Category Archives: Exploring

Exploring

Oahu Hawaii FEB 8 2024

After another rough night sailing from the Big Island to the island of Oahu, we arrived at the port in Honolulu in the early morning. We were welcomed with a beautiful rainbow.

Our goal today was to take the city bus from the port to Waikiki Beach to get Bill a shirt at Hard Rock Cafe. We then wandered around the area looking for a food truck on the beach that had garlic shrimp. When we were on Oahu in 2014 we found a roadside stand on the North Shore of the island that had the best garlic shrimp that Bill had ever tasted.  Unfortunately this time around, we didn’t find any garlic shrimp on Waikiki. To show you how wonderful the crew of Holland America are, that evening on the ship one of the chefs stopped by our table. He asked how our day in Honolulu had gone. Bill casually mentioned that he was disappointed he never found any garlic shrimp. The chef immediately pulled out his notebook and made a note to have garlic shrimp especially made for Bill the next night. He said just tell the waiter. Sure enough, the next evening Bill told our waiter, and sure enough the garlic shrimp was prepared for him. How nice is that!

We had a great view of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach and even from the ship.

In 2014 we rented a car and spent a week on the island of Oahu. The following pictures are from that visit.

Houses are built everywhere

Houses are built everywhere

Diamond Head is the most recognized landmark in Oahu.  The actual name of the volcano is Le’ahi.  It is believed to have been formed about 300,000 years ago during a single brief eruption.  The broad crater covers 350 acres with its width being greater than its height.  The southwestern rim is highest because winds were blowing ash in this direction during the eruption.  Since the eruption the slopes of the crater have been eroded and weathered by wind, rain, and the pounding sea.

Diamond Head got its nickname because in the late 1700’s, Western explorers and traders visited Le’ahi and mistook the calcite crystals in the rocks on the slope of the crater for diamonds.  Imagine their disappointment when they discovered it was not diamonds!  Because of its panoramic view, Diamond Head has been used over the years as a site for coastal defense. Most pictures of Waikiki will have Diamond Head in the background.IMG_3223

 

Kalaniana'Ole Highway

Kalaniana’Ole Highway

Halona Blowhole

Halona Blowhole

Eastern shore

Eastern shore

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Puu Ualakaa State Wayside Park is on a cinder cone with a breathtaking sweeping view of downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head.  IMG_3228

Overlook of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki Beach hotels

Overlook of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki Beach hotels

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is otherwise known as the Punchbowl.  The cemetery is located in the Punchbowl Crater, an extinct volcanic tuff cone that was formed 75,000 to 100,000 years ago.  The Hawaiian name is Puowaina which means “Hill of Sacrifice” because the area was first used as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods.  In 1948 Congress approved funding to make it a national cemetery as a permanent burial site for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

It is a very lovely, peaceful setting with beautiful views of Honolulu and Diamond Head.

How does one even begin to write about Pearl Harbor, such a hallowed place? The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the sunken hull and honors the 1,177 crewmen who died.  The memorial was dedicated in 1962 and the hull is a tomb for over 900 sailors who died inside. IMG_3242

Display of what the USS Arizona looks like underwater

Display of what the USS Arizona looks like underwater

The names of all those who died are on a wall inside the memorial

The names of all those who died are on a wall inside the memorial

Some survivors later chose to be buried inside the memorial

Some survivors later chose to be buried inside the memorial

Also nearby is the USS Oklahoma honoring 429 sailors who died when the ship capsized, as well as the visible hull of the USS Utah Memorial commemorating its 58 dead.

The ships in red were sank during the attack

The ships in red were sank during the attack

Bill took a tour of the Battleship Missouri Memorial which was docked nearby.  The USS Missouri was launched on January 29, 1944, and is the last U.S. battleship ever built.  She is three football fields long and towers over twenty stories tall.  Most importantly, after joining the battle of Okinawa, she became the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.IMG_3244 IMG_3253 IMG_3254 IMG_3255 IMG_3258 IMG_3259 IMG_3262IMG_3260

The attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,400 people and sank or damaged 21 vessels and 323 military planes.

