31 March 2013



30c but only 27% humidity. Very tolerable!

We arrived in port around 7am. Today’s bonus is that we docked starboard side so we could see everything from our veranda.

 The early morning view of the mountains was so impressive and it seem like every mountain is a volcano.

In fact as I’m taking pictures and watching the mountains the big one in the centre sent up a massive plume of smoke/steam. It turns out that it does that every 30 - 40 minutes.

Antigua is about 1 ½ hours from here so we decided to walk the local area again instead of spending all that time and money going to a big city.

The port of Quetzal is extremely clean, modern and green. They irrigate on a daily basis.

Again there was a market very near the port and so we spent a good time just meandering through the many outdoor shops, admiring the handiwork of the very talented Guatemalan people. Every thing is done with detail and very, very colourful!!

The market area was very clean and included a number of places to eat and a couple of very clean washrooms. There was also an open air WiFi post, all under a large roof, so we did some updating. WiFi on the ship is very expensive. The cheapest package is 35 cents a minute minimum 500 minutes. The WiFi post charged $10.00 / hour.

The Guatemalan people are descendents of the Mayan peoples and still carry all the traits. They are very dark, very short and not many of them speak Spanish or English. Just enough English to say, ‘just for you good price’ and ‘what you offer’. The ladies usually looked at Lucy from foot to head and commented to their coworkers something about the height of that foreigner. But then again I can’t really translate the Indian language that well…

I came across this cute photo op. There were two young kids sitting under one of the display tables watching a movie on the DVD player.

  We ended up purchasing something from this guy and he was more than happy to have his picture taken with us. Bargaining is expected. In fact, they usually start at a price and as you walk away the price drops rather significantly.

I could have purchased a T-shirt that said, “Guad ever” or “Guads up?”
The ship stocked up on fresh fruit and produce. It was good to see all that vine/tree ripened fruit being taken on board. Watermelons, papayas, bananas, mangos and melons. We watched them take the boxes through security. Each box was checked and sniffed by the drug dogs. Looks like all of our boxes cleared.

We did take a stroll along the seashore along a paved trail. The water certainly isn’t as clear and pretty as on the Atlantic side.

This is one country we would like to come back to. We saw so little of it in one day. It almost not enough to say that we’ve been to Guatemala and yet, yes, we have. Hard to fathom.

Siesta anyone?

On the way back to the ship I took this picture of the massive bumpers that keep the ship from scraping on the concrete.

Once back on the ship we waited for departure which was delayed by the fact that one of the tour buses got stuck in traffic and had to be escorted back to the ship with a police and military escort. The did make it back and we were off.

The day was most pleasant weather-wise because the humidity was way down and there was a wonderful, cooling ocean breeze blowing.
Today we had dinner after the 7pm show. Tonight we heard renowned virtuoso pianist Hyperion Knight. He is a graduate of Julliard and did a concert on classical music through the ages. Again we are amazed at the quality of entertainment on board.

During dinner we met a couple from Haifa, Israel. They were very interesting to visit with. There are just ending Passover so there were restricted as to what they could and couldn’t eat. Then we were joined by a couple from Orlando, Florida. They and the Haifa couple had visited before. Very interesting hearing these people’s stories.
We visited on the upper back deck until close to 11pm and everyone thought it was time to sleep.

Tomorrow, Mexico.

30 March 2013


34C with only 25% humidity under clear skys
The dock in Corinto is just a short walk from the edge of the village.
We did not book an excursion here as I didn’t want to take pictures through a window of a bus. So, after a leisurely breakfast on the balcony, we headed off of the ship into town.

This is definitely the poorest of the ports so far but with this country having experience such a violent recent history the people seemed very friendly. We walked through many neighbourhoods and passed by many very interesting homes and gardens.

Bicycles are the main mode of transportation. It was Good Friday so there were lots of families enjoying their front yards. Some were all piled into small blow-up swimming pools. The bikes seldom have only one person on them. Can be up to 3 people. Like two adults and a child. Not uncommon.
Also no taxi’s in town. They used the 3 to 5 wheeled prams. Rear powered by a strong legged young person. The prams were often quite ornate in their décor, curtains, flags and padded seats.

Some of the homes are very clean and comfortable looking. Car garage and all.

One little boy was holding a parakeet and as people passes he would say, “Photo?” For a buck it would have made a cute picture. Noticing a very strong police/military presence I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. I waited for them to move on but they didn’t so I didn’t get the picture.

These mangos were about 3 times the size of the mangos that we purchase here in our markets. They looked so good but we didn't try them and we were not allowed to take fruit back onto the ship.

The people have a very strong Spanish influence as far as physical features are concerned. The market place features were jewellery, wood carvings, coffee and ceramic vases and masks. You could also get wonderful looking hammocks. How to get them home??? And then when you do get them home, how often will you use it? Maybe tie it from one end of the balcony to the other and swing 19 stories above the street!!
We walked right through town and reached the ocean on the other side.
It was hot and we were getting tired to we hired a Pram to take us back to the market which wasn’t that far from the ship. What a riot. The interesting thing is that the local residents use them as well so there are many of these contraptions all over the place. $5.00 got us across town and back to the market place. The peddler had to work pretty hard so he go $10.00 plus was willing to pose for this picture.

We came across this church which was open and welcoming. The side walls were very open to allow air to move through the building. The crucifix at the front was covered in a massive purple cloth. I was Good Friday. We sat in the shade of the church for a rest and while we rested we heard this mournful sound from a band so we went to see what that was all about.

