Sunday, April 22, 2012

Personal Reflections of This Voyage to South America


  • I loved the itinerary and the different ports of call, the languages, the wildlife, the variety of climate, and the views

  • Really enjoyed the port lecturer Joe May he was very interesting and helpful, he was always approachable no matter where you saw him on board.  He is an asset to this ship and itinerary.  Now there is another lecturer Wesley Smith who we have sailed with before who as soon as I heard him on this trip I recognized him.  He has some interesting stuff to say but his very very right wing political message comes out in every lecture.  In fact a lot of people walk out of his lecture because of his comments.  He even had the never to say that the tree huggers are overreacting and their slanted views costs billions of dollars to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Needless to say I walked out of his lecture.  He really needs to keep his lectures free of his political views.

  • The ship is beautiful and love sailing the Star and would not hesitate to sail on her again.  Things I love about this ship are the new layout of Horizon Court with the dessert/bread/toast section separate from the main food area and the layout of the tables, I love the extra pool at the back of the ship on deck 16.  Things I dislike about this ship:  hard to think of one but wish that the Wheelhouse was larger.

  • Found both specialty restaurants to be lacking in staff and this affected the service in the five times we visited them.  Often it took a long time for wine to be refilled, orders to be taken, plates to be cleared.  The staff that were there were run off their feet so I believe it is just a lacking of another body or two.

  • Crew on board were pretty much all great, we did encounter a few boutique staff that we thought were not very helpful and had to pursue things that should have been taken care of right away.  For example Bernie bought a $700 watch but they did not have the correct manual for him they said they would get one for him, but it took us having to visit the store on two separate occasions for them to agree to get us the manual.  I did buy a few other items in the stores and found the staff were very helpful and friendly if you talk with them only. 

  • Restaurants, food has been very good on board, not as good as it use to be – but I have found this to be true in the last few sailings we have done.  Now don’t get me wrong, I always found something to eat and it was always presented beautiful but the downside is I still find the foods overly salty (maybe it is just me) and often food in Horizon Court is just warm, and forget getting hot toast anywhere.  But overall the dining room food was very good.  Again staff appear to be understaffed and are run off their feet when the dining room is full.  And even when the dining room is not full service is lacking by some wait staff and then great with others.  When you find a good waiter stick with them.

  • We did have incidents of Norwalk like viruses on board near the end of the first leg and right away the ship put in place measure to combat the spread of the virus.  We no longer had butter, rolls, salt, pepper, sugar, cream, on the tables and the staff handed out utensils rolled in napkins in the horizon court.  Tongs in the buffet are changed constantly.  Crew are constantly sanitizing areas throughout the ship, railings, walls, chairs, slot machines, photo gallery, computers, you name it.  Drink menus on all the tables have been removed, but you can still ask for one and they will hand you one and then sanitize it afterwards.  The big dining room sales like the Bijoux sale have been cancelled and the Chef’s table has been delayed until the alert has been lifted.  Hand washing is the best thing to combat the virus.  Hand sanitizers are all over the ship too and are a good alternative. It is a lot more work for the crew and dining room service takes longer. 

  • I have to say that Captain Perrin has been the best Captain we have ever sailed with.  He faced a lot of obstacles this cruise with Ushuaia and then Lima, but his professionalism and his constant updates were appreciated.

  • Room service is a nice treat and find the service very quick and efficient but often find we get more than we actually ordered, like two sandwiches when we ordered only one. 

  • Since I used the doctor’s services twice on this voyage I can report that they have been very efficient and helpful and very professional.

  • Haven’t taken advantage of the spa services on board, sometimes I do but this voyage I just haven’t felt like doing any services.  I have been to the sauna and steam room.  It was very nice but is in need of a face lift as many items in the sauna are worn down, broken, or missing.

  • Mae our cabin steward is out of this world, she is so efficient and any request we have had has been met.  She is quiet and is hardly seen but that is what makes a great steward.

  • I would like to commend Dou from South Africa, the head waiter from Amafi who has been so sweet and helpful and a joy to know.  It is so nice to see him and he is always so happy and helpful I know he is a definite asset to Princess.

  • We love how diverse some of the activities have been on this voyage that we have never seen before – Kudos to Sami and her cruise director team – egg drop contest, whacky speed games, radio call in show, speed chest tournament, Sundowners Club (gather for drinks to toast the sunset), and a variety of other things.

