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Cruise Diary: Warm Beaches and Baroque Towns in Recife, Brazil

Day 11 — Jan. 16 — Recife, Brazil

If you are like me and love beaches with warm waters — not ones that after sticking your toe in to test the waters, you pull it back out quickly, shivering — Recife, Brazil is the place for you!

Boa Viagem Beach with 88-degree water in Recife.

Boa Viagem Beach with 88-degree water in Recife.

The Amsterdam arrived in Recife, on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast early Monday. We booked the ship’s four-hour Recife & Historic Olinda tour that served as an introduction and way to get our bearings, including highlights of the city and the nearby colonial town of Olinda.

In Recife, our favorite stop was the Boa Viagem Beach (which means “bon voyage” in Portuguese), a fine strip of golden sands, dotted with colorful umbrellas and, ah, those 88-degree crystalline waters. Our guide, Gilbert, said the water temperature stays at 88 degrees year round, thus attracting many visitors from Europe. Other stops included the Praca da Republica (Republic Square) with the Neoclassic Justice Palace with Greek columns and the Teatro Santa Isabel, Recife’s pretty opera house. The square is very pleasant, with a fountain and interesting trees such as a baobab tree from Africa, royal palms and Brasilium wood trees. Another highlight was a stop at the Casa da Cultura, an old prison turned into a handicrafts market. The old cells are now shops where visitors find all-manner of souvenirs including excellent cotton goods and CDs with local samba music. Wood statues of St. Francis of Assisi and other figures adorn the market.

Olinda (“oh, beautiful” in Portuguese) is pretty as a picture and only four miles from Recife. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a well-preserved colonial town with cobblestone streets and red-tile-roofed houses, as well as, 16th and 17th century baroque churches and monasteries that reminded us of hill towns in Portugal and Spain. We visited the Brazilian Baroque styled Church of St. Benedict that features an impressive 18-karat gold leaf high altar, ceiling frescoes and statuary, including a statue of St. Benedict. A monastery is adjacent to the church. By contrast, the Cathedral of Olinda is almost austere with an interior adorned with Jacaranda woodwork including a big crucifix. We were glad to get back “home” to the ship and air-conditioning, as by early afternoon the bright tropical sun was making temperatures rise!

View of the red-tiled roofs of Olinda.

View of the red-tiled roofs of Olinda.

One of the people who help make the ship our home is Sam, our cabin steward. Not only does he keep our cabin spotless and picks up and delivers our laundry (we signed up for unlimited laundry service and love it; those not using the ship’s service can use self-service launderettes on board) but he also replenishes our fruit basket daily, creates fanciful towel animals and leaves us pillow chocolates. On one of the formal dress-up nights, Sam had left us two delicious Godiva dark chocolates and when we told him how much we had enjoyed them he surprised us with two more. If he continues spoiling us, we may not want to get off at the end of the cruise!

Sam, our cabin steward, bringing fruit to our stateroom.

Sam, our cabin steward, bringing fruit to our stateroom.

Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.

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