Our 46 Day Cruise Around South America
On December 31 we are boarding a plane for Florida. After exploring the east coast of Florida for a few days we will board the Mariner of the Seas for a cruise that will see us exploring the Caribbean for a while then heading south to cruise all the way down the east side of South America, around the horn, and back north up the west side to Los Angeles.
We will have our laptop with us and will post a daily journal of our travels on this page. We'll be making lots of stops along the way, visiting many historic spots, and having lots of little adventures. We'll be including lots of photos - so stay tuned ......................
Most of the photos will be included as embedded slideshows. To get them going, click on the 'arrow' in the middle of the screen. Once the slideshow is live, there are lots of viewing options. I think the best way to view them is to click on the tool in the lower, right side of the photo display to make it full screen, then click on the arrow in the lower left side of the photo display to start the slideshow. After a few seconds, all the thumbnails and other stuff will disappear and all you will see are the photos. When you've seen enough, click on the left tool to stop the slideshow and click on the right tool to make it small again. If you don't like the automatic slideshow you can view the photos one at at time.
Day 1 - December 31, 2008
Traveling from El Dorado Hills to Cocoa Beach, Florida
Here we are in our motel room in Cocoa Beach after a long day of travel. Everything actually went very well. Linda has learned a lot about air travel these past years and everything she set up worked like clockwork. At 3:00 AM, a shuttle van picked us up at our front doorstep and drove us right up to the proper airline terminal. Linda had printed all the boarding passes at home and she used them to automatically check in our luggage. No lines - nothing to it. Since we were early, the perp walk through security was a breeze and all we had to do was wait a couple of hours until takeoff. The plane took off on time and we had a super smooth flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.
I was surprised to see that the entire west was covered with snow from the Sierra to western Texas. Other than that, I didn't see much of interest and tried to sleep as much as possible.
We had a six-hour layover in Dallas/Fort Worth that was a little trying but we survived OK. The flight into Orlando was uneventful - it was dark, so I didn't see anything. Linda had purchased a fly/stay/cruise package from a motel near our cruise takeoff and when we landed she put in a phone call and there was someone there to pick us up and drive us about 60 miles to Cocoa Beach. When the time comes, the motel will shuttle us right to the cruise ship dock. Very slick and easy.
The motel has seen better days, but it is more than adequate. I can't access their WiFi from our room, but if I go out to the pool area I can. Since it's a little cool outside, I'm writing this from our room and I'll go outside to upload it - which I'll do in a few minutes.
Tomorrow we'll pick up a rental car Linda has reserved and we'll do some exploring and maybe take a few photos.
Right now, we're both very tired --- too tired to welcome the new year. I think we'll both just sleep through it.
Day 2 - January 1, 2009
Kennedy Space Center
We both slept like rocks, not waking up until about 10:30 AM ..... and it was wonderful to sleep in. Linda had arranged a rental car with Enterprise and when we finally got moving she called to say we were ready to be picked up. To my amazement, within 30 minutes we were driving out of their lot in a nice little Chevrolet Aveo. I'm amazed at how well everything is working - my pessimistic nature is in danger of being shown wrong.
We were both afraid the weather would be warm and muggy, our least favorite weather condition. It is, however, perfect as far a we're concerned. The temperature was about 60° when we started off and didn't get much warmer all day. .... another bad sign for my pessimistic nature.
After eating breakfast at a fine local restaurant that Linda's GPS led us to, we decided to head for the Kennedy Space Center. By the time we made our way out there, it was 3:00 PM and we didn't have nearly enough time to explore everything they have to offer. We watched an IMAX movie of the moon missions and walked the grounds for an hour or so. Saturday, we intend to return to take the official bus tour of the launch facilities.
The Cocoa Beach area is a laid back, pleasant place to spend time. All the people we've dealt with are good humored and pleasant, and the service is excellent at all the restaurants and stores. Even the drivers are courteous.
We found ourselves driving through a really nice residential area on the way back from the Space Center and lusted after some of the houses. Prices on the "For Sale" flyers seem pretty good, too.
Tomorrow, we're going to spend the day driving south and checking out the area.
Day 3 - January 2, 2009
Driving down the Florida coast
It looks like we're both still on Pacific Time. We planned to get an early start this morning but when the alarm went off neither of us was ready to get up so we turned it off. Maybe it was because we both laid awake for a couple of hours after we went to bed. Anyway ..... the next time we woke up it was 11:00 AM and the day was already well underway.
Cocoa Beach is on about a 100 mile long peninsula which is only a few hundred yards wide at points. After another leisurely breakfast, we headed down the peninsula on Hwy A1A anticipating lots of ocean views. Not to be. It's hard to imagine how flat things are. The only views past the immediate roadside we experienced were on a few bridges that traverse navigated waterways. Other than that, all we saw were the buildings and plant life immediately on either side of the road. There were ABSOLUTELY NO OCEAN VIEWS. The only time we saw the ocean was when we stopped, parked the car, and walked to it.
Access to the ocean is pretty tightly controlled. In California one can pretty much walk down to the ocean anywhere you feel brave enough to traverse. Much of the access to the ocean that we saw was blocked by condos, exclusive hotels and residential developments along the way. The general public has to use one of the public beaches or access points - I have to admit there is plenty of access, but I always wonder what the rich people are hiding behind their walls.
In spite of my jealousy of the rich people, we had a very pleasant drive. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-70s, partly cloudy skies, and a little breeze in most places. We didn't see much scenery because of the flat terrain, but the view was generally pleasant. We stopped wherever we felt the need and enjoyed ourselves a lot.
I have to take back what I said about the courteous drivers - today we mixed it up a bit more and we saw all the typical acts of rude driving behavior.
Day 4 - January 3, 2009
Kennedy Space Center Redux
We tried our hardest and got up a little earlier today - sooner or later we're going to have to adjust. The mission for the day was to return to the Kennedy Space Center and take the official tour - and tour we did.
For me, it was a strange day - it was extremely inspiring on the one hand, yet strangely depressing on the other.
Inspiring because the moon mission was such a tremendous accomplishment and demonstrates what mankind is capable of.
Depressing because we still have idiots that wrap themselves in explosives to kill their fellow human beings - we still have people that think drugs are the solution to expanding consciousness - we still have people that hit little old ladies over the head for their social security checks - our governments can't figure out how to balance a budget - our brightest minds are steered into fields such as 'the law' and 'financial management', both of which are activities that produce nothing and bleed society dry - we seem to value entertainers over teachers, scientists, and engineers - and on and on ........
I was reminded that this was an accomplishment of "The Greatest Generation" and I'm still not sure subsequent generations are up to the challenge. It has been nearly 30 years since the last man walked on the moon - what's been going on? Our wonderful infrastructure seems to be crumbling and I see no signs of advancement along any front. Maybe I'm missing something - but .. I'm afraid not.
Enough pessimism and negativity. Tomorrow we board the Mariner of the Seas and we're off on 46 days of debauchery - how could life be any better?
Day 5 - January 4, 2009
On Board The Mariner of the Seas
There's not much to be said about today - we spent the morning waiting for a shuttle to pick us up at the motel and take us to the ship. Once we got to the ship, we spent the next hour or so checking in and getting onboard. All our papers were in order and it went smoothly - again.
One group of people was REALLY UNHAPPY. Somehow they had neglected to obtain their Brazilian visas - without that visa, they weren't getting on the ship. I wonder what the odds were of them getting a refund?
We walked onto the ship about 2:30 PM and were warmly greeted by the ship's staff. These people must take some kind of happiness and good cheer training. As soon as you start dealing with them, you realize you are really on vacation. The ship is beautiful - clean, modern, and new looking. Everywhere you look is pleasing to the eye.
We, of course, headed right for the food. We had eaten only a bagel for breakfast and we were starving. After lunch - we really tried to be good - we made a walking tour of much of the ship. We located the WiFi hotspots, signed up for the wireless access at the rate of $55 for 150 minutes, and started to walk around. The ship has everything you can imagine - even an indoor ice skating rink.
I tried uploading a photo to see how much it would cost to continue showing our photos and found that it is way too expensive - this connection just isn't that fast. I can get away with embedding a few smaller photos in each day's narrative.
We took in the first show of the cruise. They featured a singing and dancing group and a comedian that was pretty funny. We sat in the second row and this guy did a lot of back and forth with the audience - I was worried he'd start picking on me, but thankfully he didn't.
Right now Linda and I are sitting in a lounge on the 14th deck, looking over the ship, drinking diet coke, and listening to a pretty fair flamenco guitarist as we head for Coco Cay, Bahamas. It's about 9:30 PM and dark so we can't see anything but the lights of the ship - still, it looks pretty neat. We really feel like we're on vacation right now. By the way we're sitting in the middle of that row of windows you can see in the photo.
Tomorrow we plan to spend the day on the beach in the Bahamas - the first tender will leave at 8:00 AM and we can play around until 3:00 PM when we have to return. Sounds like my kind of day - I'm guessing I'll be plenty sunburned about this time tomorrow.
CLICK HERE to see more photos we shot around the ship.
Day 6 - January 5, 2009
Coco Cay, Bahamas
First, I haven't described our cabin yet. It's actually quite nice - it has a king size bed, a window overlooking the promenade, a nice little desk and two couches. There is a fair amount of room - I've stayed in smaller motels - there is plenty of closet and dresser space and the bathroom isn't bad either. The shower is actually a pleasant experience.
When we woke up this morning the ship was just pulling into Coco Cay, a private island owned by Royal Caribbean, in the Bahamas. It looks like your fantasy desert island - not much vegetation other than some palm trees near the water, lots of white sand beaches and many shallow inlets and coves to play in. It is also very small with no buildings that we could see other than a few shacks where Royal Caribbean was hawking their wares.
