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Before your South American exploration, why not cross a few incredible natural wonders off your bucket list and add another country to your passport? Travel to spectacular Iguassu Falls National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of 275 thundering falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Second in size only to Victoria Falls, this series of cataracts once prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to take pity on her country’s most famous falls, saying “Poor Niagara!” as she gazed upon mighty Iguassu. All the falls are impressive, but the most spectacular is the Devil’s Throat, the 2,300-foot-long spectacle that separates Argentina and Brazil.
Depart home and fly to Manaus, Brazil
Your journey begins! Today, board an overnight flight from your home city to Manaus, Brazil. Or join an optional post-trip extension to the Amazon Jungle.
Welcome to Brazil
Today, you’ll arrive in Manaus, known as the Paris of the tropics. If you purchased your airfare or transfer from Vantage, upon arrival in Manaus, a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located hotel. This evening, please join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Discover Manaus, gateway to the Amazon
After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll have time to get acquainted with the largest city in the Amazon basin during a tour that features the Manaus Opera House. This enchanting vision in pink – a stunning representation of Renaissance architecture – was opened in 1896 at the height of the rubber barons’ prosperity and is home to the Amazonas Philharmonic and host of the annual Amazonas Opera Festival.
You’ll have time on your own after your opera house visit to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant or take a leisurely stroll through the streets of downtown Manaus to see the 19th-century mansions inspired by the charm of European architecture.
Browse the Municipal Market in Manaus and board the Ocean Explorer
You’ll enjoy breakfast at your hotel before heading out for a tour of Manaus and a visit to the municipal market, Mercado Adolpho Lisboa. Fashioned after the Les Halles market of Paris in 1882, it is the city’s oldest market and a scintillating way to immerse yourself in the local culture. Cross the street to see how the goods and produce arrive at the market, aboard an armada of boats sailing along the Amazon River. Enjoy a traditional lunch at a local restaurant before embarking on the 5-star Ocean Explorer for your small ship cruise. While some ports on this expedition cruise will require us to anchor offshore and board a tender to reach the shore, in Manaus the ship will be docked in the port, allowing you to easily walk aboard.
Get to know Parintins and Boca dos Botos
Continue taking in the Amazon’s splendor as you visit Parintins. Located just west of Santarém, this town is renowned for its Parintins Folklore Festival, which is second only to Carnival. Today, we’ll anchor offshore and you will board a tender inland, where you’ll explore this municipality, which is known for its rich biodiversity. Because of its central location in the Amazon, you’ll discover its riverside beaches along the Uaicurapá and the Amazon rivers during low tide.
Starting outside the port, you’ll get to know this incredible province, including Caprichoso Boi, Liberty Square, and Bumbódromo — where the annual festival is held. With a tricycle tour of Parintins you’ll have the opportunity to interact with locals. After visiting the cathedral and cruising along the shore, you’ll get to see Boca dos Botos, weather permitting. Hop on a Zodiac boat for an afternoon cruise, where you may even spot an incredible pink dolphin.
Piranha fishing and a nature cruise out of Santarém
Arrive today in Santarém, Brazil, nicknamed “The Amazonian Caribbean” for its 60 miles of white-sand beaches. Spend the morning on a spectacular on an Amazon River cruise, to learn how locals fish for the notorious piranha. You’ll head downriver on a small boat to witness the Meeting of Waters, where the Amazon and the Tapajόs rivers converge. You’ll soon arrive at Lake Maica, home to abundant wildlife, where your captain will cut the motor so you can cast a line into the water in the hopes of catching and releasing a piranha. Or you can just sit back and take in the lush flora and plentiful fauna of the Amazon.
Enjoy four blissful days at sea
Treat yourself to the myriad amenities aboard the Ocean Explorer as you cruise around the easternmost coast of Brazil. Take advantage of this time to read a book from our onboard library, enjoy a drink with fellow travelers at the top-deck bar, try your hand at the ancient art of hot-rock cooking in our onboard restaurant, or ask for a tour of the bridge. Practice self-care with a visit to the full-service hair salon or center yourself with a yoga class. Join your knowledgeable Expedition Team for an interesting and enlightening lecture about the places you’ll visit throughout your journey.
