Thursday, March 4, 2010
Now that we are home, and looking back on our Amazon trip, several things stood out about the trip. First, we love the Royal Princess and small ship cruising. We loved not waiting in line for anything, getting up close and personal with the cruise staff and sitting with Captain Ivan Jerman at the Captains lunch. Our entertainment on board was excellent, but as always, a magician who does the same tricks. We got to know most of the dancers quite well, our favorite being Natasha the dance captain from Sydney, Australia. We were again fortunate with good table mates and outstanding trivia partners.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was an idea that Judy came up with before we left. We had been on basically this same trip three years ago and as always we had taken a ton of pictures and we were again going back to the village of Boca Da Valaria. Boca is a small village of about 75-100 people that live along the Amazon in very small houses on stilts to stay above the rising water of the Amazon. Before we left we printed up about 30 of the pictures that we had taken of families and kids in this village. When we stopped there this time we went back to the same houses and gave them to the families and of course to the kids we could find. They were all thrilled. And again while we were there we took more pictures, had them printed up on the ship and took them back to the village again on our way home. Again, we got the same reaction, they loved them, especially the two girls that posed for Judy.
Another highlight, THIS TIME I CAUGHT A PIRANAH!!!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In recapping the last few days, I think I mentioned that we were again invited to the Captains lunch as two of the forty most traveled passengers on board. This time we were extremely surprised because we were seated with Captain Jerman and it was an interesting lunch. The Captain is English but lives in Australia. We enjoy him for his wit which includes the statement at the welcoming party that said “A speech is like a women’s dress, it needs to be long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep everyone’s interest”. We have run into the Captain since that lunch and he always acknowledges and asks how we are doing. We have had a lot of Captains lunches, but this was the first time we were at his table.
Now two more sea days and home on Saturday.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This blog covers both Trinidad and St Lucia. We have been to Trinidad so many times that we did not bother to leave the ship, instead chose to read and Judy even got her swimming suit on and went to the pool.
In St Lucia we took a tour to the twin peaks which really set the island apart from others. The tour took us to a botanical garden, a volcano that is still spewing sulphur, a beautiful waterfall and lunch. At the volcano I chose not to take the long grinding walk up to a vantage point, it turns out that my pictures were as good as Judy’s and she had a tough time with the stairs and the steep grades. Lunch was buffet style and was just ok, some chicken, some fish, beans and bananas used as a vegetable. I think I will stick to the good taste of ripe bananas.
We got a new entertainer on board in Trinidad and she is a terrific piano player. She is billed as a female Liberace and lived up to the billing. She played everything and actually took requests during her program. She uses no music and apparently has committed over 2000 pieces of music to memory. We can’t wait to see her again.
Tomorrow we will again be in St Barths, and we are just going in and walking around a bit and probably not go to any of the beaches this time. Was too tough on the heart the last time.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Today was another day at Devils Island (Isle Royale) and being this was our fifth time here, and not much else we could see on the island, we stayed onboard today and won two more trivia’s. We have been on a roll the last few days and today we won hats and bags. (at least no more luggage tags). We really enjoy our trivia team; we have a couple from Texas and one from Washington traveling together. They had met on a past cruise and have traveled together on a couple more.
We have gotten hooked on Sudoku: the library puts out three new ones each day, each with a increasing degree of difficulty. Surprisingly Judy and I do them together very well, because we look at the numbers differently, so we have been breezing through most of them pretty quickly.
We continue to meet new people and have had breakfast and lunch with very interesting people. We have a lady on board who joined this ship in 2007 and stays on it permanently. The cruise staff really caters to her and there is even a picture of her near the dining room.
Tomorrow, another sea day and we are having lunch with the Captain and his staff for being one of the forty most traveled passengers on this cruise.
Friday, February 19, 2010
We have spent the last two days at sea enjoying the Royal Princess and the great staff and friends we have made. We have been going back to trivia (I guess we are both tired of reading) and have won three of the last four (I know we don’t need anymore luggage tags). I think we go because we enjoy the people we play with.
We passed over the equator again without seeing the line, maybe it was because the captain came on and told us that the line was a little red this time because of the weather and we were looking for the black line, oh well, maybe next time.