The North Shore area of Oahu is made up of beautiful beaches with dramatic mountains  towering above the shore.  This area is famous for its “pipeline” waves, the massive waves you see at the beginning of the tv show “Hawaii 5-0”.  It is a surfers paradise.  We saw larger waves than we had seen on other parts of the island, but the massive pipeline waves usually occur during the winter months.IMG_3396 IMG_3402

Turtle Beach with no turtles

Turtle Beach with no turtles

Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Nuuanu Pali State Wayside Overlook which at an elevation of 1,200 feet had amazing views of Oahu from a stone terrace on the edge of cliffs.  The Hawaiian word “pali” means cliff.  This area is of historical importance to the Hawaiian people because on these cliffs in 1795 is where King Kamehameha won a battle that united Oahu under his rule.  The battle was fierce and during the battle hundreds of soldiers lost their lives, including some who were forced off the edge of the sheer cliffs.

Impressive view of windward O'ahu from Nu'uanu Pali State Wayside (cliffs) at 1200 feet elevation

Impressive view of windward O’ahu from Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside (cliffs) at 1200 feet elevation

A view of Waimea Valley and the northern shoreline from the Puu O Mahuka Heiau on O’ahu

King Kamehameha the first

King Kamehameha the first

The statue is of King Kamehameha the Great (1756-1819), perhaps Hawaii’s greatest historical figure.  There are four statues of the King; this one in downtown Honolulu, on the Big Island at his birthplace, another in Hilo, and in Washington, DC.

We sailed out of Honolulu at 11:00 PM, so no whale watching on our last sail away in Hawaii.

Next up: eight days at sea as we sail towards Guam, including crossing the International Date Line. What day is it????

 

Hilo Hawaii FEB 7 2024

As we sailed around The Big Island to get from Kona to Hilo, the rough waters continued throughout the night.

At 7:00 A.M. we were luck to see this fat rainbow and the nearby mountain appeared red in the early morning light.

In 2014 we rented a car and drove around the Big Island, including visiting Hilo. Many of these pictures are from that trip. We decided not to pay for an excursion on the cruise since we had already visited most of the places.

Widescreen view of Akaka Falls, 422 feet tall

Hilo is known as Hawaii’s Little Big City and is nestled on the slopes of three volcanoes. It has a population of around 41,000.  It is one of the wettest towns in the United States.  The University of Hawaii has a campus there as well as on other islands.  Hilo was hit by tsunamis in 1946 and 1960.  

We love the huge, lovely trees called Monkeypod we noticed around the town of Hilo.

The Monkeypod trees look like large umbrellas

The Monkeypod trees look like large umbrellas

Rainbow Falls usually make rainbows in the morning hours

Rainbow Falls usually make rainbows in the morning hours

There is a lighthouse on the easternmost point of the state of Hawaii called Cape Kumukahi.  Since this is where the sun first shines in Hawaii every day of every year, it is of spiritual importance to native Hawaiians.  In 1960 Kilauea erupted, destroying a town near the lighthouse and crops nearby.  Just as it appeared the lighthouse would be engulfed by the lava, it split into two streams and flowed into the sea on either side, sparing the structure.  People were amazed by this phenomenon and felt it was a message from the god Pele telling them of the lighthouse’s importance to the people.

This Cape Kumukahi lighhouse was saved in 1960 when the lava flow split and went around the lighhouse fence

This Cape Kumukahi lighhouse was saved on 1960 when the lava flow split and went around the lighhouse fence

Here is the height of the 1960 lava flow next to the Cape Kumukahi lighthouse

Here is the height of the 1960 lava flow next to the Cape Kumukahi lighthouse

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Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916 and became a World Heritage Site in 1987.  The Big Island is the largest and the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, home to the world’s most active volcanoes, and this park is a good example of why and how this is true.  The overcast sky is due to increases in gasses called “volcanic smog”, also called “vog”.  This vog blows west towards Kona during trade wind weather. The park is 33,000 acres of lava land on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain by volume and the world’s tallest when measured from the ocean floor.  Five volcanoes make up the Big Island. 

