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Classic Ocean Voyages”® 

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer


Please Note: ssMaritime and my other cruise & maritime related sites are non-commercial and privately owned cruise sites, and they are NOT associated with any cruise or shipping company or travel organisation! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues to write cruise and ship reviews and articles in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts in order to provide the best possible information available for those intending a cruise vacation anywhere in the world in the near future!

Announcing the Arrival of the …

--Elegant and Intimate Luxury of the all NEW …--


 The wonderful MV Funchal has finally returned to her origins as built

With her black hull and a yellow and a black top funnel just like she was in the 1960s

Please Note: ALL photographs of the NEW MV Funchal are by and © Portuscale Cruises Lisbon.


Many will remember how the delightful all white Portuguese Cruise Ship, the MV Funchal, became the “Darling of Australian Cruise lovers” as well of those all over Britain and Europe. Some have wondered “How can such a relatively small ship of 10,000 tons be so popular compared to all those grandiose 1000,000 ton and more “Super-Liners” that now sail the oceans?” Actually it is very simple, many people just do not want to be part of the crowd and prefer to be treated like an individual! A cruise on the Funchal is a personal experience, for you get to know not only your fellow passengers very quickly, but also the crew and they soon know all your likes and dislikes. In addition, there is never a queue and always a deck chair to be found, it is a delight to have space on a ship that is more of a large Private Yacht and you do not even have to buy it, just book a few weeks on board and enjoy the ships delights in all her intimate luxury and comforts! Thus, now you may understand why she is so popular.

However, over the past few years the Funchal has been in Lisbon undergoing a massive multi million-dollar overhaul and refit. This amazing intimate cruise ship already has sailed the world many times and now her well known new owners Portuscale Cruises has ensured that she was upgraded to become almost like a band new and a sophisticated 4 Star+ luxury Cruise Ship, yet she retains all the grace and her beautiful former Classic Lines which were not touched during all the many modifications made to her when she had them made according to the stringent rules and regulations and even far and above the official requirements!

A Short Funchal History:

The elegant and classic Funchal was built as a steam ship by Helsingřr Skibsvog (Elsinore Shipyards) Denmark and the SS Funchal departed on her maiden voyage to Madeira and St Michael’s Island, departing Lisbon on November 4, 1961. Thus began her career and soon she became a famous Portuguese liner for she served on a good number of occasions as the Portuguese Presidential Yacht sailing across the Atlantic for State visits.

A delightful painting of the SS Funchal seen as built in 1961 by Hans Breeman

From the author’s private collection

The Funchal was a much-loved ship, that in 1969 by popular demand she commenced one of her very first cruises, which was a huge hit and it was decided after a number of further cruises over several years, that she needed to be made more suitable for her new role as a cruise ship. However, it was also decided to fit her two brand new super reliable “Werkspoor” 9-Cylinder Diesel Engines - 2 x 5,000 BHP, as well as a new deck deckhouse was added topside and her aft decks were taken slightly further aft! Just a year later she was repainted all white.

Here we see the MS Funchal after she was re-engined and had her refit and partial rebuild in 1972 to become a cruise ship

From the author’s private collection


MV Funchal painted white in 1973

Funchal is seen with her all new white hull in 1973 making her the typical looking cruise ship

But mast, like the author much preferred her dark hull that suited her so much better!

From the author’s private collection

Amazingly, over the many years and just several owners she is the only ship still in full operation today to retain her original name and that is a credit to her owners, for all have taken great pride in what is a special ship she is!

Portuscale Cruises’ ALL NEW - MV Funchal:

In August 2013, Portuscale Cruises will commence cruising its all new MV Funchal for she will have had a comprehensive refurbishment and I can personally tell you, that there are no doubt about it, but this wonderful ship will have received one of the most stunning internal refits you can possibly imagine. Almost everything internal is new; in addition she has new some external features, such as now proudly featuring brand new bow thrusters, therefore making her port arrivals and departures more efficient!

But as you board this delightful ship, you will be amazed by her new interiors for so much has been achieved and not just related to her delightful décor!  She has received some 300 Kms of new electrical wiring as well as some 3 Kms of pipes and conducts and some 15.000m2 of new ceilings and carpets. Thus the ship has received so much, and I have not even covered the over 500 tons of Steel was replaced on board the ship in order to completely bring her up to date for her current and future SOLAS Regulations!

She has updated Suites, Mini-Suites, Staterooms and Cabins with better bathrooms. All accommodations are beautifully furnished and fitted out and contain the very latest facilities.

MV Funchal offers her passengers a delightful range of superbly decorated and furnished Lounges as well as two fine Dining Rooms located down on Azores Deck. One of these is the intimate “Coimbra Restaurant” located on the starboard side just aft of the Main Lobby with a lift and the Reception Deck, whilst the spacious “Lisboa Restaurant” that stretches right across the ship and is accessible from amidships stairwell and lift, or the aft Lobby that also has a lift.

