Cost – $189.00 (Oct 2017) This is the Cunard tour price for the whole excursion to the hotel which included private car travel and Afternoon Tea for two people.
Background – As soon as we decided to go on a cruise to the Canaries I knew that I had to try to have the famous Afternoon Tea at Reid’s Hotel in Madeira (which was the island the ship was to visit before reaching the Canary Islands). I was delighted to see that the ship was running an excursion to the hotel for tea and booked our places as soon as they became available. It wasn’t cheap but I knew we would be having our Tea and would not have to make any complicated bookings myself.
Be warned – do not ever do this excursion!
We were driven up to the hotel from the ship couple by couple in Mercedes cars. On arrival we were collected at the door and led in to the hotel.
This was the point at which it started to fall apart.
We were led, not to the famous terrace where Afternoon Tea is served each day. Not even to the Cocktail Bar, which we had been warned might be used as an alternative. We were seated in a line along a corridor leading from the Cocktail Bar to the toilets!!
There was a row of five tables put there looking out through full height windows
to views over Funchal harbour and our ship.
There was absolutely no atmosphere and the five couples from the ship just sat there in silence feeling uncomfortable with a waitress standing guard behind us.
I had been told tales of the beautiful china, the silver tea strainers and the huge choice of teas. We had none of this. Whilst the china we had was pretty, it was chunky.
We later saw the delicate china being used by those allowed on the terrace. We were given no choice of teas and it was served in big tea bags within the teapots.
The food was ok. It wasn’t fantastic. I don’t know if it was different from that served on the terrace but I suspect that it was at least served in a very different manner.
During the whole time we were in our corridor we had the waitress hovering behind us like a minder. We felt very much as though we were second or even third class citizens.
When we finished our Tea we all wondered round the beautiful gardens.
The hotel is in a fantastic position and the grounds are wonderful.
However, as we passed the longed for Tea Terrace on our way out to the gardens, we noticed it was not even full!
Also, the Cocktail Bar, which we passed through to reach our corridor, was completely empty and had some attractive areas to sit in.
We did complain to the ship’s tour office on our return and received an acknowledgment of that complaint (but no refund, even partial). However, what happened was entirely down to the hotel and how they wanted to treat us. To them we were easy money and didn’t need to be treated in the way their usual guests are treated. We were very disappointed.
Contents – Five finger sandwiches each (avocado, prawn, smoked salmon, cheese and egg with cucumber). A medium sized fruit scone, a mini pot of strawberry jam and a mini pot of blackberry jam, a small amount of cream (did not appear to be clotted) and a pat of butter. Eight mini cakes between the two of us. One each of mini fruit tart, mini ginger cake, blackberry macaroon, micro lemon tart, chocolate sponge, profiterole, banoffee and a flaky Bakewell type tart. The tea was made with loose tea in a large bag.
Comments – Our Afternoon Tea was served in a separate area away from the main terrace, in a corridor off the cocktail bar area. We had big picture windows in front of us through which we could view Funchal, the harbour and our ship. There were five tables placed in the large corridor to accommodate the five couples from the ship (we were on an excursion from Queen Elizabeth).
The table was nicely laid with pretty blue and white china, linen napkins and an empty three tier cake stand.
We were brought plates to fill the cake stand a few minutes after we had sat down. We were brought a plate of sandwiches, a plate of cakes and a plate containing the jams, butter and cream.
Following this a teapot was brought to each table containing the hotels standard tea. The teapot was a pretty blue and white teapot which matched the plates etc., with a matching milk jug.
The sandwiches were on a mix of white and brown bread. They were fresh and moderately well filled. I was not very keen on the avocado sandwich and didn’t try the prawn sandwich as I don’t like prawns.
The fruit scones were brought out as we finished the sandwiches. They were on the small side of medium and were warmed.
I am not sure what sort of cream we were given, it did not appear to be clotted cream. It was soft and fluffy, more like a whipped cream. There was enough jam but not really enough cream. Having finished the scones, using all of the jam and cream, we were offered a second scone each. We had another but had to ask for more jam and cream, which was provided.
All of the cakes were fresh and mostly tasty. However, they were all small and there was only one of each between us. Our favourite was the Bakewell type tart.
The tea was of a good strength and there was plenty of it. Our teapot was filled up again for us.
The service was provided by one waitress, who then hovered behind the row of tables all the time. Whilst it was meant to be attentive, it felt very much like we were being watched by a minder all the time. It did not feel comfortable or relaxing.
We all ate our tea in silence in a line along the corridor. There was no music or other distraction. We then disappeared off, couple by couple, as we finished, to wonder round the gardens until we were collected to return to the ship.