When I sat down to write my final thoughts for this cruise, I had a hard time knowing where to start. My thoughts are a bit of a jumble as there were both high and low points on this cruise. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the cruise, it’s just that it had challenges that were different than any other trip we have taken. I think the best way to organize my thoughts is to start with some memories of the high points of the cruise. There were two highlights of this cruise that made it one of our best cruises.
First off, being in Rio for Carnival was something I will always remember. It wasn’t on my bucket list, and before we booked this cruise I wasn’t really interested in going. But what a surprise! It was great, and now I know why everyone loves Carnival in Rio. On top of just being in Rio for Carnival, visiting the Sambadrome for the Samba parade was one of those "experiences of a lifetime" for us.
Many, many years ago my Dad took me to a World Series game at Dodger Stadium between the Yankees and the Dodgers. The Dodgers were ahead by one run with two out in the ninth inning, and Dodger pitcher Bob Welch was facing the feared Reggie Jackson. The intensity and excitement of the crowd was electrifying and when he struck out Reggie Jackson to end the game, the crowd became one, and the intensity and release of emotion was overpowering. I will never forget that feeling, and being in the Sambadrome gave me a similar feeling. The intensity in the Sambadrome wasn’t as instantaneous or focused, but it was over a much longer period of time. The samba music blasting through the speakers, the intense colors, the dancing, singing and excitement of the crowd just carried you away. The experience is very hard to describe. I won’t belabor this as I wrote extensively about that night in my blog post on the Sambadrome, but I will say once again, for us it was one of those experiences of a lifetime.
The other highlight of this trip was our journey up the Amazon. Seeing the Amazon was the reason we booked this cruise and it not only lived up to our expectations, it exceeded them. The immensity of the river is awe inspiring and seeing the unique culture and life along the Amazon was equally fascinating. I can’t pinpoint any one thing specific about it that we liked the most, it was just the overall experience of traveling on the Amazon. Although it was a very different experience than the one in the Sambadrome, it was also something we will never forget.
The other cities we saw in Brazil were all on the coast and known mostly for their beaches. They were interesting and we enjoyed our visits, but they tended to blend together. The focus was on the beaches and for whatever reason, there seemed to be no tours outside the cities and into the countryside. I don’t know whether it was the lack of tourist infrastructure or interest, but all the tours seemed focused on city tours or the beaches. The beaches are wonderful, but I wanted to see more of the countryside.
The Caribbean Islands we visited were beautiful and interesting, but somehow seemed like an afterthought as we were so focused on our visit to Brazil and the Amazon. We talked to quite a few people who felt the same way as we did. We did enjoy our visits to the various islands, but nothing stands out. I think we will have to take a dedicated Caribbean cruise to really appreciate them.
For all the wonderful things we did on this cruise, there were some negatives. First off, before we even went we had to get shots for yellow fever and a prescription for malaria pills; that was a bit scary. There were also the safety concerns in the Brazilian cities that we were constantly reminded of. We never really had any trouble, but it was always in the back of our minds and there were a few people that did have some problems.
The worst part of the trip by far was the constant heat and humidity. It wasn’t bad in the Caribbean, but as soon as we neared the equator it got very bad. The combination of heat and humidity just wore us down. We would start out the day thinking it wasn’t too bad, but it was just relentless and you couldn’t escape it. Thank goodness most of the buses we rode on had decent air conditioning, but most of the shops, museums, etc. had very little, if any type of cooling. Although where we live can be very hot in the summer, there is very little humidity so we are just not used to it.
This is getting far longer than I had intended, but there is one more thing I wanted to write about. I turned 71 on this trip and it depressed me a bit to think about how old I was getting, but I also thought about how lucky I was and what a great wife and life I have. Before I retired in 2012, Val and I had been overseas once and that was a work trip to France. Since I retired we have visited over 40 countries; we have spent Val’s birthday in Norway, our anniversary in Greenland, Thanksgiving in Sardinia and now, my birthday in Brazil. We are truly lucky and although I hate getting older I have to remember what my dad always told me, “it beats the alternative”. Anyway, thanks to Val for making my birthday so special and being such a wonderful travel companion. Travel just wouldn’t be so special without her.
As far as upcoming trips go, we have trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe planned for the summer, but our next big trip (and blog entry) will be a road trip to British Columbia this fall. We will be taking a two week train trip through the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer, and when we return from that we will spend a little over a week exploring Vancouver Island. That’s it for now. Congratulations if you’ve read to the end of this post and the lengthy blog post about our trip to the Caribbean/Brazil/Amazon. As always, we’ll see you on down the road.