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Johnny B

John and Diane's 125-day Adventure at Sea

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - Day 8

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

 

What an amazing country is Costa Rica. It has an economy that is more stable than any in Latin America, it has no army, and it is known the world over for its eco-tourism. Because it has no army, it has far more money to spend on other necessities, and education is an important part of life. In fact, the minimum age for leaving school is 18, and a large percentage of Costa Rican students go on to higher education.

 

Our (private) tour today was to Monteverde (green mountain) in the Cloud Forest above Puntarenas. I don’t think I’ve ever experience such a difference in weather on a two-hour drive in my life. At the port, the temperature was in the low 80’s, but got hotter as the day went on (I’ve been told), and the skies were bright blue. In the Cloud Forest, it was barely 60 and the rain just went on and on. Of course the tour company, Gio Tours, had neglected to tell our tour organizers that raincoats and warm clothes were a necessity, so most of the group had to shell out the $10.00 to buy a thick plastic poncho. John had brought a hooded nylon windbreaker which he gallantly insisted that I wear, but I wasn’t going to let him go out there in just his shirt, so we popped for the plastic poncho. Unfortunately, the nylon windbreaker was just that - a windbreaker - and not waterproof, so I was not only cold, but wet pretty much through.

 

However, the tour itself was wonderful. We crossed eight hanging bridges, saw a two-toed sloth, some howler monkeys, and enough beautiful greenery to make the tour well worthwhile. After crossing the last of the bridges, we headed to the butterfly garden, where we must have seen dozens of types of those beautiful insects as well as two macaws.

 

After we finished with the Cloud Forest tour, we headed down the mountain for lunch at what looked like a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We thought the food, however, was excellent. We each had a choice of beef, chicken, or fish, and it was served on a large plate with beans, rice, a potato-cheese combo, and salad with incredibly fresh tomatoes. Each plate also had a grilled plantain banana which made a great dessert. Our beverage was basically a pineapple smoothie, and I could have consumed three or four. Although a couple of people complained about the food (don’t they always), we thought the fact that it was traditional Costa Rican food was the whole idea!

Besides, we’re from California, where beans and rice are a way of life.

 

A two-hour drive returned us to the ship at 4:00, for our 4:30 all-aboard, and we were greeted in a most unusual manner. There was a lineup of all the top hotel officers, from Henk, the Hotel Manager, to Florin, the Culinary Manager, to Gene, the Cruise Director, and so on and so forth. It was a lovely welcome back.

 

Right now, we’re debating about which of us is more exhausted and we have to figure out our options for dinner: go to the dining room, get something “to go” from the Lido, or just skip dinner entirely. I think it will be an early night for us.

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We think CR food is great! Especially the fried plantains and the pineapple smoothie (I seem to remember it is called a "piña"). Shame on the folks who complained. There are always a few!

 

Totally enjoying your blog. We may just have to try the trivia this summer on the Veendam.

 

 

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Edited by cdenni2

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. Speaking of libraries, it is just delightful to be back on a ship with one. The Koningsdam, for all its size and beauty, has a small room, perhaps 8’ by 15’ which they laughingly call “The Library.” It has a few travel books, perhaps two dozen novels, and a paperback book exchange in which about 90% of the books were in Dutch. As a retired English teacher, I do so love a good, well-equipped library.

 

 

Has there been any talk of downsizing the libraries on the S and R class ships? We have decided that we will not take a cruise any longer than 10 days on a ship that does not have a good library. And I am so longing to take one of the Grand Voyages.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017 - Day 9

Corinto, Nicaragua

 

It seemed, as passengers were disembarking this morning, that the only reason to dock in Corinto was to take a tour to Leon, the Spanish colonial capital of Nicaragua (before moving to Managua). Bus after bus after bus filled with folks headed there, and I understand that Deck 1 midships was jammed with tour-takers as well as people who just wanted to get off the ship and wander around town.

 

We waited until about a half hour after disembarkation was announced, and finally went downstairs to find almost no one waiting and all the tour buses gone to Leon or other destinations. As we wandered through a small, typically Latin American town, we noticed that most passengers would walk about two blocks, realize that there weren’t any of the usual tourist destinations (What? No Starbucks?) and then turn around and return to the ship Being the intrepid travelers that we are, we just kept walking, past small shops with entire families inside working, while being offered “tours” through town as passengers on dozens of bicycle “rickshaws.”

 

Finally, we decided we’d like to see something outside of town, since we knew that there were some beautiful beaches nearby, so when a nice young man offered us a ride to the beach behind his bicycle for $1.00 each, we jumped in, held on, and ten minutes later found ourselves in front of two thatched-roof, open-air buildings next to the beach.

