Our sailing from Santos, Brazil, to Barcelona, Spain, took two weeks.
We had a handful of ports, six days on the open ocean with no land in sight, a crossing of the equator, and a passage thru the Straits of Gibraltar.
We enjoyed very calm seas, beautiful sunsets, and pleasant, warm weather on our ocean voyage. It was a most pleasant crossing.
Because we are planning to travel for at least a year, it means we are in no particular hurry to get from one place to the next.
So, an ocean passage made good sense, as a way of getting from Brazil to Spain. The trip across the ocean was relaxing, fun, and surprisingly inexpensive.
It’s probably no coincidence, then, that we met no fewer than three other couples on the cruise who — like us — have given up their homes in order to travel the world for extended periods.
One couple, Kay and Michael (pictured here), retired, sold off almost all their possessions as well as their house in Los Angeles, and are planning to stay abroad for 10 years or longer.
This vagabond thing seems to be the new trend, a “gap year” for baby-boomers.
We are not so unique after all!
¡Viva Brazil! The Party Continues!
As our readers know from prior blog posts, we spent ten very happy days in Brazil before embarking on our cruise to Barcelona.
But ten days in Brazil is like an appetizer. It only stimulates your desire for more.
The cruise was a perfect solution, because it had a distinctly Brazilian character. For us, the cruise had the effect of extending by two weeks our experience of Brazil.
A large percentage of the ship’s crew were Brazilian, including most of the entertainers and social hosts.
Out of a total of about 2,200 passengers, more than two-thirds were from Brazil. Only 137 were from the USA, including the two of us.
Language was a bit of a barrier, since we speak almost no Portuguese. But we managed just fine, because Brazilian people are by nature warm and fun. They love music, dance and merry-making.
The party atmosphere typical of a cruise ship was pleasantly heightened by the presence of so many Brazilian passengers and crew.
Every day featured a mix of Brazilian popular culture. We enjoyed Brazilian singers and music on the big stage and in the smaller venues around the ship.
A major aspect of the cruise were the many zumba dance events, led by a variety of capable leaders.
Although we normally have no hesitation about taking to the dance floor, even among all straight couples, we were a little shy about attempting the elegant latin-style ballroom dancing during the cruise.
Besides pool-side and ballroom dancing, the entertainers also staged a vibrant “’70’s night.”
It featured zumba-style dancing to classic American disco music from the era, and lots of funny period costumes and hair-dos.
That was the one night we let go of our inhibition and joined the crowd on the dance floor.
Another aspect of the Brazilian culture we enjoyed aboard ship was the predominance of Speedo bathing suits at the pool among the male passengers. It is refreshing how bold they are in this respect, Brazilian men of all ages.
Alas, there also was a bittersweet aspect of this cruise from Brazil, because it was the last such sailing by the cruise line, Royal Caribbean.
For reasons having to do with the difficulty of doing business in Brazil, or so we heard, the cruise line is ceasing operations in Brazil.
This was to be the final Brazilian cruise for the Rhapsody of the Seas. It was the mirror opposite of a maiden cruise.
For the Brazilian crew members, even though the decision leaves them at risk of losing their employment, if anything they were all the sweeter in their interactions with us and the other passengers.
For the Brazilian passengers, this was their last chance to sail from Brazil on a Royal Caribbean ship. It brings to mind the Prince song, “Party Like It’s 1999!”
There were certainly no dry eyes on the last night of the cruise, on the stage or in the audience, when the cruise director and her fellow Brazilian performers said their final farewell in a ceremony in the main auditorium.
We were really fortunate to be part of this final passage from Brazil aboard the beautiful Rhapsody of the Seas!
Ports of Call
Our ship made four stops en route to Barcelona.
The first port of call was Rio de Janerio, which of course we had just visited the week before.
What made this return visit special were the views of Rio from aboard ship. (The one here is borrowed from the Internet.)
Our next port was Salvador, up on the northeast coast of Brazil. Salvador has the misfortune of being impoverished and in a state of decay, but it still has vibrancy.
We enjoyed our day walking around the old historic district.
On the other hand, we distinctly remember being sternly warned by a concerned old man, a local citizen, not to dare walk down a particular street.
We did not understand all his words, but his eyes conveyed a sense of dread. He meant well. He was warning us against danger.
Salvador was the location for a compelling Michael Jackson video, They Don’t Care About Us, released in 1996. It showcased Salvador’s outstanding Afro-Carbbean drummers.
We could hear the drummers that day, from a nice little restaurant a block off the plaza.
We enjoyed a memorable lunch of moqueca, a traditional Brazilian dish made with seafood, rice and delicious spices.
It was our final meal in Brazil, and perhaps the best.
Salvador was our last stop in Brazil, but we did see one more Brazilian land mass from the ship.
One morning, about 200 miles offshore, we passed by the Fernando de Noronha islands, an archipelago named for a 16th Century Portuguese merchant and adventurer.
After that, it was ciao, ciao, Brazil!
Our next stop was the island of Tenerifé, the largest of the Canary Islands.
Although governed by Spain for several centuries, the Canary Islands geologically are considered part of the African continent.
Our tour of Tenerifé occupied one full day. We rented a car and rode up the Teide Volcano. It is a volcanologist’s dream, with all kinds of lunar and Martian landscapes.
What made our day on Tenerifé really special is that we were accompanied by Tara, a delightful woman we met at the “climbing wall” on the cruise ship.
Tara and her husband, Stefaan, who live in Portland, Oregon, were one of the couples we met aboard ship who have given up their homes in order to travel the world for an extended time.
We were humbled by the itinerary Tara and Stefaan had followed in South America, prior to this cruise.
They spent most of their time in the high Andes Mountains and in Patagonia, backpacking and camping.
Tara and Stefaan were carrying all their gear along, including sleeping bags and tents.
We felt a little sheepish telling Tara and Stefaan about our stays in short-term rental apartments and boutique hotels in Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.
Ironically, however, after all that outdoor adventuring, Stefaan managed to injure his hip on the cruise ship. He slipped and fell during a ping pong tournament on the Lido Deck.
As a consequence, poor Stefaan was unable to accompany us on our volcano tour on Tenerifé.
Here are some photos of us and Tara on that beautiful day.
Our final port of call, before landing in Barcelona, was the old Spanish city of Málaga, on the Mediterranean Sea just inside the Straits of Gibralter.
Málaga was our introduction to other cities in Southern Spain we would visit later.
It has a rich history — Roman, Phoenecian, Arabic, Christian — and many well preserved monuments.
Málaga is clean and prosperous, and like all the cities in southern Spain very welcoming toward strangers.
We felt very happy to be in Málaga, and in Europe proper.
Two days later, we docked in Barcelona and disembarked from the Rhapsody of the Seas for the last time.