Immediately after Thanksgiving, Deb, her mom – Velna, and Finnie flew from Texas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to begin a cruise from there, through the Caribbean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean to the Amazon River in Brazil and up river approximately 1000 nautical miles to the City of Manaus and back. The cruise included 24 nights aboard ship and many stops along the way! This blog entry is a pictorial summary of the cruise highlights.
We boarded the ship, The Sevens Sea Navigator, on the afternoon of November 28, and enjoyed relaxing by the ship’s pool until the ship sailed at dusk.
We spent several days at sea relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship. The ship has shops, several restaurants, a variety of recreational and fitness facilities, lounges, a large theater, a casino, and organized competitive games, so there were many ways to enjoy days and nights at sea.
Views from the voyage and off-ship adventures.
First stop: St. Barts. St. Barthélemy is a Department of France. It is a volcanic island and a part of the Leeward Islands. Though there were several different off-ship excursions and activities, Deb, Vel, and I chose to go snorkeling and to tour the island.
Second Stop. St. Lucia. St. Lucia is one of the Lesser Antilles, and it lies at the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Deb and I took a tour of the island and Vel decided to rest aboard ship.
Third Stop: Tobago. Tobago is the smaller of the two islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. We stopped at the capitol city, Scarborough, and Deb and I took a tour of the island, which included several old forts and a plantation house. One especially interesting site was a grave with a gravestone bearing this mysterious quote: “She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it, except by her kind indulgence to him.” The grave contained a young woman (23 years old) and her baby.
After our visit to Tobago, we sailed a couple of days to the mouth of the Amazon River, and began a long voyage up the river. We stopped briefly ay a place called Macapa to have our visas checked and to pick up Brazilian officials, including (we hoped) a river pilot. There did not appear to be much of a town there and we waited a good while until several boats came over to discharge the various people who needed to come aboard. After about an hour, we continued upstream. We knew that we would stop for a visit at the city of Santarem, about 2/3 of the way to our destination on the Amazon of Manaus.
As we approached the mouth of the Amazon, we sailed into muddy water that was being discharged into the ocean by the river. On board we were told that 1/5 of all river water flowing into the world’s oceans and seas comes from the Amazon. I had never even considered that scale of water flow before. We began to see the “muddy” Amazonian water what we think was about 6 hours before we actually entered into the river proper. Deb and I have seen several of the world’s largest rivers (e.g., the Nile, the Yellow, the Yangtse, the Rhine, the Mississippi, the Zambezi) before this trip, but nothing had come close to preparing us for the size and impact of the Amazon! It is impossible to actually capture the size and water volume flowing the Amazon! Even photos don’t do justice to the river. It is so incredible that one of the passengers thought (after we left the Amazon to sail up it largest tributary, the Rio Negro, to go about 20 miles to the city of Manaus), that we had finally left the sea and were now on the Amazon. The Rio Negro is a very large river, I think larger that the Mississippi near its delta, so it finally seemed as though we were in a river — so it must be the Amazon!
Here are some photos taken on approaching and sailing on the Amazon.
Just after reaching Macapa, we crossed the equator, and this necessitated a major ceremony to initiate those who had note crossed it before. King Neptune, his queen court, and a lot of the ship’s entertainers went all out to do the job right!
Fortunately, Deb made it through and is now a shellback!
Fourth Stop: Santarem is an interesting city of several hundred thousand people. Our guide on a wonderful tour of the city and surrounding areas said that there is only one road into/out of Santarem, and it isn’t “pave-ed.” She said it is a very rough trip lasting about 4 or 5days to the nearest city from Santarem on the road! Once we docked, Deb and I took the tour, which included a visit to the cathedral, a outdoor market, the city museum, and a visit to a rubber and manioc farm operated by an extended family. Here are some photos!
Apparently, hammocks are widely used as beds in this area, and we were told that since the only way to travel out of Santarem is by boat, airplane, or the non-paved road, most people prefer to take the passenger boats — but you have to take your own hammock. Only hooks to swing the hammocks are available on the boats, and they are mounted densely on the decks of the boats!
Fifth and Sixth stops: After saying farewell to Santarem, we sailed over night to Boca da Valeria, a small village, and some travelers visited for a few hours. Deb, Vel, and I, however, remained onboard and slept in late!. By 1:00 PM, we sailed on to Manaus, arriving the following morning. As mentioned earlier, Manaus is not on the Amazon. It is on Rio Negro, about 20 miles from the point at which it flows into the Amazon. We remained in Manaus two full days, so we had the opportunity to a good deal of exploring. Manaus, a city of over 2 million inhabitants, was founded as a fort in 1669. During it rubber boom, 1879 to 1912, its “rubber barons” were fabulously wealthy, and the city was considered one of the most gaudy in the world. However, when rubber plantations were established in other parts of the world, the bottom fell out and the rubber boom was over for Manaus after only 33 years. However, during that time some amazing things were done there, including building a beautiful opera house.
