Hello! Ola! ÂĄHola!

We are off on an adventure to South America.
This is a 13-nt cruise aboard Azamara Pursuit (with a 3-nt pre-cruise in Buenos Aires), visiting Argentina, Uruguay & Brazil.

For Holly & I, this is our 31st cruise together,
and 1st with Azamara Club Cruises.

‘The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them’
~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, 1988

Jump to Day:    2 3 4 5 6 7-8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15-16 17 18

San Diego   (Day 1)
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Our first flight left at 6.16, headed for Atlanta. With a built-in long layover of over 7 hours, we had plenty of time to settle in to the Delta Sky Club in Terminal F in ATL, and get a bit of work done/general chit chat well in advance of our next flight. We are scheduled to leave at 21.05 🙂

This is the first trip where I am using my new gimbal. Though it has had field testing, we will see how it does in/around crowds. Looking forward to smooth video from this new gear.

Tomorrow, we are Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina   (Day 2)
Thursday, December 5, 2019

We arrived into Buenos Aires (EZE) about 20 mins early- woo hoo- 20 more minutes of vacation! We dropped our luggage with the hotel concierge then set out for our only destination today- Bosques de Palermo.

Bosques de Palermo is a large park complex comprised of smaller individual parks. Today, we visited the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden.

The Rose Garden, smelling wonderfully like- well, a few thousand fresh roses- is a peaceful area and great destination in which to unwind after a long international flight. One unique feature is the sculptures throughout the center of the park- known as The Garden of the Poets, which has busts of famous writers from various countries.

We then visited the Japanese Gardens, just 2 block away. It is a rather small complex but with a nice lake and more importantly- Malbec; my first Argentine Malbec actually IN Argentina.

We finished the evening with dinner at Estilo Campo- our first of many samples of a staple of South American cooking- steak.

Tomorrow, we are in Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina   (Day 3)
Friday, December 6, 2019

We went on a tour today of several sights in Buenos Aires- downtown, San Telmo,  La Recoleta and La Boca.

The Plaza de Mayo downtown has Casa Rosada, the residence of the Argentina President, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, a very nicely decorated church where we were able to see the presentation of the guards who, each day while the cathedral is open- stand watch over the remains of José de San Martín- credited as the liberator of Argentina from Spain in the very early 18th Century.

San Telmo has a collection of local shops including a Dulce de Leche store, where there is no shortage of free samples.  We took several packages of paid product home :).  We saw a very cool piece of street art on the West side of the city- a bench that you knew was very cushy, until you sat on it.  It was 100% cement, and just so detailed, it looked like a sofa.

La Recoleta is most famous for a cemetery I’d argue is much nicer than that of New Orleans.  A famous resident here is Eva Peron. 

La Boca is a very colorful set of buildings complete with graffiti and restaurants, and obligatory souvenir opportunities. It was a very nice day out. We completed our evening with drinks in the hotel’s White Bar, then dinner at Red Resto- also in our hotel.

Tomorrow, we are in Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina   (Day 4)
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Today was great. After a short taxi ride, we arrived at Basilica Santisimo, fortunately about 25 mins before a service started, which gave us time to look around, and hear the organist warming. The stained glass here is beautiful.

Our next stop was a return to the San Telmo district to browse the market. We also tried a local sweet treat called alfajores, which are two sugar cookies sandwiching a healthy amount of dulce de leche and sprinkled with coconut. They were quite tasty, and surprisingly not too sweet.

Many vendors were selling their goods, but the unmatched highlight of the day was, upon a seating recommendation from our waitress in one of the square’s cafĂ©s- having a front row seat for a tango show from two lovely street performers.‹‹

We returned to the hotel to settle in for a bit before packing, then heading out to dinner.

Tomorrow, we board Azamara Pursuit.

