Buzios, Brazil Friday, Jan 18 2019 

On Thursday, day 15, we relaxed during another sea day. After breakfast, I played a couple of games of chess. Our morning enrichment program featured the return of Roger McGuinn with “Songs of the Sea – A Tribute to the Golden Age of Sail.” A tough day at trivia for our team with only 5 points while the winning team had 9. In the afternoon we learned more about our next port stop, Armacao Dos Buzios. This was followed by Lou Thieblemont, a fellow cruiser and vacationing Viking employee who is an astronomy expert. He spoke on “Aviation – A Trip in the Cockpit of a Boeing 757.” This was an interesting introduction to flight simulation. Each meal is a special treat composed of appetizer, entre, and desert paired with our choice from a wide selection of wines. The evening entertainment was a humorous performance of magic tricks by Shawn McMaster that involved a large number of audience members.

Brigitte Bardot Sculpture

Brigitte Bardot Sculpture

On Friday, day 16, I played four games of chess against two opponents. We attended the port talk in preparation for our next stop in Rio de Janeiro. In the afternoon we took a tender to Buzios where we joined 26 others for a catamaran cruise. We snorkeled in three spots including Joao Fernandes Beach and Praia do Canto Beach. We saw many yellow and black striped fish, a turtle, and coral. On our return to Buzios, we enjoyed colorful whimsical sculptures and walked to the iconic Brigitte Bardot sculpture. Bardot’s 1964 visit transformed this sleepy fishing port by attracting the international jet set to its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and tranquil atmosphere. Back on the Viking Sun we relaxed with a caipirinha, a local drink. Another great day!

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Salvador, Brazil Thursday, Jan 17 2019 

Our Saturday evening entertainment was Reuel, returning for a second performance. In addition to his popular song arrangements with a classical flair, he shared one of his originals. We learned that he is one of seven children who all played the piano at home using three different instruments. His fingers fly around the keyboard.

Roger McGuinn

Roger McGuinn

After breakfast on Sunday, day 11, I played some chess. An oversight resulted in my first loss. I then fought for a draw (that may not have been justified) before getting back on the winning track. With more play, my shipmate opponents are getting stronger. The day’s enrichment opportunities included more personal stories from Roger McGuinn’s career. It was fascinating to learn about the people he has known and worked with. I hadn’t realized how much of his music I have grown up listening to. Our trivia team tied for second in today’s contest by scoring 8 points, only one point behind today’s top team. Not bad considering that 22 or 23 teams of six players are participating. We each received another dollar giving us a total of $6. The onboard naturalist, Robin Petch, shared “Fascinating Facts About Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises & Their World.” We also learned a bit about the “History of Brazil – The Colonial Years to Republic” from William Simpson. The menu for the Chef’s Table changes every three days. We tasted Asian Panorama, a five-course menu featuring: chilled king crab fused with coconut foam and curry; lobster and chicken shu mai; lemongrass & red chili; Peking duck; and an Asian trilogy of spring roll, crème brulee, & cheesecake. Each course paired with a special wine. Another great meal! Shared with interesting conversation with new friends at the next table. The evening entertainment put Savannah Smith back on stage working up a sweat while performing new arrangements of big band swing sounds of the 1920s and 1930s.

On Monday, day 12, I attended a presentation by Robin Petch on “Iconic Species – the Humpback Whale.” I continue to be amazed by the passengers on this cruise. For example, Scott McVay (and Roger Payne) wrote an important article on the sounds of humpback whales for Science. They also produced an important early phonograph record with the sounds of humpback whales. McVay is on this cruise! In addition, John Williams, also on this cruise, took aerial photographs of whales while working for the Center for Coastal Studies that are now widely available. I attended another informative presentation by our resident spy, Jon A. Wiant, on “Spies, Drones & Microphones.” Can you believe we have some 4,365 working satellites? Today’s tough trivia questions resulted in our team scoring only 4 points while the winning team had 9. In the afternoon I played two games of chess. Two of my three other chess playing opponents have tournament experience, one of them is also a life member of U. S. Chess. Our requests for an additional chess table have resulted in the addition of two more tables and sets. So, we now have three tables and sets! Our quiet afternoon gave me time to do some reading. We’re making good use of our sea days. Instead of attending this evenings entertainment, we watched the film Master and Captain. Our in-room interactive television has a wide selection of movies that can be started )and stopped) at any time as well as taped lectures from the cruise.

