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Enjoy the "Treasures of the World" with Bill & Mary Ann on the 2014 World Cruise

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Report # 12 Transiting the Panama Canal January 9, 2014 Thursday Hot and humid, 91 degrees, chance of rain

 

Here is the question of the day: How can you get from New York City to San Francisco by sailing 5900 miles instead of 14,000 miles around Cape Horn? Easy, you take the Panama Canal, one of the world's most successful project of creating a shortcut. The history of the making of the canal is filled with almost unsurmountable problems that came with a sad cost of human life. It was finally completed in 1914, which makes this year the Panama Canal's 100th birthday. Not too much of the basic operation has changed over the years....the concept of using water in locks to elevate or lower the ships was clever beyond description. We're talking about the power of millions of gallons of water just to move one ship. This process is repeated over and over, 24 hours around the clock. That is one heck of a lot of water. Good thing there is a constant supply of rainwater that comes from the nearby mountains and rain forest.

 

Our scheduled time to enter the first set of locks, Gatun Locks, was around 6:30am, after the pilot boarded at 5am. Since we have done this transit numerous times, we chose not to be up at the crack of dawn. No, it is much more convenient to watch the progress by turning to channel 41 in our stateroom. The ship's camera above the bow of the vessel catches some of the deck, so we could see that the bow was not overly crowded with guests that early. The only thing that may have brought us out early was the call of the Panama Rolls they serve on the outside decks from 6 to 8am. However, from experience, we do know there will be some of those tasty treats in the dining room at breakfast time.

 

We watched our slow progress through Gatun Lake while eating breakfast. Every ship is given a time to approach the set of locks at the Pacific end, so that dictates the speed the ship will go. Today, it was painfully slow. Painful, because there was little or no breeze, and the temperatures were climbing by the minute. So was the humidity. Usually this time of year, the drier season, it is not so hot or humid. Today was an exception. Passengers should be well aware of the warning printed in the daily newsletter, titled "The Heat Is On". Among other warnings, it said to avoid seasick meds, because they can reduce heat tolerance. Of course we know to wear light clothing, drink plenty of fluids, and limit exercise.

 

So, what did we do all day? Put on our swimsuits, and go to the aft pool, where we think the best viewing point is for going through the locks and canal. Just as we were wishing for more clouds, we must have wished too hard. A very black cloud came overhead, and the rain came down in torrents. That sure cleared the outside decks off in a hurry. But it also cooled everything off. We thought we could wait it out, but it hung on until we were gong through the last of the locks at Miraflores. The Amsterdam was pretty much on time as we dropped off the narrator and pilot at Balboa. We were sailing south in the Pacific Ocean before 5pm.

 

One thing we did see today was the progress of the new construction on the canal expansion. Specifically, both entrances at the Pacific and Atlantic are being deepened and widened. A new Pacific access channel is being completed that almost parallels the current channel. It will join the new Pacific Locks with the Culebra Cut.

 

Gatun Lake will also be deepened and widened, as well as the elevation of the lake raised. A totally newly-designed set of locks on both ends of the canal are nearing completion. They will be capable of handling much larger and longer ships. Even though it appears that they are far from being done, the projected date of completion is late 2015 or early 2016. Whatever we may have missed seeing today, we will have another chance to catch on the way back from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego next May. And for those who wish to have a forever keepsake of this particular transit, you can buy a Panama Canal DVD for the price of $34.95 through the Photo Gallery. In fact, if you wish to purchase a special 12 DVD collection on the entire cruise, it would set you back $250.

 

We decided to go to the sandwich bar in the Lido for a late lunch. They had trays of hot pizza there, much to our surprise. Since the cruise began on January 4th, we have not had an opportunity to go to the Grill at the Lido pool. Well, we found out that the pizza baking and serving station is gone from there. Only hamburgers and dogs are served now. We are not certain that the taco bar is still there, but will check that out soon. As for us, we think taking that pizza station away from the grill area is a very good move. Do you know how many times we have seen people pick up a slice of pizza with their hands, then put it back? No wonder when the virus hits, so many people are infected. From here on out, all the pizza will be served in the Lido restaurant. Now the good news is that the pizza we tested today was really, really good. The bad news is that the pizza was really, really good, and will be difficult not to over-indulge. While listening to the demo on how to make Panama rolls on TV, someone asked if the pizza dough was made fresh onboard by the bakers. The head bakery chef said no, the pizza dough was purchased, probably frozen. If that is the case, we agree with the passenger who said the crust was also really, really good.

 

Our big job of the afternoon was to fill out the Chilean arrival/departure cards and declaration forms. Christel, our guest relations manager, makes it easy for us. She attaches a letter and describes exactly what we have to fill out. Most times the required information is pre-printed for us. Actually, we are not visiting mainland Chile, but stopping in Easter Island, weather permitting. Easter Island belongs to Chile, so these forms are necessary. One nice thing is that Chile does not charge for a visa.

