Holland American Prinsendam Cruise
November 27 - December 21, 2011
(Click here to see our cruise itinerary.)
The city of Gustavia on the island of St. Barthélemy (St. Barts) was probably the most exclusive (expensive) Caribbean city we have visited. We saw no poverty, dreadlocks, straw market, hawkers or beggars. We did hear a lot of French and see Gucci, Pierre Cardin and Louis Vitton.   Pretty little Shell Beach was a great place to enjoy the crystal clear water and some snorkeling along the rock cliffs. There is no sand, only mounds of very tiny shells.
Paul found it hard to stay in the water looking at fish when the beach was dotted with topless beauties.   The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Castries, St. Lucia had lovely paintings on the wood ceiling and walls.
The three Iles du Salut are so close to the mainland of French Guiana that you could easily see the South American coast.   The lush beauty of the palm trees and tropical foliage with iguanas, guinea pigs, sea turtles and monkeys belied its horrible history of pain and suffering.
This is the infamous Devil's Island made famous in the movie Papillon. I'm sure there were no smiling prisoners behind these bars. . .   or in the Solitary Confinement cells. Over 70% of the French inmates sentenced here died.
We could see the brown water of the Amazon River for miles out in the Atlantic Ocean before we entered the delta. The river was so wide at the mouth, it seemed like a huge lake.   Kids didn't mind the brown color. The weather was hot and humid and the water must have been refreshing.
As we entered the city of Macapá, Brazil we passed over the line that divides the northern and southern hemispheres. We've passed over the equator several times at sea, but this is the first time we've seen markers!   In downtown Macapá, Vicki visited in Spanish with girls who only spoke Portuguese.
The small river town of Santarém had some historic buildings that reminded us of Lisbon. But the electric wires going everywhere looked like Buenos Aires.   Vicki found a piranha near the docks.
We were tendered from the ship to a single floating wooden dock at a place called Boca da Valeria (translated as "the Mouth of the Valeria River"). From the ship only one wooden building was visible, but at least 50 families from nearby communities had come to greet us and show us crafts they had made and local animals they had captured, like this adorable sloth.   For $5.00 per person, Paul & I hired a man with a small motor boat to take us on a private one hour ride up a tributary of the Amazon river to his village. We were thrilled. This is why we had come here.
Along the way we saw several men fishing with nets.   Our driver, Pedro took us to his home and we met the family.
One of his three daughters stood at the entry door, which led to the kitchen/dining area.   His very pretty wife and two other daughters were inside at the bedroom door.
Nearby the school had no windows or doors. The kids are on vacation from now until January.   Not 100 yds. from the river, a clearing served as an often-used soccer field.
In Manaus we hopped on a speedboat with 12 people and went 20 miles up the Rio Negro to an Amazon village where 16 natives met us in traditional costumes and demostrated native dances.   A squall hit the area and we sat in the boat to wait out the storm before we went up river to swim in the warm water with the Pink Dolphins.
Later we arrived at a floating restaurant on Lake January for a traditional Brazilian lunch of manioc, fish, beans, rice, chicken, and fresh fruits.   The board walk from the restaurant led us into the rainforest. . .
where we saw several monkey families.   The path ended under the shade of a palapa, which served as a safe overlook at the jungle,
some 6 foot lily pads,   and at least two cayman that waited between them.
December 8 is a national holiday to celebrate the Advent festival of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Fireworks went off next to the Cathedral at 7PM.   The plaza in front of the Cathedral was packed with tables of people eating and listening to music.
Next to the tables were food stalls, including feijoada (a bean dish), skewers of meat, rice and yucca flour.   The climax of the festival came when the Virgin arrived at the door of the Cathedral. It was announced that, "This is the moment we've all been waiting for. . .It's time for Jackpot Bingo!"
An incredible natural phenomenon occurs everyday where the black water of the Rio Negro and the brown water of the Rio Solimoes join at the "Meeting of the Waters." Both rivers flow side by side without mixing for several miles.   In Parintins there are more bicycles and adult size tricycles (like this family has) than cars.
The daily market had fresh fruits, vegetables, manioc, and potatoes.
For the Christmas holiday season, these tortilla-like desserts made of margarine, lard, tapioca and hazelnuts are sold.
The beaches at Alter do Chao along a tributary of the Amazon went on for miles in both directions. This town is actually a beach resort town for wealthy Brazilians.   One of the shops in the town had a large collection of crafts - including weavings, pottery and woodworking - from native indian tribes.
Back in the Caribbean on the island of Barbados, we swam in clear warm water on uncrowded beaches.   Sand crabs played all around us. We watched at least a couple dozen of them scurry in and out of their holes toward the sea and back.
Bequia (pronounced Beck Way) is part of the island chain of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. This small island has some beautiful beaches and clear water.   We walked about 45 minutes along a ridge that runs through the center of the island and had pretty views of the bays below. When we arrived at Lower Bay, we snorkeled with only a handful of people.
The paths through Wilhelmina Park in Oranjestad, Aruba led to an oceanside walkway that had been invaded by iguanas. At one point we saw 16 of them basking together in the sun.