Category Archives: Cruising

Cruise Final Days & Daredevil Bill NOV 27, 2022

The day after the Dominican Republic was our final day at sea. As if the off-road vehicle ride wasn’t enough excitement, Bill wanted to enjoy some of the ship’s outside activities. First up was the ship’s ropes course and zip line. Yes, they actually have that on top of the ship. While Bill got harnessed up, I figured out the best positions to get pictures.

It was very windy and it felt like my phone was going to be ripped from my hand. But despite the wind, coughing and wheezing, I managed to get some pictures. I did notice that Bill was the oldest person up there doing this!

Flying Through the Air

Walking the Plank Over the Edge

One section was actually a zip-line, flying through the air suspended!

Next up was the red waterslide. Bill said it felt like he was in that dark tunnel going round and round a long time before coming out the other end. Again, the oldest person there too!

We celebrated his survival from those activities with some time in the hot tub and enjoying the poolside. Quite a few people had the same idea. 

Here is our last sunset from our cruise ship.

We got up early the next morning for the sail into Port Canaveral.

This is Jetty Park Campground

Other Ships Waiting to Leave

We could see the condos where we lived from 2020-2021.

We also saw one of the SpaceX recovery ships: Shannon. This ship is a recovery ship, that is used to recover the Dragon space capsule, the astronauts and then travel back to Port Canaveral. The vessel is equipped with a medical treatment facility and helipad for emergency situations. The name is in honor of NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, the first female astronaut that SpaceX flew.

It was a quick drive home. End of a great trip. 

Next: We have some great trips planned in 2023 beginning in March. Stay tuned. Happy New Year and thanks for following along! 


Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic NOV 26, 2022

After a day at sea, our last port of call was Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. Amber Cove is a private resort used by cruise ships. It is located on the north coast of the country.  Amber Cove is near Puerto Plata, first discovered by Columbus in the 1490s and the site of one of the first forts in the Americas. Amber Cove and Puerto Plata are located on the Atlantic north coast of the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti on the west.

There was a very long walk on the pier to get to the cruise terminal. The local pier authority provided free rickshaws for those not wanting to walk. We thought the long walk would be good for us after that huge Thanksgiving dinner.

Bill wanted to do a dune buggy/off-road excursion. A group of us took an open air bus to the location where we picked up the Polaris off-road vehicle (ORV).

Each ORV has a driver and passenger side-by-side.

The guides warned us we would probably get dirty. Little did we know! After some brief instructions on operating the ORVs, our convoy set off with several guides leading us. We did not have bandanas, so we bought two.

We rode through tiny towns and down dirt roads, some very muddy.

Cattle grazed on the sides of the road.

We stopped briefly at a little store where they offered us free coffee and of course the opportunity to purchase souvenirs.

We were soon headed back on the road, headed for the beach. Bill and I had just commented to each other that, except for the dust, we had not gotten very dirty. Up ahead was a huge mud puddle that stretched across the road. Bill sped up so we wouldn’t stall out in the deep water. (At least that is what he claimed) And then…..

We were covered in mud and whatever else was in that water. My side of the ORV seemed to get the worst of the mud.

The ORV was covered in mud that quickly dried in the sun.

Thankfully our destination was not far away. Bill and I got in the water and tried to wash some of the nastiness off our arms, legs and face. Luckily the bandanas and sunglasses helped keep it out of our eyes, nose and mouth.

Then it was back in the ORVs for our drive back to the bus. And we were grateful for no more deep puddles.

We Survived!

Back on the ship we got some interesting looks from other passengers on the elevator and hallways. It was quite a job getting ourselves clean and rinsing out our clothes the best we could so we could at least get them back home.

A Beautiful Gazebo As We Sail Away!

Next up: Our last day at sea and Bill is a daredevil !

Bonaire NOV 24, 2022

Our next port was Kralendijk, Bonaire on Thanksgiving Day. Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved in 2010. The island then became a special overseas municipality within the country of the Netherlands. Confusing, I know. Kralendijk is the capital of tiny Bonaire. 

Bonaire lies fifty miles off the coast of Venezuela and is outside the Caribbean hurricane belt. It has a warm, dry climate with ocean breezes and temperatures between 78 and 86. In other words, perfect. 

Bonaire’s main economy is tourism. It is best known for snorkeling and scuba diving because of multiple diving sites and easy access to coral reefs. In fact it is recognized as one of the world’s best diving destinations. There is little agriculture and most of the island is covered in shrubs and cacti. The island is about 24 miles long north to south and 3 to 5 miles wide east to west.

The population is approximately 20,000. January 2019 saw approximately 71,000 tourists, a record, visit this island by ship and air.

Knowing that Bonaire doesn’t have a great bus system like Aruba, and is best explored by car, we booked an excursion. Walking from the dock to the bus it started to rain hard, not a good sign. 

On the way to our first stop, we passed through the small town and into the countryside. At one point we had to stop and wait for some goats to get out of the road. They were not fazed by the bus and not in a hurry.

We could see more of the cacti fencing around the homes, similar to Aruba.  

When we got to our first stop it was pouring rain. But we all know if you wait awhile, the weather will change. Sure enough the rain slowed to a light drizzle and we could get off the bus. Unfortunately even though this was known to be a very scenic spot on the island, it was not the best weather to take pictures.

The Millennium Cross Monument is located here at the Seru Largu lookout, one of the highest hills in Bonaire. The cross was built between 1999 and 2000 by the Catholic Church. On the monument are the words “Kristu Ayera Awe Semper” which means Christ, today, yesterday and forever.

Next up was the salt flats. As you can see, the weather improved quickly.

Kite Surfers

The low lying geography and Dutch dike design made much of the southern half of Bonaire into a giant system of ponds and pools which evaporate seawater to produce salt. The salt flats of Bonaire have been used for the extraction and exportation of salt for centuries. These natural ponds were first worked by African slaves who were brought to Bonaire to work the salt pans and plantations. Today, Bonaire’s salt works produce between 300,000 and 500,000 metric tons of industrial grade salt per year. After collection, the salt is washed and stored in pyramid shaped piles.

