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Trekking the Globe with Bill & Mary Ann on the 2017 World Cruise - 126 Days


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Report # 8 Santa Marta, Colombia January 7, 2017 Saturday Chance of rain & 74 degrees

 

You would think 74 degrees sounds comfortable, wouldn’t you? Well, add humidity to that and suddenly it is warm and muggy. That’s what the weather was this morning as we sailed into the sheltered harbor of Santa Marta, Colombia. The ship was originally scheduled to dock fairly close to the downtown area. But that all changed, and we were moved to the furthest mooring. Appears that a Dole cargo ship had priority over us. It really did not matter all that much, since walking in the working dock area was forbidden anyway. A shuttle bus had to be used to access the port gate, which is right in town and the Historic District. By the way, Colombia has a population of over 45 million people, and the capital is Bogota.

 

This is either the third or fourth time we have visited this part of the world. We have taken two tours here, and explored on our own once. That was the plan for today. We left the ship about 10:30am, only to find the line was 100 people long. Good thing there were two coaches for the mile-long ride. Seemed to take longer to load the buses as the ride to the gate. It did give us time to visit with one of our buddies, who suggested for all of us to ask for a postcard with the photo of the Amsterdam. Normally, they are already in our room. These can be used in foreign countries to show a taxi driver where you need to go. That is our little hint of the day, since we thought that was a great idea.

 

Many other guests had beat us there, and were sitting in the shade talking on phones and working on computers. Looks like there was some free WIFI there for a short period. That is, until too many people started using it. Great while it lasts.

 

We continued on to the dozens of tented souvenir stalls on the beachfront. They were full of vacationers and families with kids, along with all of us. Searching for something to hold the chocolate pillow candies, we found nothing suitable. What we did get were many colorful photos of the beach full of people having fun in the water and in the shade.

 

Santa Marta has not always looked like it does today. It was founded in 1525 by Spanish conquerer Don Rodrigo de Bastidas. It is the oldest city in Colombia and South America. Maybe even more important is the fact the great liberator, Simon de Bolivar, the revolutionary who led Colombia and other Latin America countries to independence from Spain, lived and died here. You can’t go anywhere in this part of South America, and not see monuments with Bolivar’s name on it.

 

The main attractions in the historic district have to be the Santa Marta Cathedral, the oldest church in Colombia. It was completed in 1766 and once held the remains of Bolivar. He has since been taken elsewhere. The other attraction is the Gold Museum with artifacts from the pre-Colombian cultures. It is also one of the few places that is air-conditioned, and has restrooms.

 

After walking through the middle of town and the local shopping area, we visited both sites. Outside the small museum, we purchased a woven barrel-like purse, to be used to store our pillow chocolates. For some reason, we did not receive the information card with the ship’s info and currency exchange. We figured that was another cutback. Since many of the other guests got them, we surmised they ran out. Anyway, the vendor was confused with her asking price, and needed some translation from a local lady to help us make the purchase. Guess it would have been easier to use pesos, but we did not have any. The ship did not sell them. The mix up happened when the vendor wanted $2 bills instead of 4 ones. We did not have $2 bills….have not for many, many years. Finally, with the help of the translator, she kept the $8 and was happy.

 

Our next purchase was a bag of limes for $2, probably the best deal. Turns out we bought them from the same vendor we had three years ago. He threw in two extras for good luck. Same as three years ago. There were many vendors today, but most all of them were low-key. No pressure to buy from them.

 

Today we did not see a restaurant that appealed to us, so we went back to the ship and had a room service lunch. Yesterday, we had gotten a letter warning us that the air-conditioning needed maintenance between 10:30am to 2pm. When we got back to the room, we were pleased to find it was cool. Guess nothing had been turned off here. We had salads and split a club sandwich, the only item left over from the old menu. We also remembered that the tuna melt was gone, a popular item for sure.

 

Worked on photos and gathering info for the report until it was time to go to the sail away. Watching from the aft deck 8, the ship left in the darkness well after 6pm. It was nice to see the city all lit up with flashing lights along the beachfront and hotels.

 

Dinnertime found only 6 of us present. Four of our buddies had attended a Pinnacle dinner, hosted by their travel hosts. It was nice to be able to get to know our new guests better. The more we talk, the more we all realize that we have shared more than one or two cruises together. Since we were all tired from our first port, none of us was interested in seeing the show Dance Fever. So far, we have not heard any outstanding raves about the acts in the Queen’s Lounge.

 

Really going to appreciate a day at sea tomorrow as we head towards the Panama Canal. The seas were rather choppy all night, with the ship rolling quite a bit. But that may be due to the fact that the speed of the ship was between 8 and 10 knots. Don’t believe the stabilizers work too well at that speed.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 9 Sailing Towards the Panama Canal January 8, 2017 Sunday Partly cloudy & 86 degrees 18 Pictures

 

If it is a Sunday at sea, for the last couple of years, that meant it was Sunday Brunch in the dining room. Well, today when we went to breakfast, it was a surprise not to find the center of the lower dining room off limits. Usually the buffet tables took the place of the regular tables. Well, it will no longer happen, and we soon found out why.

