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SALVADOR da BAHIA, BRAZIL

sunny 90 °F
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Here we are in the largest city on the Northeast coast of Brazil, with a population of almost 7 million. (I am continually amazed by my ignorance about the countries of South America!) This is the Bonfim Basilica, just one of the 165 churches in the city.

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Miracles are reported to have occurred in Bonfim Church. Prayers for healing and thanks for healing are often accompanied by pictures of people and apparently, representative plastic body parts.

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Salvador was once the center of Brazil’s slave trade (Brazil had more African slaves than the United States), and African faith beliefs have become syncretized with Roman Catholicism so there are local names for many more gods. The ribbons tied to this fence each have three knots that represent wishes – the belief is that you make a wish as you tie each knot and then leave it tied on your wrist until the bracelet falls off, that is , if you want it to work!

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The Lower City and the harbor are viewed here from the Upper City.

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The city became extremely wealthy because of the sugar and slave trades. It was settled by the Portuguese in 1549 and is now known for its Afro-Brazilian culture.

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The church of St. Francis from 1597, where gold seems to cover every surface

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Next to St. Francis, is this ornate façade. It was found when it was uncovered during restoration work. No one seems to know why it had been covered up.

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The sound of loud drumming drew us down a lane to view an unplanned treat. The drummers show another aspect of the unique African heritage in this part of Brazil.

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The heart of town, the Pelourinho, dates from the 17th through 19th centuries and is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

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This is our last port before we reach the Amazon River, 1,800 miles away. We have four days and nights of sailing ahead of us. Yippee!

Posted by Swenigale 11:41 Archived in Brazil

ST. PATRICK'S DAY ON THE AMAZON

semi-overcast 81 °F

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In the late afternoon on Saturday, March 16th we entered the legendary Amazon River. It is 200 miles wide at the mouth! We knew we were in the right area when we saw the brown color of the water flowing into the sea. Some staggering statistics of this great waterway which flows through the region of Amazonia: Amazonia covers 1/3 of Brazil, or more than 2 ½ million square miles and supplies ¼ of the world’s fresh water. It is 4,080 miles long!

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On Sunday morning we stopped and anchored for several hours as the ship was cleared for entrance to the river and we picked up two River Pilots who will be with us for the next 6 days including 5 ports of call. I simply cannot believe we are here!.

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone. By the way, check the Crystal Serenity’s ship web cams – nice chance to see what it looks like to be on a ship sailing on the Amazon River!

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We saw a few small houses scattered along the banks in the few hundred miles we traveled upriver, in from the ocean.

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Kids paddled out to get a look at us. I absolutely cannot believe we are here!

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Posted by Swenigale 12:16 Archived in Brazil

AMAZON RIVER

semi-overcast 85 °F

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Here are some random pictures of the shores of the Amazon taken as we sail toward our ports of call. This is the rainy season, and the waters that start in the Andes Mountains are at a very high level.

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People who live right near the water's edge sometimes build homes on stilts or move into towns during the high water season.

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River boats of all sizes connect these remote bits of human habitation.

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Amazonians travel on river boats, sleeping overnight in hammocks if the trip is long.

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Are we really here?

Posted by Swenigale 15:56 Archived in Brazil

ALTER do CHAO, BRAZIL

rain 77 °F

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This spectacular guy was clinging in the rain to the outside of one of the ship's windows.

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The river is so high that this resort community's beaches and playgrounds are underwater.

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We drove away from the river on Amazonian roads to Bosque Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Woods) for a nature walk.

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The heavy rains of this morning made for a very muddy walk. The hiking poles were a good idea!

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If only I could remember all that we were told about the many varieties of trees and vines!

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This is a secondary forest but there are more than 400 species of trees and characteristics of the distant and more inaccessible virgin forest.

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This rubber tree shows how the latex is harvested -by making a slice in the trunk each night and then letting it drip into containers.

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A piece of this vine can be made into a tea that is good for kidney stones - I think.

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I do know that this pod contains brazil nuts - even with a machete this is a tough nut to crack, so to speak.

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The end of the tour involved walking to the bus in the suckiest mud I have ever seen! Everyone's shoes had what felt like 5 pounds of mud turned to cement stuck to them!

Posted by Swenigale 05:06 Archived in Brazil

PARINTINS, BRAZIL

semi-overcast 79 °F
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This riverside city of 50,000 is on an island in the longest archipelago of the mid-Amazon. Our tender ride to the floating port was piloted with care because of all the floating trees and vegetation in the river. This little bird is resting on a major pile-up of flood debris.

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Guess what? It's raining in the rainforest! No reason not to venture forth! Hasta has conquered a Caiman - possibly the only one we will see.

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A Pedi cab took us to the town's three major sites in the morning.

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After lunch on the ship we tendered back to shore - the orange ship's tender is tied to a riverboat which is moored at the dock. Step from the tender through the riverboat, and unto the pier.

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We were treated to a taste of Parintin's Boi-Bumba Festival.

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These are the main characters of the three day event which is held in June each year. The Festival is the "marquis event" for Brazilians - apparently more important than Rio's Carnaval.

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The Boi-Bumba (which means "Bull Dance") dance competition tells the story of an ancient legend about a cowboy, his woman, a bull, a farmer and a shaman.

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Families all align themselves with the blue team or the red team in friendly competition, even painting their houses blue or red. The winning team is the one judged to be the most spectacular and fun-loving.