At mealtimes, our skilled chefs will continue to amaze you with their culinary expertise. After dinner, head to the Observation Lounge for panoramic views of the picturesque coastline. Spend time with your fellow travelers, and relive the highlights of your luxurious journey through South America as you recount stories of the new discoveries and experiences you’ve enjoyed so far and the many more you are looking forward to throughout the rest of your cruise.
One of the highlights of your South America small ship cruise is an exclusive Equator Crossing Ceremony. This long-standing maritime tradition is meant to commemorate a person’s first time crossing the Equator. Also known as equatorial baptism, the tradition dates back several centuries, and signifies an initiation into the court of King Neptune, the mythological Roman god of the sea. It is a unique highlight of any sailing that crosses the Equator, and one you will remember for a lifetime.
Explore the beautiful beaches and culture of Natal
Natal means “Christmas” in Portuguese, and the time you’ll spend exploring this culturally rich and diverse city will certainly feel like a gift. You’ll start the day with a visit to Ribeira, where you will become acquainted with the history of the area, before heading downtown, where you’ll stop at the Governor’s Palace and the mayor’s office. Next, you’ll pass scenic Ponta Negra on the way to Pirangi Beach, where you’ll visit the world’s largest cashew tree. So named by the Guinness Book of Records, this astonishing behemoth spans almost 86,000 square feet and produces approximately 80,000 cashews every harvest. After the beach you’ll visit Fortaleza dos Reis Magos, a star-shaped Portuguese fortress dating back to the 16th century, before heading back to your ship in the afternoon.
Cultural charm in Recife
Spend time getting to know the Brazilian city of Recife, which has a long, rich history, dating back to its founding by the Portuguese in 1537. Today’s excursion will take you on a scenic drive through Old Recife before stopping at Republic Square where you’ll see the Governor’s Palace, Justice Hall, and St. Isabel Theater. Next, you’ll be taken to the historic town center of Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site populated with dozens of centuries-old churches and colonial homes. Visit local artisans and shop for handcrafted items before heading to your next stop, São Bento Monastery. Enjoy a choir performance at the 17th-century baroque-style Capela Dourada – the Golden Chapel – and stroll down the hill to see colorful homes and Casa de Cultura, a former prison that has been converted into a market for local handicrafts. You’ll return to your ship in the afternoon.
Relax with two days at sea
Make the most of the many amenities and activities on board during these two days of leisure aboard the luxurious 5-star Ocean Explorer. Take part in a meditative yoga class or cool off with a dip in the onboard infinity pool. The hot tub is a perfect place to relax and take in the passing scenery. Or head to the gym for a heart-pumping workout as you take in the views of the Brazilian coastline. The Latitude Bar & Lounge is the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail with new friends, before making your way to the lavish Main Dining Room to savor incredible culinary creations perfectly prepared by your onboard chefs. After dinner, make your way to the Observation Deck for magnificent stargazing and relive your favorite moments of your trip.
The best of Búzios’ beaches
This morning you’ll board a tender into the buzzing resort town of Armação dos Búzios, a destination favored by glamorous jetsetters the world over. Made famous by French actress Brigitte Bardot when she visited in 1964, this little fishing village has transformed into the St. Tropez of South America. With more than 23 beaches gracing this peninsular region, it is the place for members of high society to be seen. On an included tour by open-air trolley, you’ll see many of these beaches for yourself, including the wild and scenic Brava Beach, the pink sands of Forno Beach, and the unique rock formations of Point Lagoinha — known as the Brazilian Himalayas. There’ll be time to linger and to swim if you wish, after which you may browse the posh shops downtown.
Explore the best of Rio de Janeiro
Today you’ll visit Brazil’s 19th UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Rio de Janeiro. You’ll get up close to its most iconic landmark as you ascend to the spectacular Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain. The 124-foot soapstone figure has an arm span of 98 feet. Then, visit the cathedral and admire its modernist design inspired by Mayan pyramids, before heading to the beach for sun and surf. The rest of the afternoon is yours to spend as you wish.