 

Presty came by to say hello, so we asked him about it. Apparently, the Center for Disease Control for the US has deemed the buffets are not properly set up to be safe from contamination. This is just a guess on our part, but the buffet could be a source of viruses being spread on the ship. On recent past cruises, these nasty viruses have run rampant among the guests and crew alike. Presty admitted that the sneeze guards were not up-to-date, and there is always the problem of keeping the cold food cold, and the hot food hot for two hours. And this does not apply just to the brunch, but also to every cook-out on the Lido deck poolside. No more Mongolian BBQ, luaus, or steak, chicken, and fish BBQ’s. This must have been changed recently, because many of these events had been scheduled for this world voyage. Presty also said that the special event planned onboard with the CEO and President of HAL during the Mariner Days will have to be re-thought. You know, if it saves us from getting sick, then it will be worth it. For certain, this will be a disappointment for many, because these events are popular for a change in the routine. As for us, we have never eaten dinner at the BBQ’s, but we always take photos while it was happening. The biggest complaint we have heard is from the guests that gather their food, then cannot find a place to sit down and eat it.

 

We asked our friends about the offerings at the brunch today, and they said it was a new menu with a mix of both breakfast and lunch items. They added it was very good. And when you see the effort that goes into converting the dining room to accommodate this venue, it is quite obvious that HAL is saving lots of man hours by eliminating it, thus saving the company money. Eventually, it is all about the money, isn’t it.

 

Presty added one more change………they will not be using the chair covers in the dining room on gala nights anymore. It’s always been a tradition, we guess, but there is no way to sanitize these covers. So they became another possible source of cross-contamination. And once again, this will save the waiters a lot of time.

 

During the last couple of days, we have begun to note down all of the little changes we have noticed. The last count was 22 things. We will add a few of these on every report until everyone is up to date. We’re not saying they are all bad, as some are for the better.

 

The following winds and waves kept the ship a little unsteady all day. Captain Jonathon mentioned that the washboard rumbling under the ship is due to the waves coming under the aft of the ship. Guess it was happening throughout the night. We never felt a thing, because we have been sleeping quite well.

 

It was so pleasant on the back deck, that we spent a few hours back there reading and soaking up some heat. The closer we get to the Panama Canal, the hotter it gets. The Captain mentioned that there is a chance of rain, and if that is the case, it will cool things off.

 

At 7pm, we were invited to an exclusive reception with the staff officers in the Explorer’s Lounge. It was held for the Pinnacle and Neptune suite guests, as well as the President’s Club members. What a welcome we got……..no hand-shaking, but the triple European kiss from the Captain and Hotel Director. Well, at least one of us got that welcome. Bill said….please no kisses.

 

We had the best group at one of the high tables. Peter the purser, Barbara H, the port lecturer, Barb, Don M, Renee, the spa manager, and eventually Tom and Tina, the future cruise consultants joined us. Custom beverages were delivered, compliments of Roger, the Beverage Manager. The hors- d’oeuvres were over the top…….caviar with egg, bitterballen, shrimp, bacon-wrapped figs, fried taquitos with pork, and cheese skewers. It lasted for one hour until it was time for our dinner.

 

There were two missing at our table, Maureen and Jim. The had been invited by their travel group for a Pinnacle dinner with their hosts. The four that went last night said it was really wonderful, and the food was great. Their choices were limited, but they were all happy with it. We closed down the dining room once again. Not sure if anyone was going to the show, which was Hilby, an entertainer with no description. Think we heard something about juggling. We had mixed reviews on the last three acts in the Queen’s Lounge. Some folks think they have been excellent, so who knows? Guess it’s all about what you like.

 

It’s been eight months since we transited the canal on our way home after the 2016 world cruise. Gosh, it seems like yesterday. In preparation for tomorrow’s transit, we got a letter giving us hints on staying comfortable tomorrow. Then after dinner, we got back to the room to find two Panama hats on the bed, another gift of this grand voyage.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Just love following this blog!!! We have never been fortunate enough to do a wc but we are scheduled to do the Grand Asia this fall!!! Are you on this one? I want to keep following all you good information. You are such an excellent writer. Please keep the news coming.

 

 

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That's too bad about the Sunday buffet and lido barbeque discontinuations.

I am not surprised about the chair covers as I had always thought those were prime germ carriers. It will be interesting to read about the 22 things you have already noticed. Always enjoy your commentaries very much.