We have really come to like this small ship, we never wait in line for anything including elevators (which the ship only has four of), the staff is extremely friendly and we have come to know may of them. One of our favorites is Natasha, she is one of the dancers and also on the cruise staff. She is from Australia, and extremely good dancer and interesting to talk with. Tonight another formal night, yuck, six of them on this trip.
Tomorrow, Devils Island.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today we visited Boca Da Valeria for the second time and took back all the pictures we took and had developed onboard. Three girls recognized us as we arrived at the dock, and guided us to their house with a couple of stops along the way to drop off some other pictures.
When we arrived at their house, Judy pulled out the pictures and showed them to the mother who was extremely happy and of course the girls were really amused and grabbed their pictures quickly and couldn’t stopped giggling as they walked us the whole way back to the dock.
This turned into an amazing adventure for Judy and me. We put big smiles on faces of both grownups and youngsters. Judy had a great idea when she decided to this before we left home.
Tomorrow, another visit to Santarem, not sure we are going to do anything but still having a good time.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
After hearing much about the Boi Bomba, today was our day to go, and we surely wern;t disappointed. Boi Bomba is actually held in June and is the second largest celebration in Brazil. Boi Bomba pits the blue followers against the red followers in the samba. Thousands of people compete for each side and it turns into a competition of dance, costumes, and extremely elaborate and large animated creatures, with some of these being huge. We got a one hour sample of what happens in June (the one in June goes on for a week) from members of the blue followers. Our performance had more than a hundred dancers that never stopped dancing. The performance was wonderful and made us tired just watching the constant nonstop dancing. I have no idea where they get the energy, but they are all amazing.
Tomorrow, back to Boca Da Valeria, where we are looking to take back the photographs we had taken on our way here, and had printed on the ship. We hope that the people will be as excited about our recent pictures as they were of the three year old ones.
We finally met our new tablemates and they seem like a nice group, but it will be hard to beat the ones we had for the fist leg of our trip. Will let you know more as we get to know them better.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Well, the people finally are leaving to go home, and the new people have gotten on and we spent almost nine hours on boats touring the backwaters and seeing up close and personal again “The meeting of the Waters”. It is amazing to see the black water of the Rio Negro run alongside of the muddy Amazon for miles and miles without ever merging, Because the two rivers differ in several important respects (clarity, density, temperature, acidity and suspended sediments) they flow together side by side. We also seen giant lily pads, had a great lunch and toured a rubber producing farm. The guides here have been exceptional and now we are looking forward to the Boi Bomba performance in Parintins.
Well, our second day in Manaus was an interesting one. We said goodbye to our table mates last night because they had to leave at 6 this morning, but guess what, they stayed another night. Here is what happened, because of all the snow storms in the States including Atlanta, Princess charter flights which were Atlanta based could not leave, so none of the people expecting to join the ship on Saturday and the people expecting to leave couldn’t. Manaus normally has only flights out of their airport to Sao Paulo and Panama City and because they have no landing lights, only daytime flights are allowed. This seems really strange for a city of almost 2 million people. I am sure the Princess people went entirely nuts because they couldn’t get people here or get people off until Sunday. We stayed on ship all day, read, played some cribbage and commiserated with all the people who couldn’t get off. And of course we went to another on board performance of the dance group and it was even better than the first time.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
We arrived in Manaus this morning and will be here for three days. We have a tour scheduled for Sunday and we are looking forward to an all day tour into the forest.
Manaus is a large city with almost 2 million people and at one point about one hundred and twenty five years ago was considered one of the richest cities in the world. It all had to do with rubber plantations. We walked into the port which is a bustle of activity because this is the port for most commerce in and out of Manaus. It was as we remembered, lots of street side shops, not designed for tourists but for the locals. Tonight we had a folk loric show onboard and it was outstanding with lots of different kinds of dance and costumes. We said goodbye to our tablemate’s last night and tonight we will say hello to some new ones, hopefully as nice as the last group.
