20181103 – Cruise South America – The Edge Of Civilisation


Saturday

Our floating gin palace for the next 16 days.

Lazy morning, get packed, drink a lot of coffee and finally check out at midday. Unbelievable the queue for checkout, they’ve obviously not heard of fast checkout. Call up an Uber to take us to the cruise terminal, it’s there in two minutes and cost just a fraction of the official taxi.

Our Neptune suite.

Boarding our Holland & America ship the Zaandam is reasonably efficient. The usual number of queues but we get priority boarding and despite the lack of a glass of champagne to greet us at least our suite is ready. Our Neptune suite is amazing, very spacious along with a spacious balcony, fresh fruit, loads of other trimmings and best of all a ice cold bottle of champagne. We also get a Tassimo coffee machine, complete with FREE coffee pods. Hopefully this will be better behaved than the last one and won’t need swimming lessons from me.

More of our suite.

We settle in and explore. Have a workout in the gym then back to shower and wear our exclusive Holland & America robes. We’re on fixed dining and have swapped to a table for 8 rather than 6. Big mistake as we end up with an Austrian couple who apparently don’t speak English. I try some German but they’re really too wrapped up in one another so I give up and as a last resort talk to Wendy.

Our balcony.

Escape from the scintillating conversation with the Europeans and go up to our exclusive Neptune lounge for FREE drinks at a reception for Neptune suite guest. This Neptune suite seems good extra value for money. Great way to fritter away the kids inheritance.

Back to our room in a drunken stupor to try and watch Rake on Netflix, but we both fall asleep before the end of episode 1. Drunken end to a good day. The adventure begins.

Sunday

Our Neptune lounge complete with dedicated concierge.

Up at the crack of sparrows. Watches have gone an hour forward so we’re totally confused about the real time. Apple strikes again.

Early breakfast with the usual awesome choice.

Do a bit of work, to earn some pennies to pay for this extravagant life style.

Then go to the the port lecture, followed by yet more food for lunch and then a ships tour lecture. By now it’s getting rather choppy. I cut short my visit to the gym as I can feel a meeting with Huey and Ruth coming on.

More of our Neptune lounge.

Take a sea sickness tablet, which by the time I’ve had some food seems to fix the problem. Not sure whether it was the tablet or the food.

Fixed dinning at the same table but by now they’ve imported two stuck up English couples, who are travelling together so are mainly talking amongst them selves and are just hardwork. Half an hour late the Austrians turn up. Amazing how much English they’ve learnt in a day, they’re all of a sudden reasonably fluent. I don’t know what language school they went to but I could do with going to it for my French and German.

Escape as soon as we can. pop into the Neptune lounge and ask our concierge to move us onto flexible dining. Then we try and watch the rest of Rake. Give up and nod off.

Monday

Lazing on deck.

Up early for breakfast. Know the drill by now, fill my cafeteria with coffee; pop into the Neptune lounge to pick up some Blueberries from their continental breakfast arrangement; upstairs for some Becher Muesila combined with my blueberries.

Then it’s a power walk 4 time round the deck, just over a mile. Go to the lecture on Buenos Aires. Then coffee and some more work in the Neptune lounge while Wendy goes to cookery demonstration and then before you know it’s time for more food with lunch.

Pickleball.

After have half an hour around the pool taking in some sunshine – soon bored. Then it’s time for either pickleball or a lecture on climate change. Would like to do both but they clash – pickle ball wins, but in this gruelling heat and sun I come off wetter than a water hogs backside.

Get ready for another exciting dinner. Relax in the Neptune lounge with afternoon tea and watch rants and raves on the mid term elections on Fox news.

This time we’ve moved to flexible dining.

Then after dinner we retire to try and watch another Rake without nodding off.

Another alcohol free day.

Tuesday

Punta del Este’s only claim to fame.

At last we get off this floating gin palace. We’re tendered into Punta del Este. Really not much here so we’ve just decided to have a stroll around. It’s reckoned to be the Monaco or Monte Carlo of South America. Just hotels, apartments and nice beaches. Highlight seems to be a giant concrete hand coming out of the beach. You’d have thought they could have at least put some nail varnish on the nails to brighten it up.

