Today we arrived in Salvador Bahia, the eastern most point in Brazil. But before I go there, some things about yesterday at sea. Seas were calm and winds light, so very smooth sailing. In the evening, the area around the pool converts to a restaurant that features cooking on hot volcanic stones. A lot of choices from beef, seafood, pork, chicken and veal. We opted for the veal chops which were advertised as 10 oz. They were probably in the 14-16 oz range and were two of the best veal chops we’ve ever had. Along with that a choice of sauces and vegetables to go with it. We could barely finish our ice cream and chocolate sauce after eating all that and once again, a very memorable meal and evening.
Now for Salvador which was the main stop for African slave trade as they brought them to the Americas. The area is heavily influenced by their culture with music and art. There is an area called the upper city which was the focus of our tour today. It started off going to a famous lighthouse and then proceeded to the upper city for a walking tour. The upper city was built as a defensive position about 500 years ago for the Portuguese to repel the Dutch and has some of the oldest (and richest) churches in South America.
Today finds us arriving in Natal, Brazil. We have a short stop here of only 5 hours but it is very interesting in that we dock on a river flowing through the city and we pass through a narrow channel, under the bridge and then dock. We opted for a tour in a small town, Punta Negra, which is a small fishing village just south of Natal. This is still a home for the craft of bobbin lace which is incredible to watch with the way these women can handle many bobbins of lace to create clothing, table runners and other pieces of artwork. The history was the men would leave early to fish and the women would create these pieces to sell as additional income.
The other activities were riding dune buggies in the giant sand dunes north of Natal or going to the beaches. We made the right choice today because one of the main boasts of Natal is 360 days of sunshine. Well, we were here on one of those other 5 days so being in a van to Punta Negra in the rain was fine.
Had a great dinner with some people we met at the Breakers in Fort Lauderdale and a good nights sleep on smooth seas last night.
Yesterday we docked in Fortaleza about 8:00 am. Fortaleza is a rather large ocean front city and does not have a lot of significant history or historic sites. We opted to take a city highlights bus tour in the afternoon. You’ll see in some of the pictures ocean front high rise apartments and businesses however, at ground lots of graffiti and poverty. Brazil adopted a socialist government in the 60’s and things flourished until the early 80’s when they realized they couldn’t afford everything for everyone. This became obvious during the tour as the guide kept pointing out landmarks but they were all built in the 70’s and 80’s. As a consequence, many are in disrepair and very dated. The good news is they are still trying to work their way out of this, but it will take time. The positive thing is the beaches run for miles and are beautiful.
A few things to catch up on before we dock in Natal today. We could not get the Chiefs game on TV but we were listening to the KC station and there for the whole game. Jane decorated the door with a Chiefs flag and we had a “tailgate party” in the room complete with hot dogs, chips and pizza. Of course there was champagne instead of Miller Lite. Now we’re planning for the game on Sunday and have talked with our butler who will arrange to bring things from several of the restaurants we like and yes, we’re getting spoiled.
The next thing to catch up on was the crossing of the equator. There is an old sailing tradition that the first time someone crosses the equator they need to seek permission from Neptune and as you might expect, several of the participants were taken before Neptune’s court. I have some fun videos but due to bandwidth I don’t think I’ll be able to post them now.
The last thing for this post is a general update on service and food. We’re 10 days in to the 140 days and so far we have to say we have no complaints. Our expectations were high and not only have they been consistently met, they have been exceeded several times already. We are greeted by name by servers in the restaurants, on deck and the management/staff. An example was at a reception for first time world cruisers, Fernando, the cruise director, thanked us all for being there and proceeded to rattle off about 50 names without notes. The average meal is incredible both in quality and options and then there is La Dame restaurant where we dined Tuesday evening. That was one of the finest dining experiences you could describe. My only complaint was the food is so good and so rich I’m not sure how many times we can go there because you want to enjoy all of it!
For the seafood lovers, lobster is on the menu every night so far. Our first day they had a seafood buffet at lunch which was unbelievable and we have since discovered, this is a weekly event. Unfortunately this week is was the day we were going to La Dame and we didn’t want to ruin our dinner. Next week, we’ll be prepared.
Well, this is the third attempt to do this update. The first one I had it typed and didn’t save, oops, second time we were at sea and internet was really bad and now we’re in Fortaleza Brazil. I have now discovered the “save draft” button so hopefully this will go out later today.
