, 133 feet in width, over 155,000 tons & over 200 feet in height (keel to top). And yet the ship was maneuvered next to the dock without a pause!

Molhe do Porto Area

The above pictures may give you some idea of the shops and bars on the Molhe do Porto. All we had to do to walk into town, was to walk past the shops and exit onto the city street that parallels the harbor.

As you can see in the third image above, all of the cruise ships would "back into" their docking locations because there is no "turning basin" in this harbor to allow them to turn around. So having the bow aimed at the departure direction allows them a simpler/faster exit.

Ponta Delgada is a small city and therefore easily walkable. We had no specific destination in mind, so we decided just to explore and try to find some interesting places and maybe some pastel de natas,

The street that paralled the harbor had a series of shops, restaurants and various other businesses and some of the sidewalks and streets had a nicely artistic appearance due to the manner in which the tiles were laid out.

We decided to have lunch have lunch at the Restaurant Palm Terrace Cafe. The weather was beautiful and we were able to sit outside. We ordered a cheese plate for our appetizer and Celeste had their fish stew and I had shrimp in a garlic sauce. We had a small bottle of Vinho Verde which complimented the sunny day. The prices were reasonable and the food authentic to the region.

Fish Stew on left

Shrimps on right

Park next to Restaurant

The restaurant is a part of the Hotel Talisman (located immediately next door to the restaurant) and both are located next to a beautiful small park named Jardim Padre Sena Freitas.

Campo de São Francisco

This large square had several large trees ("metrosiderus tomentosa" originally from Australia) that looked like banyan trees. The trees had "support poles" holding up the enormous tree limbs that spread out over the area around the tree. The square was surrounded by several interesting buildings, including a pretty church named Santuário do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres.

Fort São Brás

The fort is located just to the south of the Campo de São Francisco square, and since it looked interesting, it became our next exploration goal.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Fort São Brás is a polygonal base construction, designed by the Italian Tomaso Benedetti, with four bastions at the angles, prepared to receive pieces of artillery and low wall curtains, of great thickness. In its interior there is a square of arms and, in its around, a set of buildings of times and diverse configurations. Over the centuries, it has been altered with new additions and transformations. The fort was constructed in the sixteenth century with the purpose of protecting Ponta Delgada from pirates.

The analysis of the work of the seventeenth-century chronicler Gaspar Frutuoso who described in detail the most remarkable things on the island and reported the different incursions of privateers until then, circa 1586-1590, indicates only a lookout on the Fort site: "(...) guarded the hermitage of Our Lady of Conception, which is on the port (...)". Other warnings came from the lookouts then also in the Figueiral and Marvão. ("Miss Earth ", Book III, Chapter X, VII)

When English privateers attacked in 1589 the High Rock was already possibly strapped with some cots and hawks, throwing stones as projectiles: "(...) declined Captain Bras Soares de Sousa from where the artillery is below the port (...). In this way, it is accepted that the primitive construction of the fort dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, or more probably to the second half of the same century, when the Captain-Major João Falcão de Sousa, 10th captain of the granary of Santa Maria (1654-1657), he held the position of Superintendent of the Fortification Works of the island.

The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

The fort's role has now become a combined military museum and place of interest for tourists. As Portugal has had a series of military adventures in their prior colonies, the museum contains artifacts & images from those adventures.

Ponta Delgada Harbor

The ship required all passengers to be back onboard prior to 7:30PM, so we decided to head back to the ship at approximately 6:15pm and find out what was on the menu for dinner! This would allow us to be at the dinner table during the ship's departure, which is always entertaining.

  • The Norwegian Epic Trans-Atlantic Cruise Overview & Guide This is a large ship; 1,081 feet long, 155,873 gross tons in weight, and 133 feet wide. We cover the ship from end to end in our overview page, click here to read more.

  • Ponta Delgada Portugal: 3,198 miles from Port Canaveral. It is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the archipelago. 137,856 (2012) island population and 62.1 kilometers in length by 15.8 kilometers in width. Click here to view our Ponta Delgada page.

  • Funchal Madeira Portugal: 599 miles from Ponta Delgada. Population of 267,785. The island is 35 miles long and 13 miles wide and has 99 miles of coastline, but the shore is all rock and cliffs. It's a mountainous island; the highest peak is 1862 meters/6,100 feet high. Madeira is all mountains, no beaches. Click here to view our Funchal Madeira page.

  • Cadiz & Seville Spain: 659 miles from Madeira. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, with archaeological remains dating to 3100 years and was founded by the Phoenicians. Click here to view our Cadiz/Seville page.

  • Malaga Spain: 141.5 miles from Cadiz. With a population of 571,026 in 2018, it is the second-most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth-largest in Spain. The southernmost large city in Europe, it lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean. Click here to view our Malaga page.

  • Cartagena Spain: 199 miles from Malaga. With a population of 213,943 inhabitants, being the Region’s second-largest municipality and Spain’s sixth-largest non-Province-capital city. Click here to view our Cartagena page.

  • Palma de Mallorca Spain: 334 miles from Cartagena. The capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. Population of 409,661. Click here to view our Mallorca page.

  • Barcelona Spain: 153 miles from Palma. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits. Click here to view our Barcelona page.


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