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  • Panama Canal Transit from Panama City

    PANAMA CITY | Panama Canal It is hard to believe we experienced the Panama Canal twice in six months, the transit from both directions. This time was northbound from Panama City as we were in the final days of our 110-day voyage with Oceania Cruises. Panama City, Panama Welcome to Panamá City. It is truly a cosmopolitan city framed by the Pacific Ocean and the gateway to the man-made Panama Canal. With only one day in the city, a Sunday and a day of rest, we opted to explore Casco Viejo, its cobblestoned historic centre, famed for colonial-era landmarks and bougainvillea-filled plazas lined with cafes and bars. After checking the weather, we opted to stay cool and avoid the humidity and hot sun by bar-hopping through fabulous cocktail bars and hunting for more Pisco Sours. It's our last chance before we leave this wonderful continent we have been blessed to explore over the past six months. Ubers were plentiful and comfortable, all with air conditioning, so that was a bonus! We were whisked away to our first rooftop bar in the old city; as we whizzed through the streets, we knew we had made the right decision. Lazotea Rooftop Bar was impressive at first sight; Panamá City is the place to be! As we walked in, we were greeted by a resident DJ playing tunes and perched ourselves up at the bar whilst we waited to devour more Pisco Sours. Being Sunday, the brunch menu was the highlight, and we sampled our way through some of the options, of which we were delighted! The next stop was a quick stroll through the old city, and after five minutes in the scorching heat, we were ready to embrace another cocktail. We located the stunningly new La Compañia Hotel, part of the unbound collection with Hyatt, and it was the perfect place to enjoy the last Pisco in South America. The hotel was pure luxury and on our list when we return amongst all the local eateries and bars. The old city was full of absolute charm, style and wealth. As the afternoon settled, we returned home to the ship to enjoy another magical sunset. Panama is unique and has some quirky fun facts; it is the only place in the world to experience the sunrise in the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the highest point in the country, Volcan Baru. The evening was spent enjoying a delicious steak in Polo Grill and preparing for the early rise as the ship is scheduled to enter the Miraflores Locks from 6.30 am to traverse the canal, an essential shipping route linking the Atlantic and Pacific. Panamá Canal Transit, Panamá It's hard to believe we are about to transit the Panamá Canal again so soon. We were ticking this from our bucket list only six months ago as we sailed the North to the South Pole, so it was the Southbound route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Today, we are back to experience but northbound as we leave the amazing continent of South America in our rear vision mirror and embark on a new undiscovered part of Central America on our final ten days aboard the lovely Marina. We woke with the birds as it was an early transit as we approached the 'Bridge of the Americas' connecting North America to South America in 1962, providing a pass for over 35,000 cars daily. You can road trip all the way from Alaska to Panamá! The morning sun was filtering nicely, setting us up for the day ahead. We spotted a crocodile stealthily inching through the water just before entering Miraflores Locks. As we kept a close eye on him, we soon caught sight of another; what a start to the day! Pedro Miguel Locks followed the Miraflores Locks. Our approach today was to enjoy the transit and process from our balcony and limit the camera time to soak it all up over a coffee or two this morning. There are three chambers in Miraflores Locks, and we were supported by a tug boat at the front and rear, along with the mules (locomotive trains). It takes about one hour to go through the three chambers as you experience the waters in the chambers using the force of gravity to raise you and bring you to the same level so you can continue your transit to the Atlantic. Once through the first locks, we spent lunch in the GDR for front-row seats in the lush, dense green jungle and scenery as we glided by. Early afternoon, we were slowly lowered into the Gatun Locks chambers and safely deposited in the Caribbean Sea to continue our journey to Costa Rica. We enjoyed the other ships' company going southbound, and there were waves and smiles from both sides as we were lowered and raised throughout each chamber in the lock. After experiencing the Panama Canal locks from both outside and inside the ship, we felt the visit to Gatun Locks visitor centre in Colon to watch the ships transit the locks was much more enjoyable. Once on the ship, it isn't easy to understand the full power of the process due to visibility. Still, all the same, we loved having the opportunity to experience both sides and both directions. Fun facts: 35 ships per day transit the Panamá Canal Panama Canal was inaugurated in 1914; for 85 years, the US operated and had government control 1999, the canal was transferred to Panama; they now operate and manage the route. A new lock was built to transport more cargo and more than 40,000 workers to make, and the larger canal was inaugurated in 2016 The old canal does not recycle water; the new one uses the same water three times, then refreshed to avoid pollution and only recycles in the dry season Fifty-two million gallons of water are released from the lake each transit in the old canal 90% of all the equipment today in the locks still operating is from its original installation in 1914 Ships transiting through the canals pay for all containers/cabins, whether occupied or empty. On average, it is 350k per ship to transit the canal The canals make an average of 12-15 million a day in revenue, and the minimum wage is $600 per month A dry canal refers to offloading containers in port and then using rail to transit the cargo, and another ship waits to collect on the other side to continue the move. Some companies want to save dollars, so they opt for a dry canal Up to 10,000 people work in the canal today; the best salaries in Panama are from the canal; the top level is 500k a year for pilots A staggering 25,000 workers lost their lives during the French effort to build the canal. Many of these deaths were due to disease, mainly yellow fever and malaria A stamp helped US senators decide to build the canal in Panamá instead of Nicaragua. Initially, they were undecided about the location. Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who lobbied for a Panamanian Canal, sent every senator a Nicaragua postage stamp depicting one of the country's many volcanoes. It was an effective ploy: Panama had no volcanoes, thus was a safer bet. The US senators agreed Panama was a better option. Our next adventure is coming soon as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • Ecuador continues to capture our hearts