Brazil’s cuisine is as diverse and exciting as the country itself and, this evening, you will enjoy dinner at a local steakhouse, also known as a churrascaria. Servers will come to your table with skewers of perfectly prepared meats and slice them directly from the skewer as you watch. This style of dining is known as rodizio and is a much-loved part of Brazilian dining.
After dinner you’ll attend a samba show featuring professional local performers. The history of samba in Brazil is believed to date back to the 17th century and is considered by many to be the soul of the country. The word “samba” is thought to be derived from the Kimbundu term semba, which means “invitation to dance,” and you’re invited to witness this lively, colorful dance for yourself before heading back to the Ocean Explorer.
Get an insider’s samba lesson in Rio de Janeiro
For the four states (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia, and Pernambuco) that go big in Carnival, samba is much more than music. It’s about culture, heritage, dance, and history. The tradition of Carnival in Rio dates back to 1723 and today you’ll get an inside look into the history of this epic event, considered by many to be the biggest in the world. You’ll partake in an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the warehouse where the extravagant parade floats are stored and learn about the ins and outs of the construction process. Your tour includes a private samba lesson, where you’ll learn about the types of costumes worn by the performers, how they are made, and the significance of each. You’ll even have an opportunity to try on a few and have your photo taken while wearing them. You’ll conclude your behind-the-scenes tour with a private samba lesson where you’ll get to show off your fancy footwork!
In the afternoon, you’ll visit Sugarloaf Mountain, a landmark overlooking Rio and the entrance of Guanabara Bay. At the base of this conical peak sits the São João Fortress. Built over a span of 262 years, from 1602 to 1864, the site is now a museum still used by the Brazilian army.
Visit the lush paradise of Ilha Grande
Arrive this morning — via tender — on the lush shores of Ilha Grande, or Big Island, the largest of a breathtaking archipelago of 360 islands dotting the Bay of Kings. This largely unspoiled paradise — named a new UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019 and free of vehicles and other signs of civilization — is today ringed by sand beaches and blanketed in forest and palms. You’ll join your guide for a walk into Abraão Village, stopping at the San Sebastian church. Then, follow the footpaths into the woodlands of the state park, hearing tales of the island’s buccaneer days and its once-prosperous coffee and sugar barons. Keep your eyes and ears open for howler monkeys, sloths, and countless birds. There’ll be time for a refreshing swim at Black Beach in the natural pools of an aqueduct.
After lunch, learn what cultural and historic treasures await during an onboard lecture. Enjoy the afternoon poolside or pampering yourself with a spa treatment. Dinner tonight is on board and features a festive Brazilian show.
Panoramic schooner sailing in Ilhabela
Today, we will anchor offshore and board a tender into Ilhabela, the largest island in the country and known as the sailing capital of Brazil. Long before attracting visitors with its charm, this was a popular destination for pirates and buccaneers who used its bays and canals for shelter. You’ll have the opportunity to sail the day away aboard a two-masted schooner. The unspoiled beauty of this island, with its numerous waterfalls and immeasurable flora and fauna, will take your breath away as you motor through the São Sebastião Channel. You’ll head towards Pereque Beach and its downtown area as your guide regales you with fascinating stories about this captivating locale as you sip on caipirinha, the country’s national cocktail.
Enjoy two days at sea along the Brazilian coast
The indulgent amenities of the Ocean Explorer, your South America small ship, are yours to explore as we sail along the beautiful coastline of Brazil, South America’s largest country. Go for a refreshing swim in the onboard pool, or lounge poolside with a cocktail and a bestselling book. Get your heart racing with a cardio workout at the gym or indulge in a soothing treatment at the onboard luxury spa. The days are yours to spend at leisure, whatever you choose to do.
During mealtimes, savor incredible culinary creations – inspired by the regional flavors of the destinations you’ll visit and thoughtfully prepared by your skilled onboard chefs – with the picturesque beauty of the Brazilian coastline and the Atlantic Forest as a backdrop. In the evening, head up to the Observation Deck for a post-dinner cocktail accompanied by magnificent stargazing.