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Report # 10 Transiting the Panama Canal January 9, 2017 Monday Partly sunny & 84 degrees Part #1 of 4 Pitures

 

Today we were promised to experience one of the finest man-made wonders of the world……and in the best possible way: on a ship. Yes, we totally agree, although this was not our first time. Also known as the world’s most famous shortcut, we always enjoy the transit, no matter how many times we have done it.

 

Our day began with a dining room breakfast with the addition of Panama Rolls. These are a delicate sweet roll filled with a thickened mandarin filling. They are also lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. Normally, these are served on all outside decks along with juice and coffee. On past transits, we have asked for them to be available in the dining room, and lucky for us, they have been offered ever since.

 

Yesterday, everyone received a notice warning us all of the dangers of the high heat and humidity while transiting the canal. It can be a killer, so we were advised to drink a lot (not a lot of alcohol), use sunscreen, and to wear light clothing and hats. We had to avoid the use of seasickness pills and patches, as they interfere with sweating, setting you up for heat stroke. It was advised to limit exposure to the sun, spending only 20 to 30 minutes maximum outside. The suggestion was to come inside to cool off, and have a beverage often.

 

Expecting to be hit with muggy high temperatures, we were surprised to find it rather pleasant out on deck three. There was a nice breeze, many clouds, and lower than usual humidity. Of course, the clouds meant possible rain, and that is what we got occasionally all day. We did not complain, since it really kept the air cooler.

 

Here are some tidbits about Panama. The population is about 3,361,000 Spanish-speaking people. Mid-December to mid-March is considered the dry season. Even during that time, there is plenty of rain to keep the canal process working.

 

The work began on this canal in 1904, ending in 1914. Their reason behind building this shortcut, was to shorten the time it took ships to sail around Cape Horn in South America. For instance, it cut the miles from 14,000 from San Francisco to New York, to 5900 miles, and only take 8 to 10 hours to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

 

The canal is almost 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The Gatun Lake in the middle portion is over 85 feet higher than both oceans. The Gatun locks on the Caribbean side raise the ship over 85 feet to the lake level. Then on the Pacific side, the ships are lowered in two sets of locks, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores, bringing us back down 85 feet. Simple idea, but only accomplished after a massive project wrought with problems. Financial difficulties, malaria, yellow fever, and horrendous working conditions took its toll on the canal workers. Many died, but eventually the canal was done and opened August 15, 1914. Considering the massive amount of excavation that was done, it was a miracle of the century.

 

We did some in-depth research on why the locomotives used in the locks are called “mules”. These locomotives are used to center the ships between the canal walls. They do not pull the vessels, as one might assume, as the ships advance under their own steam. The story has it that mules were imported to help with packing and hauling equipment. Some areas were only accessible with mules, so these work animals were highly respected. In time, the animals were allowed to roam freely throughout the canal zone. Someone had the idea to name the locomotives after them, because of their durability and strength. They never did the work of the locomotives, which would have been impossible, but they did earn their spot in the Canal’s hall of fame, so-to-speak.

 

Canal expansion began ten years ago in 2007. It was necessary to expand the capacity to handle more and larger ships. The new locks which opened last year at a cost of $6.20 billion dollars (US), can handle ships up to 1401 feet long, and 180 feet wide. Bet it costs these huge vessels a pretty penny. In 2013, the canal reportedly made $4 million every single day. And that amount is probably much higher now with the opening of the new locks. We have had the unique opportunity to witness the progress during this time period. Very interesting, since it looked like it would never be done.

 

We split our time outside by going to deck 8 aft until the early afternoon, then the rest of the day on the bow. Once we were into the first set of locks at Gatun, Captain Jonathon announced that we were stopping in Gatun Lake for at least 2 ½ hours. We had to wait for an LPG (propane) tanker to go by us. Ultimately, that made us exit the canal much later than we ever have. Not a bad thing either.

 

The only break we took was when we grabbed two pre-made sandwiches in the Lido for a quick lunch. They were more bread, than they were lettuce and cheese. Gosh, we miss the sandwich maker. Not to worry, we won’t starve. Besides, at 2:30pm, fruit skewers were passed out on the outside decks and the bow. The watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes were quite refreshing. Also refreshing were the series of showers that cooled us off while on the bow. All of us got some exercise going in and out of the hatch, trying to keep dry. Once we were past the last locks, the rain ended.

 

The big treat was watching the sunset as we went under the Bridge of the Americas. The lights of the new Pacific locks glowed brightly as we got to see an over-sized MSC container ship transit it. Wish we could have seen the new rolling gate, but they seemed to keep that ship in the last lock until we were out into the Pacific. Our final view was the city of Panama, the capital of the country, all lit up in the distance.

 

Our next port will be in Costa Rica…..hopefully Puntarenas. Have a day at sea first, thank goodness.

 

Dinner was excellent with the entrée of veal chops. Conversation at our table has been loaded with laughs and interesting subjects, making two hours or more, just fly by. Everyone was happy to know that we got one hour back on the clock tonight….the first one of this cruise. There will be many more to come…….

