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When on a Mediterranean cruise to Ponta Delgada, your ship will pull into port right by the city and you’re a short walk away from the whitewashed buildings, arches, and waterfront promenade that make this city so visually appealing to visitors. Beyond the city center of Ponta Delgada is much to explore. A Ponta Delgada cruise port of call is the gateway to the lush nature of São Miguel, which is the largest island in the Portuguese Azores archipelago. São Miguel has cloud forests, volcanoes, crater lakes, botanical gardens, and pretty beaches next to dramatic cliffs.
One of the most iconic sites to see in Ponta Delgada is the Late Gothic style of the Church of São Sebastião standing beside the beautiful arched gates of the city. The Church of São Sebastião was built between 1531 and 1547 and gleams in the island sunshine with its white walls and ballast trim. It is an excellent example of Azorean architecture, making it a top site to see during a cruise to Ponta Delgada, and it’s worth a visit inside to see the beautifully carved wooden altar with its gilded accents.
Another church to see while in Ponta Delgada is the small chapel of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, which is also a convent. Built in the 16th century, the chapel and convent is most known today for its statue of Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Holy Christ of Miracles), which was a gift from Pope Paul II in 1530 to the nuns that lived in the convent. The statue is heavily adorned in jewels and serves as the focal point for the religious festival that happens on the fifth Sunday of Easter.
One of the natural wonders that São Miguel is most famous for are the twin lakes located in the caldera of the island’s dormant volcano. The two lakes make up the largest body of water in the region and are steeped in legend and beauty. The lakes glisten in different colors: one blue and one green. On a clear day they are a sight to behold and a popular shore excursion to do while in port during a cruise to Ponta Delgada.
Whale and dolphin sightings are frequent around the Azores Islands and one of the best ways to increase your chances of seeing these spectacular mammals is on a small-boat whale watching excursion with a marine expert on board who can tell you more about the sea life you’ll encounter. Types of whales you may see include humpback, mink, and blue whales; while the types of dolphins at play in the water around São Miguel are often bottlenose, common, and Risso’s dolphins.
Ponta Delgada has a climate that is ideal for botanical gardens and you can find several in the city that are lush in tropical plants and trees. Two to check out are Antonio Borges Botanical Gardens and Terra Nostra Botanical Garden.
São Miguel has deliciously sweet pineapples and while in port during a cruise to Ponta Delgada, you can visit a plantation where they’re grown. São Miguel is the only place in Europe that grows pineapples in greenhouses. You’ll also be able to taste some of this local pineapple to see how it differs from the pineapple you may be used to overseas.
Visiting the Furnas Valley located by the caldera is a luxurious way to spend the day in nature. You can visit the Furnas hot springs for a soak in the area’s mineral and thermally heated waters. You’ll also be able to view naturally boiling water and see sulphur spew from the ground while visiting the Furnas Valley.
Restaurants and cafes where you can try local cuisine are located all the way from the pier to the city center of Ponta Delgada and beyond, though the majority of them are located in the city center. Here are some food items you won’t want to miss trying if you want to eat like a local.
Sweetly Decadent Pineapple
You won’t be eating just any pineapple during a cruise to Ponta Delgada. You’ll be eating pineapple grown in the Azores, which tastes quite different from ones you may be used to in the United States. The pineapples found in the Azores are smaller and juicier and still pack a deliciously sweet punch. You’ll likely find pineapple alongside a variety of dishes – there’s even pineapple Carpaccio and pineapple liquor!
Fried Mackerel Eaten Like French Fries
Mackerel, a type of fish, is in restaurants all over the island because it swims all around the island – meaning any your order is likely a fresh catch of the day. If you want to eat like a local, order the fish fried as a side dish and eat them whole – yes, bones, and all – though you can leave the tail behind on your plate.
Black Sausage: A Family Tradition
Black sausage, also referred to as blood sausage, is a local specialty that has been passed down through many generations for many local families. The black sausage in Ponta Delgada is unique due to its seasonings, which include cinnamon – a spice that is grown locally in the Azores.
Cozido das Furnas Made in a Volcanic Slow Cooker
This may be the coolest meal you’ll have in the Azores; er, make that hottest – volcanic hot that is. Thanks to the active volcanoes located on São Miguel and some creative chefs, this local dish is sure to be unlike any you’ve had before since it’s cooked in volcanic soil. The dish itself is a stew that is made with black sausage, pork, beef, potatoes, and an assortment of vegetables. The stew Is prepared nightly and then buried in the volcanic soil of São Miguel’s large caldera early the next morning. The natural heat of the earth in this part of the island is the perfect temperature to slow cook the dish to perfection until it’s ready to be pulled out of the earth for dinner time. One of the most famous restaurants to order this in is Caldeiras & Vulcoes Restaurant, located in Furnas about 45 minutes from the Ponta Delgada cruise harbor.
Sip Some Local Tea
A good drink to sip on in the Azores is some local tea since the only industrial tea plantations in Europe are located in the Azores. Both Gorreana and Porto Formoso tea factories are located on São Miguel and produce premium-grade black teas and green teas.
Ponta Delgada is a former fishing village that has grown into a bustling gateway to the beauty of the Azores. It is the largest municipality of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal and serves as the Azores’ administrative capital.
Religion also has a strong focus in Ponta Delgada. The city is a focal point for the week-long religious celebrations that take place each year around the fifth Sunday of Easter for the Feast of the Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles.
A Ponta Delgada cruise port of call puts you right next to the city center when you disembark the ship. You can walk to the center of Ponta Delgada in about ten minutes. The journey will take you through a terminal building where you’ll find shops and restaurants – so you don’t have to go far to find some local eats and souvenirs, but don’t spend the whole day there!
If you want to skip the walk into the city center or want to get to another part of the island, you can find taxis available for hire at the end of the pier. There are also private car services available on the island, but these have to be prearranged before you arrive in port.
An easy way to explore beyond Ponta Delgada is to book a shore excursion, which conveniently picks you up at the pier and is guaranteed to get you back to the ship before it departs for the next port.
Shopping is available near the pier, making it convenient for travelers on a cruise to Ponta Delgada to do some souvenir shopping while in port. For the most plentiful array of shopping, head to the town center, which is only about a 10-minute walk from the pier. You’ll even find a multi-story mall there that is home to over one hundred shops: the ritzy Parque Atlantico.
Some good souvenirs to take home with you include hand-rolled cigars, local tea, ceramic dishes that are hand painted, embroidered items, and Azorean wickerwork in the form of baskets.
The official currency of Ponta Delgada and the rest of São Miguel is the euro. If you need cash, you can find ATMs all around the island, including on the pier. Major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are also accepted at many businesses on the island.
For tipping, there is no expected amount, though most people will leave behind a tip of between 5% to 10% for exceptional service.