One of the things that Viking Cruises specifically tries to do is to take its passengers to ports which are less frequented by other cruise lines. That certainly felt the case with Parintins, a town which sits on Tupinambarana, a group of adjacent islands surrounded by the convergence of four rivers. The endless surging current divided the once singular island into four, making Parintins an interesting example of the Amazon’s power.
Of all the places we visited along the Amazon, Parintins was the most normal place, a small town filled with all the essentials local people might need – a market, large church. However, each June, it hosts Brazil’s largest carnival celebration after Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, known as the Boi Bumba.
Parintins is making use of cruise tourism and has built a convention centre only a short walk from the disembarkation point especially to house shorter performances of this yearly carnival. The Bull Festival recounts the folk tale of two bulls whose teams strive to outperform each other. The tension mounts until the appearance of a shaman results in a joyous celebration in the life of the bull. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t exactly terribly clear what was going on all the time, but it really didn’t matter.
This was no toned down tourist show, the thirty strong cast donned fabulous carnival costumes and performed long gymnastic routines which lasted up to ten minutes apiece to the lively heart-pounding music. There were flotillas wheeled too and from the stage, which took great co-ordination, and there were several carnival stars who emerged in full technicolour glory. In all, the show lasted a full awe-inspiring ninety minutes.
We had a full day in Parintins, so Tom and I had a great walk around the town and lunch in a bar overlooking the river, called Carne Na Tabua, – cassava chips and deep-fried manchego-type cheese bites with a chilli sauce. Back on the Viking Sea, which has a specific focus on destination fare, we had Brazilian churrasco (or BBQ).