Rio, Buenos Aires & CruiseAuthor: Sheldon Friedland
Date of Trip: March 2012
Rio de Janeiro -- very exciting city. Good restaurants and hotels.
Carretao -- Brazilian restaurant where they cut the meats right at your table. - Meats were good. Salads and sides ok but not to an American’s taste. Good: flank steak, marinated steak, boned chicken, sausage. Coke about $3.
Plataforma -- This is a Brazilian Folkloric dance show. Not up to the standards of Vegas and certainly not near the precision of the Rockettes. A mixed bag of fancy costumes of another era, acrobats and barely clad overweight girls doing the hootchie cootchie without much success.
Hotel Copacabana Palace- Nice hotel that’s seen better days. I had expected more for the $600 per night rooms. They were a little roomy but not by much. Big pool area. Wall outlets accepted US style plugs. Free Internet was provided throughout hotel. Included breakfast buffet was ample with many choices. There was also an omelet station. The service staff was very helpful and polite.
English was spoken throughout. The beach is right across the street and the hotel maintains a staff person who will provide towels and chairs right there. There is also a large pool with many chairs and food and drink service. The hotel is located in a busy part of town with many shops. The Ipanema beach is a short drive away.
Oceania Cruise from Rio down the coast of Brazil, Uruguay and Buenos Aires: The Concierge level was ok but rooms were a bit small for a 12-day cruise but nicely laid out. The food was certainly ample and good with a few lapses: refills on breakfast coffee were never hot; the French toast was not cooked through; the USDA prime steak in the Polo Grill was the toughest I have ever tried. The meal in Toscano, the Italian specialty restaurant, was the best on the trip. The lobster was very good as were salads and most lunches.
Entertainment was hit or miss. The singers were terrible, the magician, very good. Nice live music from time to time; string quartets, piano and guitar players. Internet services a huge rip off. Almost one buck a minute or get a 100-minute package for $85. Lunches were very good with many choices. The hot dishes changed each day. There was also a small dining area near the pool where you could get hot dogs, hamburgers, shakes, small salads and various sandwiches.
Buenos Aires - El Sanjuanino -- Empenada place -- fab -- lunch for 4 with drinks and dessert and tip about $76. All kinds chicken, meat, ham and cheese, etc Chorizo is a big sausage with mashed potatoes and gravy; delicious!! Terrific cafe . 1515 posadas -- Recoleta area.
Recoleta area in Buenos Aires: Elegant shops, fancy hotels, and beautiful condo units and apartment houses make up much of this area. Some good restaurants also are available and the area is relatively safe for walking around. Many banks also dot the area.
La Cabrera steak house. In the Palermo area. Note: if staying in other areas, give yourself about 1 hour to get to this area as the traffic is very heavy from 6-9 pm. It took us 45 minutes from the Park Hyatt hotel in Recoleta.
This is a very characteristic place with great atmosphere. The steak for 2 is a piece of meat 2 inches high and cooked to your specifications. It is not as tender as the grain-feed beef we get in the USA as all beef in Argentina (and Uruguay as well) is grass fed and tends to be a bit more chewy but quite tasty. They bring a big, long tray of about 20 small cups each of which contains some vegetable like string beans, tomatoes, peppers, and other stuff I never had and didn’t really like. The other couple with us had barbecued chicken and pork chops, both of which were excellent. The entire meal, including a bottle of the terrific Argentine Malbec, a liter of Heinekin, desserts, coffee and tip was $50 bucks a person; yep, just $200 total.
Park Hyatt hotel.
This is a beautiful luxury hotel in the heart of the Recoleta area. The lobby was very big and the rooms were spacious and very well appointed. The bathroom had separate spaces for a tub, a shower, a commode and a sink area. They have a spa and fitness center.
The staff was most helpful and everyone spoke English. The major problem was figuring out the lighting in your room. When you arrive in your room someone takes a full 10 minutes trying to teach you how to turn the lights on and off!! You will never remember all the instructions but just use hit or miss tries to get it close to correct.
There is a huge breakfast buffet available each morning. There is an abundance of art throughout the hotel. A Spa and Fitness center are open from 7 am to 11 pm. They also have a nice wine bar. The room rates start at $925 a night plus 10% tax and not including breakfast. American buffet breakfast is $52 and a continental breakfast is $37. A good travel agent should be able to get it for you for about $600/night including American breakfast, which is what we paid.
The neighborhood is filled with high fashion shops and a 3-story mall is a block away. There’s a Citibank branch 2 blocks away but they will charge you 4 bucks for every ATM withdrawal. Better to stand on line and exchange dollars for pesos. The mall mentioned above also has a money exchange on the lower floor, which gives a good rate for dollar exchanges. Most places accept dollars at the rate of one dollar = 4.3 pesos . Even the cabs we used took dollars.
Locals do not go to tango shows. They are strictly for tourists. The Park Hyatt has a few couples come in 2 night’s a week and perform some dances in the bar and it was very nice. We did go to the Faena hotel a short distance away and for $270 per person we got round trip limo transportation, a full dinner (very good) and a fabulous tango show. Yes its pricey but the value is there.
Give yourself a full 2.5 hours to get to the airport and go through checking luggage, going through security, and going through passport control. There is no curbside check in and you’ve got to go through all 3 stations all of which have long lines. TIP: the airport is very poorly air-conditioned. Wear shorts and a T shirt or other warm weather wear, and change from your carry-on once you go through all the lines.
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