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Circumnavigate The Globe in 123 days with Bill & Mary Ann - 2011 World Cruise

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Maryann & Bill, so happy to find you back on the world cruise!! I get to sail again with you both. Your postings start my day off with a smile...

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What a delight to read! Looking forward to experiencing your world cruise vicariously. Traveling along with you will get us almost halfway to our next cruise!

From another MaryAnn [with Chuck]

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We are thoroughly enjoying your posts. Thanks so much!! When dh retires, we are planning to do a world cruise.

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Report # 7 January 9, 2011 Sunday Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

 

The Amsterdam sailed into the scenic port of Puerto Limon at 6am this morning. It was partly cloudy, but very warm and humid. If we are lucky, there will be little or no rain today.

 

We were just here about a year ago. A new tour had been offered by HAL to the Tayutic Hacienda, a 2 hour ride out of town. So we decided to check it out, since we had done the train, boat, and bus excursion last time.

 

Puerto Limon is fairly small (100,000 people), and is the country's main Caribbean port. Dole and Chiquita have banana and pineapple plants here, shipping their fruit to the rest of the world daily. The real riches of this small country come from their rain forests and reserves. Can you believe these volcanic mountains get over 13 feet of rain annually? No wonder it is so green everywhere you look. Animal life is abundant in these forests. We would see some of them today.

 

Our HAL tour took off early this morning, with a small number of guests escorted by Bronwyn, our friendly tai chi instructor. We had a well-educated guide who talked throughout our 2 hour ride up into the forest and mountains. As we have noticed on past tours, the natives are extremely proud of their country, as they should be. Seems they have the best that can be enjoyed in a Central American country.

 

We arrived at the Tayutic Hacienda around 10am, and immediately were escorted to an interesting tour of the macadamia nut portion of their operation. The equipment used to process these delicious nuts was rudimentary, but efficient. The ranchers also have squirrel problems like we do at home in California. Instead of exterminating the rodents, they offer them substitute food, such as bananas and mangoes in order to save the precious crop. Great idea. We have just about given up on raising walnut, almond, and pistachio trees for their crop. The past few years, we have harvested ZERO!

 

There was supposed to be a coffee process shown, but the beans were not in season, so we we off to the gardens instead. At the top of the property was a small chapel, which happened to be set up for a wedding this afternoon. This chapel overlooked the scenic valley and reservoir below, a perfect setting for the nuptials. By 11am, we were led down to the covered hall for a delicious lunch consisting of coleslaw, black beans, seasoned rice, chicken legs, mixed veggies, and a treat of caramelized pears. Beer was offered at $2. each, however iced tea and water, and coffee were available as well.

 

By noon, we were ushered outside, since it appeared that the staff was setting up the room for the wedding party. A beautifully decorated cake was set up by the doorway. It had the most amusing figurines of a bride chasing the fleeing groom on the top.

 

A miniature gift shop was nearby, and many took advantage of their few items for sale. One clueless lady tried to get two-for-one pricing on their bags of ground coffee. Of course, the staff just laughed it off and said NO. Really, some people are just plain clueless, and it can be embarrassing to the others. Sure, there is a time and place for bargaining, just not here at this place.

 

The sugar cane process shed was across from the dining hall. It was there that they gave a demonstration of how the sugarcane is squeezed with the help of yoked oxen walking endlessly in circles, turning the drums that extracted the sweet juice into a trough below. Actually the oxen seemed happy to be going for a walk, despite the fact that they were going nowhere! Yeah, they are not too smart.

 

The nectar was then transferred to a caldron to boil down to a molasses stage. The man demonstrating this process really put some muscle into the mixing with a huge wooden spoon. Once cooled a bit, crushed macadamia nuts and powdered milk were added to the mix. He continued blending until the candy resembled a mass of creamy confection. He then broke it into chunks, and we all tasted the sweet treat. Many went back for seconds.

 

By the time we left the hacienda, the white-gowned bride was standing on the road below the chapel with her formally-dressed attendants. Sure was a pretty sight, though, we found it amusing that the bride was wearing flip-flops instead of fancy white pumps. It works here, because the grounds were still a bit muddy from overnight rain.

