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« on: February 22, 2008, 10:00:26 PM »

Just back from Iberostar Grand Amazon - Borrowed Review

Back from the Iberostar!! LOVED IT.

I will attempt to keep this short but let you know as much as I can.

After a little hiccup with our transfer to the port from the Manaus airport we finally made it to the ship with plenty of time before boarding. It was Sunday so rather than walk around a market across the street from the port entrance (only a few of the stalls were opened) we decided to grab a table and some drinks and wait it out. When we could board there was no line whatsoever. We discover later that there were only 47 people booked on the cruise, my party (two couples), two other couples traveling separately, and a Vantage Travel tour group. So it was a nice small and quiet passage. We were two couples in our late 30s. The tour group was retirement age. We heard the average age outside of the tour groups was 30s and 40s. We had a great time with the people from Vantage, although their tour guide made us feel like outsiders.

Shipís common areas were very nice and clean. Our room was surprisingly spacious, nice bathroom, nice balcony, mini bar (with soft drinks, water and beer that they will fill up, but I did have to call to get them to do this). We got turndown service every night complete with nice chocolates, fresh towels several times a day. Canít complain about the room at all.

Food was good in the main dining room. (Didnít care for the offerings on the top pool deck, donít waste your time, and the tables on that deck need some workówater damage.) Really nice three square meals. Nice wines at lunch and dinner, great attentive staff. They offer a local fish or meat at dinner. I have to admit I wasnít wowed buy the lobster at the captainís dinner. Great hot buffet offerings, soups, salads and desserts. Dress was pretty casual (although no shorts at dinner), even at the captains dinner (our last night, we did the 4-day cruise). A few of the men wore ties that night, but overall a casual tone.

Nice pool, Jacuzzi and loungers.

We had stunning weather. April is the wet season and we only had rain here and there and never during an excursion. We had bright skies and sun. We heard the week before was rain every day!

Excursions: 2-to-3 a day. Two offered in the morning (except for one day) a hike or a boat tour. We chose the hikes each day. Donít expect to see a lot of wildlife on the hike, but I would recommend them. Learned a lot about the Amazon jungle and plants, trees, etc. But you wonít see birds, monkeys, snakes *smile*, or things like that on the hike. But if you enjoy being surrounded by lush nature then do this in the morning. After the excursion there is a lecture onboard by the guides before lunch. The next excursion is in the late afternoon (4pm) and these are boat rides. Since it is late afternoon it is a perfect time to see wildlife. We saw TONS of birds, a few monkeys and sloths. A plus, we had great views of sunsets. This excursion was a great opportunity for photos. I kept thinking this was their idea of photo-safaris. And while I canít remember exactly, they might call these excursions photo-safaris. One night after dinner we went on an alligator hunt. While we only saw the red eyes of one large cayman, our guide (Marco, LOVED HIM!!) caught two babies (well one he figured was over a year old and the other was way maybe 2 or 3 years) with his bare hands from our tender. It was pretty amazing. Donít worry he didnít harm them but we did get to touch them.

One excursion is a visit to a local village, which is the only option that morning. It is not an opportunity to hand out money to this village (they have electricity, satellite TV) but there is a small market where the women sell handcrafts. You are never felt you have to buy anything, nor does anyone have their hand out. Interesting time to see how they live away from ďcivilization.Ē

The guides (we were mainly with Marco and Jefferson) were so great and made the trip! Youíll get to feed pink dolphins, catch piranhas, and just take in the Rio Negro. This trip is on a tributary of the Amazon, and our part was not on the Amazon proper. But because the ship is small we were able to get up close and personal with some amazing scenery. I will never forget the parrots and macaws flying over our heads. They filled the sky.

I will tell you that the cruise director said they have issues with reservations. He has heard stories of people saying that Iberostar will tell you the trip is full when in fact they might sail with only 20 people. We booked though an on-line service (Intelligent Leisure Solutions, which I cannot say enough wonderful things. They booked our trip which included Rio and the service was excellent!!!!! I think this is the way to go.) This is Iberostarís only ship (they are a hotel chain) and this ship has only been on the water for 2 years. I was under the impression it was at least 5) and the president of the chain evidently loves boats but they donít know how to market and sell a cruise. I wish I could sell it for them. They have quite a gem on their hands.

It met and surpassed our expectations. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. We just got back a couple of days ago so while it is fresh on my mind I donít want to bore you with useless banter.