 

A couple of other changes have occurred since we sailed last fall. The Pinnacle Grill dinner has gone up to $29. per person The three, four, and five star Mariners still do get a discount on that price. And for the first time on a world cruise, the Canaletto restaurant has a charge of $10. per person. We have yet to try the Italian food there.

 

Speaking of Italian food, we thought we would give the lasagne a try again in the dining room this evening. The recipe has not changed, unfortunately, and we were disappointed once again. Good thing we had ordered the braised short ribs with mashed potatoes. That entree was even better than we can remember. It is becoming quite obvious to us that the high quality of the beef has been reserved for this grand voyage.

 

Showtime in the Queens Lounge featured Dance Trance, a couple who performed dances from different countries, such as a bullfight in Spain to the carnival dance in Brazil. Everyone went except for us and Barb. As usual, we hung back to continue our conversation, while our waiters continued to bus the tables around us, as we had requested.

 

One more lazy day at sea, and we will be in Manta, Ecuador.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 13 Sailing Towards Manta, Ecuador January 10, 2014 Friday Partly cloudy, 82 degrees

 

The weather has taken a change for the better, we think. Leaving the Panama Canal behind, we also left behind the heat and high humidity. There was a much lighter breeze blowing as we headed south yesterday. Sure makes our morning walk a lot more comfortable. Others must agree, because the lower promenade deck has gained a lot more walkers as well as loungers relaxing on the nice teak chairs.

 

It has taken us seven days to realize that we have forgotten to mention the new format for the daily newsletter. It may not be new for most HAL cruisers, but it is new to the world cruise. We now have a tri-fold newsletter by the name of "Today on Location". It contains all of the info formerly in the old newsletter, but it is arranged in a much better way. There is a more complete list of every restaurant onboard with their serving times and description of the cuisine offered in each. A small box lists all the bars and lounges and their open and closing times. Happy hour, or buy one get one for $1.00, is listed in each bar. All the hotel services are listed, as well as the music onboard. And one section is removable with the daily activities listed from 7 am to 11:30pm.

 

Also new to the world cruise is a booklet that is described as our guide to the destinations, dining, events, and entertainment along our journey. It has been printed specifically for the first segment of the world cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Sydney. It contains things to see and do in every port. A map is printed along with a snippet of info of the history of each port. What is nice about this format is that the info has been updated to include where to find local restaurants, shopping, or even what to see out of town. Gone are the old maps with outdated info that were left in the mailslot the night before each port. In the past, sometimes the information on the daily newsletter and the map we got did not jive with each other. We still receive the conversion cards that fit in our wallets with the port agent's number on it in case of emergency. These cards are a big help for converting the local currency to the US dollar.

 

Watercolors class is held on sea days with Carolyn and Tom. They may be new to the team. Sit, knit, and needlework is still unhosted. Arts and crafts are held in the Lido and their teacher is Maureen, who has been on many cruises.

 

We were able to get our favorite spot at the aft pool today. The secret was to go earlier to sit at the back railing near the back stairwell. There is always a nice breeze there, and usually the best area to spot sealife. Today we did see a pod of tuna, we assume, as they circled while feeding on the surface. As we get nearer to Ecuador, we are sure to see many tuna. Also sighted were numerous dolphins in the late afternoon. Surprisingly, it began to rain soon after the Captain announced that we may hit some showers. It was nothing like yesterday's downpour, but wet enough to clear the aft deck again. This shower only lasted 10 minutes and we were able to go back to our lounges like it never happened. It really did cool things off, since it was still quite warm today.

 

Hoping for a nice sunset, we went to deck 9 around 6:20pm, but it was disappointing tonight. Perhaps the closer we get to French Polynesia, it will get better.

 

We had company for dinner tonight. Two of our tablemates were at the Pinnacle Grill, so all three of our hosts for our travel group joined us. We had a lively table with 10 of us. Friend Ellen came for a brief visit at the end of dinner. She will be going on an independent excursion to Machu Picchu tomorrow from Manta, and will be back in Peru. Another group of passengers will leave tomorrow for the Galapagos Islands for a 5 day tour. More folks will be leaving for Machu Picchu out of Callao, Peru, for a 2 night 3 day tour.

 

The show this evening is Dance Trance, or 16 strings, 8 dancers, and 4 voices. Graffiti classics is the theme. Sounds like the HAL singers and dancers to us, but we may be wrong........

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thanks so much for your posts. I am really enjoying following along with your adventure!

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Did they tell you the cost for the Amsterdam to go through the canal?

Interesting to compare size and number of people that they go by on each ship

Nov on the Veendam $ 252,000.00

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Report # 14 Manta, Ecuador January 11, 2014 Saturday Cloudy, chance of rain, 82 degrees and muggy

 

Our port of call for today was Manta, Ecuador, the tuna capital of the country. Situated on the west coast, Manta is a lively town that has served Ecuador for centuries as the largest seaport. On past visits, we have seen numerous tuna boats dropping off their heavy loads into waiting trucks. The huge frozen fish are then trucked to nearby packing plants to be processed and shipped worldwide. It is such a big industry here that most of the locals are employed by the plants.