Friday, February 12, 2010
This morning we arrived in Parintins. This is a new port for us because the last time we came up the Amazon we bypassed this port. Parintins is famous for its Boi Bumba celebration in June. It is the largest celebration in Brazil after the Carnival in Rio. The Boi Bumba is a samba competition between several teams representing either the blue or the red groups. We will see a demonstration of this on our way back. It is funny to see coke signs both in red and blue. We tendered in to this port and after looking into several shops we decided to take a tricycle ride which is a popular mode of transportation here instead of taxis. We paid ten dollars for an hour ride and a great ride it was. I am not sure that I have ever seen so many scooters. Probably a hundred to every car that we seen. I was quite a sight when a school was letting out and moms were there with scooters picking up their kids and putting up to two of them right behind them. Everybody rode them, young, old, male and female. Tomorrow, Manaus.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Boca da Valeria is a remote village at the convergence of the Amazon and the Rio da Valeria river. Approximately 75 people live in this village, but kids and adults from all the neighboring villages come when the ship docks. Judy had come up with a neat idea which really made our day. Before we left, we went through the pictures that we had taken three years ago in this little village, we selected about 20 pictures of kids and adults in the local homes and had them printed. We brought them along and went to the homes that they were taken in and again got to see some of the adults and the kids that we had taken pictures of. Only one print of three little girls that we were not able to find, that people said they had left the village. Now we took some more pictures of the same people and we are going to get them printed on ship and when we go back to the village on our return trip, we will give them those pictures. We noticed how excited they were to get the pictures because we seen no pictures hanging on the walls. We did notice that most of the homes now have electricity run by a generator where the last time we were here, only the bar, church and school had electricity. Tomorrow: Parintins, a new port for us on the Amazon.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Today reminded us why we booked this trip again….SO JIM COULD CATCH A PIRANAH!!! And I did. Today we took a boat ride along the meeting of the waters and seen again how the people live along the Amazon. These people are extremely resilient, because a year ago the Amazon reached its highest levels in many years flooding most homes of people living along the mighty river. We could see on houses how high the water got making the people who make their living by fishing move in with relatives in the larger cities, but after the water receded they moved back into the house and started their fishing again. Now an amazing thing that happened to us today. Three years ago when we were here we remembered our guide being someone who called herself the flower lady because she wore live flowers in her hair. Today we were on boat number 3 out of nine boats and low and behold, she was our guide again. It was fun renewing the acquaintance with her and hearing her guide tips again. Tomorrow, we visit a small fishing village.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Today was crossing the Equator day, and we were goofing off and didn’t get a picture of the line again, but we will to be more vigilant on the way back. Seafaring tradition maintains that all that cross the equator during a nautical voyage must undergo rites of passage and elaborate rituals initiating them into the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. Those who have never “crossed the line” are derisively referred to as “pollywogs”. After the ceremonies people are known as “Trusty Shellbacks” and as we have been through the ceremony before, that is what we are called and did not have to go through the initiation. We watched with amazement as the current “pollywogs” were initiated and of course took pictures of the whole thing. It is always fun with a lot of people getting extremely dirty and wet.
Tomorrow we are in Santarem and have a excursion booked that hopefully will let me catch my first Piranha. Details tomorrow.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Devils Island is actually made up of three islands: Royale Island, St Joseph Island and “Lies du Diablo (Devils’ Island) off the coast of French Guyana. These 3 islands were part of the notorious French penal colony in French Guyana. We were not allowed on Devils Island; instead we toured the penal facilities on Isle Royale. There are cells, administrative offices, hospital and other facilities there. They are just remnants of the original, but still interesting. We also saw lots of Monkeys, exotic birds and an animal called the “agouti” which looks like a very large rat, probably about 2 feet long. It is tough to catch a picture of, but Judy got one.
We have really been enjoying the production shows onboard. They are doing some of the same shows that we have seen before, but doing it without the big stages and sets. Because this is a small sip, the singers and dancers that do the shows also work as cruise directors, so we have met them up close and personal.
Tomorrow, the mouth of the Amazon and the adventure continues.