Lifestyles of the rich and famous in Punta del Este
Known for its resort style and well-heeled visitors, Punta del Este is the jewel of Uruguay at the wide mouth of Rio de la Plata. Today, we’ll anchor off the coast of this posh resort town and you will board a tender inland, then set out on a scenic panoramic tour through tiny residential neighborhoods and past stunning beaches. Stop to visit Casapueblo, the self-built curvilinear home and studio of the late artist Carlos Paez Vilaro perched on a cliffside overlooking the Atlantic. A picturesque coastal road will lead you back to the pier.
Uncover the international spirit of Montevideo
This morning you’ll arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay, consistently ranked at the top of “quality of life” lists among Latin American cities. Get acquainted with the vibrant and sophisticated cultural capital on a far-reaching city tour that takes in the major monuments, parks, and gardens. At Independence Square, begin a walking tour that features the cathedral, City Hall, the Government House, and the renowned Teatro Solís. Then, drive along the celebrated 18 de Julio Avenue, stopping to view the Legislative Palace, built with 52 types of local marble and 12 different kinds of wood. Continue to El Prado, an elegant neighborhood of sprawling botanical gardens and colonial mansions. At the Plaza Virgilio, enjoy sweeping views of the city.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring on your own. Perhaps you’ll walk to Plaza Cagancha and stop at Mercado de los Artesanos – or Craftsmen Market – to pick out a souvenir amid the swirl of local art and handcrafted goods. Alternatively, your onboard Concierge can help you set up a tour catered to your interests. This evening, be delighted by a dance show on board!
Explore the best of Buenos Aires
Wake up early for your last sunrise on board and enjoy the scenery and downtown skyline as we enter Buenos Aires, the sultry capital of Argentina.
After breakfast onboard the Ocean Explorer, you’ll disembark the ship and head out for a tour of Buenos Aires’ most magnificent sites. Visit the Plaza de Mayo, the Casa Rosada, La Boca (a neighborhood full of colorfully-painted homes), and the neoclassical Catedral Metropolitana, the church home of Pope Francis. No Buenos Aires visit is complete without a visit to the famed Café Tortoni, and you’ll lunch at this institution today. Founded in 1858 by an enigmatic Frenchman, the café’s European ambience, intricate moldings, and marble-topped counters have lured artists and scholars alike for more than 150 years. After lunch at the famed Café Tortoni, you’ll check into your hotel and have the afternoon and evening free to pursue your own interests.
Discover the pleasures of polo in the Argentinean Pampas
Today you will be introduced to Argentina’s rich polo culture. The country is known for its champion polo players, and you’ll learn about the sport’s rich history and tradition during an excursion to an estancia (ranch) in the Argentinean Pampas, the vast lowland plains. At a renowned polo ranch, you’ll learn about the sport and horses, and witness some impressive horsemanship during a private exhibition of two chukkers. You’ll also enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch.
No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without a little taste of the Argentine tango. Originating in the Rio de la Plata region in the 1880s – and merging influences from African, European, and indigenous cultures – the tango is so intrinsically woven into the fabric of Argentina’s cultural identity that it was designated as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World by UNESCO in 2009. This evening, you’ll join your fellow travelers for a special Farewell Dinner and a private professional tango performance during dinner at your hotel, giving you a firsthand demonstration of Argentina’s most passionate dance.
Depart Buenos Aires and return home
Today, you’ll have breakfast at your hotel before transferring to the airport for your return flight home. Or stay on for two more nights in Iguassu Falls with our post-trip extension.
When Eleanor Roosevelt first laid eyes on Iguassu Falls, she is famously said to have uttered, “Poor Niagara”! It’s easy to understand what overwhelmed the First Lady. This torrent of water separating Brazil and Argentina plunges over 200-foot-high cliffs in a roaring fury of water. (In fact, Iguaçu translates roughly from the local Tupi-Guarani into “great water.”) Judging from Ms. Roosevelt’s reaction, you’ll want to extend your expedition to view Brazil’s other breathtaking natural wonder. Explore the cataracts from both countries, getting as close to the falls as the spraying mist allows. Join us on this thrilling adventure!
Please Note: Ocean cruising is not the same experience as river cruising; as such, you may experience fluctuating tides and weather patterns that may involve some rocking of your vessel. Itineraries will include all activities as planned except in extreme cases that can’t be controlled by your shipboard crew. Day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert.