Overview for cruise visitors to Ponta Delgada. Things to do and must-know. Attractions, shore excursions, and sightseeing. Where ships dock, how to explore and get around, maps, tourist info, and basics.
Anyone that knows Ponta Delgada well wonders why cruise ships don’t call at this port more frequently. Is there much to do? Yes. Have you been to Ponta Delgada and didn't find anything appealing to enjoy? Could it be that you missed something? That's not surprising.
- Where is Ponta Delgada
- Where cruise ships dock
- Shuttle bus
- Cruise terminal
- Things to do in Ponta Delgada
- Top attractions of Ponta Delgada and Sāo Miguel
- Shore excursions (Shorex)
- Discover on your own
- What's within walking distance
- How to get around
- Must-know: tourist info, language and currency
- Safety, emergencies, and basics
There are many things to do on the lovely island of São Miguel, where Ponta Delgada cruise port is. But, and this is a big but, most cruise lines rarely offer several of the most extraordinary attractions.
The port of Ponta Delgada (in the Azores, Portugal) is the gateway to a good number of stunning sites located between 3 and 28 miles (4,8 and 45 km) from the cruise piers and terminal.
Cruisers who like a stroll close to the port will discover a few charming sites near the piers. But you have to travel inland to enjoy spectacular landscapes. And unique gastronomic delights. For one-of-a-kind experiences, you must venture out to sea.
Ponta Delgada is a cruise port of call usually visited in Transatlantic and European Atlantic itineraries during the Spring-Summer season. As many as 149,000 passengers and over 140 cruise ships visited Ponta Delgada in 2019.
Ponta Delgada is very safe. The area around the port has a very pleasant character, is very clean and well maintained. The local population is friendly, polite and speak English very well. For those cruising with families, there are just a few exciting things for kids to do. Cruise passengers with walking difficulties will find it simple to wander around in Ponta Delgada on your own.
Where is Ponta Delgada cruise port
Ponta Delgada is in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, far from other cruise ports. Funchal (Madeira) and the other islands in the Azores are the only ports close by. The cruise port in Ponta Delgada is 900 miles (1450 km) West of Lisbon and 2570 miles (4,136 km) East of New York.
Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Ponta Delgada is on the South Coast of the island of Sāo Miguel and, with a population of around 68,809, is the largest city of the Azores. The Azores is an archipelago with nine islands and Sāo Miguel, often referred to as the emerald green island thanks to its flora, is the largest. The island is 35.8 miles (62 km) long, and its maximum width is 9.8 miles (15.8 km).
Where cruise ships dock
Cruise ships dock in two distinct areas, both close to the historical downtown of Ponta Delgada. If you have been to Ponta Delgada before, you may be under the impression that cruise ships always dock by the Terminal Maritimo, which is where ships moor most of the time.
However, when more than two cruise ships call at Ponta Delgada it is possible to dock at the long pier (parallel to the city) that is also a breakwater.
The Terminal Maritimo, also known as Portas do Mar (Sea Doors), is on a modern complex with cafes, restaurants, and shops. It has a long pier for two large ships and is around 700 feet (200 meters) from the main avenue of the historical city.
This avenue along the harbor (Portuguese: Avenida do Infante Dom Henrique), leads to the main square and heart of Ponta Delgada, another 700 feet (200 meters) farther west.
The breakwater pier is 0.85 miles long. It is used primarily by cargo ships and occasionally by cruise ships. It ends by an old fort (Forte de São Brás), and next to another major square in Ponta Delgada.
When cruise ships dock at the industrial pier, passengers are prohibited to walk to town if cargo is being unloaded. The good news is that a shuttle bus will be provided. The main cruise terminal is so close to the old city that a shuttle bus is not needed.
Cruise terminal services and amenities
Do not expect to find any amenities or services at the industrial pier. Except for cruise excursion buses and a few taxis. By contrast, cruise passengers will find in Terminal Maritimo the following services and amenities:
Be aware that cruise passengers will have to pass by x-ray scanners at the terminal to re-enter the ship.
Things to do in Ponta Delgada cruise port
The island of Sāo Miguel has quite a few highlights. But when cruisers ask "What is there to do in Ponta Delgada?" whale watching is undoubtedly the most spectacular experience you must enjoy in Ponta Delgada. Surprisingly, it is seldom mentioned and rarely offered.
Amazingly only a couple of cruise lines offer whale-watching excursions. It is mindboggling considering that the best time for whale-watching in the Azores is between May and September, precisely when cruise ships call at Ponta Delgada.