Mauna Loa is not only 56,000 feet above the ocean floor but also has a large volume.

Kilauea is a relatively young volcano estimated to be 600,000 years old and first erupted 2,500 years ago.

Kilauea Crater leaks lava through its top and side rift zones

Kilauea Crater leaks lava through its top and side rift zones

Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume at the summit of Kilauea Crater/Volcano

Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume at the summit of Kilauea Crater/Volcano

The newest Hawaiian island, already named Loihi, is being created 22 miles offshore from volcanic activity growing on the ocean floor.  It will be thousands of years before the new island emerges, so don’t let anyone try to sell you a cheap condo there!

Night view of Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume

Night view of Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume

Thurston Lava Tube is a 500 year old massive lava cave.  It was an easy walk through the well lighted cave.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Kilauea Iki Crater created in 1959

Kilauea Iki Crater created in 1959

Kilauea Iki Crater with Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume in the distance

Kilauea Iki Crater with Halemaumau Crater emitting gas plume in the distance

Pauahi Crater

Pauahi Crater

Younger lava flows are dark

Younger lava flows are dark

Some of the newest coastline looks like this

Some of the newest coastline looks like this

Sea arch within the Volcanoes NP

Sea arch within the Volcanoes NP

The port is located in an industral area, not very attractive and not convenient to the city.

View of Hilo from the Ship

These are pictures we took of the city and breakwater that protects the harbor.

Once again as we sailed away from Hilo, whales were spotted off the back of the ship and they put on quite a show. Everytime one was spotted the crowd would cheer, making for a very fun, festive atmosphere.

Next up: Island of Oahu and Honolulu

 

Kona Hawaii FEB 6 2024

We had six sea days between Mexico and Hawaii. Everyone was kept busy attending lectures on the history, animals, sea life, etc of Hawaii. Also available were lessons on making leis and learning to hula dance. 

The days would have been very pleasant except for the gale force winds and rough seas on days 4, 5 and 6. The Captain had warned us of 17 foot sea swells, common in the Pacific Ocean during the winter. It was so windy we could barely get our balcony door open. The rolling of the ship was constant and relentless. 

One morning the Cruise Director’s “Coffee Talk” was with the Captain. For thirty minutes he answered questions from the audience. He has a quick wit and is very open with the passengers. They put a box at Guest Services for people to submit additional questions and he promised to answer one or two questions each day during his noon commentary.

When we boarded the ship back in January, Holland America took our passports to hold. We were now required to have a face to face meeting with immigration officials at our first port in Hawaii. This requirement was because we had been out of the country since leaving Fort Lauderdale on January 3rd.  We picked up our passports and met with an immigration official at our assigned time.  As we filed through the line, the immigration official barely glanced at our passports. Obviously just a formality.

Two of our Hawaiian ports is on The Big Island, with the first being the town of Kona. The Big Island is really an island of contrasts with Kona on one side and Hilo on the other.  Kona is a major beach resort area with less than ten inches of rain a year.  Hilo is the largest city on the island and tropical with more than 150 inches of rain annually.  The total population of the island is around 185,000.

The Big Island is the biggest of all the Hawaiian islands with 4,028 miles, twice the size of all the other islands combined, and most importantly, it is still growing!!  It is the youngest of all the islands, estimated to be about 800,000 years old.  This is the most volcanic of all the islands, with Kilauea near Hilo being the world’s most active volcano.  Kilauea has been sending rivers of lava since January 1983, adding more real estate to the island every day.  It is also an island seeped in history.  It is the birthplace and deathplace of King Kamehameha, a great king who united all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule.  He died in 1819.

British Captain James Cook, after exploring in 1778 the islands of Kauai and Oahu, arrived on the Big Island in 1779.  At first, thinking Cook was perhaps a god, the natives welcomed him with great feasts.  After discovering he was in fact not a god, they became hostile.  Cook and four of his men died on the Big Island during a battle.  A small bronze plaque at the north end of Kealakekua Bay marks the spot of his death.  Cook’s countrymen erected a 27-foot memorial near the plaque to honor him.