The ponds are a natural habitat for numerous species of brine shrimp which feed flocks of hundreds of pink flamingos and other migratory birds. This is the location of a flamingo sanctuary. We could see flamingos in the distance as we traveled down the road.

And One Donkey

Along the shoreline are four obelisks, one red, one white and one blue for the colors of their flag and a pink one representing the royal family.

Salt is Loaded on Ships at this Dock

The West Indies Company forced the island’s original inhabitants, the native Americans, to work in the salt flats before they eventually managed to escape to nearby Venezuela. We saw the slave huts, constructed in 1850 and which served as camping facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds.

The huts were used as sleeping quarters and a place to put personal belongings. Many black slaves from Africa worked in the salt ponds and on plantations. The slaves lived in the middle of Bonaire, a seven hour walk to the salt ponds. The West Indies Company built the huts so the slaves would not have to walk home each night. About 500 slaves worked here. Each small hut, meant for two, sometimes had as many as six slaves sleeping in one house.

In 1863 slavery was abolished in the Antilles.. The West Indies Company also used Bonaire as a penal colony for soldiers who misbehaved, forcing them to work in the salt flats.

Our next stop was at the Willemstoren Lighthouse located on the southern tip of the island. Bonaire has five lighthouses and this is Bonaire’s first lighthouse, built in 1837. It is now automated.

Bill quickly found a geocache just a short walk from the lighthouse.

Finding a Hidden Geocache

Our final stop was at Sebastian’s Beach restaurant, a little beach shack where we could get a snack and something cold to drink.

We really liked Bonaire, finding it smaller, less congested and with more of a quaint charm than Aruba. 

Dinner in the dining room was a grand Thanksgiving dinner. The servings were much too large, truly fitting the term of a Thanksgiving feast. I ate and ate and still had a lot of turkey left on my plate. Dessert was pumpkin or pecan pie, or both.

They had a beautiful Thanksgiving display on the Garden Café deck, including an ice sculpture. It was obvious the staff had put a lot of work into the display, making Thanksgiving Day for the Americans onboard something truly special.

Next up: Getting dirty in the Dominican Republic

Aruba, NOV 23, 2022

The day after Jamaica was Bill’s birthday and a day at sea. He chose one of the speciality restaurants on the ship, a Japanese restaurant for his birthday dinner. The chef prepared the food at our table and even wrote “Happy Birthday Bill” using egg yolk. After dinner they surprised him with a big slice of birthday cake.

The next day was the port of Aruba. The cruise ship port is located at Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. The flat island is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches. The continuous trade winds keep the temperature at a constant 81° year round. It has a dry climate with a yearly rainfall that does not exceed 20 inches and is located outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt. 

It is one of four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All the citizens of Aruba are Dutch nationals. The island measures twenty miles long and six miles wide.

This Trolley Circles Around The Local Shopping Area

It is densely populated with about 108,000 residents, with most of them living on the western and southern coasts. Dutch is the official language though English is widely spoken.

The Dutch influence is obvious in the tall multicolored houses with carved wooden doors and Dutch tile patios. 

We had read that Aruba was safe and easy to explore on your own using their excellent bus system called “Arubus”. So when we left the ship we asked at the tourist Information desk where we could find the bus station. It was a little tricky to find and we had to stop a couple more times and ask for directions, finally locating it behind a building. For $10 each we were able to buy a day pass to ride the bus all day.

Our main destination was the California Lighthouse on the northwest tip of the island. The main problem was the closest bus stop to the lighthouse was about a mile uphill walk. The very nice bus driver made sure we understood where the bus would pick us back up. Normally a mile walk each way is no problem for us but I was still sick with bronchitis and had a terrible cough. It was also a warm day and the 80° was pretty hot in the cloudless sunshine. That mile walk felt endless.

The California lighthouse was constructed in 1916 and named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby in 1891. At 98 feet, it is the highest structure on the island. I was thrilled when Bill found a shortcut back to the bus stop from the rear of a restaurant located next to the lighthouse.

Before we caught the bus back we stopped at a little beach shack restaurant for lunch. The cold drinks sure tasted good. It was nice sitting in the shade watching families enjoying the beach.

On the way back we got off the bus once more to grab a couple geocaches.

A small geocache container hidden here

Don’t move the tree move the sidewalk!

The buses come by frequently so it is always easy to catch another bus. The bus drivers were so friendly and helpful. We were so surprised to see the cactus strewn landscape, with very large cacti. Many people use cacti instead of fencing.

When we arrived back at the bus terminal we decided to put our day pass to good use. We changed to a bus that would take us to San Nicholas, at the southern tip of the island. But we got more than we bargained for, with the bus frequently stopping to pick up passengers, local high school students and people getting off work. It took over an hour to get to the far end, which meant over an hour back to the bus terminal. It was a great way to see the island and the locals, but we were more than ready to get off the bus! 

As we walked back to the ship Bill gave our day passes to a local lady. The buses ran until 9:00 pm so hopefully someone used them the rest of the day. 

It was nice to get back to the ship and have some cold drinks and ice cream!!

Next up: Bonaire

Ochos Rios, Jamaica NOV 21, 2022

When we arrived home from our November road trip to Pennsylvania, we had one day to unpack, do laundry and repack for a ten day Southern Caribbean cruise to celebrate Bill’s birthday. Problem was, after the cold, windy and rainy weather, I arrived home sick. I immediately took a home Covid test which was negative. The next morning I was no better and took another Covid test. It too was negative. I put in a call to my doctor to see if she could fit me in, explaining I was leaving the next day. Fortunately she could see me. In the parking lot the nurse came to the car and administered two tests, one for Covid and one for influenza. After a fifteen minute wait the nurse called to tell me they were both negative and I could come inside and see the doctor. Diagnosis: bronchitis. I was cleared to go on the cruise but boy did I feel rough! 

The next morning before leaving for the port I took one last Covid test, just to be sure. Negative. I was really looking forward to sitting on the balcony in the warm sunshine and breathe in the salt air. 