On the way, we had a conversation with the young man. Between our broken Spanish and his broken English, we learned that he’s a student in his second year of studying engineering and the bicycle job helps him to pay for school.

 

There was almost no one else at the restaurant, so we ordered a couple of cold local beers and settled in at a table near the beach. A few people were walking along the beach and some little boys were trying to sell shells, but for the most part it was a lovely, quiet place to sit and enjoy the 90+ degree heat. A little later a fellow I’d recognized from the ship came over and we started to chat. It turns out that he is head of an organization that provides opportunities for college students to come to Costa Rica and a few other places to volunteer for six months or so. While we were speaking, a local woman arrived with a basket of ceramic whistles in the shapes of animals. They really were quite clever, so we bought a small one for our granddaughter. Our new friend Randy bought one too, and then bought the lady a nice cold brew. We included the lady in our “Spanglish” conversation and had a great hour of just enjoying the local environment.

 

Our bicycle rider came back to us, drove us to the middle of town, and we spent some time wandering the markets there. John found a nice “Nicaragua” tee-shirt, and then we finally wandered back to the ship for a late lunch.

 

This evening’s plan is to join our friends Michael and Susan for dinner in the Canaletto. We had planned to do that last evening, but we just had a 15-minute soup dinner outside of the Lido, watched a movie, and crashed by 10:00. Tonight should be a bit more energetic, and we’re looking forward to it.

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As always, I love your daily reports. And, Jeff's photos add to the enjoyment. I think your day in Corinto sounded wonderful, the "bike" ride and watching the world go by while enjoying a beverage by the beach is heaven to me. I'm sure you know you are missing massive amounts of rain in CA which makes your adventure even more wonderful. Thank you for taking us along, Cherie

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Friday, January 13, 2017 - Day 10

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

 

This is the perfect cruise port for most people. It is not a city, nor a town, but just a well-decorated collection of market stalls with fairly high-end souvenirs. This port was built only to host cruise ships with passengers who wish to travel to Antigua, a beautiful old city 90 minutes away. We went there two years ago, and it really is a wonderful place. We highly recommend it if you’re anywhere in the neighborhood.s

 

What did we buy, you ask? Well, since we want to send a “care package” to our kids (who don’t read this blog) from San Diego, this was the ideal spot to get their gifts. We found a cute tee-shirt for our granddaughter, and along with the ceramic whistle we found yesterday, she’s taken care of. This is also a jade center (complete with a small jade museum/store), so our daughter is getting some lovely jade earrings. Our son-in-law, who is the hardest to shop for, loves amusing tee-shirts. The one we found for him today had the insignia of the local beer, a bird, with a caption saying, “Angry Beer.” I think he’ll love it. Since we like to buy from native artists, and because I love nativity scenes, we bought one which was made with stuffed fabric directly from the artist.

 

To avoid being trampled, we waited until all the people who were going on tours had disembarked, and then about 10:30 we wandered off the ship, across the bridge, and entered the official tourist area. There are a couple of small cafes, providing wifi to anyone who buys a beer or a coke, lots of stalls selling everything from beautiful hand-woven table runners to jewelry to tee-shirts to whatever. Alongside the stall area is a yacht harbor (or perhaps a boat harbor would be more appropriate) with an open -air restaurant, also with free wifi for a purchase. We had some friends already there, but the wifi was better closer to the bar, so we chose another table, ordered some Gallo (Gayyo) beers, and went to work checking emails. We decided that this was going to be the place for lunch so we ordered the healthy option: nachos. Later, we joined our friends’ table where Jacques, the cellar master, bought us some margaritas. The eight of us just sat and talked and laughed for a couple of hours, and then decided it was time to re-board the ship.

 

Since tomorrow is the first meeting of the Book Club to discuss The World in Half, I decided it was time to begin reading it. I love it! I read for awhile in the library, which was almost empty, and then sat on the verandah to make even more progress. We’re supposed to be at page 168 by tomorrow at 2:00, and since I’m at about page 120 now, I think I should be able to be there.

 

At 6:45, we had a knock on the door, and it was our across the hall neighbor, Jacques, the cellar master, dressed in his work outfit, a tuxedo, and holding a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. He had said he’d stop by to sit on the balcony with wine and cheese, but it was too hot to sit outside, so we sat inside. I made a quick trip to the Lido to pick up a couple of cheese trays, and we had a nice 45-minute sit, drink, and chat time with someone we’ve known since 2008 and has become a pretty good friend.

