Alan takes a repositioning cruise to Brazil !
Days at sea, different ports and different countries. If this is your type of holiday try a repositioning cruise they represent great value for money. It is where a ship transfers from one base to another at the change of the seasons.
It was a warm late November day when I joined Royal Caribbean's ship Splendour of the Seas in Barcelona for the repositioning cruise to Brazil. My cabin 6126, a balcony cabin overlooking the stern of the ship. Why did I choose this cabin? Two reasons. Firstly on most Royal Caribbean ships the balconies at the stern are much larger than normal, big enough to have two sun loungers instead of the normal chairs you get with side balconies and secondly the sun would be behind us for most of the day so I could sun bathe away from the pool area of the ship.
5pm, three long blasts from the ships whistle and we are moving away from the quayside, the rails thronged with happy passengers, music around the pool area as we leave the calm harbour waters and head for our first port of call, Cadiz.
First night at dinner is always special as you meet your table companions for the next 15 days, a table by the window overlooking the promenade deck and 2 charming couples, both of whom are experienced cruisers. The waiter Eliezer and his excellent assistant Lilian turn out as two of the best I have encountered. Back on an American ship it has to be a steak for me and I am not disappointed.
Having been up since early morning its time to head for that big comfortable bed. Within minutes I am in the land of nod.
Awaking next morning the sun is shining but the ship is moving in a rough sea. Today is a sea day so an opportunity to explore. The 1,756 passengers are of 37 nationalities, the vast majority, 1151, come from Brazil and only 122 from the UK. The ‘King and I’ main dining room covering two floors with beautiful sea views is themed as the name implies on Thailand. The atrium, 5 decks high turns out to be the centre for dancing before and after dinner. Christmas is approaching so the atriums ground floor sports a huge Christmas tree adorned with sparkling lights and tinsel, the area is decorated with coloured baubles and greenery giving a wonderful festive feel. The casino also on this level is the only area inside the ship where smoking is allowed. Deck 9 is the deck that will be most used by the passengers as it houses the pool, the Windjammer Buffet, Boardwalk Dog House if you want a hotdog, the gym, solarium and several other venues. The deck above is for the passengers who want to try and keep fit using the jogging track, 4 times round is a mile. At the stern the rock climbing wall that has become a feature of Royal Caribbean ships looks far too daunting for me, the mini golf course in front of it is far more appealing.
Arriving in Cadiz the sun is shining and I board the free shuttle bus to the port exit. From here it is a short walk to the Cathedral of Santa Cruz of Cadiz in Cathedral Plaza. The interior is beautiful and the commentary as you walk around the various shrines is in several languages including English. The plaza is also shared with the Santiago Church built in 1635.
Time for a coffee at one of the many cafes that offer free wi-fi so that I can catch up on my emails before returning to the ship.
Lunch today is taken in the main dining room where they are doing ‘Tutti’ salad. Just go to the counter and tell the chef what ingredients, oils and herbs you would like and a few minutes later your ‘Tutti’ is delivered.
Next port of call is Lisbon, a port I have visited many times. The shuttle bus drops me in the city centre from where I make my way to a favourite shoe shop and purchase 2 pairs. Shoes here are excellent quality and great value. Next is a visit to the Hard Rock Café for one of their excellent Pina Coladas before returning to the ship.
That afternoon we sail for Madeira. The ship is still rolling and the weather is getting worse. 45 knot winds and 10 metre waves. That evening many of the passengers are absent from the dining room where on leaving I meet with the Hotel Director Peter Dimitrov. As a result of this several pleasant invites come my way. The first is a tour of the galley where they produce upwards of 6,000 meals and 12-14,000 bread rolls a day. The tour conducted by the Executive Sous Chef Marius proves an interesting insight to the operational side of dining. The following day an invite to a food tasting with Executive Chef Helmo. A sample of all dishes on the evening menu are laid out for tasting and nothing leaves the galley without having been passed by the Executive and Sous Chefs. This certainly allowed me to select my dinner choice that evening.
2 days later I arrive in Madeira and the following day in Tenerife where it is sun and showers. Both ports I have visited many times before so Tenerife, the last one before crossing the Atlantic, is used to stock up on packets of nibbles for those long days at sea on the balcony. That evening the sail away party has to be held inside due to the inclement weather.
It is not until our 3rd day of the crossing the sea conditions and weather improve to an acceptable state. Day 4 we cross the Equator and a ceremony is performed that evening in the atrium with King Neptune to celebrate the event. The days are now getting longer and hotter and are spent on the balcony looking at the blue sea, watching the flying fish with the occasional schools of whales and dolphins as they dive in and out of the water. The days drift quickly by and too soon I awake to find us sailing into Rio de Janeiro. This is a beautiful sail in, second only in my opinion to Venice.
Today I have opted for a ships tour. The coach takes us into the heart of Rio passing areas made famous by the Rio Carnival. Then a short walk to the Corcovado Railway Station to board the cog wheel train that will carry us over 2,300 feet up the mountain to the statue of Christ the Redeemer which overlooks Rio. The train winds its way up the mountain passing through vegetation as you would imagine a jungle to be including Jackfruit, the largest tree borne fruit which can weigh up to 80lbs. Arriving at the top station it is then a lift to the next level and finally escalators to the base of the statue which stands 98 feet tall and weighs 635 tonnes. The views are breath taking as you look out over Rio, the countryside and sea beyond. There are toilets, souvenir shops and a restaurant. Back down onto the coach it is time to see that area Rio is famous for, the beaches. Driving along the beach road some of the songs that made Ipanema and Copacabana famous come to mind. Miles of yellow sand edged with blue water and white surf, thronged with thousands of people enjoying themselves in the hot sun. The tour finishes with me boarding Splendour of the Seas for the last time. Tomorrow is Santos where I leave the ship having cruised 6,214 miles since leaving Barcelona.
Time to reflect. Built in 1996 Splendour is now one of the smallest in the Royal Caribbean fleet at just under 70,000 tonnes. Carrying around 1,800 passengers and 720 crew this is a ship that will transport you comfortably across the oceans of the world. This cruise was geared more to the Brazilian way of life with late dinner starting at 9.30pm and entertainment in the theatre for early sitting beggining at 10pm making for late nights if you decided on either of these options. If you liked dancing this was a cruise for you.
The cruise for me had several highlights, the galley tour, food tasting and dinner with the Hotel Director in Izumi. Izumi is a speciality Japanese restaurant that serves some of the best Sushi I have ever had. Drinks on board were not subject to the usual 15% gratuity, a welcomed surprise. The food throughout was of a good quality and on several occasions exceptional. Well done Royal Caribbean, I will sail you again.
For more information visit the Royal Caribbean website: www.RoyalCaribbean.co.uk
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
Alan is also an Advisor for SilverTravelAdvisor.com
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