A grand Amazon River adventure

High in the Peruvian Andes, the Amazon River begins its long and mysterious journey, snaking like a giant serpent across the belly of South America. Joined by 1,000 tributaries, it carries one quarter of the planet's free flowing water before it decants on Brazil's Atlantic coast. One-third of our oxygen supply is hooked up to the dense rain forest that flanks this amazing river.

Next January 2, the Alumni Association invites alumni and friends to explore the Amazon River aboard Royal Olympic Cruise Line's flagship, Stella Solaris. The 14-day cruise combines visits to five Caribbean islands with the mystery of the Amazon and concludes in Manaus, Brazil. Those who want to escape the entire month of January can stay on board for the 27-day round trip. On board will be National Geographic Society's chief consultant on South America, Captain Loren McIntyre, who, along with other expert lecturers, will share his knowledge and insights in an onboard enrichment program. McIntyre is an explorer, author and photographer who is credited with discovering the most distant source of the Amazon.

The cruise departs from Port Everglades, Florida, and calls at the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and Tobago before crossing the equator to reach South America and the mouth of the Amazon River.

Proceeding up the Amazon, the Stella Solaris will anchor at the mouth of the Curua-Una River. One of the Amazon's tributaries, the Curua-Una is a blackwater river that leads into the dense rain forest. For a glimpse of the primeval, passengers can travel along the river on a local riverboat. Crossing Victoria-Regia Lake where giant water lilies grow, the adventurous can fish for the voracious piranha if they wish. For the less adventurous there's a visit to a casa da farinha (flour house) where native manioc flour is produced and the opportunity to observe the jungle flora and fauna.

As the Stella Solaris cruises along the Amazon, passengers can observe thatched roof villages, swim in the pristine waters of the Rio Tapajos, and bargain for wares alongside Amazon miners at Mercado Modelo in Santarem. Santarem is one of the Amazon's most important trading centers, and serves hundreds of villages located along the rivers. Its location is at the point where the Tapajos and Amazon Rivers meet, forming the "Meeting of the Waters". The two rivers join but do not mix and can be seen running side by side, each bearing its own individual color.

The Stella Solaris arrives in the 19th-century rubber boom town of Manaus, now a city of 1.5 million, which has no road access to the rest of Brazil for most of the year, and ties up at the city's floating pontoon landing stage. Here passengers can visit the impressive and elegant Teatro Amazonas and see a performance which gives a historical overview of the Amazon region and Manaus. Those who want to explore more of the Amazon can journey down the Rio Negro to Lake January to a great natural wildlife reserve. There's even an alligator spotting tour for the more adventurous.

Many of the passengers stay on board for the 27-day round trip cruise, spending 3 days in Manaus and visiting Trinidad and the lovely Caribbean islands of Bequia, St. Vincent, Antigua and Puerto Rico on the cruise back to Port Everglades. Prices for the 14-day cruise start at $3,451 CDN including air and, for the 27-day cruise, from $5,037 CDN including air.

Royal Olympic Cruise Lines, formerly Sun Line, pioneered Amazon River cruises and have been running them for 16 years. The Stella Solaris carries 620 passengers, and its officers and hotel staff are Greek, although its cruise staff is international. The ship was redecorated in 1995 and has a pleasant ambiance and excellent food and service.

For reservations & information call Edith Knott, at (604) 656-5357 CruiseShipCenters' UVic Alumni Travel Program or come to Cruise Night at the Faculty Club on May 29th at 7:30 p.m.

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