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Brazil

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


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The arrival of our ship into this incredible harbour was accompanied by one of the most spectacular sunrises we've experienced. At the first hints of the dawn the statue of Christ the Redeemer showed up as a spot of light through the low cloud. My attempts to capture it failed to produce an acceptable image. No problems with the sunrise on the starboard side and views of the Sugar Loaf Mountain on the port side.

There were three ships already in port and the skipper was required to squeeze our ship between two of them. Having access to bow and stern thrusters to call on the manoeuvre was completed without any drama. He stopped the ship parallel to the wharf opposite the gap then slid this huge ship neatly into the gap. We've never experienced such a tight berth before.

We have no plans for anything until our Shore Excursion at 1500 this afternoon. After breakfast we spent some time in the atrium and watched the electricians replace light-bulbs in the three-story ceiling balancing precariously on a folding gantry which extended up from deck 5 to the ceiling of deck 7. I stepped off the ship briefly to try and photograph the four ships lined up bow to stern. The just wasn't enough space and far too many obstructions to get a clear view.

I had a chance encounter with the 'Customer Services Director' Johnathon and discussed some of the implications of half the passengers going on ship's tours and half of the remainder touring independently, he figures that the internet speed will be the best ever today.

Filled in some time reviewing this morning's images and had some lunch and made our way to the Wheelhouse Bar, our designated meeting place. Enough of us to fill three buses were ready to go half an hour early and the buses were ready we were on our way by 1445. Schedules were thrown out of the window with closed roads and venues closed due to Carnival. The tour company made the best of it and drove as close to the scheduled route as possible. The main attraction was the cable-car ride to the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain and went unexpectedly smoothly. An impressive ride up these two climbs. One cable car climbs to Mora da Urca where there is a short walk to the second cable-car to take one up to Pao de Acucar. These cable cars have been operating for about 100 years and were the third such installation in the world.

Views from the top were amazing despite a significant haze and later some rain. We were given a free hand to make our way down and free to wander. We found an ice-cream vendor and happily spent US$7.50 on some relief from the 32 °C heat. The air-conditioned comfort of the bus made for a pleasant trip back to the ship. We were back aboard by 1830 and after another quick bite we joined a sell-out crowd in the Theatre for the Local Folkloric Show. Gorgeous young women in elaborate but brief costumes prancing about on the stage kept all of the men awake at least.

There will be about 1000 people leaving the ship tomorrow and another 1000 new faces coming to join us. Another day in Rio with nothing specific planned, we'll see what happens.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 16:22 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

The Port of Santos

Monday, 16 February 2015


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Sunrise this morning was predicted for 0655 but with a solid overcast and occasional showers it was never going to be spectacular. Fortunately the slow trip up the tidal channel and the massive port facilities provide plenty of other subjects at which to point the camera. The low ambient light made for some tricky focus challenges. Huge cranes and acres of stored containers spoke of feverish activity - but not today. No doubt due to the impact of the Carnival holidays the wharves were almost totally idle.

We had a leisurely breakfast and sat around in the International Cafe watching the long queues of people going ashore. Most of them would have been on ship's Shore Excursions. We elected to wait until about 1000 before leaving the ship. We had no intention of going into the city but had intended to browse the shops in the Terminal building.

It became obvious why there had been queues for people going ashore, we were all subject to a check of bags and purses by the Brazilian authorities. Can't recall that happening before. We walked the length of the extensive Terminal and were surprised at the almost total lack of shops and vendor facilities. The few shops that existed were close- "for Carnival ??". We bumped into Mary and Donald who were in a long queue. They had been told there was a free shuttle into the city but we hadn't seen a bus in the half hour we'd been there. Later in the day we saw them again. After waiting in vain for almost an hour they had given up. After lunch we spoke to some people who had paid for a taxi into the city and they'd encountered the same thing, closed shops and long queues to the few attractions that were open. The general consensus was that there had been little or no effort to welcome the passengers into the place.

After an early lunch we went to the Theatre to watch the movie. Today's offering was "The Grand Budapest Hotel", a strange film with many parts presented almost as animations with occasional human characters. The story line was most bizarre and on reflection I wonder why I stayed for the whole show.

Enjoyed a very pleasant dinner with Donald and Mary. Donald has caught a cold and is coughing quite a lot. They are a very cheery and resilient pair of old dears. Another sell-out crowd in the Theatre tonight for the vocalist Claude Eric who entertained us with a wide variety of songs.
We've been issued "Passenger Transit" cards which we're required to carry with us when we go ashore. For a good number of passengers Rio marks the end of their cruise.