Linda and I spent a few hours on the island soaking up some rays. The areas open to swimming were very, very shallow and neither of us was really interested in getting wet. I'll wait for more interesting waters to do my snorkeling. If there had been a few waves, I might have played in them, but all the coves were on the inside of a huge crater-like bay and the water was as smooth as a lake. Also, we're both very light skinned and didn't want to get fried on our first day in the tropics. It was very pleasant laying on the beach watching all the more ambitious people playing in the water.
CLICK HERE to see more photos we shot while sunning ourselves in Coco Cay.
The mandatory lifeboat drill was held shortly after we returned to the ship - I can't say it's fun strapping on the life jacket and milling around with hundreds of confused old people trying to find their assembly station but I can sure see why it's required. I'd hate to think what would have happened if this was a real 'abandon ship' situation.
I thought I'd try out the jogging track on Deck 12. They have a little route laid out for runners and walkers - it is a two-lane trail made of anti-skid material that winds its way around the deck, in and out of various obstacles. They say that 5 laps makes a mile - earlier in the afternoon I ran the 5 laps and it felt more like 5 miles. Just before dinner, I went out again and made 10 more laps - this time I ran a lap then walked a lap. Hopefully, I'll be stretching it out in days to come - I'm pretty sure I'm taking in more calories than I'm burning.
Tonight, Ricky Nelson's twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar put on a Ricky Nelson tribute show. IT WAS GREAT! Ricky Nelson was about my age and I remember growing up to his music - I have many memories tied to his songs. I can remember when Garden Party came out - what a rebuttal that was. Matthew and Gunnar also performed a couple of their own hits from their heyday in the early 90s. They also sang a song they'd recently written called something like "Once More" - its basic message was that they would give up everything if they could just talk to their dad once more. I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye - the lyrics told of how they try to live to make their dad proud and wonder what he would say if he were here and dream of what it would be like if he came through the door just once more. I often think the same thoughts of Kevin and I sometimes feel that he might walk through the door once more.
Our next destination is St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, and we'll arrive there Thursday morning. The next two days will be spent on the ship. I'm not sure how much of this relaxation and good food we can stand, but we'll be doing our best.
Day 7 - January 6, 2009
En route to St. Maarten
Today is a sea day. Get up, eat, lay around a little in the sun, explore the ship a little more, read, eat, relax, get a little exercise, relax, eat, go to a show ............... pretty rough day.
I had the camera with me early in the day, but I didn't see much to photograph. The only new place on the ship that I saw was the helipad on the front of the ship. This shot from the helipad is looking aft - that row of windows on the highest deck is the ship's captain's bridge.
It is really hard to eat reasonably on this ship. After you've filled your plate - maybe a little more than you'd planned - you still haven't won. As you near the end of the meal, a waiter walks up, shows you their selection of cakes and other desserts, and offers to bring anything you'd like. Offers is a very weak word - you actually feel obligated to take the dessert. Tonight we reluctantly accepted the dessert - when he arrived with our selection, he brought two each just in case one wouldn't be enough. Then, if that isn't bad enough, as we start in on the dessert, a waitress walked up with a selection of ice cream dishes. This time we refused, but we almost had to fight her off and she felt like a miserable failure for letting us get away.
When we returned to our room after dinner, we found this little fellow on our bed. Our stateroom attendant seems to have a gift for towel sculpture - last night he left a turtle. I didn't think to photograph it - too bad.
In about an hour we're headed for this evening's show. I'm not exactly sure what to expect - the headliner's name is El Gaucho and they're advertising comedy, music and visual effects.
They were right. This fellow is from South America - he plays a guitar, he plays a piano, he's funny, he does fantastic things with a bolero. He's also one of those guys that plays around a lot with the audience - glad he couldn't see us.
Tomorrow is another day at sea. Right now we're watching a bunch of idiots doing a 70s dance party.
Day 8 - January 7, 2009
En route to St. Maarten
Today is another sea day. Pretty much the same scenario as yesterday with a few additional activities.
I took in two health seminars and found out some amazing stuff. Apparently I weigh too much, don't exercise enough, and I eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods.
Linda pampered herself in the spa - she got a facial and a massage. Earlier in the morning she attended a seminar on aromatherapy.
We also wandered down to the ice skating arena and watched some people skating and some people falling. Next week an ice skating show is featured. We always watch the Olympic ice skating events on TV and we're interested to see a real life event.
After dinner we went to another show - this time it was a musical variety show by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. They featured songs and dances from Las Vegas, Hollywood, and Broadway. It's not exactly my thing, but I could sure appreciate all the hard work and effort that went into this production and I enjoyed it in spite of myself.
Today's only photo is of the towel art we found on our bed when we returned to our room from dinner. Our cabin steward is quite an artistic fellow.
Day 9 - January 8, 2009
St. Maarten, Dutch Antilles
We were awakened today by my cell phone announcing a text message, then another message, and another. In total, I received five text messages - all welcoming us to the Dutch Antilles cell phone network. It was way too early for both of us so I turned off my cell phone and we went back to sleep for another couple of hours.
Our ship pulled right up to a pier and we were able to walk off the ship. There is no land route to the pier, however, and we had to board a 'water taxi' for a $12 ride to the town and beaches. Getting to the beach was like running the gauntlet. On both sides of the street are little shops of all kinds - most of them jewelry, however. The vendors are very aggressive and get in your face trying to get you into their stores - very annoying. The further you go, the less aggressive they get and when you get far enough, you are allowed to pass unmolested. It was my worst nightmare. Linda, however, was intrigued with some of the shops and spotted a few things of interest. She finally bought herself a beach bag which really worked well for our day at the beach. Along the way, we saw some historic buildings and walked into a church that was built circa 1750.
After shopping, we made our way to the nice beach and spent the rest of our time on shore soaking up rays and dipping in the cool water. I was expecting something like the lukewarm waters off Georgia and Florida and was quite surprised to find it was more like the ocean in Hawaii. Not that the water is cold, mind you, just that it gave me pause for a second before proceeding past my knees.
A few rain squalls passed over while we were enjoying the beach, but they were actually pleasant. The temperatures were in the high 80s - I'm guessing - and the sun was very powerful. We had an umbrella, but it provided full shade for only one of us or half shade for both of us. The squalls came in behind us and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees ahead of the rain - quite nice. They lasted only a few minutes and soon the sun was feeling quite warm again - time to jump in the cool water.
CLICK HERE to see more photos we short around St. Maarten.
Tonight's show was put on by a fellow named Bobby Arvon. His claim to fame is that he was the singer of the theme of the TV show "Happy Days" - neither of us had heard of him. It turns out that he is one hell of an act - he is a great singer, a top notch pianist, and a great impressionist. His impressions of Neil Diamond, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willy Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis w/piano, Ray Charles w/piano were eery. He did many more impressions, but these are the ones that stand out to me and Linda.
These shows are really great. The performers may be past their heydays but they have a whole bunch left in them. For my money, the folks we have seen so far haven't lost a step.
When we returned to our room, we were greeted by another towel sculpture on our bed; this one must be a manta ray --- yes?
Tomorrow we stop at St. Kitts, British Virgin Islands, which is only about 60 miles south of St. Maarten. The Captain said we could probably swim and be there on time tomorrow morning. Both of these islands are about 100 miles or so east of Puerto Rico. Anyway .... Linda has a tour of the island scheduled bright and early in the morning.
Day 10 - January 9, 2009
St. Kitts, West Indies
St. Kitts is an island nation that was declared independent in 1983 - it is the smallest sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere according to our guide. It has a long history. Originally named St. Christopher, it was fought over by the French and British for many years and finally controlled by the English. Its current name was adopted in 1988, shortly after it gained independence.
According to our guide, its main industry for the past 400 years has been sugar cane. Unfortunately the sugar industry had been declining since the 1970s and finally collapsed entirely in 2005. The country is currently trying to switch to a tourist based economy and there is quite a bit of hotel, condo and resort development going on in the south end of the island. Some of the areas around its main city, Basseterre, however, don't look that prosperous.
We took one of the Royal Caribbean's recommended tours around the island. We had a tour guide that drove ten of us around to sites of interest in a 10 passenger van. St. Kitts is a pretty little island. Its most prominent features are a couple of volcanoes that reach about 4,000 ft in elevation. They were shrouded in clouds the entire time we were here.
Another feature that I found interesting is that where the island is very narrow it is possible to take a photograph that shows both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. In the photo to the left, the Atlantic Ocean is on Linda's right and the Caribbean on her left. It was also interesting to see that the Atlantic Ocean has waves crashing into the shore like I'm used to seeing but the Caribbean is calm like a lake with almost no wave action.
After the tour, we walked around the town a little and tried to do a little shopping. The vendors, again, are so aggressive that it is hard for me to deal with. If you happen to look one of these folks in the eye, that is the signal that you might be interested and they attack like sharks - in your face to the point where you want to physically push them off. The only way to negotiate these areas is to keep your eyes away from them and keep moving.
Linda had $40 in Eastern Caribbean (EC) currency to spend - $16 US - so we bought a couple of T-shirts which actually look pretty good.
We didn't see any swimming beaches nearby so we passed on that for today. Tomorrow will be a different story - we'll be in Barbados where I'm booked on a snorkeling tour. While I'm snorkeling, Linda will be doing a historical tour of the island.
When we returned to our room tonight, this little towel weiner dog was on our bed to greet us. We wonder if this guy has enough characters to fill out the entire 46 days. So far, he's batting 100% - I wish I would have photographed the first two.
Day 11 - January 10, 2009
Barbados, West Indies
Barbados is the eastern most island of the West Indies - it is about 270 miles east of the Venezuelan coast. Like the other islands we've visited, it is fairly small - 14 miles wide and 21 miles long. St. Kitts is even smaller at 5 miles at its widest point and 23 miles long. Coco Cay is even smaller but I don't know its dimensions.