Our ship, the Norwegian Getaway, departed from Port Canaveral, very near the condo where we lived in 2020-2021. This was our first time on a Norwegian ship. We usually cruise on Holland America. This ship was quite a bit larger than Holland America ships and we really felt much less movement of the ship. Usually I have to take motion sickness medication daily. On this ship I never felt I needed it, so I took it occasionally.

After a day at sea, our first port was going to be Great Stirrup Cay, a private island owned by the Norwegian cruise line in the Bahamas. Bill booked a zip line excursion and was really looking forward to it. I was still feeling under the weather and was going to just get off the ship and enjoy the island. That morning we were ready to leave the ship and heading to breakfast when the captain announced the port was canceled due to high wind and rough seas. Because the water in the port is shallow, tender boats are used to take the passengers from the ship to the shore. With the high wind and rough seas, it was too dangerous to load passengers on and off the tender boats. Bill was disappointed to miss his zip line excursion. Instead we had an extra day at sea to enjoy the ship and our balcony. 

The next day we stopped at the port of Ochos Rios (Spanish for Eight Rivers) on the north coast of Jamaica. A former fishing village, in the last decade it has become a major cruise port destination and resort area lined with beaches and hotels. Obviously tourism is its main source of income with the government spending over $21 million in a revitalization project which included building airports and dredging Ochos Rios Bay. Ochos Rios has a population of approximately 17,000 and exports sugar and limestone. 

Jamaica is about 170 miles in length from east to west and 70 miles north to south. It is 87 miles south of Cuba and 118 miles west of Haiti. A ridge of mountains from east to west makes part of the island hilly and mountainous. Christopher Columbus landed here in 1494 and claimed the land for Spain.

Their Columbus Statue Has Been Ignored and Has a Plant Growing Out His Head!

The Spanish named the area “Chorreras” meaning rapid rivers, probably because of all the waterfalls. The indigenous people living there were obliterated by disease, slavery and war.  Lacking gold or silver, it was used primarily as a supply base for Spanish ventures into the Americas. Spain brought the first slaves here in 1517 to work on plantations throughout Jamaica. 1655, British forces seized the island from Spain. The English misinterpreted the Spanish name Chorreras and named the area Ochos Rios. A mistake because the area does not really have eight rivers. There were repeated skirmishes between the English and Spanish for the island over the years. During the late 17th century the area was often used by pirates.

Slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1838, 27 years before slavery ended in the U.S. The newly freed slaves slowly turned their town into a peaceful fishing village. In the 1950s they also exported sugar and bauxite (aluminum) and raised cattle. 

In 1962 the first James Bond film, “Dr No” was shot here followed by the Bond film “Live and Let Die” in 1973. 

Since Jamaica is known for having high crime rates, we decided to take a ship excursion rather than explore on our own. The night before our arrival, at dinner our waiter asked what we planned to do the next day in Jamaica and cautioned us to be careful. We had never had that happen on other cruises. Our room steward was from Jamaica and was really looking forward to seeing his daughter. After doing his morning duties, he had arranged to have a few hours off in the afternoon to spend time with her. He proudly showed us her picture. He is only able to see her when the cruise ship stops in Ochos Rios. Cruise ship workers often spend long months on assignment, usually working seven days a week.

Wanting to get a feel for Jamaica, we booked an excursion that took us through the surrounding lush, tropical countryside. We stopped at Konoko Falls, which really wasn’t much of a waterfall, but the surrounding area had nice ocean views.

On some excursions you climb the waterfalls and we snapped a picture of a group celebrating reaching the top of the falls.

Konoko Falls included a nature area where a guide showed us plants native to the area such as bananas and coffee, as well as many colorful flowering plants.

This large koi pond had strings stretched across the pond to protect the fish from birds and other predators.

We also saw rose-ringed parakeets, scarlet macaws, as well as budgies which are native to Australia. They also had tortoises, barn owls and even a crocodile.

We always try to take pictures of new places that give you a feel for the people. It was hard to take some of the pictures from a bus window.

At one point we drove by a school and a group of little girls came running to the fence to wave at us.

So cute. Later we took pictures of older students probably walking home from school. We noticed school children wore uniforms. Our guide told us this was to prevent social class distinction in the schools.

We were also told there is no postal home delivery. Everyone has to pick their mail up at the post office. The average Jamaican yearly salary was $4,800 in 2021.

Seems no matter what country we visit there are always recognizable fast food restaurants, including a Starbucks.

Next up: Bill’s birthday and a day in Aruba

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico May 9, 2022

The next day was a day at sea. One event was an opportunity to hear from our captain, Captain Mark Rowden. Jeremy, the cruise director “interviewed” the captain who talked about his time during the pandemic, his employment path over the years, and some information about the operation of the ship itself. Very interesting and a nice man. 20220508_100340

Dinner that night was our last Gala Night and they FINALLY served filet mignon and lobster. I don’t like seafood so lucky Bill received two servings of lobster. We shared a table with a couple from upstate New York. He was complaining that his wife had booked an excursion tomorrow in Cabo San Lucas. The excursion included riding a CAMEL on the beach. He was even less happy when he found out during dinner the excursion began at 7:00 AM. The look on his face was priceless. He was actually a good sport and his wife, Bill and I had a lot of fun teasing him. We told him we were going to find him at dinner the next day to learn  if he and the camel survived. Unfortunately we never crossed paths with them again. 

Our last port, Cabo San Lucas, turned out to be our favorite of the cruise. They saved the best for last in our opinion. Cabo San Lucas is located at the tip of Mexico’s 1,000 mile long peninsula called Baja California. It is located at a beautiful bay where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean.


