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Stow Away with Bill & Mary Ann for 181 days on Amsterdam's So. Pacific & 2020 WC

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Report #65   Day at Sea   January 10, 2020   Friday    Part # 1 of 1     22  Pictures


It would have been a lovely day at sea, if it were not for the gale force winds, clocking in at 35 knots, or a force 8 on the Beaufort scale.  The 9 foot seas we had through the evening, continued throughout the day. 


Walking on the lower promenade deck was challenging, because besides the winds, it was soaked with the sea spray coming off of the giant waves that broke against the bow.  Traffic cones were placed everywhere, reminding folks of the slippery surface.  Needless to say, there were few walkers all day. 


We managed to keep busy all morning catching up on yesterday’s info for the report.  We had been invited to a complimentary sommelier wine tasting in the Crow’s Nest at 1pm, but there were two strikes against attending.  First of all, we seldom drink wine, and going to the Crow’s Nest on such a rough day would be difficult.  One of us found it necessary to take meclizine pill to avoid seasickness during the night.  It works well, but one of the side effects is sleepiness. Add to that, losing an hour last night had many people dragging today, including one of us. 


We did venture out for a Lido lunch, during the time the arts and crafts class was taking place.  The class is full of ladies and even some fellows this year. Since the instructor uses a microphone, we always go on the opposite side to eat in peace.  The grilled ciabatta paninis are particularly good this year.  


Having some minor problems with our computer, we went to the digital communications manager and waited in line to ask some questions.  He was able to fix it, and we were good to go.  It has been very nice having full use of the internet from the very beginning of the cruise.  So much better than watching those minutes tick off rapidly.


Needing to clarify some information we had concerning the discounts on beverages, we asked the Explorations Café server if we can still purchase water and vitamin water using our discount.  The answer was no, but the specialty coffees were still half off for us.  The only place we can still get our discount on the water and soda is through room service.  That works for us, as we will not have to pack it back to our room.


And since there was a seat available at the Future Cruise desk, we made a deposit on the 2022 Grand World Voyage with Joanne.  She and her husband Michael are back with us this year…..really nice people.  So far, there is no itinerary or any other details, but the deposit was only $100 per person, and it is refundable.  Sometime around April, the announcement will be made on the destination and the ship, which we assume will be the Amsterdam.  But who knows?  As long as they do not decide to go eastbound, we will be happy.


Showtime was early this evening with a duo entertainers.  Andy Buenger and Jeff McBride shared the stage.  Greg and Heo said they enjoyed both of their shows.  Tonight was another gala evening, with a purple theme.  That means the napkins and the waiter’s vests and ties were a deep purple.  Four glow sticks were on our table for a special effect.  We also found that we had a guest, the doctor onboard.  This year’s doctor is a very nice young lady from South Africa.  She was also on last year’s cruise, and did remember us and Barb.  In fact, she joined our table one evening. 


The menu was geared towards nicer entrees, one of which was halibut, and was on the menu this morning. However, when we opened the menu, the fish entrée had changed to arctic char.  They had run out of the halibut.  So one of us ordered the char, and one of us had the grilled lamb chops.  Both very good.  After enjoying desserts of souffles, fruit, and coffee, the dinner wrapped up by 9:30pm. 


Following the dinner was a Grand Gala Party, held in the Mainstage.  Live music was provided, then it was followed by a chocolate surprise……small chocolate treats served in the Mainstage.  The surprise for one of us is that dark chocolate is full of something that prevents sleep.  Same as coffee.  We missed the party, but we did stay in the dining room visiting with Bill & Leta until they closed the doors.  Much better than over-loading on the sugar.


We should arrive to Devil’s Island  before noon tomorrow, and we did receive a printed notice that The President’s Club members, Pinnacle and Neptune suites will get priority tendering.  We will not need to get a tender ticket, which can save a lot of time, even though it does not make us all very popular with the rest of the population.  The four and five star Mariners usually get this privilege also, but since most everyone has that status, they cannot accommodate everyone.  Wish there was another way to correct this.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Report # 66   Devil’s Island, French Guiana   January 11, 2020   Saturday   Partly cloudy & 85 degrees   Part # 1 of 5   80  Pictures


Today’s port of Devil’s Island is a familiar one to us, as we have been here numerous times over the years.  Actually there are three small islands that comprise the Salvation Islands…Ile Royal, St. Joseph, and Isle du Diable, situated about 9 miles from the coast of French Guiana. These islands were once used as a leper colony for French Guiana. The French sent the worst of their criminals here to serve their sentences in 1852.  The 35 acres of penal colony housed as many as 80,000 prisoners, although, only 5,000 of those survived after the prison was closed in 1953.  Due to the harsh conditions and the presence of tropical diseases, many died.  These men would get a burial at sea by being fed to the sharks that inhabit these waters. 


Being a guard here was also like a death sentence.  Many of the higher officials had their families with them, and they too succumbed to disease.  These unfortunate folks and their young children were buried on Ile Royal, where the actual prison buildings were located.  There were only two escapes from here, but the most famous one was Henri Charriere, whose story was told in the book Papillion, eventually followed by the movie made famous by Steve McQueen. 


By 1965, these islands were handed over to  the Guiana Space Centre, which continues its operation now.  It is estimated that over 50,000 tourists visit here every year.  And that was what we intended to do today.


The estimated arrival time was noon, but the ship dropped anchor around 11:30am.  Naturally, this was a tender port, and we had received our instructions last night about the process.  Since we did not have to wait in line for tender tickets, we lined up by the stairway on deck one forward.  Turned out there was a small group waiting there for about ½ hour, so we were among the first to go over to shore.  The swells in the surrounding waters were high enough to make boarding the tender boat a bit dicey.  But there were plenty of crew members to help everyone board safely.  Both Henk and Christel over-saw the process.  We were all glad the ride was short, since it was bumpy. 


Once we were on the island, we took a right turn, and followed the road which eventually goes all the way around.  Four of our friends were in the process of geo-cashing which looked like a fun project.  It wasn’t long before we saw the first of several dark red agoutis, a very large rodent in the guinea pig family we think.  Passing the protected cove directly across from Devil’s Island, we spotted another friend preparing to take a swim in the water.  There are no beaches here, but there are a few spots that are netted off to keep out sharks and prevent one from being sucked away in the extreme currents.  Right on this point is the remains of a telegraphic pylon that had a rope from this island to the smaller Devil’s Island.  Food and water were sent across this suspended rope to the utmost worst of the prisoners who lived on that smaller island.  