Tomorrow we're in Rio de Janeiro for an overnight stay.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 15:31 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Second Sea Dayto Santos

Sunday, 15 February 2015


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Calm seas and a balmy breeze made for pleasant walking on Deck 19 as I observed the various stages of the sunrise. The colours faded quickly over just a few minutes. After meeting Jenny for breakfast we embarked on another busy sea-day.

The first event was the Culinary Demonstration in the Theatre. The ingredients and recipes are the same on just about every cruise but the interplay between the presenters make for interesting variations. The Executive Chef and the Maitre d'Hotel had each spent over 25 years aboard Princess ships. They had obviously worked together before and gave a very entertaining performance. We didn't join the crowd on the galley tour, one galley is pretty much like another.

Staying in the Theatre we listened to the lecture by Robert Turner who presented his final lecture touching on the subject of cosmology and also the Higgs Boson. Once again providing a wealth of information and introducing us to 'dark matter' and even 'dark energy' to add to all the other particles and forces of the natural world.

The Theatre was filled to bursting for the Destination Presentation on Rio de Janeiro by Hutch. His overriding message was that we were entering vast city with questionable 'safety' standards at a time when there are thousands of additional people visiting for Carnival. The petty crime rate is expected to be high and we need to be vigilant. Once again he drifted off target by spending a lot of time on events that we won't be seeing because they've already happened, won't happen until after we sail or have been booked out for many months. I think he likes the sound of his own voice a bit too much. Many people drifted off to sleep or left during the presentation.

Jenny stayed to reserve the seats while I ducked down to the International Cafe for some snacks, it had been over six hours without sustenance. Along with about half the theatre we awaited the start of the movie, "Boyhood" staring Ellar Coltrane and Patricia Arquette. We lasted all of 15 minutes and couldn't imagine where it was headed for the next two and a half hours so we left.

Back in the cabin I had great intentions to start composing this epistle by succumbed to weariness, dropped off to sleep and didn't wake until 1700 to get ready for dinner. Mary and Donald didn't put in an appearance, Mary had told us that Donald wasn't feeling well. The menu contained numerous great choices and we both selected items that met our expectation. The dessert choices were also fantastic, one of the best meals yet.

After dinner off to the Theatre again to listen to Greg Scott. What an amazing talent. He played classical violin on a 200 year old instrument that was on loan to him. He appeared a humble person and paid great tribute to the seven members of the backing orchestra. His range of music showcased the versatility of his instrument, from classic to jazz, movie themes to musicals he covered them all. The Hungarian gypsy piece received a standing ovation. People we spoke to after the show agreed that you'd pay $150 a ticket to attend a concert as good as that ashore.

Tomorrow we're in Santos with no firm plans and no tour booked.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 15:34 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

En route to Santos

Saturday, 14 February 2015


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A great sunrise this morning to mark the arrival of Valentine's Day. I'm not much of a romantic so the day has very little meaning. After taking photos of the sunrise I joined the group of men who gather in the early morning for a coffee and a chat. Many in-depth topics are discussed and some profound conclusions reached. I think it could be accurately titled the BS Corner.

Joined Jenny for breakfast and after a scrub and a change of clothes started for the Theatre. The schedule started with a Destination Lecture by Hutch on the port of Santos. This was followed by the lecture by Captain Vincent Williams on the subject of Piracy and Ship Security. The frequency of pirate incidents is in decline largely due to naval patrols by a number of Western Navies and a change of policy in China. There was some mention of the French Solution, the French have a low tolerance for piracy. Without providing specific information he explained the financing and profitability of running a cruise ship. Much of the profit is derived from the incidental activities such as the casino, the boutiques, the spa and markups on shore excursions.

This was followed by the lecture by Robert Turner who presented a wealth of scientific data which debunked any concept of visits to any other likely star. The distances are such that it would take multiple generations even at speeds reaching light-speed. There was a short break to grab a snack before the Afternoon Movie. We found 'Jersey Boys' to be well acted, informative and entertaining. Much of the music and singing by Frankie Valley was recognisable and a pleasure to listen to.

Up to the cabin to put on the Formal gear for dinner tonight. Lobster tails and king prawns were perfectly prepared and presented, Jenny chose a delicious beef Wellington. The service was slick and we were able to make the stage production show "Once Upon a Dream" at 1900. With a Captain's Cocktail party scheduled for the same time there were plenty of empty seats. The show was far better than we expected and certainly a number of notches up from the last previous we'd attended.

