Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. First was the kick off, then Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Chile, Patagonia, Antarctica, Argentina, and now the next stop in their Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage (next voyage January 2018).
Welcome to Rio
We have 9 ports coming up in Brazil, including an extended stay in the Amazon River. But first, there’s Rio!!
We had two days and one night in the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro. There’s so much to do here, we’re very lucky to have visited many times!
- enjoy the tram ride up the mountain to visit the amazing statue of Christ the Redeemer, also known as Corcovado.
- walk the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Le Blon as well as a few smaller ones
- experience Botafoga Beach, also called Red Beach for the way the sand takes on a red glow at certain times
- ride the double cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain
- experience the Carnival parade of costumes, floats, and revelers all over the city
- ride through the favelas, otherwise known as the slums, to see them up close
- stand in awe at the gorgeous modern Metropolitan Cathedral, with its stunning stained glass windows
Thanks to the 2016 Olympics, this port area has undergone a drastic change from run down to beautiful promenades that provide a wonderful place to walk, large murals of native Brazilians painted in super bright colors and a light rail system just outside the door. At the end of the pier area is a gorgeous new plaza that houses the futuristic Museum of Tomorrow. It looks like a prehistoric skeleton up on a pedestal or a sleek oval space vehicle hovering above the ground.
On our night in Rio, a local Brazilian entertainment troop did a show on board, complete with scantily clad samba dancers, drums of all sizes, singers, a dance couple, and a sample of the kind of costumes we would see in Carnival. We liked the 10-foot wide dress with huge headdress that barely fit on the stage! The colors are gorgeous, the bodies quite fit, and the energy contagious.
Quite a few guests were convinced to join in the dancing at the end – a few were pretty good at shaking what they had along with the locals!On day two, we had only one mission – to revisit the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Sebastian. It is a unique building.
From the outside, it is the shape of the original space capsule – an upside down ice cream cone with the pointy end cut off. It’s all cement and other than it’s shape, it doesn’t look like much on the outside. But go inside and be dazzled! The four stained glass windows are the full height of the building. Done in fabulously bold colors of red, green, yellow and blue, they look more like modern art than religious symbols. Another busy day at sea was topped off with a special dinner we attended. The theme was South American street food and they did their best to recreate the street atmosphere. All the waiters were dressed down and many of the dishes were served on newspaper liners or in cardboard boxes.
We enjoyed dishes including: Elotes from Panama (grilled corn), Tamales from Ecuador, Ceviche from Peru (marinated seafood), Choripan from Argentina (spicy sausage) and Queso Y Banan Frito from Costa Rica (cheese and banana fritters). Of course, there were excellent wines from Chile, Argentina, and Spain to complement each course. We didn’t even realize that it turned into a 4-hour meal.
Cruise Specialists Party
Another night we hosted our second of three Cocktail Parties for our Cruise Specialists Guests.
Once again, the Officers and Staff turned out in large numbers. At one point, a few minutes before the 7:00PM start time, the Officers outnumbered the Guests. We continue to be amazed at how attentive this ship’s personnel are to our group as a whole. From the Captain on down, they greeted Guests at the door and then stayed to mingle for the better part of the hour. All but 4 of our Guests were there, so it was a really good evening.
Beautiful ornate buildings in Easter egg shades of yellows, blues, pinks, and greens greet us as we pull in to port. And the colors continue as the whole country is gearing up for the Carnival celebration.
The most famous site here is Casa da Cultura, a former jail turned into a handicraft market.
Salvador de Bahia
Here we went to explore Farol da Barra, the lighthouse located on the Fort of San Antonio, about 4 miles from the port. By purchasing a ticket to the museum, you get to walk up to the top of the tower and get a 360 degree view of the surrounding beaches and bay.
This is a city of three million people, famous for its 21 miles of beaches. As we sailed into the harbor, it was startling to notice row after row of high rise buildings, stretching out for miles along the shore.
We took a 30-minute shuttle ride into the city to the central tourist market. It’s housed in an old prison (they seem to like turning prisons into markets), with hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of textiles, clothing, and souvenirs. They specialize in fine lace, so if you were looking for some table linens, this was a good source – and they were willing to bargain.
Here you’ll find the famous Mercado Ver-o-Peso, Brazil’s largest outdoor market, spreading out over many blocks along the waterfront. If you can fight your way through the crowds, just beyond the market is the Forte do Presépio, the Cathedral da Sé, and several museums and churches that can be visited. Or right from the pier itself, one can take a ride up the Amazon by riverboat which includes a hike into the jungle.
The safety as security of our guests is extremely important to everyone at Cruise Specialists. While going to other countries there’s always a risk, so onboard there are plenty of briefings about what areas to avoid and information about things like not wearing jewelry or flashing expensive electronics.
We don’t know what has changed since our last visit in 2015, but that feeling of being a welcomed visitor was not here today. Perhaps it is the anticipation of Carnival, when the arrival of visitors also brings out the opportunistic criminal element. Perhaps it’s the economic conditions causing an increase in both petty and violent crimes. Whatever the reason, it is cause for concern and discussion among the passengers that we shouldn’t be stopping in these places.
We have since been told that our Captain called headquarters to report about these incidents and someone in Seattle was in touch with the Mayor of Recife. He was told that if they are not able to provide adequate security for the ship’s guests, we’re not coming back!
Learn about next Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage >>
Cruise consultant Matt Caplinger can help answer your questions about cruising Antarctica or a Grand Voyage!