We had spent a week on The Big Island in 2014 so we didn’t feel the need to pay for an excursion. Our plan was to walk around the port area and go to Walmart. Problem was we had forgotten how hilly Kona is and it was a steep uphill walk to Walmart.

On the way back we saw a man with his dog on a surfboard. Really cute.

 

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Kona is a great place to snorkel. Living coral can be found in 57% of the waters surrounding this island. 

Kahalu'u Bay

Kahalu’u Bay

 Also on the Big Island is the South Point, the southernmost point in the United States.  (Sorry Key West).  This South Point has a latitude 500 miles farther south than Miami.  It is believed in 150 A.D. the first Polynesian explorers set foot on the island near this point.  IMG_3047 IMG_3053 IMG_3055

These pictures are from our trip in 2014.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii.  The black sand is made from basalt created by lava flowing into the ocean which exploded as it reached the ocean and cooled. IMG_3074 IMG_3068 IMG_3069

Again, these pictures are from 2014. On the island you can find sandy beaches or lava rock beaches. IMG_3076

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As we went through security to get back on the ship, the Hawaiian port authorities had us show both our ship ID and also our driver’s license and each passenger was wanded. Most thorough security since we left Fort Lauderdale.

Shortly after leaving Kona someone reported seeing whales. That caused everyone to scatter to all the decks.  We were at the rear of the ship and saw quite a few whales breaching and spouting. It was as if they were putting on a farewell show for us.

Next up: Hilo, Hawaii

Puerto Vallarta MX JAN 30 2024

Our next port was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico pop 225,000. We last visited here in May, 2022. 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 Richard Burton Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor showed up for the filming of the movie, “The Night of the Iguana” in the early 1960’s, and put the town on the map. 

A popular spot is 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 

In Mexico 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  PXL_20220507_16545692420220507_105927

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This is Mismaloya Beach, Mexico. PXL_20220507_172852961

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

 

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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.  It was so crowded we walked out without buying anything. All the ship’s crew loves to go to Walmart and get toiletries and snacks. With 2 ships in port, the store was mobbed with crew and passengers. The aisles were crowded and the lines long.

As We Approach the Dock, Walmart and Sam’s Club Will Be Nearby

We stood on our balcony during the sail away. Once we were out of the harbor, a pilot boat pulled alongside the ship to pick up their pilot who helped guide us safely away from the dock. After getting in the pilot boat they blew whistles in farewell. Our captain blew the ship’s horn several times and the pilot waved to the passengers on the decks and balconies. At one point he took off his hat and bowed low, a nice gesture of goodwill and appreciation for visiting.

The captain said they could see whales from the bridge of the ship. Sure enough from our balcony we saw a whale breach and some whales spouting. They are too quick to get good pictures but it sure was fun to see them. During the winter months, whales migrate to the warm water of Mexico.

That’s All Folks!

Evening entertainment was a comedian. He incorporated his life story into his act. He was born in Cuba and his family escaped Cuba as political prisoners when he was five. He worked hard, went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, retired as a pilot and serves in the reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel. He decided he wanted to be a stand up comedian working in comedy clubs and on cruise ships.

Jose Sarduy

The next morning our Cruise Director interviewed him on her daily “Coffee Break” get together and passengers were able to ask him questions. As far as we know Holland America is the only cruise line that has these get to know sessions with the crew and entertainers. The Cruise Director has a “Coffee Break” session in the morning and one in the evening that is a “Cocktail get together”.

Something else only Holland America has is a show late at night for all the crew and workers. If the entertainers oblige, and most of them do, a third late show is done for them. By the way, one day Bill asked one of the chefs in the upstairs buffet area what happened to all the food left from breakfast, lunch and dinner. The chef said it was taken downstairs for the crew to enjoy.

We have a wonderful crew of workers on this voyage. They are always smiling, hard working and eager to help. I would say all, or most of them, are from the Philippines and Indonesia. And of course they all speak English.