Sunrise as we Arrive in Cabo San Lucas

Because of this meeting of the sea and the ocean, the water in this area is known to be rough. This port is also a tender port, meaning the water is too shallow for the ship to enter so the ship docks off shore and small boats, known as tender boats take you to the pier. 20220509_09074820220509_091037

I have read on numerous blogs that sometimes it can be tricky, even downright dangerous, to step from the ship onto the tender boats if the water is rough. Imagine trying to step from one boat to another as the boats rise and fall with the waves. And you have to do that going and coming back! I will admit I worried about it a lot. They have crew members to help you and the advice is to step only when they tell you to step, not when you want to step. Also I get seasick easily and I worried about the 20 minute ride over in the small tender boat. So what happened? It was fine both ways. We were blessed with relatively calm water that day. All that worrying for nothing. 20220509_09102120220509_12040520220509_09444720220509_09104220220509_094743PXL_20220509_155828595

It was a pretty boat ride to the pier. When we arrived we had a huge seal waiting to greet us. A couple hours later when we went to catch the tender boat back to the ship, he was gone. 20220509_094908image

Built as a beacon to welcome tourists, the 65 foot Tequila Lighthouse is very nicely decorated in front of the tequila distillery, with a large lighthouse tower above the building. We took these pictures outside. 20220509_101259PXL_20220509_161006478.MPPXL_20220509_16122152220220509_101140

We slowly walked along the marina enjoying the views. We had three  destinations planned. PXL_20220509_162150226.MP20220509_102318

First, Bill collects Hard Rock Café shirts from our travels and there was a Hard Rock Café in Cabo San Lucas. We easily found the shop. The hardest thing was trying to select which shirt he wanted. 20220509_11060420220509_104107

Second was to add to our hobby of finding geocaches (described as a global hide-and-seek game). This one was located in a coffee shop. Another easy find. We saw a bicycle taxi and a bus with destinations written on the windshield. PXL_20220509_172907866PXL_20220509_172916646

The third errand was to get my free charm at Diamonds International. Many Caribbean ports give you a free charm at their Diamond International stores. A clever way to get you in the store and hopefully buy something. The man working in the store asked if I had ever been given the charm bracelet to go with the charms. So he gave me a bracelet to go with the free charm! Nice man! PXL_20220509_160904807

We slowly walked back towards the ship and debated stopping to get a cold drink or wait until we got back to the ship. The line at the pier for the tender boat was short so we decided to go back. We got on the waiting boat and it was a quick ride back to the ship. Along the way we saw a fishing boat with a huge sea lion grabbing the back of the boat, hoping to be thrown some fish. It was hilarious to see but unfortunately it went by too fast to get a picture. Here is a picture provided by Holland America. 20220506_103905

And to my relief it was an easy exit from the tender boat onto the ship. 20220509_125912

We enjoyed our balcony for the afternoon, especially when we were leaving Cabo San Lucas and passed right by the famous stone arch, El Arco, that Cabo is known for. Our cruise director had told us there are two famous beaches there. One is named Lovers Beach, so named because of the calm waters on the Gulf of California, perfect for fabulous snorkeling. On the other side is Divorce Beach.  It is named Divorce Beach because of the jagged rocks and formidable waves from the Pacific Ocean, bringing forth images of lovers’ quarrels. 20220509_132049PXL_20220509_202058829

These are pictures taken as we travel north up the coast. 20220509_13315820220509_133203PXL_20220509_202722223

We loved Cabo San Lucas! 



The next day was a day at sea as we headed towards our final destination, San Diego. When we left Cabo San Lucas and entered the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, it was like someone had flipped a switch. It became cold, windy and the water rough. Up until this part of the cruise, the water had been calm. So calm I rarely needed Dramamine, and on cruises in the past I had to constantly take it. Only one morning did I not feel well at breakfast and took one Dramamine tablet which took care of it. Now it felt like the Arctic! We tried to still use our balcony, but it was just too cold. PXL_20220511_010106693PXL_20220508_201724469

May 11th was disembarkation day, our cruise was over. Holland America handled the customs in a new way. We were given a time to report to a room on the ship. Five customs agents had boarded the ship and each person went to an agent with their passport. No searching of suitcases, no asking what we bought or were bringing into the country, no filling out forms. In fact we were told to leave our suitcases in our cabin during this process. It was a quick and smooth disembarkation and re-entry into the country. 20220511_06271020220511_062330_2

We had booked and prepaid through Holland America bus transportation to the airport. Our bus filled quickly and our driver left the port and headed to the airport, a mere three miles. It became apparent fairly soon that our driver did not know where he was going. He missed the turn and went back around and made another wrong turn. This second wrong turn took him to a gate where the arm raises to get your parking ticket. I heard him saying, “Oh no, oh no”. To make matters worse if he made it through the gate, the bus was too large to continue on. The “No RVs or buses” made that clear. I was beginning to wonder if we would make our flight!! Fortunately a security guard came over and raised the arm and led him through an employee parking lot. Whew!! At this point a woman, thankfully sitting at the front of the bus and well acquainted with the San Diego Airport, directed him to passenger drop off. When we got off, the bus driver said he had never driven to this airport before!! Next time we will take a taxi! 

We had an uneventful flight home, flying from San Diego to Minneapolis to Orlando. We had just enough time to use the restroom in Minneapolis before boarding the second plane. In Orlando we sent a text to the place we had left the car, they came and picked us up and took us to retrieve our car. By this time it was after 11:00 PM so we had an easy drive home with little traffic. We had gotten up that morning at 5:30, so it was a long day. 

Many thanks for following along with us. Until the next adventure. 