 

Some other products produced here come from the tagua nut and the cultivation of the carludovica palmate, or the fiber that creates the Panama hats.

 

Did you know that for centuries, the tagua nut was used to make buttons? As these nuts dry, they become hard as ivory and are often called vegetable ivory. Over the years, we have gathered quite a collection of carvings made from these nuts. They even make conversational pieces of jewelry, as they can be dyed many colors. Excursions take tourists to the factory to see how the palm nuts are processed and made into usable products.

 

When the Panama Canal was being built, there was a need for hats for the workers. So Ecuador , specifically the town of Montecristi, became the place where these hats are hand-woven. The fiber that creates these hats only grows in tropical areas, like here, and once harvested, the reeds are boiled, then dried before weaving. Ladies drape themselves over a piece of furniture created to take the pressure off of their lower backs, as they weave the fiber row by row. Some of the finer-woven hats can fetch a pretty price in the hundreds of dollars.

 

Manta is also a drop-off point for folks to go to the Galapagos Islands, another unique adventure we may do someday. This trip flys you to Quito, the second highest capital in the world. After touring Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you are flown to the Galapagos Islands, where you board a vessel that sails from island to island to see the unique animals and birds that only live there. The passengers doing this pricey excursion will join the ship in Lima.

 

Since the Amsterdam was staying in port until 11pm, we were in no big hurry to go ashore. Plenty of time for a proper breakfast in the dining room. Based on where the shuttle bus took us last year, we had planned our shopping day around going to the Manicentro Shopping Center. Once we boarded the shuttle, which began running at 8am, we realized that the driver had turned the wrong way, and were headed to the handicraft center near Plaza Civica. We hate when they change things on us. Oh well, we cannot complain because the ride was free.

 

Walking through the craft market, we did find the little leather zippered pouches for holding pills. They are a great value for $1. By the way, the tender for Ecuador is the US dollar. However, if you get change back, the coins are not the same as ours. You need to spend them here......never a problem. Hoping to locate a grocery store, we walked a few blocks beyond this market, and discovered Plaza Civica, and the surrounding park area. All the times we have been to Manta, we never knew this park was here. The only store that resembled a grocery store was the pharmacy. Since they did not have exactly what we were searching for, we decided to walk back past the pier gate and find our way to the other shopping center.

 

It would do us no good to take the shuttle bus back, because they do not let you out at the pier gate. In fact, you have to take the bus from the ship to the handicraft center and center to the ship, because no walking is allowed in this busy port area. So we took our time and walked busy Malecon Avenue past the pier gate, the Museum of Archaeology, to the Hotel Oro Verde, and finally to the Manicentro Shopping Center. It was not as far as we had previously thought. We ran into friends Margaret and Keith, who had made their way to the museum, one of their favorite things to do. They were in search of a six pack of local beer to bring back.

 

First, we walked through the very upscale Hotel Oro Verde, and downstairs to the restaurant and swimming pool level. Gosh, that pool looked inviting. Even though it was noon, there were few diners in the lovely restaurant that overlooked Murcielago Beach down below the cliffs. Too early to eat lunch, we looked over the menu to find most of the entrees were fish based, naturally. On our way back outside, we picked up a hotel flyer that advertised the room rates at $85. to $109. a night. That price included the daily buffet.

 

Heading uphill, we made our way to the bustling shopping center. That is when we realized why the bus did not bring the cruise passengers here. The central courtyard on one side of the mall was empty of all the local vendors that sold the fun souveniers. Of course, the grocery store, Supermaxi, was still there, and our main reason for coming here. We were able to locate most all of the items we were missing from home, and at very reasonable prices, we might add. Our best bargain was a large bouquet of fresh flowers with dozens of brightly colored blooms. All that for a mere $8. The only item we found outrageously expensive was their suntan lotion. Some of the popular names of lotion were as much as $20. a bottle. We highly doubt that the locals ever use sunblock items, so these products must be targeted for the tourists. What this store has is a nice floral department that sells potting soil, vases, and plant containers. We needed to add more pots to our window sill, and now we have a complete garden. The sunflower seeds are up over an inch already. So fun to watch.

 

Lugging four bags of our purchses, we thought it best to go back to the ship, eat lunch, then perhaps go out again later. What was not printed in the daily newsletter was that smaller mini vans were being used to take folks to the gate from the ship and back again without ever leaving the port. We spotted this happening when we passed by the gate on our way to the shopping center. That way, we did not have to go all the way to the handicraft area to catch the bus. If this had been announced, we must have missed it.

 

All the times we have been here in the past, we never took the time to walk on the beach. It was really close to access it from the pier gate. The beach was quite busy today, filled with kids and families having lots of fun. The water must have been cold, because when the toddlers ran towards it, they stopped dead in their tracks. Along the boardwalk, there was a series of tented seafood restaurants. They were more like open-air cafes, which we know, many of our buddies have recommended over the years. Again, the bulk of the menus contained seafood, not what we were craving today. Nope, there was no pizza......