Halfway around while walking the wide dirt road through the trees, we spotted the island’s famous little spider and capuchin monkeys.  The capuchins are a peculiar species, that are unpredictable.  One large male zeroed in on the big camera Bill uses, and decided he was a threat.  The monkey stood up as tall as he could, threw his arms up high, then proceeded to charge like a boogy-man.  No kidding…he was even sticking his tongue out.  Had to be the funniest thing we ever saw.  And it happened so fast, he could not snap a photo.  We backed away, and gladly let him disappear into the forest of palms.    


Taking an inland road, we made our way to the center of the island where the majority of the buildings are located.  The Hotel and reservoir are in the center, so we decided it would be a fine time to buy a couple of beers, and sit on their patio for a while.  Needless to say, it was hot and humid today, so the $7 local beer, Jeune Gueule, sure was good.  Equally as fun, was watching the numerous peacocks that live there.  Sure reminded us of home.  None of them are caged, so they roam at will and beg food from the visitors.  There used to be several parrots here, but they are gone now. 


It was beginning to get crowded with more customers, so we continued on to tour the grounds, taking many photos of course.  As many times as we have seen these reminders of the past, it still reeks with an eerie feeling of unhappiness and atrocities.  Even though many of these structures such as the solitary and condemned cells, the main prisoner and warden quarters, and the hospital, or chapel reflect the life of the past.  The lighthouse, helicopter pad, and nearby ESA tracking station are well-maintained.


Taking the road back down towards the pier, we ran into more monkeys cavorting about.  Many of these were youngsters that performed for the growing crowd.  Captain Jonathon and is wife Karen were also taking photos for his blog.  It is always nice to see that they enjoy these ports as well.


The line was long for the tender boat, but we amused ourselves with the green turtles that are always swimming among the rocks here.  We’re not sure anyone else took the time to look on the opposite side of the pier.   Crew members were bringing the hot folks ice cold wash cloths and cups of lemonade while they waited.  Guess it was taking longer to get the passengers back on the ship due to the rolling seas.  We got back by 4:30pm, and headed right for the Lido for a really late lunch….and a lot of lemonade.


The real sail away party was in the Crow’s Nest today, so we went to deck six forward, where only a handful of folks were watching our departure.  The sun was on its way down by now, and the breezes were quite welcomed.  There were a few birds diving for fish in the distance, and one frigate circling overhead.  The Captain followed the same path we had taken earlier in order to avoid the shallow areas.  He headed southeast for our next port of Belem, Brazil in a few days.


There were only six of us this evening at dinner, since Barb had gone to the Pinnacle Grill.  Our entrees were one tri-tip and one hake fish, which had to be the superior choice. A light slice of chocolate cake, and one blueberry sorbet finished our meal.  We adjourned by 9:30pm, and called it a night.  The rest of our group went to the show featuring another performance of the comedian, Tim Kaminski.   He must have said something humorous, because we could hear laughing all the way to the elevator.   


A day at sea tomorrow will be most welcomed.  And we will be crossing the Equator.


Bill & Mary Ann


PS  In order to be able to send the larger number of photos, they have to be reduced, and may not hold up as well when expanded.







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Report # 67   Day at Sea   January 12, 2020   Sunday   Cloudy with rain & 85 degrees


We were kind of hoping for a Seaview Pool day, but after going outside for our morning walk, we found it was very windy and quite wet.  One side was worse than the other as we rounded the corner.  Few people were outside, but we stayed long enough to get in at least one mile.  Not only do you get wet from the rain, but the tender boats overhead tend to drop even more water because you have to walk under them.  The lanai lounge pads were totally soaked, making them unusable.


You never would have guessed that we were crossing the Equator today, as we always associate this area with extreme heat and humidity.  Last night we had a message delivered to our rooms explaining that there would not be a King Neptune Ceremony this time, but we could be reassured that he had gracefully pardoned one and all until we cross again in the spring.  No, we will not lose any sleep over this one.


So this morning was dedicated to photo sorting and fact collecting to complete yesterday’s activities on the island.  To enhance the experience, we turned on the re-make of the movie, Papillon, which was released in 2017.  There were not too many scenes that looked familiar, so we suspect it was filmed elsewhere, as most movies are these days.  And it seemed long, compared to the Steve McQueen depiction many years ago. 


The highlight of the day had to be the very first Sunday Brunch Sampler in the dining room at 11am.  Unlike the Sunday Brunch on the Tales of the South Pacific, this was a 3 course set menu, served sampler-style.  There were at least a dozen small servings of a variety of food….some breakfast, some lunch.  Sometimes, many of the offerings are seafood and shellfish, which one of us cannot eat.  So it is a waste of food in that half of it is thrown away.  We ended up going to the Lido around 3pm for our usual salads and shared pizza.  Our buddies Bill & Leta came by, and we had a nice visit.  On most sea days, they know they can find us at the pool, but with the inclement weather, we have only made it back there two days so far.  Oh well, we will not be getting a surprise sunburn, so that is good.  


Some of the Grand World Voyage collector’s merchandise was unveiled today in the shops.  Or should we say, outside the shops.  For some reason, the sales people are using the area where we like to sit and listen to the Ocean Quartet before dinner.  It is an attempt to get people to see the t-shirts and such as they exit the casino.   Speaking of the casino, we sure have not seen a lot of players in there. On the last trip, there was not an empty slot machine, or a seat at the tables almost every night.  This is a whole different crowd for sure.


With the football games being shown in the Sports Bar as well as on our TV’s, many folks have been watching those, including us.  By the time Super Bowl arrives, it will be party time for many fans, regardless of who is playing.


Dinner was fun with our group back together.  Barb had been invited to the Pinnacle Grill with close friends, but she was back tonight.  We all agreed we have the best tablemates, even nicer when we all have known each other for several years now.  The closest to a fish entrée was paella, so one of us ordered an entrée salad, and the other a meatless spaghetti.  Both tasty and on the lighter side for a change.  Greg and Heo have been finishing their meals by 9:30pm, so they can attend the show.  The rest of us stayed behind and chatted the night away.  Tonight the entertainer was a comedian/musician, John Bressler, his second time around.  We chose to catch the last half of the Seahawks@ Packers game instead.    


