Substitute Port Offers Beaches, Christmas Spirit but Little Shopping

Day 45, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Monday, Nov. 20, 2023; Santos, Brazil

If you set the bar for expectations fairly low, you are likely to exceed it. I would say that describes my day in Santos, Brazil.

As I wrote at the end of my last post, Holland America added a day in Santos, Brazil, today to make up for missing last Saturday’s planned port call to Punta del Este, Uruguay (weather). The only last-minute tour excursion quickly sold out. Cruise and Travel Director Jeremy warned us that today is a holiday, meaning virtually everything would be closed except the vast beaches and nearby restaurants. The ship provided a shuttle to a modern mall, where the stores wouldn’t open until 3 p.m. – 30 minutes before the last shuttle back to the strip.

I debated whether to even bother going ashore, as the forecast this morning called for likely rain through the afternoon. It was too bad that São Paulo is too far away – I would have loved the Ayrton Senna-themed tour of this famous Formula 1 driver’s hometown and the Interlagos track that hosts the Brazilian Grand Prix every year. Maybe next time when I can plan ahead.

Regardless, on the shuttle I went, and today exceeded my expectations. The mall was fairly busy with foot traffic – even beyond the cruise passengers wandering through. I sipped my first Starbucks latte of the cruise as I watched families take photos at the large Christmas tree and associated decorations in the mall center. They are the first signs of Christmas I have seen this season. (The exception being in the Lido buffet area, where since the beginning of the cruise a timer occasionally rings out with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” No explanation provided.)

I wandered through the attached Carrefour supermarket, where you could buy everything from groceries to tires, except Pringles. I always look for the spiciest ones for my cabin stewards, and generally find them. Today I struck out.

Next I walked about three blocks to the beach.

This is what Santos is known for – a huge stretch of beach lined with tall apartment and condo buildings as far as you can see. In between is the longest beach garden in the world – 3.3 miles long. In addition to the palm trees, flowers and expanses of grass, bike and separate walking lanes wove their ways through the garden.

The dark and white stone walkways reminded me of my recent trip to the Azores, and to Lisbon and Madeira. Of course! They are all Portuguese.

Despite the overcast skies, many people were spending the day here. I had brought my Solis hotspot with me, and with a great signal had a good phone chat via WIFI with my sister. Often on the ship it is uncomfortably laggy.

The rain held off until I made it back to the ship, and we left to cruise down the long river. Parallel piers line the river, and it is easy to see that this is one of the biggest ports in the country. What looked like nearly abandoned shanties (but note the white cat) lined the other side of the river, but soon high-rise buildings filled the view.

Meanwhile, members of the Oi Brazil cultural team offered samba classes in the Ocean Bar. On sea days, Richard Watson (a transplanted Brit) is lecturing on the history, geography and natural life of Brazil and especially the Amazon River and forest. Joao Bosco de Oliveira offers talks on Carnival and the music of Brazil. This group provided the Latin talent for and recorded the soundtrack of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die.” I’m sure they will bring a high level of excitement and energy to the next two weeks of this cruise.

As I have written, I seldom seem to make it to the evening shows on the World Stage, but tonight I went, as I had heard that the singer was outstanding in her previous show. Camila Andrade hit all the high notes in her performance of bossa nova, jazz and blues. It´s good to see this quality of performer back on stage and live music from the Ocean Band to accompany her.

Last night, the stage was dark as the Lido Deck took on the spirit of a county fair. Passengers competed in classic carnival games, such as bag toss and cornhole, receiving coupons for each win. A raffle at the end awarded a few lucky passengers with gifts, but I didn´t stay long enough to learn what they were. I was impressed that a cotton candy machine made its appearance, along with popcorn, ice cream and candied apples.