The ship docked in Santos about an hour and a half drive from Sao Paolo on a cool and rainy day very much like the day in Lisbon when this cruise began. Sao Paolo a city of eleven million residents, is described as a city that tourists who don’t speak Portuguese would not enjoy visiting. Even the Brazilian cruise staff from other towns, rolled their eyes and talked about how it took them a while to get over the traffic, noise and pollution and enjoy the city.
Many of our fellow travelers had flights home today that left after 11pm; that will be the case for us too when we go home and is typical of the flight schedule to North America. The ship wanted us to leave so they could get ready for the next batch of revelers and they arranged a transfer to the airport that included panoramic sight seeing, a stop in a typical Brazilian meat restaurant (churrascaria) and an art museum visit. Art museums are our least favorite tour stops, but we had nothing to do until we fly out in the morning, so we chose the tour.
Getting the luggage and leaving the ship was surprisingly easy. Some locals have been leaving the ship at each port, so probably 10% of the passengers were already gone. No one official was interested in checking our passports or our carefully filled out baggage reports. No wonder the locals load up on shopping; what a tax dodge!
The drive from the shore was a heart stopping climb through fog enshrouded mountains lush with jungle growth. Usually on a tour the guide takes advantage of this down time to provide back ground on the country, the city you are about to visit, the flora and fauna. Beside a brief greeting, our guide said nothing. As we entered the city limits the scenery was grim. Yards full of garbage, crumbling buildings, homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk, streets jammed with cars. The roads were in good condition, but inadequate for the number of vehicles trying to use them. Poles were festooned with all sorts of creative wiring schemes. It’s a wonder major parts of the city hadn’t gone into brown out or electrocuted the locals in the area. The guide said nothing.
It seemed that we were circling the same area over and over. Where we lost? The guide said nothing. Our fellow passengers were beginning to get restless and told her she should be telling us something. She hooked up the wireless mic and stood too close to the sending unit and it shrieked and squeeled. Soon her talk was over and she headed toward the front of the bus and chatted with the driver, oblivious to the fact that we could hear (but not understand) every word.
The restaurant was a nice stop and she gave us an hour to eat. It had a lavish salad bar and the waiters circulated with skewers of various cuts of freshly grilled meat, even some fish. After an hour we headed back to the bus and waited. Where was the guide? Twenty minutes later she finally appeared and noticed that we had been parked in by other vehicles in the small lot. Another twenty minutes went by before the other drivers were located and moved.
Then we headed to the city center where we saw a nice mix of modern skyscrapers and restored colonial era buildings. She raved about how beautiful the inside of the cathedral was. We begged to stop for five minutes to take a photo. No way; this was a panoramic tour. To be fair the bus would have had to park outside the center and we would have to walk, but in the forty minutes we had already wasted, we easily could have done so.
At the art museum there were lots of signs and explanations, but none were in English. We could have gotten so much more out of it if she had prepared us a bit. But she had nothing to say. Again, we were all back in the bus at the scheduled time and she was not.
Cooped up, frustrated people had lots of time to mutter together and plan the angry letters they are going to write to Royal Caribbean while we headed toward the airport. There were two terminals and she did not ask which airlines we were using and wasn’t sure where to stop, so we went around twice before an experienced passenger informed us which airlines were where. At the first opportunity we jumped off and grabbed a luggage cart. As Ken crawled around in the bus storage area trying to get our bags out, I thought to myself, “The cruise truly is over.”
After taking the free airport shuttle to our hotel, we are tucked in for the night, deciding what to take to Iguassu Falls. The rest we’ll store here til we get back. Tomorrow will be a better day.