Life in Texas: November 27 to December 23, 2011 — Amazon Cruise

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.

Figure 1.  view from the ship in Fort Lauderdale

Figure 2.  Deb and Finnie preparing for lunch by the pool

Figure 3. Vel relaxing after lunch

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.

Figure 4.  View from our Suite window.

Figure 5.  Finnie checking email on the balcony

Figure 6.  Vel relaxing on the balcony of our suite

 Figure 7.  Vel enjoying a canapé before dinner on our balcony

Figure 8.  Vel writing a letter to friends back home in our suite

Figure 9.  Finnie and Vel in our suite after morning coffee

Figure 10.  Deb and Vel enjoying dinner in Prime 7, the smallest and most intimate restaurant

Figure 11.  Deb, Vel, and our new friend, Ida, dining in the main restaurant, Compass Rose, with Ferdinand, our waiter

Figure 12.  Vel and Finnie participating in the daily game of trivia in the Galileo Lounge

Figure 13. Playing duplicate Bridge on days 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.

Figure 14.  A tender from our ship approaching Gustavia, capitol of St. Barts.

Figure 15.  Going out on a large catamaran to snorkel

Figure 16.  The Seven Seas Navigator at anchor off St. Barts

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.

Figure 17.  The dock at Castries, capitol of St. Lucia.  Can you pick out our ship in this photo?

Figure 18.  View of Castries from an old fort.  Can you see our ship in this one?

Figure 19.  Some tie-dyed fabrics at the Caribelle batik shop, near Castries.

Figure 20.  Fishing boats at Anse la Raye on St . Lucia

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.

Figure 21.  Fort King George on Tobago.

Figure 22.  Bucco Beach on Tobago.

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.

Figure 23.  Each state room had it’s own TV set with constant information on our location, icluding maps at several levels of detail.

Figure 24 Approaching one of the channels into the river– the mouth seems to have a lots of islands in it and the river flows around them.

Figure 25.  In the Amazon, near the mouth.

Figure 26.  That island is a long way away with very tall trees.

Figure 27.   Our position on December 6

Figure 28.  In mid river on December 6.

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!

Figure 29.  King Neptune and court arriving!  That probably wasn’t really a script he was holding; I imagine it was a list of the condemned!  And Deb was on that list!

Figure 30.  The Captain tells the judge to hold the court.  This is very serious stuff!   Pooooor Deb!

Figure 31.  One poor pollywog being dealt with!  If he survives, he’ll be a shellback!  How lucky can you get?  Many of the pollywogs just had to kiss a piranha — I told you this is serious stuff!

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!

Figure 32.  The city of Santarem.

Figure 33.  Santarem cathedral

Figure 34.  City council meeting room.

Figure 35.  A selection of hammocks at an open-air market.

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!

Figure 36.  Passenger boat — bring your own hammock,  the stacks of dark wood are mahogany and other hardwoods from the area ready for export

Figure 37.  More hammocks

Figure 38.  Animals grazing on pasture land of an island just across from the Santarem docks.  It will be flooded soon , as the wet season is just starting.

Figure 39.  Visiting the rubber and manioc farm

Figure 40.  Harvesting rubber from a rubber tree

Figure 41.  Rubber tree seeds.  When they dry, they explode, sending the seeds 10-15 meters away.

Figure 42.  A manioc processing and detoxifying shed

Figure 43.  Manioc roots.

Figure 44.  Peeling a manioc roots for shredding

Figure 45.  Home-made manioc shredder

Figure 46.  Shredded manioc

Figure 47.  Squeezing the juices out.  The juice is used for sauces and to ferment

Figure 48.  very slow roasting the shredded and de-juiced manioc to detoxify it for human consumption.

Figure 49.  The family also grows a variety of fruits, which they displayed for us.

Figure 50.  Sister or cousin caring for a baby!

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 51.  Ship’s location at Manaus

Figure 52.  Wider view of our location

Figure 53.  Approaching Manaus on the Rio Negro

Figure 54.  A street market in Manaus

Figure 55.  There was a lot of traffic in Manaus!

Figure 56.  Manaus.  May I borrow your electricity, please?

Figure 57.  Manaus Opera House –Teatro Amazonas

Figure 58.  Manaus Opera House –Teatro Amazonas, main doors

Figure 59.  Ceiling of the Opera House

Figure 60.  Box seats in the opera house

Figure 61.  Opera House stage — the original curtain is still in use after 118 years

Figure 62.  Opera house Governor’s Reception Room

Figure 63.  Opera House, Governor’s Reception Room floor

Figure 64.  City park next to the Opera House

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.

Figure 67.  Lake January, which was dry until recently

Figure 68.  Houses, stores, and churches are all floating structures.  The water can rise up to forty feet higher when the rivers are at peak volume.