 

All in all it was a wonderful day: good friends, good food, and good beverages. The next two days are sea days, so we get to rest up.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017 - Day 11

At Sea en route to Puerto Vallarta

 

After three ports in three days, finally we have a sea day, although it was a fairly busy one. I know that some people do as little as possible on sea days, and occasionally I am among them, but today just didn’t allow that option.

 

After our usual morning routine, I headed up to the library (a lovely reading or writing space) to get to page 168 in our current book club choice, The World in Half. Since I really do believe that nothing makes us as efficient as the last minute, I had put off reading the last forty pages or so until the morning of the book club meeting. If my schedule had been more open today, I probably would have put it off until the last hour.

 

Occasionally our cellar master friend Jacques has wine tastings for Mariners with 4 or 5 stars or in President’s Club, and today was our day - 11:00 in the dining room. The wines were excellent - two white and two red - but we had to leave at 11:40 to get to Trivia, where we came in third - I think we’re in a rut!

 

After lunch I had time to review the first half of the book again before Book Club at 2:00. There were probably 30 or so people at the meeting and we spent a fascinating 45 minutes discussing what we’ve been reading. The only problem with the meeting was that we were sitting in rows with Courtney, the librarian, at the front - much like a classroom - making it difficult for those in the back to hear what those at the front were saying during the discussion. I’m sure that by the next meeting everything will be worked out, and now I’m anxious to finish the book to see if Mira does, indeed, find her father. John grabbed the book before I had a chance to read it, so he’s finished and knows the answer to that question.

 

Now the rest of the afternoon is free, so I’ve got time to read, write, and watch turtles floating by in the sea. John is the ocean watcher, and he told me he’d seen several, so I stood by the railing and watched. Sure enough, there were dozens of brown sea turtles, spaced about every hundred yards or so, just floating by. It’s something that we’ve almost never seen before and it really is interesting to just watch.

 

This evening is our second “Gala Night” and I haven’t even figured out what to wear yet. I have narrowed it down to three choices, however, and I’ll probably make my decision just before it’s time to go. Procrastination is a wonderful hobby. The big question, however, is “Do we have an officer at the table tonight?” It’s fun to have someone else to chat with over dinner - but the fact that the officer buys the wine is a real plus!

 

Tomorrow’s another sea day, and this one is really a leisurely one. The only obligation I have is Trivia at 11:45. It doesn’t get much better than that. Now I’ll have to get back to watching football playoffs.

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There is a UPS Store on the corner of Broadway and Columbia St......about 5 blocks from the pier.

David

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Sunday, January 15, 2017 - Day 12

At Sea en route to Puerto Vallarta

 

We do get some excellent football coverage here, but yesterday neither of the two teams that I wanted to win did so, but, oh well. Today there is another game, and since the Green Bay quarterback is a California boy, not to mention a Cal boy, we’ll be on their side this time

 

Last evening was a Gala night, so it was time to check through the formal closet and figure out what to wear. I rejected the first choice, thought about the second choice, and finally settled on the third choice since the description was “dress in attire of times gone by” and I decided that the long white dress did that.

 

The question of whether we’d have an officer or not was answered when we arrived at the table and our waiter told us that we’d have the doctor, but he’d be a few minutes late. We questioned that information, since that’s who we’d had last formal night. When Dr. Dave arrived, we apologized for him being forced to come to the same table again, but he told us that he was back because he had asked to come back to our table. Imagine that! He said that he’d hosted too many tables with too many complainers and that made him want to return to our table because all we did was chat and laugh and be outrageous. In fact, Dave told us that he had a young woman friend (“just” a friend, he emphasized) who worked on the bridge who wanted to host a table but was hesitant to try. His solution was to bring her to our table with him for the next formal night so she’d see that it really wasn’t scary at all. I mean, I do love our table, but I didn’t know that we’d become a training ground for junior officers.

 

Last evening was the singers and dancers’ first show on the WC, and they were fantastic. The singers are top notch and the dancers are all classically trained and move in ways that I can only dream about. The focus for this particular show was on the singers, which was fortunate because yesterday was a pretty rocky one. There are two clues to expected roughness at sea: saltines and green apples at the front desk and “barf bags” hanging near the elevators. Both were in evidence yesterday, and in church this morning one man mentioned praying for calm seas. We, of course, are contrary in that regard; we are on a ship and we like to feel like it. Fortunately for the dancers, the seas calmed in the late afternoon and today we’re back to glassy seas and trying to figure out if we’re on a ship or at a hotel.

