After our days at sea we arrived to a beautiful morning in Ponta Delgado. My plan was to go whale watching in the morning. We all went sight seeing in the afternoon.
Our cruise to the Azores, Madeira and the Iberian Peninsular would take us to Ponta Delgada, Praia da Vitoria, Funchal, Cadiz, Malaga and finally to Gibraltar
Arriving in Ponta Delgada
My alarm went off at 7 am to give us time to get dressed and ready for the arrival of our breakfast after 7.30 am.
Arcadia was manoeuvring into a berth opposite the cruise terminal at Ponta Delgado. The cruise terminal berth was already occupied by Celebrity Eclipse. Ahead of Arcadia was the Marella Discovery 2 that was already docked.
I had to leave the ship early to go on my whale watching trip so we had breakfast in our cabin. Breakfast for me was a Cumberland sausage and bacon panini. Not the best choice as both the contents were rather anaemic and the bacon had lots of fat.
The port call had been extended to 7.30 pm as probably the next port was only a short distance away. This was the first time that we had been in Ponta Delgada and had docked away from the cruise terminal. We were in the commercial port and there was no walking away from the ship permitted. The port shuttle bus would drop passengers after the dock gates.
Our plan was to stay in the town after whale watching for some lunch and to do some sight seeing. I picked up my camera bag and my rucksack and decided that I did not want all that weight for the afternoon. After a quick change of lens and sorting out my camera bag I was back down to my usual lens and just one camera.
Looking out across the port we noticed that the Celebrity Silhouette was now manoeuvring to dock just behind Arcadia. The town was indeed was going to be very busy with so many ships docked.
Out on the dock I met my friend and we joined the coach to take us to the whale watching. As with most trips we had to wait for fellow passengers even though it was now well past the set time for departure. By 9.10 am we left the quayside to drive through the port.
After the port gates the coach reached Fort St Bras and as we waited to make the turn we could see passengers leaving one of the port shuttle buses. Our coach turned along the busy avenue next to the marina and headed towards the cruise terminal.
We were going on one of Futurismo boats and we passed their offices on the quayside as we walked in line to the dock. Linda and Janice were already there having caught a shuttle and walked down from the port gates so we had a few moments to catch up.
Once on the boat we had to go into the cabin for a safety briefing. After the briefing we were released and went up onto the top deck as we left the quay. The boat was configured with a turret and decks that went past it for great views looking forward. These parts of the deck were only available when the boat wasn’t moving.
After about 40 minutes we saw our first blows from whales. The boat powered towards these signs and then slowed almost to a stop. Then we could leave our seats and head for the restricted areas on either side of the turret, to its sides or below through the cabin to the bow.
The blow was from a fin whale. Then another fin whale appeared and another and then two more. Our guide said these were the ones seen the day before and were probably a female with her calves from previous seasons. Fin whales are solitary except that calves stay with their mothers for several years until they go their own way. As the whales swam past the boat and made blows we could smell their breath – and did it smell!
By now there were ribs and other boats around the group of whales.
We then waited for them to return to the surface. From the turret it was possible to see them as swimming just below the surface as they came back up.
After a couple of close dives the group re-appeared some distance away from our boat and the ribs gathered around again.
The policy is not to approach whales head-on or to get close if they appear to be unhappy with the presence of boats. Our captain decided that the whales were no longer curious about all the boats and were not happy to be around anymore.
We witnessed flukeprints from the whales as they dived.
Another boat from Futurismo was now on the scene now and we had to move away.
I took the opportunity to ask the guide what we might see in October if we went whale watching on our trans-Atlantic trip. It seems we might see sperm whales but they dive for long periods so we may not see so many. The day before a Blue Whale had been with the fin whales so there was hope today we might see one too.
The captain was talking to our guide about possibly leaving and turning back. Our guide explained that there were spotters on the cliffs looking for spouts to help boats locate whales. Then all eyes turned to a splash 500 or more meters away.
A Blue Whale!
The Blue whale
We set off at speed to where the whale spout had first been seen. At our side were a couple of ribs also racing to the same area.
Then another blow and the whale briefly appeared on the surface again. No matter how far away was the whale I really didn’t care – this was my first Blue Whale.
The captain stopped the engines and the boat drifted for a while. Then another blow further away and the whale’s tail appeared as it started a deep dive.
This is when I regretted not having having my big lens.
The Captain told everyone that it was time to begin our journey back. The three guides were as excited as all of us at seeing the Blue Whale and the four fin whales on the same trip. We were promised dolphins before our return to the marina to ‘finish’ off a perfect morning.
As the boat bounced its way back I watched disturbed flying fish at close hand. I usually see them from the Promenade Deck on a cruise ship and they look really small. But close up these ones looked big and seemed to be flying forever as they skimmed over the water.
We were some way from the port and and sure enough the dolphins appeared. Instead of staying on the top deck I headed down through the cabin and out onto the bow to get closer to the dolphins.
The boat by now was surrounded and some dolphins were riding the boat’s bow pressure wave and others just swimming alongside. I could hear their squeaks as they swam around us – brilliant.
This performance went on around the boat for what seemed like ages. As we neared the port we could see Arcadia.
Then just as quickly as they came the dolphins disappeared and we we were then near the marina.
Lunch in Ponta Delgada
We met up with the ladies and went into one of the busy restaurants outside the shopping mall. Our original plan was to have just a drink before moving on. We had to sit inside at the back of the restaurant by the door to the mall.
The menu for lunches looked interesting. The others ordered what I considered to be exotic burgers but I stuck with the simplest one with a beer.
The changes to P&O’s policies meant that we would not be going shopping for wine to take back on board so could relax from that aspect of our port visit.
After lunch we then walked back towards the marina where we had seen a banner advertising local tours in taxis. There were a couple of taxis waiting close by and we agreed a price for the four of us for a trip to see the crater lakes.