Portugal’s Madeira Island Beckons Americans With Direct Airbus A321LR Service, New Hotels

The signers of the Declaration of Independence toasted the new-born United States on July 4y, 1776, with Madeira wine. Now, Portugal has returned the favor with the first non-stop flight from the United States to the island of Madeira off North Africa.

While about a million Americans visited Portugal in the pre-COVID 2019 period, only 10,000 visited Madeira, a four-season destination popular with Europeans. Portugal is betting that the new Azores flight, in addition to the existing service from Lisbon, will bring North American visitors to savor the food, wine, luxury hotels, casino and relaxed atmosphere of Madeira.

Madeira, located at an equal distance from Portugal and Morocco, was “discovered” in 1419, more than 70 years before Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. The subtropical island has 24 different microclimates.

The island was soon planted with wheat, vineyards, and sugar cane, making it ideal for winemaking. Madeira “fortified” wines (such as Port, Sherry, Marsala, Vermouth) with the addition of additional alcohol (mostly brandy). The extra alcohol served as a preservative on long journeys such as the two-month sail to the New World.

But now, Azores’ new Airbus A32LR travels 3,140 miles from New York (JFK) to Madeira (FNC) non-stop in 6 hours. This is the first-ever non-stop flight from a major US gateway like New York to Madeira.

Why visit Madeira? The island’s location off North Africa offers a temperate, sea climate with pleasant temperatures throughout the year. In addition to ocean vistas, the island offers mountains, valleys, and cliffs covered by one of the world’s largest surviving laurel forests. Named Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, these Loriselva plants contain unique flora and fauna, including many native species such as the Maderan long-toed pigeon.

Madeira offers state-of-the-art spas, historic landmarks, and exquisite hotels and restaurants, where you can sample local and international cuisine and award-winning wines. There are also fun traditional activities such as ‘sledding’ on traditional wicker basket sleds, propelled by muscular locals wearing straw boat hats.

The Savoy is one of the first hotel chains in Madeira. The Savoy Palace, one of the leading hotels in the world, tells the story of Madeira’s traditions, landscapes and culture through its stunning design. Another popular feature is the 3,100 square meter spa, which is inspired by the Lauriselva Forest in Madeira. The spa features a dream-like landscape with lakes, waterfalls, and waterfalls. There are 11 treatment rooms for massages, facials and relaxation treatments. The spa also includes Turkish baths, a halo treatment room, sensory showers, an ice fountain, sauna, jacuzzi, and a Himalayan salt room.

The Savoy Palace recently unveiled a Presidential Suite with panoramic ocean views. It is one of 48 suites offering a “boutique hotel within a hotel” with a premium guest experience. This includes an airport reception, your own pool attendant, and a personal assistant. Suite guests also get “direct and exclusive access” to the two-storey Jacarandá Club & Lounge, the restaurant and the private sundeck on the 16th and 17thy floors, plus complimentary treatments and in-room amenities.

For younger guests who might not need a lot of pampering, the brand new Savoy Signatures NEXT is within walking distance of Madiera’s Old Town with its nightlife, restaurants and bars overlooking the port. NEXT offers swimmers direct access to the sea as well as a rooftop pool.

For those with whom their work always travels, NEXT “adjusts perfectly to the growing number of digital nomads with an inspiring co-working space integrated into the hotel’s common areas.” When it’s time to break up, the NEXT Spa offers woodland therapy as well as saunas, treatment rooms, an ice fountain and gym. NEXT’s Recharge Restaurant serves Hawaiian-inspired dining.

Tourism has returned to Portugal. The coastal region of the Algarve, one of the country’s most popular destinations, reported more than triple hotel occupancy in November 2021 (225% growth) compared to November of 2020.

While tourism is still down from 2019, one reason for its continued recovery is Portugal’s vaccination rate, which is among the highest in Europe. According to Portuguese health authorities and regional authorities in the Azores and Madeira, 88.8% of the Portuguese population has been fully vaccinated and 19.4% has already received a booster vaccine. Portugal began vaccinating children aged 5-11 years on December 13.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added Portugal to its list of Tier 4 countries to which Americans are urged not to travel due to high levels of the coronavirus. Several other countries are on the CDC’s list, including Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Jordan and South Africa,

“Portugal is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world!” says Luis Araujo, Head of Visit Portugal. “We believe that safe travel into our country is possible, not only because of the effective and rapidly advancing vaccination programmes, but also because Portugal has an effective approach to risk management, both for the local population and for the long-awaited travelers.” Madeira, for example, has several free testing sites.

Araujo added: “We have implemented health and safety protocols such as the clean and safe seal in more than 22,000 establishments and trained more than 80,000 professionals to add another layer of trust and transparency, assuring that Portugal is one of the most competitive, safe and sustainable destinations in the world.”

Madeira is a year-round destination for Europeans but little known to Americans, despite winning the World Travel Awards as Europe’s Best Island Destination for the past eight years. With easier access than ever before, Portugal hopes the island of Madeira will be as attractive to Americans today as its namesake wine did to the Founding Fathers of the United States.


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