 

On the ride back to the pier, our driver spotted three small toucans in a tree. He stopped for us to take photos of these rarely seen colorful birds. Other wildlife we saw were numerous butterflies and one of Costa Rica's poisonous frogs. Our guide took the time to stop the coach, take the driver, and go on a frog hunt for us to see one of them. The one he found, red and blue color, was one the natives used to poison as many as 40 darts for hunting animals. Now that is a pretty lethal critter.

 

Once back at the pier, we had a little time to browse through the mercado. We were on the hunt for a wooden bowl to hold our pillow chocolates for the duration of the cruise. Costa Rican woods are gorgeous and quite affordable, and we had no problem locating one to buy. Finding salad forks to match, we were back onboard the cool ship in 20 minutes.

 

We forgot to mention that yesterday we had to go to Henk Mensink, the hotel manager, to inquire about the request we had made for a fan in our room. HAL ship's services had reassured us months ago that a fan, a refrigerator, and champagne on ice would be awaiting us in the cabin on day one. Guess what? We had none of the above. The frig was the first to show and it was brand spanking new. Perfect. Our room steward, Zamil, informed us that they had run out of fans. So off we went to see Henk, who told us a new fan would be in our room when we got back from our tour in Costa Rica. To back that up, Wilem, our head of housekeeping, also told us he would take care of us. Well,when it arrived, not only was it new, but it was a Cadillac of a fan.....a 3 1/2 foot missile with three speeds and a timer. Wow, that is impressive. Like we said....these guys are good. The lack of communication with HAL is to blame for this hiccup, we believe. Happens all the time.

 

We were also having problems getting two cocktail glasses delivered to our cabin from room service. Henk said he would take care of this too. Yep, there was a tray full of drink glasses waiting for us after our tour. We 're in business now! Thanks guys.

 

The sailaway party began at 4:30pm, where we enjoyed the tasty treats of meat empanadas poolside. The snacks have improved over the months, due to Chef Bernie's creative mind. It is going to be a wee bit difficult keeping the pounds off!

 

Our dinner companions are really a lot of fun. Seems that everyone is quite compatable, and enjoy sharing amazing stories with one another. Recalling funny things that have occurred on previous cruises with our friends, kept us in stitches all evening. Dinner was over in a flash, good as ever, and it was time to go to the show or whatever. A Latin harpist, Shirley Dominguez, was the entertainer tonight. Unfortunately, we lost the hour we were given two days ago, with the clocks being set forward one hour. How rude! Doubt we will be up early to watch the entrance into the Panama Canal at 6am!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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I was so happy today to see that you are starting your world cruise and taking us along again. I have so enjoyed your previous voyages. The posts are always entertaining and I learn sooooo much.

 

I hope this years voyage exceeds all of your expectations!!!!!!! Thank you for taking us along again.

 

Cherie

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Report # 7 January 9, 2011 Sunday Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

 

 

 

pears. Beer was offered at $2. each, however iced tea and water, and coffee were available as well.

 

 

 

 

. A Latin harpist, Shirley Dominguez, was the entertainer tonight. Unfortunately, we lost the hour we were given two days ago, with the clocks being set forward one hour. How rude! Doubt we will be up early to watch the entrance into the Panama Canal at 6am!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

Did you hear Shirley Dominquez? I heard several performances of hers a couple of years ago and she is marvelous.... not your standard harp or harpest.

 

Susan

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Report # 7 January 9, 2011 Sunday Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

 

A Latin harpist, Shirley Dominguez, was the entertainer tonight. Unfortunately, we lost the hour we were given two days ago, with the clocks being set forward one hour. How rude! Doubt we will be up early to watch the entrance into the Panama Canal at 6am!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

From my blog on last year's Pacific crossing on the Crystal Symphony

 

The evening's entertainment was harp virtuoso Shirley Dominguez. I believe I have seen Ms. Dominguez perform on previous Crystal cruises, but had forgotten just how stunning a harp performance can be. She performed tonight, mostly latin music but also a variety of other genres including a superb Mamma Mia, on a harp from Paraguay. The sound was quite distinctive with a flair reminiscent of a steel drum.

 

Roy

 

I was very lucky; Ms. Dominguez gave an encore performance later in the cruise. Bill and Mary Ann, if you missed this performance and there's a followup opportunity, I can't recommend it highly enough.

