Anyone who cruises from Rio should plan at least 2 nights in Rio before the cruise. Take a while to research the hotels as there are many to choose from. We chose the Rio Sheraton Hotel and Resort located about a 5 minute walk from Ipanema Beach. The resort had a free shuttle to all beaches and to the shopping area. It also had its own beach. If you choose this hotel, request a room on the 20th floor or up near the back and you will have a view of the Christ the Redeemer Statue and the ocean. Food is expensive at the hotel, but restaurants are available along the beach areas.
Before leaving home, I made a reservation with Grayline shared ride for transportation to the hotel. Cost $45. They were waiting when we arrived, no hassle for a cab. I also made reservations for an all day city tour with Grayline. Cost $140 pp. AAA discount is available. You can pay before leaving home. Grayline was located in the hotel so it was convenient. Of course, you will need transportion to the pier if you are cruising. We were able to get a car at the hotel for $50 which took the four of us to the port. It is about 45 minutes from the hotel.
Don't be afraid to venture out during the day, but stay near your hotel in the evening was the advice that we received. Now for what to see in Rio. Of course, Corcovado Mountain where the Christ the Redeemer Statue is located is at the top of the list. It embraces the city with open arms. (The statue is being renovated at this time) Sugarloaf offers stunning views of the city and its dazzling white sand. The beaches are beautiful. Copacabana and Ipanema have been celebrated in song and movies. Sand volleyball and beach soccer are played along the beach. Fog is a frequent visitor to Rio. It can be clear and all of sudden everything is obsured by fog. Hope for a clear day as you visit the sights of Rio.
If you are in Rio on a Sunday, a visit to the market near Ipanema Beach is a must. The beach side of the Boulevard is closed to traffic and open to walkers, skaters, bicyclers, and runners. It is a playground for everyone. Shopping is evereywhere, but Brazilian crafts are plentiful at the market. The favela area is something you will not want to miss. Even though it is the slum area, many of the people are the working class of the area. Work is being done to improve the living conditions in these areas.
If you are decide to see Rio on your own, you will find that you will not save much money, plus you must be able to find your way around the area which is spread out and would require a lot of walking. Everyone was friendly and helpful and we did not feel afraid when out on our own. While in Rio, it is important that you visit some of the old churches. The old part of Rio is in walking distance of the pier where the ship was docked. One of the oldest churches is near the port. Sao Sabastiao Cathedral where the Pope spoke to 20,000 during his visit to Brazil is another must see.
After leaving Rio the Star Princess traveled south to Santos for Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is a big city. We opted to stay in Santos, the home of Pele, the great Brazilian soccer player and the world's largest beachfront garden. The beaches were beautiful. There was also a wonderful aquarium.
From Santos, we went to Salvador, Bahia, a UNESCO Heritage Site. The city had two levels. The upper level is the old city and the lower is the new city. There is an elevator that will take you to the upper level for about 15 cents. There are 365 churches, on for every day of the year, they say. There is a mixture of African and European culture which makes for an easy-going nature of the locals. We attended Mass in one of the oldest Baroque churches in Salvador. It was hard to be attentive in mass because of the beautiful art work in the church.
On the to the next port, Recife, known as the "Venice of Brazil" because of its rivers and bridges. Churches are the main attraction in the old city. The Baroque Gold Chapel is a must see. It was built in the 17th century. Next to it is the San Antonio Church which dates back to 1606. A shuttle from the ship was available for $10rt. This was an easy city to walk around in. Recife is noted for its folklore tradition, with orgins in the cults bygone from African civilizations.
Our last stop in Brazil was the relatively unheard of city of Fortaleza. Its beaches offer vacation spots for Brazilians even those from Rio. The neo Gothic Cathedral boast superb stained glass windows. There were over 100 stained glass windows in the church. One had to sit and admire the windows. The ship provided a shuttle into town for $10rt.
Leaving Forteleza and Brazil the Star headed north across the equator into the Caribbean where we enjoyed the beautiful beaches and blue waters. The ship stopped in Barbados, Antigua, and St. Thomas before returning to Fort Lauderdale. This was a repositioning cruise from South America back to the US. For persons who like to cruise and want to see the world this a great way to enjoy both. You will have several sea days along with many different ports of call. This trip was 18 days with 9 ports. Besides touring we were able to relax, enjoy cruising, and participate in the ships activities. Repositioning cruises are usually more economical than regular cruises.
This was our 5th venture of this type and we will select another one this year. Our Brazilian adventure was truly a great vacation. If you are considering going to SA, give Rio a try.
Sarah K, 3/2010