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 10 Transiting the Panama Canal January 9, 2017 Monday Partly sunny & 84 degrees Part #1 of 4 Pitures

 

 

 

Today we were promised to experience one of the finest man-made wonders of the world……and in the best possible way: on a ship. Yes, we totally agree, although this was not our first time. Also known as the world’s most famous shortcut, we always enjoy the transit, no matter how many times we have done it.

 

 

 

Our day began with a dining room breakfast with the addition of Panama Rolls. These are a delicate sweet roll filled with a thickened mandarin filling. They are also lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. Normally, these are served on all outside decks along with juice and coffee. On past transits, we have asked for them to be available in the dining room, and lucky for us, they have been offered ever since.

 

 

 

Yesterday, everyone received a notice warning us all of the dangers of the high heat and humidity while transiting the canal. It can be a killer, so we were advised to drink a lot (not a lot of alcohol), use sunscreen, and to wear light clothing and hats. We had to avoid the use of seasickness pills and patches, as they interfere with sweating, setting you up for heat stroke. It was advised to limit exposure to the sun, spending only 20 to 30 minutes maximum outside. The suggestion was to come inside to cool off, and have a beverage often.

 

 

 

Expecting to be hit with muggy high temperatures, we were surprised to find it rather pleasant out on deck three. There was a nice breeze, many clouds, and lower than usual humidity. Of course, the clouds meant possible rain, and that is what we got occasionally all day. We did not complain, since it really kept the air cooler.

 

 

 

Here are some tidbits about Panama. The population is about 3,361,000 Spanish-speaking people. Mid-December to mid-March is considered the dry season. Even during that time, there is plenty of rain to keep the canal process working.

 

 

 

The work began on this canal in 1904, ending in 1914. Their reason behind building this shortcut, was to shorten the time it took ships to sail around Cape Horn in South America. For instance, it cut the miles from 14,000 from San Francisco to New York, to 5900 miles, and only take 8 to 10 hours to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

 

 

 

The canal is almost 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The Gatun Lake in the middle portion is over 85 feet higher than both oceans. The Gatun locks on the Caribbean side raise the ship over 85 feet to the lake level. Then on the Pacific side, the ships are lowered in two sets of locks, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores, bringing us back down 85 feet. Simple idea, but only accomplished after a massive project wrought with problems. Financial difficulties, malaria, yellow fever, and horrendous working conditions took its toll on the canal workers. Many died, but eventually the canal was done and opened August 15, 1914. Considering the massive amount of excavation that was done, it was a miracle of the century.

 

 

 

We did some in-depth research on why the locomotives used in the locks are called “mules”. These locomotives are used to center the ships between the canal walls. They do not pull the vessels, as one might assume, as the ships advance under their own steam. The story has it that mules were imported to help with packing and hauling equipment. Some areas were only accessible with mules, so these work animals were highly respected. In time, the animals were allowed to roam freely throughout the canal zone. Someone had the idea to name the locomotives after them, because of their durability and strength. They never did the work of the locomotives, which would have been impossible, but they did earn their spot in the Canal’s hall of fame, so-to-speak.

 

 

 

Canal expansion began ten years ago in 2007. It was necessary to expand the capacity to handle more and larger ships. The new locks which opened last year at a cost of $6.20 billion dollars (US), can handle ships up to 1401 feet long, and 180 feet wide. Bet it costs these huge vessels a pretty penny. In 2013, the canal reportedly made $4 million every single day. And that amount is probably much higher now with the opening of the new locks. We have had the unique opportunity to witness the progress during this time period. Very interesting, since it looked like it would never be done.

 

 

 

We split our time outside by going to deck 8 aft until the early afternoon, then the rest of the day on the bow. Once we were into the first set of locks at Gatun, Captain Jonathon announced that we were stopping in Gatun Lake for at least 2 ½ hours. We had to wait for an LPG (propane) tanker to go by us. Ultimately, that made us exit the canal much later than we ever have. Not a bad thing either.

 

 

 

The only break we took was when we grabbed two pre-made sandwiches in the Lido for a quick lunch. They were more bread, than they were lettuce and cheese. Gosh, we miss the sandwich maker. Not to worry, we won’t starve. Besides, at 2:30pm, fruit skewers were passed out on the outside decks and the bow. The watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes were quite refreshing. Also refreshing were the series of showers that cooled us off while on the bow. All of us got some exercise going in and out of the hatch, trying to keep dry. Once we were past the last locks, the rain ended.

 

 

 

The big treat was watching the sunset as we went under the Bridge of the Americas. The lights of the new Pacific locks glowed brightly as we got to see an over-sized MSC container ship transit it. Wish we could have seen the new rolling gate, but they seemed to keep that ship in the last lock until we were out into the Pacific. Our final view was the city of Panama, the capital of the country, all lit up in the distance.

