For this posting I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and pull up a comfortable chair. It is a long post because it was the highlight of our trip.
We finally arrived at port in Rio de Janeiro. We were invited to come up to the top deck at 5:30am and see the sights (Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer) as we approached the city. Unfortunately we slept through 5:30am but woke to a weird noise about 7:00am.
We went out on our balcony and couldn't believe what we saw directly below us. A huge group of men were having a party...I guess it had been going on all night long. At that moment we became aware of the enormity of what we were in for.
From where we docked, I got this picture of Christ the Redeemer statue. Not the best shot, but it is as close as we got even though we were in Rio for three days.
When we arrived in Rio on Sunday morning, we were one of eleven cruise ships that were docked there. This means over twenty thousand tourists arrived by cruise ship alone for Carnival. I have no idea how many people converged in Rio for this event, it was more than I could imagine. I can understand why the locals vacate the city during this time.
I am going to share the information I researched about Carnival in Rio throughout this post just so you can appreciate the magnitude of this event.
The parades go on for two nights. Six parades each night, Sunday and Monday.
We bought tickets through the cruise line to see the Monday night parades. We had a choice of ground level box seats at $2,500 per person or grandstand seating for $500 per person. We, of course, bought the grandstand tickets.
After we purchased through the cruise line, Chuck started researching on line and found tickets that were cheaper. He secured less desirable (for view) tickets for Sunday night.
The vendor he bought the tickets from said they would deliver the tickets to the ship and would provide transportation to and from the parade. All of this for about $100 each.
Chuck received an email the day we arrived in Rio from the vendor saying that he could not deliver the tickets to us, we would have to come to a location downtown to pick them up.
We headed out to get the tickets around 9:00am. We wanted to get into town, get the tickets and come back to the ship for a nap because the parades start at 9:00pm and go until 5:30-6:00am the next morning.
Here is a picture of Chuck clowning around with some party people.
Here are some more party folks.
We walked a few blocks so we could see Ipanema beach. Chuck took off his shoes and went and got his feet wet, so he could say he had been in the Atlantic ocean.
Since I was raised in Georgia and have had my feet, and whole body for that matter, in the Atlantic ocean in the likes of Daytona, Ft Lauderdale and Jacksonville beaches, I chose to not walk through the sand and have sand in my shoes for the rest of the day.
We finally made it to the address that was given us to get our tickets. I could not believe the line of people. It weaved out the door of the building and down the block. Luckily, since ours were prepaid, we were able to pick up our tickets and be on our way.
Here are my tickets...
We headed back to the ship and tried to sleep. I was so excited I just couldn't fall asleep.
We were picked up in a big bus, along with other tourists and transported to the Sambadrome. The Sambadrome is the name of the special venue for the parades. It holds 90,000 spectators. It is about 2500 ft. long. Since a football field is 360 ft in length, it is about the length of seven football fields.
We had nice chairs with backs and lots of leg room to view the parade. We were located at the very end of the parade. We could only see the top half of the floats and none of the people walking and dancing in the parade. Still, the excitement was overwhelming.
Here is the top of one float. You notice all the ropes attached to the horse, this is so that it could move, like a puppet. No motors are allowed. All the movement of the floats is done by man power.
Here is the top of another float.
It was fun watching some of the spectators. They were locals and not tourists like us. They knew what was going on...sang along with the songs and danced in front of their seats.
We were able to see on the big screen what we were missing at the ground level. I am sure that what we were seeing was being broadcast all over Brazil, or all over South America or maybe even the world.
Here is the top of a float that had a replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue.
We had so much fun even though we only saw the top half of the parades. I am glad we went on Sunday night to this venue, because it gave us a preview of what we were in for on Monday night.
It took us almost two hours to get back to the boat because most of the streets were blocked due to the parade.
We slept very late Monday. No going into the city of Rio for us, we had a very very late lunch and rested for the big event that lied ahead.
Before I tell you about Monday's parades, I will share some information about what is actually happening.