Next up: six sea days and then Kona Hawaii

 

REVISED Manzanillo MX JAN 29 2024

We had two sea days on the way to Mexico from Costa Rica. On the second morning at sea we went to the Cruise Director’s “Coffee Talk”. Bill especially wanted to attend this one because she was interviewing the ship’s Chief Engineer and Staff Engineer. It was very interesting to hear about their careers and some facts about their jobs on the ship. We were all given the opportunity to ask questions. One person asked the Chief Engineer his favorite place he has sailed to. He quickly answered Antarctica. He said he gets tears in his eyes remembering its beauty.

Our next port of call was Manzanillo (pop 160,000) on the west coast of Mexico. This small fishing village only gets around 16 cruise ships a year. They are working hard to attract more cruise ships and tourists. This port also plays an important role in transporting cargo for Mexico City and is considered Mexico’s busiest port for commercial ships.

There was a visible military police presence guarding our ship’s restricted pier area as we headed into town.  We smiled and said “Hola” and they returned the greeting. As we greeted people in their language throughout the town they smiled shyly and greeted us back. Along the Malecon de Manzanillo we strolled along the seaside boardwalk. Manzanillo is known as the sailfish capital of the world, hosting national and international fishing competitions. It has a large sailfish sculpture as its most iconic sculpture.

Manzanillo is a sister city of the U.S. cities of Flagstaff, Arizona, San Pablo, California and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

We Saw Several Places Making Tortillas

Our most important goal for today was to get Bill a haircut. He googled barbers and found one a reasonable walk from the ship. The young lady there spoke absolutely no English. We needed to find out if the shop accepted American dollars and how much a haircut cost. Between my limited Spanish and Google translate, we figured it all out. She worked meticulously on Bill’s hair and did a great job. We gave her a nice tip and we all left happy.

We went to see Church Nuestra Señora Del Carmen, a catholic church.

We then decided to walk around the hilly town. Again, we noticed some local police. We felt safe. They are working hard to build up tourism and want tourists to have a safe and enjoyable visit. We walked for quite awhile seeing the homes and businesses in the El Centro part of town. It is very humbling to see the way others live and the poverty they endure.

The fact that we leave there and step back on a cruise ship is not lost on us.

This Photo Taken From The Dock

We do believe there are some more resort type areas with much nicer homes closer to the beach areas.

This Photo Was Taken From the Height of the Ship

As we were walking back to the ship we saw a car with Oregon license plates! 

Next up: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 

 

Manzanillo MX JAN 29 2024

We had two sea days on the way to Mexico from Costa Rica. On the second morning at sea we went to the Cruise Director’s “Coffee Talk”. Bill especially wanted to attend this one because she was interviewing the ship’s Chief Engineer and Staff Engineer. It was very interesting to hear about their careers and some facts about their jobs on the ship. We were all given the opportunity to ask questions. One person asked the Chief Engineer his favorite place he has sailed to. He quickly answered Antarctica. He said he gets tears in his eyes remembering its beauty.

Our next port of call was Manzanillo (pop 160,000) on the west coast of Mexico. This small fishing village only gets around 16 cruise ships a year. They are working hard to attract more cruise ships and tourists. This port also plays an important role in transporting cargo for Mexico City and is considered Mexico’s busiest port for commercial ships.

There was a visible military police presence guarding our ship’s restricted pier area as we headed into town.  We smiled and said “Hola” and they returned the greeting. As we greeted people in their language throughout the town they smiled shyly and greeted us back. Along the Malecon de Manzanillo we strolled along the seaside boardwalk. Manzanillo is known as the sailfish capital of the world, hosting national and international fishing competitions. It has a large sailfish sculpture as its most iconic sculpture.

Manzanillo is a sister city of the U.S. cities of Flagstaff, Arizona, San Pablo, California and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Our most important goal for today was to get Bill a haircut. He googled barbers and found one a reasonable walk from the ship. The young lady there spoke absolutely no English. We needed to find out if the shop accepted American dollars and how much a haircut cost. Between my limited Spanish and Google translate, we figured it all out. She worked meticulously on Bill’s hair and did a great job. We gave her a nice tip and we all left happy.

