Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Leaving Tradition Behind ~ Heading South for the Holidays

 
Hot steamy jungles thick with lush tropical plants and vines. . . 
Piranhas –  fish that like to eat meat – human, or otherwise. . .
Anacondas - snakes so large that they can eat goats. . .
Villages along a river bank, so small there is no organized tourism. . .
 
Now that’s a 180-degrees from the traditional Christmas tree and traditions, don’t you think?
 
You recall that last week I told you we were leaving holiday traditions behind this year and setting out to stretch our travel lifestyle. Well, this is where we are going to do just that. . . 
 
PicMonkey Collage
Tropical plants - South Pacific
 
We will be traveling up the Amazon River!
 
 
Slicing through Brazil we will be stopping at small villages on our way to Manaus, a thriving metropolis of 1.2 million people (complete with airport), overnight there, and start our journey back down the Amazon.
 
I know you are probably shaking your heads. . .your vision of us a la Bogart and Hepburn, clad in khaki-colored safari suits, my wide brimmed hat wrapped with mosquito netting, The Scout paddling our dugout canoe. . .(you can quit laughing now). . . 
 
 
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Hate to shoot that adventuresome image of us, but we will be traveling on a cruise ship – an ocean going vessel, as a matter of fact. And we’ll be surrounded by top of the line luxury:
 
rClass-Insignia

We’ll be traveling on Oceania’s Insignia, a ship that accommodates some 672 passengers and 400 staff. Small, by cruise ship sizes, but definitely top of the line luxury by cruise industry standards.

I should probably mention that in addition to the Amazon River, we’ll also be hitting our fair share of Caribbean islands – and that we’ll depart from and return to Miami, Florida with an itinerary that takes us to:

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It is a VERY different trip for us, in many ways. . .we are sailing on a cruise line we’ve never tried before and the cruise at 24-days is the longest we’ve ever taken. We are going to an area that we'd pretty much never talked about before - if ever!

PicMonkey Collage

A huge difference will be that this cruise has no requirements for formal attire! We will leave the suits, and little black dresses and related shoes at home!! Aloha shirts will be The Scout’s formal wear and I shall make do with a couple of glittery tops – to wear with those Chico’s Zenergy pants, that I call my travel uniform.

loutro to kirkland 493 (1)We’ve also had to demonstrate a leap of faith – as we had to ship our passports off, along with a variety of documents including financial information, to a company that works with the Brazilian consulate in obtaining entry visas for U.S. citizens. (We didn't have to do that with the passports when trying to buy a house in Greece!)

I am happy to report, the passports were delivered to our front door by the postman a couple of weeks ago, complete with Brazilian visas attached. . .whew!



[Note:  Visas are required for entry into Brazil for American citizens – and they are not inexpensive. Documents are required, including bank account statements.  Depending on the company you use, it could range from $200 – $400 per visa. (luckily, the travel agent we used paid for the cost of our visas, as one of the many benefits we got by booking with them).  Some of you may have obtained your own but when you live in the Pacific Northwest, the nearest Brazilian consulate choices are in Atlanta and California – airfare to either would have made the ‘do it yourself’ option even more expensive.]
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There’s a lot to study before we set out! We’ve loaded up on travel guides, novels and true stories about the Caribbean, Brazil and the Amazon.  So far it sounds as though I may often be quoting, Dorothy when she landed in Oz and said to Toto: “We are not in Kansas any more!”
Booking the cruise: I’ll spare the details of booking the cruise other than to say The Scout nailed a great deal by booking through our tried-and-true cruise travel agency, Crucon.com based in New Hampshire. While their lowest prices were comparable to that offered by others, their on-board credits and benefits far exceeded any others and included prepaid tips/gratuities ($720 value), a huge credit to on-board spending ($1,800), FREE unlimited internet ($525), and the cost of the Brazilian visas ($400)! Note: The deal was available to anyone – we don’t get discounts because of the blog or my freelance writing.
That’s it for now.  Happy Travels to you. If you’ve been to any of the places on the map above, we’d appreciate any recommendations or suggestions. We are linking up this week with our friends at:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

62 comments:

  1. oh sounds so devine! I am looking forward to seeing your posts from onboard already! I like the idea of no formal attire. So much less pressure. Happy travels. and have a wonderful week.

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    1. Jill - that 'country club casual' style is something I would love on all cruises --guess I'll be packing jungle khaki's for this one and won't need anything too much more formal ;-) Thanks for stopping by today!

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  2. That sounds wonderful!
    BTW, the reason why it's so expensive for Americans to get into Brazil is because Brazilians find it very hard to get into the US due to regulations and fees. The same with Australians. I am on a EU passport and can simply fly into Brazil and get a stamp for free, because it's easy for Brazilians to travel into Europe.

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    1. We did hear that somewhere along the line Denise. I guess it is a case of 'do unto others. . .' and they will do it back! I envy your ability and ease of entering Brazil. Had the travel agent not paid the cost of the visa we were going to skip this cruise -- too many other wonderful places to see that welcome us with out the red tape and cost! Thanks for adding your insights today - most appreciated!