 I would do this trip again in a heart beat

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rio de Janeiro - February 17 & 18


Friday


We sleep until around 9 am and wake to another beautiful day in Rio De JaneiroWe contemplate what to do today. We agree we don’t feel like waiting until the shuttle at 11 and decide to walk into Leblon and do as the locals do, visit an espresso shop and get a light breakfast. We find a quaint spot that has spots in the shade on the sidewalk, even at the hour of 10:30 it is quite warm. We order a preset meal that is made for one but is more than enough for the two of us.  It consisted of a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a coffee, a brioche, a croissant, one scrambled egg, two pieces of ham, two slices of cheese and half a papaya.  I ordered a latte and we munched away on this great meal.



We walked all the way from Leblon to the metro in Impenema about 5km and rode the metro three stops to the end of Copacabana and then walked down the main shopping street looking for this record store called Modern Music but I guess it isn’t there anymore and a gym is in it’s place. 


We continue on to visit the large Havaianas store in Copacabana.  Even though we got flip flops from them yesterday Bernie really wanted to get another pair and he found what he wanted there.

We are tired, we have been walking for about four hours now almost straight.  We flag a taxi and we head back to the hotel, this time the taxi driver knows where our hotel is.

We quickly change into our bathing suits and head down to the pool to relax and enjoy the sun and heat on our last afternoon here. The hotel is now full of people who mainly speak English, from Canada and the United StatesWe sit at the pool restaurant and share a pizza and two guys sit beside us and they are joining our ship tomorrow too.  Low and behold they are from Vancouver, small world.




Tonight we head to Copacabana to a block party, we meet up with others at the Copacabana Palace and from there walk a few blocks to the beginning of the parade. The event consists of a truck with a two level platform with the band playing on the top and dancers on the bottom. The truck starts to move then everyone follows!  We don our masks and we join the parade.  We consist of about 300 people following this truck and it is crowded and HOT.  After about four blocks I look at Bernie and say lets head to the sidewalk, it is just way too crowded for me. 

video

As soon as we head to the sidewalk we are amazed that Gail and Russell find us in the crowds.  We follow along the parade route for quite a while till it turns back up to the park where it originated at.  We decide time to head out and get something to eat.

We find a nice restaurant right on Atlantica streetWe know from experience that the servings are large so we opt to share an entrée and we thought at first about getting one of the small side dishes to go with it but the waiter told us that would be a lot of food.  We thank him and take up his suggestion.  How nice to see a waiter say something like that, he is very good.And boy is he right!  The entrée comes and it is four chicken breasts done Parmegan style!  Yup four!  Plus rice and mashed potatoes we barely make a dent before we giggle and ask for the bill.  Normally the price of the meal has a 10% gratuity added but we ask him to add 10R more which he has to get approval from his manager for, we said to his manager now this is a great server!

huge meal!

We flag a taxi down to head back to the hotel, but oh no Impenama is having their block party too!  It takes us about 40 minutes to get back to the hotel but thankfully the taxis are based on distance not time, but we give him a good tip because of how long it took.


Can’t believe we are leaving Rio tomorrow. We really really liked it here. The people are wonderful and there are things we would of liked to have seen that we haven’t seen yet so that means we have to plan to come back.  But I think we will come when it is not Carnival, it is just too too busy.

Rio de Janeiro February 15 & 16

Wednesday

We are on our own today and we sleep in until 9:30 so our first thought is lets just catch the 11 am shuttle from the hotel to the Rio Sul Shopping mall which is the last stop on the hotel’s free shuttle.T  his mall is huge!  And after asking someone we found the Starbucks and relaxed for a bit and planned our day.
the orange bus is the shuttle for the hotel, runs throughout the day for free

Our feeling is we want to see the downtown core and we aren’t too far from a Metro station so we start hiking to what we think is the direction of the Metro, well after a few wrong turns and asking about five different people we make it to the Botafogo Metro Station.

Taking the Metro is relatively easy, we are dealing with only one Metro line and we need to take it to Cinelandia stop to start our walking tour.  This walking tour is from the book Lonely Planet’s Rio De Janeiro City Guide, which we have found to be invaluable and a must for anyone coming here.

We start the Historic Center Walking tour at Park Floriano which is a vibrant square with lots of people selling stuff, we pass the National Museum of Arts which is a magnificent building but we opt to not go in for the sake of time.  We are walking along the streets and the crowds are amazing, there is hardly room to walk and the streets are pedestrian only and thank goodness.



Next stop is Confeitaria Colombo which is one of the oldest coffee shops in Rio dating from the late 1800’s.  The stained glass windows, brocaded mirrors and marble countertops are so lavish and really gets us in the mood and feeling like we are really in RioWe order a small snack and enjoy the scenery of this beautiful place.