 

We ran into a group of some vendors selling souveniers on the beach. We ended up buying a tagua nut palm tree with a monkey climbing the tree. It will be a miracle if it makes it home in one piece. In fact, it sort of got dropped on the way back to the pier gate, but nothing that a little gorilla glue could not fix. Gosh, we wish we had invented that crazy-like glue. It does really work like it says it does.

 

Football on TV was on the agenda for the remainder of the day. Before we knew it, dinnertime had arrived. Savory pot roast and spaghetti with meat sauce was high on our list. It was unusual for us to look outside and see the lights of the city surrounding us. This is the first time we remember staying here past 6pm. Still don't know why we did not leave until well after 11pm. The shuttle to the pier gate had ceased at 6:30pm, so what was the point of staying here if you could not get off of the ship anymore after 6:30pm? We did bunker fuel here all day, but that rig was gone in the late afternoon. There was a Manta sailaway party, but it was held in the Crows nest at 10:30pm.....way too late for us. One good thing, it never rained today. The clouds blew away and the sun actually appeared in the afternoon.

 

We have two days at sea now before we arrive to Callao for Lima, Peru.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 15 Sailing Towards Callao (Lima) January 12, 2014 Sunday Partly cloudy, mostly sunny, 77 degrees

 

We expected a change in the weather, and that is exactly what we got today. Beautiful, comfortable, with the temperatures in the seventies. Great for walking and sunbathing. And that is what we did today, for the most part.

 

The wind was blowing strongly across the aft deck, keeping us cool. A different type of BBQ was happening back there from 11:30am to 2pm. It was called Ecuadorian Fish Sizzler, and featuring two different types of fish. One was tuna, probably brought onboard fresh yesterday. Normally this type of event is held in the Lido pool area. One thing we do notice when they have like a Mongolian BBQ in that closed-in area, there is a lot of smoke from the charcoal grills. On a windy day, the roof would have to be partially closed, therefore, trapping the smoke. It's just a guess, but perhaps they are testing the aft pool where the smoke can readily blow away.

 

Two guest speakers are onboard giving lectures in the Queens Lounge. Tommie-Sue Montgomery has been talking about pre-Colombian civilizations, specifically in Peru. Milton Keiles had a presentation all about the explorers in the area we are traveling.

 

Sunday services continue with Catholic mass being held by Father Bob. Interdenominational services were conducted by Pastor Florence. And finally, Rabbi Gan spoke about the life and times of the Jewish people at his service.

 

Two big football games were broadcasted this afternoon, and we watched most of them in our room with room service lunch. Watching the San Francisco 49ers win made our cheeseburgers taste even better. Mentioning TV, we were thrilled to find that we have more channels at our disposal on this world cruise. A few years ago, they added the second news channel, FOX, in addition to CNN. Now we have HLN, BBC News, CNBC, and another dedicated movie channel. That gives us four movie channels as well as TCM, which shows a lot of older movies.....older than us. And as always, the movie shown in the Wajang is repeated on TV the next day.

 

Our second formal evening was tonight. Dubbed the Black and Silver Ball, the dining room was festively decorated with black and silver streamers and mobiles. However, the Ball began a half hour earlier than before. Instead of starting at 10pm, the dance started at 9:30pm. We are seldom finished with dinner that early, but it appeared that the waiters sped things up a bit to give us a chance to exit sooner.

 

One nice thing happened at dinnertime. On formal nights, we usually have a guest to host our table. However, starting tonight, the Captain's Dinners in the Pinnacle Grill have begun. Each table in there is hosted with an officer or a rep from the staff. That leaves few, if any, to host tables in the main dining room. Even though we did not have a guest, our head waiter provided the complimentary wine anyway. Sometimes, we taste the wines, and sometimes we don't. Tonight one of us preferred a Coke Zero instead, and was offered that without prompting the head waiter. Last year, we almost had to beg the wine steward for a soda. He passed that job to our waiter, who was already too busy. Not so tonight. The head waiter went and got the soda with a glass of ice, and kindly served it. What a difference.

 

The entertainment in the Queens Lounge happened at 2pm today, since the Ball took the place of the show. Graham Jolley, the magic mind reader from last night, did an encore performance today. Our tablemates, Bill & Marianne claimed he did some very mysterious mind reading during his show, which they could not figure out how he did it.

 

Looking forward to another lazy day at sea.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Bill & Mary Ann; please don't venture on your own outside the gates of the port of Callao, Peru!! It's not safe and pretty much a ghetto out there! If you're going out on your own, a free shuttle mini-bus will take you from the gangway to a location still inside the port where you'll find a line up of black taxis, controlled by a dispatcher. Negotiate your price to Lima, or elsewhere, ahead of time. Lima is pretty much safe with a few exceptions

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Yes, be very careful and negotiate your return to the pier gate! Several people on our trip a few years ago were dropped off one block from the pier, and robbed of cameras, cash etc. Once in Lima, it is lovely. The fact that the taxis are sent off by a dispatcher may make the trip safer.