Bill and Diane 


Puerto Chiapas, Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico May 4-7, 2022

On sea days there are a variety of activities. Bingo and the casino are not our thing. We always attend the cruise director’s talks on upcoming ports and excursions. One day, as we headed towards Mexico, there was a cooking presentation on Mexican cuisine called Ports to Table. Jeremy, our fabulous cruise director is on the right, a new hire from Mexico in the middle, and the head chef on the left. The chef prepared two dishes, Chile Rellenos and one with tortillas that I can’t remember the name of. original_a9acde05-d56f-4b87-9a58-851d6f6b76aa_PXL_20220502_194617612.MP

A couple nights ago they had crème brûlée as one of the dessert options in the dining room, Bill’s favorite. The dining room manager told him he could actually order it every night, even if not on the printed menu. One night he asked for one and received two! He was thrilled and took advantage of that offer for the rest of the cruise! 20220504_19240920220502_100330

Day Ten

Our first Mexican port was Puerto Chiapas, located at the very south tip of the Mexican Pacific coast, near the border between with Guatemala. We did not see any excursions that interested us and there really wasn’t anything of interest at the port terminal. It was one of those ports where you wonder why they bothered to stop here. However we were greeted with a warm welcome by some regional dancers. PXL_20220504_151352416.MP20220504_102118PXL_20220504_152118023original_06b9957f-8068-4935-b424-59fb96c8449f_PXL_20220504_162430407

It was such a hot day I wondered how they stood those costumes. We walked off the ship to check out the terminal. Just typical souvenir stores. We could have paid for a shuttle into the town of Tapachula, but we read there really wasn’t anything there worth going to see. We didn’t stay long at the terminal, went back to the ship and enjoyed the afternoon on our balcony. 

Day Eleven

Next day was the port of Huatulco. This was a very picturesque port, the kind of place it would be nice to spend a few months in the winter. It was clean and felt safe. Once again we didn’t see any excursions of interest. 20220505_095553 We took our time having breakfast and leaving the ship. We walked the mile into the town of La Crucecita, a leisurely walk along a nice wide sidewalk. Uphill going, downhill back but with no shade. We went to a large grocery store and bought some canned drinks to take back on the ship and a couple to drink on the way back. We were walking along and somehow I managed to trip and fall hard on the sidewalk, skinning my elbow and knee. While I was sitting there trying to catch my breath and regain my pride, a van pulled over and a man got out to see if we needed help. I assured him I was going to be okay. He obviously knew we were from the ship because he said when we get back to the ship be sure and ask for an ice pack. I was more upset about my canned drink I dropped and spilled than my injuries! 20220505_083023

We enjoyed a lovely sail away that evening from our balcony. PXL_20220505_221803337

Day Twelve – At Sea

Day Thirteen

Our next port was Puerto Vallarta, a port we had heard a lot about and looked forward to visiting. It is often portrayed as one of the most beautiful, cultured and luxurious vacation spots in all of Mexico. It was a sleepy, quiet town until Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton showed up for the filming of the movie, “Night of the Iguana” in the early 1960’s, and put the town on the map, so to speak. Elizabeth Taylor was not in the movie but accompanied Richard Burton to the set. They fell in love with the area and bought homes there. They were each married to other people at the time and lived in separate houses across the street from each other. They had a second story bridge built over the street connecting the two houses so they could go from one to the other without being seen. I was hoping to see the houses but it wasn’t on our tour or simply wasn’t pointed out by our guide. 

We had pre-booked an excursion here. Let me start by saying it was a disappointment. More shopping and eating than touring. And I don’t think we were the only ones disappointed.

Our first stop was the Malecon, or boardwalk, in downtown Puerto Vallarta overlooking Banderas Bay. Notice the cairns, rocks piled in groups, which people like to do when they come here. PXL_20220507_152129130PXL_20220507_152252322

The Boy on the Seahorse, sculpted in 1976, is one of the iconic symbols of the city. 20220507_10250220220507_102418~2

Another is Triton and the Mermaid. According to Greek mythology, Triton is the son of the Greek sea god, Poseidon. Triton is reaching out to his wife, Amphitrite, goddess of the sea. 20220507_10231620220507_10281920220507_102757

Lluvia (Rain) symbolizes openness in which the man is receiving what the world offers him with eyes looking up into the rain and enjoying the water falling on him. It represents the people of Puerto Vallarta who welcome locals and visitors with open arms. 20220507_102000

A pirate boat sailing in the Banderas Bay offered tours of Puerto Vallarta that evidently included sound effects. It startled us as it fired a cannon as it passed by. 20220507_102203

Some young men dressed as Aztec warriors tried to entertain the crowd. Our guide said they were just there to perform for tourists and then ask for money. We avoided them. 20220507_102719PXL_20220507_204844389.MP

Our next stop was at The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in the center of the town square. 20220507_102932

The church was built between 1930 and 1940 and has services on the weekends in both Spanish and English. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Mexico. 20220507_103738PXL_20220507_15392142320220507_10410120220507_104028PXL_20220507_154046559PXL_20220507_154146989original_4c0684fe-b7bd-4c76-8831-c6b021ebe737_PXL_20220507_154621002

After touring the church we took a short walk before stopping at a leather shop. Notice the city bus. In Mexico we they don’t have signs on the bus announcing the stops. They take soap and write the names of the stops. Notice Walmart is at the top of the list. PXL_20220507_155356191.MPoriginal_7f196126-77f4-4a85-bd4b-28c8871c0f51_PXL_20220507_154347370

Remember I told you the guides like to take you to shops hoping you will buy something. On this excursion it was a jewelry store followed by a leather shop. The owner talked about how they made shoes and other leather items, and then gave us plenty of time to shop. Shoes, jackets, purses, wallets…..we didn’t buy anything. Both stores offered free small drinks like margarita and beer. PXL_20220507_164057356.MPPXL_20220507_16170542320220507_115707PXL_20220507_16545692420220507_105927

Next up was a drive along the Banderas Bay. We stopped at an overlook where a man stood with a huge iguana. We were told you could hold the iguana, but only for a tip of course. I learned quickly the man wasn’t happy if you were interested in taking pictures only. PXL_20220507_172613891

This is Mismaloya Beach, Mexico. PXL_20220507_172852961

Across the street was a number of kudamundi, also known as a Mexican raccoon. 20220507_122555

From there I hoped we would continue along the scenic bay, but instead we were taken back into town to a Mexican restaurant. Lunch was not part of the excursion, and even though it was too early for lunch, we were all ushered inside to order lunch at our own expense. Rather annoying since we weren’t really hungry and the restaurant wasn’t cheap. 20220507_135734

After lunch we headed back to the ship. 20220507_10122220220507_10132220220507_101325

Another disappointing excursion and guide.  We noticed when we docked this morning that directly across the street was a Walmart Supercenter and a Sam’s Club. Since we had plenty of time before the ship left, we walked over to Walmart to get a few things. As we were rushing with a large group of people to cross the street before the light changed, I stumbled and fell once again. I skinned up the SAME knee as a couple days ago, my arm and even the knuckles on one hand. Bill and a man carrying a baby helped me up. I was too worried about possibly getting hit by a car to worry about my injuries or my pride. PXL_20220507_134142574

The rest of the afternoon we spent enjoying our balcony with ice on my battered knee. 

