This was a cruise that opened up a totally different world to me and that is what really made it special... from the over the top production of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro to the basic life of the Amazon. Holland America had a great itinerary. Going to the Sambadrome was an experience of a lifetime - although expensive, it was worth every cent! Then traveling the Amazon was on a totally different track with the focus on basic living. The variety of the ports made it very interesting.
Food was a step better than on previous Holland America cruises. Life on board was good, but there could have been more and more varied activities.
Only real criticism was the shore excursion director. He did not seem to be on top of the tour guides and when this was pointed out, his people skills seemed lacking. Several of us guests had issues with him. He also did not promote the Brazilian way of life... I tired of his remark to "lower your expectations" for Brazil. BUT, an More
exuberant travel guide and Brazil itself more than made up for him.
Embarkation was long- moved slowly through the ship to the showroom for our papers-they need to work on doing this better... did not use port facilities that were available.
Disembarkation was a disaster. Almost 3 hours to get through customs - There were few agents to start with and on top of that, the number of wheelchairs that were all ushered to the front of the line was unbelievable.... Saw so many people who had never had showed any mobility issues in wheelchairs - guess they had learned to work the system. Less
Manaus in the last city on the Amazon that most cruise ships travel to from the west. It is a big city that is the hub for this area. It is also where rivers meet and one of the most interesting things to see is what they call the "meeting of the waters." The Amazon muddy color meets a blue river and the two have different PH factors and they have a real process of the mixing of the rivers. It is so visual and dynamic.
Manaus also has a beautiful Opera House from the rubber baron days that should not be missed- You can easily walk to it and tour it without the shore excursion.
It also had some great tours back into the rainforest on small boats where you truly saw the rainforest way of life, many birds and giant water lilies.