Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

Coming into Rio

Christ the Redeemer statue

Copacabana


Friday 14 February

Day 43 Rio de Janeiro

As planned we were up at six and it was a glorious sunrise and even though we weren't docking until nine, there was land visible on three sides so we were already in the main bay. We got dressed and went up to Deck 12, the best vantage point to watch our coming into the port. It was really picturesque and you could see the famous statue on the mountain in the distance. From our balcony we discovered that we could get free port side Internet. It was a little faster than the ship so I decided to try to do some updates and downloads. Even though it was slow, we had two days to do what we wanted which was a bonus!

We had a lazy day on the ship swimming and walking because we were booked on a

'Night out in Rio'!

At six we got our tickets for the excursion. It was a hot muggy evening and there was quite a long walk from the ship to the buses through the port building. But I managed pretty well and it's always good to have John by my side. Our guide, Sergio and was always there to help the slower members of the party. (Remember the demographic of the Prinsendam - average age over 70 years). First of all we had a bit of a tour through the Port area and Downtown Rio before driving through Copacabana and Iponema. It was a very hot and steamy night and the traffic was pretty crazy, although I gather it is always like that. It was packed with people, being a Friday night and the midsummer holidays. The beaches were crowded with people playing all sorts of sports which are set up for them in and around the beaches. Apparently in the summer, people play football, beach volleyball, and other beach sports 24/7. There were lots of people playing soccer under floodlights in numerous little soccer fields and apparently that happens until sunrise!

Our first stop on the tour was to our Restaurant where we were to have dinner. We were going to be served classical Brazilian Rodizio (BBQ) meats and salads. The dinner was a bit disorganised but the food very good. I'm not a Carnivore but I must admit the meat was delicious. It was served straight from the BBQ on great skewers and cut and served at the tables. We could help ourselves from a salad bar as well. The meals were very generous.

After dinner we were taken to the Folkloric Samba Show at Plataforma. I had quite a long walk and three flights of stairs to negotiate to the gallery where we would watch the show but I managed bringing up the rear as I always do! The vantage point was great. There were the usual photographers taking people's photos and there were two of the flamboyantly dressed dancers going around having their pictures taking with members of the audience. We had our photos taken of course but had no intention of buying them. The woman in costume was built like an Amazon and looked about a foot taller than John. John reckoned her costume defied gravity and he rather liked it so in the end we bought a photo.

The show presented over 150 artists in fantastic costumes involving everyone in the rhythms of the world's greatest carnival, Brazilian Folklore and other dances especially the samba and acrobatics. It was flamboyant, colourful and impressive. We thoroughly enjoyed it throughout the 90 minute program but I must admit we were quite happy when it finished because it was hot and the chairs uncomfortable. However after the dancing finished at eleven, a guy came on and started asking where everyone was from and getting people from all the various nationalities to come up and sing Karaoke. That went on for ages and was really unnecessary after such a magnificent show. Everyone was tired and hot and just wanted to go back to the ship! We went outside to get some fresh air but sat and stood around for ages while we waited for the bus to show up. It was the only thing that otherwise marred the evening because it made it so long. We didn't get back to the ship until half twelve and were absolutely exhausted. We knew we had to get up at six because of our early tour in the morning and I had no idea how I was going to be.

Saturday 15 February

Day 44 Rio de Janeiro

Our alarm went off at 5:45am for our early tour of the city. and I quietly wondered why I was trying to punish myself. We were both looking forward to exploring the City by day and getting a better look at Corcovado, or the statue of Christ the Redeemer. I knew it was going to be hard work but thought it would be worth giving it a try.

Rio is the second largest city in Brazil and is the main cultural, financial, commercial, communications and transportation centre for the country. The area was reached by Portuguese explorers led by Amerigo Vespucci in January 1501 and they thought that the Bay of Guanabara was the mouth of a River and called it January River, or Rio de Janeiro. The white sand beaches that greeted the explorers still attract visitors today. The city today is sprawling with many distinct districts, many museums, churches, parks, and gardens showcasing the natural beauty of the area with its multiple towering volcano plugs of basalt. The most iconic feature is the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado), perched on top of a mountain with its arms outspread as if welcoming visitors to the city. One week a year, Carnival occurs and is a cultural experience like no other. Music and dance shape the daily life of Rio much of it based on the famous samba.

Initially, like last night, we drove through the Port area and looked at the preparations for the upcoming 2014 Carnival in 2 weeks. In 1984 the built a massive stadium called the Sambodromo, designed by Oscar Niemeyer just to watch the thousands of floats, dancing and singing that pass through the area over a week. It's an important time for Rio with millions of people attending from all over the world for the festival.

Then we went down town to see where large parts of the area are undergoing urban renewal with development of new housing and commercial area but with preservation of many of the beautiful Portuguese Colonial buildings.

We then drove around the Bay of Guanabara visiting the famed tourist mecca of Copacabana and more upmarket area of Ipanema. It wasn't as crowded as last night but you could see the numerous surf life saving stations, bars, food outlets, recreational facilities, deck chair and large umbrella supplies right on the beach. The beaches are very long and narrow and spotlessly clean with multiple bins supplied. It would seem that most of the activity goes on in Rio in the evenings and night in the summer when it's a bit cooler but there does seem to be 24/7 activity! We had a chance to get out of the vehicle to stretch our legs and experience some of the Brazilian beach culture.

Then we started driving towards Corcovado. We we taken to a train station when we crept up the steep mountain in little carriages using a rack and pinion network. It took about half an hour and went through six stations to pick up and drop off people who were living or working in various places on the mountain. At the Corcovado Station there were a series of lifts and stairs to take you to the base of this massive statue. It is 125 feet tall and from the base there was an astonishing 360 degree view. It was truly impressive, made of concrete and soap stone, simple in design but inspiring. It was absolutely packed with people which made getting about quite difficult to get around but that's not surprising on a Saturday morning and in the holiday season.

Getting back to the ship was achieved pretty quickly despite the crowds but we were both exhausted after all the exertion of the past 20 hours. We chilled out for the rest of the day and left Rio at six for our short sail to Armacao dos Buzios, Brazil our next stop.

We thought we would be too tired to have a late dinner but managed it and the show after. This time it was a comedian and juggler, Luke Burrage, and he was very good despite the rocking deck and took a different slant to his art, which was amusing. It was another enjoyable show and we were even more pleased when we found out that the clocks went back an hour so that we got an extra hour in bed!

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