 

Tomorrow is Puerto Vallarta, and we’re really looking forward to it. There’s everything you could want there: long sandy beaches, great Mexican food, excellent margaritas, a mall with lots of stores, and a Wal-Mart. Who could complain? When we were here on the holiday cruise, we needed a few things at the mall and found some excellent margaritas just next to the dock, but this time we’re going to be more beach-bound. It should be a great day in the sun.

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Diane,

 

Thanks again for taking the time to post! REALLY enjoyed your trip report to Corinto, Nicaragua. Looked at pics from Bill & Marianne and Jeff too, really brings to life where are daughter is serving her Mormon mission. In fact, Jeff's adventure that day visited where she lives. I studied all the people in his pics to see if we could spot her in the background, lol.

 

Maybe we'll meet again on another Dam ship!

 

Thanks again!!!!!

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Let us know if you feel a strong police presence here. I guess that could be disconcerting to some.

 

Following and enjoying your adventure.

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Sunday and Monday, January 16, 17 - Days 13, 14

Puerto Vallarta and at sea en route to San Diego

 

I would have written a blog entry yesterday, but we were so busy and had so much fun that there was, literally, no time to do so. We began the day when the ship arrived in Puerto Vallarta at 8:00. It is such a beautiful town and the weather was absolutely perfect. When we’d been here in December on the holiday cruise, we limited our explorations to the mall across the street to pick up the items that we’d forgotten at home - and to patronize Starbucks and their free internet.

 

One lovely treat on the WC is the shuttles that are provided nearly everywhere. When we saw a notice in the daily schedule that said, “Because the ship is near the town, no shuttle will be provided. Taxis are available,” we thought that we must have forgotten how far away the old downtown area was. Well . . . we hadn’t forgotten. It turned out to be a 4+ mile walk from the ship to the far end of the Malecon, or beach area. I WILL be discussing this with Gene, the Cruise Director, this afternoon.

 

We walked past huge resorts, grocery stores, little shops, and all kinds of tourists, most of whom come here in the winter for the wonderful weather. We finally arrived at the Malecon, a beautiful mile plus area above and along the beach. There are bridges over creeks, benches (for those who have walked so far), a great variety of sculptures, and even a tall pole from which four men, dressed in Aztec garb, swing upside down, around and around the pole until they reach the ground. There are numerous restaurants, including at least two locations of the famous (or infamous) Senor Frog, as well as two or three of their stores, so you can show how much tequila you consumed in PV.

 

Our goal was our favorite PV restaurant, La Palapa. It’s so far down the beach that we were almost in Mismaloya when we arrived. It’s possible to sit inside, but who wants to do that when you can sit outside under a thatched umbrella with your feet in the sand. We began, of course, with a couple of margaritas, and they do make them strong in Mexico. We ordered a side of guacamole as well as seafood enchiladas and fish tacos. While we took advantage of the free wifi, we saw on Facebook that our friends Alan and Sandra were at a restaurant down the beach, so I commented about where we were and that if they wanted to stop by, we’d buy them some drinks. Fifteen minutes later, there they were, and 90 minutes later we all decided that it was time to head back to the ship. We negotiated with a taxi driver and by 4:00 we were back in our cabin, ready for a badly needed nap.

 

Last evening was in celebration of a birthday. The party was in honor of Rodica, the wife of Florin, the Culinary Manager. The party had been organized by Ann, Cathy and Jeff, and there were eleven of us in the back room of the Pinnacle. We were told to be there at 7:00, and at 7:10 we were all pressed against the far wall when Florin brought in Rodica. We all yelled “Surprise!” and she certainly was. According to Florin, she had never had such a celebration, so we were even happier to be part of it. Dinner was as enjoyable as any meal with people you like and especially as it was in honor of a sweet and kind woman.

 

Since dinner went from 7:00 until 10:00, we finished just in time to get to the Queen’s Lounge for the show, featuring a group called 4Ever, made up of four young men, two from Spain, one from Italy, and one from Uruguay. I think it was the best show since we’ve been on the ship. They sang rock, pop, and even some opera and the variation in their voices made it just lovely. John really liked hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen, but I loved their encore, “Nessun Dorma,” my favorite operatic aria.

 

Finally it was time to head back to our stateroom, and the best news was that we were to turn our clocks back an hour, so instead of it being 11:30 when we hit the sack, it was only 10:30. Such a treat.

 

So far today it’s been the usual lovely and relaxing sea day, with only Trivia as a scheduled event. The seas are calm, we can see Baja California on the starboard side, and some dolphins and whales were cavorting alongside the ship earlier this morning. My main goal for the day is to finish my book club selection, especially since it’s about Panama, which is far behind. Life is good.

