Our journey through South America brought us to Recife, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and a hotspot for music, culture, architecture, and so much more. We were greeted like celebrities when we approached the dock, where a military frevo brass band welcomed us with festive rhythms played on trumpets, saxophones, trombones, and backed by lively percussion. At one point, a female soldier dressed in army green with a rifle slung over her shoulder provided lead vocals. Frevo, which is a fascinating blend of European brass band marching music and Afro-Brazilian rhythms, is a staple of Recife’s unique carnival tradition, quite distinct from the music to the south in Rio de Janeiro.

We learned more about frevo when we visited Recife’s nearby sister city of Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage site with colorful, Portuguese colonial architecture that makes this a must-visit destination. After exploring the lovely 17th century St. Francis Convent, we strolled up to a cultural center that specializes in building the giant puppets that are a standard part of Recife’s carnival parades. Frevo dancers greeted us, performing acrobatic steps with small umbrellas in their hands to enhance their movements. The organization’s museum featured giant puppets in the likenesses of famous international figures, ranging from Bob Marley to Mickey Mouse, as well as plenty of less-familiar local celebrities.

After exploring the beautiful streets of Olinda, we journeyed by bus to the grounds of the Ricardo Brennand Institute, a one-of-a-kind museum and park that houses a jaw-dropping collection of art and artifacts from Brazil’s colonial period. Founded by a Brazilian collector and businessman, the institute includes one of the largest collections of armaments from the 14th to 19th centuries, along with many curiosities, such as a display of over 1,000 teacups. Not just any teacups; these were exclusively teacups with a special insert designed to keep one’s mustache from getting wet.

I have visited Recife in the past and was charmed by the city’s lively arts scene and unique character, so I was happy that our guests got a chance to experience the area firsthand. Hopefully, it will become a regular part of Lindblad’s itineraries, as there is so much more to explore in this colorful destination in Brazil’s northeast.