All these changes mean that the MV Funchal is now rated as a refined and intimate 4+ Star Cruise Ship and what pleases the myself, the author, is that she now even more reveals her graceful classic beauty having her back hull restored, with that classic red boot-topping (waterline paint) topped with that super fine white ribbon and her elegant original yellow funnel and black hat (top), but now featuring the “P” for Portuscale.

The elegant Porto Bar

At 10,000 tons, this fine fully stabilised Classic Cruise Ship with her elegant streamlined profile, delightful interiors and her spacious sheltered promenade decks is world renowned for offering an intimate yacht-like ambiance and she is famed for great entertainment, fine service and cuisine to match. Believe me, I should know!

Funchal’s forward facing lounge is the popular Gama Lounge with its Bar and it overlooks the forward spacious Veranda Deck


For those who would love to sip a fine Brandy and have a Havana Cigar, head for the

Special air-sealed and conditioned - “Havana Cigar Club”


The delightful Ilha Verdi Lounge is the largest venue on board and it is the Showroom at night

The Entertainment provided on board is second to none, for the author has experienced the dance/show troupe

and they are without a doubt the best he has experienced on any ship or ashore, during his 150+ cruises!

The Funchal accommodates just 580 passengers and you will soon discover that she is a happy and a friendly ship for she offers a more social and a personalized style of cruising. Aboard are attentive and dedicated crew, which are mostly Portuguese, some of whom have been with the ship for over 20 years, and that alone has enabled her to attract a strong loyal following, thus there is always a large repeat clientele.

This is a typical outside Twin/double bedded cabin


Here we see an outside twin/double Premium cabin

Obviously the MV Funchal having been so extensively refurbished yet what is so pleasing, although much has changed on board this fine ship, there are still so many delightful traditional touches that will remind all who love the traditional days of old fashioned sea travel that this is a true ship of yesteryear! You will discover some beautiful timbers to be found around the ship, much of the old timber sadly had to be removed due to the stringent fire regulations. yet if you closely look at the images you will discover all those delightful leather chairs in the Porto Bar and the Gama Lounge they just have to be seen to be believed. The minute you board, you will discover that the owners of the MV Funchal have been very careful with the refurbishment, in order to please everyone who loves the old, as well as the new!

There is no doubt that the New Funchal is a ship packed with facilities, here is a list of what is on offer!

Funchal’s on board Facilities:

Six passenger Decks with three Lifts.

Lounges and Bars:

Ilha Verde (Show) Lounge, Disco, the Porto Lounge and Bar, Havana Cigar Club, Gama Lounge with Bar and the outdoor Lido Bar.

Other Venues and Facilities:

Library and Card Room, Casino, Shopping Arcade, Internet Café, Iteen room, Photo Shop, Photo Shop, Laundry Service and a Medical Centre.

Swimming Pool, Gym and a Wellness Center & Beauty Center.

Dining Options:

The spacious “Lisboa” and the intimate “Coimbra” Restaurants. In addition, there is also a Buffet aft on Navigators Deck.

An advance illustration: Far aft on Promenade Deck is the Swimming Pool with side showers and the Bar


The wonderful all new Portuscale Cruises - MV Funchal Commenced on her maiden cruise from Lisbon on August 16, 2014

I am not sure if cruise lovers around the globe, who I know dearly love the MV Funchal understand what has been involved in bringing this superb ship up to standard, but Portuscale Cruises was subjected to massive intervention after she had been in a lay-up situation for so long with her previous owner, who did commence to work on her, but ran out of funds and had to abandon the work in 2011. The task of bringing this wonderful classic ship back and up to the very high standards that are demanded was simply massive! Thus it is worthwhile for us looking at just a few of the huge numbers that was involved bellow and you will note that they are certainly impressive! These details will provide you with an idea how big the task of rebuilding and refurbishing the Funchal into what she has become!

A Short Listing: It took more than 300 Kms of electrical cables, as well as some 3 Kms of pipes and conducts. Over 500 tons of Steel was replaced on board the ship and on board these is some 15.000m2 of new ceilings and carpets and then there are new furnishings throughout the ship and countless other new items already mentioned on this page!

I am sure that all classic ship lovers, especially those of the superbly beautiful MV Funchal, originally the liner SS Funchal, will look forward to watch her as she navigates the oceans!

Photographs to Delight all those who Love Classic Ships! 



Above & below: Two superb images of her bow and stern whilst she was in dry-dock!




Funchal’s traditional yellow funnel, featuring her new “P” logo and seen are her tenders


A delightful view of the Funchal bow on!

But Now her rather sad story!

She was due to depart fro her maiden voyage for Portuscale Cruises on August 6, however, there were ongoing problems with her certification’s and even after modifications she still had to await her final certification in Lisbon. Finally on August 15 she departed Lisbon for her sea trails and returned and it was thought all was well, but still she had to wait.

The Funchal Troubles Begins!

MV Funchal was due to depart for her maiden voyage for Portuscale Cruises on August 6, 2013, however there were ongoing problems with her certifications and she was unable to depart. Even after last minute modifications she still had to await her final certification in Lisbon, but more were required, then finally on August 15 she departed Lisbon for her sea trails and when she returned everyone seemed happy and it was thought all was well, but no, she still had to wait and after more work her papers were handed in.