On Tuesday, day 13, after playing three games of chess, we attended the port talk for tomorrow’s destination, Salvador de Bahia. We learned that the name of the city is “Salvadore” and that “Bahia” is equivalent to state. It will be good to stand on land again. Our trivia team scored 7 points while the winner had 10. We attended a lecture by Bill Miller on “Flying the Red Ensign – Great British Ocean Liners.” He is a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker with a wealth of information about cruising. Before dinner, we listened to the Atrium Concert Series hosted by Jorem, the Viking Band leader. After dinner, we enjoyed the Viking Sun vocalists and band choreographing the “Sound of the Sixties.” Lots of energy and great music!

Lacerda Elevator

Lacerda Elevator

On Wednesday, day 14, we visited Salvador, the first capital of Brazil and the capital until 1763. Amerigo Vespucci entered the Bay of All Saints, named because of its discovery on November 1, 1502. Founded in 1549, the city was governed initially by governor-general Thome de Souza. The city, with about three million inhabitants, is either the third or fourth largest city in Brazil and capital of Bahia. Two other much larger cruise ships joined us to make for a very busy walk about. The city is divided into two parts. The lower part is the commercial center with the port and a market. The upper part has administrative elements, religious sites, and residential areas. The Lacerda Elevator, built in 1873, has four cabs that quickly whisk about 25 passengers at a time up 279 feet. We spent most of our time in the upper level admiring the colorful colonial architecture, churches, and monuments. Unfortunately, we saw only the exterior of the Cathedral Basillica of Salvador and the Church of Sao Francisco. The city boasts more than 80 churches. We spent some time in the triangle-shaped square Largo do Pelourinho with its historical roots in slavery. It was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1985. A group of girls played drums and invited tourists to pay for a picture. Women wearing large hoop skirts also plied tourists. Having someone paint your arms and legs also seemed to be popular. We also saw muscular men practicing capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics, and music. Police were evident everywhere as we were repeatedly warned about prevalent crime. The hot, humid conditions combined with the boisterous crowds made us appreciate our home on the Viking Sun. We were treated to a sensational red sky sunset! Of the 900 some passengers, there are six travelers, three couples, from Prescott! We shared a table for dinner to become better acquainted. The evening entertainment featured the singing of cruise director Heather Clancy and the assistant cruise director Brian Rodriguez. These are two multi-talented individuals. Another great day!

January 16, 2019 Sunset

January 16, 2019 Sunset

Equator Crossing Ceremony Saturday, Jan 12 2019 

Roger McGuinn, frontman for the Byrds who got their start with their release of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” shared his odyssey from the folk clubs in New York to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At lunch a few days ago, we sat near Roger and his wife, Camilla. This kind of interaction is what is making this voyage so special. During a morning rain the ship lost its satellite connection for internet service. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long. Overall, internet service is good and is based on what they learned from last year’s first world cruise. Streaming isn’t allowed. Each cabin, however, is limited to one connected device. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to change from one device to another. I haven’t faced any problems loading my snapshots to Flickr. The winning trivia team had only 8 points, but we scored half that. I played two more games of chess with my previous opponent. There is a possibility that more chess players may become known and the General Manager is rumored to be a chess player. Robin Petch talked about nautical terminology and the origins of popular expressions in his lecture on “The Whole Nine Yards – Nautical Sayings & Superstitions.” We had dinner in Manfredi’s, the Italian specialty dining room. There is no additional charge for eating at a speciality restaurant, plus we can order specific wines at all meals. The food on this cruise is exceptional! Every meal is a gourmet experience! When we returned to our room after dinner, we received a well-designed all-weather jacket and hat, both with the Viking World Cruise logo. This voyage is truly exceptional! “All That!,” the evening entertainment featured a high energy clogging performance. It was interesting that this was probably the best attended event to date. Four audience members were chosen to join the four male dancers on stage.

