Distance from Ilhabela to Rio de Janeiro: 139 Nautical Miles – average speed 11.6 knots
Background Information. Rio de Janeiro, located on Guanabara Bay, is home to over 6.3 million Cariocas (that’s what Rio residents are called). Rio is known today as the home to samba, soccer, and Carnival. Although inhabited by indigenous peoples, Rio was founded by the Portuguese in 1565. The monetary unit is the Brazilian Real (BRL) – exchange rate – 3.3 BRL=$1.00. Sites around the city include Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer Statue (barely visible from the ship), and iconic beaches – Ipanema and Copacabana.
This is our first time in Rio and being here is the culmination of quite a process: Brazilian Visas, yellow fever shots (probably not necessary), Bermudan Seaman’s book (don’t ask). But here we are.
From the port side of the ship, we can see Guanabara Bay with its two islands – Ilha Santa Barbara and Ilha das Enxadas. We can also see the long low bridge – Ponte Rio-Niteroi – that connects central Rio to Niteroi. The bridge is just over eight miles long and carries about 140,000 cars a day.
Greater Rio de Janeiro Area
We did not have a tour today and were hoping to sleep a little later but the thrusters and azipods modified that plan. The Island Princess is docked at Pier Maua in the center of town near the Praca Maua. We are here today with the Fred. Olsen Balmoral (the ship that re-enacted the cruise of the Titanic in 2012 – except for the sinking), and the Costa Fasciosa. We would be joined in Rio by the Celebrity Infinity, an MSC Cruiser, and a Pulmantur Ship. It is Carnival in Rio and the ships are floating hotels for those folks coming here for the celebrations.
From the ship, we could see a neighborhood situated on a hill (below). The buildings looked in better shape than the storied favelas of Rio. Way off in the distance behind this hill is the iconic statue of “Christ the Redeemer”.
Rio Cruise Port
The buildings in the Terminal Complex are decorated with some very intricate paintings (below).
A little research indicated that the safest way to get around Rio was the subway; buses had a history of bad hombres robbing passengers and taxi drivers were notorious for over charging customers.
We took the shuttle bus to the terminal (a short ride) and were greeted by tour companies willing to take us the same places as the ship’s operators. In addition to the vendors, at least two jewelry shores offered shuttles to their stores in the Ipanema area. We decided to take the subway into town – we got BRL180 from an ATM to tide us over for the next few days. But after chatting with some jewelry folks, we opted to go with the jewelry store option. We waited for a while in the terminal for the shuttles to arrive but were finally told that, due to Carnival, the streets were closed (to move the floats) and that no cars were able to get into the city (in fact, the people who got out early were not able to get back on the shuttles).
Plan B was again to take the Trolley – actually a very sleek subway train – to the city center where we could catch the subway to Ipanema (the Red Line). The trolley was free to anyone over 60 (although no one ever came into our cars to check tickets). We were packed into the trolley like sardines – it is first shove first in. We got off at the Metro stop but when we found the line, it was already queued up with a few hundred Carnival revelers. It would take us an hour to get through the line and more time to buy tickets.
Instead, we found shade and walked down the main street – full of revelers in various crazy costumes (lots of Wonder Women), police, and ordinary folk. It seemed that everyone had a beer in their hand. I tried to find a restroom at the usually reliable McD but there were three security guys in the store and the bathrooms were padlocked. I did get lucky at the Starbucks, where a security guy let me use the bathroom (not up to US Starbucks standards but this is Brazil).
I did get some nice picture of the downtown area
Police Presence in Downtown Rio
Sugarloaf Mountain in the Distance
and some of the Carnival folks.
While I was taking pictures of some of the buildings, one of the local guys said something to me (don’t know what) but it didn’t sound friendly so I retreated across the street. Rio can be a scary place most of the year but at Carnival, even scarier.
It was very hot and we got back on the trolley (much less crowded this time) and headed to the port. We checked back in with the jewelry stores and no cars were able to get back to the city to take new customer out to the stores. We would try again tomorrow. By this time, it was after 1 PM so we had lunch in Horizon Court and searched for a cool and quiet place on the ship to read. That turned out to be hallway outside of the Wheelhouse Bar.
We changed for dinner and headed to the Dining Room. The ship’s Atrium is decked out for Carnival.
I pre-ordered Salisbury Steak but this time, the food was taken out of its airline packaging and put on to a real plate, where it was joined by French fries. It was actually very good. If I could find a valid bun, I could have had a hamburger. Ellen had a very good pasta (zucchini, garlic, and cream sauce) and a super chocolaty dessert. Winners all around.
After dinner, we went back out on the pier to see what the vendors had to offer. The cruise area is pretty nice after dark.
Cruise Terminal Parkway at Dusk
Showtime tonight was a Rio de Janeiro Folkloric Show – Brazilian Carnival Group at 8:30 PM. The show started off with five or six musicians pounding on several drums. I thought that this was the show so I was ready to go. But then suddenly, six dancing samba girls in minimal Carnival costumes appeared, bumping and grinding to the beat. The show seemed to go on forever but the audience loved it (the girls danced and took pictures with the audience).
After the show, we went up on the top deck to get a look at Rio at night. It had cooled off a lot and it was very pleasant. We got some nice pictures.
The Ship’s Name in Lights
Favelas at Night
View Across the Bay
Quite a day in Rio and there are more to come.