We went to see Church Nuestra Señora Del Carmen, a catholic church.

We then decided to walk around the hilly town. Again, we noticed some local police. We felt safe. They are working hard to build up tourism and want tourists to have a safe and enjoyable visit. We walked for quite awhile seeing the homes and businesses in the El Centro part of town. It is very humbling to see the way others live and the poverty they endure.

The fact that we leave there and step back on a cruise ship is not lost on us.

This Photo Taken From The Dock

We do believe there are some more resort type areas with much nicer homes closer to the beach areas.

This Photo Was Taken From the Height of the Ship

As we were walking back to the ship we saw a car with Oregon license plates! 

Next up: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 

 

St George’s, Grenada JAN 20, 2024

After three relaxing days at sea, we reached St George’s, Grenada. And it wasn’t a tender port,  Yay!! I don’t know who was happier, the passengers or the exhausted tender boat drivers.

St George’s, pop 34,000, is the capital city of Grenada.  With a picturesque horseshoe shaped harbor, the town is surrounded by the hillside of an old volcano crater. Grenada (pop 125,000) and its smaller surrounding islands are known as the spice islands with nutmeg being the main crop along with cocoa, mace, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.

Grenada achieved independence from Britain in 1974. After a leftist coup in 1983, U.S. troops invaded the island and a pro USA government was reinstated.  In 2004, the island was devastated by Hurricane Ivan with 90% of the homes damaged or destroyed. Nutmeg trees, the key to their economy, were destroyed. With help from the United States, Canada, China, Venezuela, European Union, Trinidad and Tobego, the country has made significant progress in rebuilding their country and economy.

It was a sunny, hot and humid day as we made our way off the ship. Instead of an excursion, we had decided to walk around and explore on our own. We quickly discovered that St George’s is severely lacking in sidewalks, making for potential hazardous conditions for pedestrians. There were lots of people milling around since there were two cruise ships in port. It has been many days since we had the company of another cruise ship. They were parked right next to us so they couldn’t be missed.

Our map took us through the 350 foot Sendall Tunnel which was an experience in itself with no pedestrain walkways. We also found they drive on the left side of the road like the United Kingdom.

We continued climbing up steep streets to reach St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. There was quite a view from the top.

We continued back down to the harbor where the water was so clear we could see tiny minnows in the water.  Next was their open air market where we didn’t see anything of interest. We checked into buying tickets to ride their little town trolley but there was over a two hour wait so we passed. By now we were really hot and decided to head back to the ship. We spent the afternoon working on blogs, using the first cell phone signal we have had in many days.

We noticed some of the crew bringing a small truckload of palm fronds onto the ship in St George’s. The next morning at breakfast we noticed the entire buffet area had been magically transformed overnight into a Caribbean setting with palm fronds and shells. All done to prepare for our upcoming time in the Caribbean. The crew is always finding ways to surprise us!

That evening the captain told us to watch out for Pico Naiguata, the summit of a mountain near Caracas, Venezuela. Around 6:00 p.m. we could make it out in the distance from our balcony using binoculars. It was impossible to get a good picture because of the sea mist.

Next up: Willemstad, Curacao

Willemstad, Curaçao JAN 22, 2024

After a day at sea, we arrived at Willemstad, Curaçao. This island is one of what is known as the ABC islands consisting of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Last fall we visited Aruba and Bonaire so we are glad to complete the ABC’s. The captain commented that Curaçao is his favorite Caribbean port.

Willemstad, pop 137,000, is the capital of Curaçao. Willemstad is home to the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. In the 1600’s, Jews fleeing persecution in Spain and Portugal settled here. 

Curaçao, pop 150,000, is in the southern Caribbean and north of the Venezuela coast. It is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the kingdom responsible for defense, foreign policy and ensuring that parliamentary elections are held. . The ABC islands are often referred to as the Dutch Caribbean. Curaçao is the largest of the ABC islands in population and area. The people here speak Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento, a Creole language.