Equator Crossing Ceremony

Equator Crossing Ceremony

On Saturday, day 10, I connected with two new chess players. I played two games of blitz with one and one game without a clock with the other. My earlier chess opponent also stopped by and played slow games with each of these other fellows. We are hoping to add another chess table in the Explorer’s Lounge on deck 8. Our trivia team scored 11 out of 15 for clear second place, only one point behind the top team. We each earned a $1 credit for Viking marked merchandise. We learned that our mechanical difficulties mean we cannot travel at maximum speed. Consequently, our next port, Recife, Brazil has been cancelled. For this change, each passenger will be given a $250 credit. In the afternoon I met with other travel bloggers and would be bloggers. We may get together in the future. Later in the afternoon, the Equator crossing ceremony took place for all the Pollywogs who have never crossed the Equator. Fearsome Vikings brought forth staff and guests to appear before Aegir, the Norse God of the Seas, to confess their crimes. Then each Pollywog kissed a fish, took a plunge, and tasted Aquavit in order to become a Shellback. We are impressed with our friendly fellow companions. We joined the General Manager, Sujith Mohan, the head of Guest Services and eight other guests for dinner. What a great idea! He answered our questions, and I may have an opportunity to play chess against him. Despite the change in itinerary, a great trip!

Isle Royale, French Guiana Friday, Jan 11 2019 

On Tuesday evening the Viking Band and Vocal Singers performed popular Abba music. On Wednesday our trivia team only scored 8 points while the winners had 12. Once again multiple educational opportunities were offered in the afternoon. I attended a lecture by William Simpson on “The History of the Amazon” and followed by Robin Petch sharing an ecological perspective in “The Amazing Amazon.” We both listened to Bill Miller speak on “Maritime Royalty – Britain’s Queens” and Daniel E. Nijensohn shared information about “Alexander von Humboldt & Charles Darwin in Latin America.” IMHO some of his information about Darwin was not correct. Darwin didn’t Immediately recognize the variation in finch beaks. He collected birds on Galapagos and sent them back to England. When he arrived back in England, he discovered that the leading ornithologist of the day had concluded that many of the birds were finches even though they had different appearances. Also, Darwin was not hired as a naturalist. His uncle paid his fare as a dinner conversationalist for the captain. We watched episode 1 of the BBC documentary on “The Vikings.” The evening entertainment was classical crossover pianist Reuel playing popular hits with the Viking Band.

Isle Royale

Isle Royale

Our Thursday, day 8, excursion was delayed on account of some undefined mechanical problem. This gave us time to watch the recent film Papillon (2017) starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. An earlier version of Henri Harriere’s memoir starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. The three Iles du Salut, or Islands of Salvation, are part of French Guiana. The French opened a penal system in 1852 that became notorious for its harsh treatment of inmates. We traveled by tender to the Isle Royale where we climbed the hill to see the following structures: Governor’s house which is now a museum, director’s house, commanding officer’s house, guesthouse, guard houses, chapel, hospital, penitentiary wall and cells. We completed our afternoon visit by circling the island where we got views of the other two islands, St. Joseph Island and Devil’s Island. During our visit we saw peacocks, capuchin or organ grinder monkeys, and elongated rat-like agouti. Although the temperature was only about 85 degrees, the high humidity made it like a sauna. A shower on our return was refreshing.

Savannah Smith, our evening entertainment, belted out music from her favorite female artists. A special moment occurred when cruise director Heather Clancey joined her for a classical duet. Hard to believe we have completed our first week of this trip.

St. George’s, Grenada Tuesday, Jan 8 2019 

Monday, a sea day, was a tough one for our trivia team. We scored 10 out of 15, well behind the top two finishers. We again attended several lectures. William Simpson used photographs and other images to illustrate his lecture on “Pirates & Treasure Hunters.” On Monday, Jon A. Wiant reviewed “60 Years of Secret War with Cuba.” On Tuesday, he followed national security challenges with special note of the 1983 invasion of Granada in “Oh, What a Lovely Pond – Beyond the Sandy Beaches.” Also, we attended the port talks on Saint George’s, Granada, and Iles du Salut, French Guinea. Monday night’s entertainment was split between ventriloquist Don Bryan and pianist James Fox. Fox shared some of his musical influences: Paul McCartney, Kenny Rodgers, James Taylor, and Elton John. Both leave the ship tomorrow.

St. George’s, Grenada

St. George’s, Grenada

Known as the “Island of Spice,” Grenada is one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace. The island is 21 miles long and 12 miles wide with a population of 110,000. Its capital and our port, St. George’s, boasts pastel-hued houses topped with red-tile roofs, part of the island’s French legacy. A panoramic small bus tour through narrow, steep streets revealed stunning Caribbean vistas and boat-filled marinas. From a distance we saw the new gleaming white government building that opened only three months ago. A restroom and refreshment stop allowed me to try the local beer, Carib. We drove through the thirty-acre campus of St. George’s University, the premier Caribbean medical schools. We also had a stop with a view of the Viking Sun across the bay. We walked through the market where it was possible to purchase nutmeg. Granada is another new country for both of us.