Linda and I split up today - she went on a tour of the island and some of its historic and cultural spots. It was called "Beautiful Barbados and Heritage Village Tour". She covered a lot more area than I did and saw both the Atlantic and Caribbean sides of the island. Linda shot these two photos (left and right) when her tour was on the Atlantic side. I didn't even leave the urban area of Bridgeport and didn't get a sense of the place.
I went on a snorkeling tour on the Caribbean side of the island. I didn't see much scenery since the ship docked on the same side of the island. Thirty-six of us boarded a bus and took a short tour through downtown Bridgeport, the capital of Barbados. The town was buzzing with activity with people and cars running around all over the place. Barbados looks a little more prosperous than St. Kitts although I don't think I'd like to be walking some of the streets we drove down. We pulled into a beach parking lot without really leaving the urban area - at first I was a little leery as we walked though a little public park like area to the beach. Not to worry, however - we soon walked out onto a pristine, white sand beach with crystal clear, green water - photo left. There were deck chairs and nice umbrellas laid out for us to use - although we had to pay an extra $5 for the privilege. Some chose to just use their towels on the sand, but I learned my lesson in St. Kitts and ponied up the $5.
The tour was called "The Beach and Sunken Ship Snorkel Tour". In the little rig on the right, they took about half of us out to explore two sunken ships a couple of hundred yards off shore while the other half played on the beach. After about an hour, they brought the first group back to the beach and the rest of us went out to snorkel around the two sunken ships. When our snorkeling adventure was over, we returned to the beach for another hour or so of playing on the beach and soaking up some more sun. Actually, I got more than my share of sun today and I'm going to feel it tonight when I'm trying to get some sleep.
One ship sank in about 30 feet of water in about 1918 - it was a fairly small ship and its highest point was probably 10 to 15 feet below the surface. Very cool -- you could actually touch it if you wanted and one of the fellows dove pretty deep to take a better look. I was content to float along the surface. The second ship sank about 100 yards away in about 75 feet of water quite a bit later - I believe our guide said it was in the 1960s. This was a much bigger ship and some of it was closer to the surface than the smaller ship. It's actually kind of spooky watching all the fish swimming in and out of all the windows, portholes, doors, and holes. A couple of folks were exploring with SCUBA gear and were poking around all over the ship - they are braver than me.
That about covers the entire day for both of us. We left the ship first thing in the morning and didn't return from our respective adventures until about 2:00 PM. By then it was time to eat and after we ate, I had to shower off the salt and sand. Since the ship is pulling out about 5:00 PM, that didn't leave enough time to do anything else so we just relaxed around the ship.
Our towel sculpture of the day was hanging from our ceiling. It would have seemed more appropriate yesterday as St. Kitts has about 60,000 monkeys running around. Many of the street people had one of these tiny fellows riding on their shoulders - they couldn't have weighed more than 2 or 3 pounds with heads the size of an egg.
In about 30 minutes we're off to see the ice show. . . . We're back and the show was spectacular. I've never seen an ice show before so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I can't imagine anything much better. There was fantastic skating, incredible costumes and choreography, daring aerial work with wires and ropes, and much more. I actually gasped out loud at one of the wire routines.
The next five days we'll be at sea, steaming for Salvador, Brazil. According to the Captain it is over 3,000 miles away. Sometime tonight we'll break out into the Atlantic Ocean and our smooth trip will likely get a little more rough. The waters have been really quiet since we left Florida and it's often hard to tell the ship is moving from the inside. Out on an open deck, it's another story - we've often been traveling at 15 knots into a 20 knot headwind and it can be a little tricky even walking.
Day 12 - January 11, 2009
En route to Salvador, Brazil
We're cruising along at about 20 knots about 250 miles off the coast of South America. Our position at 10:30 PM local time is somewhere around the famous French Guiana. We're getting closer to the equator - the Captain reported at noon that we were about 600 miles north of the equator but about 1000 miles on our southeasterly course. We should cross the equator around 3:00 PM on Wednesday, January 13. I wonder if there will be a ceremony of some kind to mark our crossing - there has been no mention of such a thing, but it seems worthy of something.
We're cruising into a 35 knot headwind and with our speed of 20 knots, it makes for some interesting walking out on the decks. We just returned to our cabin from the evening show. The theater is fore and our cabin is aft - the quickest way to negotiate the length of the ship is to go outside and walk on the decks which is what we did. It wasn't too bad going front to back, however the door on the port side to get in the ship wouldn't open and we had to walk all the way around the back of the ship, then a couple of hundred feet against the wind to the door on the starboard side - quite an operation.
We got off to a slow start this morning, and it was nearing noon before we finished breakfast. We read out on the deck for an hour or so then we split up for a couple of hours. I decided to spend some of my shipboard credits for a session with a private trainer - they have a real nice gym on the ship and I would like to keep my weight gain to a minimum. While I was doing that, Linda took in a movie called "Made of Honor". We joined forces afterward, read for a while, then went to another movie - this one was "Leatherheads" with George Clooney.
After that it was eat, read, relax then go the the evening show - this one was a Harry James tribute band led by Harry's former lead trumpeter. After seeing how much everyone enjoyed this show, I decided that I won't be so critical of people who like rap music.
Our towel sculpture of the day had me a little puzzled but Linda thinks it looks like a butterfly. My first thought was a bat, but the more I look at it, the more I agree with her. Linda liked the monkey so much that it's still hanging over our bed. That leaves us one towel short, but she doesn't seem to mind.
Day 13 - January 12, 2009
En route to Salvador, Brazil
The weather today isn't as good as it has been. The skies were overcast all day and it rained for much of the afternoon - the winds continue to be strong with headwinds up to 35 mph most of the time. Not many people out on deck. The Captain, in his noon report, reported seas of 3 to 4 meters which is quite a bit rougher than the 1 to 2 meters yesterday and some of the folks are getting seasick. Neither Linda or I are suffering any symptoms - we must be getting to be experienced sailors. I was up on the pool deck during one of the rain squalls and the pools were sloshing all over the decks with some pretty good waves themselves.
Not much else to say about today. We slept in, ate another fine breakfast and spent the rest of the day reading, napping, eating and relaxing. We did take a couple of hours off and went to a movie that we both enjoyed - Vantage Point. Speaking of vantage points, we have a spot on deck to read that not many people seem to have figured out - it is sheltered from the wind and rain and gives a great view of the ocean.
Last night I commented to Linda that the standing ovation given at yesterday's show seemed unwarranted - she replied: "There are people that would give a standing ovation to a drying turd." Tonight I saw convincing evidence that she was right.
I thought I'd include a couple of photos of some of the fruit sculptures that are placed around our dining room. There a some mighty creative people on board.
Tonight's towel sculpture looks to be a bat.
We're looking forward to crossing the equator tomorrow afternoon. As far as I know, Kevin is the only other Printz to have done it. The cruise director says that all the proper papers have been submitted to King Neptune's Court and we should have no trouble getting across.
Day 14 - January 13, 2009
En route to Salvador, Brazil
Today we crossed the equator and quite an operation it was. Apparently the ship's cruise director screwed up the paperwork to King Neptune's Court and he came aboard the ship to punish those responsible before he would let us cross. He was a huge fellow, about 9 feet tall as he walked to the temporary throne that was erected on the pool deck. He came with quite a retinue; some pollywogs, some nice looking mermaids and a few soldiers. Many, many people came out to watch the proceedings.
The cruise director (guy in yellow shirt) had assembled all the evil doers and they were tried, convicted, and punished one by one. The punishment for all was to have a bunch of goop smeared all over their heads and then they were made to walk the plank into a swimming pool.
After all the evil doers were punished and the cruise director again petitioned King Neptune about crossing, the King became irate and said he wasn't letting us across because all the evil doers hadn't been properly identified. In a big booming voice he commanded the ship to turn around and go back where we had come from. As his command echoed, the ship actually made a hard left - so hard the ship started leaning quite a bit to the right. As we turned, the cruise director begged King Neptune to let us across and finally the King agreed, but only if the cruise director was sacrificed. Everyone on the ship agreed and the cruise director was made to walk the plank. As soon as he hit the water, the ship turned back and resumed course, crossing the equator about 3:15 PM.
The weather was much better today. Very little wind, blue skies with white, puffy clouds, and temperatures in the 80s. We really haven't run into any real heat yet. I think St. Kitts had the highest temperature so far and it was only 87°. Other than during the squalls, the temperatures have been in the low to mid 80s in the daytime and in the 70s at night. Sunrise is at 5:00 AM and sunset is at 5:00 PM.
Tonight's towel sculpture looks like a penguin if your imagination is put to use a little. I suppose it would help if our beach towels were black.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading, and eating. It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Don't worry, Linda and I are up to the task and our years of training are finally paying off.
Day 15 - January 14, 2009
En route to Salvador, Brazil
Our first day in the southern hemisphere was uneventful - it seems just like the northern hemisphere.
We determined that whirlpools rotate in a clockwise direction down here - unfortunately we forgot to check it out on the other side of the equator. I'll try to check it out on both sides on the way home.
The weather remains almost perfect - clear blue skies, temperatures in the 80s, warm sunshine. About the only downside is the constant headwind, but it causes problems only if you are on an open deck near the front of the ship. We spent the entire day out on the deck reading, snoozing, and catching a little sun.
Today's towel art looks to be a sea snake - I think I can figure out how to do one of those myself.
Tomorrow is our last "at sea" day and we will be happy to arrive in Salvador. Our cruise director said there will be a ground kissing ceremony first thing Friday morning.
Day 16 - January 15, 2009
Our last day en route to Salvador, Brazil
Not much to report today - eat, read, relax, eat, eat eat.
We were sitting out on the deck reading when the Captain announced that it would be raining in about 15 minutes .... and it was. Prior to the rain skies were blue, afterward it was mostly cloudy. Temperatures remained in the 80s rain or shine.