Tomorrow we have the second of two sea-days on our way to Santos

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today
Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 14:50 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Eventful Day in Salvador

Friday, 13 February 2015


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Up early this morning for our arrival in Salvador and we were rewarded with a dramatic sunrise. There was some initial confusion when it rose over the land and the land was expected to be to the West. The city is located on a peninsula and we were located in a large bay to the West.
Breakfast completed and we left the ship through a very modern and obviously just completed terminal building. Outside the building we met up with my sister, Johanna, who lives not far from Salvador, she had offered to be our local guide. We exchanged some US$ to local currency and she smartly loaded us onto a local bus. Told us to just get aboard as there is no need for 'Seniors' to pay. The first destination was the community where she first lived 22 years ago. It is a centre dedicated to the rehabilitation of homeless people who live in an abandoned church and a number of small cottages built in the church grounds. Johanna was warmly welcomed and there were introductions made in a mixture of French, Portuguese and English.

Back onto another bus and a walk through one of the local markets where Jenny and I were amazed at the variety and quantity of fresh produce available. Many were familiar but there were quite a few that even stumped Johanna. We walked past the fish market to catch another bus and were surprised to see large whole fish packed into tubs with a minimal amount of ice. These tubs we carried down to the bus stop and loaded aboard when the bus arrived.

Back to the Tourist area where there was great activity involved in the preparation for Carnival events. There was an obvious police presence in numbers we've not previously seen since our visit to Egypt back in 2010. The area was kept clean by an army of street sweepers in stark contrast to most of the areas away from this 'Tourist Area'.

We walked along increasingly narrower streets but despite Johanna's warnings to take care I was taken by surprise when a young man who appeared to be drunk staggered into me and almost knocked me over. We had gone another 100 meters before I became aware that my 'smart phone' had been lifted. Considering the many places we've visited it is a 'small' incident overall. My main concern is that the SIM may be linked to my credit card and will automatically recharge at my cost.

We continued our exploration now more fully aware of the possible threat. We'd been told to try and not be noticeable as tourists. A bit difficult when the locals are a few shades darker, dress more casually and obviously know where they are going. Onto another bus to visit the interstate and intercity bus depot. From the size of the place it is obvious that buses are the dominant mode of public transport. Johanna explained that there are no trains and for the bulk of the people who don't own a car flying is not an option either.

While at this transport hub I decided to 'invest' in a US$50 phone. I'll need to down-load the user manual in English as the enclosed documentation is all in Portuguese. We left the bus terminal and crossed a number of major roads using the very crowded pedestrian overpasses. In addition to the many people using these overpasses the congestion was made worse by vendors displaying their wares on one side or the other and in many places both sides of the walkway.

Our destination proved to be an up-market shopping complex comprising many floors and hosting stores to cater for every need of modern living. We eventually found the 'food court' with a bewildering array of food outlets each almost equally crowded by queues of customers. Johanna checked out a number of them and with me 'guarding' the table the two women joined one of those queues. I was surprised when they returned far quicker than I had expected. It appears that in Brazil the elderly are provided with special priority and expedited service. The meals were quite large and relatively inexpensive at the equivalent of about US$10 each.

Onto another bus to take us back to the port. Travelling on these local buses was certainly an enlightening experience. There is no air-conditioning and when stopped at traffic lights they become extremely hot. Even with all the windows open the ambient temperature doesn't drop much. The seats are totally lacking in any form of upholstery and in combination with rough roads and only basic suspension make for a numbing experience. To add to the sense of excitement the drivers all drive at breakneck speeds and apply brakes with some vigour. The locals are totally oblivious to these conditions.

Back at the port we bade Johanna goodbye and returned to the cool comfort of the ship. My first priority being to confirm that the SIM was not linked to a credit card for automatic recharge. My next concern is the possible links to other accounts, passwords, contacts and web sites. I will check the Galaxy Web Site and see if there is some means of disabling the phone.

Can't be bothered changing for dinner so ate in the Horizon Court on Deck 15. One or two interesting dishes and some beautifully cooked garlic prawns. Caught sight of Mary and Donald also slumming on Deck 15. It will be a light night for the waiters in the Dinning Room.
A new entertainer tonight in the theatre, a comedian; Glenn Hirst. He's from New York originally and makes some really funny jokes from the way New Yorkers speak. He even managed to keep many of us awake. The WiFi is to be shut down tonight for maintenance, I hope it is a lot faster when it fires up. Such is the end of a very eventful day.

The clocks go forward another hour overnight and tomorrow we have the first of two sea-days on our way to Santos

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 16:13 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

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