Ready for tomorrow’s port of Belem, Brazil, even though most of the attractions will be closed.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Sorry the weather kept you all from enjoying another King Neptune ceremony.


Have not seen the 2017 Papillon movie but have watched the original one several times.

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Report # 68   Belem, Brazil    January 13, 2020    Monday   Chance of thunderstorms & 85 degrees   Part # 1 of 5   80 Pictures


The Amsterdam had sailed up the Rio Guajara last night and anchored across from the town of Icoaraci early this morning , where local ferries would transfer us to shore.  This process was advertised to begin at 9am, but we knew from experience that even though the announcement that we had been cleared had not happened yet, the folks on shore excursions were already being transferred to shore. 


So we decided to skip breakfast, and join the first ferry over to shore.  There was no line when we went down the stairs to deck A.  All we had to produce was our room key cards, and we were free to go.  We have been here at least three times over the years, taking tours at the time.  So we knew what we wanted to see.  The fact that there were complimentary shuttles to the port city of the lower Amazon region, Belem, made it easy.  The Portuguese settled here and built a fortress to defend the area from the French and the Dutch.   They also left behind a city of colonial architecture that has lasted for centuries.  The population is about 143,500 people, and there is a lot of poverty.


Greeting us when we got off of the pier, was a group of dancers doing Carimbo, an African and European influenced dance.  The name is derived from the artisanal drum used in their band.  There had to be over a dozen buses for tours, and also a couple of very nice coaches for the ride to town.  We would guess the drive to Belem took about 45 minutes, as the bus had to use local streets with stop and go traffic.  


So here is a bit of history on this area.  With the discovery of rubber in the 19th century, an economic boom occurred in all of Brazil.  Even the larger Amazonian cities prospered and impressive colonial buildings were constructed.  Because of its location near the mouth of the mighty Amazon River, Belem has remained a vibrant commercial and economic hub.  Huge quantities of fish, shrimp, and lumber come through the city. 


It was too bad we happen to be visiting on a Monday, because many of the sights were closed.  That included museums, parks, theaters, cultural centers and forts.  Hopefully, the market places and churches will be opened.  Later on, we found out that some of the major sights opened for the HAL tour groups exclusively.


Our bus stopped at the Estacao das Docas, 500 meters of riverfront with three air-conditioned warehouses that have been remodeled from the old port of Belem.  Large cranes are still there as decoration these days.  Inside these warehouses are restaurants, fashion clothing, and souvenirs.  More important…..there are several restrooms.  We had intended to search out pizza and beer, but we found that they did not take US dollars.  Only Brazil reals or credit cards. We were not comfortable using the credit card here, but that is just us.  Come to think about it, the EXC port guide mentioned this in his talk on Belem.


The first thing we noticed was that there was a large presence of policemen in this entire area.  That speaks volumes, as it can be a good thing, or a feeling that it is dangerous here.  Or a little of both.  You had to exit the warehouse area to enter the Ver-O-Peso Market next to it.  We saw even more police, and one even stopped one of us with a hand on the shoulder, with a warning to bring the handbag around the front, and keep your arm over it.  Turned out we were fine, but it really put us on alert.


This Ver-O-Peso Market is over 100 years old with 35,000 square meters of stalls.  And it is the largest outdoor market in Latin America.  Protected since 1977 by the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute, there are two old iron buildings that house the fish and meat markets. The market is about 4 blocks long, with the outside stalls selling clothing, shoes, hats, and housewares like pots and pans.   Inside the market is the food such as produce and staples.  Rice, manioc flour, sugar, and tapioca were sold in large sacks, while spices were packaged in plastic bags.  At the far end, you can purchase live birds, mice ?, and chickens and ducks for a fresh dinner.  Several cats were roaming around under foot, and even some cute little kittens, who looked as if they would get stomped.  


The area of souvenirs and handicrafts also included lotions and potions used in the practice of macumba, Brazil’s form of voodoo.  They sold tons of pills and elixirs promised to give you a long and spicy life.  We’ll stick to the fresh fruit, thank you.  Right in the middle, there  are food stalls that sold meals.  More like a food court with lots of acai products.  This was the first place we saw so much of it before it was proclaimed to be the miracle fruit worldwide.


The fish market had sold most of its catch, but we did see an assortment of river fish, and the famous pirarucu, which can be enormous.  Going out the far end, we walked around the small fishing boat harbor.  It was full of egrets and the ever-present vultures, who were wading through the trash in the low tide of the riverbanks.  To tell the honest truth, there was trash everywhere we looked.  There was no effort to clean it up from what we saw.  The fishermen were cleaning their catch, and throwing the scraps to the birds.  Needless to say, the smell was over-powering in this harbor.


Walking past the Museum, we came out at the small park where the Fort do Presepio is located.  It was a surprise that we found it opened, although one of us needed to sit for a bit too cool off.  Upon entering the gates, Bill was told the visit to this fort was free today for him. By the way, it was very hot and humid today.  The clouds were passing over, and we knew it would rain sometime during our stay.  It held off until we returned to Icoaraci.  Benches were placed around the fort and the cannon area.


Across the street, we went to see the interior of the Igreja da Se, or the Cathedral da Se.  Although it was dark inside, it was quite pretty.  Thinking it would be cooler inside was wrong, since it was warmer than outside.  So we did not linger very long.


From here, we back-tracked through the markets, and back to the warehouses.  More folks had arrived and were searching for good spots to eat and drink.  And like we stated earlier, we passed on the food and beer this time.  The bus was waiting when we got to the drop-off spot, and once we boarded, it left. By now, the rain had become heavy, so our timing was perfect.  This time it took well over an hour to get back to the ferries, due to more traffic.  And it was only 1pm.  The last bus back was 2:30pm, and we sure did not want to wait until that late.  Perfect timing, because by now the rain showers were coming over one after the other. And we had left the umbrellas onboard.  The ferry was there, and left on schedule, regardless of how many passengers were onboard.  This boat only had about 10 of us.


