If you read my last post, L1602 – Island = I don’t land, you will know that today’s port of call was the Brazilian mainland port of Maceió, as the first of two substitute ports of call for the stunning archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, which the Brazilian authorities had decided we were no longer able to visit. The big question was whether the substitute would be up to standard?
Following some ‘technical issues’ with the ship overnight, we were late sailing into port. As we sailed in, I could see the familiar Brazilian scene of a beach with tall buildings behind, and as we docked I saw that this time the port terminal facilities were just a couple of gazebos squeezed in next to a big old warehouse:
Due to this late arrival, the captain advised us of a new later check in time for the shore tours. At the new appointed hour the considerable number of us taking one of the three shore tours all checked in at the show lounge as usual, and sat there waiting for our tour bus number to be called. Two of the shore tours offered were beach transfers; but most had elected, like me, to do a tour of the city, mostly on the coach but with a couple of stops on the way.
We knew that none of the tour busses would be called until the Brazilian authorities gave clearance for passengers to leave the ship. Virtually every country I have cruised to, this is very much a formality, and clearance is usually given quite quickly after the officials have come aboard once we have docked. Part of the long delay in Fortaleza had been resolving issues raised getting this clearance, so obviously things work differently in Brazil!
Sure enough, after a while the captain came on the ship’s announcement system again to say that the officials had asked for a totally unexpected hygiene and medical inspection, and he was not sure how long this was going to take. In the event is was not too long, and our coach finally set off around an hour late for the tour of the city. In Brazil things seem to move to a different timescale!
As we left the port area the sun was shining, but by the time we reached our first stop, a village by a lake, with loads of small shops selling souvenirs and crafts, the clouds were rolling in:
However we had not been there long before the skies opened and it poured with rain, so everyone took shelter in the shops, as the shopkeepers quickly moved their stock further under cover:
Once the rain had eased, we reboarded the coach, and had a ‘panoramic’ drive around the centre of the city. We had two guides – a qualified tourist guide who spoke in Brazilian Portuguese, and a young man who translated what she said into good English. Progress was very slow as the traffic was terrible, this was quite normal according to the guides. Truth be told, there wasn’t a huge amount of note to see either:
After a while I recognised the same building – the cathedral – and realised we we going around in circles:
Eventually we made our way up to the highest point in the city, where we had a brief stop to take pictures from a viewpoint overlooking the rest of the city and Balmoral waiting in the port. Nearby was a small church, and a couple of ‘armless ladies:
We had now made the two stops listed in the tour description, but there was still nearly an hour of time left to fill, so I wondered what we would do next. I might have guessed – we drove to another craft market, this time inside a big market hall, and they even had a banner out to welcome us! Inside the stalls were crammed full of much the same crafts and souvenirs we had seen at the other place earlier, and at the former prison in Fortaleza:
After squeezing my way around the hot and cramped hall, I escaped across the road to snap the promenade and beach under gloomy skies:
We then returned to our ship for another late lunch.
I’ll leave you to decide whether this first substitute came up to standard, or was just substandard.
Postscript: Just before we were due to sail, the captain announced that once again the Brazilian authorities had pulled another surprise – we were not allowed to use the ship’s bow and stern thrusters to move away from the harbour wall, so instead we had to wait for two tugs to manoeuvre into position and drag us away:
I wonder what surprises they will pull tomorrow!