 

 

 

Our next port will be in Costa Rica…..hopefully Puntarenas. Have a day at sea first, thank goodness.

 

 

 

Dinner was excellent with the entrée of veal chops. Conversation at our table has been loaded with laughs and interesting subjects, making two hours or more, just fly by. Everyone was happy to know that we got one hour back on the clock tonight….the first one of this cruise. There will be many more to come…….

 

 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

 

I love following you but why can't I see your photos on Tapatalk???

 

 

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I love following you but why can't I see your photos on Tapatalk???

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk[/quote

 

 

 

They post their photos to their personal blog, here is the link..

 

 

 

http://cruisingwithbillandmaryann.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

Thank you!!! I have gone to the blog but didn't know why we couldn't see the photos here [emoji41]. I love following them!!

 

 

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Report # 11 Sailing Towards Puntarenas, Costa Rica January 10, 2017 Tuesday Partly cloudy & 77 degrees

 

Sure was nice to sleep in a bit later this morning. Always like the time change that rolls us back one hour. For some reason, it has been impossible to get to sleep before midnight. We are still not completely settled yet. Today was a good time to hang some more wall hooks for small stuff. Speaking of these hooks, we found it important to bring a small bottle of alcohol and cotton balls to wipe down the wall first. Noticing that the room stewards wipe the walls down with an oily cloth, we suspected that the hooks would not stick well. The alcohol does the trick. Here is another little hint: we save a few of the small lotion bottles to bring small amounts of dish wash soap, alcohol, and even pre-stain soak. They are durable and never leak.

 

The late morning was the best time to spend at the Seaview Pool today. It was warm, but there was a breeze blowing across the deck. We had the added pleasure of watching dozens of boobys and a few frigates as they soared overhead, and dove for fish. Don’t know why these birds like to drift over the aft deck, but it sure makes one nervous while relaxing on the lounges. Makes us like targets. The deck waiters have been bringing us glasses of lemon and cucumber ice water, compliments of Roger and Twinkle. Roger, the beverage manager, said he is the “boss”, and he will take care of us. So far he has done a great job.

 

We had a late lunch of salads and a split sandwich before settling in to work on photos from yesterday. It is such a fun hobby, but very time-consuming….like three hours. While the computer expert worked on that, one of us worked on making notes on all of the changes we have spotted so far on this trip. As we may have stated already, some of these are money-saving efforts on the company’s part, while other things are a good idea. Thought we would address these things a few at a time in no particular order. If we have already addressed these, then bear with us since we may repeat some.

 

The daily newsletter has been simplified. Missing on the front page is the sunrise and sunset times. It was near impossible to get it right on our last voyage, so it has been eliminated. The best place to find this info is on the TV on channel 40.

 

The “good evening” cards that were left on the bed every evening are no longer given. However, last night we did have the reminder to turn the clocks back.

 

We thought the money conversion card that has been so helpful had been stopped, but we discovered that our deck did not receive them in Santa Marta. How rude, they must have run out of them. Tonight, we had one card for tomorrow’s port in Costa Rica. One card for the two of us is better than no card at all.

 

Think we already covered the elimination of the true Sunday brunch, as well as the absence of the gala night chair covers. Also, no more dinnertime BBQ’s or lunchtime Mongolian cookouts. The folks we have talked to are not happy about that, as it was a break from routine. Have to admit, it was one heck of a mess during and after the events.

 

More info to follow tomorrow.

 

Dinnertime found everyone present at the table. Barb and the two of us stopped briefly to chat with Susie and Woody, who we have not seen since last Wednesday. Gosh, we have been onboard for a week already. Funny that our paths have not crossed, since we must be doing totally different activities. We promised to hunt each other down to catch up with several years of news.

 

We tried different entrees…….one BBQ chicken salad, and one spaghetti with duck. Sure was not what the description sounded like. This is where we miss the display of entrees in the Lido at night. If we had seen the spaghetti /duck plate, one of us would not have ordered it. Oh well, they all can’t be a winner. There was room for strawberry yogurt and a peach crisp with vanilla ice cream. Slam, our waiter, still brought jello for Martha and me, and one extra for the table. Kind of turning into a joke now, but we are happy.

 

We lingered after everyone left, chatting with Maureen and Jim. Seems they have been on many cruises as well, and remembered us from previous world trips. We are learning a lot about Vancouver and Canada, because that’s where they are from.

 

Tomorrow, we will be in Costa Rica.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report #12 Puntarenas, Costa Rica January 11, 2017 Wednesday Sunny & 85 degrees Part #1 Of 3 85 Pictures

 

We were happy to see that our port of call today was not Puerto Caldera, the working dock, but the preferred Puntarenas,a town built on a sandy point, located about a 20 minute ride away. Although we have been here many times, we found a different side to this spit of sand…much more than we ever thought was here. We don’t know why, but we always take a hard left after walking the long pier, mostly due to the fact that there is a stretch of stalls selling numerous Costa Rican souvenirs. Sometimes we turn right, and walk the beach for a bit.

