Day 1 - Rio de Janeiro As you’ll be able to appreciate when you cruise the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises, in its position on the southern shore of the magnificent Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro has, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most stunning settings in the world. Extending for 20km along an alluvial strip, between an azure sea and forest-clad mountains, the city’s streets and buildings have been moulded around the foothills of the mountain range that provides its backdrop, while out in the bay there are many rocky islands fringed with white sand. The aerial views over Rio are breathtaking, and even the concrete skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline add to the attraction. As the former capital of Brazil and now its second-largest city, Rio has a remarkable architectural heritage, some of the country’s best museums and galleries, superb restaurants and a vibrant nightlife – in addition to its legendary beaches. A shore excursion on your MSC South America cruise can be the opportunity to visit the Pão de Açúcar. The Sugar Loaf Mountain rises where Guanabara Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its name may simply reflect a resemblance to the moulded loaves in which sugar was once commonly sold. Alternatively, it may be a corruption of the indigenous Tamoya word Pau-nh-Açuquá, meaning “high, pointed or isolated hill”. On the top of Corcoavado Mountain instead the Art Deco statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), arms outstretched in welcome, stands 30m high and weighs over 1000 tonnes. It was supposed to be completed for Brazil’s centenary independence celebrations in 1922, but wasn’t actually finished until 1931. In clear weather, fear no anticlimax: climbing to the statue is a stunning experience, with the whole of Rio and Guanabara Bay laid out before you.
Day 2 - Buzios On a peninsula north of Cabo Frio, Armação dos Búzios, or just Búzios, is an immensely scenic resort full of high-spending beautiful people, and a very popular port of call on holidays to Brazil with MSC Cruises. Armação, the main settlement, is built in a vaguely colonial style, its streets lined with restaurants, bars and chic boutiques, and has been nicknamed “Brazil’s St Tropez”. It comes then as little surprise to find that it was “discovered” by none other than Brigitte Bardot, who stumbled upon it while touring the area in 1964. Búzios consists of three main settlements, Manguinos, Armação and Ossos, each with its own distinct character. Manguinos, on the isthmus, is the main service centre, with a tourist office, a medical centre and banks. Midway along the peninsula, linked to Manguinos by a road lined with brash hotels, is Armação, an attractive village where cars are banned from some of the cobbled roads. Most of Búzio’s best restaurants and boutiques are concentrated here, along with some of the resort’s nicest pousadas, or inns, and there’s also a helpful tourist office on the main square, Praça Santos Dumont. When you step ashore from your MSC cruise, a fifteen-minute walk along the Orla Bardot – which follows the coast from Armação, passing the lovely seventeenth-century Igreja de NossaSenhora de Sant’Ana on the way –, brings you to Ossos, the oldest settlement, comprising a pretty harbour, a quiet beach and a few bars, restaurants and pousadas. Within walking distance of all Búzios’ settlements are beautiful white-sand beaches – 27 in total – cradled between rocky cliffs and promontories, and lapped by crystal-clear waters. The beaches are varied, with the north-facing ones having the calmest and warmest seas, while those facing the south and east have the most surf.
Day 3 - Ilhabela Without a shadow of a doubt, Ilhabela is one of the most beautiful spots on the Brazilian coast between Santos and Rio. When you step ashore from your MSC cruise ship you’ll feel surrounded by nature. Of volcanic origin, the island’s startling mountainous scenery rises to 1370m and is covered in dense tropical foliage. With 83 percent of the island protected within the boundaries of the Parque Estadual de Ilhabela, the dozens of waterfalls, beautiful beaches and azure seas have contributed to the island’s popularity. Old or new, most of the buildings are in simple Portuguese-colonial styles – as far removed from brash Guarujá as you can get. The island is a haunt of São Paulo’s rich who maintain large and discreetly located homes on the coast, many of which have mooring facilities for luxury yachts or helicopter landing-pads. Almost all of the island’s 30,000 inhabitants live along the sheltered western shore, with the small village of Vila Ilhabela (often referred to as “Centro”) serving as the main population centre. On an MSC South America cruise excursion you can visit Vila Ilhabela, which has a few pretty colonial buildings, dominated by the Igreja Matriz, a little church completed in 1806. Situated on a hill, the white-and-blue wedding cake-like building has a Spanish-marble floor and provides both a cool retreat from the sun and a good view over the area. Following the coastal road south from Vila Ilhabela along the mainland-facing shore, the beaches are small, but pleasant enough, the calm waters are popular with windsurfers, and bars and restaurants dot the roadside as far as Perequê, the island’s second-biggest town, about halfway south along the island and the location of the port. There are more attractive beaches on the further-flung coasts of the island, most of which can be reached by schooner and/or jeep.
Day 4 - Santos,Brazil Santos, one of Portugal’s first New World settlements, was founded in 1535. Today your MSC ship will be docking in Latin America’s largest port, through which passes a large proportion of the world’s coffee, sugar and oranges. The city stands partly on São Vicente island, its docking facilities and old town facing landwards, with ships approaching by a narrow, but deep, channel. Its compact centre retains a certain charm that’s massively popular with local tourists, and there is a good deal of historical and maritime interest around the city. On an MSC South America cruise excursion to the city centre you’ll find the ruins of some of Santos’s most distinguished buildings along Rua do Comércio. Although sometimes only the facades remain, some of the nineteenth-century former merchants’ houses that line the street are gradually being restored, the elaborate tiling and wrought-iron balconies offering a hint of the old town’s lost grandeur. MSC South America cruises also offer excursions to the local Santos Futebol Clube. It’s best known as the club for which the great Pelé played for most of his professional life (from 1956 to 1974); their stadium, the Vila Belmiro, is open to the public when there’s no game on. In addition to honouring Pelé at the club’s small museum, you can take an hour-long guided tour including the players’ bar and dressing rooms. Santos’s beaches are across town from Centro on the south side of the island. The beaches are huge, stretching around the Atlantic-facing Baía de Santos, and popular in summer.
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