    GUAYAQUIL | MANTA It was great to revisit Ecuador as we cruised the West Coast of South America northbound for Miami with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage. Last October, we were blessed with the opportunity to visit Manta, Puerto Bolivar, Machala and Guayaquil as we sailed southbound on the coast of Ecuador on our North to South Pole cruise. Guayaquil, Ecuador Ecuador's incredibly kind and friendly people have continued to capture our hearts. We are grateful we had the opportunity to revisit Guayaquil within the last six months. We are smitten with this magical country, an undiscovered gem in Latin America. Docking in this morning, we were surrounded by the greenest mangroves on the edge of a large city, encapsulating 3.2 million Ecuadorians. It could easily have been the Capital City, which I believe was in the running initially with Quito. We couldn't miss the opportunity of being surrounded by the locals again; the energy they share with the world around them is infectious, so we were on an early shuttle bus (complimentary from the port) to a central location in the city, which is our favourite park scattered with Iguanas overlooking a gorgeous church. We enjoyed capturing some snaps of the Notre Dame-style cathedral in the city's heart and the park, which you could nearly mistake for a zoo. It was full of Iguanas roaming around, turtles and fish populating the pond. It was wonderful. Following this, we had a mission to find a hair salon to look presentable once again, and across from the park, we spotted one and were soon at their mercy with clippers in their hands to bring us back to looking sharp again! The ladies at Peluqueria Unibella were all lovely, and we had some fun conversing in our broken Spanish. For a total of USD 14 each, you can't go wrong! We strolled the city, discovering parks and squares, where we were in awe of the gracious architecture; the buildings were stunning. As we walked, we greeted all the lovely locals and scattered police officers who were only too happy to have us exploring their incredible city. The local police on bikes and standing on corners is not due to safety concerns, but rather a hospitable approach welcoming us to their city. During our last visit to Guayaquil, we found a quaint coffee shop (another of their primary exports). As we walked into Puertofino Cafe, we were greeted with a huge hug and kiss from the lovely cafe owner; she was so excited we returned after six months; it was very special! We hoped to catch up again with our friendly young policeman, but he has been reposted to another location, so we missed him this time. Guayaquil is incredibly safe and is steeped in history, magnificent architecture, a beautiful beachside esplanade, museums, and an old and colourful Spanish town which made you instantly feel like you were back in Europe; the bright, colourful buildings and vibe were inspiring. Ecuador is truly a hidden gem; you are guaranteed to leave a piece of yourself in this beautiful, warm and gentle part of the world. Fun facts: Ecuador has a population of 18 million; both Quito and Guayaquil have approx 3m Ecuador is the first country to give rights to nature - you can go to prison for harming a protected plant Ecuador is the first country to provide rights to disadvantaged people; the business must hire and not discriminate Guayaquil's main exports are Cacao beans, seaport services, bananas, oil Ecuador cacao beans were Queen Elizabeth II's first choice to make chocolate for the royal family Recently, they have started producing high-quality chocolate at $300 a gram Guayaquil is the gateway to Galapagos Islands Colombia and Ecuador have the highest number of species of birds in the world Energy is powered by water (Ecuador is on the equator); it is four times more efficient than solars Manta, Ecuador Our final destination in Ecuador was a day in Manta, a lovely popular coastal city decorated with beautiful beaches nestled on the northern tip of the country. On our first visit to Manta six months ago, we were whisked away to the enchanted Pacoche Forest, a tropical rainforest, to experience the rapidly changing rural vegetation and landscapes. We also passed through some rural villages where 'The Montecristi' is generationally sourced, prepared, and handmade. The Montecristi is known to most of us as the 'Panama Hat'. We learned a significant 'fun fact' six months ago during our first visit to Panama: the hats are actually from and made in Ecuador, referred to as 'The Montecristi', a small village in Ecuador (near Manta) where they are hand-crafted by artisans. One hat with the finest straw can take up to three months and sells for over $1k. Today we actually had to meet some deadlines for work, so we were kept busy for most of the day; once we were free of work, we had one goal, and it was to find a Pisco Sour before we left Ecuador. We quickly disembarked and travelled by foot to stretch our legs to the nearby rooftop bar our lovely Holly had recommended Casa Rosada Manta. It was lovely strolling the streets and being greeted again by the beautiful people of Ecuador; you are genuinely welcomed by all the bright smiles and waves from the community, and you can't wait to want to support the local businesses. The rooftop bar was a little hidden oasis, nestled at the top of a gorgeous historic building with panoramic views over the ocean and the city below us. The Pisco Sours did not disappoint, and we devoured them along with the local empanadas, which were overwhelmingly delicious!! The team were full of positive energy and smiles, we loved our short visit, and it continues to reaffirm that we must be back in Ecuador to travel much more extensively; Ecuador truly deserves much more credit than it receives. We heard multiple conversations around the ship of people avoiding getting off the ship and cancelling excursions because of a few passengers citing it was not safe and spreading rumours amongst other passengers, and it breaks my heart to hear this as it couldn't be further from the reality and they all missed out on something so precious; we walked freely, with jewellery and through crowds of locals, fishermen, port workers and markets and not once did we feel uncomfortable or at risk. The community's cleanliness and pride are heartfelt, and the positive energy they exude is infectious. Thank you, Ecuador, for the warmest of welcomes, and we will find our way back in a few years to continue unwrapping the layers of your beautiful country. More Fun Facts: Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas, coffee and chocolate. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador because of their qualities to protect from the sun. The hat was internationally known from Panama, and people began to call it 'Panama Hat' even though the place of origin is Ecuador. Ecuador is also home to the smallest hummingbird in the world, 3-5cm in height, called the 'Bee Hummingbird.' The Montencristi hat is known to the world as the Panama hat, but it is the Monticristi in Ecuador. The hat production is commonly generational; one will go to the forest to collect the straw, another will dry the straw, and one will make the hat. The process is all by hand. Ecuador is home to the tagua tree, which produces the corozo nut. It is an ivory nut that, when fresh, you can eat and drink from, like a mini coconut; once dried, it becomes hard and is used to make buttons; they are very durable. Much more friendly and sustainable than using elephant tusks and plastic. Our next adventure is coming soon as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • We finally made it to Peru