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All Aboard  (Day 5)
Sunday, December 8, 2019

Today was awesome. We arrived at the cruise terminal about 9.45, and hung out for just over 90 minutes before boarding at 11.20. Our first impression was the color scheme was very nice – this may seem a bit strange, but Holly and I (after being able to focus*) both thought that Pursuit was wonderfully appointed; she just looks great! Right after boarding, Holly went directly to the Spa to make a few appointments while *I went to the restaurant to make speciality dining reservations, which went very well- but was my primary area of focus until it was completed.

Prior to dinner, I was waiting for Holly in Spirits, a bar located inside The Den. While just chilling over a Malbec, Cruise Director Tony Markey was walking by. I said hello- and he not only stopped, but sat down with me – just he & I mind you- for nearly 30 minutes- talking about cruising, and what turns out to be a shared love of video and audio post production. Tony was no doubt quite busy, especially on boarding day, but he made time for quite a long chat. He was great!

We went to dinner in the Discoveries Restaurant, and made a point to have Natalea (been in contact with her and Tony on social media since about April this year) as our waitress. Natalea, like Tony, is also from the U.K. It was nice to finally meet her, too.

Post-dinner entertainment wowed! Maryfer, from Mexico, played a set in The Den, and was joined for a song by Martin Kaye, also onboard as a headline performer. Double wow. They were both great. Small ship cruising bonus
 Maryfer just chilled right next to Holly & I while Martin played. It was great to have such a close contact with the performers- something small-ship cruising certainly engenders.

Tomorrow, we are in Montevideo, Uruguay.

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Montevideo, Uruguay  (Day 6)
Monday, December 9, 2019

A very nice day out, though the evening would be- as quite the understatement- far more wonderful. While quite warm, the weather has been very favorable so far this trip. We just walked into town to do a bit of self-touring, and had another one of those moments that reenforce why we travel- encounters with local cultures.

Today, we came across Plaza Zabala, a park dedicated in the early 1930s to the city’s founder (1736), Bruno de Zabala. While admiring his statue, I noticed a little boy- Sebastian, just 1.5 years old, standing near his mother, with his soccer ball having gotten away from him. I asked his mother (er, more like motioned, as there was a language barrier) if that runaway ball was his, and then retrieved it.

For the next 10 minutes at least, Sebastian and I had a little kick-around- his mother encouraging him to play with this guy also interested in futbol. It was fun. At 1.5 years, his enthusiasm was funny- sometimes he’d kick the ball back to me, while others he’d just kick it in another direction; I always retrieved it. It was a fun day. Thankfully, before I started after the ball, I had handed the video camera to Holly, so there will be forever footage to watch of this unplanned, wonderful encounter.

Before returning the the ship, we stopped for a local bit of food, where Holly, for her birthday, got to watch soccer (she really could not care less). I had the Schwarzer (Coffee, Ice Cream, Chocolate, Mint & Creme); eh.. it was quite different- but the coffee was far too strong for me. On our return to the cabin, Holly found it decorated by our cabin steward Harold (from the Philippines); Birthday Celebration, Pt. 1 complete. Now then….

Tonight, we had our AzAmazing Evening (a cultural performance put on by Azamara once nearly each sailing across the world) at the Solis Theater. The performance was by an utterly fantastic group who playfully performed the story of the origins of Carnival. It was awesome. Nah.. it was AzAmazing!

I also saw the culmination of another travel surprise for Holly; Birthday Celebration, Pt. 2:

Cruise Director Tony Markey and I had been chatting occasionally since late June about what we might do to surprise Holly on her birthday. If you go back to read yesterday’s entry, our discussion- not mentioned yesterday for obviously G-15 classified reasons, also included plans to finalize tonight.

At the Solis Theater, Tony, after a fun group selfie, and without skipping a beat- surprised Holly in the just prior to the AzAmazing performance by wishing her a happy birthday in front of the gathered crowd of probably 400 other passengers. Another good plan come together. Tony made this a very special evening for my AzAmazing girl.