Here, coming down the street, was small Good Friday procession. The church clergy, in full service garb, were leading the parade following a lady carrying a cross. Behind the clergy was a “float” on which was a statue of Jesus carrying a cross. About 12 people, men and women, were carrying this float on their shoulders. Via Delarosa fashion. On either side of the ’float’ there were two smaller platforms being carried by up to 6 people each. On these platforms were statues of the Mary. One white and one black. Not sure of the significance of that.

This procession slowly made it’s way down the street, turned, and continued straight into the church. Lucy and I found this very moving for a Good Friday reminder. I took a video but it is almost three minutes in length so I will not try and upload that until after we get back.

After that we went to a local sidewalk café and had something cold to drink. Fanta for a $1.00 and a Cerveca also for a $1.00.

After a few more photo opportunities and it was time to head back to the ship and a very late lunch on the Lido Patio.
Tonight’s entertainment in the Vista Theatre was comedian and Ventriloquist Kevin Johnson. Some of you might remember him from the America’s Got Talent show as runner up winner. He has also recently appeared on David Letterman. He was simply amazing.
Another late evening stroll on the deck and it was time to call it a day. Tomorrow Guatemala.

Refreshment for $1.00 USD.



Puntarenas, Costa Rica

It was a much earlier start for us this morning as we had to be down in the Vista Lounge by 7:30am for our group gathering. We booked a tour called: TROPICAL FOREST SKY WALK AND PURA VIDA GARDENS.

The tour was a 7 ½ hour tour by bus, walking and lunch. Ronald, our tour guide, explained that this being Holy Week there would be a lot of people in the cities in this predominantly Catholic country. They have a long weekend from Thursday until Tuesday and just like at home, the people from “the valley” head to the coast and the beaches.

 I’m only saying this because the roads we needed to use to get the forest was winding and alone the same beaches that the local residents were trying to get to. So a trip that took less than an hour coming back took almost two hours going up.

As we drove along the coast of beaches we could see that many people had already set up camping sites; tents, picnic baskets, picnic tables and basically everything we take along on a camping trip, except the tent heaters of course. This continued on for many kms.

Just before we turned off of the main highway we crossed a bridge over a river infested with massive crocodiles. Ronald said that they were the largest Crocs in Central America. We didn’t stop but even from he bus window you could see this beasts sunning on the river bank.

After we turned off of the highway we headed way up into the mountains above the ocean below. The road was narrow and gravel. Our first stop was in the middle of nowhere, where there was enough room for the bus to turn around. By this time we were very near the top of the mountain at the start of a hiking trail. We were each given a walking stick and off we went through the forest. Our guide, Ronald, was well taught in the details of the plants and animals of the forest and was most interesting to listen to. He was very passionate about “his country”.

Costa Rica is a world leader in guarding and protecting their natural land. Over 75% of Costa Rica is designated as national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge or protected area.

Our walk was almost 2 hours long through the most amazing forest, across 3 very long, narrow swinging bridges, over streams and finally back to the road way below where we started. Thankfully the bus was down there waiting. It was 30C and rather humid so none of us stayed very dry.

After returning our walking sticks we once again boarded the air conditioned bus and then drove to a resort/rest area where we could use the washrooms and were treated to some fresh fruit and something cold to drink. Of course there is always the usual “Gift Shop” area that we are told we won’t want to miss.

One of the great things about this group was that we were only 12 people. So keeping track of everyone was very easy. There were many excursions offered in Costa Rica but because this one required so much walking it wasn’t the most popular.

Our 10 - 30 minute break was over and we again boarded the bus and headed further up the mountain. We continued along a ridge between two mountains where we could see the ocean way down below on both sides of the bus. We finally arrived at the Pura Vida botanical garden.
What a paradise on top of the mountain. We started by taking a guided walk through the gardens with Ronald explaining each leaf, stem, flower pedal, species, type of tree and on and on. He could talk. This particular plant is one that grows in the crooks of trees. Although it looks like a fungus or parasite, the plant does not take any nutrition or fluid from the tree. In actual fact the plant, as it exists, continues to give moisure and nutrition to the tree as its old leaved decompose and the humidity moisture condenses on its leaves.

Besides the Iguanas we also saw and heard many birds such as Clay Robins, Macaws and who remembers the names of the others.?!?

At the end of the walking tour we headed back to the main house and were treated to a buffet lunch. It was excellent!! (as we left the open air dining area you exited through a gift shop which we were told we wouldn’t want to miss).

By this time heat fatigue, elevation fatigue and leg fatigue had kicked in and we all headed back to the bus for the trip down the mountain. The guide said that he had given us lots of information already and wasn’t going to say a thing for at least 30 minutes so we could all rest our minds and bodies.

He started up again shortly after we crossed the crocodile bridge and gave us more information on the country of Costa Rica, all very interesting.

Almost exactly 7 ½ hours later we were back at the cruise ship tired but very grateful that we had booked this particular tour.

Our usual evening ’routine’ is to have dinner either in the Vista Dining room or on the Lido Deck dining area. In the Vista Drm you are served after ordering from the menu. If you eat out side on the Lido deck you pick up your food from one of the 4 buffets depending on what you want to eat. Then we are off to the Vista Show Theatre to the days hour of entertainment which has been a bit of a surprise for us. The quality and calibre of entertainment is amazing. The HAL Cats band and vocalists are nothing less than professional.

Tonight we took a late night stroll on the upper observation deck to check out the full moon and the star filled sky. The fact that Mt. Baker could be sitting under us we could sail right over top of it is just something you have to accept and not think about too much. We are in shallower waters today. Current ocean depth is 70 meters.