We sailed from Manaus down the Amazon for several days before stopping at several Brazilian coastal ports, then Montevideo and Buenos Aires. We happened to book the same hotel the ship used, Caesar Business, in Manaus, and it was a 3 star ... Read More
We sailed from Manaus down the Amazon for several days before stopping at several Brazilian coastal ports, then Montevideo and Buenos Aires. We happened to book the same hotel the ship used, Caesar Business, in Manaus, and it was a 3 star hotel with a nice breakfast. We took a taxi to the port, a few miles away.
The ship was familiar to the others in the fleet. Very well decorated and meticulously kept.
Our first stop when checking in was friendly and painless; we felt immediately at home. We met the Cruise Director, Jan, and her assistant, Ashley, who turned out to be the hardest working cruise staff we've seen. They were everywhere; and they were former singers who were also very entertaining.
Our suite was immaculate and included bottles of our favorite liquor as we started. The bathrooms were amazing; marble everywhere and a tub for soaking in the afternoon with a glass of wine.
The crew on this ship, as we had experienced on the Odyssey, was very friendly, unhurried, and welcoming. Everyone seemed to be very happy to see us, and it was infectious. Passengers coming from all over the world took the cue and greeted each other warmly.
The dining facilities were fantastic; Theme dinners in the Colonnade dining room and, in the main dining room; well prepared dishes with moderate portions served so that we had time to meet and converse with fellow diners. We met many people who became friends.
The ship's entertainment was much better than we'd expected; very talented singers, lounge acts and musicians. Dmitri and his small band sounded like a big band.
We participated in the Trivia and it was very entertaining, with Jan and Ashley officiating.
We used the gym and hot tubs daily. The gym was well appointed and you could always find a machine to use. We had breakfast delivered several time and it was surprisingly well done; white tablecloths on our verandah table and silver and all the appointments. The bar staff was always friendly and efficient.
We had a pianist, Rogerio, and a cellist, Andrew, who were fantastic. Very surprised and delighted to get such stars on a small ship.
The trip up the Amazon was not as exciting as we'd expected. The river is wide and muddy, with not much chance to see wildlife. We took a tour at Santarem to see a local farm and watch manioc and rubber preparation. The towns along the river were interesting but trashy.
Fortaleza had a couple of sights, including the market and Cathedral. One highlight, at Natal, was the dune buggy we booked on our own (picked up a dune buggy outside the port for a fraction of the ship tour price) Great tours of the local beaches and a real E ticket trip among the dunes.
We took the ship's tour of Recife/Olinda on buses. Nice tour but we think we could have done better with a private car, and for much less.
Buzios was nice, but it poured down hard and the ship almost pulled up it's anchor while we were in port. Several tours were cancelled and money was refunded.
Ilhabela was very nice. Great beaches and lovely places to drink Cerveza and enjoy the view.
Here's a tip: The ship had 3 fantastic guest lecturers. One of them, Dr. Roger Luckenbach, was an expert at all the ports. Before I left the U.S., I downloaded maps from CityMapstoGo, an iPhone app. When Roger mentioned a likely spot to visit in any city, I marked it on my map and was able to "connect the dots" on a walking tour. The iPhone has a native GPS built in and it only needs a local map for navigation. Wifi not needed. Great App! Plus, Roger was an entertaining and endlessly informative guide.
Two other lecturers added greatly to the trip. Dr. Ian Dalziel gave insightful lectures on the topography and underlying geology of South America. Dr. Don Goldsmith; who we had the privilege to dine with one night, is an amazing astronomer/astrophysicist. We had only a couple of nights of clear weather for southern hemisphere "stargazing," but they were highlights of the trip.
Rio was great. We succumbed to a "private car" from one of the jewelry companies in Rio (we met a rep, Christian, on the ship) After a tour of the store and a look at the jewelry (and a purchase, but that's not necessary) they provided us a driver and guide for the whole day. We were able to see the highlights of Rio, including a trip up Sugarloaf. We were a little disconcerted when we were told how much of Rio was considered unsafe for walking, but the city itself was amazing. We booked a ship's tour of a Samba show; the show itself was fantastic once it started. The trip to the show and the delay were worth it; but I think it was probably a $75 show that we paid $150 for.
Montevideo was a great town; we took the Alchemist/Tango show there, with highlights of the city and we were well satisfied. We debarked the ship at Buenos Aires (sadly) and spent four days touring this fantastic city before flying home. Disembarkation very unhurried and calm. One sad note; when you leave the ship at Buenos Aires; if you have private arrangements, you are steered to a taxi line which overcharges you. We paid 25 dollars up front for a four mile taxi ride to our hotel. Didn't seem to be any alternative.
In short; we LOVE this cruise line. They don't hassle you to buy anything; tips are not expected, everything is uncrowded and unhurried. The crew passes this relaxed vibe along to the passengers and everyone is well behaved and polite. You get the feeling you are on a private yacht that happens to have some other passengers on board. The sense of pride in the ship and the cruise line is palpable. Congratulations to all!
My recommendations: Book your own private car tours when possible, before leaving home. Get the CityMapstoGo app and mark your favorite spots. Read Less