 

Today, we kept going across the busy road, following the locals who were out and about shopping and enjoying coffee and pastries in the cafes that line the streets. The main street housed many stores, meat and fish markets, pharmacies, grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and cafes. There was even a tiny pet shop with cages full of chicks, bunnies, and parakeets. A resident cat greeted us at the open doorway. Can’t believe we never knew this town was so big. One thing for sure….we were about the only cruise ship passengers strolling these avenues and streets. Of course, there were a large number of shore excursions offered today, and we heard the buses were full.

 

They had tours to the cloud and rain forest, a coffee plantation, a jungle safari, hummingbird and butterfly garden, a drive to Sarchi to see where the ornate ox carts are made, as well as a long drive to Poas Volcano at the elevation 8,884 feet above sea level. You could have visited the capital of San Jose, or see macaws on a mangrove cruise, or be brave, and do a zipline or an aerial tram ride through the tree canopy. We have been on each and every one of these over the years….and some of them more than once. No more cramped buses for us, as we prefer to do our exploring on foot these days.

 

So on our self-guided tour today, we saw the main attraction……the Puntarenas Cathedral, which may have been re-built in 1902, but their sign stated it was built in 1850. Across the street from the cathedral is a museum and cultural center. Not sure they were opened this morning. We forgot to mention that it was very hot today. Thinking the church would be cooler, we were disappointed to find it was just as warm inside, and there was not a breeze blowing through the opened windows. As a result, we did not last too long in there.

 

On the north side of the spit was Golfo de Nicoya, where the local fishing fleet parked their vessels. Seen better days, the fishing industry is big here. Several of the boats were shrimp boats.

 

Small restaurants lined the streets, but they were all closed. Perhaps they open for dinner. We passed by a big stadium, and realized the cafes and restaurants were probably busy on game days. We cut across the center of the spit to the familiar beach road we remembered. This time we continued walking until we reached the spot where we saw a ferry sailing out early this morning. A couple of piers jutted out for the ferry landing. Among the large rocks at the base of the piers, were dozens of iguanas. Different from the ones we saw in Florida, these creatures were grey in color, and blended quite well in the rocks. Spotting movement between the boulders, we discovered there were almost as many feral cats peeking out at us. They serve a purpose of keeping the vermin population under control. Friendly….they are not.

 

At this end of the spit, there were some nice hotels. One of them was named La Brisas, and definitely looked like a good place for some cool drinks. We were seated among the local vacationers, and ordered an appetizer of cheese nachos covered with fresh salsa. Enjoying two local ice cold imperial beers each, we were happy campers. Next to pizza, nachos is one of our favorite treats. And they did accept US dollars, as did all of the souvenir vendors. The currency here is called the Costa Rican colon with the conversion of 539 to $1. USD. It is always a good idea to bring a pocket calculator (or a cell phone) to figure the rate exchange. Or use the small card we get at every port with the math done for us from US$1 to $1000.

 

On our way back, we walked the beachfront road, Paseo de los Turistas, the perfect name for the long line of tented restaurants and souvenir stands chock-full of locally-made treasures. We think their nicest articles are the things made from local woods. Over the years, we have collected a number of salad bowls, ice buckets, covered bowls, and trivets made of small pieces of wood connected with fishing line. They sell the most colorful pareos, t-shirts, beach towels, and beach clothing. Our only purchase was a navy blue visor, a most useful item in this oppressive heat.

 

We have to mention that once we were through the xray check on the ship, there was a manned collection table set up to take alcohol or wine from guests who purchased these onshore. Sure do not remember ever seeing this table on a world cruise before. It was made clear in the pre-cruise information, that liquor would be confiscated and held until you disembark. Purchased wine would have a corkage fee of $18. applied no matter where it was consumed on the ship. Guess this is being enforced this year. Come to think of it, the security team is completely new to us. We recognized no one, and they did not know any of us.

 

Back on the ship by 3pm, we cooled off in our room, working on photos of course. Sail away festivities began at 4:30pm where a few hot appetizers and drink specials were offered to the growing crowd. A most wonderful breeze swept across the aft deck while we watched the sun set, and the moon rise as we visited with buddies Bob and Martha and Martin. The biggest treat was watching the pelicans soaring, then diving in our wake. Frigates attempted to steal their catch, and were successful sometimes. It’s exciting witnessing survival of the fittest.