 

Roy

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Dear Mary Ann & Bill,

 

I am truely enjoy following your journy - thank you. Are you also this year writing a separate blog with pictures for the pleasure of others to view?. If so, may I kindly ask you for such web-address.

 

Meantime, from here in Norway, I wish you a continued Bon Voyage.

 

Best regards

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We took the tour to Tayutic Hacienda on our Christmas Cruise on the Zuiderdam and you did an excellent job of describing the day. We thought this was an excellent excursion and the views of the valley were amazing.

 

This will be the ONLY one of the ports you're visiting [in this part of the world] that I have first hand experience with so I'm looking forward to learning something new about the rest of the trip around South America.

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Sorry we missed your entrance into the Canal as well. Saw several pictures later though.

Thank you for this great story of your cruise you are taking us on with you.

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Report # 8 January 10, 2011 Monday Transit of the Panama Canal

 

Our hopes of sleeping in a little bit later this morning were dashed with unexpected bolts of lightening followed by deafening thunder around 3am. Streaks of lightening lit our room up like the fourth of July, and with a sudden downpour of rain, we were certain the ship was washed clean as a whistle. Boy, we're glad that happened at night, and really hoped the worst was over by daylight. And, it was.

 

Promptly at 6am, Captain Olav boarded the canal pilot, and we were off to enter the first set of locks, leaving the Atlantic Ocean behind us. We have done this transit a few times before on previous cruises, so our first priority of the morning was not watching our progression into the locks, but actually locating where the staff was serving the special Panama rolls! They are especially good and only served while going through the canal. And only between 7 and 9am. After scanning every outside deck, we finally found them inside the lower atrium. They had been moved inside because of intermintent rain showers. There were only a few left, so we limited ourselves to just one, and it was so delicious.

 

What we noticed that was rather unusual today, was the lack of intense heat that we have always experienced in this part of the world. Hey, we're not complaining, because heatstoke can be very dangerous. We'll take warm and humid, mixed with passing showers any day over that unrelenting heat. We were able to stay outside by the aft pool almost all day, enjoying the transit once again.

 

Here are a few tidbits of trivia involving the Canal. The distance is 48 miles, and the average transit time is 9 hours. The highest toll paid was $141,344.97 charged to the Crown Princess in 1993. The lowest toll......36 cents....Richard Halliburton swam the canal in 1928! Luckily he survived the crocodiles.

 

Iced tea, lemonade, and juice were passed around to the guests on the aft deck, followed by small sandwiches of ham, cheese, and cucumbers. That was perfect, since we missed lunch again. Today, lunch found us. Yep, this is really a vacation!

 

Shortly after 3pm, we had gone under the Centennial Bridge, the final set of locks, and under the Pan-American highway, which is also the Bridge of the Americas. The most fun spot has to be near the Miraflores Lock, where hundreds of onlookers cheered and waved to us as we passed the 3 story club they were dining at. Every passenger ship got the same greeting, which we confirmed by watching an Oceana ship pass by them right behind us.

 

Captain Olaf hung a left as we passed Fuerte Amador and Panama City. Now we will be sailing the massive Pacific Ocean for several days, taking in many of the fabulous ports in the South Pacific.

 

Certificates denoting our Panama Canal transit were waiting for us in our room when we got back from the pool. Someone in the office is really on the ball on this cruise. On our last trip around South America, we had to inquire when we would be getting any certificates. Big difference.

 

Cocktail hour and dinnertime time arrived quickly, probably because we had lost that hour yesterday. Ellen and Barb had been invited to a nearby table with Ellen W. and Sue from our travel group. We all took a vote as to whether or not we would let them back tomorrow evening for deserting us! Just kidding! That's the beauty of dining here.......even though we have fixed seating, you can be invited to other tables when space allows.

 

Looking forward to a day at sea tomorrow.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Love your posts. Do have a "small" correction - most cruise ships are now paying well over $200,000 per transit of the canal. :eek::p:D;)

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You're writing is wonderfully descriptive as always. For those of us that are uninformed, what kind of rolls are Panama rolls? Keep the posts coming. I'll be waiting with everyone else.

