We meet up with others in the port building for our ride to the Sambadrom at 11 pm. We are ushered into awaiting vans. We are quite a large group and this takes a while. The Sambadrom is only about 20 minutes away but traffic is difficult because many roads are blocked off.
We are driven right into the Arena area and we are trying to figure out what is going on. The person leading the group “Jessica” doesn’t really have it organized, she has obviously been contracted out by Marcello and Do Brazil Right. Everyone has the same questions – where do we go when we want to go back and what times? But no one is really getting the answers. We are all in either Sector 3 or 5 seating and we are told that she will be with us all in Sector 3 and the other guy is in Sector 5 and we just have to watch out for them.
We are lead into the Sambadrom (note there are some very steep steps to get in, but there is wheelchair access). We at first wait to find out where to go but we both realize we can figure this out so we start going towards our seating area that is marked on our tickets. We are in Sector 3 Row C, box 26 which consists of six hard plastic seats with quite a bit of space around them. The box seat is framed by metal railings. It is very nice and am so glad we did not go with the Bandstand seats.
I will add here that Princess Tours sold Grandstand seats at a very high price, over double what we paid. They all had to leave at the same time and come back at the same time (early). We had a choice of two departure times and any return time. Although I will discuss our departure time more later.
We both are so excited we can’t believe we are actually here. We have seen it so many times on tv and heard about it, read about it and dreamed about it and today we are here.
Bernie and I both can’t sit down we have to dance and move. I took over 1,000 pictures/videos and I am glad cause out of those maybe 500 are good. It is hard with the lighting and distance and movement of the parade but also the movement of the floor since it is a raised platform and everyone is dancing we had a constant bounce.
Each school from each area of Rio is designated a time. They start out with the lower quality schools and work their way up to the best of the best. In total there were about 7 schools. We arrived at 11:30 pm and were told that this is the best time as the better schools are just starting.
After being in the Copacabana block party two years ago and witnessing two other block parties today we soon realize that each block/school has a special song that represents their area and when they come into the stadium they are playing this song and we immediately recognize them. And you just can’t help but sing along even though I have no idea what I am singing.
Each school parades thru the stadium and they are huge, some schools take over 50 minutes just to get thru. There are numerous floats with each school, numerous decorated participants representing some theme about their school. Some themes are obvious some are not but I am blown away by the costumes and how many people there are and how choreographed it all is. Oh and before each school starts they shoot off fireworks, so be prepared for lots of fireworks.
I can go on and on about how amazing it is but truly it is something you have to experience. I took so many pictures and due to limited wifi minutes won’t post many until I get home. But will post a few.
Between each school they clean the parade route, and people come and go. Each sector is cornered off and you can roam freely in your sector. There are washrooms (make sure to grab some toilet paper on the roll before going in the stall), food vendors and souvenir vendors. You can bring your own food and beverage (of choice) – it appears many people make it like a huge picnic. Beer was 3R each and I bought a t shirt for 70R.
We last until 6 am and what we thought was the last school but ended being the second to last school. We are six left in our group and we all leave together. Sue the coordinator is with us and we go out looking for our vans and of course there is none there. Sue finds another person who does tour and speaks to here in English (not many people here speak English). She contacts the company we booked with and they have a van sent for us. She was a lovely lady and we tried to tip her but she just said make sure you come back to Rio. And this is what we have found throughout our visit here, the locals are very friendly and helpful but the language can be an issue. They are proud of their city and country and want you to enjoy it.
We arrive back at the ship at 6:30 am and there are a few people up and about but we look a mess. It was very humid and our bodies reflect this. We put up the do not disturb sign and peel off the clothes and crawl into bed, making sure to put in ear plugs so the noise of everyone getting up doesn’t disturb us too much.
My advice if you want to do Carnival. If you want to be taken care of from beginning to end and don’t care about money book thru Princess. You are going to pay a lot more, you are not going to see the whole show, your tickets are not refundable, but you will see it. If you can book with a reputable travel agent who can deliver the tickets to the port. Our tickets for Boxed seats Row C were $139 each, prices were higher for Rows A/B and it appears the price went up closer to the day of the show. Grandstand seats are much cheaper.
We bought transportation thru our agent; however I think if I did it again I would maybe arrange our own transportation or take a taxi. Because we had difficulty finding our van to go back, in fact they had to be called or we probably would never have gotten back, we should of just grabbed one of the many taxis there.
We did notice that people were buying tickets at the pier for the show that night. As well we heard of some people who bought tickets from others on land that day too. I can’t vouch for it but they did and they got to see the show.