It’s probably fair to say that not many people could accurately pinpoint the exact location of the Azores on a map – I certainly struggled, writes Tony Collins.

So what better reason to take a trip to this beautiful group of islands which, for the best informed among you, is actually situated 760 nautical miles due west of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic.

The Azores consist of nine volcanic islands measuring a total of almost 900 square miles. And, despite their location, they boast a wonderfully moderate climate all year round, ranging from 13C in winter to a comfortable 23C in the summer.

This no doubt helps boost the Azores’ vital tourism industry, which is aided by the increasing number of cruise ships arriving at the three available ports of Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel, Praia da Vitoria on Terceira, and Horta on the island of Faial – resulting in a record 110,000 cruise passengers in 2015.

So it was that we arrived at the Azores on board the Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines ship Balmoral as part of their Portugese Islands and Cities tour. Our first port of call was Praia da Vitoria on Terceria after sailing just over 1,400 miles from Dover.

Praia is steeped in history with a stunning natural harbour, but we ventured south to Angra do Heroísmo, the historic former capital of the Azores, which can best be seen from the top of the now extinct Monte Brasil volcano.

In fact, if you love volcanos, the Azores is very much the place to visit.

Our next stop was Horta on the equally beautiful Faial island, which features tranquil lakes and dramatic cliffs, chief among them the Capelinhos volcano, Faial’s most famous landmark, which rose from the sea as recently as 1957.

But the most impressive views greeted us on the island of São Miguel, where we docked at the beautiful town of Ponta Delgada complete with its parks, delightful squares, marina, and waterside cafés.

And the sight that impressed us was the magnificent twin lake which lies within the extinct volcano of Sete Cidades, separated by a narrow bridge. Although the lakes are one body of water they are made from two separate craters and have different depths and colours, with one blue as it reflects the sky and the other bright green due to the rich vegetation surrounding it.

The return journey to Dover was equally enjoyable with a two-day stop at the beautiful island of Madeira, located off the coast of Africa, followed by further ports of call at Lisbon and Porto in Portugal.

Funchal in Madeira has so much to offer, with its cable car, gardens, and toboggan ride, but we chose to tour the island including a visit to the north-western valley of Porto Moniz which offers the most spectacular vistas.

From there it was on to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, which is spread out over seven hills and boasts tributes to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, plus the stunning 16th century Belém Tower.

And then it was on to Oporto which can best be appreciated by a boat trip on the River Douro which happily ends with a visit to one of the port wine cellars that the city is still famous for with names such as Sandeman and Cockburns still prominent.

The sea days in between the ports provide greater opportunity to enjoy the facilities on board ship which, apart from the spa, gym, fabulous restaurants and entertainment, also include fascinating guest lectures including former England cricketer and rugby player Alastair Hignell, who went on to become a top broadcaster before MS forced his retirement.

FACTFILE: A similar cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will be a 14-night ‘Azorean Island Discovery’ cruise on board Boudicca (D1723), departing from Liverpool on 30th September 2017 with ports of call including Praia da Vitoria, Horta (overnight stay), Ponta Delgada, Funchal, and Oporto (from Leixoes).

Current prices start from £1,499 per person, based on an interior twin-bedded room, subject to availability, and includes all food and entertainment on board, and port taxes.

Further information on this cruise visit

For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit or call Reservations on 0800 0355 242 (Monday - Friday, 8am - 8pm; Saturday, 9am - 5pm; Sunday, 10am - 4pm).