 

The conversation continued at dinner, where we all shared our exploits for the day in Costa Rica. All ten of us are seasoned travelers, so it was great hearing all of the various stories. Once again, we liked our custom-made entrees of mustard BBQ pork with sweet and sour veggies and fried noodles underneath. We had Slam hold the duck with this entrée, and add the pork chop. Sure was good. Since tomorrow is another port day in Nicaragua, we all skipped the guitarist, Francis Diatschenko, the entertainer in the Queens Lounge. Seems that our meals run well over 10pm, so half the show is over before we would get there. So far, all of the featured acts have been new ones to us.

 

Oh yes……we can report that all of the sunflower seeds have come up. Pretty good, since they were only planted 6 days ago. The light from the windowsill works miracles.

 

Be back tomorrow…….

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thanks for your world cruise blog, Bill and Mary Ann, I am enjoying your cruise again this year.

 

I hope that your world cruise will reinstate some of the old world cruise flourishes after you leave San Diego. Perhaps the Fort Lauderdale to San Diego segment is being treated as just another Panama Canal cruise.

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Report #13 Corinto, Nicaragua January 12, 2017 Thursday Partly cloudy & 92 degrees Part #1 Of 3 86 Pictures

 

The Central American country we visited today was Nicaragua, with a population of 5,892,000 Spanish-speaking people. The capital is Managua and the best time to visit is from June to March in order to avoid the dusty end of the dry season. It is a nation of Contras and Sandinistas (political groups), dusty farms, chicken buses, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and baseball. An interesting fact about the country is that it is the least densely populated in all of Central America. Also of interest, is that 72% of the people are under the age of 30.

 

When we sailed into the port, running over an hour late, we saw what looked like a massive fire in the distance. The smoke covered the highest of the surrounding volcanic peaks, and seemed to drift for many miles. Captain Jonathon announced that the smoke was due to sugar cane fields being burned, a common practice here.

 

What totally surprised us was the fact that we could see several volcanoes in the distance, something we have never seen on many previous stops here. Pollution, smog, smoke or clouds have always obscured these peaks during the month of May, when we stop on the re-positioning cruise after the world cruise. One of the largest volcanoes appeared to be active. Later at sail away, one of our friends told us that this volcano did erupt not long ago, and took out much of the capital of Managua.

 

Many tours were offered here today….like 11 of them. The problem arrived when we arrived an hour late, and all of these excursions needed to be off of the ship one after the other. The gangway was set up on deck one, mid ship, so the hallways, stair wells, and elevators backed up for quite some time. Turned out that due to the high tide, the narrow gangway was extremely steep. That considerably slowed up the exit for everyone. Glad we were not in a rush to go to town, because we doubt we would have gotten out of our room. People were jammed three deep down our hallway, and they were not all happy campers, we heard.

 

It was a good thing we had photo work to do. It was going to be a very warm day, so we figured noontime was soon enough to go exploring. Leaving the ship was a challenge, since the gangway had become even more steep. Right after we exited, this gangway was removed, and the gangway on deck A was set up. So much easier for folks to get off, especially those in walkers and scooters.

 

A local group of young dancing ladies and one fellow wearing colorful outfits greeted us. At the welcome table, we picked up some informative brochures and a postcard of Nicaragua. The info lady handed each of us a balsawood bird figurine. Nice surprise gift. The Shore excursion managers, Leslie and Irene, happened to be there at this desk. First time we had a chance to say hello since we have boarded. They were not on last year’s world cruise, so it was great to see them back for this one. Leslie said this morning’s procedure to fill the buses was unacceptable for them. He said that two gangways are needed to avoid the mess they had. Of course, they will get the brunt of the complaints when these folks return from their trips. We all knew that the ship would not delay our sail away, so all of the longer and more expensive tours would be cut short by one hour. Those excursions would have been to colonial Leon with either a stop at their museum, gardens, history and arts, or the bubbling mud pots. They all included a lunch. The other shorter tours went to an equestrian show, a rum factory, or a banana plantation. Lastly, a 4 hour tour took folks to two villages nearby. We did that one many years ago, and once was enough.

 

We stayed in town, a very short walk out the port gates. Did we mention that the shuttle information has been printed on the front page of the daily newsletter? It makes it very clear whether or not a complimentary shuttle will be provided in every port. This has got to take the pressure off of our port lecturer or location guide, Barbara, as she got a lot of grief from many passengers concerning these shuttles.

 

Not much has changed since we were here last May. Not the prettiest of ports, Corinto happens to be the only seaport for Nicaragua on the Pacific side. Because it was not a tourist destination, there is little in the way of infrastructure. The streets outside the gate are taped off with police tape, so there is no car traffic. Truthfully, there are few cars in town. Most everyone rides a bike, or has a tricycle that will seat two to four passengers. The guys offer a ride for $5 per person. We always walk the town, since we needed the exercise more than a ride.