Try to sample some Mate. Supposedly the most popular drink of South America. So popular you can’t try it anywhere.

Hmm….

After 6 mile stroll we get back on board for lunch.

Flexible dining then we go mad and go to the Tango show – good god we’ll be watching Saturday night dance shows next. I always thought Tango was supposed to be sensual and exciting. I manage to nod off through it so it probably gives you some idea of the quality of the show. Second half of the show was a tad more exciting as some supposed Gauchos pranced around the stage swinging two, what I can best describe as illuminated YoYos, around and around.

Wednesday

Eva Perons resting place.

Buenos Aires today and despite our original intentions of not doing any ships tours we’ve signed up for a tour of the city, followed by lunch and yet another Tango show.

Buenos Aires seems a tad more sophisticated and pleasant than Rio but given the dire warnings on crime in Buenos Aires you really do wonder what we’re doing in these so called civilised countries.

Buenos Aires – dodgy area.

Tour’s quite interesting and as well as few photo stops you get a good overview of the City and we see our intended hotel. 

Lunch is pretty good with sherry to start with, a tad bizarre, followed by free mediocre Malbec. The Tango show is a bit more stimulating than last night, but distinctly lacking in bare flesh or sexy attire.

Tango show.

Really a pity they didn’t pass on ??? and spend two days in Buenos Aires.

Flexible dining tonight, but not before a trip to the Crows Nest for happy hour with a glass of wine and a second for $2. Take these back to the room ready for dinner. Have to use every trick in the book to beat them at their own game.

Thursday

Monte Video.

Montevideo today and an “Easy Montevideo” tour. Really not exactly a lot to see and do here but it is good way to get an overview of the city. Just another overcrowded South American city. All crammed together like sardines in high rise tower blocks. All these places so far really make us appreciate Belthorn – now there’s a rare thing. It’ll probably be at least 3 weeks back home before I criticise it.

Monte Video harbour, anchor from the Graaf Spey.

Flexible dining again, rejected because I was wearing shorts. Then followed by a magician on the main stage. Problem is he did a lot of close up magic. Unfortunately none of us had binoculars so could hardly see what he was up to. The rest of his magic was rather mediocre cutting rope, repairing the cuts and escaping from a straight jacket.

Then Happy Hour for a couple of Tasooch Bourbons. Never tried it before but very mellow. After a nice night cape we tootle off to try and watch another Rake in bed without nodding off. Failed again.

Friday

Monte Video harbour. Is this a Uruguayan navy gun boat?

It’s a sea day with not really that much going on.

Catch up on an hours work. Might as well earn some money to help pay for the excesses of this floating gin palace.

Take a power walk around the deck, just over a mile. Attend a lecture and venture to the gym and finally get down to this blog.

Around the pool.

Open a bottle of Malbec. Have a couple of glasses before dinner.

Then before we know it dinner time is upon us.

Despite my resolve not to, I polish off the rest of the Malbec after dinner. No will power.

Saturday

Iceberg ahoy.

Another sea day. Power walk around deck; saunter around the ship and before we know it, it’s lunch time.

Quick trip to the gym.

After lunch the Captains spotted a giant iceberg. Thank god for that otherwise we might well have had a Titanic moment. To get us a good view of this rare sight so far North he takes a detour and passes by within a mile – close enough – so everyone can get a good view. Apparently it’s 250 feet tall and estimated to be about two years old – haven’t a clue how they figure the age out. Awesome sight.

Everyones up on deck and the bow snapping away, including some numpty who sets up his camera on a tripod – beggars belief.

Our Titanic moment. That’s close enough.

Then it’s a lecture on the Battle For The Falklands given by our Argentinian tour guide. Have to say it’s a very balanced presentation.

Up to the Crows Nest for 16:00 Happy hour for two glasses of wine and two spiced rums for my alcoholic in training wife. Take the wines up to the restaurant for dinner. Where there’s a will there’s a way, certainly have to counter screw them as best we can.

Good dinner as usual and reasonably pleasant company although I’m next to a gobby American, she could talk the balls off a pool table. Pass on the show of more singing and dancing so we go back to our cabin for more Rake. Wendy knocks back her rum and cokes whilst I get a Rye Tatoosh for a nigh cap.