Figure 69.  We saw lots of birds of various species in the grasses in shallow water

Figure 70.  The large water lillies

Figure 71. More floating structures

Figure 72.  Two dwellings

Figure 73.  Kids during a Christmas holiday relaxing and playing over the water

Figure 74.  Meetings of the waters of the Rio Negro and Amazon

Figure 75.  Meetings of the waters – another view

Figure 76.  Pitchers of water from the Rio Negro in front and Amazon in back.  You can easily feel the difference in warmth between the two samples.

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,

We also saw, or more specifically, ate the Amazon’s largest fish, the arapaima, aka, pirarucu.  This is a photo from the web.

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:

Figure 77.  Our ship position at Devil’s Island

Figure 78.  Devil’s Island Director’s house  on Royal Island

Figure 79.  Guards’ houses

Figure 80.  The Church

Figure 81.  Church interior

Figure 82.  Deb resting on one of the many sets of steps on Royal Island.  Temperature = 39C, humidity = 100%!

Figure 83.  A reservoir reputed to have been dug by prisoners using only spoons.

Figure 84.  Entry to the Children’s cemetery–  i.e. children of the officials.

Figure 85.  Children’s graves

Figure 86.  A typical gravestone inscription

Figure 87.  Devil’s Island Hospital

Figure 88.  Devil’s Island from Royal Island.

Figure 89.  Today, there is a great deal of beauty on the islands, so it is hard to truly imagine the brutality of the place when it was a working prison.

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.

Sunbury House:

Figure 90.  Front view

Figure 91.  Front Room

Figure 92.  Front Room

Figure 93.   Cool chair

Figure 94.  Dining Room  — can cater private dinners and parties

Figure 95.  Planter’s office or den

Figure 96.  Cool fly trap!

Orchid World had more than 20,000 orchids:

Figure 97.  Vel and Finnie took the short tour!

Figure 98.  Ok, I don’t know all 20,000 orchids — or even two, so enjoy looking!

Figure 99.  Another one!

Figure 100.  Another

Figure 101. Yet another

Figure 102.  Another.  Look Mom, no soil — just air!

Figure 103.  Another one I liked

Figure 104.  How about this one?

Figure 105.  Beautiful, but I could kill this one in about a week if I tried to grow it!

Figure 106.  A closer view!

Figure 107.  I liked this one too.

Figure 108.  The last one I’ll show.  I like the color!  I think this one is a vanda.  Is 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 109.  Our ship at Roseau

Figure 110.  Deb and Ida in front of Madre falls

Figure 111.  Padre and Madre Falls

Figure 112.  The Emerald pool

Figure 113.  A friendly (?) bull finch

Figure 114.  I think this is a Bananaquit.

Stop Eleven. Tortola, an overnight sail fromDominica, is one of the British Virgin Islands.   Deb and Vel took a land tour and I stayed onboard to rest from all my relaxation of recent days!

Figure 115.  Tortola’s capitol, Road Town from the ship

Figure 116.  Vel in the excursion truck

Figure 117. A scene on the drive through Road Town

Figure 118.  A nice vista

Figure 119.  Beautiful Beach!

Figure 120.  Deb was especially impressed by the long series of murals along one shore.

Figure 121.  An example of a painting on the wall of murals

Stop Twelve.  Dominican Republic,  Cayo Levantado, was another overnight cruise away.  The ship moored off Cayo Levantado for several different excursions.   Deb and I chose to snorkel off the island.

Figure 122.  Cayo Levantado

Figure 123.  View of our ship at Cayo Levantado from the catamaran taking us to snorkel

Figure 124.  Our snorkel site

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 125.  Beginning our tour of the port

Figure 126.  Deb and Vel next to a replica of Friendship 7, John Glenn’s capsule, which splashed down nearby.

Figure 127.  Deb and Vel looking at some beautiful blossoms near the Friendship 7 replica.  Note the beautiful sea in the background

Figure 128.  Returning to the ship.  Seven Seas Navigator, the smaller, white ship, looks small compared with the much larger ship docked next to it!

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 129.  We are seated in the Star Lounge for the show

Figure 130.  Ferdinand (in the bath robe) and friends singing and dancing Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash”

Figure 131.  Ferdinand playing a cruise ship waiter (go figure!) in another number

Figure 132.  And finally Ferdinand is playing a ship’s officer in yet another song.

Figure 133.  Sailing for Fort Lauderdale.

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!

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4 Responses to Life in Texas: November 27 to December 23, 2011 — Amazon Cruise

  1. Kathy says:

    Delightful! Thanks for taking the time to share.

  2. karen says:

    what a NEAT trip!!!!!

  3. nora mohamed says:

    very delightful i came by accident to this page but i loved each and every picture

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