by Chris Hutchinson

JOINING Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Braemar - berthed in Manaus, a city on the Amazon, 900 miles from the Atlantic coast - we immediately felt at home.

The staff gave us an enthusiastic welcome onboard, as we set out for our first excursion in a motorised canoe. Skipper Cosmo and Joseph, our guide, took us to the famous ‘Meeting of the Waters’ where the dark waters of the Rio Negro meets the yellow of Rio Solimoes, but never mix. They told us this natural phenomenon arises from the rivers having different origins, depths, currents and temperatures.

We sailed on small canals, passing floating communities, and trekked into the jungle to a lake where we saw beautiful giant lily pads. Our canoe entered tiny tributaries where floating reeds are home to exotic birds, fish leaping out of the water and anaconda. An exhilarating adventure.

Next day we visited the indigenous Tucan tribe, on the edge of the jungle. We were welcomed by the Chief, who took us to his ceremonial hut where tribal members danced and sang to pipes and drums.

We feasted on succulent fish cooked on a low burning fire along with tapioca and baked bread. A memorable experience.

Braemar sailed down the Amazon to our next port of call Parintins, where again we witnessed the ‘Meeting of the Waters’, this time the Rio Negro joining the mighty Amazon. We were amazed by this visual phenomenon.

We set off to watch one of the most popular cultural festivals in Brazil, the Boi Bumba, performed by the Satere’ Mawe’ tribe. Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines arranged a private show for guests.

From the out-set we were captivated by a large troupe of dancers in costumes of red and gold, performing vibrant dance routines. Throughout the show there were numerous changes of dazzling costumes, with giant effigies opening up to reveal dancers whose movements to the music were mesmerising. A vibrant rhythm section created a pulsating sound, as more dancers appeared, adding to an already exhilarating performance. The show ended with a crescendo of sound and rhythmic movements - what a spectacle.

There are amenities to suit all on board Braemar. Evenings were a highlight, with imaginative mouth-watering menus, followed by shows in the lounges and theatre.

Our last port of call was Santarem, where we journeyed to the picturesque village of Alter do Chao on the banks of Lake Altar. In the middle of the lake is a pretty island; a canoe ferried us over and we stepped off onto soft white sand. We had a cold beer listening to the aquamarine water softly lapping around our feet. Paradise!

Sadly, it was time to say a fond farewell to the Amazon, and we had four days relaxing at sea before visiting four Caribbean Islands. Each island had its own highlights, including Grenada’s Grand Anse beach, rated one of the top ten beaches in the world. St. Lucia is dominated by two Pitons rising 2,500 ft, a striking sight. One of Dominica’s highlights is the Emerald Pool in a lush green setting. All three islands are characterised by rolling hills, dense rain forests, mountains, deep valleys with narrow winding roads ablaze with tropical plants and shrubs giving off intoxicating fragrances.

Our final stop was Barbados. We visited Harrisons Cave, marvelling at its underground treasure including stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and bubbling streams.

This Fred.Olsen cruise was perfectly balanced, with an innovative itinerary enhanced by excellent tours, ensuring we captured an amazing Amazon adventure and Caribbean delights.

* Braemar’s classic Caribbean cruises are always a favourite, and Fred. Olsen’s fly-cruise programme includes more varied itineraries, reaching increasing numbers of islands across the Caribbean region.

* For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit the website at, or call Reservations on 0800 0355 242 (Monday, Friday, 8am - 8pm; Saturday, 9am -5pm; Sunday, 10am - 4pm).