Irene

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Report # 9 January 11, 2011 Tuesday Day at Sea

 

The Amsterdam will cross the magic line of the Equator sometime this evening. Usually, we have a special celebration with King Neptune and his court, where first time Equator crossers (pollywogs) are inducted to the already Equator crossers (shellbacks) group. It is raucous, silly fun and all of the guests love it. However, since we will be crossing the line more than once on this voyage, the ceremony will take place later on during the trip.

 

We figured that today would be a good time to get a little sun at the aft pool. This is the best place to relax with good books, which are available in abundance in the library. And it is a good place to be spoiled by the deck servers who offer ice tea, lemonade, and ice water. The weather was unusually comfortable, considering that we are so near the Equator. But we should know better. A half hour in this sun is OK as long as you are slathered with sunscreen. Needless to say, we missed a few places, like tops of feet. Who thinks of that? Well, last night was a reminder as I, Mary Ann, cooled my feet in ice water! Won't forget that again.

 

Having experienced some trouble with sending our emails, we visited the internet guru. He was able to diagnose our problem, and had it fixed in 2 minutes, we hope. Thank goodness for this special help. It seems that every year we come back, the internet people have gotten even more expert at what they do, and more patient.

 

The Crows Nest has turned into one popular place. A cocktail party was given for the Dutch folks onboard, and was noticably attended by every officer (mostly Dutch) including Captain Olaf. We suspected that the ship had been put on auto-pilot! Well, there is no denying that this cruise line has always been proudly Dutch for many, many years. And they know how to party! And the gathering also presented the opportunity for us to properly thank Henk and Willem for providing our much needed fan. Willem even took it a step beyond by offering to buy us an even better one in Manta. No, we were happy campers.

 

Our host, Ellen, invited a special guest for dinner tonight. He will be turning 90 on this trip and has been a member of the elite President's Club for years. We believe that Jim has at least 4000 days sailed with HAL. His usual tablemates were invited to the Pinnacle Grill, so he happily joined us, making that 11 at our table. Hope we are half as sharp as he is, if God-willing, we make it to 90! To still be able to cruise and keep up with the pace on the ship, is a blessing.

 

In addition to the regular dessert menu, we were treated to a flute of champagne to commemorate the special crossing of the Equator today. Nice touch. Did we mention that the format of the dessert menu has changed? It is much easier to read, but still hard to make a choice with all of the treats they offer. Some evenings, we order some extras and share them around the table. Two of us have a standing order of fresh mixed berries every night. That is a win-win choice!

 

Tomorrow we will be in Manta, Ecuador. We have booked a 9 hour tour, so it was off to bed for us.

 

Bll & Mary Ann

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Report # 10 January 12, 2011 Wednesday Manta, Ecuador

 

The port of call this slightly foggy morning was Manta, Ecuador. Basically a fishing settlement, Manta has a population of 200,000 people that cater to tourism as well as fish packing factories, chemicals products, military presence, and tagua nut production to name a few. Since we have taken just about every tour available here, we opted to visit Machalilla National Park, a 40,000 hectare area of tropical and cloud forest.

 

The first of the overland tours of this world cruise left from here early this morning. One such excursion took a few folks to the Galapagas Islands for 4 days. Then one larger group headed off for Quito and Machu Picchu, where standard or deluxe tours were offered.....some for 3 days, and one for 4 days. Needless to say, they were ALL expensive.

 

This would be our longest tour, with the exception of one 14 hour tour to Luxor, Egypt. What a surprising treat to watch the dry coastline change to lush and green. Our expert guide pointed out the green-barked kapok trees that produce a useful cotton-like seed pod. Their trunks are bottle-shaped just like the baobab trees we saw in South Africa. The guide also pointed out the tagua nut palm tree, as well as the palm tree leaves that Panama hats are created with. The tagua nut is a very hard creamy-colored nut that is used for button-making, carved figurines, and all sorts of jewelry. The culled nuts are also ground for cattle feed. Nothing is wasted.

 

The views of the beaches and small fishing villages south of Manta were beautiful along the way of our 2 hour ride. People came out of their roadside houses to wave to us as our two buses sped by. That sure is nice to see. So were the brightly-painted boats that were bobbing in the bays. Most of the fishermen were back for the day, although, we did see a boat full of fellows hauling out their bountiful catch. From the lack of cars and trucks in this area, we concluded that most people lived where they worked. Little commute traffic here.