We cruised about 20 miles offshore and we were able to see a large city for part of the day - I have no clue what it was. During my daily walk I saw a seabird flying along with the ship, looking it over very closely.
We saw a great show tonight. A fellow named Jordan Bennett who sang the lead role in Les Miserable in Los Angeles. This guy can really sing. Linda was really impressed and she is a fan of this kind of music. He sang all the big Broadway tunes - Phantom of the Opera, Argentina, Bring him Home, If I Were a Rich Man - and everyone loved it.
Today's towel art is a mystery to me. I think our guy is running out of ideas. About the only thing it resembles to me is a manta ray. I'd ask him but I'm guessing he'd be insulted.
We're going to get up early and watch the ship enter the Salvador harbor. This is the first time this ship has visited Salvador and the entrance is supposed to be a little narrow for a ship of this size.
Linda has us signed up for a historical tour of the city. We have to be back on the ship by 4:30 PM so it doesn't look like we'll have much time to to anything other than the tour. It'll be good to walk on land.
Day 17 - January 16, 2009
Our faithful laptop wouldn't boot up this evening. I ran some diagnostics, which took about 2 hours, but everything checked out - I tried again and up it came. Hmmmmm.
Anyway .... Salvador, Brazil. It is one of the first settlements to be established in the new world - from 1534 to 1763 it was the capital of colonial Brazil. It is a fairly large city, with over 3 million people and is a busy, bustling port city.
Our historic tour was a drive from the port to the older part of the city where we were shown three old churches from the early days and given a brief walking tour through a bustling area of small shops and street vendors along narrow, cobblestone streets between some pretty good sized buildings.
Salvador seems to be a bustling, prosperous city. Traffic is horrible and there seems to be a lot of construction going on. Also, there were preparations for some kind of upcoming "carnival". The streets were filled with all kinds of people and the street vendors and small shops were selling everything from beaded trinkets to HD TV sets and computers. Again, we were accosted by very aggressive street vendors and we were introduced to our first beggars. Our guide told us to ignore them - if they said they were starving, they were lying, there are plenty of government programs for them to fall back on.
The churches were spectacular - great stone buildings, many stories high with elaborate facades and intricate carvings inside. Unfortunately, we didn't get many inside photos because flash photography is forbidden and without flash, the quality is poor with our little digital cameras.
It was HOT! and very humid in the city. We were all drenched in sweat and a miserable looking bunch. I suspect it was because the air didn't seem to stir much in the city - once we were back on the ship and could feel a breeze, the temperatures seemed to be the same as they've been for the past week - in the 80s.
Our guide recited a lot of history, but most of it went in one ear and out the other. He said enough, however, that I'll probably be doing some reading when we get back home. It occurs to me that I know almost nothing about South America and it looks like an interesting place.
We were back on the ship by early afternoon and we all made a beeline for the food. After that we all gathered on the deck to watch the delicate maneuvering to get our huge ship out of the small docking area. A local pilot was brought aboard to guide us out. In addition there was a tugboat strategically placed to keep us off the shallow area near one side. It was a little disconcerting to watch the ship's propellers churning up mud as we made our way out of the harbor. Once out of the immediate harbor we passed a half dozen container ships and other commercial ships on their way in.
Linda thinks this towel art is a little doggie.
Tomorrow is another sea day. On Sunday afternoon we will pull into Rio de Janeiro where we will lose some of our passengers and pick up some others. Linda's friend, Marty Peterson and her husband will be joining the tour until we get to Santiago, Chile in a couple of weeks.
We are looking forward to our tour of this city which includes a trip to the famous "Christ the Redeemer" statue overlooking the bay.
Day 18 - January 17, 2009
En route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Our towel art today is a total mystery - neither of us has a clue.
Last night we had another time change - moved our clocks another hour ahead. We are now 6 hours ahead of Pacific time and neither of us has adjusted very well - we continue to go to bed after midnight and we don't wake up until about 10:00 AM, just in time to make it to breakfast before they close down the food line. I'll sure be glad when we start heading west and get some of these hours back.
The days are getting longer the further south we get. At the equator it was getting dark shortly after 5:00 PM which really makes for a short day. Now sunset is about 7:00 PM which is a little better.
Today at his noon address, the Captain said the air temperature, the water temperature, and the humidity were all at 81. I don't know what that means, but it seems like something that wouldn't occur that often.
We spent the day in our usual fashion - on the deck reading. Not many people have discovered our place and we continue to enjoy the solitude and the ocean.
We've struck up a kind of friendship with one of the waiters at the evening show. His name is Dillon and he's from St. Vincent, a small island in the Caribbean. He has a really good memory. The second night he waited on us he remembered Linda's name and both our drinks. The next night he knew my name. By the fourth night, he told me he didn't need to see my sea pass because he had memorized my number. He spends about 10 minutes chatting with us every night - it's actually kind of interesting. He told us that the ship has only 1700 passengers (capacity of 3100) and about 600 of them - mostly Brazilians - will be leaving the ship at Rio de Janeiro. We're happy about that because they are a boisterous group and quite disruptive if you happen to be around a group of them. I know, I know ...... generalizations aren't politically correct; that doesn't make them less true, however. We will be taking on more passengers, however, and I would guess most of them will be Brazilians so we probably won't gain a thing - at least we know Marty and Paul aren't Brazilians.
We're both looking forward to sailing into the bay at Rio de Janeiro tomorrow afternoon. The cruise director says the views are out of this world and we should make sure our camera batteries are fully charged and our memory cards have room for plenty of shots. We're ready.
Day 19 - January 18, 2009
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Today was quite a day. It started as we were having a late breakfast. As we were enjoying our last cup of coffee, we saw some fins in the water - did I say that our table was right at a window overlooking the ocean from eleven stories? Soon it was obvious we were seeing porpoises (dolphins?) as they began to jump out of the water. The dining room is at the rear of the ship and the ones I saw were turning around and heading for the front of the ship. There were dozens of them - maybe hundreds of them. There were pairs - some of them male/female and others looking to be mother/child. There were families - mom, dad, children. There were groups - several families or a bunch of juveniles. And ......... there were loners. Linda was facing the front of the ship and she said they were surfing on the bow wave and sure enough, they were. We watched them for quite a while, maybe 30 minutes, then they seemed to tire and we saw fewer and fewer of them until they were gone.
We had been cruising fairly close to shore all morning - maybe 10 miles. In the early afternoon we started to see buildings and the mountains looked like those advertised for Rio de Janeiro. Linda saw a mountain that looked like Sugarloaf Mountain and she thought she could see a huge statue on one of the mountains to the south - see the little bump on the left of the photo on the left. I ran back to our room to retrieve our binoculars - thanks Paul - and sure enough, it was the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city. Tomorrow, we're going to go right up to the statue and we're both really looking forward to it.
As we slowly approached, people started coming out of the woodwork and soon there was no place to stand at the railings - we didn't dare move and we stood our ground for a couple hours. We took many, many photos - it was really quite a spectacular journey into the harbor and through the harbor to our dock. Everywhere you turned was a postcard shot. I also shot a couple of panoramas - I hope they came out OK.
The ship docked about 2:00 PM and by about 2:30 PM all the paperwork was complete and we were allowed to leave the ship. We kind of followed the herd and were given stickers for a shuttle ride to the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana which were quite a ways away. I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but Linda and I were shown to a car and asked to get in - we were the only passengers. Funny, because all the other folks were standing in line waiting to get on a bus. I guess they thought we were important folks.
It turns out that the free ride was provided by H. Stern, a world renowned jeweler, and in exchange for the ride we had to tour their operation. There was literally no way out - we felt like cattle in a chute and we spent about 30 minutes listening to a history of their company and going through several jewelry showrooms and finally a little store. We saw an item that looked interesting with a price tag that said US100. We both thought that $100 was a more than reasonable price and discussed buying it. A clerk overheard us talking about it and pointed out that the price tag actually says U5100 or $5,100. We decided not to buy it.
The H. Stern building is only a couple of blocks from Ipanema Beach so we decided to walk. I didn't mention that the drivers and pedestrians are all crazy. Cars whipping around within inches of one another - not real fast but no signalling, many lane changes, motorcycles zipping in and out with riders and passengers in shorts and flip flops, pedestrians running across the street whenever they think there's a chance. All this came into play as we approached the beach. We had to cross a three-lane boulevard and we were waiting for a signal to walk which seemed to take forever. When there was a little gap in the traffic, a group of people went for it and Linda and I did too. Linda stubbed her toe on a high spot on the pavement and ripped a flap of skin the entire width of her toe and about 1/4" deep from her toenail down about 1/2". It bled all over the place and looks terrible - I actually got a little queasy looking at it. We took a couple of quick photos to document our stop and headed back to H. Stern for the ride back to the ship. When we got back to the ship, Linda cleaned up her toe and put on some bandages - hopefully it will heal without problems - in the meantime, she's not moving too quickly.
We're both looking forward to tomorrow's tour of the city.
Day 20 - January 19, 2009
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you don't like to sweat, don't come to Rio de Janeiro. We left the boat with about 40 other people before 8:00 AM and it was very warm and very humid - and it kept getting warmer until we returned to the ship about 1:00 PM. Everyone had a nice sheen on their skin, some folks were dripping, and some folks really didn't smell that good.
We took a bus ride around to the back side of Corcovado Mountain where the "Christ the Redeemer" statue is and our guide pointed out some of the more interesting sights along the way. Again, in one ear and out the other - although some of it was quite interesting. We waited around for the next cogwheel train car to take us 2500 feet up to the foot of the statue ... well almost to the foot of the statue. After the cogwheel train dropped us off, there were still 220 steps to negotiate to get to the foot of the statue - that figures to be about 15 stories. I wondered how all the old folks were going to make it - but not to worry, there's an elevator. Linda was forced to take the elevator because of her hurt foot, but I trudged up the steps. It was worth it. There were several places to stop and take in the view and it was spectacular everywhere I looked. Once at the foot of the statue, I met up with Linda and we spent about 45 minutes taking in all the views and shooting dozens of photos. Words like "spectacular" and "great" and "wonderful" don't even begin to describe the sight.