A nice lunch was enjoyed in the Lido with ice tea instead of beer.  More thirsty than hungry, we downed plenty of tea and sodas later on.  Sail away was at 4:30pm at the Seaview Pool.  Woody and Susie joined us while the ship turned around and headed back out the river.  Fancy appetizers and local samba music entertained us for an hour.  Some of the assistant cruise directors worked the crowd during this time too.  Geoffrey, the HAL kids club leader, paid us a visit.  Although it got windy, the rain stayed away, although we could see showers all around us.


Dinnertime found all of us present and sharing our stories of the day.  The fellows did the same as us, riding the shuttle to town, while Barb, Woody and Susie stayed onboard.  Entrees for us were the white fish plaice and short ribs, tender and falling off of the bone.  Both good.  The evening ended with memories of tales of the past cruises, or times when some of our group were wild and crazy, so to speak. 


We had time to catch most of the show with the singers and dancers performing Salsamania, a high energy set of local dances. 


A couple of sea days will be nice.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Report # 69   Day at Sea   January 14, 2020   Tuesday   Mostly cloudy, showers & 75 degrees   Part # 1 of 1


We certainly had a laid back day at sea, which is nice sometimes.  The weather was warm and sticky as heck, even at 10am when we went out for a stroll.  We did have some wind, but mostly because the Captain is “flying” at 23 knots.  Most of the deep swells are gone, which is good for everyone.   And occasional showers kept the deck damp most of the day.


As for us, we spent a good part of the afternoon working on the computer.  Our room is so comfortable, we don’t mind relaxing there, and catching up on news and the home improvement shows.


And at 2pm, we even attended the shore excursion talk with port guide, Glenn-Michael.  His lecture was on the next port of Recife and outlying areas.  Yes, we have visited this city at least twice, but took tours to Olinda at the time.  Glenn could not stress the importance of being careful enough when we get to this city.  He may have even scared some folks from going off of the ship there.  For good reason, we suspect, as we have heard so many stories of robberies in a lot of places around the world.  With maps up on the big screen, he outlined the areas where he suggested we do not walk.  The good news was that there will be a mandatory shuttle to the terminal, then another free bus that will take us to the old prison-turned-into-a-shopping-center.  That will work for us.  At least there are still complimentary shuttles in many ports on the grand voyages.  Now we remembered that was the same reason of high crimes that we chose to bypass Recife, and spend our time in Olinda, the nicer, but touristy town.  And we discovered that the Mainstage was full to the brim with people.  Now we know where they go on sea day afternoons.  Another popular spot has to be arts and crafts.  The entire side of the Lido has been occupied with crafters.


Leta, our buddy, visited us at lunchtime.  She had a good book she wanted to lend us, since she knows what we like to read.  Usually at home and on the ship, we are on the move so much, we spend little time reading books.  We used to like reading the short version of the newspapers onboard, but they are no longer printing them.  Yes, we can get them on the computer, but how do you do crossword puzzles on that?  By the way, we still get many flyers for booking future cruises or daily ads with the When & Where brochures we get every night.


On our way to dinner tonight, we noticed feathers of many colors littering the carpets in the hallways and elevators.  Forgetting to read the theme nights, we soon discovered that tonight had a Samba theme.  The waiters were dressed in brightly-colored velour shirts, which must have been unbearably hot.  Lights of all colors were illuminating the ceiling, and every lady got a feather boa in blue, green, or yellow.  And they were shedding rapidly.  By the time we left the dining room, the waiters were vacuuming up the mess.  The party continued up in the Crow’s Nest, and we are certain Barb will report on what went on up there. 


One of us got creative with their entrée.  It was a mixed salad with a nice piece of salmon on top.  The other dinner was egg-dipped pork piccata.  And again, both very good.  A shared dessert of berry crisp with ice cream was just enough.  Barb, Susie, and I donated our boas to two young ladies at the back table.  They were on their way to continue the fun on deck nine.  When we left the room, we followed the trail of feathers to the elevators. 


It was only 9:30pm, so we decided to check out the show.  The performer was Mark Donoghue, who was a multi-instrumentalist.  He was brilliant with the violin and also the harmonica.  Unfortunately, many of his other instruments went astray at the airport, and he will catch up with them in Recife in two days.  That was also his reason for wearing white sneakers and his casual clothes while performing.  Did not matter, talent trumps clothes for sure.


Happy to have another sea day tomorrow.


Bill & Mary Ann


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Enjoying your report.


I can't remember where we toured to in Recife -- but I do remember going to the prison where there were lots of vendors set up.


Cute about the colored boas shedding everywhere.

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Report #70   Day at Sea    January 15, 2020   Wednesday   Mostly sunny & 75 degrees    Part #1 Of 1


Finally we have a day at sea with a lot of sun.  Sure makes a difference to wake up to blue skies, even if it is still very warm, muggy, and windy.  Our seedlings like it too.   As an experiment, we turn the pots during the day, just to see how the plants will follow the light.  In no time, perhaps a few hours, they will all turn in the direction of the sun.


We just noticed that the walk-a-mile that takes place on sea days at 10:30am does not earn you the DAM Dimes anymore.  Remember when it was DAM Dollars?  That was fun because if you saved enough of them, you could redeem them for some useful things, like a pull-over sweatshirt.  Then it became Microsoft products, and now…..nothing.  Not sure if there are prizes for winning trivia.  That is something we need to ask Barb, as she plays on a team on sea days. 


New items have been filtering into the shops, so many sales were happening around the ship.  Effy jewelry is spot-lighted, Hatley footwear, and Hamilton watches were the rage.  Everything Brazilian from Carnaval to Latin dance, or local food dishes, and Fire and Ice of South America were discussed in the lectures today.  Dance lessons included the merengue and Cuban Salsa.  Sounds more like an appetizer to us.


We took advantage of the better weather to relax at the Seaview Pool today.  What a difference from the last cruise we did.  No one was saving lounges, or dragging the umbrellas to the back railing like they did on the previous trip.  There was a total of a dozen sunbathers and a few swimmers in the pool.  Perfect for reading good books.


