Just a little under three years after she resumed service for the now moribund Portuscale Cruises, there still seems no light at the end of the tunnel for the feisty little Funchal.
It is one of the most tragic ironies of modern cruising that this vintage, 1961 built vessel- one of the most perfectly proportioned ships ever to sail the seas- was almost fully refurbished and restored from bow to stern, only to become a casualty of the inevitable collapse of the parent company.
Together with the even smaller (6,000 tons) Porto, the Funchal is still laid up in Lisbon;she has become a petrified time capsule whose future prospects now, ironically, look far less brighter than the much larger, far more dilapidated SS United States.
At a little under 10,000 tons, the Funchal is an almost perfectly preserved example of true, ocean liner artistry; the purest example of what a 1960’s mini liner was like. There is no shortage of beautiful wooden decks and immaculately burnished brass. In short, she is every real ship lover’s dream.
While her future seems to grow dimmer with each new day, the Funchal is not yet beyond all hope. She offers a smart, economical prospect as a chartered cruise ship, even if only during the summer months. The problem is, someone with some marketing savvy and expertise will first have to purchase, advertise and, of course, crew her.
How much longer she can remain shackled to a quay in Lisbon is anyone’s guess. Her docking fees must be astronomical, if indeed they are being paid at all.
No one can safely say that this is the last chapter for this dignified, doughty little survivor. But time is marching on, and the market for ships of this size is not huge, to say the least.
There needs to be more awareness of both her current plight, and her future potential, if there is to be any hope of seeing her back in her natural element- at sea.
Is there another George Potamiaonos out there? Who knows.
But the hope of everyone that cherishes these extraordinary little floating time capsules must surely be that someone, somewhere, does step up to the plate. Not someone who regards the Funchal as a pretty little toy to be flaunted like a new diamond, but someone with real intellect, integrity and, above all, someone with some kind of sound, cohesive marketing strategy for the ship.
But stranger things have happened at sea. Let’s not start sharpening those razor blades just yet, people.