 

The driver stopped at least twice on our way to Agua Blanca so the guide could point out some birds of the area. By the excitement in his voice, our guide showed us a falcon, rarely seen. Close by, he excitedly shoed us a pair of caracara birds perched in a deciduous tree. Along with the numerous black vultures and frigate birds, they belong to the family of birds of prey. Their job is to keep the area clean of dead critters and pesty rodents.

 

We arrived at Agua Blanca where we toured the rather small museum with our guide. Short and to the point, that is how we like it. From there, we commenced on a walking tour of the park, taking in the many colorful birds, flora, and the villager's cows, chickens, pigs, and turkeys and vegetable gardens. Sort of reminded us of home.

 

Next to the museum, was the artisan tables where local jewelry and tagua nut figurines were available for sale. To be honest, we believe most of the jewelry was not from here, but perhaps from Hong Kong. We looked for the knitted purses, scarves, and tagua nut jewelry, but there was little or none at all. Oh well, we saved a few bucks.

 

After the hike, we headed for a poolside buffet lunch at a hotel by the name of Mantaraya Hostel, built on a steep hillside facing the Pacific Ocean. The buffet table offered a cerviche soup, fried calamari, banana chips, grilled wahoo, shrimp/calamari skewers, lentils, steamed veggies, and seasoned rice. Dessert consisted of a fresh fruit cocktail, and cake. We had a little of both. For the price we had paid for this tour, all of us agreed that at least a soda should have been included. Many people ordered beers, but had to pay extra. We did get bottled water, and it was fine for us. After an hour of eating and relaxing, it was time to go.

 

The final stop was at Playa Los Frailes, a secluded white sand beach, where some of us took a quick swim in the ocean. Looked a tad bit too cold for us, so we stolled the beach instead. Sand in our hair and swimsuits is not one of our favorite things anyway. The weather remained comfortable throughout the day, with the sun never really peeking out of the high overcast. Could be that the influence of the cooler Humboult Current helps to keep these shorelines sheltered from the equatorial sun. Perhaps that was why many people were sunbathing today. Later on, our guide told us that the people we saw on the beach were more than likely a group of backpackers from either Brazil or Argentina. This area is a popular stop for them.

 

The beach stop was only 45 minutes, then we had just enough time to make it back to the pier on time. Our guide had promised to stop on the way back if he spotted some howler monkeys. He did, and we did get to see at least 8 of the tree-dwellers jumping from limb to limb high in the canopy of fig and laurel trees.

 

Driving back to Manta was very quiet, since most were sleeping. You could hear the gentle snoring from all around us. No wait. That was coming from us too! We had brought towels from the ship with us, and they doubled as neck pillows on the bus. Have to remember to pack those on all long tours.

 

We made the sailaway party for the final 10 minutes before the sailors pulled the lines, and we headed south towards Peru. The waiters were serving the best crispy spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce. Love these special treats. Visiting with friends Bill and Leta, we enjoyed yet another sailaway. They have been ship neighbors of ours in the past, and we have remained in touch for several years now.

 

The Crow's Nest was full with all the seats at the bar taken. Gosh, what time do we need to get up here? Yeah, we don't have our names carved in the chairs, so it is first come, first served. Leslie, Handler, Jim and the two of us retreated to a table surrounded by new chairs. These chairs must be new, because they are much more comfortable than they ever were. Time dissolved as we shared port stories of the day.

 

The entrees at dinner time continue to please us all. Among the favorites were leg of lamb, beef stroganoff, and a few fish dishes. The alternates are still available.....steak, chicken, salmon, and a vegetarian entree. No need to go hungry here.

 

Our table service has picked up speed the last couple of days. After the first course has been served to all, our waiter and his assistant continue bringing each following dish, even if all are not finished. Somehow, by coffee time, we have completed our meals, and ready for dessert. Tonight, that was at 9:20, much better than 10:30, leaving plenty of time to go to the Queens Lounge for the evening show. Speaking of entertainment, last night the singers (no dancers) did a fine job. Singer Daniel Bouchet was the performer tonight. And a favorite of many passengers is pianist Diane Fast. She draws a large crowd in the Piano Bar from 10 to 11pm.