    CALLAO | LIMA Welcome to Country 65, after a false start to entering Peru last October on our North to South Pole cruise, this attempt was a success, and we were blessed with three days in Lima, the capital of Peru and home to 11 million, as we circumnavigate South America with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage. Lima is a culinary delight, has over 200,000 restaurants and hosts three of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Peruvian food is world-class, and we can now testify that it is worthy; the two meals we experienced were incredible! The cruise ships dock in Callao, a Peruvian seaside city and region on the Pacific Ocean in the Lima metropolitan area, approximately 30-45 minutes from the centre. Significant contrast of life as you explore and discover the different parts of the intense city. It felt like a city lived on the inside; the vast amount of steel bars, metal doors and walls, including electric fence wires and razor wire protecting the homes, businesses and buildings alone, was confronting, providing a level of understanding of the desperation and crime risk. As you drive through the different neighbourhoods, you start to see the change, and those pristine neighbourhoods are home to the wealthy. On day one, we were on the shuttle bus from the ship and delivered to a central point in Lima for passengers to explore the city. Our ship friends invited us to a beautiful restaurant, so we booked an Uber from the Municipal centre. We were fortunate to pass by the ancient olive grove park and the 18-hole exclusive city golf course. Forty minutes later, we were within the four walls of a magical mansion setting, sipping our first Pisco Sour in Peru (knowing it would also be our last drink in Peru) with a beautiful garden to enjoy lunch at Astrid y Gaston. Our first taste of Peruvian wine, a very satisfying reserve Chardonnay, and a selection of Appetisers and Mains were ordered, the presentation of all the dishes was elegant, and the flavours and tastes were delicious! We enjoyed the afternoon with lovely company, food, and wine in a relaxed and gorgeous atmosphere. Peru was filled with magical skies each evening; here was the sunset with abundant bird life on our first evening in Lima. Our next adventure was to explore Lima and experience the city, so we were on an early shuttle to the municipal again to Uber into the historic centre. Our drive navigated us through the city's hectic traffic to finally deposit us in the heart of Lima, the main square, to stroll around and capture the essence of the city and the impressive architecture. It was very safe to wander amongst the locals and the few tourists that were beginning to return. A police presence was felt to make everyone feel comfortable to explore too. We admitted defeat after the midday sun beaming down on us and our fair skin. We stumbled upon a restaurant by the ruins, with a bright and colourful backdrop of modest Peruvian homes nestled within the mountain. The restaurant was kind enough to let us enjoy a mid-morning Pisco Sour and google our way to the grand finale lunch in Lima (and Peru) that was focused on the taste of Peru so that we could experience authentic local cuisine. Our restaurant 'Huaca Pucllana' was recommended by our friends from the day prior, as it overlooked the pre-incan stepped pyramid ruins and provided a great backdrop of the Peru landscape serving local Peruvian food. We enjoyed a selection of starters to sample even more unique dishes; we were fortunate the waiter reminded us that one dish was actually the cow's heart; here was me thinking the beef skewers were heart-shaped!! So we quickly reordered to something less scary! A wonderful afternoon in a majestic setting was to be farewelled with our final favourite cocktail, another Pisco sour, to end our short stay in Peru. Pisco Sours definitely better in Peru! We returned to the ship in preparation for our onward journey to Ecuador, celebrating our 65th country with champagne and a cheese plate on our balcony. We were blessed with pods of dolphins porpoising in the sunset by the ship's side. Our next adventure is coming soon as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • Cruising the Chilean Fjords

