Transatlantic Crossing Westbound from Lisbon, Portugal to Rio de Janiero, Brazil

After spending 6 wonderful days in Lisbon, Portugal it was time to move on and I had arranged to go back to the Americas via the NLC Sun on a 14-day Southern Atlantic crossing. This ship was repositioning to South America to do cruises for the winter from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile with some special journeys into Antarctica. I was only going as far as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil while many passengers were adding the extra week as far as Buenos Aires.

Embarkation was not a breeze this time because of the poor staffing in the luggage area reception and it took over 1 hour to get my bag dropped off. Meanwhile upstairs for check-in, there were lots of people and it went very quickly, so I guess a bit disorganized. As is my usual practice I locate my cabin and drop off my carry-on while I explore the ship and get my first drink and lunch. I like this ship better because it does have Osheehan’s 24-hour restaurant and offers freshly cooked meals from Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, and selected entrees.

I knowingly booked this cruise with several repeat ports like Cadiz, Spain, and Tenerife, Canary Islands; however, they were other things to explore. We headed the next day immediately to the port of Cadiz, Spain, and this time I had booked the tour “Seville & Leisure” to take the bus ride north to that great city. And it was worth the trip! Seville is the capital city of the Province of Andalusia with a metro area population of over 1.5 million. Founded as early as 711 AD, it has a long and storied past. In 1929 they hosted the Iberia-American Exposition building the Plaza de Espana, and then in 1992 was host to the Worlds Fair that brought lots of exciting architectural changes to the city like rail systems, new highways, and many pavilions from other countries that now house consulates and embassies. Our first stop is the famous Plaza Espana or Spanish Steps with a semi-circle center of 200 square meters with a fountain and canals large enough to row a boat or take a carriage ride around the circumference. A neat feature is the 52 benches with mosaics from the 52 provinces of Spain. We were lucky enough to have entertainment from an authentic Flamenco band. Fabulous!

The rest of the day finds us dropped off by the Seville Cathedral to explore on our own. I decided to first get lunch at a local restaurant that served fresh fish and then I wander back down to the Guadalquivir River to the Tower of Gold and the main Bullring, Plaza de Toros. Bullfighting is still legal in Seville, however, it was not the season, so the bullring is open as a museum tour.

We connect up as a group again and get a guided walking tour of the Jewish Quarter called Barrio Santa Cruz. The neighborhood is a maze of walkways and alleys with shops and restaurants around every corner. At one time Seville had the largest population of Jews in Spain, but in 1492 during the Ferdinand III reign if they did not convert to Christianity.

After a day at sea, we find ourselves back in the Canary Islands with the first stop in Arrecife, Lanzarote. Being the capital city of this island, the name is derived from a rock reef in Spanish as it boasts a large volcanic reef on its beaches. We head across the island for the first stop on this “Best of Lanzarore” excursion to the Timanfaya National Park. This is a real volcanic site with activity still going on underground with temperatures being measured just a few feet underground from 212F to 1112F. So to make things interesting the guides show us a few examples of this intense heat from putting some of the volcanic soil in our hands (it was quite hot), to burning brush without any flame, to pouring water into a tube that then erupts like a geyser. It was all quite fascinating! Notice the open pit photo below that was hot enough to cook chicken for the restaurant. After all the demonstrations the bus is allowed to actually drive through the park and is like a drive on Mars.

Leaving the national park, we go a short distance to a winery for wine samples and souvenir shopping and it was amazing to see how the vineyards are cultivated in this volcanic ash region.

We head over to El Mirado del Rio which is an interesting building with “eyes” architectural features allowing you to see all the way to the valley and ocean beyond. The local artist Cesar Marinque constructed this restaurant overlook in the early 70s at 1560 feet high; it is a grand vista of other Canary Islands in the distance.

Last but certainly not least, is the rare volcanic site of Jameos del Agua. This is an actual volcanic tube that has partially collapsed but it certainly gives you an idea of how large these lava flows can be! It was once converted into a day pool resort, but now it is a tourist attraction with small white crabs floating in the waters and a large concert hall at one end. Spectacular indeed!

A short journey overnight and we are in Tenerife, Canary Islands; a 2nd visit for me but I had planned a completely different excursion this time. I am headed up to Mt Teide, the 3rd highest volcano mountain in the world with an undersea bottom to the top of 24,600 feet! The above-ground altitudes are still quite high with the summit coming in at 12,188 feet, so luckily there is a cable car service all the way to the top. We are blessed with a clear sunny day, although it is still quite cold up there and the air is very thin.

Cable Car Ride up to the top of Mt Teide, Tenerife
View from Above the Clouds!

After 2 more days at sea, we reach the African Islands of Cape Verde in the port city of Porto Grande, Santo Antao. The Republic of Cape Verde has been an independent country since 1975 and is made up of 9 inhabited islands. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, so the normal fish and food markets were closed as well as most of the shops in this largely Catholic community. But we board the African city bus and head up to the highest point of Cape Verde and aptly named because it was the only “green” place on the island. It was a rough and tumble ride, but the views were fabulous from high above.

Now we are finally on our way to cross the Southern Atlantic for the next 3 days arriving in the port city of Recife, Brazil. Recife is referred to as the Venice of Brazil with its many bridges, although they were certainly not kept in the condition as those in Venice, Italy. I had signed up for an excursion “Catamaran & Casa Culture” so we are bused nearby to board the large catamaran packed with passengers from the ship. Not a seat to be left empty and the temperatures were well in the 90s, so everyone was scrambling for a bit of shade provided by canopies. We motored around the bay on both sides and explanations were given to the sites along the way. We made a quick stop at a marketplace that used to be a prison.

Another 2 more days at sea and we reach our final destination of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! I am a bit exhausted from all the cruising but satisfied with the number of new places and countries added to my list of Places I have Been. I will write about Rio de Janeiro in a subsequent blog.


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