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  3. How exciting! I was also pondering South America for the holidays but I think everyone else wants to stay closer to home. I looking forward to hearing about this cruise and if that boat actually fits up the Amazon. (I will also need to look into those pants you recommended.)

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    1. I hate to admit how little I knew and still don't know about the Amazon Michele but that is the fun of travel isn't it? Learning about new places and people. I also had no clue about the visa until one of the travel agents mentioned the need for it and then this agency offered it as part of their package. Hope you have a great holiday no matter where you spend it!

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  4. And thanks for the tip about the Brazilian visas for Americans. I had no clue.

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  5. Ha ha you did surprise me. I have long held a desire to travel the Amazon although my dream is for a vessel more on the side of the Canoes - well a little bigger but still small. Hope you have a great time.

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    1. Oh Jan, we surprised ourselves with this one. What started out as a chuckle over 'how different' will now be how we spend our holiday. Hope you saw the comment below from Ronan who had a suggestion for you on a smaller boat option.

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  6. Jan, Try Overseas Adventure Travel if you are looking for a REALLY small shop:

    http://www.oattravel.com/trips/small-ship-adventures/south-america/amazon-river-cruise-and-rain-forest/2015#tripaccommodations

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    1. oops! ship ... not shop

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  7. Jackie, I think you will love Oceania. Several OAT friends (OAT folks are not typically fond of big-ship-cruising) have cruised with them and highly recommend them.

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    1. I suspect we will - our fear is that we will like it so much that we will want to book it all the time and that could be a pricey little habit! I will make sure Jan sees your suggestion for an OAT cruise (is that the one you took?)

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  8. Piranhas instead of reindeer for Christmas? I think this is totally cool and can't wait to read about your non-traditional holidays on the Amazon and in the Caribbean. Nice that you won't have to be all dressed-up on the ship either. Enjoy!

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    1. I love that observation, Cathy. Piranhas instead of reindeer - you are correct. A friend just gave me a mosquito net bonnet - guess that will be my Christmas hat!

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  9. Well don't let Joel forget to pack his paddle for the canoe! The only Amazon we have knowledge of is for selling books - Bill thought it was down the road from you in Seattle - not South America. Have a great trip.

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    1. Oh Val I told our neighbor who works for Amazon that we had booked 'an Amazon cruise' and he thought I meant I had booked a cruise through Amazon! Amazing how well known that company has become!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. How are you two doing anyway - long time no hear!

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  10. Sounds really good, Jackie. Can't wait to read the stories that come out of this trip!

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    1. It does sound interesting doesn't it, Andrew. Hopefully I can do justice to all there will be to photograph. Thanks for the visit - always appreciated!

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  11. Have a wonderful trip. Looking forward to seeing the pictures!

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    1. It won't be quite like your adventures, but still an adventure for us - that's for sure. Thanks for stopping by. We are in AZ and I am hoping to get caught up with blog reading soon and will find out what you are up to!

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  12. Lucky you, heading off on a wonderful adventure! We are so much looking forward to receiving your updates! Have a lovely trip!

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    1. Well I will do my best to keep you updated, Sara. Hopefully it will be interesting. Thanks much for stopping by and commenting.

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  13. What an awesome trip! Sounds like you have an awesome deal too. I can not wait to see photos and hear all about.. I am excited for you! Have a happy week!

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    1. Hi Eileen, thanks for stopping by! I do think we got some nice credits that's for sure. And it will be an adventure for us!

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  14. This trip sounds absolutely wonderful, Jackie and Joel! Enjoy! Thanks for the budget friendly tips too.

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    1. Hi Beth - glad you found the tips helpful. I have written other posts about seeking cruise deals so should you go looking for one, hope those posts will provide some helpful tips as well. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Well, a nice long relaxing cruise sounds like fun and I like the idea of no formal wear - what a pain it is to drag all that paraphernalia along. I looked at the map and I've been to Florida - yup Miami, where our 3 day Barbados cruise for my 40th BD (long time ago) set out from. LOL Not much help am I? I look forward to the photos from this trip and thank you for sharing the plans at Mosaic Monday.

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    1. Hi Judith, We have sailed out of Fort Lauderdale before, but not Miami, so even the start of this cruise will be a new adventure for us! As always, thanks for hosting this wonderful link up.

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  16. What a cruise! I didn't know they had ships that did both rivers and oceans. I can't wait to hear more about your experiences. Have fun! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. Oh Corinne, I had never given the Amazon much thought until booking this and the more I read, the more amazed I am at how big a body of water it is! Love your #wkendtravelinspiration!

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  17. I hope you have fun--I want to take a cruise some day. Moving to the southern hemisphere certainly makes one rethink holiday traditions, but I learned quite quickly that having a picnic on the beach on Christmas day sure beats snowmen and baking bread!

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    1. Oh living in the southern hemisphere would be an interesting experience! I remember visiting Australia and New Zealand on last fall's cruise and thinking why do they have Christmas decorations for sale when spring is coming? It is a difference, isn't it??? Thanks for commenting today.

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  18. Wow! Sounds like a grand adventure. Thanks for the handy tips.

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    1. Hi Snap! I do think it will be an adventure and glad you found the tips handy!