    Laguna San Rafael | Puerto Chacabuco | Puerto Montt | Punta Arenas Welcome back to the Chilean Fjords; it has only been a few months since we last sailed through this untouched and raw, majestic part of the world. Feeling blessed, we sail through these peaceful and tranquil fjords another two times with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America throughout the cruise. The scenery has changed as summer has rolled on through and melted the snow from the peaks, and it is an abundance of now lush green hues. There are 30000 islands amongst the channels and fjords in the south, with 11000 of them unnamed. The first evening we were spoilt cruising the beagle channel and caught glimpses of glaciers and waterfalls; it was a great reminder of what was in store for us over the next few days as we cruised and navigated the channels and fjords of Chile. The following day we woke to find ourselves in the depths of the breathtaking Chilean Fjords and channels. The day started with a moody shadow over the majestic scenery, followed by the sun peeking through to shine on the magnificent Patagonian scapes. We thoroughly enjoyed the pace of cruising through the fjords whilst we enjoyed our morning coffees with a view and meals throughout the day, blessed with outstanding nature engulfing us. A day full of smiles and being spoilt on Oceania, we were delighted when we found Chef Andrea preparing fresh pasta for lunch, and as the sun settled for the day, we were blessed with a sky full of colour. Puerto Chacabuca, Chile This morning we arrived at Puerto Chacabuca super early at 7 am, but we couldn't wait to open the curtains to soak up the morning view, as the ship had been busy navigating the narrow channels of the fjords whilst we were all sleeping. Upon opening the blinds, it was mesmerising. We were tucked into a tiny pocket of the fjords surrounded by snow-capped peaks and delicious greenery, covered with a sheet of majestic silver clouds; we couldn't wait to capture a few morning snaps. The beginning of a beautiful day indeed; we were up and enjoying our morning coffee outside on the upper deck lounges basking up our majestic surroundings. Once all the passengers had embarked on their excursions and the tenders were less crowded, we popped on and crossed to the nearby village. A quaint fishing village located deep within the Chilean Fjords of an intimate 500 people, all living a very remote and relaxing life amongst the fjords, we strolled around taking in the local living and enjoyed getting in some steps, fresh mountain air. We were blessed with a glorious day of sunshine (possibly too much for Sal & Wayne after we realised we had been kissed a little too much by such sun later in the day). We couldn't leave without visiting the local general store; always fun perusing the shelves and checking out the local display of wines and spirits, which of course, we left with a bag full of goodies for the crew and ourselves. We arrived back on the ship just in time for a relaxing lunch with front-row seats to the fjords at the Terrace cafe on the outside deck; it was remarkable! The ship departed mid-afternoon, and we were all in for a treat of the most spectacular scenic cruising as we navigated through the channels and fjords; feeling like we could reach over and touch them, we were in awe of the beauty. We recently cruised through the Chilean Fjords and were very surprised that a ship this size could create such an intimate feeling and opportunity to fully appreciate the fjords over and above the experience from an expedition cruise; thank you, Oceania, for gifting us with this incredible travel moment. Dinner time in Polo Grill, we were ever so spoilt with a window table as we continued the scenic cruising through the islands scattered in the channels with a stunning backdrop of the dusty pink hues of a sunset sky. Not only did we have the majestic scenery, but an abundance of marine life followed us through as we dined throughout the evening; it was a constant check that out, Wayne; what is it? Next time we will be sure to have our extra set of eyes and invite our binoculars to join us for dinner! We believe they were seals, flying fish, and possibly penguins… but we are still in debate! Upon returning to our room, the day bid us farewell as the nearly full moonlight sparkled over the ocean waters; it was a perfect day experiencing the Chilean Fjords! The Chilean Fjords take a few days to navigate as you cruise to your next destination; it's the perfect time to relax and enjoy your surroundings and the magnificent scenery. Oceania keeps you entertained, well-nourished, and hydrated during these sea days, and we love catching up with our friends and enjoying the surprises each day. You have high tea during the afternoons, long lunches in the Grand Dining Room, specialty dining each evening and the most fun of all the Oceania Club members' parties! Punta Arenas, Chile After a week of sensory overload cruising the Chilean coast and navigating the channels and fjords, we arrived in Punta Arenas. It has been interesting to experience the scenery due to the rapidly changing weather throughout the week, as you feel Summer fast escaping us as we continue south. Punta Arenas is a city home to 125,000 near the tip of Chile's southernmost Patagonia region. Located on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it's often used as a base for the surrounding wilderness and Antarctica. The Plaza Muñoz Gamero has a memorial to explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and legend has it that if you rub his toe, you will return to the city. Alternatively, you can book a back-to-back cruise with Oceania and visit Punta Arenas thrice. We took the opportunity to explore the city as we skipped the last stop due to visa delays; as we were docked close to the town, it was easy to wander off. The first stop was coffee, and we were super impressed with this little gem we found, Guana Coffee; it was a tiny little cafe and didn't disappoint. With coffee in hand, we continued strolling the city, getting some steps in. We observed the cleanliness of this city, which was a pleasant surprise after visiting other destinations in Chile, so kudos to Punta Arenas for not forgetting too much about your Pachamama (Mother Earth). We soon found ourselves on the edges of the city in the backstreets, so we put our sights on the coastline and headed in that direction, which then led us to enjoy the beach esplanade walk back to the ship, capturing some iconic pics for our memory bank on the way. We enjoyed the vibrant street art and murals decorating the city as we walked. The mural along the waterfront paying tribute to the city's maritime history on buildings was magnificent. Thank you, Chilean Fjords, for delivering another memorable and magical experience. Our next adventure is coming soon as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • Visiting the Falkland Islands