Update August 27, 2013:

Finally she departed Lisbon having missed most of her maiden voyage, and she was fully booked she headed direct for Gothenburg Sweden. Funchal arrived on Monday August 26 and was due to depart the next day and continue her original scheduled third cruise.

However, having arrived at her very first port, Gothenburg, the Swedish inspectors came on board to inspect her in order to “properly judge her safety equipment on board.” The reason being, she was heading for the Norwegian Fjords and it is custom for ships to be inspected as they would be entering protected and pristine waters. But what these inspectors discovered was absolutely shocking!

They found some ten very serious problems on board including, life-saving equipment that was not internationally approved; fire-protection systems that was not fully operational; watertight doors that would not close properly; and there was a complete lack of a safety culture and training on board!

Apart from these as there were many other problems found on the ship there were reports of cabins that flooded during the voyage and air conditioning not working, as well as computer system breakdowns and we need to remember that the ship navigation system is based on Satellite navigation and its network of computers, etc, thus this was be a huge problem! They declared the ship completely unsafe to sail!

Funchal seen laid-up in Gothenburg

Photographer unknown - *See photo notes at bottom of page

Wednesday 28:

The captain somehow thought that the ship could possibly leave late on Wednesday 27th, but the inspection for that day was cancelled as things aboard was just too bad and it would take much longer!

Inspector Mĺrten Dahl said; “We found around ten serious technical shortcomings, everything from faults to lifesaving equipment to serious inadequacies in fire protection. The standard is far below what should be expected. After half of the inspection, we didn’t think there was any use to continue,” Mr. Mĺrten Dahl, ship is an Inspector at the Transportsstyrelsen to Göteborgs-Posten.

All faults must be completely fixed before the ship is permitted depart port” said Mr. Dahl. In the meantime the 390 passengers on board are waiting for further instructions from the cruise company. Although on Wednesday several passengers decided to leave the ship and go home. Funchal will remain until she has been completely been brought up to standard and had her watertight doors fixed, which could take some time! Engineers and workers from Lisbon were rushed to Sweden to do the required work, with the aid of other experts.

September 2:

On September 2, all the work on board had finally been completed and Funchal was officially declared as a safe and a reliable ship, thus she was now fully certified by one of the world’s toughest safety authorities, not like the woeful Portuguese Certification inspectors, who should all be sacked! Funchal departed for the balance of her cruise, but this terrible even made headlines around Europe and the UK, being the main source where her passengers would hail from and it certainly damaged the Portuscale Cruises name badly, for now in January 2014 it seems they cannot even get the MV Lisboa, ex Princess Danae right and they have had her for almost 10 months, how long does it take to get a ship ready to sail? Worst still, the same applies to the wonderful and very popular MS Azores, ex Athena for she has been laid up for so long and only recently they commenced her refit. Does this mean we will receive another notice, that they cannot complete the job, but it seems most likely? See: Honestly, I would not sail with Portuscale Cruises if they paid my airfares from Australia to wherever and gave me a suite, etc, for I do not trust this company, they should stick to being hoteliers!

Funchal is seen departing Kirkwall Scotland for Invergordon

Photograph by & © Tommy Kirkpatrick


I sort of hope that Portuscale Cruises will get on with the job and get everything right, but already the news is that the Lisboa, ex Princess Danae will now not be sailing this year due to problems with her refurbishments and modifications, and these seems to be problems with the fuel system. Thus having owned the ship for almost a year, it seems that she may well end up at the breakers.

This now also placed the older MD Azores, ex Athena into doubt and with this company nothing will surprise me. I was so glad that Funchal was saved, but now I am sure she has found the WRONG owners!

Thus if she is mismanaged as she has been so far, this wonderful old girl will sadly not last!

Reuben Goossens.


Other Ships in the Portuscale Cruises Fleet:

MV Porto - previously the intimate Arion - built as the MS Istra.

MV Lisboa - ex delightful Princess Danae - built as the MS Port Melbourne - dead and gone!

MV Azores – ex Athena - built as the MS Stockholm – she is now also in doubt!

MV Porto seen in 2013

MV Porto is without a doubt the most intimate yacht-like ship of the fleet


Here is another (better) view of the MV Porto in her previous guise as the MV Arion

From the author’s private collection

The above three ships are all undergoing massive refits before they commence cruising and although they are considered to be classic ships, yet they will be the most modern and superbly comfortable ships you will ever sail on! I will detail them as soon as I am able!

For Itineraries and Information - Visit Portuscale Cruises Website: ENTER HERE

Bookings & Enquiries Email:

Please Note: All photographs of the Funchal as she is today were provided by Portuscale Cruises Lisbon, whilst those of her prior to her recent restoration are from the author’s private collection.

View Her … Deck Plan


Would you like to read more about the SS/MS Funchal’s Interesting History?




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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me in order that due credit may be given.

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