We are both seasoned cruisers and have been to many shores. Our bucket list included sailing the Amazon and the Maasdam fit the list. Although older and smaller than a lot of newer ships, the size was perfect for this venue. We love the Indonesian crew and an air of calmness greeted us as we came aboard in Rio. The ship had already sailed about 23 days from Ft. Lauderdale so we joined a group already bonded. However, we were made to feel welcome and made new friends easily. Being part of the group was easy and all of us were made to feel that the adventure was still happening. Our Cruise Director, Linda, was wonderful and was every where all of the time. Daniel, our activities director, also did an outstanding job, and pinch hit for the person who wasn't allowed on the ship by Brazilian authorities who was to give us the fauna and flora of the Amazon. Indeed, the antics of the Brazilian "authorities" over the length of the tour was mind boggling and made one wonder if Brazil would or could be ready for the Olympics!
We did the usual shipboard activities and enjoyed the small outdoor pool on the 10th deck as the weather was hot or hotter! We made friends at the Crows Nest every evening and enjoyed the attention of Richard and coworkers. We are not much show people as we enjoyed a late dinner, but the show were well attended.
Our service was very good. It is evident that HAL is cutting back on number of service people, especially in Rotterdam dining room for breakfast and lunch, but our dinner experience was outstanding due to our wonderful waiter, Paul, and his team. Our room stewards Gede and Made were terrific and made sure we had our ice bucket full. Having said that, the Indonesian crew was wonderful and tried their best to keep up the high standards. Our captain, James Russell-Dunford, gave us up to date information and in his dry British humor kept us apprised of the latest "Brazilian authorities" updates. The IT department was very adequate and the director had the patience of Job dealing with us non-techies in our camera and IT problems. Us ladies had a good time with the staff in the jewelry department wtih the raffles and presentations. The stores on board had a rather dismal display of very uninspiring $10 items - we were a captive audience and much could be done to spark up this area.
We had good port presentations and lots of TLC in making decisions on which tour to take. Daniel warned us not to have high expectations in a nice way. Really, you need to take a tour in an area where the language is a problem and there is more than a chance you will get lost or visited by a pickpocket! Indeed, we were warned constantly not to wear any jewelry while on land and be on our guard. We did have a few guests who were relieved of their cameras! We usually try to eat a few meals wherever we are but this time we decided to stick to the ship's excellent cuisine. We always took water with us and were very careful about drinking anything with ice cubes on land. The only tour that did not live up to billing was the Buzios visit - the town did not open up for lunch until later - was a beautiful spot but didn't click with us. The tours in Santarem and Barbados and Dominica were excellent and we learned much about local culture, history as well as what we were viewing.
There were not children on board so no children's activities. However, we had a little red headed angel on board who celebrated his first birthday with us. His Mommy was a ship's officer on duty and Daddy watched him like a hawk. Little Thomas had about 1000 grandparents,and learned to walk over a few days. He participated in the Crew goodbye and brought us to tears as he walked out on the stage!
Unfortunately, since we had only the guarantee of a room in our class, we ended up practically opposite the laundry room. Since the laundry room on another floor was closed we had non stop activity from 0700 to 2300 daily! No one seemed to notice the sign that said Quiet and no congregating on hallway!
Really one of the worst experiences we have had in leaving a ship was our lot this time in Flt. Lauderdale. We have been through process untold times here and never had this experience. I think we were in a "sequester" operation and were not even allowed off the ship until 10:15 only to be collected and told to sit in a room for anther 30 min, then into a giant line. Thank goodness we were US citizens - it went much faster. Foreigners were in a huge line. There were only 4 stations open for the customs people. People with an early flight were sure to be late!
This was a real adventure! Aside from the Caribbean islands, our focus was Brazil, and the mighty Amazon. Learning about Brazil, it's culture and history was fascinating and really what we came for. We did cruise in luxury and our ship was a welcome respite to all of the heat and humidity we experienced. Our little band of passengers bonded well and we all felt that we had indeed had a better understanding of this part of the world at the end of our cruise.Ports
Armacao dos Buzios - this was a lovely almost Mediterranean island near Rio. Many cariocas from Rio come here. No good tours here. Go later in the morning to catch lunch on the shore
Salvador da Bahia - settled by slaves and a very black population. But lots of colonial architecture remains and good photo ops including the ladies with big white skirts. There is an upper and lower city. Take a walking tour - not too strenuous. The lower city has a good craft market.
A great place for shopping and feeling much safer than some of the other ports. You can walk to most of the shopping areas- a lot of handcrafts are very well made and the vendors are not in your face. Central Market is nice for browsing nice things.
First stop on the Amazon. We took a very good tour which took in the market place, dock, rubber trees, short rain forest walk, manioc lore, and Alter Do Chao. We had a very good guide and learned all things about the area. Very good trip.
Boca da Valeria
This is a cruise ship only stop. These indigenous people live in the area, and dress up for the ships passengers. The kids are cute but know how to beg. The tender deposits you on a dicey platform depending on the weather - how wet or dry. It is total photo op!
Small town on the way out of the Amazon. They do a Carnaval type show for the cruise passengers - quite a production with the costumes and color. The town has good shopping on the dock and a cool beer can be had on a cool veranda. No tour here.
Alter do Chao
Really a calm quiet little town. We tendered in and actually got to swim in a beautiful tributary to the Amazon - beautiful clear water and a white sandy beach. Another cool beer opportunity here and very restful.
Very civilized, claean, and people actually speaking that you can understand. Had a good tour and ended up at the Sunbury Plantation where we were treated to rum punch and fish cakes! kkWe were happy campers when we came back. After the stress of Brazil it felt like we out of prison.Nice shopping and people.
Very Lush, volcanic isle with soaring mountains, waterfalls, and pools. We had a nice guide and hiked to 2 waterfalls and the kEmerald Pool. A good hike, but worth while because of the view. Waterfront row is safe - restaurants, bars, vendors and plice presence. Easy to get around.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Very civilized. Dock area completely redone and everything you need it there. No tour here - we just walked off ship and took a water taxi over to the main part of town. Ther is a lovely beach there, restaurnats, bars, shopping. Very well policed andyou can spend a long time there and on the dock, which has alot of the same shops there.