We were sailing with Princess on the “Brazilian Adventure” cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires, a 19 night cruise. The larger majority of passengers on board the boat were the “49ers” travelling from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.
Getting to the boat
Flights from UK fine, although glad we booked on earlier flight from Manchester to LHW to give us more time for transfer and to get something to eat.
Stayed one night at Intercontinental At Doral, Miami prior to cruise. Stayed here before & knew the locale.
Transfer to the ship – the bus was due at 12:30, although Princess rep was hoping it would arrive early at 12:15. It was late, and did not arrive until 13: 30. Not a new vehicle and lots of signs of wear & tear. On the way to Fort Lauderdale the bus broke down and another bus was sent for. The passengers all helped to unload the luggage in preparation for the transfer to the second bus.
We arrived at the port and were pretty much the last to arrive, and were at the end of a very long queue. Due to the fact that a lot of passengers (not those from the UK) required visas for Brazil and Argentina there was stringent checking, which took much longer than normal. Also, the usual “priority Boarding” system used for Platinum and Elite passengers had been abandoned. Once we actually got to the check-in desk (which took 1.5 hours) we were checked in and through in 2 minutes! We got to our cabin just in time to pick up our life vests and go to the emergency drill.
We were in Cabin D719, which was a mini-suite with a balcony. It was a good size and presented as you would expect. Our cabin steward was called Edsel, and as expected he provided excellent service .
Life on board
We were by far some of the younger passengers on board the boat (with a combined age of 104).
This was the first cruise since we achieved Elite status. We had the free Mini Bar set up – 8 miniature bottles of spirits (2 each of Brandy, Whiskey, Gin and Vodka - we had the whiskey swopped for Gin) plus 2 bottles of beer, 2 cans of soda, 2 cans of tonic, two bottles of Perrier water and two small bottles of still water.
We used the free internet (we both received 250 minutes free) and the laundry/Dry cleaning service that we get for being elite.
On Formal nights (3 on this cruise) we had complementary canapés delivered to our room (although on the last one we got chocolates rather than chocolate dipped strawberries).
We also received an automatic 10% discount on anything we bought from the on-board shops/boutiques.
We went to the art auction (we had bought a piece on our last cruise on the Crown Princess in October 2013), however the franchise had been taken over by “West One”. We liked the previous way that they priced the art (the price quoted included Tax and shipping) whereas now it was usually just the purchase price with shipping & tax on top (also some did not include the frame, whilst others were “carry-offs” and sold as seen). The actual auctions could also be confusing. The only pieces we liked were way above our price range so did not buy anything this time.
It was our wedding Anniversary whilst on-board (we were married on the Star Princess) so we went to the Crown Grill to celebrate (used to be the Stirling Steak house, which was where we held our wedding reception). We had a fantastic meal (lobster and Filet for our mains) but too much food (we could not even start the anniversary cake, and the waiter (Hector) wrapped it in foil to look like a swan).
We did lots of quizzes on board, plus took part in the passenger “Olympics”.
Each day in Club Fusion they held the “Suite, Platinum and Elite” passengers cocktail event, with nibbles and the daily cocktail being at a reduced price. On the Diamond Princes this was held in the Skywalkers Bar which then has great views, however on the Crown there were so many Elite passengers they could not fit everyone into Skywalkers.
We had all but one of our evening meals in the restaurants, rather than the Horizon Court (which we often feel does not have such a great range of food) and most lunchtimes just had a slice of Pizza (it is just so very easy to over eat!). We enjoyed the food very much, and as noticed before, the nearer to the end of the cruise seemingly the better the food becomes.
After about 10 days on board there was an outbreak of Norovirus on the boat so after this all food was served to you (even salt, pepper and sugar). We were not affected by the virus and never met anyone who had been.
We got to know lots of nice people on board (one from Australia who turned out to share a very distant relation going back to the 1600 in Leeds, England).
As we had not been to any of the destinations before, we booked trips for each stop, which we did on-line as soon as they were available. We generally felt that most of the trips were over priced for what you got.
A lovely island and we did the tour including Megans Beach (where we had a couple of hours to go swimming). The views from the hills were great, and we also visited Blackbeards castle before going into the main town for shopping (lots of duty free available).
We went on a 4 wheel drive safari, which included some bits that were “off road” so bumpy but very enjoyable. The driver provided Rum Punch for everyone who wanted it, we probably had too much (one of us can not remember getting back to our cabin!). We perhaps could have done with longer at Nelsons dockyard, but a very enjoyable trip and we saw a lot of the island and got to go swimming again. This was our favourite trip overall as we saw a lot and had some fun (even without the rum!).