    Stanley, Falkland Islands Welcome to the Falkland Islands, which now sits in our top ten destinations, and we have only just realised it is not the easiest to visit. Of the three attempts we had with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America, only once was the weather kind enough to enable us to go ashore. The Falkland Islands is a British overseas territory full of charm and captivating surprises. Let's start with the sheep and penguins outnumbering humans, believed to be half a million sheep and 1 million penguins! We also think we have found a contender for the most pristine white sand in the world, move on over White Haven Beach. As mentioned above, we were due to visit Stanley earlier on the cruise as we made our way back to Antarctica on the ship. Still, the tenders could not safely transport us across to Stanley due to high winds, so the ship re-navigated for the Drake Passage. This time, the weather was on our side as we sailed northbound from Antarctica, with the smoothest crossing of the Drake passage; passengers were even a little disappointed they missed out on the rock and roll of the Drake Shake. Wayne and I made our way across to Stanley; the first up was to source some wifi, as Chile required another Visa. Our recent one had already expired. They neglected to read our finer details about returning on the ship and looking to generate more income from Aussies, the only nationality needing Visas!! After bobbing up and down the short windy passage across to Stanley in the tender, we arrived in the Capital. We found a cosy boutique hotel called The Waterfront Boutique Hotel, where we could access wifi, submit our application again, and enjoy a delicious British breakfast. The connection was via satellite, so you could purchase a voucher for £5 which gave you 200MB, so after 20 minutes, you were back buying another voucher. Ensure your photos are not syncing, which will instantly swallow up the data. After about one hour, we successfully submitted the application, and it is back in the hands of Chile to approve - fingers are crossed they are speedy, and in two weeks, when we return, we will have our green light for Chile. Now it was time to explore this charming little town steeped in history and wildlife; it's the second-largest and most accessible colony of king penguins in the world. Falklands is home to about 3000 residents, of which nearly 400 live on the British military base on East Falkland. Argentina also claimed the islands as the Islas Malvinas and was the site of a major conflict between the two countries in 1982. Sadly, were 1000 lives tragically lost during this battle between Argentina and Britain. The Falkland Islands are located 650 km off the southeast coast of South America and consist of nearly 740 islands. The largest islands are called East Falkland and West Falkland, with the Capital Stanley located on the former. The total land mass of the Falkland Islands is approximately half the size of Wales. The landscape comprises mountain ranges, flat plains, rugged coastline, sandy white beaches (rivalling the best in the world) and cliffs. After seven days of not venturing on land, it was time to get the body moving, so we spent the next few hours strolling the waterside and back streets, capturing the moments of this historical place. We loved being back amongst the British influence and seizing some candid moments. Once we found our way back to the waterside where the ship was tendering, it was time to source a local gin, as they do have a gin distillery; unfortunately, it was not yet open. As we were considering our next plan of attack, our lovely friends Judy and Pete spotted us and invited us to visit the penguins. They had found a private driver (Mark Stroud 0050055100, who could guarantee penguin sightings in a hidden cove called Yorke Bay, a bay difficult for the larger tour groups to access via a bus. After a short scenic drive of 20 minutes, enjoying the panoramic view of the islands, including a stop in Whalebone Cove to capture the shipwreck of Lady Liz and tackling the dunes, we arrived in Yorke Bay. After a short walk and as the horizon appeared, we were spellbound by the penguins all hanging out by the beach. Beneath them was the whitest and finest pristine sand we have ever seen. We were in the company of Gentoos, Magellanic, and even two King Penguins; what a treat. We were all exploding with joy and even a few tears of delight; how precious to be so up close and personal with this colony of penguins where we could observe quietly. We, of course, respected their home and kept our distance. Recently they have needed to place boundary flags due to Chinese tourists feeling it was ok to encroach on them and disrupt their homes!! Only recently, they have also cleared the area of mines, which is now safe to visit. We soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the experience, watching the penguins waddling, feeding, resting and playing; they truly have quirky little personalities and are fun to watch—cuteness overload. At one stage, we all looked up, and we were visited by a pod of dolphins on the water's edge leaping out of the crystal blue waters. Magical! A perfect day in the Falklands; it doesn't get much better than this. Although we were blessed with a stunning sunset this evening with a surprise delivery of the most delicious chocolate-dipped strawberries, a heartfelt thank you to our dear Ismail:-) Our next adventure is 'Chile'. Join us as we revisit the Chilean Fjords as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • A little taste of Uruguay

