Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company's website at www.crus-sun.com.
Dec. 20 & 21 — When you get down to the last few days of a fairly long (14 day) cruise, it’s hard to believe how fast the time went, or how many books you thought you would read or activities you would participate in that never materialized. However, you are probably the most relaxed you’ve been in a long time, and amazed at the variety of the sights you’ve seen and in such comfort. It also gets you thinking of your favorite memories and what locations you would like to come back to for a repeat visit in the future. And of course it’s always hard to say farewell to the cabin stewards and waiters that endlessly spoil you and anticipate all of your needs.
Dec. 22 — The port calls on this trip were so spectacular that it would not be fair to say we saved the ‘best for last’ — but Rio de Janeiro, Brasil could easily fit this description.
The photos you often see of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ and Sugarloaf mountain, and the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, cannot capture the truly exotic setting of this vibrant city. If you can sail into Rio during the daylight hours as we did then you are in for a treat as the silhouettes of the mountain ranges and islands come into view. The ancient volcanic landscape is somewhat reminiscent of Hawaii or the islands of the South Pacific. Then you start to see the outlines of the skyscrapers and beaches and can start to make out ‘Christ the Redeemer’ on the hilltop.
The city sprawls for miles over this volcanic landscape and can look daunting at first. So the best way to start to uncover the real ‘gems’ of Rio is to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, high on Corcovado mountain, which was completed in 1931. It was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Brasil’s independence, but took six extra years to finish. The statue is over 30 meters high. You can reach the top of the mountain via a winding road or a train.
You wind through the heart of the city and enter the Tijuca Tropical Rainforest Reserve, which incredibly goes on for acres in the midst of this large, throbbing city. Once you make it to the top you’ll see the remarkable statue — up close and personal — and panoramic views of the city that will enthrall you and help you to find your bearings and learn the layout of this metropolis. Hopefully you’ll have a clear, sunny day as we did to enjoy this.
Then, the next ‘must see’ sight is the famed ‘Sugarloaf’ mountain. The summit of Sugarloaf is reached via two sets of cable cars, which have been in operation since 1912. Again, the views are stupendous and since you’re almost out on an island in the bay you’ll have lovely sea breezes to cool you off on a hot day. It’s a great way to see the layout of the city and all the world famous beaches.
And speaking of beaches, many neighborhoods of Rio have their own ‘neighborhood beach’ — each with its own character and flavor. Most visitors flock to Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon beaches where you’ll find many of the fine hotels, restaurants and shopping areas. The beaches are fairly wide and filled with soft sand. Locals and visitors mingle from the early morning hours until late in the evening. So many beaches makes Rio a very ‘fun’ and ‘casual’ city.
Their largest celebrations are Carnival — whichis held right before Lent, usually in February — and New Year’s Eve.The city and many of its citizens spend much of the year preparing for these special events. Food and drink are also key ingredients in the Rio de Janeiro culture, and there’s no better way to experience this than by dining at a local churrascaria. This is an ‘all you can eat’ Brazilian Steakhouse where it is best to bring your appetite. Along with a bountiful buffet of many types of salads, soups and seafood, the main attraction is the large quantity and excellent quality of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausages and more. These excellent cuts of meat are brought directly to your tables on skewers by waiters who will keep the food coming until you put up your ‘stop’ sign. Accompany this with some of the excellent South American wines and you’ll have an enjoyable gastronomic memory to sustain you and think back on.