Total distance from Santos: 1751 nautical miles.
Between Salvador and our final Brazilian port of call, Fortaleza, we had another full day at sea. We managed to win both quizzes (morning and afternoon) As a member of the winning team has to walk to the front of the lounge to collect ones prize, we have agreed that a different team member collects our 'booty' each time. Hopefully, by the time the others realise it is the same team winning all the time, we will have cleaned up!! However, unlike other cruise lines such as Princess, each team member does not receive a prize. The team will win a ‘few’ items. So the more in the team, the fewer items to go round! For example today we won a ball cap and lanyard in the morning and a ball cap and t-shirts in the afternoon’s session. We have been playing with our dinner partners Brian and Julie and up until now we have won a number of ball caps, 2 t-shirts a couple of lanyards and a small bag/purse. Roisin and I are happy to let Julie and Brian keep the prizes as we have enough of these items dotted around our house!! Roisin and I are happy just for the bragging rights!!!
Dinner, this evening was, surprise, surprise, Brazilian. During the meal, Emilia, who is sitting across the table from me, eyes lit up as she looked across the dining room and a waiter who was making his way to our table. ‘Oh! Yes! Yes! Cheesy Balls! I love them!’ Before I had the chance to formulate a punch line, the waiter was holding a tray of small rounded pastry balls and was piling 4 or 5 on to Emilia’s side plate. We all (especially Roisin) breathed a sigh of relief as no one would be subject to one of my quips that only I seem to find funny!! These delicacies are known as Pão de queijo or cheese bread. The rest of us tried two each. They were very tasty with a light texture. Not too doughy and not too cheesy (unlike some of my quips!!)
The elevators on board can be problematic in as much as no sooner have the doors opened than they are closing again. The elevators are usually in banks of four so in order that we don’t miss any, Roisin will stand one side of the elevators whilst I stand at the other side. This seems to do the trick so whoever is nearest to the elevator that opens can hold the doors open until we are both safely inside. An automatic voice announces the number of the deck (in English.) This is one of the few announcements that is not made in 6 languages. Could you imagine if the elevator announcement for each deck was made in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese? It would take several hours to get from the fourth deck to the fifteenth deck!!
Brazilians haven’t yet mastered the art of waiting for people to leave the elevator before entering. As soon as the doors open, they pile in with no consideration for those who wish to get out. Even my polite request asking them would they be so kind as to await until my good lady wife and I have exited the elevator doesn’t seem to have much effect. Admittedly I have been using the shortened version: Oi! Out the f**king way!!’ but still to no avail!
Before retiring for the evening, Roisin and I tend to head up to the buffet for a cup of tea or coffee. This evening there was a man in my eye line. He was probably about mid to late forties with unkempt wavy hair and a thick set jaw line. He wore a rather dirty sports shirt (not football) that had several sponsors patches printed on the arms and chest. His bleached jeans were cut off and frayed just above the knee. There was just something that I didn’t like about him. I pointed him out to Roisin who asked me ‘Why? What is wrong with him?’ I couldn’t explain in words what it was but heard myself saying ‘He is dunking his tea bag in an aggressive manner!!’
Fortaleza's history began at 2:35pm on February 2, 1500 when Spaniard Vicente set foot in the New World and named the land Santa Maria de la Consolación. Fast forward 149 years and after a few power struggles, the Dutch handed their stronghold now known as Fort Schoonenborch to the Portuguese who immediately changed the name of the settlement to Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Assunção ("Fort of Our Lady of the Rising") ‘The problem with the name Fort Schoonenborch is that there are too many sh- sounds!’ declared a spokesman. However not long after it was realised the new name was also a bit of a mouthful so was shortened to Fortaleza as we know it today. It wasn’t until 1726 that this city got recognition as a village. Today it is Brazil’s 5th largest city with a population of just over 2.5 million
Called the "City of Light," Fortaleza claims that the sun shines on it 2,800 hours a year. Unfortunately today wasn’t one of those 2,800 hours!! It was warm, 90 degrees, but overcast.
Our stop in Fortaleza would be the shortest stay of the entire cruise. We arrived 8:30am and had to be all back on board at 13:30. Certain ports around the world do not allow passengers to wander around the dock area on foot and this is one of those ports. For this reason a free shuttle is provided by the local port authority to the port building. From there MSC had provided a shuttle to Fortaleza city centre for a charge of US$19.90. The journey takes between 30-40 minutes. The last shuttle leaves port at 10:15am with the final shuttle returning back from the city at 12:30. It is highly recommended that walking outside the port perimeter is only done if you have a Death wish as the port is not situated in the most salubrious part of town!! There are only two official excursion available which gives some indication as to things to see and do: City tour + shopping or City tour + beach. To be honest, I struggled with my research on this city. Apart from being one of the host cities at the 2014 World Cup with its state of the art stadium, the most visited attraction I could find was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza and the most complimentary review I could find stated: ‘The closer you get, the worse it looks!!’ That settled it for us as we both agreed to stay at the port even if Fortaleza is supposed to be the hammock making capital of the world!!
At about 10am we were prised in to a coach and chauffeured the 150 yards to the terminal building. There we at least made good use of their free Wi-Fi.
From the ship, you could quite clearly see the Farol do Mucuripe which only seemed a stone’s throw away. This, directly translated in to Portuguese means Museum Fortress. The building used to be a lighthouse and was erected in 1840 by slaves. The lighthouse has been deactivated since 1957 but looked an interesting place to visit. We ventured out, crossed over a rather new looking car/coach park onto the pavement that ran alongside the sea towards the dock gate. This pavement was in contrast to the pristine looking car park and was full of potholes and uneven slabs. We passed a guard on the dock gate who was busy on his mobile phone to even offer us a second glance. A taxi approached us and rather than attempt to lure us in to taking a tour of the city with him, we could see he had a car full. He wound his window down and without completely coming to a stop, shouted something in Portuguese of which one word was definitely ‘favela’!! We could have probably guessed the rest of the sentence. Something like ‘Are you effing crazy!!??’ Although the lighthouse was only a few hundred yards away, we would have to enter a small housing estate to reach it. Housing estate is probably too rich a word to use!! I looked back, the guard was still deep in conversation. I decided to snap a few photos where I stood before making a hasty retreat back to the safety of the port building.
The port terminal was now a hive of activity. Many people with their relations in tow either meeting their loved ones or giving them a send-off. Either way, ‘quietly’ is not a word well used in Brazil. Most of those with suitcases seemed to be crew. We spent another ½ hour or so catching up on Facebook, emails and texts before returning the 150 yards in the shuttle bus to the comfortable confines of the MSC Preziosa.
So no Fortaleza, no gourde? Stephen and Emilia, as part of their package returned from an excursion in Fortaleza that included time to browse a local market.
‘It was much better than the market in Salvador,’ said Emilia.
‘Please tell me they didn’t have any gourdes’, I asked hoping I wouldn’t be regretting not popping in to Fortaleza for an hour or so.
‘They had hundreds!’ exclaimed Stephen. ‘So, many to choose from!’ Fortunately for Stephen he couldn’t keep a straight face and I knew almost immediately I was being wound up (as I unclenched my fist!!) Emelia had enquired in the market and once again the answer was the same as in Salvador. No gourdes to be had anywhere in Fortaleza. It’s as if there is a nation al gourde shortage!!
‘The beach was so clean and nice. The water was lovely…and so many hammocks!!’ We were told. But then I wouldn’t expect anything less in the hammock making capital of the world.
So, as we leave South America and head back across the Atlantic Ocean we now have four full days at sea before the madness that is Europe begins!!