Friday, February 5, 2010
We arrived in Trinidad without a shore excursion booked and being this is really a big city with a huge dock, we decided we would wait until the way back to go into the city. We spend the morning reading and visiting and then Judy decided that she wanted to walk into town, I decided to stay on the ship and read. The city is getting ready for Carnival which happens next week, and Judy said there were booths set up and people were selling things for Carnival all over the place. Judy even tried on one of the headdresses. Tomorrow a day at sea, and then on Saturday, arrival at Devils Island. We attended another show last night and the staff does a great job with the sets that are available.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Today we were in St Lucia. We were here in November and took an island tour at that time, so we just walked into the port area and didn’t buy a thing. We have been doing a lot of laying by the pool or on the outside decks and reading. We are enjoying the Royal Princess and every day we find more things that we like about it. Because of its smallness, we are not only meeting lots of people over and over again, but getting to know the staff because they come to all the functions just to sit and chat. We are among the forty most traveled passengers again so we get to have lunch with the Captain on Sunday. Tomorrow, Trinidad and we might see if we can get a local tour because we have nothing scheduled with Princess.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Not sure what I can say about St Barth’s except yachts, mansions, expensive stores and topless beaches. St Barth’s is the cleanest best kept island in the Caribbean that we have visited and it is French, and they are not known for that. We saw a 400 million dollar yacht that is owned by a Russian oil magnate that is named for his wife Alexandra with a very big A for its name. Most of the stores in the downtown area are in the Gucci class and the restaurants there get over 25 Euros for lunch. It’s a very expensive place, but extremely beautiful. Of course I enjoyed the topless beaches where Judy got a picture of me staring at this lady laying on the beach. There was a little girl who spoke French who was telling Judy in French to throw the shells in the water, she was a little cutie and was nude and her mother topless, any of you guys want to move to St Barths.
Monday, February 1, 2010
We have had another wonderful day on the Royal Princess. We have come to appreciate the small number of passengers. We spent time around the pool, with no trouble getting a recliner, and it seems like there are no lines for anything. We did attend a couple of trivia’s, but with no wins. We have decided that we are going to spend more time around the pool, getting some sun and relaxing, not running around from here to here, now this could change on the way back, but for now even Judy is enjoying the pool and reading. We had wine tasting today, of course tasting the same wines as always but we still enjoy the wine and the free glass. Tomorrow is St Bart’s, the star hangout in the Caribbean and probably the most expensive place we will visit on this trip, the place is filled with celebrities and expensive hotels. We don’t have a excursion scheduled there, but are going to walk into town and snoop around a bit. Who knows maybe we will sight some celebs. We are having a great time, and have met some fun people.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
After a very uneventful bus ride (thank goodness) on the cruise connection we arrived with a lot of anticipation at the small ship named the Royal Princess. This is the smallest ship we have ever been on (it holds 700 passengers) so we were not sure what to expect. First the ship was acquired by Princess from the bankrupt Renaissance Cruise line. When we arrived the boarding process was superb, because of so few passengers, we literally walked right on. We went right to our room (which is an outside) and we were very surprised. The room was bigger (not by much) then the other Princess ships land all in walnut with ample storage space. After giving the room a thumbs up, we started exploring the rest of the ship, and again we were impressed. The Library is the largest and most beautiful we have ever seen with over 4000 hardbound books. The ship has many secluded spots and wonderful little bars. Our departing from Ft Lauderdale was great and we met our table mates for the first time at dinner ( a couple from Indiana and a couple from Florida) and they are well traveled so I am sure we will enjoy them a lot. Watched a good comedian last night and hit the bed early. After a long day, even Judy was ready for bed at 10:30. Tomorrow, a day at sea and a chance to explore the ship even more.
Monday, January 4, 2010
I just wanted to jot down a few things about visiting Brazil. First you need a visa. You can get a visa by using a surrogate company, these are people that you pay to travel to a Brazilian embassy and get the visa for you. These are typically expensive ($300 or more) and take time. Brazil sets up their fees to match what the country of residence charges Brazilian citizens, which in the case of the United States is $100. We personally visited the Brazilian Embassy in Miami, dropped our passports off one day, and were able to pick up our visa and passports the next morning, total coast $100 each. The visa is good for five years. Another requirement for visiting Brazil is a yellow fever shot. This can be gotten from your local doctor or in our case from the Dept of Health. This shot is good for ten years. If you are on a cruise ship that stops in Brazil and have failed to get the visa, they will not let you onboard. The yellow fever shot can normally be gotten onboard, but should not be counted on.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
We have booked a 28 day round trip cruise a thousand miles up the Amazon on the Royal Princess. This will be our first time on a small Princess ship. The Royal Princess holds about 675 people. We have booked an outside cabin for the first time in a long time, because the rate was the same as an inside. We did find out just how good being a past passenger of Princess gets you great rates. A friend indicated an interest to go on the same cruise with us, when they tried to book the same as we did, it was fifty percent higher and because of that decided not to go.