Brazil's former capital and fifth largest city is situated on a high bluff above the immense Bay of All Saints. With a population of over two million, Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia. Its pronounced African influence goes back to the slaves who were brought here to work in the sugar cane fields more than 400 years ago. Their rich cultural heritage is evident in music, dance, cuisine and the CandomblÐ ¹ religion. This is in stark contrast to the city's Portuguese colonial past that began with the founding of Salvador in 1549 and marked the start of the colonial Portuguese empire in Brazil. The mixture of old and new, rich and poor, African and European, religious and profane makes Salvador, after Rio, the country's second-ranking tourist destination. Like Rio's Cariocas, the people of Salvador have a penchant for life, perhaps most evident in the celebration of Carnival.
Salvador is divided into upper and lower sections, connected by a series of steep roads, stairways and the Lacerda public elevator. Multicolored buildings surrounding Pelourinho Square, narrow cobblestone streets, a colorful market and countless churches make a picturesque and fascinating historic center. Toward the mouth of the bay lies the newer section, with skyscrapers and some fine homes built during the last century. Farther out, at Porto da Barra, are the best city beaches, bars and restaurants. At the mouth of the bay stands the Fort of San Antonio, built on the spot where Amerigo Vespucci landed in 1501. The road along the seafront passes the famous lighthouse and leads to Salvador's new suburbs along a string of golden beaches.
Caution: Guests are urged to leave expensive jewelry, watches and other valuables aboard the ship. Be aware of pickpockets. Avoid using the Lacerda elevator between the lower and upper town; it is a favorite target for would-be thieves.