20181029 – Rio De Janeiro


Monday

Lazy start to the day. Then set off down to Bretts.

Well crap a dead cat if the M6 isn’t just one roadwork North of Birmingham. It really is about time there was some so called planners and Ministry of Roadworks dickheads fed to the Lions for some Saturday afternoon entertainment. You really couldn’t make it up, 18+ mile roadworks, along with signs proudly proclaiming roadworks for the next 3 years.

Dinner at Brett’s after a visit to Waitrose.



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If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.  ~One of Murphy’s Laws of Technology


Tuesday

Cococabana beach from our room.

Brett drives us to terminal 5 Heathrow.

Have to use one of those dumb check in machines rather than join a small queue to speak to a human. But of course it struggles to read my passport. Who designs these systems? Do they ever test them? Then we check luggage in with another idiot machine. Poor HCI all round. Confusing where to scan, second suitcase comes up overweight all because it was still logged as first passenger. I bet that occurs regularly.

Who says AI hasn’t already taken over and enslaved us.

Moral to coping with all this confusion – log in online before and just bag drop.

More taxis in Rio than s many than there are tea towels ridden with dandruff in Afghanistan.

Security was very smooth. No queues. Although Wendy’s brandy caused the usual confusion.

Amazing that the lounge wasn’t full. Very comfortable and a good breakfast.

Flight was on time, comfortable and they didn’t loose our luggage, all despite my dread of flying BA. Copious wine and brandy.

Pick up a maniac taxi driver at Rio de Janeiro. I think she was either hormonal, wrong time of the month or had just fell out with her boy friend. She be better in a demolition Derby.

Check in to hotel and are greeted with a glass of champagne – more booze. This geezer tries to carry my suit case, so pretension and idle just like valet parking, not really my thing.

Our executive room is gorgeous.

Wednesday

A stroll along Cococabana.

Hotel is a fantastic 5 star. Room is lovely, complete with sea view over the world famous Cococabana beach. Breakfast is fantastic, even champagne available if you’re so inclined.

Decide on a stroll into town to pick up some basics. Place can’t be too uncivilised as they have a Starbucks, although there does seem a lot of poverty. In the afternoon we went a stroll along the beach. Bar keeper tried to rip us off, but not having any of that – challenged him and he coughed up the right change. Oh he was oh so sorry, he didn’t realise – Yeah I’m sure.

Hotel’s rooftop pool.

Afternoon tea around the hotel pool on the 16th floor. Amazing the Germans and their deck chair towels get everywhere.

Evening meal in the hotel is delicious and not too badly priced. After the excesses of alcohol yesterday I’ve sworn off alcohol for a few days, that is until the Maitre De comes up and asks us if we’d like to try some free samples of Brazilian wines. It would have been a sin and impolite to say no, so I girded me loins and suffered. Sadly they were all white wines, very palatable and I ended up drinking more than if I’d ordered a couple of glasses. Oh well. As they say, shit happens, suck it up.



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Theres a Nespresso machine in our room, it’s about as useless as using a croissant as a dildo. It just doesn’t do the job and makes a mess. Just about ready to give it a flying lesson from the 6th floor. Hopefully it can fly better than it makes coffee.


Thursday

World famous statue in Rio.

We’re booked on an early morning tour – to beat the crowds – to go to the big statue of Christ and then to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Great idea. Only downside is that pick up is at 06:40. Early awesome break fast then a short stroll to pick up point.

First stop is the statue of Christ. Drive up through the urban jungle – literally a national park / jungle in the middle of a city. Thankfully, with all the chemicals were lathered in, no mosquitoes come within a 100 yards of us and any humans will have to wear hazmat suits. Pass on the lift to the top. Do the 220 steps.

Thank god we went to see this early. At 08:00 it was heaving, hotter than the hinges of hell and more folks than queueing at the pearly gates. Heaven only knows what it would have been like by lunch time.

On the way up to Sugarloaf.

Then it’s off to Sugar Loaf, two cable car rides and hardly any steps. Not quite as busy as our religious experience. Awesome views.