 

P. S. We noticed no police presence in PV at all - just sun, sand and lots of tourists.

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Pack your rain gear for San Diego. The weather is not looking good at all. Major rain and cold.

 

 

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We will be having rain starting Wednesday night thunder storms Thursday rain both Friday and Saturday!

Sunday on our weather channel won't be till Sunday night rain starting.

Since I live here in Encinitas about 20 minutes down the coast I just saw the news and thought I'd chime in.

Denise:)

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We will be having rain starting Wednesday night thunder storms Thursday rain both Friday and Saturday!

Sunday on our weather channel won't be till Sunday night rain starting.

Since I live here in Encinitas about 20 minutes down the coast I just saw the news and thought I'd chime in.

Denise:)

Perhaps, I will not be driving south to have lunch on AMDM in San Diego ;)

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Amtrak would be a good option. Service is very reliable except on weekends when they shut down part of the route for construction.

David

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Amtrak would be a good option. Service is very reliable except on weekends when they shut down part of the route for construction.

David

 

Yeah; Amtrak is a good alternative; thanks for the reminder!

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Perhaps, I will not be driving south to have lunch on AMDM in San Diego ;)

 

Hi Copper 10!!!

I know you had a great cruise was enjoying your thread!

Come on down!!!

The sailing Gods will bring sunshine for you.

Wave as you pass Encinitas !

Denise:)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - Day 15

At Sea en route to San Diego

 

You wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) how excited people are to be calling at San Diego tomorrow. I think it’s such a familiar place with stores that provide all the things that we forgot to bring along. We have a list already, including such mundane items as superglue (my Kindle is getting very old), AA batteries for the bedside clock, and so on and so forth. There’s a Starbucks right across the street which is always good for free internet, a Rite-Aid for the forgotten birthday cards, and an Office Depot for all kinds of stateroom needs.

 

For us, one of the things we are really looking forward to is our 11:00 brunch with our good friends George Geary and Neil Bonner. We met them for breakfast at “The Oldest Saloon in San Diego” on the day we sailed from San Diego in December, and we’ll complete the circle by meeting at the same place on this visit. George will be boarding on one of the Greek islands and staying on for two or three weeks later in the cruise (as guest chef), but that will be work and this will just be fun. It’s a two-hour drive from his home, so we really appreciate the get-together.

 

Yesterday continued very quiet and relaxing. It was the first day we didn’t win, place or show in Trivia, but you can’t win them all. It’s getting colder as we go north, so it was an excellent nap day, followed by a long stretch of watching the Australian Open (tennis) on TV. John is happy if Roger Federer wins, so he was a happy camper, especially since Roger won in straight sets. The captain’s noontime announcement today included the information that there will be approximately 15-foot swells most of the way between San Diego and Hilo, Hawaii, requiring a slight detour to the south to avoid the storm that would cause 20-foot swells. We rather enjoy that sort of thing, but we’re sympathetic with those who have trouble with it.

 

The show last evening was a combo of a comedian and a lovely Broadway singer. I’m sorry, but the comedian just never really “took off.” I think he also offended a lot of people by speaking of the Promenade Deck (with lounge chairs) as “the morgue,” because he could never tell if the occupants were dead or alive. That one pretty much went over the line. Fortunately the singer was the second performer of the two, so the show finished on a positive note.

 

It was another “turn the clock back” night, and now we’re on Pacific Standard Time. Because 11:00 became 10:00, there was even more time to watch tennis. The only negative about setting the clock back is that the second night in a row creates a problem with waking up too early the next morning, but it’s a problem I’ll be happy to live with.

 

As a huge Jane Austen fan, I discovered this morning that one of the movies on TV today is the only version of Pride and Prejudice I haven’t seen: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It also seems to be the funniest, so I think that the 2:00 showing on our stateroom TV will usurp afternoon nap time. It will be well worth it, though.

 

Since San Diego is the beginning and end of a segment, we’ve found out that there are about 90 people disembarking and 90 people embarking, keeping the total numbers about the same. Tonight we’ll see luggage in the corridors, but as long as it’s not ours, I’m happy.

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Hope you are all OK getting in and out of San Diego. Heavy rain and wind in the morning, high surf in the afternoon forecast. Major storm hitting California.

We drove between Paso and Morro Bay last weekend when it was sunny. Very green now and ground getting waterlogged. 17 inches of rain on the hills above Cambria. There is a major storm right now on the central coast with warnings of 20 to 30 foot surf and coastal erosion. I hope the piers survive.

Enjoying your blog as always.

Thanks! Jill

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