Rio has over 100 Samba schools. Although they are called Samba schools, they are not really schools. They are dance clubs that are made up of thousands of people. Each Samba school starts preparing for Carnival around July or August. They come up with a theme for their parade, write their own songs, choreograph their dances, make their own floats and elaborate costumes. It is no small task with up to 3,000 participants in a single parade.
In order to finance this extravaganza they get sponsorships from all over the world...New York City, Pepsi Cola, even the country of Canada has sponsored a parade.
The parades are judged and the schools compete with each other, like sports teams, to win the right to be in the granddaddy of parades in the Sambadrome for Carnival. Think of it as going to the Super Bowl. (It is starting to make since why the tickets cost so much...Super Bowl tickets are not cheap.)
Only 12 Samba schools earn the right to participate. Six on Sunday night and six on Monday night. Even at the big event the twelve schools are judged against each other to choose the number one Samba school.
Some areas that are judged are:
Time: The parade is to last one hour and twenty minutes...if it lasts just a few minutes longer points are deducted. It takes a lot of coordination to get the parade from one end of the Sambadrome to the other end and finish at the exact time.
Theme: Each school has a theme for their parade and they are judged on how well they express the theme in the parade.
Samba Song: Each school writes a song for the parade.
Flow and Spirit: They are judged on how well the parade flows. They lose points if gaps form in the parade. They are also judged on how much spirit they show. This makes for a lot of excitement for the spectators.
Floats and Props: This explains why the floats are so incredible. Some are several stories high. As I said before, they are not motorized and are pushed from beneath or behind by hand. There are spotters, wearing headphones, who signal the pushers when to push and when to stop.
Costumes: As you will see in the upcoming pictures, the costumes are incredible. It must be very hard to judge them.
Flag Carrying Couple: Each parade has a beautifully costumed couple. The woman carries the flag (colors) of the Samba School. They are judged on how they interact with each other, for example, if the man turns his back on the woman, they lose points.
Now, with this background information, let's go to the parade.
This time we were in Sector 9, which is in the middle of the parade route, not at the end. We were in the grandstands. No nice chair with a back, no foot room, we were squeezed in like sardines. We could, however, see the whole parade, not just the top half.
We were provided cushions to use on the concrete seats. I thought this was because the concrete was so hard, but that is not why. The temperature is so hot during the day, the concrete absorbs the heat and even at 9:00pm they are too hot to sit on without protection.
We were given programs that explained each parade, what the theme was, the words to each parades songs, and a description of each float. The only problem is that it was all in Portuguese.
These pictures show the view from our seats to the beginning of the parade and a view the other way toward the end of the parade route.
Here we go:
Each parade has a percussion section and each percussion section has an elaborately adorned beauty as it's mascot.
Here you can see the TV camera getting a close up. These are the women you see so much of when you see pictures from Carnival.
The floats are full of people. Here is a close up of just two of them. The floats have to be light weight to be pushed by hand but sturdy enough to hold up to 50 or more dancing people.
Some more fabulous costumes.
A couple of floats full of people.
More fabulous costumes. These girls were gliding along...they must have been on roller blades.
Looking down from our seat. Thank goodness we had binoculars. Chuck used the binoculars while I used my camera.
This parades theme had to do with the great operas. We recognized these costumes to be from "Carmen."
Ah, here are the Flag Carrying Couple.
Another pretty lady heading the percussion section.
Another Flag Carrying Couple
We made it through four parades and got back to the ship between 3:00 and 4:00am.
I wouldn't swap that experience for anything. But now that we have done it, I don't have a need to redo it. We have it checked off the bucket list. Time to move on.
We slept well into Tuesday. We pulled ourselves out of bed again for a very late lunch.
We went into the port area and did a little shopping and got back on the boat for the sail away.
The sun was starting to set as we left Rio. It seemed like everyone was reluctant to say goodbye. The scenery was beautiful leaving so it didn't matter that we did not see it coming into Rio.
Wow, what a once in a life time adventure.
I will share about our trip back to Buenos Aires on the next post.