We did the tour that included a Mahogany workshop, the Cathedral and a plantation, with lunch included. The lunch was nice, but overall it took too long to serve and there was not much time then to actually see the plantation and house.
On a previous cruise we had visited Tobago, but found Trinidad to be a nicer island. We did the trip to Asa Wrights nature reserve which we really enjoyed as there was lots of birds and plants to see.
We did the tour that included the city tour, Olinda and Casa de Culture. Unfortunately the guide, although very nice, did not speak good English and did not use the microphone on the coach well, so we missed most of what he was saying!
Once we got to Olinda we had to change onto minibuses to get up the hill, the views were fantastic from up there. Unfortunately we had to wait 40 mins for a bus to take us down again, so by the time we go to the casa de culture (an old prison that has been turned into tourist shopping – the cells are the shops) we only had 20 minutes before we had to return to the ship. Just get a taxi & go to Olinda yourself! We complained to Princess and got a 20% refund.
When we got onboard we received a letter to advise that there was a problem with our Rio trips – for day 1 we had booked two excursions - a city tour during the day (including Sugar Loaf and Corcovada) and the Rio Sambadrome carnival for the night time. However the ship advised that the timings were too tight between these and we would have to change. We swopped the trip planned for day 2 (Jeep safari) to day 1 (no problem as this was a shorter trip), however the city trip with Sugar Loaf and Corcovada was by then fully booked for day two so we just had the city tour and Sugar Loaf.
The Jeep Safari never actually goes “off road”, for us the best bit was driving back along Leblon, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches where it was carnival “party time”!
For the Rio Carnival trip we met in the Explorers lounge to get the tickets. The organisation was not good for this, as they decided to give the tickets out to one section at a time (but then every one who had just turned up also then just joined the queue so those of us who had gotten their earlier then had to wait longer). The shore excursion staff had asked for the passengers assistance/organisation – some hope of that. It took well over an hour to hand out all of the tickets (and gifts – a seat pad, confetti, a t-shirt, a whistle, a garland and (the cheapest ever) pair of binoculars).
The Rio Carnival in the Sambadrome is spectacular. It started at 9:15 (we did not get there until 9:30 but it takes so long for the parade to walk down the Sambadrome that we had not missed anything) and we stayed for 4 of the schools to parade (and left at 1:30 am). We were in section 9 (the tourist section where you have an allocated “seat” – however there are actually no seats there – you have a numbered space on the concrete steps) and you only sit down between the parades (but take a cushion). Vendors come around between each parade selling drinks and ice creams, which is good. In the UK this stand equates to the old football terrace stands (which have now been made all seating due to safety concerns!).
The city tour included a visit to the Cathedral (similar design to the one in Liverpool), however our guide only showed us the outside as we were told it was closed (funny that, being that it was a Sunday). Other passengers told us that they went there independently and went in to see the stained glass windows. Sugar Loaf was great (apart from the queues – it took two hours in total to spend 30 minutes at the top, the actual cable car rides only take 10 mins each way) with good views. Again we raised this trip with Princess and got a 20% refund.
We did the city drive and Tocas waterfall. One of us was bitten by mosquitoes when in the toilet (even when wearing mosi repellent clothing!). To be honest, we would just walk around the town next time (or go on a boat trip).
Leaving the Boat
We were scheduled to leave the boat in Buenos Aires around 7:30 for our trip to the airport and flight home. We left the lounge at 7:40 but when we got to the terminal we had to wait 10 minutes for one of our cases to arrive. We were on the bus at 8:20, but some passengers still had not got their luggage and it was 9:00 before the bus actually left. We had only been travelling for 10 minutes when the bus turned around and went back to the terminal as 4 passengers had received the wrong disembarkation instructions and should have been on our bus. We left the terminus again at 9:20 and at 9:40 we hit a traffic jam. We were luck as our flight was not until 14:25, but the 4 passengers who we had to go back for were on an 11:30 flight. We eventually got to the airport at 11:25, having been sat on the bus for over 3 hours and with no toilet available!
Our flights home were good (but tiring - 13 hours from Buenos Aires to Heathrow then a two hour wait before our connection to Manchester).
We really enjoyed the cruise and the itinerary, but this was the “Cruise of the Queue”. This may perhaps be because this particular repositioning cruise does not happen very often so staff were not familiar with how things worked, however we felt that the general organisation from Princess was not up to their usual standard.