You can see from the photo to the left that we were up very high indeed. The northern portions of Rio de Janeiro, including the cruise ship docks, were covered with clouds and we couldn't see that part of the city. When we left the ship it was overcast and we were worried that the entire city would be covered. We're thankful they weren't - this was truly something to see.
After we came back down off the mountain, we piled back in the bus and headed for the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. As we drove along the beaches our guide told many stories including pointing out the residence of the guy that wrote "The Girl From Ipanema."
One interesting thing is that the locals pronounce "Copacabana" so differently that I didn't even recognize what she was saying the first couple of times she said it. She pronounced it: Co-PA CAW-ban-ah. Linda and I pronounce it: CO-pa ca-BAN-ah. The beach photo was taken there and that is the famous "Surgarloaf" mountain in the background.
Some of the folks were getting off at the beach, but it was very hot and Linda couldn't possibly be walking around in the sand on that foot, so we rode the bus all the way to the ship. I must say that the air conditioned ship felt mighty good.
After we got back to the ship, we ate lunch and relaxed for the rest of the day. They are treating this 46 day cruise as three separate 15 day cruises - today is the first day of the second leg. Not everyone gets to stay in the same room for the entire 46 days - we do. Today there is lots of activity - people leaving, new people arriving, and people switching rooms. For us everything went without a hitch and it's kind of fun watching everyone else scramble.
Our next stop is Montevideo, Uruguay and we should arrive there on Thursday morning, January 22, 2008. Once there we will be taking another tour called "Montevideo Highlights".
We assume Marty and Paul Peterson got on board OK, but so far we haven't made contact.
Day 21 - January 20, 2009
En route to Montevideo, Uruguay
The first thing we noticed this morning at breakfast was that the ship has many more people than it had on the first leg. The dining room had both serving lines open and all seating areas open and there weren't that many open tables. On the first leg of the trip, only one serving line was open and there were usually lots of open tables. Our waiter said that we now have 2400 people on board, an increase of 700. I can't say that makes me happy. I like it less crowded. In fact, it was too crowded for me earlier.
Also, it seems that most people on this boat came here to meet new people. A couple of times we've been sitting at a table with four places quietly eating our meal and discussing the day's events when another couple walks up, says "mind if we join you" and plunks their butts down. Then begins the game - "where are you from" - "oh, we're from California, where are your from? - "oh, we're from Ohio, what part of California?" - "El Dorado Hills, just east of Sacramento." - "Is that near Los Angeles?" and on and on and on. Not my idea of a great time. The last time this happened, when they said "Mind if we join you?" I responded: "Actually we're having a private conversation." ... and they left. I'm not sure where I got my anti-social ways but I sure don't enjoy this kind of forced interaction.
It was overcast and raining first thing this morning and noticeably cooler. At his noon address, the Captain said the air temperature was 77° and the water temperature was 79°. As the afternoon wore on the wind picked up and pretty soon the seas were getting pretty heavy. From time to time we'd go through a squall and it wasn't a good day to be out and about on the decks. This photo was taken from the fourth deck - I'd guess these are 15-20 foot swells.
Linda met up with Marty and Paul in the ship's Studio B at a celebration of Barack Obama's coronation today. I didn't go to the celebration but we ran into Marty and Paul in the hall on our way back from dinner and had a short, but nice discussion. It turns out that their room is only three doors down from ours - that wasn't by design either.
Tonight's show was an Elvis impersonator named Helvis. He was pretty well received, but his Portuguese accent pretty much destroyed the illusion for me. The guy had a really good voice, but his Elvis routine needs a little more work.
Tomorrow is another sea day and promises to be about the same as today. I'm hoping for a little less wind and rain - reading up on the deck is one of our favorite ways to spend the day.
Day 22 - January 21, 2009
En route to Montevideo, Uruguay
The weather calmed down a lot overnight. At noon the Captain reported a temperature of 73° only a slight breeze and calm seas. Even though we were 60 miles off the coast, the water was only 60 feet deep. He also told us the current weather at Tierra del Fuego - the high yesterday was 59° and the low was 39°. I'm going to be glad I brought some sweatshirts and a jacket.
At dinnertime, we joined Marty and Paul and the rest of our group at the dining room - all the folks at our table are friends of Marty and Paul. So far, we've stayed away from the dining room and its dress codes and eaten our meals in the less formal Windjammer Cafe. When we walked into the dining room and approached our assigned table, the waiter exclaimed: "Oh, you must be our missing couple."
We enjoyed our dinner and talking with these folks. Marty and Paul surprised us with a little celebration for our 25th anniversary. First the waiter approached us with a little cake and candle with a "Happy Anniversary" banner and everbody at our table sang "Happy Anniversary To You". Then Marty and Paul also sang a Swedish duet to us wishing us a long, happy life. They harmonized with each other and it was really quite beautiful.
Our stateroom attendant seems to have run out of ideas for towel art. I think the standard cruise is 15 days and we've passed that limit. As a matter of fact, this cruise isn't really a 46 day cruise, it's three 15-day cruises end to end. At the end of the first 15 days, all our accounts were closed out and we were issued a new sea pass. My internet account expired, along with my balance, and I had to start all over again to establish a new account.
Of our 2400 passengers, 1200 are from the US, 600 from Brazil, and the other 600 people are made up of people from 40 other countries. I can tell from listening that there are quite a few folks from France, a lot from the UK and/or Australia, some from Germany, and a fair number from the Orient. All the ship's announcements are made - by the same guy - in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Italian. One striking thing is the number of these people that smoke - apparently the word hasn't gotten out to these folks.
Not much else went on today - just more reading and relaxing.
Tomorrow morning we should be moored in Montevideo and our tour will be in the afternoon.
Day 23 - January 22, 2009
Montevideo was a pleasant surprise. Although the temperature was near 90°, it didn't seem nearly as warm as it has been - I think its a humidity issue. The latitude is around 35° which is about the same latitude as the northern part of southern California and it feels just about like summer in El Dorado Hills - maybe a little cooler. The locals were complaining of the extreme heat.
We enjoyed our tour of the city and some of the surrounding area. We had the feeling that we were watching a real city going about its business. When we stopped for photos, if there were any local people around, they were pleasant but left us alone. In all the previous stops on this cruise, I had the feeling that the entire city was designed to get some of my money - whenever we stopped, vendors of all kinds swarmed all over us.
Also, it didn't seem nearly as crowded ..... traffic was lighter .... and Linda and I both liked the vibe of this city. According to the guide, Uruguay has a population of about 3 million people with about 1.4 million of them in Montevideo. Linda said she thought of jumping ship and staying around for a while. We both thought it bears some more research. Our guide says that $600 a month is a good wage - full school teachers make about $500 a month. About the only problem is that the socialist party is now in charge of the country.
Lots of nice beaches in Montevideo ...................
Something that I know but had forgetten is that the German battleship Graf Spee of "Sink the Bismark" fame was trapped and skuttled right here in the harbor at Montevideo - the photo at right shows the anchor of the Graf Spee salvaged by Uruguay - apparently Germany and the UK both laid claim to this anchor, but Uruguay stood firm and said: "It's ours!"
Tonight's show was presented by alocal group from Argentina called "Tango Buenos Aires" and quite a show it was. Dan ... you would have loved it. They had two couples dancing the tango to music performed by a piano, a bass, an accordian, and a violin. They did a variety of numbers intermixed with some instrumentals by the band and a few songs by a vocalist ......... and the audience approved enthusiastically. This standing ovation was more than deserved.
Tonight we're cruising a short distance of about 150 miles to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We'll be spending a couple of days there before continuing our journey south - we have a busy schedule of touring planned.
Day 24 - January 23, 2009
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires lies near the confluence of two huge rivers; the Paraguay River, and the Uruguay River. This creates a huge, fresh water estuary called Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) - it is almost 100 miles before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean and it is nearly 150 miles wide at its mouth near Montevideo. It is laden with sediment and looks like a river of chocolate.
This river is apparently very shallow at some points - as we were approaching Buenos Aires this morning the Captain said he had only three feet of water to play with and going was slow. Our guide also said the river needs constant dredging to keep the harbor open to shipping; and there are plenty of ships. Our departure from Montevideo was delayed for an hour or so because of the river traffic.
Our tour took us around to parts of the city they thought would be of interest to tourists. As in almost all cities, there are two stories - that of the original city and that of the new sections - and we drove through both areas. We saw the new area being built on reclaimed land as we sailed into the harbor. These buildings are modern skyscrapers over 30 stories high and four or five are still under construction.
The old area is called La Boca which is a residential area built by port workers in the early days of the city. These houses which are constructed of materials salvaged from the port operations are still in use - they used lots of corrugated metal and wood. They are very colorful - the story is that they had lots of paint, but not much of any color so they would apply one color until they ran out and then paint with another color. This resulted in what you see in the photo on the right.
It's really hard to get the flavor of a city from a bus. Most of Buenos Aires seems like an anthill to me. Both the less prosperous areas and the newer areas were hotbeds of activity - people and traffic running all over the place. The older parts of town had narrow streets, lots of small shops, lots of street vendors and lots of customers walking the streets. The people looked healthy and happy. The newer parts of the city were quite beautiful with huge wide streets - up to 12 lanes in one direction - modern buildings, wide sidewalks, lots of grass and trees and lots of prosperous people. Strangely, this is the part of town where I saw the homeless folks holing up in the parks. Our guide had an obvious bias; she called the new parts of the city pretty, but without a soul.