We’d not signed up for the afternoon city tour but decided to get all of the touristy things over with in one day so coughed up another £10 each and went on the afternoon city tour which started with a all you can eat meal. I pass but Wendy imitates a rabbit.

Afternoon tour consists of suffering Rio Traffic. Visit to the carnival place to see where it is held, some costumes – which if you happen to be a transvestite you can try on – or even have your photo with a trollop in high heels, a skimpy dress and boobs like two giant melons just about to cause a costume failure in their attempt to escape their confines – I pass.

Then it’s onto the football stadium, with some geezer trying to imitate Pele, then onto the cathedral. Very impressive but I’d already had my overdose of religion for the year.

The steps.

Finally we go to the Saint Teresa steps. All covered in pottery tiles from around the World. You can go all the way to the top if you really feel like risking being set upon by thieves and vagabonds. Our guide warns everyone not to. Not surprised really as it’s dodgy enough at the bottom to make me appreciate the benefits of open carry.

Get to try some local spirit. In the raw it tastes like schnapps / fire water but mostly they’re just excess sweet calories, in which case you really might as well just drink a flavouring. Bang goes my alcohol free day again, but fortunately such small sample that even one of the elusive mosquitos wouldn’t get drunk on.

More steps to climb on.

Then it’s battle through the traffic back to our hotel.

For our evening meal we have been recommended the Churrascaria Palace for an all you can eat meat extravaganza – guaranteed way of avoiding Vegetarians and other tree hugger types. Every form of meat you can imagine and they just keep bringing it out for you to try along with a salad Buffett. In the end the meats win and we both give up.



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Talking of which we’ve spent a fortune on every conceivable mosquito killer / gallons of repellent / wipes / spray / gel / bee keepers head gear that would delight muslim fundamentalist and so far not a single one has been seen.


Friday

Top of Sugarloaf.

It’s Dia de Finados (All Souls Day) today so the whole country is on holiday and I think they’ve all come to Rio. A festival of the dead was originally a Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a final meal with the family and placing candles in the window of houses would guide the souls back home, and another place was set at the table.

What a sight.

After yet another awesome breakfast we set out to hire some bikes for a ride down Ipanema and Cococabana beach. First bike shop and the entrepreneur is too lazy to get off his arse and come and talk to us; second shop only accepts cash; third shop doesn’t speak a word of English. Pass and head off on shank’s pony down Ipanema beach. Actually given the number of bikes on the bike paths, it would have been a death wish on a bike. The three lane road has been closed to traffic so everyone can stroll along. It’s heaving with all those souls on holiday.

Playing.

Stop off at three different places to have an iced tea, but the scruffs running these beach cafes have even less entrepreneurial skills than your average Frenchmen. End up having coconut milk out of what I hope was a fresh coconut.

Booth beaches are heaving, all very clean. Sadly no topless bathing, although given some of the thongs dividing those two globes of heavily dimpled adipose tissue it was probably for the best. If you weigh over 16 stone you’re probably better off in a burkini (perhaps that was all these Muslim clerics intention for the burka) rather than causing offence.

On the beach. Let the shops come to you.

In the afternoon we venture onto Cococabana beach. The hotel provides towels, deck chairs and umbrellas, all very civilised. Fascinating watching the locals selling their wares. Merchandising gone mad, I think you can just about buy anything from these itinerant mobile emporiums, although I have to say I didn’t see anyone selling beds. Just manage an hour before boredom and sun stroke sets in.

For evening meal we chicken out and stay in the hotel for great food, reasonably priced and in the top ten on TripAdvisor. Another alcohol free day, despite many temptations.




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Want to buy a table cloth while on the beach. Might come in handy.

Project fear is rampant.

Lorry parks on the M25, planes crashing into each other in mid-flight, thousands of passengers – those who survived the collisions of course – will be stranded and unable to go back to work, UK citizens living abroad will be locked up and have their pensions confiscated, the NHS will run out of insulin and Band Aids, the Queen will have to move to Switzerland or possibly Uganda, our ports will shut down and ships’ captains will simply dump their cargo into the sea, our squirrels will infect everyone with rabies…I can hardly wait to hear what else is going to happen.

Security railings everywhere, says something about the crime rate.