Around 6:30pm, we took our usual seats outside the Ocean Bar, only to find that the quartet was off for the evening.  It seems that each band gets one day off during the week.  There is always an alternative, which was the Station Band in the Crow’s Nest.  Oddly enough, there was something wrong with the atrium astrolabium structure which sits on deck three.  There were ropes going across the dome, then tied down to the base.  There has to be a story there, and we will investigate tomorrow.  Heo and Greg strolled by and suggested that they will be selling tickets for a zipline.  Always the comedian.


Dinner was a special menu, created by the select chefs of HAL.  The crab cakes were outstanding, as was the zucchini bisque with slivers of green apples.  Really different, but good.  Both of us ordered the halibut, which was excellent.  Prime rib was another popular entrée, as was the rigatoni dish.  The favorite dessert seemed to be the raspberry-ricotta cheese tart.  One of us enjoyed the fruit plate…always a winner.


Showtime was a leading international operatic tenor, Lee Bradley, who we did see while on the last cruise.  He has a powerful voice that boomed into the hallways outside the Mainstage.  No need to go inside.


Most all of us intend to take the shuttle into the Recife Marketplace tomorrow, mostly to see if we remember being there eight years ago.


Bill & Mary Ann

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Oh I remember the Dam Dollars -- got some nice things with them.


Before that there was the Passport to Fitness -- we still have jackets from when HAL had that program.

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Report #71   Recife, Brazil   January 16, 2020   Thursday   Partly cloudy & 87 degrees   Part #1 Of 4    81  Pictures


Recife, Brazil, was our port of call for today.  This city of 1.555 million residents is the capital of Pernambuco.  It happens to be the fourth largest city in Brazil, and is known for its beaches, restaurants, and nightlife.  The name Recife actually means colorful reefs, and being built partially on an island, it  has a series of canals and rivers earning it the nickname The Venice of Brazil.  The average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius, with the currency being the Brazilian real at 4.08 reals to the $1 USD.  The official language is Portuguese.


And it was the Portuguese that founded this city in 1534, and began to import slaves to work the prosperous sugar cane plantations.  It was not long after that many colonial buildings were constructed throughout the growing city.   


Five  miles north of the city is Olinda, a well-preserved colonial site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.  We visited this lovely village finding it much safer than Recife, but also more touristy.


There were a total of four ship tours ranging from 3 to 4 ½ hours for $110 to $120.


The Amsterdam arrived before 8am to a very warm and humid day.  Our plans were to have breakfast, then go off after 10am.  Good timing, because there was a safety drill beginning then, and the sound of the bells ringing was deafening.  


There was a mandatory bus we had to board in order to get from the ship to the terminal.  That took a while because people can be slow boarding.  And even slower getting off.  Once at the terminal, we had to negotiate the hike into the building, up the escalator, then across to a ramp, that led to the way out.  At this end, were two dancers doing the samba to the music of a band.  Along the way, we had been given maps and flyers of the area.  One local fellow handed us a baseball cap, which came from Ben Brothers Jewelry.  We are sure there will be a follow-up pitch when we come back here later.


Outside the doors, we loaded into another coach for the 20 minute ride to the Caso do Culturo, a former 19th century prison transformed into a handicraft center.  This t-shaped 2 story building had small “cells” that were converted into small shops or take-away food cubbyholes.  We found the items sold were embroidered linens, laces, Brazilian-style clothing, wood carvings, pottery, and some jewelry.  We call it fun shopping, since most everything was reasonably priced.  And although we did not bargain, we do know on the higher priced things, they would welcome it.  One brightly-colored wooden clutch purse and an embroidered tunic became our purchases.


We had been warned to stay within the area surrounding this shopping venue, because it is an area of crime.  There was a strong presence of policemen, and we felt we were well watched.  Despite that, we did not wander far from here, mostly because it was so darned hot outside.  It may have been nice to see some of the many cathedrals that were in this area, but without being in a group, like on a tour with an experienced guide, it was not advisable to explore further.  Our friends Barb, Aart and Ellen did walk a long block from the shopping center to the well-known restaurant, Leite, for lunch, but had the assistance of a local lady who walked there with them.  We had previously looked up the menu at this restaurant, but everything was in Portuguese, and we did not recognize any of the entrees.  So we did not eat lunch in town.


After about an hour in the “prison”, we were back to the ship by 12:30pm.  Several buses were running and we did not have to wait long for either run. And like we expected, the jewelry man did hand us an envelope with an invitation for a free ride to their store in Rio.  We used to do this with Stern’s, and all we had to do was listen to their sales talk on jewelry and loose gemstones.  But for some reason, Stern’s has cut ties with this cruise line we heard.


This was another time we appreciated the cool air-conditioning on the ship.  We had our usual lunch in the Lido, then did some photo work until it was time for the sail away festivities at the Seaview Pool.


Taking the last table near the back end, we relaxed while watching the activity on the dock, as well as keeping an eye out for bird life here.  While the ship was taking on supplies, we spotted a bird that stood out from the pigeons and sea birds.  Resembling a vulture, this bird was perched on the highest of the cranes, and occasionally took flight down to the water and back up.  Getting some clear shots of it with the good camera, we could blow them up later to identify it.


By the time was pulling away from the pier, and actually backing out of the harbor, Henk, the hotel director joined us to chat.  Apparently the internet has had its kinks, and they are busy working them out.  Eventually Susie, Woody, and Greg joined us, while enjoying the sun setting behind the skyline of the tall buildings of Recife.  By now, the wind had picked up, cooling everyone off.


Enlarging the bird photos, we discovered we had seen a crested caracara, a bird common to this part of the world.  But it was the first time we ever saw one in the wild like this.  It is in the falcon family, and will hunt on land, but also at sea.  From here on down the east coast of South America, we shall be on the lookout for more sightings. 


Dinner was filled with a variety of dishes from this part of the world.  Again, not sure we would like some of it, we opted for the alternate salmon, and one penne pasta with pancetta.  Dessert was a shared apricot crisp with slivered almonds and one scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Not a bad way to end the day.


The singers and dancers were performing “That’s Life”, with a mix of songs and dances from the not-so-old days.  Even the 9:30pm show filled the show lounge, which is good.  Guess we need to enjoy this type of entertainment occasionally while it lasts.