The monument behind me was a shocking reminder of some fairly recent history that I almost totally ignored when it was happening but seemed very real while I was standing there. In the late 1970s, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship that decided to wipe out dissenting voices by simply killing them all. These people simply disappeared off the face of the earth. At some point the relatives of these folks started missing them and a group of mothers gathered in front of military headquarters and demanded to know where they were. The officials told the assembled mothers that they couldn't stand in front of the building - they had to keep moving. So they went across the street to the park and marched around and around this monument. They continue to march even now - every Thursday at 3:00 PM they show up and march around the monument. Most of them never did find out what happened to their loved ones - 30,000 human beings simply vanished.
People continued to disappear until this regime was defeated by the British in the Falkland Island War in the early 80s. Funny, I was aware that this was going on at the time, but it had little impact on my life. Down here it seems very real.
We saw another piece of recent history when we visited the city cemetery and stopped at the crypt of Eva Peron. It is kind of interesting that at least three of the evening shows have featured songs from "Evita" and here we were standing within feet of her body. In the past, I have never felt a connection with any historic spots - strangely here, I seemed to feel something. Probably just my old age catching up to me.
Our guide said that over 50% of Argentina's population is of Italian heritage, about 20% of Spanish origins, and about another 20% from Lebanon and Syria. The remainder are from various parts of Europe - strangely we saw absolutely no people of African heritage - other than members of our tour - on the streets.
This area is in the middle of a pretty severe drought. Our guide in Montevideo mentioned it in passing to explain the dried out lawns. Our guide here said that it is very serious and is having a big impact on Argentina's two biggest products, grain and beef. She said that animals are dying from lack of water.
By the way ............. this evening, instead of a live show, the ship presented a showing of the latest James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace". This movie is incredibly bad - after about 20 minutes, neither of us had figured out what was going on, so we walked out. I have to tell you that I've stayed through some pretty awful movies and this is only the second one so bad I couldn't stand to watch any more - YMMV.
We'll be here one more day. Tomorrow we're going on a "Tigre Delta and River Cruise". We have no idea what to expect, but we're anticipating another interesting day.
Day 25 - January 24, 2009
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Today we traveled to the Tigre Delta north of Buenos Aires. To get there we traveled through an area that looked like the suburban areas you might find around any city in California. Yesterday we saw some brand new upscale areas and some areas that dated from the early days of the city. The areas we saw today seemed somewhere in between. We saw lots of car dealerships and motorcycle dealerships. For the first time in my life I saw French car dealers - a Citroen dealer, a Renault dealer, and a Puegot dealer. I also saw four or five dealers of motorcycle brands I have never heard of. It kind of reminded me of driving up a main drag like Sunrise Blvd or Watt Ave. except for the exotic names.
The Tigre Delta itself is quite a place - it is the delta formed by the Uruguay and Paraguay Rivers which empties into Rio de la Plata. It covers an area of over 5 million acres and is made up of more than 5,000 islands. There are no roads on these islands and the only way in is by boat. Because of the tremendous amounts of sediment, new islands are forming almost every day and the waterways are constantly changing. We boarded one their excustion boats and spent a couple of hours exploring some of the waterways and islands.
There are many rowing clubs on these islands and some of them have built some pretty impressive facilities - the one in the left photo is an example.
Other islands are owned by ordinary folks and their facilities are not quite as impressive ... there was every kind of building and pier you can imagine along the waterways we traveled - some of them quite nice and others, shall we say, were picturesque.
Since today is a warm Saturday, there were people enjoying themselves at almost every island. The brown water is a little strange but it doesn't seem to bother anyone.
The delta is about an hour drive by bus. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at a local flea market and Linda purchased some hand crafted, silver jewelry - quite nice and the price was more than reasonable.
On the way back our guide explained a little more about the Rio de la Plata. Although it is very long and very wide, it is very shallow - not more than two or three meters deep in most places. He said they dredge a waterway about 10 meters (30 feet) deep to keep the port open. This explains the less than three feet of water to play with our Captain was talking about - the Mariner has a draft of 28 feet. As we were getting ready to sail this evening, our Captain said that we were going to be delayed until a couple of smaller ships got out in front of us - he said the channel is only one ship wide and the faster ships were allowed to go first. It's really hard to imagine that they can keep this 30 foot deep channel dredged out for over 100 miles. It seems that sooner or later Mother Nature is going to have her way.
Our next stop will be on January 29 at Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), the southern most city in the Americas. First, however, we will have to negotiate Cape Horn a day earlier. I've read so many harrowing tales of sailing past this point, that I'm anxious to see it for myself. The Captain said today's weather at Cape Horn is winds of 45 knots, high temperatures in the 50s with rain. We probably should have brought some long underwear.
Day 26 - January 25, 2009
En route to Tierra del Fuego (Arriving Jan 28)
This evening I got the idea of taking a photo of our TV screen on the channel that shows our current position. This worked pretty good, huh? Just in case it isn't obvious, our position is in the white circles and the point of the triangle is our heading.
In his noon address, the Captain said that we were the largest ship ever to get in and out of Buenos Aires. I guess he wanted to save that until he was sure we were going to make it. At the time of his announcement we were in 60 feet of water and the he said he was sure happy to have a little water under him. It was unbelievably tight in the Buenos Aires harbor. The entrance to the berthing area couldn't have been more that half again as wide as the Mariner of the Seas. Once in the harbor, the ship had to be turned around on its own width and backed into the dock. These guys really know what they're doing.
I didn't mention the temperature in Buenos Aires. It felt exactly like Montevideo with temperatures around 90° but bearable because of low humidity. Again, the locals were complaining about the heat and one has to assume that it is unseasonably hot in this area.
Just before noon we left Rio de la Plata and turned south into the Atlantic Ocean. The brown color started to diminish and by mid-afternoon we were again in blue waters. The day started off a little cooler with temperatures around 70° with overcast skies. As the day wore on, the skies cleared up some and temperatures stayed in the 70s. A headwind of about 25 knots kept it pretty windy on deck and most people stayed inside.
Not much to report for activities. We are catching up on our reading and relaxing. The movie this afternoon was "Evita" and after seeing her crypt and hearing her story from the viewpoint of the Argentineans, we had to see it. Musicals aren't my favorite type of movie, but I enjoyed seeing how they told the story which pretty much agreed with the story told by our guides.
Karen, could you send us an email - we don't have your address and Linda wants to tell you something.
Day 27 - January 26, 2009
En route to Tierra del Fuego (Arriving Jan 28)
We're definitely not in the tropics anymore. When I walked out into the sunny morning in my warm weather clothes this morning, I knew it was a mistake - it was very cool. At noon the Captain reported a temperature of 61° and it didn't warm up much from there. Linda and I broke out our jackets for our morning reading on the deck. After a couple of hours, we gave up and moved into one of the bars with a view of the ocean - warmer is better.
Two good things: (1) As we go south, the days continue to get longer - today at this location, sunrise was 6:45 AM and sunset was 9:37 PM, nearly 15 hours of daylight. (2) As we go west, we're going to start picking up hours we lost going east - tonight we set the clocks back an hour.
Nothing to report - another typical day of eating, reading, relaxing, and enjoying a fine show. Tonight's show was a guitar player who was fantastic - the highlight of his show was "Flight of the Bumblebee". His final number was "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" and it wasn't half bad either.
Day 28 - January 27, 2009
En route to Tierra del Fuego (Arriving Jan 28)
It was still colder today - the temperatures never got out of the 50s. Not a bad looking day, however, with partly cloudy skies, a little breeze, and smooth seas with gentle 1 to 3 foot swells.
We didn't even try to do our reading outside. Instead we donned sweatshirts and sweaters and searched out a nice reading area in one of the bars. They eventually kicked us out because they were going to put on a class about gems so we moved to the library.
Tomorrow we round Cape Horn about 3:00 PM and the Captain says the weather forecast calls for 15 to 20 foot seas and 45 knot winds with some rain. I'm not sure what I'm hoping for, but I guess whatever it will be, it will be. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing something like I've always pictured for this area - lots of wind and lots of rough seas .................... or maybe not.
Linda promised some folks postcards, but unfortunately there's been little or no chance to send anything. The ship doesn't post mail and our adventures on land are so scripted there's virtually no chance to find a post office - and we haven't seen many postcards in the local shops. She tried to email some of you, but it seems we don't have up-to-date email addresses on our web mail.
By the way ........ Linda's torn up toe is pretty much healed up and she is now walking around without signs of a limp.
Day 29 - January 28, 2009
Tierra del Fuego - Rounding Cape Horn
The weather people had it all wrong and the weather was nearly perfect as we rounded Cape Horn. We had blue skies, temperatures in the 50s and pretty calm seas. At Cabo de Hornos, an island about 15 miles east of Cape Horn, we pulled in close to shore near a light house and the ship did a 360° to allow everyone a good view. In the meantime, the Captain lowered one of the lifeboats and visited the lighthouse - his primary goal was to get some photos of the lighthouse with the Mariner of the Seas in the background. I suppose he'll be selling the photos at some point and I can't imagine not buying one.
About 30 minutes later we passed Cape Horn and it was actually kind of exciting. The wind was blowing about 45 knots and the seas were starting to get a little heavy. There were many birds escorting us through this area - some of them were sea gulls and some of them looked like geese, although I'm sure that's not what they were. They pretty much kept pace with the ship - some of them flew about 10 feet over our heads and matched our speed for quite some time. We were on Deck 5 at the bow of the ship so the birds were quite a bit lower than the bridge which is on deck 11. Others were just skimming the ocean and I can't figure how they kept from crashing.