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  19. Great place to travel, so much greenery.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Rajesh - always appreciated!

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  20. You'll have a wonderful time! We spent quite a number of years living near the headwaters of the Amazon in the Ecuadorian jungle. The flora and fauna are really amazing.

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    1. Oh Lorrie now your story does sound like an adventure! I can't imagine living in the Ecuadorian jungle! Thanks for the comment - it got me even more excited for the cruise.

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  21. This sounds so exciting! I'm glad you're going somewhere warm and exotic. What a great itinerary and I love all the perks you got. It really sounds like such a wonderful adventure and I'm looking forward to your experience on Oceania and your ports of call. Happy planning!

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    1. From what we hear, we shouldn't be disappointed with Oceania, that's for sure Mary and with this itinerary I am certain I won't be bored! Thanks for the visit and the Tweet!

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  22. Oh I must learn to stretch my travel legs too...who knew!!

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    1. Oh Donna, this one certainly is a stretch for us. Who would have thought I'd be on the Amazon River at Christmas!? Thanks for stopping by!!

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  23. Sophie @ Sophie's WorldNovember 4, 2014 at 6:24 AM

    Sailing up the Amazon on a river cruise sounds fab. Looking at the grey skies here and feel slightly envious :)

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    1. It is those grey skies that drive us batty each winter Sophie and thus our quest to seek sun! Hopefully the Amazon's rainy season -- of which we will be on the cusp-- doesn't mean grey skies all the time! Thanks much for the visit.

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  24. Hi Jackie,

    You and Scout are ready for anything! He, in his Aloha shirts and you in your glittery getup, will be the stars of the South, cruising to exotic and enigmatic lands!

    Have a lovely Wednesday, my friend!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. Oh Poppy. . .a friend just gave me a mosquito net bonnet to wear while in the jungle! I will have to model it and post a photo in a future post -- it will add a bit to that glittery outfit of mine! Thanks for the visit today~ Hugs to you, Jackie

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  25. Oh my gosh I had no idea it was that involved to visit Brazil! It's definitely on my list. So, thank you for that heads up...that is the FIRST time I had ever heard of this. Ha, on you having to mail your passports off when literally TODAY I was working on getting a new one for the first time in 20 years! I checked out the cruise line and it sounds fantastic...I was looking at the Alaska cruises. But yowsah they are expensive compared to other nice cruise lines. I would like to know what do you really get over a 10 days with the priority on the scenery with the super expensive ship vs a high end, but not so expensive one? GREAT post, Jackie! :)

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    1. Hi Mike, since I wrote you details in an email, I will suffice to say, it is so nice to see your comments again! Hang in there, my friend, and happy future travels to you!

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  26. If I never see snow again it's too soon. Your idea of heading south is a good one.

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    1. Michael that is pretty much how we feel about rain and grey skies! Thanks for your visit and taking time to comment. Hope to see you back again soon!

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  27. Sounds like a wonderful adventure. I can't wait to read about it. I can imagine the relief to get your passports back, complete with Brazilian visas. Canadians also need visas to go to Brazil. A number of years ago, a work colleague tried to get a visa for Brazil to deliver a workshop to employees of the Brazilian branch of our company. The process was so difficult and lengthy, he wound up delivering the workshop in Argentina and the Brazilians travelled to Argentina.

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    1. Oh Donna, you gave us such a merry moment with this comment. We really had decided that the visa and its cost would be the reason NOT to take this cruise. Luckily part of the benefits was the securing of and cost of the visa otherwise we had decided there were many other places that welcomed us -- for free in the world and we would head to those.

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  28. Just like Donna mentioned... What an adventure! Isn't that what life is about? This is super cool and I appreciate you including a map of the route. I can't wait to hear the details!

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    1. Well hopefully it will be interesting and my posts of equally entertaining quality so that you will want to follow along. . .Glad you enjoyed the map. Thanks much for taking time to comment - hope to see you back here again soon!

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  29. That will definitely be quite the trip - and a grand adventure. I spent three days in the Amazon Jungle, leaving on Christmas Day in 2008. It was an interesting place to visit but I thanked my lucky stars I wasn't born there.

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    1. Oh my it is interesting that we have both found ourselves either on or heading to the Amazon at Christmas. I suspect I will have the same reaction to the trip as you. Thanks for commenting. Happy travels ~ or should I say happy hiking?

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  30. Sounds like you will have an amazing trip. One day we will make it there but I think we would like to do it in the dugout canoe instead, lol!

    Love the deals that you got to go with the cruise.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. Ruth, be sure to blog about that canoe trip and I will be your number one follower! Thanks much for the visit.

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  31. What a wonderful idea! It sounds as though you have an amazing travel agency to work with - I had no idea so many perks were included. That makes me want to work more with travel agencies than entirely on our own. Can't wait to see the pictures from your trip! Happiest of holidays!

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    1. Hi Lisa, Thanks for the visit! Yes, we use this cruise agency quite a bit because they are so good. We don't ever use 'traditional travel agents' however when planning land trips - we are like you and prefer to plan those on our own for any number of reasons. Hope to see you back again!

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