The 2013 Crystal world cruise has recently come to an end, but what a journey our voyage ambassadors and clients shared together! This world cruise is unique in that they did not go around the WORLD. But, at least they went around something (aka South America). They said this last month it has felt like a Mediterranean Cruise with few sea days and fantastic dancing, food, and entertainment at night.
Crystal always provides a complimentary shuttle service from the ship into whatever town we happen to be near. The only exceptions are when the local taxi union is well organized and shuttles are not allowed or when you step off the ship and are in town.
Here are some of the highlights from the last month of cruising around South America:
Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Buenos Aires was a visual and gastronomic place to tour for three days. Argentinean Beef and Tango go down well together.
Santos, Brazil (founded in 1546) required a shuttle ride to reach the city’s very nice multistory mall which was conveniently located four blocks from the beach promenade. The port is the largest in South America and handles a large portion of the world’s coffee exports. Lynn and I enjoyed visiting the city’s aquarium, located conveniently on the beach promenade, which featured Magellanic penguins, as if we had not seen enough already. The most interesting view was from our balcony where we observed the many sea craft that continuously went by. Santos was a good stop.
Santos has a population of 411,000 plus who knows how many tourists and sailors from ships all around the world. Paraty, on the other hand, has only 15,118 souls and a moderate number of visitors to this Unesco World Heritage site town dating from 1667. Many countries and cities have security problems and those in South America certainly are no exception. Crystal is very safety conscious for the benefit of the guests onboard. My simple rules are: 1) Big town, small camera; Small town, big camera 2) City size and safety of personal items ashore are inversely proportional. Paraty was a Big Camera town!
It was a tender boat ride into town since there is no deep water port. Once there, we had this lovely and interesting city mostly to ourselves. We would recommend Paraty to anyone who sees it on a cruise itinerary.
Ilha Grande, Brazil:
Vila Do Abraao, Ilha Grande is a Big, Big camera town. The Island was discovered in 1502 and is accessible only by ferry boat or cruise ships. There are no cars or golf courses on the large, lush island. In fact, as you will see below, Sheriff Andy of this Mayberry-like town drives a “souped up” golf cart! Many small water taxis and tour boats take divers, snorkelers, and sun worshipers to over twenty isolated and untouched beaches around the island. Hiking is a treat in the rainforest with sixteen jungle trails. The Howler monkeys put on a Mormon Tabernacle concert for those who make the long trek to their habitat. Lunch of Portuguese canapés along the beach was a delight. For us, it was a memorable day.
Rio de Janiero, Brazil:
Rio de Janeiro is a huge city of 6 million which developed among many spectacular, towering volcanic rock cones. There are beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches and a lovely, expansive bay. Anyone who has been here knows that sailing into Rio is a thrilling way to see one of the top harbors in the world.
The city of Rio is dominated by the 2,310 foot Corcovado Mountain and the 1,296 foot Sugarloaf, Rio’s Twin Peaks. To add to the grandeur of the view there is a 125 foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms measuring 75 feet atop Corcovado. Between visiting these two icons, we feasted on Brazilian beef ridizzio style at the famous Porcao’s. Of course, we had caipirinha’s “on the rocks”!
Day two in Rio was about enjoying the finely grated rocks that created present day Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches. As luck would have it, Sunday is a huge beach day since one-half of the usually packed ocean street boulevard is closed to vehicles, except for bicycles, skates, runners and walkers. Also, the “Hippie Market” was a groovy way to start a rather lazy day at the beach. This is a great city to visit!
Salvador, third largest city in Brazil, was discovered by the Portuguese in 1500 and first settled in 1549. It was Brazil’s first capital until 1763 when Rio de Janeiro took over that title. Pelourinho is the oldest section of the city and is filled with pastel-colored 17th and 18th century buildings. This UNESCO World Heritage site is loaded with churches and forts. One of the world’s most opulent Baroque churches, Sao Francisco is so beautiful that words or photographs do not do it justice. It is finely carved with gold leaf covering and surrounds you with majestic, awe inspiring feeling.
Five days ago we entered the Amazon River and today we are in our last Brazilian port of Santarem. After leaving tonight it will take 36 hours to reach the Atlantic Ocean. The river is the second longest in the world (40 miles less than the Nile) at 4.080 miles. The mouth of the Amazon at the Atlantic is 200 miles across. It supplies 1/4 of the world’s fresh water and 1/3 of the oxygen. The flow is so powerful that fresh water can be detected 200 miles offshore. By the way, since the river is near the equator it is hot all of the time. We have been no stranger to sunscreen and bug spray for the last 5 days.
Alter do Chao, Brazil:
Alter do Choa is a beach resort, of sorts. Amazonian people come here in the dry season from about July through December which is winter and fall here below the equator. We arrived in the wet season when the mighty Amazon floods and has it’s way with the shoreline. There was only one remnant beach to visit which will likely disappear as the rains continue. This town is small and took little time to see, especially when peering out from under an umbrella. The rain finally let up as we boarded the tender back to the Serenity.
Nearly two million people live here on the Rio Negro near its junction with the Amazon River. It is ONLY a one thousand mile boat ride from here to the Atlantic Ocean! Founded in 1660, it remained small until late in the nineteenth century when rubber tires were developed using the produce of the rubber trees from here. Then things changed and the town grew rapidly attaining great wealth. These days Manaus manufactures many products and is a major shipping port for products from the Amazon Basin. It is amazing to see ten to fifteen ocean going freighters and tankers at anchor awaiting a berth to load or unload its holds.
Boca de Valeria:
Some days are complete surprises while cruising. Our stop at Boca de Valeria, a small town of about seventy-five was one of the best. This fishing village at the mouth of the Valeria River where it enters the Amazon is inhabited by descendants of Portuguese sailors and local Indian women who intermarried. Life is simple here in the rainforest and a delight to visit. Many of us “hired” the locals to take us up the small tributaries of the Valeria in their boats. By the way, we saw the pink dolphins but they are much too fast to photograph.
Devil’s Island, French Guinea:
Devil’s Island is one of the three penal colony islands which are called Islands of Salvation. Emperor Napoleon III opened them in 1852 and more than 80,000 prisoners were incarcerated here until 1946 when the French government closed it. The movie Papillon made the place famous worldwide but the movie was not filmed here. Today it is much too beautiful to depict the harsh conditions so many had to endure.
Barbados was the last stop of the world cruise! We had a fascinating history during the British colonial period. Sugar cane was called “white gold” and Europe craved this exotic delicacy. In fact, it was so valuable a commodity that food was imported from the United States in the late 1700s and early 1800s rather than taking away land to grow anything but sugar. This gave rise to maritime conflicts with England and France which led the fledgling new nation of America to develop a Navy to protect our merchant ships.