Having made our own way to Sao Paulo, we caught up with the RCI rep at the airport and were advised when the bus transfer would commence. Although this was another hour to wait, the rep explained the choice was either to wait at the airport or at the cruise terminal as boarding would not commence until 11am.
The bus journey took just under a couple of hours but we were pleasantly surprised by some of the breathtaking scenery that appeared about an hour into the journey. They area is clearly busy, but the dual carriageway road network helped keep traffic moving well without impetuous drivers risking overtaking. This seemed commonplace throughout our various ports of call.
Having pre-registered online, the check-in process was relatively quick and painless, although we had to fill in the credit paperwork manually, despite having done so online - one of those unnecessary frustrations after 18+ hours of travelling. We then were transported to the ship but could not access the cabins (or staterooms as they call them) until 1pm. Then there was the frustrating wait for cases to be delivered to the rooms. One suggestion would be to make sure that you access your cases before checking in and getting a change of clothes etc.
We soon met our room attendant, who was very pleasant, as were all the staff. We reported a flickering light and were delighted to find it had been repaired by the time we returned later in the afternoon. We had a problem with the room safe later in the cruise, and this was sorted within 15mins. The attendant was always smiling, very efficient, and left varying towel decorations every other night. Wet/dirty towels were replaced twice a day whether you wanted then changed or not.
Despite being due to go into dry dock next year, the 14 year old ship seemed to be well maintained, and there was always someone with a paintbrush in their hand! There was regular entertainment around the open air pool, and many people took part in the various games that the team arranged.
The solarium pool generally seemed cool due to air conditioning, but at least it was guaranteed to be wind free. That said, it was popular and had its own bar and hot snacks area.
We regularly used the aft deck for sunbathing, as it was generally shaded, and quiet, although the music was occasionally played when the climbing wall was in use.
The top deck was well used by those undertaking their daily constitutional walk - 4laps/mile! There were several days when we were sailing into strong head winds which meant that there was a combined wind speed of 60+mph!!
There was a good range of exercise equipment which was was very well used, especially on sea days.
Each evening before dinner we enjoyed a cocktail in the schooner bar. The staff were very nice and chatty, and there was usually a guitarist, or pianist playing.
Constantine arranged the my time dining table allocations wonderfully efficiently, and apart from the first couple of evening we just turned up as and when we were ready. We were free to choose to sit alone, or with English speaking guests. We were happy with the flexibility and with the people that Constantine sat us with, especially as we did sit with some of them more than once.
The restaurant staff were very helpful and accommodating, the choice of meals fair, and well presented. One frustration that we had was having to sign for drinks as we ordered them, rather than waiting till the end of the meal. We commented on this on the mid cruise questionnaire, and were pleasantly surprised when it was commented on by Constantine and the head waiter. For the rest of the cruise we signed at the end of the meal! :)
The meals in the buffet style windjammer restaurant were wide ranging and always freshly restocked. The biggest problem was finding a table at times, but turnover was quite quick.
Occasionally there were lunchtime barbeques, or paella, around the open air pool and they always proved popular.
The Captain made daily announcements about weather, sea conditions, and progress which were very informative. The six days crossing the Atlantic were not too bumpy, and broken up by passing archipelago Fernando de Noronha and Cape Verde. The only other thing we saw was a flock of albatross that flew alongside the ship till the equator.
As for entertainment generally, it either suited or it didn't (a Spanish Elvis was not our taste!). It was always varied, and there was no show without Claudia, the cruise director! The shows in the theatre were always professionally presented. There was a lot of promotion of art sales, and bingo, neither of which appealed to us
We did go on a couple of shore excursions which were well organised, but we did our own thing on Madeira, and enjoyed the experience much more cheaply.
Tips were prepaid, and although there was supposed to be a 15% service charge added to each bill (we were still on Brazilian mode and didn't get charged), there was the opportunity to add a further tip when signing!
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and staff did everything they could to make sure that we did so.
The cabin was well laid out. The bathroom was compact but it worked, and there was a good water flow on the shower.
There was plenty of storage space and the cases fir neatly under the bed. Ok the TV is old, but it worked
The beds were very comfortable and it would be nice if the windows were cleaned but that's asking too much!
The safe was free, quite easy to program, and served a useful purpose