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Report # 16 Sailing Towards Callao January 13, 2014 Monday Partly coudy, 82 degrees, breezy

 

The day started off quiet enough with slight seas and mostly sunny skies. The nice breeze has stayed with us, and for that, we are happy. According to the navigational info on channel 40, we learned that the Amsterdam has sailed 2422 nautical miles since leaving Ft. Lauderdale back on January 4th. Sure has gone fast.....

 

Besides the 9:30am crew fire drill, a new guest speaker by the name of Maximo Laura has joined us to speak about Peruvian weaving and tapestries. He is part of a new series titled People Who Made a Difference.

 

Tommie-Sue Montgomery continued her talk on the Incas and their part in the Cuzco empire all the way down to central Chile. Milton Keiles presented an account of the great oceanliners place in transportation and social history. All of these talks can be viewed on TV, and that is where we plan to watch them later in the day and evening.

 

All the excitement was happening today if you were lucky enough to be outside around 2pm. We are traveling in a shipping lane many miles offshore, and it was not unusual to see other freighters or container ships passing us during the day. What did look out of place was a lone fishing vessel with a half dozen fellows on it, apparently drifting, not going anywhere. It came into view about a mile off of the port side of the ship as we were relaxing at the Seaview Pool today. We should have connected the dots when we spotted a flashing mirror from the boat aimed right at us. Then we noticed what appeared to be orange lifevests being waved frantically by the crew. It was then that Captain Jonathon came on the speaker to announce that we were turning around, and going back to see if we could be of assistance to the disabled boat and their crew.

 

It was neat to see how the Amsterdam could be "turned on a dime" with the help of the azipods. It was at this point in time , that we wondered how did they know this was not someone in trouble or a trap of some sort, like pirates? You would say we have been reading too many Patterson books, or for that matter, watching too much world news. These things can happen every day somewhere in the world. As far as we know, these things do not occur here off the coast of Peru.

 

There had been no communication from the stranded boat, so when they dropped a tenderboat and sent a group of fellows from our ship, we are sure they were joined by several of our security guards as well. We have asked the powers to be about the possibility that our guards are armed, and have been told, we can tell you, but then, we would have to kill you. Enough said.....no more questions. We assume the answer may have been a yes. We hope so.

 

Here's the real story. The propeller on the fishing boat had been damaged beyond repair, and the crew had been anchored out here for three days....dead in the water, so to speak. They had run out of food, and more importantly, water, so you can bet that they were glad that we stopped to help. Maritime law dictates that we are obliged to stop and help, if memory serves us right. Anyway, the tenderboat came back to the ship to be filled with food and water. Captain Jonathon came back on the speaker and told all of us that caviar and champagne had been delivered to the stranded crew, but then, he was only kidding, of course. Love the British humor. He also said that the local coast guard was notified, and they would be sending out a towboat to pull them back to shore sometime tomorrow.

 

We were soon on our way right after the tenderboat was hauled back on the ship. Once we turned and headed south once again, the Captain put the pedal to the metal, and we were flying to make up the lost time.

 

We had company for dinner this evening. Comedian Frank King was invited by John and Diane to dine with us. Strangely enough, he did not actually eat with us, as he only drank several cups of coffee. Perhaps he had dined before his 7:30 show in the Queens Lounge. One good thing was he gave us a sampling of his jokes and funny stories, so we feel that we really got to see his show, even if we did not attend. You know us by now, because we did not attend. He filled us in to the world of being on the comedy circuit. Seems that if a cruise director decides they do not like you, you are fired. Plain and simple.....gone. Frank mentioned several cruise lines that did just that to him. Must be a very competetive field in which to be employed.

 

Four of our tablemates will be going on HAL's three day, two night excursion to Machu Picchu and Cuzco, leaving tomorrow from Lima. Sure hope they have fun and are not bothered with the altitude in both places. We've heard it can be a bear if you get sick. We are also wishing them clear skies with no fog or rain.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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......................................

Here's the real story. The propeller on the fishing boat had been damaged beyond repair, and the crew had been anchored out here for three days....dead in the water, so to speak. They had run out of food, and more importantly, water, so you can bet that they were glad that we stopped to help. Maritime law dictates that we are obliged to stop and help, if memory serves us right. Anyway, the tenderboat came back to the ship to be filled with food and water. Captain Jonathon came back on the speaker and told all of us that caviar and champagne had been delivered to the stranded crew, but then, he was only kidding, of course. Love the British humor. He also said that the local coast guard was notified, and they would be sending out a towboat to pull them back to shore sometime tomorrow.

 

..........................................