We managed to get some night pictures of Puerto Vallarta as we sailed away. 20220507_21214720220507_225323

Next up: Our last and favorite port of the cruise, beautiful Cabo San Lucas 


Antigua, Guatemala May 3, 2022

Guatemala, known as the “Home of Great Maya Cities” and “The Land of the Eternal Spring”, was our next port. Originally our next port was supposed to be Nicaragua but before we left home we were notified the stop had been canceled. No explanation was given but perhaps because of political unrest there or it was Covid related. Guatemala, with a population of over 17 million, is the most populous country in Central America. It has a representative democracy and its capital, Guatemala City, is the largest city in Central America. It has a long history of dictatorships and bloody civil wars. Since a United Nations negotiated peace accord was achieved, things have improved but it still struggles with high rates of poverty and crime including drug cartels. 

We had prebooked an excursion at this port and after striking out in Panama City and Costa Rica, we were hoping this wasn’t strike three. It turned out to be a great excursion. 

We left the ship in early morning and headed to the small, colonial city of Antigua, surrounded by volcanoes.  It was formerly the capital of Guatemala, but after a devastating earthquake in 1773, the capital was moved to Guatemala City. Founded in the early 16th century, Antigua is a World Heritage Site. PXL_20220503_150747104PXL_20220503_150427668original_d63dad91-650f-4a83-9931-813929f57040_PXL_20220503_154429296


Can You See the Profile of the Lady Looking at the Volcanoes?

We enjoyed our ride through the countryside, passing many roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Homes were built right at the base of volcanoes, somewhat frightening since Guatemala has four active volcanoes. PXL_20220503_161951063PXL_20220503_162710632original_00e2c6de-247d-4406-87e4-96d97af1acd8_PXL_20220503_154331099.MPoriginal_f91c6140-12d4-4e72-91c6-f4340dfb459d_PXL_20220503_160805487original_40f6b43f-11db-4cfa-b2ad-da22359ef5fa_PXL_20220503_160840580

We rode through towns with business names we recognized like Chili’s, Panda Express, Taco Bell and Subway. One question that is always asked of the guides is the current price of gas. Interesting that the answer in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala was always about $5 US per/gallon. Of course in those countries gas is sold in units of liters rather than gallons. original_a5d45b47-492c-4e79-ba9c-3cd5bca248cd_PXL_20220503_154442204


Making Tortillas in a Doorway

Entering Antigua, our first stop was the Cathedral de Santiago de Guatemala. This cathedral was begun in 1545 and destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1773. It was only partially rebuilt over the next century. original_562c3e70-753b-472a-8de4-e4149c7e7583_PXL_20220503_16411464020220503_104626PXL_20220503_16474587820220503_10490020220503_105120

Across the street was a cultural center and museum. Some places still had symbols of Lent on their buildings. 20220503_110900original_aa8e0337-9cc7-4cfb-8d29-705be6bc471f_PXL_20220503_164538488

Next was the Cathedral San Jose. It was built around 1541 and like many other churches has suffered damage from earthquakes. This church has undergone partial restoration over the years. Simply beautiful. 20220503_11362120220503_111201PXL_20220503_171352509PXL_20220503_171436283PXL_20220503_171448859.MPoriginal_8b7d1417-95a7-4d72-aee0-8bbb1deb54b2_PXL_20220503_172018639

Across from the church was a park with prominent buildings around it. This two-story building was constructed in 1558. The General Captaincy of Guatemala governed the territory from this building. PXL_20220503_171807618.MP

Outside the church, as well as on the streets, were many persistent ladies selling various items. original_c6c1da8e-092e-402e-aa94-802d22cce0c9_PXL_20220503_172052769original_8858d95c-ff32-4b0c-bd24-a5b2755bd61c_PXL_20220503_174802569

The Santa Catalina Arch, built in the 17th century, is one of the distinguishable landmarks in Antigua Guatemala. It originally connected the Santa Catalina convent to a school, which allowed the cloistered nuns to pass from one building to the other without going out on the street. A clock on top was added in the era of the Central American Federation, in the 1830s. PXL_20220503_174550400


Many Walls in the City are Very Thick

For the first time they added small children. I guess they thought it was harder to say no to a child. One man, blowing a flute while holding another flute for sale, followed us for quite awhile through the streets. He simply would not take no for an answer. As far as I know, he never sold one. By the way, the streets in Antigua are all cobblestone. Not easy on the feet and we really had to watch our footing. The sidewalks were very narrow with holes and cracks, a disaster waiting for those not watching carefully. PXL_20220503_174203867.MPPXL_20220503_174326575

Nearby was the Iglesia de la Merced, another Catholic Church. We did not go inside but arrived in time to hear the bells from the two bell towers. 20220503_115446

The Convent of the Capuchins was built in 1731 and housed 25-28 nuns.  The nuns lived by strict regulations and discipline on poverty, penance and fasting. A replica of the tiny “celda” or cell which housed each nun, for sleeping only, was shown. The individual “apartments” were side-by-side in a circle.  20220503_124331PXL_20220503_184446595

The nuns had to be silent at all times except to pray. They could not eat meat or chocolate and ate together in silence. The convent suffered extensive damage in the 1773 earthquake and the nuns were forced to leave and were taken to the new capital in Guatemala City. 