Curaçao’s economy is based on tourism, international trade, shipping services and oil refining. Curaçao has a continental shelf with a sharp drop off known as “The Blue Edge” which attracts scuba divers from around the world. Its coral reefs, which can be reached without a boat, are popular for snorkeling. Unfortunately some of the coral reefs have been affected by tourism.

We really liked Curaçao. It was pedestrian friendly and the people were welcoming. We got off the ship early for our walk around the town. We walked across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, nicknamed “The Swinging Lady”. Built in 1888, it is the oldest and longest floating bridge in the world. It rests on 15 pontoons and swings open 30 times a day to let tankers, container and cruise ships in and out of the harbor.

The Rif Fort was built in 1828 to protect the bay and area. It now has many shops and restaurants on four levels inside.

The Governor’s Palace is both a residence and a place of work.

The Fort Church is a Protestant church dating from 1796 and is still being used as a church today.

There are many colorful murals throughout the area.

We also managed to find a geocache! By the bridge is three heart shaped places to put your “love locks”.

The day before we reached Curaçao, the captain mentioned during his noon announcements that we would have windy weather in Curacao. The waves were crashing on the shore giving us a nice breeze throughout the day. It made for pleasant walking around the town, such a welcome relief from the heat that had plagued us for days.

The captain also said once we left Curaçao we would be moving into significant tradewinds on the way to the Panama Canal that would be giving us gale force winds and 15 foot seas. Oh boy! Hope I have enough Dramamine to weather that storm! Stay tuned! 

Next up : the Panama Canal 

Santarem, Brazil JAN 16, 2024

Overnight we traveled on the Amazon River toward Santarem and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. This picture (provided by our ship) shows how the Amazon River is not straight.

On January 16th we stopped at Santarem, our last port of call in Brazil. This was our fifth port in a row and once again this was a tender boat port. The tender boat drivers have really had a busy week! I think everyone is looking forward to the sea days coming up next. Especially since the clocks went ahead one hour and we lost an hour of sleep.

This view (provided by our ship) shows the confluence of the Amazon and the Topajos Rivers at Santarem, Brazil.

We booked our first excursion of the cruise, “Highlights of Santarem”. We were glad to be doing more bus touring today and less walking. The extreme heat has been hard on us. 

Santarem (pop 300,000) was founded in 1661 and was originally called “New Santarem”.  It is one of the oldest cities in the Brazilian Amazon. At one time the economy revolved around timber, rubber, coffee and gold mining. Today the main economy is soybean cultivation and lumber.

Our tour group met at 8:45 and together we took a tender boat on the thirty minute ride to shore while the ship remained docked offshore in deeper water. 

We had an excellent tour guide whose enthusiasm to share his city with us really wore everyone out. The extreme heat sure didn’t help. The three and a half hour excursion ended up being four and a half hours. We really got our money worth. 

In Brazil the “tour buses” are really more like school buses or city buses with no AC. Since everything we saw was outside, there was no escaping the heat. 

Our guide understood and spoke English with a heavy accent but he was still easy to understand. 

Our first stop was at a rubber tree and flour farm. First a local man showed us how rubber is extracted from the rubber tree.

We then walked briefly through a rainforest area where he pointed out mango trees and trees with Brazil nuts, among many others.

We then walked to another area where several locals demonstrated how they made a type of flour that is used to make many dishes, including tapioca.

Next was an area with many local fruits and Brazil nuts which were identified and samples were offered. We passed on any samples. They demonstrated how hard it is to crack a Brazil shell  and showed how one shell can have over twenty individual nuts inside.

We then were driven to a couple markets where we were shown many items that were natural products that are good for many health problems. Surprisingly we were not given time to shop which is often the case. We were then taken to another open air market with fresh meat products, especially many kinds of fish.

Amazing to see all fresh fish displayed in all the heat. Shrimp was piled up without any ice.

Back on the bus to see the cathedral. Our guide gave us a nice detailed tour of the cathedral. It was surprising because usually tour guides take you to cathedrals and wait while you wander around. Our great guide proudly gave us a great tour of the cathedral. We were told that just 60% of the people were Catholic.

This statue has human hair that is replaced yearly.

