The gold standard for cruising for me will perhaps remain the Seabourn Legend Indonesian cruise in that it was my first sea cruising experience in February of 2012, and the ship is delightfully small and intimate. It was followed by the larger, but same sized, Regent Navigator's San Francisco to NYC in September of 2012, Seabourn Sojourn's Buenos Aires to Valparaiso in December of 2012, and then this trip. All four of the experiences have of course been very positive.
I was attracted to the March trip because of the Amazon component, where about trip, like going around Indonesia, made such great sense. We visited places like, Parati, Buzios, Vitoria, Recife, Natal, Santarem, Anavilhanas, Parintins, Alter do Chao that most land or air travellers would most likely not get to see. We did not revisit Buenos Aires before the cruise because we had just been there and three nights at the incomparable Hotel das Cataratas in Iguazu Falls (Brazilian side) were too hard to resist. We did not redo Montevideo but instead journeyed for two and a half hours to Francis Melman's highly touted restaurant El GarzÃ³n, a memorable but hideously expensive experience that I do not at all regret. The remaining stops on the twenty day leg of the trip were all in Brazil, many in the Amazon: colorful colonial towns, rediscovering bustling Rio after 30 years, beach resorts, revisiting Bahia, relatively small towns in the Amazon, the impeccable Opera House in Manaus, batucada and dancing in the streets, muqueca de peixe, all we're memorable. The fifteen day follow up, besides continuing the Amazon adventure with the delightful Boi Bimba show in Parintins as a Brazilian highlight offered the variety of the Caribbean, from Devil's Island and charming Guadeloupe to rhythmic Barbados, toney St. Barts, and slurping caviar in the surf in the British a Virgin Islands. The two legs of the trip complemented each other beautifully, and I would not have considered doing just one.
As for the ship experience, it was superb. The food, mostly consumed in The Restaurant, is wonderful; the portions are small, the food is beautifully presented, there is a lot of variety,and the service is personal and attentive. I personally do not care for the fussiness and preciousness of the fare in Restaurant 2, but I am glad there is an option for those into foams and molecular food. The Colonnade is also a great option, especially when doing Indian or Thai food. The meats and desserts are extraordinary. Baby lamb chops for breakfast are a treat. I mostly avoided bread, but and potatoes, but it was impossible to resist the lure of the perfect bread-sticks and the scrumptious fries. My caveats about the offerings: I was disappointed by the tuna, which, because it was frozen, did not have the moist texture I like while the sole and other fish dishes were delicious. While the pastas are wonderful, they tend to over sauce, so I would ask for half the amount and was happy as a clam. Sometimes the fresh fruit was not very sweet, sometimes it was perfect. A great option was the fruit compote. Sometimes there are no berries, but there were problems with deliveries, and besides, there is so much to choose from that it is hard to cavil over such a small issue, as some malcontents are wont to do. The one thing that needs to be improved is the black coffee served in the dining rooms. When I made my concern public, the Matre D' kindly purchased Starbucks coffee to make in a French press for us, but even that was not very good. I was too embarrassed to say anything, but finally reverted to the cappuccinos. Very good coffee is available from the barista in Seabourn Square. Despite eating such princely meals, I returned home four pounds lighter by assiduously avoiding the elevators, hitting the gym, taking excellent gym classes from the incomparable trainer Rick, and confining alcohol intake to the evening meal, with an occasional beer at noon when returning from a hot day of touring.
As for the Seabourn arranged tours, they were all good to great, although some are way too expensive for what hey deliver. And they need to develop a more rational system for disgorging passengers when there are tender ports. The situation was exacerbated the second half of the trip by the skein of rabid Luxembourgeois that seemed to think that size makes right. They do not understand the word "queue.". Seabourn trucked us all gratis to the Boi Bimba show and did a marina day with caviar that were spectacular. Fellow passengers not happy with their tours complained and were reimbursed as far as I know. Doing visits on your own is a great, cheaper option, particularly when you speak the languages, which I do: Portuguese, French, and Spanish.
I would heartily recommend this trip to adventurous, open-minded people who can take the heat and can appreciate differences. A cruise, while restricting you to coasts, is an excellent, efficient, and highly comfortable way to visit this wonderful part of the world.