 

From Phoenix to Puerto Rico Monday, Jan 7 2019 

Viking Sun

Viking Sun

“Smooth sailing.” That’s how our 2019 world cruise started. AAA’s limousine service gift picked us up and delivered at Sky Harbor’s terminal 4 without a hitch. Our first-class seats on American Airlines to Miami featured excellent service and IMHO a delicious lunch. Although it took some time for our baggage pick-up and ride to the Viking Sun, embarkation was quickly completed. Our duffle bags from Luggage Forward were waiting for us outside our cabin and our other baggage arrived satisfactorily. Our cabin is compact with adequate storage. We visited the World Café for dinner. Later we made a quick tour of the ship, enjoying the Viking band performing popular party hits on the Pool Deck. Then we enjoyed an after-dinner drink in the Explorers’ Lounge listening to resident guitarist Minky G on acoustic guitar.

On our first full day at sea, we continued exploring the Viking Sun. I found a chess player going over an online game and challenged him. We played three games of chess. We formed a team for trivia and tied for second with 10 out of 15 points. We attended a lecture by resident writer Jean Fullerton titled “Inside the Writer’s Mind.” We also listened to resident historian William Simpson lecture on “Explorers – The Age of Discovery.” In a Port Talk, we learned about the heritage, culture, and history of San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the Captain’s Welcome Reception, we met the Viking Sun senior officers and enjoyed music from the Viking band and singers.

Our second day at sea was even busier than the first. My new chess buddy and I played three more games. Our trivia team scored 12 out of 15, more than the first day but well short of the multiple teams with14 points. My OLLI friends may be interested to know that there were several interesting lectures today. Dr. Daniel E. Nijensohm traced the America’s history from their discovery and naming to the New Amsterdam immigration in “A Story of American Exceptionalism.” Robin Petch pictured wildlife we might see in his presentation on “Whales, Dolphins & Seabirds – Miami to Buenos Aires.” Resident historian William Simpson spoke on “Cuba – Colonization, Independence, Revolution.” Jon A, Wiant shared some little-known facts about cold war operations during his CIA insider’s take on “A Spy’s Guide to Your Itinerary.” We enjoyed a five course Mexican cuisine dinner at the Chef’s Table consisting of welcome bread, esquites, tortilla soup, granita, beef cheek, and bunuelo de viento with four of the courses paired with different wines. Later, we were impressed with Don Bryan’s entertaining ventriloquist’s show that included participation with one of our trivial team members. Bryan’s fast paced banter fit his audience of seniors.

Castillo San Cristobal

Castillo San Cristobal

On Sunday we explored monuments and plazas of historic Old San Juan. Fort San Cristobal, the largest fortress built in the New World, is a National Historic Site. We were lucky to find it open despite the government shutdown. We learned that Puerto Rico was a very important stop for arriving and departing ships during colonial exploration because it offered water, shelter, and supplies. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, one of the city’s oldest buildings, was holding its worship service with three individuals in colorful costumes representing the three wise men. This after all, was Three Kings Sunday, a day of gift giving in Puerto Rico. We were told that Christmas was celebrated from Thanksgiving into February. We visited plazas with the following statues: Christopher Columbus, sighted Puerto Rico on his second voyage in 1593; Arturo Somohano Portela (1910-1977),  a musical composer and director of the San Juan Symphony Orchestra; Juan Ponce de Leon, named the first Governor of Puerto Rico by appointment of the Spanish crown in 1509; Santiago Iglesias Pantin (1872-1939), a Spanish-born Puerto Rican socialist and trade union activist; and Salvador Brau (1842-1912), a Puerto Rican journalist, poet, dramatist, novelist, historian, and sociologist. The Raices Fountain celebrates the diversity of the Puerto Rican people—their Taino, Spanish, and African heritage. Cats roamed some of the side streets. Wild chickens could be seen in other spots. A rooster posed for me and then crowed. It was interesting to take in the history and architectural beauty of Old San Juan. The Viking Sun set sail in the evening with us drinking champagne from our veranda. James Fox, our evening guest entertainer, joined the Viking Sun band to play several Billy Joel songs. His wonderful performance was enhanced with vivid digital background images. Another great day!

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