Carnival In Rio!!

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Maasdam Cruise Ship

Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Monday, February 11, 2013

So we went to London to get a Brazilian visa so we could see Carnival in Rio. We went to Portugal in order to grab an affordable flight to Brazil so we could see Carnival in Rio. We spent a few days in Salvador so we could catch a reliable commuter flight to see Carnival in Rio. We booked a 26 day cruise so we had the 3 days of accommodation needed to see Carnival in Rio. I'm not sure we’ve ever gone to this much trouble to catch one of the more renowned world WOWs- I’m assuming that someone has let the organizers of the upcoming parade at Rios Sambadrome know that they’re going to have to step it up a notch.

As planned, we took an early morning flight from Salvador to Rio, found an honest cab driver (during Carnival in Rio!!) who took us directly to the waiting Holland America cruise ship. With just a minimum of fuss we were allowed on and, despite all promises to ourselves to not gorge on the copious amounts of free food available, headed directly for the buffet and had multiple lunches- three for myself (tacos, hamburger, and pizza slabs with only a modest appearance of vegees or anything healthy), and two for DH (although she insisted that her tacos were just appetizers and didn't count as a meal). Apparently weight loss won't be a big part of our adventure over the next 26 days.

The population of Rio swells by hundreds of thousands during Carnival creating enormous gridlock, and since we're planning a future visit during a less hectic time, we made a conscious decision to focus this visit on Carnival and the Sambadrome parade only- Christ the Redeemer will have to wait. At the appointed hour we joined a number of fellow cruisers for the bus ride over to the stadium that was built just for this spectacle. Things don't get started until 9pm at night and with six samba schools competing each night, the last float goes by at 6 in the morning. Each school organizes what is effectively a distinct parade (3,500-4,000 participants) with elaborate costumes and floats, bands, and a unique theme that is designed to wow an enormous stadium crowd (72,500 peeps), a TV viewership that is claimed to be 500 million, and impress a small panel of forty judges. If you could imagine the explosive result of a simultaneous collision of contagious samba music, colours that Crayola Crayons would be hard pressed to match, body movements that define sultry, and a nuclear power plant type energy, you would have some idea of why Carnival needs to be on everyone's bucket list. Where Salvador claimed to host the biggest party in the world, Rio claims to be the best and it would be hard to argue the point

A samba school is a collaboration of local neighbours that want to attend carnival together, usually with some kind of common background. Each year they begin with a theme and the musicians in the Samba school will write a song along the given theme. Expert Samba dancers will then choreograph routines to that song. Architects, engineers and carpenters will build grand floats around the theme. Fashion designers and tailors will make costumes to fit the theme. The themes played out in front of us included a social commentary on Brazil's oil industry, rain forest beauty, the entertainment industry, and even one that included Romans, dragons, and a Trojan Horse (still trying to figure out that link to Brazil??). DH was mesmerized by the elaborate floats and I spent most of the night admiring the technical proficiency of the many women battling it out for the coveted position of Queen of the Carnival, renowned for being a symbol of youth, beauty and sex- yes they were dressed in little more than feathers and high heels, but the it was the science behind the extraordinary body gyrations that had my attention... strictly professional.

We were sitting in a section of the stands that was largely set aside for cruise ship types (there were four ships in the harbour) and, for reasons that escaped me, at the end of each parade significant groups would head back to their ship and by the end of this extravaganza there was only one other passenger to keep us company. How could you leave early? Even in our somewhat sleep deprived state, we were hoping for just one more group to come through (the early-to-bed types missed the eventual 2013 champions- Vila Isabel and their "Brazil as the world's breadbasket" theme- which happened to be the last of the six schools). It took a lot to get here but the effort was certainly worth it.

And just to add a little whipped cream to this fabulous parade, they wrapped it up just in time for us to catch the last bus back to the ship and join the breakfast buffet line- God forbid we miss a meal. Given that we had partied through a couple of nights of sleep in Salvador and had just danced through another in Rio we headed straight for bed after another multi-helping meal- careful to set our alarm so we didn't miss lunch!!

Given the enormous pressure Tina B has been putting on my photography skills I feel obliged to mention that we were some distance from the parade in a low light situation in the middle of a raucous crowd with a dying camera, so the attached photos were more of a best effort. Although it's mandatory for Tina to view each and every photo, for anyone else with the patience to go through them all, put on something sparkly, crank some samba tunes, start shaking the junk-in-the-trunk, and enjoy. And from the files of believe it or not, I have a few hundred more Carnival photos that I still haven't had time to even look at!

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Elaine & Doug on

Some absolutely fabulous photography! Certainly the best of the best from your globe-trotting itinerary!

Kay on

Fabulous slide show of the Sambadrome!

Tracy B on

Fabulous! Never seen anything like it. What an amazing experience for the two of you!

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