For our sixteenth cruise, and our fourth on Princess, we choose the Royal Princess exotic cruise down the Amazon River and up through the Southern Caribbean. Anyone who has read our previous reviews of Sun Princess and Pacific Princess knows our opinion of the Princess Cruise Line. I will not repeat the superlatives about food, service, accomodations, entertainment, activities and shore excursions from those reviews, but will just say that in every way the Royal Princess lives up to the Princess reputation. We had a wonderful time on her and found this exotic itinerary to be really exciting!

We choose to use Princess cruise/air, and were booked out of SFO to FLL the night before sailing, which gave me a chance to have the garlic crab at the Rustic Inn Crab House in Fort Lauderdale.

Bright and early the next morning we got up and got on the charter flight to Manaus, and on arriving in Brazil got on the ship. Like all Princess ships it was wonderful! We had a nice little outside cabin with a big window so we could look out and see the river. It even had a bathtub ... quite a luxury for a ship! We started eating right away, and didn't quit the whole trip! That night we went to the show, and the comedian said "Isn't is nice to be on a ship for 12 days to play rich!?!?" I think he had it right!

The next day Renée went on the Jungle Trek, and that afternoon we rode a ferry boat up the Rio Negro to the meeting of waters. At that point you can see the "black" river and the "brown" river meeting, and combining to form the Amazon. Then we took little motorized canoes to Lake January, home of the giant lily pads. It was very interesting.

There were dozens of little kids in canoes with their dads, paddling up to the boat to have their pictures taken, most of them with some kind of animal ... I took pictures of kids with three toed sloths, boa constrictors, caymans (like little alligators), parrots, lorikeets, monkeys ... and gave each of them a dollar, of course! Those kids sure learn young to say "one dollah"!

The next day we stopped at the little river village of Boca de Valeria. The ship's tenders took us up a little creek to this village which consisted of about a dozen wooden huts on stilts, and two more substantial buildings up on the hill... the church and the school. They say the population is 75, but there were at least 150 kids alone ... all saying "one dollah!" We saw sloths, parrots, snakes, lorikeets, and so on again, as well as one big alligator (with his jaws tied up), a capybara (like a giant rat) and a coati (like a raccoon).

There were lots of kids in indian costumes (made of cardboard and colored feathers). I guess we tourists are seriously corrupting a native way of life, but to salve our conscience we took along a big bag of school supplies from Staples and left it for the school teacher. We had pencils, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, drawing tools like rulers and protractors, and also some little stickers. I hope they can put them to good use.

That evening as we sat in the lounge listening to Jose Daniel Rembadi, the classical guitarist, we saw a school of pink Amazon dolphins playing around the ship! They are beautiful!

Then we sailed down the river to Santarem, which isn't much as a city, but there we both took a Jungle Trek. The book said "Your guide takes you for a walk in the jungle." It DIDN'T say the walk in the jungle lasts an hour and a half!! It was hot sweaty work, along muddy little jungle trails. At least they gave us walking sticks.

Hard as it was, it was very interesting, and we saw a lot of things we couldn't have seen otherwise. There were beautiful deep blue butterflies as big as your two hands together! And Renée held a baby boa constrictor. She says she could feel the snake's muscles as it wound around her hand. Better her than me!

That afternoon we went to a compound where they were demonstrating native crafts. We saw how manioc is made from the tapioca plant, how rubber trees are tapped (Renée bought some dolphins made of the native latex), how Brazil nuts are harvested, big fish fresh caught from the river, all the fruits of the area and so on. It was pretty interesting, and apparently they had been paid by the tour company because nobody said "one dollah"!

We spent the next day cruising down the river, and Renée and I (with four teammates) won the ship's trivia contest twice! Every night we had a nice show, or music in the lounge, or a bit of play in the Casino. Renée won $60 on a slot machine the second night, so that paid for our gambling for several nights!!

Then we stopped at Devil's Island, which was featured in the movie Papillon. There is nothing but ruins there, but the views are pretty and we had a nice walk around the island. We saw the cliff from which Papillon jumped onto his raft made of coconuts for his daring escape.

Then we went to Trinidad, where we had a nice tour around. We saw where they were preparing for the steel drum compteition for Carnival ... there were literally hundreds of little trailers full of steel drums for the different bands which would be participating. Then we went to a night club and saw a local cultural show with native dancing of the different cultures of Trinidad, from the Indians through the Spanish to the steel drums! Renée got her picture taken with the steel drum band, and bought three CDs!

Then we went to Dominica. It is a very small island, and the prettiest we have seen in the Caribbean! There are flowers all over as well as beautiful trees, which turn white when the wind blows their leaves over. Renée went snorkeling at Champagne Reef, which is filled with bubbles from the hot vents under the sea, and saw lots of fish, squid and moray eels.

Then we were at Tortola. Renée went snorkeling again, and in the afternoon we took the island tour. It wasn't very exciting, but we saw a nice botanical garden. From the top of the mountain you can see the Atlantic Ocean on one side of you and the Caribbean Sea on the other side. I wonder how many island tours we have been on by now? I should count it up!!

Then we had two days at sea, relaxing, playing trivia, and sitting in the Horizon Lounge far above the ocean, listening to our favorite guitarist. Who would have figured that was the music we would like?

Finally we arrived at Ft Lauderdale. Since we had a late flight out, we had time to take an Everglades tour and ride in an airboat! It really is a great experience ... Renée really liked it. Then we flew out and got into San Francisco late at night. The arrangements made by Princess were horrible, involving two stop overs and a very late night arrival.

All in all it was a great cruise. As can be expected on a longer cruise on this type of itinerary, the passengers were mostly of the senior type, but most of them were a lot of fun! I thoroughly recommend this itinerary and ship to anyone.

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