Having watched a TV documentary on the mighty Amazon I was smitten. However, my wife fancied a Caribbean cruise.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines solved the domestic, as their good ship Braemar was visiting the Amazon region along with four Caribbean islands.

Braemar, a smaller scaled ship which reaches places larger vessels can’t, was berthed in Manaus, a city on the Amazon, 900 miles from the Atlantic coast. With the staffs enthusiastic welcome onboard, we immediately felt at home.

We set about exploring the city, where street entertainers mingled with locals, before our first excursion in a motorised canoe; skipper Cosmo and Joseph our guide took us to the famous ‘Meeting of the Waters’ where the dark waters of the Rio Negro meets the yellow of Rio Solimoes, but never mix.

This natural phenomenon arises from the rivers having different origins, depths, currents and temperatures. I put my hand in to feel the temperature and speed of both currents - an uncanny experience.

We sailed past floating communities; I admired skills of local fishermen in canoes battling against fast currents, whilst paddling with one hand and casting nets with the other. We left the canoe and trekked into the jungle, a long wooden bridge brought us to a lake where we saw the giant lily pads, spanning up to three metres wide. Legend has it, a beautiful girl fell into the lake and Mother Nature turned her into a lily.

A local man persuaded me to let him place a large Giboia snake around my neck, a nervous experience; I was more comfortable holding a baby sloth.

Our canoe entered tiny tributaries further into the jungle where floating reeds are home to exotic birds, fish leaping out of the water and an anaconda swimming just below the surface within touching distance. This was an exhilarating adventure.

Then a visit to the indigenous Tucan tribe.Welcomed by the Chief in full regalia, he took us to his ceremonial hut where tribal members performed dancing and singing accompanied by pipes and drums. We feasted on succulent fish cooked on a low burning fire along with tapioca and baked bread.

Our next port of call was Parintins - where the Rio Negro joined the mighty Amazon, an amazing visual phenomenon. Witness to the most sought after cultural festivals in Brazil, the Boi Bumba, we enjoyed a private show; a large troupe of dancers, a vibrant rhythm section and a crescendo of sound and rhythmic movement.

Life on board Braemar was good; guest lectures, friendly competitions, interactive deck games as we relaxed under a blue sky with only the flying fish for company. Evenings involved mouth-watering menus, followed by shows in the lounges and theatre.

Our last port of call was Santarem, and you can’t visit Brazil without going to a beach. We journeyed to the picturesque village of Alter do Chao on the banks of Lake Altar. In the middle of the lake is a small picture-perfect island. A canoe ferried us over, and we stepped onto white, soft sand. We drank cold beer listening to the aquamarine water softly lapping around our feet - paradise!

After a fond farewell to the Amazon, and the thrills of Brazil, we had four days relaxing at sea before visiting four Caribbean Islands. Shore excursions enabled us to see as much of them as possible.

Highlights including Grenada’s Grand Anse beach, rated one of the top ten in the world and St. Lucia’s domination by two Pitons rising 2,500 ft, is a striking sight. Dominica’s gem is the Emerald Pool in a lush green setting. All three islands are characterised by rolling hills, dense rain forests, mountains, deep valleys with narrow winding roads ablaze with tropical plants and shrubs giving off intoxicating fragrances.

Our final stop Barbados; its capital Georgetown, and tourist attaction Harrisons Cave complete with stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and bubbling streams.

The cruise left us with indelible memories of the best of both worlds.

Chris Hutchinson

Braemar’s classic ‘Caribbean’ cruises are always a favourite, and Fred. Olsen’s fly-cruise programme includes more varied itineraries, reaching more islands across the Caribbean region.

For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit the websites at www.fredolsencruises.com, or call Reservations on 0800 0355 242