The ruins are a favorite place for weddings and celebrations. We saw a young girl who was there for her “quinceanera” party, the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday which marks her passage from girlhood to womanhood. Someone asked her if we could take her picture and she very happily agreed. PXL_20220503_182505427PXL_20220503_184039654.MP

After all that walking we were very glad our guide announced it was time for lunch, which was included in the tour. It was quite warm by this point and I think we were all looking forward to some air conditioning and cold drinks. I suppose we all thought the same thing when we were led to tables outside in a grassy area. Each table had a canopy and it really wasn’t as bad as I expected. A small four piece band played while we enjoyed a lunch of rice, refried beans, chicken topped with salsa, plantains, chips and guacamole. 20220503_131123

After lunch we went to Jade Maya, a jade factory and museum. Excursions love to take you to these places, hoping you will buy something. The visit began with an introduction by an archeologist, one of the founders of the museum, which has been open since 1974. PXL_20220503_195645372PXL_20220503_201416183


Copy of the Burial Mask for the King, 683 A.D.

She told us to be sure and see the large piece of jade she and her husband discovered. She called it her source of future retirement income. PXL_20220503_200725379.MP

The museum had displays covering over 3,000 years of history and seven different cultures. Of course there was a gift shop where you could buy all kinds of jade jewelry. We felt this stop was too long, especially for those of us who were tired and ready to go back to the ship. 

The bus dropped us off back at the port and on the short walk back to the ship, we snapped pictures of a couple attractive murals. 20220503_16211220220503_162135

The ship staff greeted us at the gang plank with drinks and cold washcloths. Much appreciated! 

A very enjoyable day with an excellent guide! 

Next up: Mexico! 


Costa Rica May 1, 2022

Next up was the port of Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. We had read many positive things about Costa Rica so we were looking forward to seeing some of the country. Located between Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica has 800 miles of coastline on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. It is known for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. Twenty-five percent of the country is made up of protected land and jungles with 75 wildlife refuges, 28 national parks, 13 wetlands and mangroves, 9 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves. It is the only country without an army or military and is called “Switzerland of the America’s” because of its neutrality during international conflicts. We read that Costa Rica has excellent healthcare with reasonable costs. Ninety-nine percent of their energy comes from renewable resources. It has a population of a little over five million. Like Panama, it is very popular with retirees from the United States and other countries looking for a cheaper place to live. 

We booked an excursion which was advertised as an exciting tram ride through the rainforest where you see a variety of birds and animals native to Costa Rica. Their advertisement said “feel the adrenaline”. We were also going to visit a sloth rescue center. After the disappointing excursion in Panama City we were optimistic about this one. Well, it was better than Panama City, but not by much. And these excursions are not cheap!! 

On the positive side we had an excellent guide who continually entertained us with information about her country. She was enthusiastic and really tried hard to make it a great day for everyone. The poor selection of sites to visit was not her fault. 

After a long bus ride through the countryside we arrived at the Rainforest Adventures Jaco park. We didn’t really mind the long ride because our guide’s narration helped pass the time and we enjoyed seeing the countryside. 

The exhilarating tram ride was nothing more than a slow moving covered chair lift through the tree canopy. We saw no birds or animals. We rode to the top and the chair lift turned around and went back down. As I overheard another person behind us comment on the way back, “Well that was pretty boring!” Yes, I would agree. But we did see a small waterfall!  LOL 20220501_094639original_ee98a477-fb35-4ee0-ac8d-df88dd8b228e_PXL_20220501_155754977PXL_20220501_154931513original_2f3de48f-4e79-4941-b817-a2cb5b2680ee_PXL_20220501_161813085

A park guide then took us on a tour through a garden area showing us some of the flora of Costa Rica. There were a number of flowers as well as herbs. 20220501_10503720220501_105059

He showed us how the berries of one plant could be used for face paint. 20220501_110707PXL_20220501_170733798

One very interesting plant had several small bats sleeping under a large leaf. He explained how the bats chew the leaves of the plants to create a folded area for them to sleep under. If a predator moves the leaves, they are instantly alerted to danger. PXL_20220501_165422386.MP20220501_105718

At another location he picked up a tiny ant that had a grip on a long branch and showed how that single ant had enough strength to hold up the branch. PXL_20220501_165903460.MP

We saw a cacao tree or cocoa tree with the fruit attached and a pineapple plant.  20220501_11103120220501_111103

We went to a butterfly garden but there were not many butterflies and they rarely landed on any plants to get a picture of them. Bill managed to snap one picture of a butterfly that appears to have eyes on the wings. 20220501_111551

Lunch was included and it was provided here. It was a typical Costa Rican meal of beans and rice along with some chicken, beef and salad. Our guide had told us earlier on the bus that the typical Costa Rican family has rice and beans at ALL three meals every day. PXL_20220501_172836970PXL_20220501_172909692.MP

I noticed a table with “Pura Vida” painted on it. Our guide told us earlier that is Costa Rica’s motto and means “Pure Life” or “Enjoy Life”, “Live Life”. It is often used in greeting one another and defines the lifestyle of the country. PXL_20220501_195539630

Leaving there we headed back towards the ship and we stopped at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center. We had a very sweet young girl as our guide who nervously said she was trying to learn English and she apologized for not speaking well. We thought she did an excellent job and at the end of the tour told her so, along with giving her a tip. original_19a199ab-1dd4-4e06-9a72-4c99e1da3ff0_PXL_20220501_19570001120220501_142946

During our time at the center the animals were being fed in their cages. 20220501_13574320220501_14090520220501_141038

I will let the pictures show the animals we saw.


Mango Tree

PXL_20220501_20044554620220501_141535PXL_20220501_201639936PXL_20220501_20133728520220501_14142820220501_14110720220501_14052820220501_140637 One monkey was released a few months back but returns each day to grab some food. 20220501_141223

The sloths in the trees were camouflaged and hard to see. PXL_20220501_201858412

We did see a two month old baby sloth and a five month old sloth. 20220501_142209PXL_20220501_202216976PXL_20220501_20230780220220501_142231

At dinner that night we shared a table with a gentleman from Toronto traveling alone, as well as a WW2 Navy veteran from Los Angeles traveling with his daughter. He was going to celebrate his 100th birthday a few days after the cruise ended. He told us he plays bridge once a week and gets there by driving on the freeway. He said his driver’s license is good until he is 101. I had to cringe because Bill and I have both experienced the horrendous traffic on the freeways in Los Angeles. He takes no medication and uses glasses for reading only. He has been cruising since 1976. His daughter said he entertained people on the plane to Florida by doing jumping jacks and exercises. Such are the people we meet at shared dinner tables! 