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Our one hour glimpse of the energy and lavish costumes that characterize the competition exceeded our expectations!

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The Festival is held in the outdoor stadium, the Bumbodromo, which holds 50,000 and is shaped like a bull's head. Really.

Posted by Swenigale 12:06 Archived in Brazil

MANAUS, BRAZIL

sunny 90 °F
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Sunset on the Amazon - as we set sail for Manaus, which is roughly 1000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and will be our turn- around port.

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The black waters of the Rio Negro and the brown of the Amazon flow side by side. The city of Manaus is the capital of the State of Amazonas. It was "created by the rubber boom of the mid nineteenth century, when steam navigation opened up the Amazon to entrepreneurs and the social elite."

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An early morning tour brought us to the Manaus Zoo for a glimpse of some unique Amazonian wildlife.

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The Teatro Amazonas Opera House was "built at the height of the rubber boom at the turn of the 19th century. The Opera House took fifteen years to construct and epitomizes the splendor and elegance of a time when the city was one of the richest in the world."

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"Manaus manufactures diverse products, mostly consumer goods, and is a major river port, shipping products of the Amazon Basin.".

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Posted by Swenigale 13:56 Archived in Brazil

BOCA DE VALERIA, BRAZIL

sunny 90 °F

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There are 75 or so river people in this tiny town on the Valeria River. During the rainy season they welcome tourists to see where and how they live.

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We went out into the river with a boy and his boat from the village who showed us these giant water lilies and expertly guided us through the surrounding waters.

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Where the vegetation was thick in the river he cut the small engine and paddled.

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This was a wonderful adventure - no life jackets or safety lectures on this boat!

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The villagers appreciated our dollars and we were more than happy to give them. This boy is holding a sloth and her baby.

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The lives of the people revolve around fishing and farming and then also raising Manioc during the dry season.

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An even more amazing sight than these animals was seeing the pink dolphins that are found in this part of the amazon.- I mean they are bubblegum pink, for real! And no one was holding them for us to see! They don't surface long, so this is the best photo we have.

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Posted by Swenigale 11:26 Archived in Brazil

AMAZONIAN STOWAWAYS


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Blessings this Palm/Passion Sunday!

Posted by Swenigale 03:41 Archived in Brazil

SANTAREM, BRAZIL

sunny 90 °F
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Buy your hammock here, for your house guests and your next river voyage!

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Santarem was founded in 1661 and it has always been a trading center due to its location at the meeting of the Tapajos and Amazon Rivers. We took a river boat tour for over three hours this afternoon to see the amazing “wedding of the waters”, the flora and fauna of the river banks, and to even get a chance to fish for Piranha!

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Did you know that the Amazon ecosystem generates “50% of the earth’s rejuvenated oxygen”?

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We anchored for ½ an hour in Maica Lake, as our guides baited hook and line with red meat for the “voracious” Piranha.

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The real fishermen

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Posted by Swenigale 09:51 Archived in Brazil

DEVILS ISLAND, FRENCH GUIANA

sunny 90 °F
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Napoleon's infamous penal colonies are an ironic port of call on this joyful Palm Sunday.

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The three small islands are together referred to as Devil's Island. We walked around on Ile Royale, used for less dangerous prisoners (see photos below) and for housing the warden, etc.

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There is now a small hotel on the island as well as some local residents.

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That is Devils Island (through the trees) where political prisoners such as Alfred Dreyfus were held in isolation.

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In 1953 the prison was closed. Conditions were so harsh here, despite the idyllic setting, that many of the 80,000 prisoners were never seen again

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We were glad to be returning to our safe and secure "island home" on the Serenity.

Posted by Swenigale 13:36 Archived in French Guiana

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS

sunny 86 °F
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A German cruise ship is in port with us in beautiful Barbados.

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After a short drive north from Bridgetown along the calm western coast, called the "Platinum Coast", we found a lovely beach. We snorkeled with friends from the ship, during passing rain showers.

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The most fun of all was snorkeling with turtles! We watched them as they fed and swam and surfaced for gulps of air. It was probably a funny sight, because as the little turtle head popped above the surface, so did I and my snorkel!

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We soaked up the sun and enjoyed the beautiful blue-green waters and trade winds - savoring them as the World Cruise draws to a close.

We now have three days at sea before our final port of call in Key West on Saturday. Easter Sunday morning we will debark in Miami. It is a blessing that there are this many sea days during Holy Week. In the midst of all the special events that take place during the final week of a World Cruise we are providing almost daily worship experiences for the Protestant community. Tuesday evening we attended the Passover Seder with our Jewish friends.

Even the unfortunate timing of ending the cruise on Easter Sunday will not deter the faithful! We will have an Easter Eve Service Saturday afternoon and then an Interdenominational Easter Dawn Service before leaving the ship. Meeting times and venues are limited because of all the shipboard activities - services are in the Avenue Saloon, the Stardust Club, the Hollywood Theater or Palm Court - but Crystal always finds a place for religious services.

Posted by Swenigale 12:51 Archived in Barbados

KEY WEST, FLORIDA

sunny 75 °F

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Maybe it's time to come home when our pictures of beautiful Key West consist of a wooden horse and a bunch of chickens!

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To be fair to ourselves, though, time is short - Easter Services, packing and farewells filled our day. It has been a wonderful cruise. Thanks for traveling with us. HAPPY EASTER!! We'll be home Easter night.

Posted by Swenigale 19:46 Archived in USA

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