We stopped in Ile Royale on Monday, January 13. This is part of a 3 island complex that includes Devils Island and is known as the infamous French penal colony that was in the story Papillon. It closed about 60 years ago and is showing some wear from the climate and the jungle creeping in on the buildings. There were monkey’s, peacocks and a strange little critter called Agouti which is like a really tall rat and big lizards. The only thing we didn’t find were he lizards. We walked around the grounds and were able to see building where the guards and their families lived, a hospital, church and of course the cells. The really odd thing is someone is trying to open a hotel on the island, keep in mind it’s at least an hour trip by boat from the mainland and there are no other restaurants other than the one at the hotel. Rooms seemed to be available.
Yesterday we arrived in Barbados and had a pretty quiet day. Last night however was a bit bumpy with 60+mph winds and 10-12 ft seas so we were doing a little bumping off the walls as we walked down the passage ways. Most of the excursions in Barbados were things like spending the day on the beach or motor coach tours of beach’s, churches and scenic spots. We opted to hang around the ship and go in to town which was just fine. The weather would have a hard rain shower followed by sun about every 30 minutes so we were fine with our plans. Also, the facilities on our ship and the food and service are so good, you really don’t feel the need to leave. There were 3 of the very large ships plus 3 smaller ships including us, so the population around the docks went up 15K people in a few hours.
We left around 6:00pm last night for a day at sea headed to Il Royale, French Guiana, South America. Dinner last night continued on the incredible theme. We both started with grilled scallops followed by something we had never had which were slices of veal tenderloin in a morel mushroom sauce. Jane had ice cream in the room after dinner.
The seas weren’t as bad last night and today but it’s still breezy out. For those of you up north, we’ve been staying around 78 at night and 82 in the daytime. That should change starting tomorrow as we get closer to the equator.
We are both looking forward to Il Royale which is part of the infamous French penal colony which includes Devils Island. For those that are familiar with the story and movie Papillon with Steve Mc Queen, this is the place that it was written about.
It has only been closed 70 years and many of the facilities are still intact. We’re told the jungle is starting to invade some and the tropical rain forest is taking it’s toll. We’ll tender ashore after 10:00am and are free to explore the island. It’s main inhabitants now are monkeys, lizards and birds.
We arrived in San Juan around 7:00 am and then docked and ready to leave the ship at 8:00. As soon as we docked a “large” Royal Caribbean ship docked at the pier next to us. Pictures will follow but it held about 3,000+ people complete with water slides, ropes courses, etc. I hope they really enjoyed them because as we came off our ship to meet our tour guides, we had a person meeting us and getting us ready while they were getting in lines of 100+ to get with their excursions. Personally, not my style of travel.
As for San Juan, we took a walking tour of old San Juan and visited one of the 499 year old forts and then walked the old city. The fort, which is a US national park, was probably the best for us and included a lot of San Juan/Puerto Rico history. After that we walked to the other end of old San Juan to see the other main fort (from a distance) and then more in to the old town. We walked past a number of significant building ranging from military barracks to churches to hospitals with most of the built over 400 years ago. An interesting piece of the history is the streets are paved with blue cobblestone bricks. These bricks came from Europe and were used as ballast in the sailing ships. They were offloaded to pave the streets and then the ships were filled with gold as ballast to return to Europe.
Next stop will be Bridgetown Barbados tomorrow. No big plans, we’ll just be wondering about exploring.
Yesterday was breakfast and then waiting for shuttles, boarding, etc. Not to eventful but very nicely done. We didn’t leave port until after 6:00 and it was getting dark, so no great pictures. This morning, we’re at sea and will be in San Juan on Thursday. Our expectations were pretty high and all I can say is it has exceeded anything we could have even imagined. The breakfast goes without saying, however, lunch was the seafood buffet which you’ll see some photos of and was way over the top. We’re back in our room to take a break and they just delivered a world map of the route and all ports along with postcards from all the ports. You’ve got to love all the little surprises.
We’ll do the next update after we leave San Juan on Thursday.
It’s starting and so far, it’s beyond anything we imagined. After getting checked in and a nap, we started the evening with a reception followed by a spectacular dinner. We started meeting people immediately and found everyone very welcoming. One thing we noticed in the first 5 minutes was that most of these people knew each other and as the evening went on and we met more people on the cruise and the Silver Sea staff, it’s because most of these people have been doing this for years and know each other from previous cruises. When I say most, it’s because during the opening statement they mentioned there were 55 “new” people cruising, that left about 310 repeaters!
We’ve been packing and repacking for the last several weeks. This afternoon, FedEx came to pick up our bags and we’ll see them on the ship in 10 days. Now we start thinking about what we may have forgotten. Next big step will be next Saturday the 4th. We’ll stay at the airport Hilton hotel that evening so we can walk over to catch our 5:30 am flight on Sunday morning. Then to the Breakers hotel in Ft Lauderdale for our last night before the ship and a bon-voyage party hosted by Silver Sea.