For those that are not thrilled or feel intimidated to encounter massive whales on a small boat, there are many scenic sights to marvel at and experiences to enjoy. Here are the top things to do on a cruise to Ponta Delgada:
- Enjoy whale and dolphin watching
- Marvel at Sete Cidades crater lakes
- Visit the active geysers at the Furnas Valley
- Explore Ribeira Grande town
- Walk around Ponta Delgada historical center
- Stroll through the Terra Nostra botanical gardens
- Discover a pineapple plantation
- Tour a tea plantation
- Drive a 4WD through off the beaten track sites
- Savor a cozido (stew) cooked in hot springs
- Taste Azorean wines and cheeses
- Shop for local handicrafts and gourmet delicacies
Top attractions in Ponta Delgada cruise port and Sāo Miguel island
Cruise travelers will have the opportunity to experience the best things to do in Ponta Delgada in the following sites:
- Sete Cidades crater lakes
The “Lake of Seven Cities” is a natural wonder of mesmerizing beauty. Must-see: the two lagoons (green lagoon and blue lagoon), Vista do Rei sightseeing point, the village and church of Saint Nicholas. Distance from port: 16 miles (26.6 km), under a 40-minute drive. Learn more on Wikipedia
- Lago do Fogo
The Lake of Fire is a pristine volcanic crater with a stunning lake. Must-see and do: sightseeing from “Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo” (viewpoint), hiking to the edge of the lake, sandy beach, and endemic flora. Distance from port: around 16.5 miles (26.6 km), 25-minute drive. Learn more on Wikipedia
- Furnas Valley
Active volcanic complex with dozens of hot springs (fumaroles). Must-see and do: Pico do Ferro viewpoint, Lagoa das Furnas, Nossa Senhora das Vitórias chapel Terra Nostra botanical garden, savor Cozido nas Caldeiras - meat and vegetable slow-cooked stew. Distance from port: 28.4 miles (45.6 km), 45-minute drive. Visiting time: 2 to 3 hours (not including lunch). Learn more on Wikipedia
- Parque Terra Nostra
This stunning botanical garden features a casino within a hotel and a natural hot-water swimming pool (yes, you can swim here). Distance from port: 42.9 miles (26.7 km), 45-minute drive. Discover more on the official website in English.
- Ribeira Grande
The first capital city of the Azores dating back to the late 15th century. Must-see: Igreja Matriz (main church), Municipal (Ethnographic) Museum, Azorean Emigration Museum, and Santa Bárbara surfing beach. Distance from port: 13.3 miles (21.4 km), around a 20-minute drive. Learn more on Wikipedia.
- Arruda Pineapple Plantation
Azores pineapples are known for being small but very juicy and sweet. Must-see: plantation and store where you can purchase pineapple liqueurs and sweets. Distance from port: 3.1 miles (4.9 km), 10-minute drive. Read more on the official website in English.
- Gorreana Tea Plantation
Dating back to 1883 and claiming to be the oldest and only operational factory in Europe, this 32-acre farm produces 44 tons of tea annually. Must-see: beautiful sights, picking and packing to tea, a museum with the original equipment. Distance from port: around 19.1 miles (30.8 km), 30-minute drive. Learn more on the official website in English.
- Ponta Delgada historical center
To find out more about all the top attractions in the historical center of Ponta Delgada keep reading this port guide or click here.
Adventure, thrilling and fun activities
Except for 4WD tours, dolphin and whale watching, cruise excursions do not offer most activities listed below. You will have to book these with alternative online and local tour services. Here are the top thrilling activities you may enjoy when calling on a cruise to Ponta Delgada port:
- Bicycle rides
- Big Game Fishing
- Horseback riding
- Scuba Diving
Cruise shore excursions and tours
Obviously, all cruise lines callling at Ponta Delgada offer many and diverse shore excursions in Ponta Delgada. Royal Caribbean offers 4 shore excursions, Norwegian Cruise Line has available 8 shore tours, and Carnival lists 7 cruise excursions.
Celebrity Cruises offer as many 8 shore explorations, Holland America lists 6 cruise excursions and Princess has available 8 excursions in Ponta Delgada cruise port.
The upper-premium cruise lines like Oceania and Viking visit Ponta Delgada cruise port on many/a few itineraries. Oceania Cruises organizes 12 shore excursions in Ponta Delgada. Although most luxury cruise lines include shore excursions with the cruise fare, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea offer unique and diverse explorations ashore in Ponta Delgada. Regent lists 11 excursions, Seabourn has 8 excursions, and Silversea offers 12 excursions.