We have a couple of days at sea now to arrive to Rio de Janeiro for a two day stay.  The passengers are getting excited about that.


Bill & Mary Ann





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Report #72   Day at Sea   January 17, 2020   Friday    Mostly sunny & 78 degrees    Part #1 Of 1


It could not have been a lazier day for us, which is really nice.  The hardest question of the day was trying to figure out the reason that the planned clocks ahead one hour was cancelled last night.  According to the world time on our devices, there should be an hour difference from Recife to Rio.  Even the GPS watch adjusted to the hour ahead, then later on, corrected itself.  So we are wondering if Brazil has daylight savings time, and if so, is it spring ahead or fall back?  If the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, then this might explain it.  Henk even sent notes to everyone advising us to disregard the notice in the When & Where, adding that we need not worry as they’ll do the worrying for us.  OK with us.


At breakfast time, we asked Asep, one of the longtime supervisors, how many passengers were on the ship at the moment.  He said 1212, but not all were full cruisers.  A small number of folks are segment travelers, but those that disembark will never exceed 20.  From what he said, this is unprecedented on a grand world cruise.  Now we are hoping that the demand does not result in higher fares in the future.


The weather was most pleasant today, with a slight drop in the humidity.  Hope this continues, as it makes the heat a lot more tolerable.  Going to the aft pool, we discovered once again that there was a spattering of sun bathers outside.  Sure it was breezy, but that kept us cooled off.  The only thing we noticed was that someone made a mistake and put on some Christmas music.  That is almost as bad as starting up the holiday music the day after Halloween.


Deciding on a Dive-In Grill lunch, we ordered our burgers and brought them down to our room.  They really are good, and kept us from snacking later in the afternoon.  Two lectures had taken place today, so we took the time to listen to both of them while eating.  One was all about overland shore excursions, which we have done most of them on our own, or with our former travel group.  After seeing the prices of some of these tours, we were so glad we had done them several years ago, when they were still affordable.  The second talk was on Rio de Janeiro, which is coming up Sunday.  We have visited this vibrant city several times, and have taken tours there.  From what we gathered, some new construction around the pier area has made walking to town much easier, and hopefully….safer.   Well, it may not be that new, but the last time we stopped here was in 2012.  Much can change in 8 years, and probably for the better.  We have not made definite plans for the two day stay there, but will play it by ear.


We recently had a question regarding dining on local cuisine in these countries.  One of us has a serious food allergy, so if we are not sure of the ingredients, and if there is a language problem, we will not take any chances.  If we do not recognize the dish or the food or sauces used in it, we will pass on it every time. 


Greg has been attending the port to table demos in the Wajang Theater on sea days.  At the moment, we have a Brazilian chef by the name of Leticia Moreinos.  She will have a special dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, and also does the sip and savor in the Explorer’s Lounge at 4:30pm with a $7 charge.  When we had the America’s Test Kitchen hostess, that activity became quite popular.  By the way, we have also noticed that the Country Cooking shows are no longer on the TV.  Now we are enjoying the Food Channel series of chefs.  HGTV also amuses us, and is a nice change from the constant news.


Tonight’s dinner in the dining room was Gold, Glitz & Gleam Gala.  Mobiles of streaming gold foil decorated the ceiling.  We’re not sure why, but many folks like to take these decoration to their rooms.  Yeah, we have done the same with some of the cuter things like the fish balloons from Under the Sea.  Towards the end of the evening, some of the ladies were wearing the gold sequined table runners, and some were wearing the streamers in one fashion or another.  We say…whatever floats your boat….


Our entrees were petrole sole, and one order of a pumpkin filled ravioli.  Now that was different, but really good for a change.  Vanilla soufflé was the most popular dessert, while one of us had the most delicious fresh pineapple slices. 


We had just enough time to catch the last half of the show, which was a piano showman by the name of Tim Abel.  Obviously from England, he played a mean piano.  But the best had to be his rendition of a Liberace song, Chopsticks.  That sure brought back memories for most everyone in the audience, especially one of us who began playing that tune on the piano when she was eight years old.


Gifts awaited us in our room.  We received two pocket-sized external battery packs, Ten Four 20 by Origaudio, capable of charging three electronic devices at one time.  And as with all of the gifts, the 2020 Grand World Voyage was printed on them. 


One more day at sea, and we will be in Rio.


Bill & Mary Ann


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When we in Rio a couple of years ago there was a light rail system from the wharves to the city. Made life easy.

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Report # 73   Day at Sea   January 18, 2020   Saturday   Partly sunny, cloudy, then rain   76 degrees   Part #1 of 1


Today started off just fine.  Warm, a little humid, and a nice breeze greeted us as we went for our morning walk.  Then like we do on days at sea like this, we headed for the Seaview Pool.   To say conditions deteriorated by noontime, is an understatement.  The clouds became heavier the further south we sailed, and by 1pm, the sprinkles began.  Most times, we wait it out, but looking ahead, it appeared the rain was here to stay.  Oh well, guess we have been very lucky so far this trip with mostly sunny days. 


The swells began  to be bothersome shortly after Captain Jonathon gave his 12:30pm update.  He said it would be increasing all the way to Rio, but would calm down once we got there.  Hope he is correct, because it sure made getting around the ship more difficult for many.


Going to lunch in the Lido, we ran into Leta, who was coming back from a massage.  She joined us at our table, and we had a great conversation catching up on a year’s worth of home news.  Bill, her husband, was relaxing in their room, and we promised to make a date to have dinner with them soon.


Speaking of dinner, there was a most special one tonight.  We had been invited to an 80th birthday celebration for our buddy, Don, who we have known for like, forever.  The evening began with a gathering of mutual friends, our five tablemates among them, for drinks in the Crow’s Nest at 7:15pm.  Arriving on time, we found the entire group of 28 guests were already there.  Even nicer, we knew every one of them. 


By 8pm, we made our way to the center of the dining room on deck four.  Three large tables had been reserved for us, with the table for 12 set with piles of balloons.  The menu was the regular choices for the evening, but when it came to dessert time, a gigantic carrot cake arrived to the birthday boy.  Along with that came dozens of waiters to sing the special song for Don.  Actually, we have never seen such a huge turnout at any birthday ever.  The singing raised the roof.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  And the cake was good too, as it was Don’s favorite.  We stayed until the dining room was closing for the evening after 10pm.  It was also nice that the ship’s photographer showed up to take a picture of the event as the waiters surrounded Don.  He was most impressed and thanked us all for being part of his special day, even though his real birthday is tomorrow. 