Standing in the cold, facing into the wind at the very front of the ship - just like the guy on "Titanic" - was quite exhilarating. Our eyes were watering, our ears freezing and we could hardly hear each other speak. With the wind and the movement of the ship, it was kind of difficult to hold still enough to get a good camera shot. We both enjoyed ourselves a lot. At one point, the Captain told us that the people on the front of the ship were in the Pacific Ocean and those on the back were in the Atlantic. I don't know why, but it's always neat to cross these lines on the map - equator, arctic circle, prime meridian, four corners ..........
After dinner we went out on the deck and enjoyed our journey wending through the narrow channel to Fort Williams, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina. We stayed out until around 10:15 PM when it became too dark to see anything. We passed several very small islands with hundreds of penguins on them - there was also a whale sighting but we missed it.
Sometime tonight we'll dock in Ushuaia, Argentina and first thing in the morning we'll disembark and take a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Day 30 - January 29, 2009
Our tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park was scheduled to assemble at 7:00 AM this morning which meant that we had to get up at 5:15 AM to get our morning chores done in time to meet ............. aaaaarrrgh.
Ushuaia is a very scenic place - these photos are two views from our ship. The population here is about 70,000 people and there is actually quite a bit of activity here.
The weather is spectacular much to everyone's amazement - especially the locals. We had a little drizzle just as the tour was finishing up but other than that, temperatures were in the high 50s and skies were mostly cloudy - no wind. Our guide says that the absence of wind was most amazing as it seems to be the most consistent weather feature.
Ushuaia advertises itself as the southernmost city in the world and there are plenty of signs indicating such things as "End of the World". Here it is proclaimed on a wall that is about 100 yards long.
The park tour was actually a little disappointing. All we did was go on about a 40 mile round-trip drive from Ushuaia to the park and back. We stopped a couple of times for photo opportunites and once at a lakeside restaurant to try to relieve us of some of our money. We saw lots of nice scenery, but nothing spectacular. For me, the most interesting place was the end of the Pan American Highway. You cannot drive further south anywhere in the world. Here Linda points to some words that roughly translate to "Here ends Route No 3. For those who don't know, the Pan American Highway starts in Fairbanks, AK and ends here, a distance of over 10,000 miles. Sounds like a good motorcycle ride to me.
This area hasn't been immune from meddling humankind. It seems some mental midget thought that beavers might thrive down here and he could make some money selling their pelts ..... so he imported a bunch from Canada and placed them in some local streams. Unfortunately, this area has mild winters, with temperatures averaging over 30° and less than 3 feet of snow at sea level. The beavers decided they didn't need the long fur they needed in Canada and the local pelts are worthless for fur. Now the 150,000 beavers outnumber the 70,000 people and the beavers, with no local predators to keep them in check, are wreaking havoc on the local environment. Things are so bad that the government has a bounty on them. They have a similar, but not yet as critical, problem with rabbits.
As the ship was preparing to leave Ushuaia, about 6:00 PM, a storm blew in with rain and winds of 50 knots. We had planned to help pilot the ship out of the harbor, but when we stepped outside we were nearly blown overboard. This backs up the locals' claims of "If you don't like the weather here, just wait a minute." I guess this was a pretty typical day after all. As the Captain said: "Everyone's weather prediction was true at some time today - we had sunny skies and cloudy skies, rain, wind, and calm."
After another 30 minutes or so, the storm disappeared and we were again blessed with fairly clear skies. This time, however, the wind stayed around and it was damn cold out there on the decks. The views, however, were out of this world - the huge ship wound its way between the mainland and the many islands and many of them held glaciers of considerable size. The photo on the right was the closest one we came to. Huge torrents of water were pouring from underneath the glacier into the waterway the ship was traveling. The glacial silt was very evident all along our voyage. Linda said it reminded her of traveling the fjords in Norway. We stayed out until after 10:00 PM when visibility diminished to the point of no return. SPECTACULAR!
We'll continue working our way though these waters throughout the night and tomorrow we'll be passing through the Straits of Magellan and into the Chilean fjords. We have all our cold weather gear ready for another day out on the decks. We're hoping the weather cooperates.
Day 31 - January 30, 2009
Straits of Magellan
Today was generally a cold, windy, damp, dreary day. I wonder what the wind chill is when the temperature is 42°, the wind is 50 mph, and the humidity is near 100%. There weren't very many people willing to find out as the decks were deserted and every chair inside where one might relax was occupied. Linda and I spent almost the entire day in our cabin reading - except for food times, of course ..... and the evening show. Tonight the star of the evening show was Dale Kristien who played the original Christine role in "Phantom of the Opera". She did 8 shows a week for over 5 years. She is a fantastic singer and we enjoyed her show very much.
During a couple of breaks in the weather, I ventured out on the decks to document our passage through the Straits of Magellan. Somewhere around 6:00 PM, we broke out into the Pacific Ocean and things really got interesting. I don't know what kinds of seas are out there but the waves look mighty big and the ship is rocking and rolling - everyone looks like they're a little tipsy as they weave and wander around the ship.
Passing through the Straits of Magellan
Tomorrow morning we are supposed to be venturing into the fjords of Chile. It looks like we're going to have to be up early again - we're scheduled to get there about 6:00 AM and we'll be through them in about 6 hours. That doesn't leave much time for seeing anything if we get up at our usual 9:00 AM.
Day 32 - January 31, 2009
Fjords of Chile
I'm writing this about 9:00 PM local time - as I write, we're crossing the 45th parallel which, in the northern hemisphere, passes through Idaho.
It was a nice thought, but 6:00 AM proved too early for us. I finally made it out on deck about 8:00 AM. The Chilean Fjords weren't exactly what I expected - I was expecting narrow, high, vertical canyons. Instead it was similar to the Straights of Magellan - "not too" narrow, "not too" high, mountains rising right out of the sea rather than the vertical canyons. It was still a little cool, first thing in the morning, to stay out on the deck, so Linda and I went to the Windjammer for breakfast and had a great window view from the 11th deck. Most of the photos we took were from our vantage point in the warm restaurant.
Making our way through the Chilean Fjords
We left the fjords into the open Pacific about 12:00 Noon right on schedule. By then it had warmed up a little bit and I went out on deck to finish a book I was reading. After that we went to a Kevin Costner movie - "The Guardian". Both of us enjoy his movies - I don't think there's one that I don't like.
About 4:30 PM we happened to be on deck and saw a half dozen whales cruising by on the port side. Unfortunately we were blasting along heading north about 20 knots and they were cruising along heading south about the same speed. Someone would spot a spout 500 yards ahead of the ship and we'd see the same whale spouting at 100 yard intervals until it disappeared to the rear. They passed by within about 100 yards of the ship. It was kind of exciting and we did get a good look at one of them as his back stayed out of the water for 5 seconds or so. About 5:00 PM a small group of dolphins made their way past the port side of the ship, again about 100 yards away. About 10 minutes later another group of three whales went by. In addition to our sightings, the bridge made many announcements of whales here and there, but by the time I got there nothing was in sight. After the third false alarm, I quit running down to the 4th deck for a look - I got tired of climbing back up the stairs. We went to dinner around 6:45 PM and while eating we saw dozens of spouts from the stern on both sides of the ship.
When we returned from dinner we found that our steward had increased his repertoire of towel animals. Linda thinks this is a little piggy - what do you think?
As we travel north the weather keeps getting better. By dinnertime the skies had cleared off pretty much, the winds calmed, and the ocean was again smooth and blue. The temperature also had climbed into the high 50s and it seemed quite comfortable out on the decks. After dinner, I decided to go out on the deck with my binoculars and camera to try to record a whale sighting. Althought I saw plenty of spouts, they were too far off for my camera to record and the sightings were so fleeting I couldn't have brought my camera to bear in any case. After about an hour, I decided to call it quits and retired to our cabin for some reading and relaxing.
Tomorrow is another sea day. Monday morning we are scheduled to arrive in Valparaiso, Chile which is not too far from Santiago.
Day 33 - February 1, 2009
En route to Valparaiso, Chile
Only one item to report today .........................
When we rounded Cape Horn, the Captain took some of the crew to visit the family running a lighthouse near there. He returned with photos and a couple of rocks. He had the ship's carpenters build two plaques to mount these rocks and tonight he auctioned them off - one at the early show and one at the late show. We attended the first show. The starting bid was $100 and actually got quite spirited until, finally, it stopped at $3,000 and a young fellow stepped forward to claim his prize. Amazing! The Captain will donate the $3,000 to the "Make a Wish Foundation".
We are scheduled to arrive in Valparaiso about 10:00 AM. The Captain said he's planning to make a grand entrance and recommended we come up on deck about 8:30 AM to help him enter the harbor. We will do a little exploring of the area on foot tomorrow afternoon and Tuesday we're going on an organized tour. On Tuesday evening, we leave Valparaiso to begin our final two-week leg of this "once in a lifetime" trip.
Day 34 - February 2, 2009
We arrived in Valparaiso about 9:00 AM this morning. It is a port city of about 300,000 people and most of the town seems to be built up on the hills surrounding the port in a semi-circular fashion. From the 11th deck of the ship, a tunnel through a mountain is visible on the south end of town - maybe there's more on the other side and we'll see it on our tour tomorrow.
We weren't able to get off the ship until about noon. There is always some delay after the ship is docked because departures have to be cleared by the local customs folks. Today, there was also additional delay because the buses hadn't arrived to take us from the ship to the terminal building.
We spent about 3 hours walking from the terminal to the central part of the city. We don't think tourism is the main industry of Valparaiso. We saw nothing that was geared strictly to the tourist - we were just mixing up with the locals who were going about their business. We wandered through a market area that featured all kinds of produce and catered strictly to the local population. We eventually found ourselves in the business district and it was crawling with people. Once we hit this part of the city, it was virtually impossible to walk without dodging someone coming the other way or stepping aside for someone in a hurry. A lot of them were office workers and were dressed in nice looking business attire.