    Punta del Este | Montevideo In late January, we arrived in Uruguay with Oceania Cruises, both Punta del Este and Montevideo feature on the itinerary a few times over the next few months. Punta del Este, Uruguay Welcome to Punta del Este in Uruguay, which is the country sitting between Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay is country No.64 for us! Punta del Este is a chic fishing village and the St Moritz of Uruguay; you are surrounded by super yachts (and sea lions and seals) as you arrive, a beautiful marina and streets filled with restaurants and bars for all to soak up the lovely atmosphere. As soon as we walked off the tender boat, we were greeted by these gigantic sea lions chilling out and relaxing on the pier; we were all filled with joy! After three months on an expedition cruise, we never got the chance to see such marine life so close, and here we wander off the tender on a cruise ship with over 1000 people, and we are meters away! Magical. Once the excitement of watching the sea lions, we wandered the port to the fish market and were gifted with another seal show, all the fishermen feeding the seals the fish guts and even giving the onlookers a go; it was fascinating! We followed this with a stroll up the street and to hunt out a fabulous spot for lunch, Zuzu Puerto, which we soon found as we needed to quench our thirst and hide from the sun and high humidity and relax; we found the perfect restaurant, the staff were full of positive energy, the food was exceptional, and they had Pisco Sours, so we were in our happy place. After a long lunch, we strolled back to the ship (as we will be back in Punta del Este a few more times next month) to explore more. We were presented with another beautiful surprise walking back, a lovely lazy big sea lion soaking up the sun, the same we were escaping from earlier. We propped ourselves nearby and enjoyed being close and personal whilst keeping our distance not to disrupt him and enjoyed watching this incredible sea lion chill out; he (or she) always had one eye open to watch all the onlookers. Uruguay, you are already impressive, and we can't wait to explore more of you. We returned to Punta del Este a few more times during Feb and Mar and loved each visit's welcoming party. We couldn't get enough of the cuteness of the sea lions in their natural habitat and being in such close proximity to them. We also stumbled on a lovely cafe called LaRebelion. The gorgeous team gave us the warmest of welcomes, with a great selection of fresh organic food, delicious empanadas and coffee. We loved the cosy and relaxing atmosphere and energy, along with the beautiful views over the marina; we dropped in on future port days in Punta del Este to say hello and be nourished with goodness. Montevideo, Uruguay A coastal city of beautiful architecture, colourful historic buildings, some derelict, some a renovators delight, and others already transformed to a stately home, pedestrian and cobblestoned walks and green parks and squares, whilst being enveloped by the ocean waters on either side of the city. Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is a city full of energy and life; as you leave the port, you can immerse yourself in the local food market, which is a gorgeous old warehouse now home to many restaurants serving the local meat, in every which way accompanied by wine from Uruguay, a new little fun fact: Uruguay makes wine! We look forward to exploring the wineries over our next two stops and sampling the delicious meats; we have heard rumours that it is even better than Argentina! In the charming old city, you have an abundance of eclectic cafes and bars lining the vibrant sidewalks decorated with street art to guide you. During this visit, we explored the city on foot. We enjoyed the city's spirit by savouring an Aperol Spritz on the edge of the unique food market, wishing we had more time to sample the delicious BBQ meat we smelled as we walked on by. A little history lesson, at first, Montevideo was simply a tiny Spanish military fort built in 1714 to counter Portugal's expansion of Brazil. However, settlers were not enticed, the Spanish governor in Buenos Aires, Don Mauricio Zabala, offered cattle and land to the first groups that would come and lay the foundations of a town. Among the earliest to arrive were families from the Canary Islands, who sailed into the small bay and came ashore in 1726. Over the following decades, Montevideo slowly became an important trade port between the "Old and New World". In the late 1700s, Montevideo had developed into one of South America's most essential and profitable ports. Montevideo is a popular cruise ship destination; we loved watching Costa depart and definitely were breathing in as they expertly manoeuvred the ship from port. Upon leaving Montevideo one evening in February, it was time to farewell some of our dear friends and crew. Still, we were grateful to celebrate over more fantastic food and wine in Privee, followed by drinks with more of our beloved fellow guests. New friendships are formed, and one of the best parts of travel is the beautiful humans you meet; we are always busy planning when our paths cross again. During one port day in Montevideo, we needed to visit a GP for a prescription quickly. We researched Hospital Britanico with English-speaking doctors, also known as The British Hospital, located in the Old City since 1857 and is known as The Foreign Hospital in Uruguay. We arrived by Uber, and upon entering, we were greeted with warmth, and all the staff were very helpful in leading us to the correct health department. We were super impressed with the level of care, expertise, and modern facilities. We were able to book an appointment with only one hour to wait, which we enjoyed over lunch in the wonderful cafe for visitors; surprisingly, there was table service and a full menu to order freshly cooked meals. The GP was excellent and very efficient, the modern and stylish facilities and furnishings were world-class, and the cost to visit the GP was less than 100 USD for a foreigner. The hospital also features a museum of historic medical tools and equipment displayed throughout the hospital halls, reminding us how far the medical industry has evolved. Our next adventure is 'The Falklands'. Join us as we attempt to go ashore to a new and challenging destination as we continue our 110-day journey with Oceania Cruises, the circumnavigation of South America.