 

Well, tomorrow is a sea day, sailing south towards Callao, Peru.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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How I love to envision these new ports as you describe the journey.

Thanks again for taking us along.

And a favorite of many passengers is pianist Diane Fast. She draws a large crowd in the Piano Bar from 10 to 11pm.

Diane played in the Piano Lounge when I was on the Amsterdam last August. She packed the room most nights. Has quite an eclectic repertoire.

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Report # 11 January 13, 2011 Thursday Day at Sea

 

Ah, another day at sea, where we can choose to do a lot or lay back and take it easy. That's the beauty of sailing.

 

Of course, a brisk walk in the morning is always on our agenda. This morning was really cool, weatherwise. It is starting to feel more like we are in San Francisco, than off the coast of Peru. One of the benefits of walking outside is the possibility of seeing some wildlife. So far we have witnessed the diving birds plucking flying fish from the ship's wake. Today Bill spotted several large tuna jumping not far from the ship. In fact, he said there were hundreds of them. This usually indicates a feeding frenzy of smaller fish. It absolutely stirs your imagination as to what is under us in this vast ocean....a reminder that as humans, we are really out of our element.

 

We heard that we have an archbishop from Seattle onboard as the Catholic representative. He celebrates mass every morning and fills the Wajang Theater, we understand. Of course, we have a minister and a rabbi too.

 

Barbara Haeni covers the upcoming ports and tours on most sea days, while exploration speaker, Adrian Cooper spoke about the nature, art, and literature in the Andes. Dance instructors Judy and Mike gave two dance classes because the class size is so large. the same goes for the watercolor class. Carol and Marie have a morning and an afternoon session. Arts and crafts take place in the Lido at 2:30pm with Maureen. Something new to us is a flower arranging class for $25. with the expert florists, Eddie and Callista. Ellen, our host, took the first class and thoroughly enjoyed it. Her creation was hers to keep for her room. Good deal, we think.

 

What was missing was the knitting and crocheting group. We recall that on the 2009 world cruise, this popular group activity was eliminated. With some pressure put on by the passengers, the yarns were provided and the ladies were happy campers. Most of their creations were donated anyway in the past. Sorry to see it gone.

 

We spent the afternoon hours at the aft pool, where the cool breeze kept us comfortable once again. We left at 4pm, and stopped by the Lido grill for a bite or two of their delicious pizza. This could become a habit very easily.....

 

Tonight's highlight was the first Black and Silver Ball, which warrants a formal evening. The best entrees for dinner were the surf and turf and the veal piccata. Barb was in caviar heaven, her favorite treat. A young officer joined us, providing white and red wines for the table. We will get a report on the ball when we see our tablemate tomorrow, since we did not attend it.

 

At dinnertime, Ellen informed us that she had a reply from Mitzi Gaynor's manager saying that she was pleased to be invited to our table, but declined since she was busy working on her memoirs. Hmmmmm, think we have heard that one before, or was it, I was busy arranging my sock drawer? Whatever, Ellen tried, and it was Mitzi's loss!

 

Pat, our Aussie tablemate, had seen the room stewards bringing tonight's gifts to the rooms on his deck before he joined us in the Crows Nest. We were really curious to find out what could be in a plastic bag with a cream color. It turned out to be a travel kit consisting of a hanging cloth bag with three compartments of very useful things. Among them were a bottle of Purell, bandaids, ointment, bug repellant, handiwipes, kleenex, sewing kit, aspirin, etc. Great idea! Finally something quite practical for all.

 

Lima, Peru is our destination, and we will be docked in nearby Callao for the next two days.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

Cruise Critic readers - Panama rolls are a light sweet bread filled with a creamy filling with orange bits. Delicious.

We quoted the HAL flyer for the highest paid Panama Canal toll, which was probably printed several years ago. The price of $200K sounds more like it to us for a large ship.

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Report # 12 January 14, 2011 Friday Callao (Lima), Peru

 

The ship arrived earlier than expected to the port city of Callao, Peru this morning. Not a surprise, since Captain Olaf sailed at 23 knots all evening it seemed.

 

Peru is twice the size of Texas, but is the 20th largest country in the world. The terrain goes from arid desert to lush tropical jungles. The city of Lima and outlying settlements have at least 30 million residents. That is a whole lot of people and traffic to go with it.

