The towering statue of Christ the Redeemer looks down on the city of Rio de Janiera.
The towering statue of Christ the Redeemer looks down on the  Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.

TENS of thousands of soccer fans fly into Brazil this week for the FIFA World Cup, but it is those who arrive by cruise ship that are the real winners.

Their sea vista is stunning, taking in major tourist sights while sailing into Rio de Janeiro’s sheltered harbour. has been lucky enough to cruise to Rio on Celebrity Millennium from Buenos Aires (Argentina) calling into Montevideo (Uruguay) en route, and has never forgotten that celebrated vista of Rio which sits in one of the world’s most picturesque settings,

From the ship’s deck we saw in the distance the outstretched arms of the statue of Christ the Redeemer that sits atop Corcovada Peak, and is reached by cog train before 220 steps to the statue’s base. Also in our sights were Sugarloaf Mountain (reached by glass walled cable car for panoramic views), and the golden beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

In no time we were off the ship to explore a glorious city with a lively Latin atmosphere. There was also time to relax in the Lapa district which is packed with Samba bars selling the national drink of caipirinha, a tangy lime cocktail. Nor could we resist dancing the samba as we had learnt the intricate steps in classes while cruising up to Brazil.

Our ship had by-passed Rio the previous day to make a relaxing port call at the beautiful small coastal town of Buzios, about 150 km to the north. These days it is a buzzing tourist centre and a popular weekender for Rio residents. Back in the 1960’s it was a remote fishing village until the French sex kitten Brigitte Bardot put Buzios, on the international map by staying there with a Latin American boyfriend and the world’s paparazzi in pursuit.

These days Buzios honours the French actress with a bronze statue sitting prominently along the sea promenade. And the town is still known as the Saint-Tropez of South America as Bardot hailed from Saint-Tropez in France.

It is not the cruise season in South America now as that usually runs from November to March, and winds up soon after Rio’s dazzling annual carnival is over. As a result MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina is the only cruise ship to sail into Rio’s port this month  in time for guests to be in Sao Paulo for FIFA’s World Cup’s opening match later this week (June 12),

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