By Patti Pietschmann
While we have taken hundreds of cruises during our travel/cruise writing career, the Seabourn Quest voyage that took us from the tropics through the mighty Amazon was without a doubt one of the most romantic and interesting—awesome, fantastic, about as good as it gets.
After years of planning, my first mate Richard and I would finally cruise the mighty river on the spectacular 450-passenger Seabourn Quest. The 15-day Caribbean/Amazon cruise sailed from Fort Lauderdale to romantic, sun-soaked ports such as St. Barths, Guadeloupe, Jost Van Dyke (BVI), Barbados, and other Caribbean ports. But like most of the well-heeled passengers on board, we eagerly awaited the entry to the Amazon.
Embarkation for this voyage was typically Seabourn seamless with check-in at The Square—a hub of the ship stocked with friendly, helpful staff (like Belindah who made ‘house’ calls to help get the WiFi up and working on our laptops). Also located at The Square are computers, books and the piece de resistance, a coffee bar with talented baristas where we get our daily morning jolt of joe before we have breakfast and hit the pool.
In addition to going ashore in all the Caribbean ports and swimming at our favorite Shell Beach in St. Barths, the Quest provided plenty of diversions ranging from lectures to entertainment, spa services, workout classes in the nicely-equipped fitness center and of course delicious meals in The Restaurant, Colonnade, Grill and Restaurant 2. Prior to the grand entry into the Amazon, there was a special lecture in the Grand Salon with eager passengers giving their rapt attention to destinations manager Claudio as he spoke about the upcoming Amazon River. In two days, we would reach the Amazon’s vast delta in Brazil and begin a thousand-mile journey into the heart of the great river’s tropical rainforest. And now Claudio was delivering a mild dose of reality. “It will rain,” he said. “There will be mud ashore. Don’t wear flip-flops. It will be hot and humid. Dress in light clothing. Wear a hat. There will be mosquitos everywhere.” He glanced up at the concerned faces and stated, “The key is flexibility.”
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
The sea was mottled with brown when we woke on the morning the ship was approaching Brazil and the Amazon. The great river pours out so much water—as much as a third of the fresh water released by all the world’s rivers—that the salty Atlantic can be diluted and colored silty tan 100 miles from its mouth. And today, before reaching the vast delta, we will reach the Equator.
The ship glided into the Amazon and stopped briefly at Macapa, a small city closest to the delta, to clear Brazilian immigration. Then she headed upstream for a day not at sea but at river before reaching our first river port at Santarem, about 275 miles away. It’s difficult to gauge speed when heading against the river current, but we are making a surprising 15-plus knots with the depth of the water about 60 feet, about average for the length of the Amazon. The river that the Portuguese called a “river sea” doesn’t seem boundless in this stretch as the forested northern bank is close enough to see individual trees. That is something of an illusion since much of the nearest land is a series of islands within the river itself.
There were many special moments on board the Seabourn Quest such as pre-dinner cocktails at a Cheers-like bar on the Observation Deck where Martin, the talented Irish mixologist not only remembered our name and favorite drink but also prepared it to order and entertained us. It is where a group of about ten passengers from all over the world met and got to know each other. Another memorable occasion was a trip to a Manaus market with Chef Andreas Lang to shop for fish, fruit, and vegetables to be prepared for dinner that night.
THE SUITE LIFE
Our suite had a balcony and was ideally located on the same deck as The Square, two flights up from the free laundromat (which we used often) and just below the Colonnade where we enjoyed many lunches and casual dinners. It came with a table and chairs, sofa, queen bed, bathroom with double vanity, shower, tub, robes, slippers and lots of upscale amenities. The in-suite WiFi worked remarkably well. A nice touch on all Seabourn ships is a large wall clock.
SEEING THE WORLD BY SHIP
What better way to see the world than by cruising the seas (or in this case the rivers). It’s a hassle-free way where your cabin becomes your hotel room. And you just pack/unpack once. With cruises to Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and beyond, The Seabourn line is mostly all-inclusive meaning you never have to tip.
For more information on Seabourn cruises, visit seabourn.com