 

Amsterdam to the rescue! :)

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Report # 17 Callao (Lima), Peru January 14, 2014 Tuesday Partly cloudy, warm, 77 degrees

 

Our port of call for the next 2 1/2 days will be Callao for Lima, Peru. While in Manta 2 days ago, the Peruvian officials boarded the ship, and have cleared us before our arrival. All we had to do was fill out the Peru customs declaration form, completing a few lines of info, and sign it. This process happens in just about every country we visit.

 

When we peeked out our window early this morning, we did not recognize where we were docking. It looked the same as last year, but some buildings and old equipment were missing. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the entire dock area has been destroyed, apparently for renovations. There was always a very nice little building that housed a small number of locals that sold Peruvian souveniers. Nice things like, alpaca sweaters, shawls, scarves and mittens were easily available here. Now this building has been reduced to a small store, which will no doubtedly be gone forever when the new dock area is completed. Also, there used to be a row of stands that housed some high-end jewelry from some big name jewelry stores. All of these are now gone. One of these stores always offered a complimentary shuttle ride to one of their main stores in Miraflores. There was never any obligation to purchase anything, so many folks gladly looked over their beautiful pieces of expensive jewelry. They seldom bought, but sometimes they did.

 

What is nice about docking here is the fact that the local port authority has always offered a free bus that shuttled folks to the Larcomar Mall in the Miraflores area. What is not nice about docking here in Callao is the fact that it is a very dangerous area to wander around on your own once outside the gate. It is one of the few places in the world that the ship's officers and crew strongly suggest that we do not go off walking in this port area during the day or night. Pick pockets, con artists, and snatch and run thieves are abundant, and obviously bad things have happened here. We have been warned to please leave the good jewelry at home, and not bring a large back pack or purse. We definitely heeded all the warnings. (Thanks Copper John for the reminder.)

 

But we need to back up a little. Callao has been here for a long time.....since 1537. It was the main port for the Spanish commerce in the Pacific. The city survived several raids over the years, but was completely wiped out by an earthquake and tsunami in 1746. Today, we noticed signs that pointed to the tsunami escape route from the port area uphill towards the center of Lima, about six miles away from Callao.

 

The center of the city of Lima has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and contains many grand old buildings from the 1600's. On past visits, we have extensively explored every church, palace, government building, cathedral, museums, and old homes surrounding the historic Plaza Mayor. Outside the city, there are dozens of tours that take you to estancias, ruins, and temples. Since we have seen most everything, we chose to take the bus to Miraflores and spend the day there.

 

The bus ride took around 1 hour to get from the pier to the Marriott Hotel at Miraflores. This part of the city is really, really nice, perched high on the cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean. Most all of the 5 star hotels are situated on these cliffs, and also one very modern shopping mall called Larcomar Mall. Right across the street from the Marriott, this outdoor complex is tiered off of the cliffs with three levels of stores, restaurants, a theater, and a parking garage. We saved the walk around here until later.

 

The attached casino at the Marriott is a good place to use restrooms. In fact, our bus guide said to feel from to use the facilities in both places. From there, we headed up Avenue Larco for several blocks to the Mercado Artesanal or the Indian Market. There are several buildings there that house many types of indigenous stores selling scores of very nice items. Silver jewelry is high on the list set with beautiful stones native to Peru. Llama knitwear is abundant, and seemingly out of place in such a warm, humid city. Perhaps they market these goods for those who are touring inland to the mountainous areas. We do know that it can get extremely cold at the higher altitudes.

 

One of our first purchases was a simple black baby alpaca knit shawl with a flowered fringe. Sometimes in the dining room, the air conditioning can be working too good, so the shawl is a quite useful item to bring. While continuing perusing one stall after another in this massive market, another shawl caught our eye. This one was off white with silk embroidered flowers scattered across the center. The fringe resembled curly corkscrew noodles. This one must be more than the $15 we paid for the black one. Checking the price with the vendor, she came up with a price of $12. US. We both heard her say that. Well, how could we pass that one up? So she bagged it up, and when we paid her asking price, she said, no, it was $120. No wonder it looked so nice. Too nice for us this time. Now we are not sure if that may have been a deliberate mistake on her part, to make us feel obligated to buy it. We said thanks, but no thanks. A couple of stores later, we saw a very similar shawl, but this one was $80. By the time we walked out of the shop, it had dropped to $60. Too bad it was the wrong color. She handed us her business card, but if we had to locate this exact location tomorrow, we highly doubt we could find it. The only other bargain we made was for a set of jewelry made from multi-colored embroidery thread on small balls. All that for a mere $10. So much for the resolve of not buying any more earrings. These are unique only to Peru, so it is a nice addition to the collection.

