We just completed two beautiful days at sea and arrived early this morning in Rio de Janeiro, listed as one of the world’s most beautiful ports to sail in and out of, and very easy to see why. Rio is situated around a spectacular harbor ringed by beautiful and famous beaches such as Copacabana & Impanema. Rio is equally famous for its Carnival celebrations, samba music, the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain (recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World) and Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable car. First, I must share with you our show from last evening – actually two. It was none other than Doc Severinson & the Tonight Show Band. After dinner, we went directly to the theater and got seats 45 minutes before the show was scheduled to start at 8pm – the facility was already half full. We got 4th row seats, only a few feet from the stage. Keep in mind the show theater, known as Queen’s Lounge, is a very intimate venue with very comfortable high-back couches & tables for drinks. With Doc Severinson, we expected a good show but we weren’t prepared for what we were about to see & hear. Doc has a band with 4 other members; a violin, Spanish guitar, bass, & percussionist. The house lights dimmed promptly at 8pm, the band was announced and they immediately captivated the audience with extremely difficult, foot-stomping, high-range music that absolutely rocked the chandeliers and peeled the paint of the walls – it was awesome! Doc has aged since his days on Johnny Carson but his musical talent has only improved over time. What a tremendous trumpet player!! Not only Doc, but his other four members were individually incredible musicians – people I would stand in line for and pay a good price to see. The show lasted an hour and brought the house to its feet several times. We returned to our room, made a drink and before we knew it, we were headed back downstairs to grab seats for the 10pm show!! The second show was actually more electric than the first and as I reflect, I can’t ever remember a show I enjoyed more at sea – truly first class! The Cruise Director said Doc would be joining us again at some point during our voyage but didn’t specify when – definitely something to look forward to! It was well past midnight before we got to bed and I was up again at my usual 4am, woke Cheryl at 5am and by 5:30, we were on the top deck at the back of the ship having coffee & watching the sunrise. By 6am there were dozens more with us as we listened to a travel expert describe the sights & landmarks of Rio as we entered the harbor. What an incredible city and landscape, at least what we’ve seen so far from the harbor & pier! The mountains are incredible along the shore – the beaches pristine, and the high-rise hotels stretch along the beach as far as the eye can see. The area has a population of over 13 million we’re told, and 6 million live in poverty. While the city boasts many famous destinations and attractions, we’ve been warned several times that there is tension in the city, high crime, avoid wearing any jewelry and always stay in groups. We docked at 8am and the majority of passengers disembarked and were off to the city for the day. We’ll be here until 4pm tomorrow afternoon – our first venture off the ship is 6pm this evening with a small group – we have dinner scheduled at a local nightclub followed by a samba show – this should be quite interesting and entertaining. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a peaceful breakfast, two hours by the pool and a light lunch. More later…

Beautiful sunrise as we sail into Rio

Our dinner tour left the pier at 6:30pm. We arrived at a downtown Brazilian steakhouse about an hour later and were served several cuts of BBQ beef at different intervals. We found the meat very tough & quite salty, laced with fat & gristle – very disappointing – I guess we’re spoiled with the ship’s food as everything has been cooked to perfection thus far. It rained briefly (a warm downpour) and we proceeded to a nightclub for a 9:30pm Samba show. Please note: I will drop-in many pictures over the weekend – because we’re sharing a satellite transmitter with other people on the ship, the best time to upload is very early in the morning. As the pictures will illustrate, the costumes were very elaborate & quite colorful! What they don’t illustrate is the speed & beauty – the performers were all excellent. In addition to dancers, we were entertained also by tumblers & percussionists – the tempo and decibel levels remained at a very high level throughout the entire show – very high energy as one would expect from a Brazilian show. We left the club at 11:30, arriving back at the ship shortly after midnight. We were up very early Friday morning for a day of sightseeing. On the agenda; the beaches of both Copacabana & Impanena – packed with tens of thousands of people – unbelievable!! Amazingly, no one goes in the water! One, it’s very cold, and two, the currents are very strong. So people here go these beautiful beaches and just sit under their umbrellas. If they’re not doing that, they play soccer, and I mean by the hundreds!! Everywhere you look, people of all ages on the beach are playing soccer! We spent the majority of our time making the trip up the mountain to visit Christ the Redeemer. This statue is perched on top of the 2296 foot Corcovado Mountain in Rio. The statue itself is 130 feet tall, weighs 700 tons, and is a world-wide recognized icon and symbol of Rio de Janeiro. Construction started in 1926 and was completed in 1931. At night, you can see Christ the Redeemer from any place in Rio – it glows a very bright white in the night sky! Almost 80% of the population here is Catholic, with 75% Catholic across all of Brazil. The churches are all very beautiful as they take their religion very seriously. While the poverty level here is surprisingly high, it’s really no different than what you’d find in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Rio has many beautiful areas around town as well as their share of shanty-towns – extremely low income pockets with houses made of old sheet metal & many street dwellers. Very interesting to me, AM/PM seems to be the only convenience store chain in this huge city, and very few at that. Shell has several locations, but the majority of fuel is sold from the center of every 4-lane roadway with gas dispensers placed in the center medians! These pumps are unattended, accepting only credit cards. I see tremendous potential for my chain (Circle K) assuming that building rents are reasonable and distribution is available – these wouldn’t be typical free standing urban locations, but rather in-line stores throughout the downtown commercial/residential high-rise areas. We’re now off to Buenos Aires, Argentina – about 1100 miles south, or two+ days by sea. The ship sails this afternoon at 4pm, about an hour from now. So we’re off to the top deck for the sail-away party!! Cheers!