By this time we were wilting, but there was more! We stopped at an overlook where the Amazon River converges with the Tapajos River. 

By this time we were hot, tired and hungry. Just when we thought we couldn’t take more, the guide told us we had one final stop. A municipal museum where he led us through several rooms with the history of Santarem. By this time our eyes had glazed over and I wondered which of us was going to be the first to pass out from a heat stroke.

As much as we enjoyed and appreciated our guide, it was truly a relief to arrive back to the pier to catch our tender boat. 

On the bus ride back to the pier our tour guide had five prizes to hand out to people that could answer questions from what he told us today. I correctly answered a question and won a cute little souvenir made from a Brazil nut with a little figure of a toucan inside and the name “Santarem” painted on the front. I had to turn it into security when we boarded the ship so it could be put in the deep freeze for a couple days to kill any insects. They later delivered it to our cabin. 

That afternoon we began the final leg of our trip on the Amazon River. Tomorrow we will once again cross the equator as we make our way back to the Atlantic Ocean. From our balcony during the sail away we passed the convergence of the two rivers, giving us a great view.

Some thoughts on our time cruising the Amazon River. We were surprised we didn’t see any other cruise ships or pleasure boats on the river. All the boat traffic were barges and freighter, etc. At each of the five ports, we were the only cruise ship. We came to realize that this part of the world is isolated and takes some time to cruise the river. Therefore only cruise ships with longer itineraries make this voyage. It seems only around twelve cruise ships make this trip each year. Perhaps that is why we often saw little rowboats come up alongside the ship and take pictures. The funny thing is they were taking pictures of us and at the same time we were taking pictures of them. 

We were surprised to see the muddy color which eventually as we traveled further down the river became more of a blue green color. We were also surprised to all the logs, trees, branches, plants and debris being carried in the swift current. Between that and the narrow, shallow places to navigate, it is no surprise that we had Brazilian navigators/pilots onboard the entire eight days. Our tour guide in Santarem told us this area is having a severe drought.

Next up: A final Brazil show and what happens on a sea day

 

Parintins, Brazil JAN 15, 2024

On January 15th our port of call was Parintins, Brazil, (pop 115,000).

We knew it was going to be a tender port, but we were surprised when Kimberly, our Cruise Director, came on the intercom and said that this tender port was without a doubt going to be the most challenging tender port so far. Uh oh. She said it was not suitable for people with wheelchairs and scooters or with mobility issues. She mentioned deep swells and a floating dock.  After I took a dose of seasick medicine, we headed out. It was a long ride to the floating dock where the tender boat driver had to watch out for floating logs, trees and debris in the water.

We arrived at the floating dock which turned out to be another boat docked by the pier. We transferred from our tender boat to the floating boat with a low ceiling and stepped onto the pier. This was all done safely by the great Holland America crew who had many hands reaching out to assist. Actually it wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected.

It was another hot day as we walked around the town. We noticed that motorbikes and pedicabs were everywhere and we had to be very careful crossing streets.

The pedicabs were interesting to watch as many had no steering wheel so the driver would just lean in whatever direction he wanted to turn.

We visited the Catholic church built in 1981 with a 130 foot bell tower. We have noticed the churches in the Amazon are very simple and plain, though very pretty.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to find Bill a Brazil souvenir shirt. There were many little shops but instead of having Brazil souvenirs, they had shirts that said NYC or American sports teams. Seemed to be more geared to local shoppers rather than tourists. There was a definite language barrier since we did not find anyone who spoke or understood English. We found this during all of our ports of call along the Amazon River. I am sure it is different in larger metropolitan areas of Brazil. We tried using Google Translate with some degree of success.

We finally gave up and as we made our way back to the tender boats we found some little souvenir stands near the pier. Bill found a shirt and hat. Success at last!

This time instead of one of the ship’s tender boats, we had to take a local ferry boat back to the ship. The ferry boat had brought in a floating barge they placed next to our ship. We transferred from the ferry boat to the floating barge to our gangway. Another experience but easy transition.

We have one final port of call left in Brazil. And guess what. It is another tender port. 

Next: Santarem, Brazil