  • The South of Brazil with Oceania

    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! It was time to head back to the ship, we made plans to catch up again with our new friends in Miami in a few months, as we would both be there at the same time, so we bid farewell and sailed away. A perfect day in Santos, one that filled our hearts with joy, it's always about the experiences and moments; this is the part of travel that remains with you forever. Itajai, Brazil Our last day in Brazil was in Itajai. The City of Itajai has many beautiful beaches where visitors can sun, swim, and enjoy the good life. Peaceful rural settings with natural landscapes and a rich heritage from Portuguese and German immigrants surround it. We chose to spend our last destination in Brazil at a beach club called Pargus in the chic area of Praia Brava; we jumped on Google and found a beautiful beach club. Uber dropped us off, and we arrived to be presented with an entry bracelet and settled in to sample the cocktails and Greek cuisine whilst listening to the resident DJ. We received a very warm welcome and enjoyed the afternoon just chilling and taking in the atmosphere; it was a fun place and a destination we could return to (most are). Farewell to Brazil; you have definitely shown us your best and beauty, and we can't wait to be back to explore you more, but for now, we must continue our adventures, and Uruguay is next on the itinerary with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America. Our next adventure is 'Uruguay' as we continue the circumnavigation of South America with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage.

  • Happy Birthday, Sal

    Today is a beautiful day. So grateful to have celebrated 18 of your birthdays so far. I am looking forward to continuing to travel the world with you. You are the most wonderful woman in the world, my wife. I am so grateful for your unconditional love and support. Your beautiful smile lights up a room, and kindness radiates from you. The past 18 years have been filled with love and laughter; I wouldn't trade that for anything. Happy Birthday, my love!

  • Cruising North Brazil

    Recife | Maceio | Salvador After spending a week on the Amazon River in Brazil, enjoying Christmas and New Year's Eve aboard the Marina with Oceania Cruises, we continue exploring the Northern coast of Brazil. Recife, Brazil After two days navigating out of the Amazon River and two days sailing the Atlantic, including crossing the equator again (this time, we could skip the ritual as we were no longer equator virgins), we arrived at our first port of call Recife. Recife is pronounced ('heh-see-fee'), a coastal city and the capital of Pernambuco, the Northeast State of Brazil. Recife is closer to Africa's west coast than the farthest western border of Brazil—just 8°3' south of the equator. After letting the passengers disembark throughout the morning, we then strolled off around noon, we had the option to take a shuttle to the city of Recife, but after experiencing the high humidity, we opted for an Uber to the nearby charming and far more tranquil historic town of Olinda that lies on Recife's northern edge, just 6km from the city centre. We googled our way to an Asian restaurant, 'Oishi', with very positive reviews by the beach, which deserved the 4.3 ratings. We filled our bellies with a giant spring roll, the largest we have ever seen, followed by vegetable tempura and shared a dish of Chop Suey for two; upon arrival, we were guessing we ordered for four! We did our best and admitted defeat, but it was delicious and excellent value at AUD 40 with a couple of cocktails too. After lunch, we strolled the beach, watching the local life and enjoying the holidays and came across a shopping mall, brand new, so it was great to cool off and purchase our essentials! We might have missed out on seeing more of Recife, we did enjoy the architecture and colourful homes as we drove by, but we had a delightful day and loved supporting the local businesses and navigating a new language; thankfully, we have Google translate helping with our Portuguese. Maceio, Brazil Welcome to Maceio; it feels like a city surrounded by beaches. Where you will find local tourists enjoying their vacations. Think Pattaya in Thailand. You have a long stretch of coast on the main road full of beach activities, beach beds, umbrellas, and beach clubs. It was buzzing with locals and families all enjoying the hot and humid sun by the water; it's where everyone has a drink in hand by 10 am, and you can buy everything from drinks, food, clothing and beach accessories whilst sunbaking. We stopped by a beach club for a morning coffee; we could only enter if we paid the all-day entrance fee of about $13 each, so we did this to watch the world go by for an hour or so! After our chill-out, we walked a little and returned to the ship for lunch to escape the heat! Maceio was a much wealthier city, with safer and excellent infrastructure and a great nightlife based on the vibe. Maceió is the capital city of the state of Alagoas, on the east coast of Brazil. An offshore reef protects the city; the shore is lined with white-sand beaches, palm trees, and many beautiful and tranquil beaches within a half-hour drive. Salvador, Bahia, Brazil You know how much you love a city based on the number of pics you need to clean up, and Salvador was clearly a favourite for Wayne and me. We researched Salvador the evening prior, and we were filled with excitement. It was the former capital of Brazil for two centuries before relinquishing to Rio in 1763 (then Brasilia); it is a vibrant architectural colonial rich city. A blend of Portuguese and African heritage blending seamlessly. Salvador sits on Brazil's South Atlantic coast, in the idyllic state of Bahia, home to some of northeastern Brazil's most beautiful beaches, over 1000kms of coconut fringed beaches and a popular culinary hub. With the largest population of Afro-Brazilians and a complex mishmash of African, Indigenous, and European influences, Salvador has earned the local nickname "the Black Rome." After disembarking, we set our sights on the historic centre of Pelourinho, full of cobblestoned alleys, beautiful colourful architecture and churches. We enjoyed strolling around and soaking up the energy, local cuisines and the African influence. It was bustling with tourists, a few ships were in, and quite the police presence to make everyone feel more secure. After the sweltering humidity got the better of us, we made our way to the restaurant we had planned for a slow lunch. After being caught in the rain (it is the wet season), we walked in looking quite the treat to the restaurant. Fortunately, the drowned rat appearance was approved, and we were seated, quickly freshening up in the restrooms to feel more presentable. We decided on an Italian restaurant in the Fasano Hotel, a beautiful luxury hotel brand in Brazil, originating from an Italian family. The hotel was on the top of the street overlooking the splendid water's edge in a century-old colonial building. The decor was also plantation-style, with relaxed and comfortable furniture surrounded by beautiful wooden hues. We settled in for a culinary journey; the menu looked so delicious we opted for the five-course degustation of meat-based pasta dishes with a lovely bottle of red, and a few cocktails pre and post, which were a pleasant surprise! It was the perfect introduction to Salvador and a place on our list to return and spend more quality time. An abundance of dining options and cocktail bars spoilt with magical views around the city of four million, and we haven't even scratched the surface. Pop Salvador on your list; we can't wait to unwrap this gem of a city in Brazil. Join us for our next 'Brazil' chapter as we continue cruising southerly the Brazilian border with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America.