The Captain stopped by, as well as the top officers onboard, to add their congratulations to Don.   He added that tomorrow’s weather should not include rain, and the sail into the port will be around 5am.  For sure, at least one of us will be up to film it…..maybe.


Bill & Mary Ann  

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Report #74    Rio de Janeiro   January 19, 2020   Sunday   Mostly cloudy & 79 degrees    Part #1 Of 5   80  Pictures


The Amsterdam sailed into the Bay of Guanabara quite early this morning, so the cameraman in our family went to deck six forward right after 5pm, to watch the sail in.  At least there was no rain, but the skies were heavily overcast, making the photos almost colorless.  In all of the times we have visited Rio, there has probably only been one without clouds or heavy fog.  It’s just the luck of the draw.  But at least waiters served orange juice and coffee on the outside decks. Sure would have been nice if they had added Corcovado/Sugarloaf rolls, aka, Panama rolls.  Hint…hint….


Rio de Janeiro is the second most populated municipality in Brazil with 6.32 million people.  It was the former capital of Brazil, but today it has become the hub for finance, commerce, transport, and communications center of the country.  It sure has come a long way since the Portuguese explorer, Americo Vespucci, discovered it in 1501. 


The sprawling city has many faces such as the 125 foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, and also shantytowns.  You can also find the site of Carnaval with the bossa nova and samba dancers.  You could spend days trying to see all of the churches and museums to learn the history.  


The best time to visit is December through March, although it is not safe at night, or sometimes during the day too.  In fact, a sobering message was printed on the front page of the When & Where today.  Titled Travelers Tips, it dealt with the pickpockets and con artists that are typically found around the world.  Rio just happens to have a lot of them, and all ages.  A reminder that purses or backpacks are easy targets, as are flashy jewelry or dangling earrings and necklaces.  Snatch and run thieves are experts at getting those.  A suggestion was made to keep rubber bands around a man’s wallet, making it difficult for them to take them from pockets.  Lastly, check the USD change you get back….it may be counterfeit.   Whoever thought of that?  Well-warned, we followed those instructions, but we still bet this will happen to someone onboard.


We had company in the way of another ship in port.  It was the MSC Musica, launched in 2006, with 2550 passengers.  The crew members numbered 987, and the ship is 92,409 gross tons with 13 decks.  Most of her guests appeared to be from Europe.


The shore excursions included trips to Corcovado and the famous statue, Sugarloaf, and a few with a churrascuria lunch. Our buddies Greg and Heo took one of those all day tours, and had a great time.  Barb, Susie and Woody also found a restaurant serving the tasty meat lunch.  Other tours did some site-seeing and one included a helicopter ride over the beaches and monuments.  Tomorrow, an overland to Iguazu Fall for 5 days, 4 nights will take some folks from Brazil to Argentina for $3000 per person.  So glad we did this trip in one day back in 2003.  And we have also been to the top of both Sugarloaf and Corcovado at least three times, so today, we decided to hoof it to downtown.


The crew has been assigned to “fix-it” jobs while the ship is docked.  Walking the outside deck, the noise of chipping hammers was deafening.  Any passenger who chose to sleep in late was totally out of luck.  Necessary emergency crew drills were done as well.


Leaving the ship around 10am, we had a long walk to exit the terminal building.  Both ships were connected to this large terminal, which was full of souvenirs, Ben Bros. Jewelry reps, and taxi drivers selling tours or rides to anywhere in town. In addition, they did have free wifi for the folks that refused to purchase an internet plan on the ship. This does work out well for the crew members, since they always take the time to call home or email family, even if they do not venture into town.


Coming out the opposite side, we were on the wide streets full of more vendors.  The food trucks had arrived, and were setting up their portable cafes on the sidewalks.  It has been eight years since we were here last, and we did not remember all of this this.  A new addition had to be the tram, which ran from here to many parts of the city.  It appeared that tickets could be purchased from kiosks, but you would need local currency, which we did not get.  Credit cards were accepted everywhere, even the popcorn vendors took them.  By the way, we did see US dollars being taken at the souvenir booths and the mobile food trucks.


Halfway down this street, we came across Rozell, who was getting her morning walk in.  She is such a lovely lady, and we stopped to chat with her for a bit.  She said that in time, we will see her in all six pairs of her tennis shoes and matching outfits.  She is smart to know that walking on these old streets of cobblestones can be tricky.  Sandals and flip-flops are trendy, but give one no support in long distance walking. Searching for a street of highend shops, she could not find them.  Just as well, because we learned later that these shops did not open until 3pm today.  Perhaps we will search this out tomorrow.


Running into friends Wendy and Steve, our former hosts, they had just hiked around the waterfront, and suggested a good path for us.  A new structure was built near the port for the 2016 Olympics, we believe.  It is called the Museum of Tomorrow.  Knowing it would take some time to circle it, we figured we would come back tomorrow.  Continuing on, we strolled past the military area, totally roped off from the public traffic, and well-manned.  We might add that with today being a Sunday, there were mostly locals out and about with their families.  With the exception of a few homeless people (all cities seem to have them), most everyone was well-dressed and polite.  Never once did we feel threatened by anyone.


Along the water’s edge, we saw cormorants in flight, many frigates flying at airplane levels, pigeons, a few vultures, and some small birds.   There were some pretty big fish jumping in this bay as well, and we wondered what was making them do that.  Never did see a predator after them.  Along this road, we located one of the oldest Neoclassic cathedrals in the city, Candelaria Church.  Built in 1630, it sure reminded us of smaller version of St. Peter’s in Rome.  


Across from the church, was a museum that  had a line of people wrapped around the corner to go inside.  It looked to us like there was an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts happening now.  Continuing in this district, we noticed several bars and cafes getting ready to open up, although there were not many customers milling around this time of day.


Back on the main street, we followed it to the Ferry Terminal, which was surrounded with massive plazas.  We found out that tomorrow is a holiday, the feast of St. Sebastian, who happens to be the patron saint of Rio.  We’re hoping that means parades and some cool activities taking place somewhere in this historical quarter.