There are also excursions offered by the following reputable private online services and local tour operators:
Local tour operators
Amongst the many local tour operators, none of which are affiliated, endorsed, or approved by IQCruising, the following have received excellent reviews and gave secure websites:
Explore Ponta Delgada on your own.
Cruise passengers that like to explore ports on their own will find a few attractions nearby to discover on foot. There is also one sightseeing train and the sightseeing yellow bus. Public transportation is good but not easy to navigate for tourists. Close to the port, the are taxi ranks, which is an affordable way to get around.
Sightseeing in Ponta Delgada
The Yellow bus sightseeing hop-on hop-off has two main routes. Both cost € 22.00 and start by the São Brás Fort within walking distance from the port. One tour has seven stops sightseeing Ponta Delgada, Ribeira Grande, and the Fire Lake (Lagoa do Fogo). The second tour covers Ponta Delgada and the Seven Cities Lagoon and has six stops in between.
The Lagarta tourist train has four tours: a city tour, a garden tour, a beach tour, and a heritage tour. All these tours start at São Brás Fort and cost € 7.50. For more information check the official websites:
What's within walking distance of the cruise port
Close to the cruise port and the terminal, between 500 feet and ¾ of a mile, there are many landmarks, churches, museums and highlighst to explore on foot. These are the top attractions in the historical center of Ponta Delgada:
- Main square. The heart of downtown with statue of Gonçalo Velho Cabral (the Portuguese navigator who discovered the Azores) at its center. The town hall square is next to it.
- City Gates. On the main square, the three-arched “Portas da Cidade” is a main landmark impossible to miss.
- St Sebastian Church. The main church in the city, the Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião is located next to the main square. The interior is a must-see.
- Synagogue Museum. The old synagogue is now a museum (Museu Hebraico Sahar Hassamaim), less than 500 feet west of the main square.
- Military Museum at São Brás Fort Dating back to 1552, this fort overlooking the ocean houses a military museum.
- St Joseph Church The very large Igreja de São José is one of main buiildings in the square next to the Military Museum.
Must-know: tourist info, language, and money matters
Portuguese is the official language but English is widely spoken. The English speaking cruise passenger will easily communicate with locals pretty much everywhere.
Currency and money matters
The Euro (€) (EUR) is the legal tender in Portugal as a full member of the European and Monetary Union. US$ dollars or any other currency are NOT accepted and you must have Euros to pay for services or purchases in cash.
Most credit cards are accepted. DoubleCHECK
There are ATM machines by all banks, sometimes labeled “Multibanco” where you can cash Euros with both your debit card and credit card.
Tipping is not expected in restaurants, cafes, or bars as employees have labor contracts with all sorts of benefits. However, it is customary to round up the check but always less than 5%. The same applies to taxi drivers.
Haggling is not expected on any shops or services with exception of street vendors - be aware that many are not legal and you can get your purchases confiscated.
Business and commercial opening hours
Museums open from 10 am to 5 pm but close on Mondays. Shops are open on weekdays from 9 am to 7 pm, although some may be closed for lunch between 1 pm and 3 pm. Many shops close on Saturday after 1 pm. Shopping malls are open 7 days a week and on holidays from 10 am to 11 pm. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 3 pm.
Safety, US travel advisory, and basics
Ponta Delgada and all the Azores are well known for being very safe.
For comprehensive and updated information about traveling to Portugal see the U.S. Department of State website page evolving advisory.
Covid-19 advice for cruises to Ponta Delgada (Portugal)
For updated coronavirus (Covid-19) information and travel advice to Portugal and Ponta Delgada visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Portugal. For more Traveler's Health advice to Portugal see the CDC Website.
Ponta Delgada Basic Info at a Glance
|Entry Requirements:||A valid passport is required for American, Canadian, and British citizens. EU and EEA visitors need valid national ID cards.|
|Emergencies:||Medical Emergency, Police, Fire Rescue - 112|
|US Emergencies:||US citizens may call the US Dept of State (+1-202-501-4444) for emergencies abroad.|
|Pharmacies on duty:||Website|
|Driving:||Driving is on the right.|
|Electricity:||The standard voltage in Portugal is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Typical European two round prongs are used.|
|Cell phones:||T-Mobile US plans offer unlimited data at up to 2G and text at no cost. Calls to the US cost 20 cents/min. Calls to other countries (including Portugal) may be costly. It is advisable to check for International plans before departing the US.|
|Drinking:||Legal drinking age is 18 years.|
|Smoking:||Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public buildings. Bars may allow smoking outdoors.|