  • Christmas on the Amazon - Brazil

    Santarem | Parintins | Manaus After four days at sea from the Caribbean on our 110-day cruise from Miami, we arrive on the Amazon River in Brazil to spend Christmas and bring in 2023 the new year aboard the beautiful Marina with Oceania Cruises. Santarem, Brazil Yesterday was Christmas Day, which saw us sail into the Amazon River; we spent a day in awe of the vastness of the river and the colour change as we celebrated Christmas in a new country. We all woke with a little jolt as the ship ran aground, but we were back on our way after a few hours. The Amazon travels through four countries at 4,345 miles in length and holds more water than any other; the Amazon River has no equal in its significance to the global ecosystem. It is one of the world's longest, feeding and nurturing the equally remarkable rainforest surrounding it. The enormous rainforest covers over 2 million square miles and is credited with harbouring roughly one-third of all species of living creatures. As we cruised deeper into the Amazon, our first destination was Santarem, where the rivers meet. Two rivers surround Santarém: the Amazon, of muddy water, and the Tapajós, of clear and green water, forming a unique meeting of different waters that do not mix for several kilometres; it was pretty surreal. The "Meeting of Waters" phenomenon occurs due to temperature, speed and water density differences. We were booked on a boat cruise afternoon excursion today; we wanted to see more of the Amazon and get up close and personal, so we skipped the city. We were all aboard, about 20 of us making our way through the meeting of the waters, watching the local life on the water pass us by. It was interesting to see how the locals transit between towns; their seats are hammocks on boats and can take up to a few days to arrive. There were fuel stations out on the river for all the boat life and, surprisingly, dolphins in freshwater, pink and blue; we were lucky to catch a few glimpses as we navigated the rivers. About one hour in, we arrived at a narrow part and enjoyed the change of pace as we navigated slowly, taking in the peacefulness and new landscapes of the Amazon and pinching ourselves. We were in The Amazon, another Bucket list! Our captain found a shady spot on the river's edge, and it was time to all test our skills for Piranha fishing. It has been a while since I have been fishing or yabbying, so this would be interesting! They were kind enough to have the wooden reel tackled up for us, which would help avoid any accidents! Over the lines went, and we all spent an hour trying to catch a little one. Only two were seen amongst us all (Wayne & I were not successful), and they were tiny little ones who, of course, were returned to their natural habitat. After our fishing experience, we were to head back up the river; again, we ran aground, and our crew were immersed in piranha waters to push us out; it was an eventful afternoon. As we returned during the golden hour, we were blessed with more sightings of the dolphins, including the majestic pink dolphins, a first! Unfortunately difficult to capture, but the memories will remain with us. After a long and hot afternoon, we were ready to freshen up and enjoy cocktails before dinner. Day ten - Parintins, Brazil Wayne and I love capturing the personality of a city, and today in Parintins, we did just this. After arriving by tender boat at the pier, we turned left whilst everyone else turned right to get lost and unwrap the layers of the city street by street. As we followed the paths, we discovered the vibrant street art on the homes, shop fronts, and streets. Parintins is home to an unusual number of artists, artisans, musicians and poets to produce the festival. You will find such a concentration of talent in no other city on the Amazon. The architecture of the homes and churches was unique, and the local life surrounded us. Everyone was an absolute joy, and we smiled and waved as we walked by. Realising we need to learn a few phrases in Portuguese as this is now the local language. The city was operating as a public holiday the day after Christmas, so it was quiet, and only a few stores were open. After a few hours, we found our way back to the ship and spotted a few local young lads fishing by the water edge with a net and a bag to collect them, they gave us all a show and launched the net by the boats, and we watched them in awe as they pulled out a selection of fish for their bag! Fun fact: In Parintins, everything revolves around the ox, the 'Boi Bumba'. An ancient fairy tale from the Amazon tells the story of the pregnant Catirina who suddenly desires to eat beef tongue. Her husband Francisco kills his master's best ox and is imprisoned for the crime. After a lengthy imprisonment, Francisco is finally freed because Paje, a medicine man and witch, brings the ox back to life. There is an 86-year-old rivalry between the two Boi groups; the Garantido club uses red, and the Caprichoso club uses blue. This friendly and creative rivalry between the two Bois (oxen) is contagious and has divided the entire north of Brazil into two camps. The houses of Parintins are all painted red or blue. The public telephones, the tickets, the clothes, everything is either red or blue. Even the event's main sponsor, Coca-Cola, had to invent a new logo for Parintins. People refer to the rival club simply as the "others". Manaus, Brazil Welcome to Manaus, the heart of Amazonia, 900 miles inland on the Rio Negro from the Atlantic and home to the famed Amazon Opera House. Also just a few miles from the meeting of the rivers. We have heard about the Opera House from many fellow travellers. Hence, we opted for the Golden Era of Manaus tour to tick this off, in hindsight we should have opted to do the city independently as we became trapped on tour with the guide and 40 other passengers, also receiving a detailed history lesson on each visit, which extended the allowed time and became a very long day, without any free time to explore, eat or relax, definitely not Sal & Wayne style. Back to the tour, our first visit was to Museu da Cidade, a museum in a neoclassical palace featuring hands-on exhibits tracing the culture & history of Manaus. This was supposed to be a 20 min visit, which lasted over one hour. Following the museum, we arrived at Teatro Amazonas (Opera House), whereby we needed to wait out the front for 20 minutes before we could enter; we took a few snaps, and then we all entered the historical building from 1896 for a one-hour tour, it was impressive to see! Partway through the tour, we snuck off to visit the cafe and fuel up to get through the remainder! A few other passengers had the same idea. Our guide soon came to rush us back to the bus for the next instalment, a visit to an old mansion built in 1903, Palacio Rio Negro. Palácio Rio Negro is a former seat of government and residence of the governor of the state of Amazonas. The original name was Scholz Palace, built by the German entrepreneur Karl Waldemar Scholz, who was considered a "Rubber Baron". We were nearing the end of the tour, last stop was a visit to the local municipality market; we took advantage of our 'free time' of 20 minutes and sourced an ATM and phone shop to purchase a prepaid SIM to stay connected; this caused a few hiccups as Brazil time is anything, but fast, so we asked our guide if we could walk back to the ship; the response was 'No' again, and we had 3 minutes to get back to the bus full of passengers! There was only so much we could do to expedite the purchasing process, and soon he was storming up the stairs to personally escort us; no idea how he found us in the busy centre, but he clearly had his contacts! We ran back to the bus (successfully purchasing the sim) and were greeted with a bus full of passengers waiting to go home! Very pleasant! The bus drove the two minutes to the pier, and we were back on the tenders heading for the ship! We quickly cancelled all future tours and chose to stay with the 'Sal & Wayne' style of discovering destinations independently and with flexibility! We are just no good with rules and restrictions. Manaus was quite an intense city, with high poverty, pollution, rundown, and significantly populated, so you definitely need to have your wits about you. Uber was available to help you get from A to B safely and comfortably. Manaus, Brazil The ship stayed overnight in Manaus, so we all enjoyed a peaceful night on the Amazon. We opted to cancel our full-day excursion to the meeting of the rivers based on fellow passengers' feedback, having decided this would not be Wayne and Sal style. We chose to remain on the ship for the day and enjoy the quiet time to catchup on work. We were blessed with a beautiful sunset as we set sail to navigate our way out of the Amazon. Day 13 - Amazon River, Brazil Today was a day of enjoying cruising the Amazon River and making the most of the views from the balcony. It was also New Year's Eve, so a perfect excuse to pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate another exciting year of travel. Here are a few fun facts about the Amazon to soak up with some cruising captures from the day as we travelled to the Atlantic Ocean and cruised south. The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest; it covers 40% of the South American continent and is home to over 2,000 species of animals. One in ten known species in the world lives in the Amazon Rainforest, as do one in five known bird species, meaning one-third of the world species can be found in the Amazon. Some animals that live in the Amazon include jaguars, sloths, river dolphins, macaws, anacondas, glass frogs, and poison dart frogs and the most famous residents of the Amazon River, the Amazon river dolphin or boto, which can grow larger than a human. It is unknown why the river pink dolphins develop their distinct pink colouration, but it is thought it is due to blood capillaries near the skin's surface. The electric eel is the only known species in the electric fish genus. Despite its name, it is not actually an eel but rather a knife fish. They are more closely related to catfish than they are to eels. They can produce powerful electric shocks of up to 600 volts as a defence mechanism and for hunting. Known for their unusual breeding behaviour, in the dry season, the male constructs a nest from his saliva into which the female lays her eggs. As many as 3,000 young can hatch from the eggs of one female. The Black Caiman is the largest of the Amazon reptiles and one of the largest and most effective predators. They have a dark, scaly skin, grow up to 10-14 feet in length, and sometimes exceed 800 pounds in weight. They hunt pretty much any land-based or river-dwelling animal. They've even been known to eat old or weak Caimans. The evening was filled with fun moments with our dear cruise friends and more mouthwatering food on the beautiful Marina. Join us for our next 'Brazil' chapter as we continue cruising southerly the Brazilian border with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America.

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