 

Since this is at least our fifth visit to Lima, we said no to the day tours, and decided to explore on our own. For a change, the ship was supplying a complimentary shuttle bus to the Marriot Hotel and the Indian Market in the Miraflores district. Another option to go there, were the numerous vans provided by the high-end jewelry company, Stern's. Shortly after we lined up to take the bus, we heard Bruce, our CD, announce that the bus could no longer drop off passengers at the craft market because city hall said NO. Of course, that was our destination.

 

So we bussed to the hotel (a 60 minute drive). A funny thing happened on the bus along the way. One clueless man demanded to be taken to the market. He loudly stated that he did not like being taken "hostage" by the jewelry store bus! He considered it a waste of his time. What he did not understand, was that most of us may visit the store, but only a few really do buy jewelry there. His attitude changed when the other guests shushed him, and he spotted the casino next to the hotel. He grumbled that he may as well get off and take a look around. Guess this was his first cruise ever!

 

So we hiked the 30 minute walk to the Mercado Artesanal. The streets were full of people as we passed the many shops and restaurants along the way. It was safe, even though we were accousted by many street vendors trying to sell their treasures. There were several locals on the streets who were authorized to sell Peruvian money in exchange for US dollars. We figured that the dollar was accepted in Peru, so there was really no need to exchange.

 

Finding the market, we thought it looked different from where we had gone in 2007. Darting in and out of the numerous stalls, we found a few souveniers to bring home, such as a small knit Peruvian purse, a colorful woven vase with woven flowers to match, and a pair of silver earrings to match two sodalite necklaces. Since we needed to be back for a dinner tour, we headed back to the Marriot to catch the bus back to the ship.

 

Guess what? The bus drove the same direction we had walked, and stopped further up the street at the real entrance to the Indian Market. The driver picked up more HAL people, probably those who had been dropped off before they announced the stop of the buses for pickup. Seeing the fencing and large gated entrance at the market, we realized that we had entered at the far end. That's why we did not recognize it. Perhaps we can come back here tomorrow to see more things.

 

The pier also had many stalls where the locals were selling alpaca shawls, sweaters, scarves, and gloves to name a few. When we were here last year, we purchased some of these items, and surely did not need more. Friends Robert and Bronwyn were scanning the tables, all dressed up. We said they must be going to dinner, and they said yes, they were going to the candlelight dinner. Well, so were we, and needed to clean up and change clothes quickly.

 

Our 2 buses were waiting at 5:30pm to take us to the Casa Aliaga, one of America's best-preserved colonial mansions. This elegant home is situated near the main square of old Lima, and is still occupied by relatives of the same family since 1535. The ride took us an hour once again, but was it worth it. We have to mention that we took this same tour a year ago, while on the Prinsendam, so we knew what to expect. Believe it or not, it was an even better experience this time.

 

We were greeted at the massive wooden front doors, then led up the marble staircase to the home's receiving room. Cocktails of pisco sours, wine, and a Baileys double were served immediately, followed by hors d'oeuvres of fried cheese sticks and guacamole dip, chicken pate on toast rounds, and asparagus on white bread with mayo. Our guide took us on a tour of the living and dining rooms, a bedroom, and bathrooms. A large hall was set up with round tables for eight to accomodate our group of 80 people.

 

Once bus two arrived, we all gathered in the dining hall to enjoy a hearty meal of an asparagus mousse, rolls, tender sirloin steak served with sweetened carrots and broccoli. White and red wines were poured continuously. Since we drink little wine, the waiter brought us another round of pisco sours. It wasn't long before our table was getting rowdy. Those pisco sours went down easily, because it was very warm and humid in the house. By the time we finished our meal and were ready for dessert, all of the tables were deep in conversation and laughter. Yep, we had a good group tonight.

 

We all left the Casa Aliaga well fed and happy to enjoy the ride back to the ship. That is, expect for one man. Our bus driver turned on a local radio station with good music for our ride back. One man immediately began to complain and wanted it shut off. No way........the rest of us said NO, and so did our escort, Robert. Out-voted, he sat down and endured the torture all the way back. How come there is always ONE person to complain? Can't please everyone, Robert stated with a smile.

 

We got back by 10pm, and headed off to bed, exhausted from our first day in Lima.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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