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The South of Brazil with Oceania

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Rio de Janeiro | Buzios | Ilha Grande | Santos | Itajai

The first few weeks of 2023 were about exploring the Southern Brazilian coast and finally setting foot in Rio aboard the Marina with Oceania Cruises. Highlights were celebrating my 45th Birthday with a beautiful group of humans whom we now call dear friends from Oceania, reacquainted with old friends from Rio, and new friends from Santos.

Rio, Brazil

Rio needs no introduction; we all have heard about the famous Copacabana Beach and the Christ of Redeemer perched up on a hill overlooking the city and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Rio is a highly populated and cosmopolitan city fringed with white sandy beaches surrounded by rich green jungle and mountains; it truly is unique.

Rio has been on our list for as long as we can remember, and we have been trying over the past ten years to visit our friends we met 12 years ago in Melbourne. It was never the best time to visit; finally, with the newly elected president, it was looking brighter (unfortunately, as we were leaving, it was disheartening to hear about the protests), we are praying it settles down, and life will progress in a more friendly way for all Brazilians.

We arrived at lunchtime in Rio; it was a lovely sail-in as we cruised by Sugarloaf Mountain and docked in the city's heart. The weather was not on our side, but we had plans to see our friends.

The rain was a perfect excuse to settle in for a slow lunch at Cococabana Palace, an iconic hotel on the beach - Thank you, Aluizio, for working your magic with free-flowing Caprinhas and live Samba music as we spent the afternoon catching up with our dear friends, it felt like only yesterday we all met back in Melbourne 12 years ago.

It was a lunch full of moments; we laughed, sang, danced, and met new friends accompanied by local cocktails and food. We also provided everyone with some quality entertainment (let's be honest - comedy) whilst being invited to dance!

As the evening was upon us, it was time to see a little more of Rio, so we had a tour of the famous coastline and made it to the gondola at dusk to rise over the city to visit Sugarloaf Mountain.

The city lights were all popping up, and the rain was settling, so the skies were clearing to show us this fabulous city.

We enjoyed a few hours taking in the views and enjoying the atmosphere; the first tourist attraction we had seen where the young ones go up to party the night away; there were pop-up bars, clubs even a beer and tattoo parlour (it was busy), it was quite the buzz.

We bid our beautiful friends farewell and felt grateful to have spent the day together creating more memories. Thank you, Aluizio and Fernando; we promise to return in a few years and not leave it another 12!

Buzios, Brazil

Today is a celebration; it is my 45th Birthday. Happy Birthday to me! We love celebrating in a new destination each year, and this year was in Buzios and was perfect!

Buzios is the St Tropez of Brazil, a charming little town full of beach resorts with an island vibe. It was the perfect place to celebrate as we were spoilt with fine restaurants decorating the seaside Buzios was also put on the map as it was Brigette Bardot's favourite spot!

Our first task was a tidy up, we needed a fresh haircut, and we were fortunate to find a cute little salon on a back street where we had some fun conversing. Still, the energy was so positive we all kept laughing at each other as we could all understand one way or another!

The next stop was to find a place for cocktails and lunch; we couldn't pass up this popular restaurant, 'Canto Resto', on the beach, and again were super impressed. The cocktails were perfection, the food was divine, and we even had a Moroccan Tajine, our fave! Buzios is a place for people who appreciate good food, so as lovers of food, we knew we would feel at home with French, Italian, Moroccan, Thai and other restaurants to please the most demanding tastes. The vast amount of foreigners that came for a weekend but ended up staying is the reason for the diversity, having brought the secrets and spices from their countries.

The service was super friendly and kind, we needed some help translating our local phone app to top up our internet, and our young waiter Juan was so helpful he even popped the recharge on his debit card, and we paid him back in cash! Thank you, Juan!

Following lunch, we found a lovely boutique and purchased some pieces to ensure we blend in on the ship and always look presentable!

A perfect day in Buzios, another place on the list to return to; there were too many places to try and sample in one day! We would love to spend at least a week in this popular holiday gem!

Birthday dinner was; next, we were honoured to receive an invitation from the GM of the ship, accompanied by the Loyalty Ambassadors and the executive concierge in Privee, a private dining room seating only ten on the ship.

The dinner was an absolute delight; we all had the most enjoyable evening, delicious food, wine and company. It was the perfect birthday celebration; feeling very spoilt by the incredible team and for the magnificent birthday cake! New friendships were made, lots of laughter as we shared our stories and travel moments; we are looking forward to spending three months with everyone!

Feeling incredibly grateful to be surrounded by the kindest of humans and beautiful souls; thank you, Evan, Holly, Alex, Elizeu (and hubby, of course) and the delightful Oceania team for making my Birthday one to remember and filling our hearts with joy!

Day 24 - Ilha Grande, Brazil

Ilha Grande is an island off the Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil coast. The island remains largely undeveloped. For almost a century, the Brazilian government closed it to free movement or settlement because it first housed a leper colony and then a top-security prison. Candido Mendes high-security prison housed some of the most dangerous prisoners within the Brazilian penal system. It was closed in 1994. The largest village on the island is called Vila do Abraão, with approximately 1900 inhabitants.

It is a very picturesque fishing village, surrounded by beautiful green hills. Except for Abraão's lone garbage truck, fire engine and police vehicle, cars are prohibited in town, so the only transport is by foot or boat.

We popped on a tender around lunch to explore the island; it was busy with tourists but was very charming. The beachfront was full of restaurants and bars, but once you popped a street back, there were cute boutiques and casual restaurants as you walked the dirt tracks. We continued further to catch a glimpse of local life and capture the personality and colours of the local village.

Once we explored, it was time to settle in for some local codfish balls and a few Caipirinha cocktails; they were the best yet!

A beautiful perspective as we strolled back to the tender overlooking this charming village before tendering back to the ship for sail-away.

Santos, Brazil

Today was one of those special days; it was a day filled with laughter, joy, happiness, new friendships and amazing food and wine.

It all started with a dear friend from Melbourne letting us know her cousins live in Santos, and they would love to meet us and show us their home through their eyes. We said absolutely! The lovely Andre and Ana picked us up from the port, and we were instant friends.

Santos is only half hour from São Paulo, home to 17 million people and spanning over 3,000 square miles; São Paulo is the third-largest city in the world. The warm climate and red clay soil surrounding the city are perfect for growing coffee. With the arrival of the railway in 1867, large-scale cultivation took hold. Today, São Paulo is one of the largest coffee exporters in the world. As the coffee industry grew, so did the need for labour. São Paulo was one of the first cities in Brazil to encourage immigration actively. It has evolved into an exciting melting pot of cultures. São Paulo is the commercial heart of Brazil.

They had planned to take a ferry across to a beautiful beach, and we could enjoy a lazy lunch, but the universe had other plans; with the traffic queue for the ferry, we decided to make the most of the time we had ashore, so our hands were straight up when they suggested a Churrascaria, a traditional Brazilian restaurant, most will recall the 'go/stop' coasters if they have been to one outside of Brazil, and you can eat and sample as much meat as possible. The roving servers deliver barbecued meats from large skewers directly onto your plate. We had this on our list, so we couldn't wait! We had a blast getting to know each other and felt incredibly grateful to Linda Rise for bringing us together.

Once our bellies were full of delicious meats, we were back in the car for a quick drive through the favela and up to a hidden lookout spot over the city, where you can also paraglide. However, after hearing a few stories from Andre best to skip this activity, but the views were sensational over Santos.

Following our lookout, we decided to spend our last hour on the beach soaking up the local life and enjoying a local Caipirinha; you can buy everything on the beach and even pay by card!