 

Time for lunch and time for relaxing. We walked back down the hill to the Larcomar Shopping Mall. As we got closer to the beach, the cool breeze was a welcome relief. Most times we dine at either Chilis or TGIFridays. Today we spotted a Tony Romas, and decided to try them for a change. We were not disappointed with the delicious cheeseburgers with crispy fries. Before our burgers arrived, our waitress served a basket of warm rolls with butter and a really spicy hot dip of some kind. We believe they serve that hot sauce, so you buy more beverages. In our case, we ordered Coke Zero, and it is served by the bottle here, not the bottomless glass. One of the nice things about eating lunch, is the fact we could sit, relax, and watch the people walking by.

 

Since it would probably take an hour to ride back to the ship, we thought it best not to wait until much later. It was already after 3pm, and the commute traffic would get heavy very soon. It did take the bus driver well over an hour to make it back to the ship. One change made to this bus transfer service was they extended the hours from the last bus at 7pm to 10pm.

 

A special BBQ called Asada. It was advertised to be held in the Lido Pool area, but when we went to take some photos, we found they had moved the whole affair to the aft deck. There was only one problem. The wind had come up and was blowing a gale back there. It was a cold wind, which later was mixed with a drizzle, making it down right chilly. We did not last very long back there, but long enough to touch base with our hotel manager, Henk. We asked if there was a safety reason for the move of the BBQ back here, but he said no, it was just an attempt to switch things up with some new ideas. The only downside tonight was that back here, they could not close the retractable roof overhead to shelter the diners, like they can in the center pool area.

 

We went to our normal dining time at 8pm in the dining room. Few people were there, including our table. Only three of us showed up, so Barb invited a single lady sitting alone to join us. She did, and we learned a little bit about her home country of Sweden. Dinner was over by 9:15pm. That would give our waiters a chance to get off early in case they wanted to go ashore. With the stern warnings, we doubt they do.

 

Instead of entertainment this evening, a movie, The Butler, was shown in the Queens Lounge. We should be able to catch this in our room in a few days.

 

We have one more full day in Lima tomorrow. No tour, but we will find something to do for sure.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Snip.... What this store has is a nice floral department that sells potting soil, vases, and plant containers. We needed to add more pots to our window sill, and now we have a complete garden. The sunflower seeds are up over an inch already. So fun to watch....Bill & Mary Ann

 

Perhaps you don´t post photos, but I´d love to see your ¨garden¨ I´ve never come across people who plant seeds etc on a cruise

 

Sandy in Spain

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We had a similar experience on the Noordam this past November. We spotted an overturned boat of 50 ft or so about 1/2 off the side of our ship. The Captain turned around to investigate and a lifeboat crew prepared to lower a boat. When we arrived at the overturned boat there was nobody in the water and no flares had been shot of. We never did lower the lifeboat but just circled the overturned boat. The Captain came on the horn and announced that the Coast Guard was notified and would be sending out a boat to investigate further. We never did find out the fate of the boats crew or if anyone had been trapped. I guess we'll never know.

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Report # 18 Lima, Peru January 15, 2014 Wednesday Day Two Cloudy, chance of rain, 79 degrees

 

The weather this morning was a disappointing grey and dismal one. Heavy dark clouds filled the sky with little promise of any clearing later on. At least the heavy, measurable drizzle was gone from last night. So was the wind.

 

Sometime after 9am, we watched the Prinsendam backing into the opposite side of the pier from us. Bet we know some folks on there, because usually a group of the frequent world cruisers will switch to HAL's elegant explorer for her grand voyages for a change of ports. Right now, the ship will be heading around South America with Antarctica viewing and a trip up the Amazon River. We took that grand cruise in 2010, and despite some bumps with a late retrofit project, we loved the itinerary.

 

We did spot hosts Wendy and Steve, who we just had dinner with while at the dinner party with our travel group in Ft. Lauderdale. This will be our only cross-over stop with the Prinsendam, since when we leave here, we will be heading west towards Easter Island, and they will continue their circumnavigation of South America. We had hoped that all of the passengers on both ships would have been allowed to tour each other's ships, but the answer to that was no. Only some of the staff on each ship was allowed to do that. In fact some of the entertainers came onboard here, such as the Amsterdam singers and dancers. Guess they were called the Prinsendam dancers and singers while performing on that ship. Barb also told us that the Crows Nest group, Invitation, left today, and the group Serendipity came to us. Barb seemed very pleased with the switch, because she was not liking the merry-go-round-like music at night in there.

 

We went back to the Miraflores district on the free shuttle bus around 11am. Since there are two HAL ships in port, we believe there were four large buses taking folks to town. We were warned again by Gene Young not to walk in the port area, or attempt to walk towards Lima from Callao. Something tells us that there must have been a bad incident, which would become true, as we later found out.

 

It took almost an hour to navigate the side streets to the pretty cliffs of Miraflores. Today we decided to walk the well-designed and landscaped pathway along the scenic coastline. It goes on for miles and has been nicely landscaped since our last visit. We noticed an ever-present series of guards every half mile or so along the way. So many people live in upscale apartment buildings in this part of town, that it is kept extremely safe day and night. Armed with cameras and guards, locals as well as tourists can feel confident moving about anywhere without fear. After taking a score of photos, we headed back to Larcomar Mall for lunch.