The next two days, we are at sea

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At Sea  (Day 7-8)
Tue-Wed, December 10-11, 2019

Day 7. We had breakfast in the Discoveries Restaurant- a very civilized way to eat, rather than in the throngs of a cruise buffet restaurant. Azamara carry this off very well.

Holly made a pretty good rooster at a Watercolor class, while I just watched the waves go by and worked on pictures.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at Prime C, Pursuit’s Steakhouse, but I’m saving picture taking for another night when we return.

Day 8. We played our first game of best-of-five traditional shuffleboard matches. I won, 3-0, after two tie-breaking rounds in set 3. It was fun, though the deck was a bit wet.

Holly again went to a Watercolor class, this time making boats. I think she has found her calling….Picasso is a nobody. We met later for lunch at The Patio
the best burgers at sea. Azamara do food really really well.

We went to see Martin Kaye at his show at 21.00- he is a great singer and piano player. He did a great show on the early days of Rock and Roll. His energy level is ridiculous.

Tomorrow, we are in Santos, Brazil.

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Santos, Brazil  (Day 9)
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Got up at the crack of 6.30 (that’s late for me on a cruise) to watch Pursuit’s sail in. After a bit of coffee at Mosaic CafĂ©, we were ready to disembark.

We visited the Coffee Museum, had an open-air trolley ride through the old part of the city, and took a tram up a rather steep incline for a panoramic view of Santos.

The Museu do Café was really neat. It was originally a coffee exchange which began in 1922. There was an excellent overview of the importance to coffee in Brazil in the early stages of the 20th century.

The trolley has been in operation since 1932. It is cute, but some of the cars are starting to show as much age as the town through which it travels.

Santos is a very modern city insofar as banking, shopping, etc., but about 1 in every 4 buildings seems to be in sore need of fresh paint.

Back on board, we went to the Chef‘s Table for dinner.  It is a 7-course meal, with each dish paired with wine. It was excellent!

Tomorrow, we are in Parati, Brazil.

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Parati, Brazil  (Day 10)
Friday, December 13, 2019

We tendered into the lovely town of Parati, a quaint city replete with a serious amount of cobblestone streets- so much so that it took great care to walk on.  This design, though, serves a very useful purpose, as it allows a good deal of rain, which this area gets- to safely drain through the city into the harbor. 

The city has a few mascot dogs that follow one around through the city.  They were great indicators of where to find shade
important as it was really an intensely hot and muggy day.  Had a few samples of cachaca, neĂ©- rocket fuel.  Won’t be doing that too often :). 

Our tour guide on this 2.5 hour ramble through the city was good, but her accent was very hard to understand.  Still, her pride in showing off her town was evident (and…. she did get us those little beverages).

Tomorrow, we are in Buzios, Brazil. 

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Buzios, Brazil  (Day 11)
Saturday, December 14, 2019

Buzios is a neat seaside town.  Nearly every city a cruise ship goes to is- but this was more laid back and surprisingly with a few South Pacific influences, including Hawaii & New Zealand.  It is certainly a Brazilian town, but there is a real fisherman/surfer vibe about this place.  It is a resort to which many Brazilians come. 

Our tour took us on a 2.5 hour circle around the peninsula, including stops at several overlooks that were unfortunately mired in fog.  Photoshop can only fix so much. 

We had a neat surprise, and if your heart isn’t warmed by it- close your browser and please don’t bother returning: Blackie. 

There is a dog here that LITERALLY hangs out with the tour bus company, and makes a habit out of being an unofficial ambassador for Buzios.  You see, when a tour guide tells you he likes to run alongside the open-air trolleys with tourists, one may assume a certain bit of hyperbole on the part of the tour guide.  Nope. We were there to see for ourselves

Blackie did indeed jog along side our trolley for 2.5 hours.  Up rocky hills passing for roads, at a decent speed, and when we stopped- he rested.  He often ran ahead of the coach- he certainly had the tour pretty much memorized.  Recall that this is a peninsula of nearly 15 km return- he stayed with us from start to finish almost without ever going out of sight. I tried to give him crackers but all he wanted was water, and for those brave enough to show this scraggly guy a little love- just to be pet. 

