Monday 18th January
Our arrival in Recife (pronounced ray-seef) was around 8.00 but Martin was up earlier to see the view of the approaching coast. I was on the front deck at about 7.30 and we were already in the harbour. The coast line was lined with tall thin high rise buildings as far as you could see - which wasn't too far because of the moisture in the air. It was hot but very cloudy with dark grey clouds all around. It had been raining as the decks were wet - lovely day to go to the beach on our first booked shore excursion! We were called to the gangway 15 minutes earlier than stated as we were not allowed to walk through the port area and had to be taken to the port terminal by shuttle - so it was a good thing we were up early. In the terminal, which was still being finished, we were welcomed by a small group of drummers - not very tuneful, but loud!
We had decided to do the full day Beach Excursion as it also included a one and a half hour drive through the city and the outlying countryside so we would be seeing a bit of the country. This part of Brazil used to be a big sugar cane plantation area. The beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil and the brochure picture was of a white sand beach edged with palm trees. The journey was a little longer due to a protest on the outskirts of the city where, the Brazilian coach guide said, they were probably burning tyres - up ahead we could see plumes of black smoke in the air. The coach driver took a diversion back towards the city and then went out on another road. The guide told us about the areas of the city we were going through and later, due to the delay, kept us entertained by singing a few English songs he knew - his singing was reasonably good so that was OK and most of them we could sing along to. As we got nearer Porto de Galinhas he told us the road we were on was called The Green Road - that will be because it was lined with forest, and it was raining = rainforest!
Due to the delay, the Marco Polo Excursion Guide escorting us to the resort got permission to extend the trip so that we were not penalised by the delay. So they agreed to delay the ship's departure so that we got the same amount of time that was stated in the Excursion Brochure, so we could say they held the ship for us! From the drop off point we walked through the holiday resort to get to the beach. Although there were all the beachwear shops, cafes and other shops you get at a beach resort it was also very rustic.
We got to the beach and saw that the tide was in...almost right up to the where the street started, so we walked around the streets for a little bit and then stood and watched the people on the little bit of beach that was being uncovered as the tide went out. There were LOTS of people/families in the resort and I wondered whether it was school holiday period or a bank holiday of some sort (I forgot to ask the Brazilian coach guide on the way back, but found out later it was the school holidays). Unfortunately as the tide went out it left fine brown seaweed behind in the area that was the main thoroughfare from the resort onto the beach. We went down on to the beach and could see that further to the left there was the white sand beach of the picture on the brochure, so we walked along the shore for about 15 minutes towards it. We walked through hundreds of occupied folding chairs under huge umbrellas, with more rows being added as the tide receded. These seemed to be occupied by Brazilian families with cool boxes and bags of food, all set for the day. The huge umbrellas seemed funny considering that there were still heavy grey clouds in the sky, but as was seen by my red forehead and shoulders after 1 hour walking around perhaps it wasn't that silly! The crowds of chairs finally thinned out and we were on the white sand beach of the photo with very few other people around. The clouds were also thinning and suddenly it was a burning hot day - suntan lotion and bikini on! A little while sunbathing, rotating on the blue and white striped beach towels provided by the ship, and then a dip in the warmest sea I have ever been in (although I think Monkey Mia in Western Australia was close). Every so often someone with an iceceam cart and umbrella went by with a little bell tinkling away to let you know they were there. Closer to the crowds there were also food carts selling things like drinks cans or coconuts with tops chopped off and straws stuck in the top, grilled sweetcorn (someone on the coach said they were 70p), fresh fruit chopped up served in plastic bowls and others with cooked fish, prawns and salad.
On the way back to the meeting point we realised the little pontoon boats with huge colourful triangular sails, that we had seen earlier in the day and thought were fishing boats, were now taking people out to some off shore reefs for snorkelling and diving. It looked like they only went out when the tide was out. Sad that we missed that opportunity - it hadn't been mentioned by the Coach Guide or the brochure (we mentioned it on the excursion feedback form).
We got back to the ship in time for me to have a quick shower before watching the sail away from Recife.
That evening in one of the lounges we watched the Entertainment Team's 'You Bet' Gameshow where each table had to bet on (no money involved) a member of the team that they thought would complete a silly challenge in the quickest time. The challenges included threading three different sized needles, whose paper aeroplane flew the furthest, and, knocking a line of 5 bottles of water over with an orange in the end of one leg of a pair of tights with the tights over your head - no hands - so that they had to move their head to swing the orange and knock the bottles over. I feel a new family game in the pipeline!
That was Day 14, two weeks have gone by already
Tuesday 19th January
A quiet day at sea. Hot and humid again, making you feel quite sleepy. The grey clouds had gone and we had blue skies with a few white fluffy clouds on the horizon.
Before he went to the next Clive Leatherdale Talk on 'Britain in the South Atlantic' at 11.00 Martin walked through the lounge where they were holding the 'Sailors of Small Boats Meet' and saw there were around 40 of them - talking about what boat they had, where they had been and the best way to carry provisions. An announcement earlier in the cruise suggested that if there were any members of groups on board they may like to arrange a meeting and they would put it in the Programme. There has been an ex-servicemen/Royal British Legion meet (Martin said they were talking about who would take the Minutes of the Meeting when he walked through!).
Martin didn't last long in Clive's talk and had to leave as he nodded off a couple of times! I think I was in the cool cabin writing this up, as it was just too hot to be on deck. The noon time announcement said it was 32 degC and the sea temp 30 degC.
Just before lunch we had a free small glass of white sangria from the bar manager (who was from Bulgaria and had a voice like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster) on the Pool Deck, who I think was trying to help sell the big bowl they had made as it was the special offer of the day. I said I would order one later, but when I went back and ordered it I was told after it had been poured that the offer had finished and it was now full price of £5.00 instead of £3.75. I didn't make a fuss about it as it was a large glass and I did have a free one earlier, so it probably evened out on the cost.
After lunch we were invited to 'Tour the Bridge' and a group of about 15 of us went up to the Bridge to have a look around. It was tiny! Only about three time the size of our cabin. The Officer in Charge explained that the ship was on 'auto-pilot' most of the time and guided by GPS and other automatic systems like an aeroplane.
Later I went to Sue Walsh's next talk on 'The Panatal'. The Panatal is to South America what the Serengeti is to Africa and has it's own 'Big Five' - the animals that people travel to see. In the Panatal it is Tapirs, Jaguar (the biggest cat after the African lions and tigers), River Otters, and two others I can't remember as I was struggling to stay awake in the semi-darkness again. (I would have looked them up on the Internet and you would never know I forgot what they were, but I haven't got it - very frustrating!). Sue is very easy to listen to and the photos are amazing, but I only just made it to the end! Whilst I was there Martin was chatting to a lady and leaning on the rail of the ship and two spinner dolphins leapt up in front of them, spun around, did a couple of jumps and swam off!
In the evening on the Pool Deck we watched the 'Body Matters' Gameshow, where 3 members of the Activities Team had to decide where to stick stickers with the Latin names of parts of the body on to 3 male members of the Dance Team. I want to know why they didn't ask members of the passenger audience to do it - I might have volunteered for that one, I think I would have won! No Bookmark this time; the winner got a free cocktail of the day (A Singapore Sling).
After a short cabin break from 10 to 11pm to cool down we went back up to the Pool Deck to watch the 3 female singers from the Entertainment Team (I'm going to write ET from now on as that's a lot of letters to type!), sing a Motown Cabaret. They were brilliant so we were glad we went back up to watch them.
The moon seemed especially bright tonight, and I managed to get a couple of good pictures on my new camera - it has a 'Moon' setting!