This seemed the best place to turn around and walk back.  There had been many convenient benches to relax along the way, with no lack of vendors selling water bottles, beer, and coconut water.  But we had gone quite a way, and it was just as long back-tracking to the pier.  By now, some of the tour groups were arriving back from their four hour journeys, but had been dropped off outside the terminal.  Their guides had failed to point out the entrance to the terminal, so several folks walked the opposite way, only to find the gates were locked.  They were not happy campers, since it was a long walk in the heat of the day for them.  And they were correct, there was no sign pointing the way back inside the terminal building.


Our Coke Zeros never tasted so good when  we got back to our cool room.   Working on photos, we finally went to lunch around 3pm.  The Lido was full of people searching for food after their tours.  At least they kept the stations opened beyond 2pm, or the salad and sandwich bars would have had very long lines.  That is one of the most often heard complaints about the Lido.  Long lines, and no place to sit keep many folks going to the dining room at noon.  So far, the dining room has been closed for lunch on the majority of port days.  It does give the wait staff time to go ashore, so we don’t complain about that.


The sun finally peeked out later in the day, and we had a window of opportunity to get some nice shots from deck nine.  Blue sky sure makes a difference by adding the needed color for back -round shots. 


Dinner was most fun as we caught up with everyone’s exploits of the day.  Each story was interesting, and sometimes amusing.  The fellows had a long day on their “free” tour for booking a veranda room.  They chose the $220 per person 9 to 10 hour trip to see both Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf.  Their lunch was a trip in itself, as was for Barb, Susie and Woody.  They were in “meat” over-load, but still enjoyed a great dinner.  Our entrees were mahi-mahi and carne asada with thinly-sliced rare beef.   Desserts were one blueberry crisp with a little ice cream and one small chocolate tart.   Good thing the desserts are getting smaller in size, so we are not the ones getting larger by the day.


Tomorrow will be another good day in Rio, as long as the rain stays away.


Bill & Mary Ann



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Love the reports -- especially on Rio.  We spent 4 days in Rio before one of our cruise.  So much to see there.


Happy belated Birthday to your friend Don.

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Love your reports of the WC. 
is the light rail near the docks running. Last time we were there they were rushing to finish it for the Olympics.

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Report #75   Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  Day #2   January 20, 2020   Monday   Chance of showers & 79 degrees    Part #1 Of 4     80  Pictures


Today was a carbon copy of yesterday, more or less.  The same safety warning while traveling through the city was printed on the front of our daily newsletter, only there was the prediction of showers, which never did happen.  Today we began our walk by going around the new structure near the port called the Museum of Tomorrow.  Once again, due to the holiday, it was not opened.  Around the far end, we could see a few promising restaurants on the ground level, but they were not going to be opened either. 


We had high hopes to have the chance to see a parade somewhere today for the holiday of the patron saint of Rio, St. Sebastion.  But they never happened, at least any time before 4:30pm, which was all aboard time for everyone.  Once we completed the scenic walk around the new museum, we headed back along the shoreline.  When we neared the military area, we realized something was going on.  Many of the sailors were at attention at the fencing, and two well-armed patrol boats were in the water facing the building.  Since there were nice concrete benches along the way, we sat down for a bit and watched the activity.  Their military band was gathering with their instruments, and a series of local news people with cameras were getting good spots to film this event, whatever it may be.


Just about then, Greg and Heo came by, after completing their explorative walk earlier.  Greg tried to communicate with the nearest sailor, but had no luck as he did not speak English.  It was obvious that someone important was either arriving or leaving the port area.  So after waiting for 20 minutes, the fellows continued on their way back to the Amsterdam, and we left for another long walk to town.  Unknown to us, Greg had finally found someone with English skills, and discovered that the President of Brazil was actually leaving the military building, with the help of a lot of pomp and circumstance.  Wish we had stayed, as it would have been a good substitute for the parade we never saw.


We had time to see Heo’s photos of some more icons of the city, which were in the same area we walked yesterday.  However, we did go around the Candelaria Cathedral, and located the main drive called Avenida Presidente Vargas.  Strolling this wide thoroughfare, we saw so many homeless men and women, that we ended our quest to see more of the city.  We even were asked by two of our Indonesian crew members if we knew how to get to a market, but we did not know any more than they did. 


We did locate the front entrance to the Municipal Theater, which was most impressive.  Many more churches were everywhere we looked, but most of the iconic structures were so buried in this concrete jungle, you could not spot them easily.   It was too bad that the information folks in the terminal did not have detailed maps of this part of the town.  And once again, the streets were not crowded due to the holiday.  The reminder of the travel tips that warned everyone to be careful of being isolated in any part of the city kept coming to our minds.  So we headed back.


By the time we reached the military area, the event had happened and was over.  The guards and band were nowhere to be seen.  The plazas did fill up with local kids on bikes, skate boards, and roller skates.  Even the adults were doing the same.  


By the time we got back to the ship, it was almost 4pm.  So we opted for Dive In burgers once again, and ended up going to the sail away by 4:30pm.  This time, the aft deck was filled with people watching our sailing out of the bay, going past Sugarloaf, Copacabana, and Ipanema beaches.  Christ the Redeemer was in sight the entire time.  This was lucky because there was no fog and no rain to spoil our departure.  We joined Susie and Woody and eventually Greg, sharing stories from past trips as we enjoyed seeing the sights of the city from this angle. 


We ended up staying until the sun was about set.  It looked promising, but when the sun disappeared behind clouds, we knew that was as good as it would get. And besides, it was time to get ready for dinner. 


None of us had gone out to lunch today,  so we did have better appetites tonight.  A burger was on the menu with a Brazilian twist, so one of us ordered it.  A tuna entrée was the other choice, but when it came half raw, as in ahi tuna, only half of it was consumed.  Guess we need to ask more questions about how things are cooked, or not cooked.  Raw tuna is not something we really care for, even if that is the way you are supposed to eat it.  Knowing how it comes, we always ask for it to be fully cooked.


Now we will have two well-earned days at sea, and stop on Thursday in a small resort area of Uruguay, a new port for us.  


Bill & Mary Ann



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