We are back out walking (the heat is overpowering – so bring water).We make our way to the next stop which is the Real Gabinete Portuguese reading room.  I have never and I mean never seen anything like this.  The reading room was built in 1837, and it houses 350,000 books, many dating from the 16thcentury.  It is four stories high and you look up and all you see are books in beautiful mahogany shelves.


We head to the Saara neighbourhood which has narrow pedestrian streets that have stores, kind of like a bazaar packed with discount shops, pedestrians and Lebanese restaurant. There is so much to look at the sounds of the people trying to sell their items and there is everything you can think of for sale here, fabrics, costumes for Carnival, bras, shoes, hair accessories, clothes, bathing suits, jewelry, kitchen items, you name it is for sale here!I end up buying three necklaces here for 22R which is about $13!

We maneuver around all the people and make our way to the Imperial Palaceand then past the Cultural Center of the Banco de Brazil, but it was close to closing time se we didn’t go in.
Our last stop is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelariawhich is an old church dating from the 16th century.  This church was the largest and wealthiest church of imperial Brazil. The interior is a combination of baroque and Renaissance styles.  The cupola, fabricated entirely from limestone shipped from Lisbon, is one of its most striking features.  We don’t get to stay very long as it closes at 4 pm and it is five to.

We head to the nearest metro station Uruguaina, and get on the line that takes us back to Ipanema. The metro is packed, you can tell it is rush hour, a nice man ensures us we are on the right train and informs us as to the exact stop to get off at, he is originally from Aberdeen Scotland and he is off.
When we get off the metro we decide to have dinner in Ipanema at a restaurant the book recommends – the Blue Agave.  As soon as we take a seat we notice the guy from the metro from Scotlandis there.  We order a few caipirinha which is cochaca (cane liquor) muddled lime, sugar and ice.It is wicked but I love it and end up drinking three of them!  We chat with the guy from Scotland and learn more about the area and he recommends a great restaurant for us.

We head out and it is about 7:30 so we decide to just walk back to the hotel, it is around a 20 minute walk and the sky and weather is beautiful.
Leblon Beach
every day and night they bring the chairs to the beach like this!

Thursday

Many of the Cruisecritic gang are arriving today, we wait for Derrick and Connie to arrive in case they need a room to crash.   It is nice to see Carolyn and Ken too and we met up with a few of the others who we have been chatting with for over a year.

We catch the 11 shuttle and get off in Leblon and walk to the mall and get our Starbucks latte.   We also get some Reals from the bank machine enough to tie us over for the next two days.

Today we are planning on visiting the Botanical Gardens and we walk over there (again the Lonely Planet Book helps).   Entry fee 6R each and the park is HUGE and very old, it is 137 hectares with over 8000 plant species which opened in 1808. We love the orchid exhibit.






Again it is very very hot out and humid so we stock up on some water and relax in the shade and recharge before we head out. We head to the lagoon which is a large salt water lake that is just north of Leblon. We walk around about half of it before heading back to Leblon to get a small bite to eat, we share a chicken dish and decide to walk back to the hotel.


We catch the 8 pm shuttle to Impenema to visit a recommended Churrascarias, the restaurant is called Porcão www.porcao.com.br we are sat quickly at a table for four and we are surrounded by attentive staff explaining to us exactly how the whole experience is going to happen. We are given a round disk (looks like a coaster) and one side is green – meaning bring on the meat, the other side is red – meaning whoa I need to stop!

We decide to get a few drinks and they make our drinks right in front of us. We are asked to choose what type of side dishes we want and we get some rice, French fries, fried bananas and I believe yucca. But really we didn’t need these extra dishes we had so much other food. We are given plates and the meat starts coming, but first we want to get some salad bar items – and all I can say is wow great salad bar and the items are non stop, and included lots of sushi too and fairly good sushi.





We are munching on our salad when the meat starts coming and it is every type of meat and different cuts of meat. I tried the sausage, chicken, beef, rib, pork and a bit of salmon. Bernie and Jerry drooled over the abundance of lamb offerings. There were quite a few offerings that I just couldn’t try because well I am too chicken! And I am sure it doesn’t taste like chicken!

We walk, well maybe waddle out of there and walked a few blocks and catch a taxi back to the hotel. The driver spoke no English and I guess he didn’t know where our hotel was because we crawled down Impenema and Leblon looking for it until we realized he didn’t know where it was and Bernie started directing him. We had a good laugh.

Another great day is over. Tomorrow is our last full day in Rio.