 

Souvenir tables were set up under tents. The popular treasures are ceramic bowls, wooden items, leather goods, embroidered tablecloths, beaded jewelry, and native paintings. Since more and more cruise ships stop here, their prices have gone up. On past trips, we bought some nice wooden bowls, leather sandals, and an earring tree made from wood. Other tiny shops in town had some clothing, hardware, and housewares.

 

There is a central square where cement benches made a good place for some passengers to sit under the shade of trees. Free internet drew a small crowd of folks, who soon found out it was over-loaded. Oh well, nothing gained or lost by trying.

 

By the way, the money conversion was 28 Nicaraguan Cordoba oro to $1 USD. And the locals were happy to take US dollars, and as many as you cared to spend. We did make an offer on some embroidered leather purses, but the vendor was asking way too much. She kept insisting that these purses were not made in China. She claimed to have made them herself. We continued on to some more stalls to find the same identical purses for far less money. Interesting they all looked the same.

 

We ran into friends who were relaxing in the shade. Good chance to catch up on news with each other. It is remarkable how many past passengers have chosen to take this particular cruise. The itinerary is different, so that must be the trick. Whatever the reason, it is so nice to see so many familiar faces this time.

 

Walking further into town, we came across a series of buildings with locked doors and no windows. Assuming they were shops, we found some doors opened. They were homes of the locals. We could see one large room with couches, chairs, TV’s, and kitchen tables. Bedrooms must have been towards the back, but we could not see inside really well. There were no windows anywhere, just a space above the door that let in a little light. We have heard that most all of the town’s residents work at the port, or in the nearby fields.

 

When we sail into the pier, we always passed by a few buildings on the water’s edge that might be restaurants. Not sure, we made our way to that area, and we did find two restaurants that were rather inviting. The thought of ice cold beer did sound good, so we checked out a place called Costa Azul. They had a patio on the water’s edge that offered the nicest view with a strong breeze. Worked for us, although most everyone we saw there lived here.

 

The first table we came across had familiar faces….Rich and Peg with two other friends from the ship. The first thing Rich said was “What took you so long?” They know we always go in search of the best pizza in all the ports, so they knew we may find this place. However, there was nothing close to pizza, only local dishes. OK, we were game to try something new. How bad could it be?

 

The local beer was called Tone. Guess how much they cost? Try around one US dollar each. We had four of them, since it was so hot outside. Then we split an appetizer of fried plantains with deep-fried cheese on the top. If it wasn’t for the frying, the food would have been very healthy. Sure tasted good to us. Our total bill was $10. Great value, and we didn’t die. Just joking……

 

The walk back to the ship was fairly short. We got back by 3pm, and found that the marimba band was still playing on the pier.

 

Sail away was at 5:30pm, Appetizers of chunks of steak and mango in a marinade were passed among the guests. Not a combination we would expect, they were very tasty. So far, all of the appetizers back here have been different from past trips. No complaints with the food so far.

 

The biggest treat tonight was watching the intense sunset. With the smoke in the air, the sun took on an unusual orange glow. Following the sunset, the moon, about full now, began appearing from behind the big volcano. If we did not know better, it appeared to look like the volcano was exploding. Tablemates Bob and Martin agreed, so we tried to start the rumor that it was indeed an eruption. The color of the moon was intense orange, surreal, but no doubt the moon as it rose quickly and came out from behind the peak. Once again, we never have left this late, so having such a good sunset and moon rising was a treat. Miss Martha joined us as the moon got higher in the sky. She was also impressed.

 

Everyone shared their tours or no tours today at dinnertime. There were mixed opinions….some liked where they went, while some did not. Much depends on the state of the buses and the luck of getting a good guide. Some are better than others.

 

We ordered the lamb dinner this evening, and it was excellent. Extra veggies are being served every night now. Steamed carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and asparagus will keep us all healthy for sure. Good conversation kept us at the table until 10:30pm.

 

Tomorrow’s port is our last one in Central America…….Guatemala.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS Here’s a little tip for the day: At home, we bought a very small lamp that clamps on the desk mirror. It’s perfect for typing these reports at night, as we use many sources of info…..books, pamphlets, the port guide, the tour booklet, and the daily newsletter. So much better than using the little flashlight.

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Report #13 Corinto, Nicaragua January 12, 2017 Thursday Partly cloudy & 92 degrees Part #1 Of 3 86 Pictures

 

At the welcome table, we picked up some informative brochures and a postcard of Nicaragua. The info lady handed each of us a balsawood bird figurine. Nice surprise gift.

 

We loved our little bird. It sits on our mantel, that has a roaring fire as we enjoy your post about the warm weather there.

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Found your blog and and am enjoying it immensely. Usually follow Celebrity board but DW and I are looking to come back to HAL (Veendam 2x) for some of our first longer voyages. Looking to start with Voyage of the Vikings.

 

Thank you for taking the time to keep us informed and educated. Smooth sailing wishes for you.

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