Rio Negro is — as its name suggests — is a black river — that is, the water is darkly stained by tannins in the leaves that fall into its waters and those of its tributaries. Also, it flows from Colombia and Venezuela at a slow rate. On the other hand, the Amazon flows 3-4 times faster and its not stained. It is “muddy” looking due to erosion of the Andes mountains, which it originates. Consequently, the water for the two rivers does not quickly mix.
This was a very interesting place, and here are some photos.
Figure 57. Manaus Opera House –Teatro Amazonas
We also visited the zoo, which is estalished and operated by the Brazilian Army. There many typical primates, mammals, and reptiles on exhibit, but two animals were of particular interest to me:
Figure 65. An anaconda resting in a tree.
Figure 66. An boa constrictor sunning
On the second day in Manaus, Deb, Vel and I took a boat tour to see Lake January water lillies, which have pads that are up to six feet across, and the meeting of the Rio Negro and Amazon waters. Here are some photos on this adventure.
After our visit to Manaus, we sailed several days and night back down the Amazon, stopping only at the town of Parentins for an Amazonian culture show for about 3 hours. We don’t have any photos of the colorful show and nothing particularly different of the Amazon. We did see many pink dolphins in the river between Santarem and Manaus, but I never was able to get a good picture — by the time I saw one surface and tried to find it with my camera, it had disappeared, so all I ever got were evidence of splashes. Other people have been more successful fortunately, for example,
Our eighth stop was in the Atlantic, just off French Guiana, the infamous Devil’s Island. Actually, we visited Royal Island, where the administration of the prisons, along with hospital, church, prisons, and graveyards (not for prisoners, they were buried at sea) were located. We could see Devil’s Island across a shark-infested channel with dangerous currents. Apparently only one prisoner ever escaped from Devil’s Island — Clément Duval, made famous by the book, Papillon. The prisons operated from 1852 to 1946. Here are some of our photos:
Stop nine: Barbados. Only an overnight cruise from Devil’s Island, we docked at Barbados — our favorite stop on the cruise! Deb, Vel, and I selected a land tour of the island, and we were delighted by the island and its people! First we visited Sunbury, a sugar plantation house that operates today as a historical site that includes the plantation house, built in 1660, and garden and a fun sampling of local cuisine. This was followed by a visit to Orchid World, which was awesome, and finally an old fort on Gun Hill. The country side between the sites we visited was picturesque — hilly with sugar cane plantations and farms and broad vistas. We all agreed this is a “must return to” island! Ok, there are about a thousand pictures, so get ready! Just kidding! There were hundreds of pictures taken, but we’ll only show a few.
Orchid World had more than 20,000 orchids:
Figure 102. Another. Look Mom, no soil — just air!
Figure 105. Beautiful, but I could kill this one in about a week if I tried to grow it!
Stop Ten Dominica. Dominica is an island in the Lesser Antilles an overnight cruise from Barbados. Deb and I tour a tour of the island. We docked off the capital, Roseau. One of the attractions on this mountainous island is Morne Trois Pitons National Park at a triple peaked mountain from which the park gets its name and from which one can see twin high waterfalls (Middleham Falls, aka, Padre and Trafalgar Falls, aka, Madre) and the “emerald” pool nearby.
Figure 121. An example of a painting on the wall of murals
After a few hours snorkeling, we had a barbeque lunch of burgers on Cayo Levantado and relaxed on the beach before returning to the ship. The ship then sailed to Grand Turk.
Stop Thirteen. Grand Turk. We had a quick few hours here to shop and look around. The island is very small and seems to have very little elevation above the sea.
Figure 126. Deb and Vel next to a replica of Friendship 7, John Glenn’s capsule, which splashed down nearby.
Just as we were leaving Grand Turk, several large whales were swimming very near the ship. Naturally, I only captured splashes in the water with my camera. In the evening after we got underway, we were treated to a song and dance presentation by members of the multinational personnel of the ship. We were continuously amazed by the tireless hard work and good nature of all the personnel, and we felt very close to several of them! So, it was great fun to see several of them in the show! We were particularly excited to see our head waiter, Ferdinand, singing and dancing in four or five numbers!
Figure 130. Ferdinand (in the bath robe) and friends singing and dancing Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash”
We arrived back in Fort Lauderdale after another 36 hours at sea and returned to our home in Texas with delightful memories of a fantastic adventure! We were tired — it’s hard to relax so long and hard, I guess! But we will never forget this experience!
Sorry, but I can’t resist the temptation to pass along some cruising jokes (or very possibly, just true legends)!
Guest: “Say, Officer, how do you get electricity on the ship at sea? — by satellite or just an extension cord?”
Guest: ”Say, Officer, what do you do with all those ice sculptures after the ice melts?”
Guest: ”Say, Officer, since you say that you use ocean water in the ship’s pool, where are all the waves?”
OK. Have a nice day!