Today, May 1st was a very special day for us, our eleventh wedding anniversary! We felt blessed to be able to celebrate it in Costa Rica. PXL_20220501_155326190

Next up: A day at sea and then Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala 


Panama City, Panama April 29, 2022

Our next port of call was Fuerte Amador, Panama, eight miles form downtown. From here we booked an excursion into Panama City, the capital and largest city. Panama City has a population of two million people which is half of the country’s four million people.


Biomuseo – Whimsical museum structure by the renowned Frank Gehry with 8 galleries on Panama’s biodiversity

Panama is a country on the isthmus which links Central and South America. It received its independence from the Spanish empire in 1821. It is regarded as having a “high income economy” with a large portion of its income being revenue from Panama Canal tolls. About 40% of its land area is jungle. Panama has also been at the top of the list for retirees from other countries to retire due to their low cost of living, excellent healthcare and no hurricanes. 

We had really been looking forward to visiting Panama City. Unfortunately the excursion we booked there was the most disappointing of our cruise. 20220429_101007


The F&F Tower is an office tower in Panama City, Panama 797FT almost six degrees floor rotation

The excursion was called “Panama City: Old and New“.  We drove by the oldest part of the city Panama Viejo (Old Panama Ruins and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) without stopping. We struggled to snap pictures through the bus windows of some of the ruins. In fact the guide almost forgot to mention the ruins until someone on the bus asked about them.  Through doing research for the blog I learned that Panama City is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Pacific coast of the Americas, and was founded in 1519.  The town was destroyed during a pirate attack in 1671 and the city center was moved five miles southeast. 20220429_10240320220429_10243920220429_102535

We finally got off the bus and proceeded to walk through an older part of the city. We passed by the Presidential Palace and the guide would not let us stop to get a picture. original_62c347d6-6ee9-4880-bcc9-f84c6f07093e_PXL_20220429_155720569Very strange. Not even a picture from a distance?? I managed to sneak a picture of some police near the palace. The guide did not use a microphone so it was very hard to hear him depending on where you were standing. original_77d13044-4c0c-4893-8d4c-ad84e456af61_PXL_20220429_155524781

We continued walking down some very narrow brick lined streets through the old colonial area of the city. PXL_20220429_160244065PXL_20220429_160341788The Spanish architecture was reminiscent of what we had seen in Colombia with the wrought iron balconies. original_b1a641d9-b2c2-4726-94d8-3ba8c76c41e5_PXL_20220429_160447203.MPPXL_20220429_160551393PXL_20220429_161332978Many of the old colonial buildings are falling apart and in need of repair. PXL_20220429_160023596

We visited Saint Joseph Church with its beautiful golden altar. The altar is considered one of the greatest treasures of Panama. The altar is made of carved wood covered in gold leaf. When the pirate Henry Morgan attacked and destroyed the city in 1621, the Jesuits painted the altar black to hide the gold.


Famous for its baroque altar carved in mahogany and covered in gold leaf.


The church had restrooms which some of us desperately needed. While some of us waited in line, the guide took the others to another room in the church where there were very detailed dioramas of The Nativity. Those of us who chose the bathroom were told to meet the group back in the sanctuary. We totally missed seeing the dioramas. Fortunately Bill was able to see the display and took pictures. I do not understand why the guide couldn’t have given us ten minutes so everyone could see them. 20220429_11252020220429_112644

Ruins of the Jesuit temple and convent. Functioned until 1767 when Jesuits were expelled. Built about 1749 and burned in 1781. 20220429_11361920220429_113714

We saw the ruins of the 1741 Old Convent of Santo Domingo. It burned in 1756, it was never repaired and the very unique flat arch located here was key during the negotiations of how to build the Panama Canal.


The Santo Domingo Convent , built in 1678, was one of the first to be founded in the new city.

It is said, that Panama used it as proof that Panama does not have earthquakes because an earthquake would have destroyed the arch. The current arch is a reconstruction with its original bricks. Note: Panama does have earthquakes!


We visited one more church, the Panama Metropolitan Cathedral, where construction took place from 1688 to 1796.


The Cathedral Basilica of Santa María la Antigua de Panamá is a Catholic temple. Original building destroyed by earthquake in 1882.


At this point in the tour it started to rain and storm. A very heavy rain as we started to walk back to the bus. Bill and I had brought one umbrella and one poncho. Most of the people had not brought anything and were getting soaked. We took refuge under some awnings but were splashed as trucks passed by. Discussion was held as to whether people wanted to wait or brave getting wet. At this point most everyone was soaked so what difference did it make. The guide said the bus was not allowed on the narrow streets and could not come pick us up. 

When we reached the bus we had a new bus waiting because people had complained earlier that the AC was not working adequately. Now people were drenched to the skin and had a nice cold bus to ride back on. 

At this point we were expecting to ride through some of the newer sections of Panama with skyscrapers and modern buildings along nice beaches. After all, the tour was called Panama City: Old and New. Even after the rain delay we were not behind schedule. Instead, the bus took us directly back to the ship. A disappointing end of the tour and a disappointing tour in all. We hope to return to Panama City someday and see more of it. One thing Panama City did not have was persistent vendors and beggars. Perhaps the rain had something to do with that but I don’t think much. 20220429_202727

Dinner that night was a couple from Stuart, Florida and another from Tampa Fl and sisters cruising together, one from Albuquerque, New Mexico and the other from Henderson, Nevada. All delightful dinner companions. 

After a day at sea our next port will be Costa Rica.