 

Today's venue for us was Chilis. At home, we indulge once a week for lunch at our local Chilis and always order one of their savory salads. Today we craved the quesadilla explosion and their new BBQ chicken salads. For some reason, we think the size of the entrees were almost twice as large as what we get at home. Good thing we were hungry. Once again, the sodas were served in a large glass, but were not bottomless. Prices were comparable to Chilis at home too. It would have been nice to sit at a restaurant with their patios overhanging the cliffside, but most all of those venues were packed with diners already by 1pm. And to be perfectly honest, one of us has a slight problem with precarious heights. It feels quite risky to be sitting on a cliff that looks like at any given moment it may slide down to the roadside, although we are certain it has never happened in recent history at this complex.

 

The line had grown quite long in front of the Marriott Hotel for the bus ride back. Now we were mixed with Prinsendam people, some of whom we recognized from previous world cruises. One fellow asked us all about what tours to book on the South America cruise he was already on. The we compared notes with another couple from our travel group that are on the Prinsendam. While waiting in line and chatting, a street vendor came along with his bag of jewelry. Not expensive stuff, but nice nevertheless. One of us loves to bargain, and with time to spare, got involved with the process quite easily. With an audience behind him, we ended up with three nice necklaces with matching earrings for a pittance. In fact, the vendor included extra earrings to sweeten the deal. We think he made many more sales as he worked the line.

 

Back at the ship, we tried the internet to find everything was down. Now it would be really considerate if you were alerted to the fact that the system was down. But that is something you do not know until you spend 10 minutes trying to send and receive emails and they go nowhere. Our favorite spot to do emails is outside the liquor store on deck five. We will have to take the time to pass by the library and check out the ship's computers from now on, or we will be wasting lots of minutes for nothing. Thought this new system was supposed to be better?

 

At dinnertime, there were only five of us, as our other two couples are still on their overland trip. While waiting for our second course, Henk Mensink strolled over to our table for a quick chat. He wanted to see how our trip was going so far. Great opportunity to ask some more questions about the changes with the internet and some of the showtime hours. You could tell he has been attacked from all sides regarding the new system being tested for the internet. Someone from the new company has come onboard and has been tweaking the system. But we are not sure it has been for the better. We had no complaints up to this point, but others have not been happy. Henk told us that if we ask, we will get some credit for wasted time yesterday, which is more than fair. Regarding the showtime, this evening's entertainment began at 9:30pm, meaning that the second seating guests would have to rush their meal to get to the show at the beginning. We asked why the change? Henk said that 2/3 of the diners are early seating, so the majority rules for the shows to begin a half hour earlier on some days. That could apply for the entire world cruise, which does not sit well with all of us. Another early start was the first Black and Silver Ball, beginning at 9:30pm. Henk said by reading the latest results of the surveys after the grand voyages, once again the majority favored the earlier time. Oh well, no impact for us, since we seldom attend anyway. We just like to gently fight for equal rights for all.

 

Tomorrow will find the Amsterdam leaving the port around noon, giving the overlanders enough leeway to make it back to the ship on time. Irene, the shore ex manager, told us that there had been a lot of rain in the Machu Picchu area, and some of the roads had been closed temporarily due to mud slides. Our tablemates should have some good stories we hope.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS The bad incident turned out to be an unfortunate crew member who did not heed the warning about going out alone at night. He got jumped near the small store right off of the ship, not even at the gate. Not sure what he lost, but at least, it was not his life. Maybe it is a good thing that the Amsterdam is not coming back to Callao next year.

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...........................

PS The bad incident turned out to be an unfortunate crew member who did not heed the warning about going out alone at night. He got jumped near the small store right off of the ship, not even at the gate. Not sure what he lost, but at least, it was not his life. Maybe it is a good thing that the Amsterdam is not coming back to Callao next year.

 

It's really a shame you have to go through Callao to get to Lima! Good to hear that crew is OK! Callao, especially at night, is like walking in certain areas of South Central

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Reading this is like reading a good book.......just don't want to stop turning the pages.

 

Thanks again....and again....and again.

 

DFD

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Enjoying the trip so far and can't wait for more!

I was on the Westerdam a few years back when the ship was turned around to help a sinking yacht. The yacht was over 60% in the water when arriving. The HAL crew got the three men off in time because when returning back to the ship, the yacht was 90% covered.

Hate to hear that a crew member was robbed in Callao district. When I visited Lima last year, told to either sit on my purse or place it on the floor under my legs while traveling through this area. While I visited many parts of Lima, this was one area did not.

I can't wait for your Easter Island segment because I'm looking at visiting in either 2015 or 2016.

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Hi we have just signed up for the WC 2015 and are following your blog for great ideas. We are a little nervous about being a newbie,but I guess you have to be one at one time or another. We sailed with you on our recent Statendam cruise to Hawaii and French Polynesia and had a great time. Looking forward to January 2015!

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