Tonight was our first trip to Aqualina- the Italian speciality restaurant onboard Azamara Pursuit- the food was really good, though we both like Prime C better.

Tomorrow, we are in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. 

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Rio de Janiero, Brazil  (Day 12)
Sunday, December 15, 2019

It was a beautiful sail in to the port of Rio de Janeiro, including a clear view of Sugarloaf and its cable cars making their way up and down the mountain. Christ the Redeemer was unfortunately hidden by a bit of cloud cover, thankfully- just during the early morning sail in.

To ensure we visited our top priorities, we had arranged a ‘Private Journey’ through Azamara in March and were not disappointed.

The first stop was to the iconic Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain- to beat the crowds (if there is such a thing). There are several ways to reach the top including a walking trail, but we opted for the cogwheel tram to scale the 2,330ft steep mountainside. The 98ft Art Deco statue is quite stunning.  Several multi-level platforms were already thick with tourists, but we managed to get our obligatory selfie and take in the spectacular 360 deg view of Rio. At a little past 9am, it was already very warm outside.

The next “must-do” on our list was to ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which provided yet another awesome vantage from which to admire the beautiful topography.  Of course, I remember this area from the 007 film ‘Moonraker’, and imagined Bond & Jaws’ fight on the cable car.  Fortunately, no such kerfuffle occurred on our trip.

Next stop….Copacabana beach. This beautiful 2.5 mi stretch of beach along the Atlantic shore is extremely popular. It appeared that every square inch was covered with either an umbrella, chair, towel and/or a scantily clad body. We stopped at one of the many barracas (translation is tent, but more like a fixed hut) lining the beach that provide liquid refreshments and tasty bites. I had a local Brahma beer and a Holly had coconut water straight from the source- can’t get much fresher than that. We tried a Brazilian version of guacamole and chips and cheese pasteis (small turnovers), all while taking in the a game of what appeared to be volleyball without using one’s hands.

Our last stop was Ipanema Beach, although it was more a drive by, since there was no place to park as this beach was just as crowded as Copacabana.

Our tour guide, Daniel was very accommodating and knowledgeable. It was a full day expertly managed in order to see just about everything we requested.  Traffic was our only nemesis since most sites took upwards of 45 minutes to get to. But all-in-all, it was a very good day.

We visited Prime C for dinner again and was waited on by Yashvir from Mauritius. The Chateaubriand for two was excellent, as was the service.

Tomorrow, we are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(We are here for a double overnight!)

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  (Day 13)
Monday, December 16, 2019

Our day was quite full and thoroughly awesome!  We went for a visual walkabout along Boulevard Olympico, then set out to sample street food (we found a little market not captured in stills, but it does appear on our film), finding a tiny little shop selling pastries filled with chicken, cheese, and chocolate (we had one each of the latter two).  It was yummy, but that was to be it for us, as we knew not to overindulge for the evening to come.

Tonight was the White Night party, an event held on each sailing, and, due to excellent weather- was held in port, rather than at sea.  Tonight, a little breeze would have been most welcomed.  It was quite toasty (about 86F at 18.00).

The evening was awesome.  It began with a group from Rio brought onboard to entertain; they were just brilliant.  The food and overall ambiance of the White Night event was wonderful.  Cruise Director Tony Markey and the entire crew worked very hard to provide a great experience.  This, again, was a fantastic evening.

We capped off the event by having post-beverage beverages (a lovely habit if I do say so) in The Living Room, worked by the best bartenders/servers afloat- Vadym (Ukraine) & Dwight (Philippines).

Tomorrow, we are in Rio until 13.00, then at sea.

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