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We did the four-day trip. Board on Sunday afternoon and exit on Thursday morning. We thought it was plenty of time. You even see the meeting of the waters Thursday morning. We wished that we had been on the Amazon itself but felt for the time we had this was the way to go.

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First of all, I would do this trip again in a heartbeat. The boat really is great. I loved that it was small and the rooms were big. (Our bathroom on the ship was bigger than our bathroom at the Doubletree Coconut Grove in Miami, I kid you not.) Also a plus with the balcony (which i didn't sit on enough).

We flew on TAM out of Miami and went to Rio for a few days prior to this cruise. It get anywhere in Brazil on TAM (which we got the best fares on) you have to go through Sao Paulo, which did cause some anxious moments because security in all the Brazil airports was pretty over the top. Lines were long and I think in Manaus we went through at least 10 checks prior to boarding! But even with some tight connection times we didnít miss a single flight and had all our luggage when we arrived.

So to Manaus we flew Rio to Sao Paulo to Manaus, and we had plenty of time between touchdown in Manaus and the ship departing. (Although only an hour between our Sao Paulo and Manaus flight, and we had to go back through the main check in area of the Sao Paulo airport to change planes which was a NIGHTMARE.)

There is a direct flight on TAM from Manaus to Miami and it isnít that long of a haul, I think about 3 .5 hours, so we didnít have to do an overnight flight on the way back, which was such a treat!! I canít sleep on flights so I hate the overnight trips. If there is a direct flight out of Manaus you may be able to find a direct in as well on TAM.

One last comment on flights: baggage claim. IT TAKES FOREVER. They spit two bags out at a time and there seemed to be about a 5-minute gab between each 2-bag retrieval. It took an hour in Manaus for our bags to finally come out, and by that time our transfer had already left us! I was to the point of tears and the slow pace!

Hotel in Manaus: We didnít overnight in Manaus but others on our trip stayed at Tropical. We drove through the hotel complex and it is quite large with all the amenities. A couple we spoke to about it didnít have a bad thing to say about it, but that is all I know about the hotels there.

Drinking: As far as I could tell you could drink anywhere. Top deck has a bar, there is a bar in the all-purpose room, we had cocktails in a common area lounge before dinner one night with some other couples and the bartender even brought us a table out there to put our drinks on. Heck, I even took a beer from my mini bar and walked around the ship with it. So no worries on that.

Hike: Donít worry about them. The ones we did were VERY easy and inside the jungle it really wasnít unbearably hot (although the sweat will pour off of you!). I live in Barbados now and am sorta acclimatized to heat, but I didnít think anyone on the hikes was uncomfortable. You arenít in the direct sunlight so it really isnít bad. It felt like strolling though Central Park. J

Water, Water everywhere. They keep a cooler full of bottles of cold water on the tenders so grab one on your way into and out of the hike. The guides make sure you are hydrated.

Bugs: Surprisingly, none of us in my travel party (there were 4 of us) had a single bug bite. They told us that we werenít in an area for mosquitoes, but of course we sprayed anytime we were out. One evening (I think our last) we couldnít go on the upper deck outside because of rain flies, but that was the only time I noticed bugs to be a problem. We have more mosquitoes her in Barbados!

We had our Yellow Fever shot before we went and are still taking malaria meds as well. Donít forget your shots and the malaria meds. We panicked because we had forgotten our inoculation papers that proved we had various shots up to date, and had my father-in-law fax it to us, as I had read somewhere that they check for this in Brazil. But we didnít see any of that going on and no one even inquired about it either. Just thought I would add this bit of info.

We used the pool and jacuzzi one day and both were very nice. Clean and bug-free, and not many people were using them. What more could you ask for?

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Our transfer was arranged by our travel agent and evidently was independent of the ship. We were told that Iberostar does not provide transfers, however they knew about our transfer and made sure the guy came and got us after we were left there. We were lead to believe at the airport that "Iberostar" had already come and gone, but i am not certain that there were any representatives at the airport when we arrived after all since it didn't appear that any of the other guests flew in on that Sunday.

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As a matter of fact we did use the laundry service for pressing and cleaning. Was fast and professional so i would say go for it. I envy you traveling with carry on. . .That would have saved me such angst at the lingering baggage claim.
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IBEROSTAR HOTELS & RESORTS UNOFFICIAL MESSAGE BOARD | IBEROSTAR REVIEWS & PHOTOS  |  IBEROSTAR GRAND AMAZON CRUISE  |  (Leave or Read)A Review of Iberostar Grand Amazon  |  Topic: Just back from Iberostar Grand Amazon - Borrowed Review « previous next »
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