This seems to be a prosperous city. This is the first city we've been in for many years, including every city of any size in the US we've visited, that we didn't see any homeless people or anyone looking remotely poverty stricken. Of course we didn't see the whole city, but we walked 3 or 4 miles from the port. In our experience the area closest to the port is the oldest, poorest part of the city.
On the way back to the ship, we walked down a large boulevard for part of the way and along a light rail track the rest of the way. It was a relief to get away from all the people.
Tomorrow, we're going on a tour of the city and we'll find out a little more about Valparaiso.
Day 35 - February 3, 2009
We didn't learn too much more about Valparaiso on our tour today. We saw many of the same things we saw on our walk yesterday. A couple of things we did learn (1) Valparaiso is the home port for the Chilean Navy (2) This is the time of year when Chile exports a lot of fruit to the US - it all comes out of the port at Valparaiso (3) Chile has a growing wine industry and a lot of vineyards are in this area a little further inland.
We drove south of the city a ways and saw Chile's first lighthouse. All along the beach highway is a nice, wide walkway/park. Like all the cities we've seen in South America, Valparaiso has lots of nice parks and they are well used by the local folks
We also drove up into the hills and found that the higher up one goes the less prosperous the buildings look. Our tour guide told us that it's the blue collar workers that live higher up on the hills.
We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the bay and spent some time taking photos and doing a little shopping at some roadside shops - contrary to what I said yesterday, these places seemed to be catering to tourists. I'm guessing the tour companies get some payoff for taking their breaks at these places. Linda bought us a couple of t-shirts and a little dish. She was quite proud that she completed the entire transaction in Spanish - she understood the vendor and the vendor understood her.
The streets were so narrow the bus couldn't negotiate some of them. The bus would drop us off, let us walk the narrow streets to a destination, and he would drive another way to the same place and pick us up - it actually worked pretty well and gave us a much better look than from a bus window. We saw some pretty nice homes hidden away in among some of the less prosperous looking places.
I haven't mentioned temperatures lately, but it keeps getting warmer as we get further north. Valparaiso is about the same latitude as southern California. Today's weather was great - clear, blue skies, temperatures in the 70s and a slight breeze now and then. It would be hard to design a better day.
Shortly after we returned to the ship, we received a call from our cat/house sitter telling us that DISH called our home threatening to cut off service if they didn't receive payment in full by Friday. I spent $20 on the Internet connection to find out that my bank isn't making all the automatic payments it's supposed to. It also looks like they didn't make a payment on my credit card and I'll be paying late fees and interest on that. What a pain in the butt - I'll be having harsh words with the bank when I get home.
We're pulling out of Valparaiso sometime after 6:00 PM and our next stop is scheduled for Friday at Arica, Chile. I've packed away all my long pants and sweatshirts and tomorrow I'll be heading for the decks to get some sun.
Day 36 - February 4, 2009
En route to Arica, Chile
Valparaiso was the end of the second segment of our cruise and the beginning of the third segment. People who signed up only for the second segment got off and some people who signed up only for the third segment got on. Unfortunately for us, we picked up many more folks than we lost and the ship is much more crowded. This makes it harder to find a place to sit and read, harder to find a table to eat, and harder to get a good seat at the movies and shows. They do, however, seem to be a quieter, more polite group and overall we might be ahead.
Today started off with the ship in a cold fog bank - visibilities were only a few hundred yards and the temperatures were in the low 60s. In the early evening, the sky cleared a little and the sun finally raised the temperatures into the 70s. Unfortunately, the days are getting shorter again, and the sunshine lasted only for an hour or so.
Tonight's show featured a concert violinist playing her 230 year old violin - not a Stradivarius, but made by one of his contemporaries.
We're still having fun!
Another sea day tomorrow - Friday we arrive in Arica.
Day 37 - February 5, 2009
En route to Arica, Chile
Just another sea day ...................
Today's weather was perfect - clear, blue, sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and 80s with very little wind.
We spent some time reading and catching some rays and a lot of time relaxing and eating. I'm going to hate to step on the scales when I get home.
Tomorrow morning when we wake up we should be tied up at Arica, Chile. We will be taking a tour of the city and looking at some local geoglyphs.
Day 38 - February 6, 2009
A little background to explain today's events. Our usual morning routine when we have to be someplace early in the morning is this: Linda gets up, spends about 30 minutes in the bathroom with her morning routine, then comes out to dry her hair. Since I love my sleep so much, I wait until she comes out of the bathroom to drag my sorry butt out of bed.
This morning, when the alarm went off at 6:00 AM, Linda told me she had a sore throat and a headache and didn't feel up to going on the tour. I figured that, since I had plenty of time, I'd just lay in bed for about 30 minutes before getting up. The next thing I knew it was 9:15 AM, about an hour after our tour departed.
While Linda slept, I wandered the ship and took a couple of photos of the city from the ship. At one point I stumbled onto a meeting of a bunch of well dressed people in the 14th deck lounge. It turns out that this is the first time the Mariner of the Seas has visited Arica and tradition requires that the town offer the ship a commemorative gift and likewise, the ship present the city with a gift. I wandered into the presentation ceremony. About the only thing I heard was that the Mariner is the largest ship ever to visit the city. I felt like I was evesdropping and I was really underdressed, so I discreetly made my exit.
Linda slept until just after noon and said she felt like she could make a short trip ashore. We hopped a bus from the ship to the terminal and took a short walk to a square across the street. A lot of local vendors and craftsmen/craftswomen had set up booths and were offering their wares for sale. It looked like business was brisk. Linda looked at a few items, but I don't think she felt well enough to go through the hassle of buying anything. We walked around the city for about 30 minutes then headed back to the ship - not a very exciting day.
Arica is a port city. Other than that, I don't know what else goes on here. It looks like it is sitting in a bowl of sand - I didn't see any trees on the surrounding hillsides (dunes?). I would make a wild guess that it has a population of about 25,000. More reseach for me when I get home.
Tonight's show was a Beattles Tribute Band and it was great. These guys had the entire audience on their feet, clapping hands and dancing - except for me, of course.
We're scheduled to pull out of Arica shortly after 6:00 PM today. Our next stop is Lima, Peru on Sunday, February 8.
Day 39 - February 7, 2009
En route to Lima, Peru
Today's entry could be exactly like February 5. The only exception is that Linda is still under the weather and her ability to see Lima is still in doubt. Sore throat, headache, extreme fatigue, can't keep food down. Even at that, she feels better than yesterday ............ maybe tomorrow.
Another great show tonight - a fellow that is a guitar player, comedian, and singer and very good at all three.
Tomorrow's tour of Lima is later so I might be able to get up even if Linda isn't able to kick me out of bed. We've picked up 2 hours in time zone changes in the past two days which should also help.
Day 40 - February 8, 2009
Linda is still not up to speed today - getting a little better, but it's going to be a few more days I'm guessing. I hear this bug is all over the ship - at least it's not one of the food borne illnesses.
The port city is called Callao and is separate from Lima although the two cities abut one another. There were no good views of the city from the ship, mostly because of haze that was around throughout the entire day. I took a couple anyway - see left.
I made it up on time and completed the "Treasures of Colonial Lima" tour. Some general information about Lima that our tour guide passed on - Lima was the first city established in South America in 1535. The Lima metropolitan area has a population of about 10 million folks. It almost never rains in this area and the dust buildup on buildings is a real problem. In the 1980s and 1990s terrorism was a problem and the more affluent people and businesses fled the city resulting in predictable results. In the past decade politics has changed and a huge rehabilitation project is in the process of trying to restore the city to its former glory - they are making progress. There have been a lot of earthquakes in the area and lots of damage from them.
I took lots of photos on our drive through town - there are a lot of spectacular buildings. We made three major stops. The first stop was at the first university established in South America, I believe it is called the University of San Carlos and it was established in the 1500s - I'll have to check all this out when I get home. There is a restoration project going on here, but what we saw looked really good. It was hard to get any photos because the campus is completely surrounded by newer buildings and everything is in the interior. The photo on the right is one of the courtyards. In the chapel, we were shown some graffiti from the mid 1800s.
Our second stop was a huge Catholic church. Since it is Sunday, this church was in full use by the local parishioners. Our little group of 36 people descended on this church just as a mass was ending and we were like a cork keeping them from getting out. We pushed our way in and people whipped out their cameras and starting taking pictures without much regard that some people were trying to worship - going to confession, private prayer, and such. I have to tell you that I felt like such an intruder and so embarrassed to be part of this group, that I left the building without taking a photo. Some of our guys didn't even remove their hats.
Our next stop was the main square in Lima. There are lots of interesting buildings here - the photo on the right is the Presidential Palace. There is plenty of security in this area and we saw several military assault vehicles and lots of soldiers packing machine guns. I was a little leery of photographing these guys, so I didn't - none of them was smiling. We just missed the changing of the guard ceremony that was going on as we walked into the square.
Just off the main square was the highlight of our tour, Casa de Aliaga, the home of Pizzaro's right hand man. This house was built in 1535 and is still inhabited by the 16th generation of the original family. This house has also been completely surrounded by more recent buildings and is completely invisible from the street. We walked up to a door, the guide made a phone call and a few minutes later the door opened to a walkway and a staircase that opened into the foyer. Originally this house had 78 rooms, however, it is now considerably smaller - but still plenty big. There were three fellows in white tuxedos handing out drinks and appetizers such as goose liver pate. After a while we sat down to a multi course gourmet meal of local cuisine at the table shown in the photo to the left. Very nice ....................
We then returned to the ship and I'm still trying to recuperate from all my overeating for the day. Linda seems to be much improved and by the time we get to Costa Rica on Thursday - yep, the next three days are sea days - maybe she'll be ready to go on our next little adventure.
Day 41 - February 9, 2009
En route to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
Linda continues her slow recuperation. Today she was able to get out on deck for about 3 hours - she is eating and even squeaks out a smile here and there.
The weather was great - clear, blue skies, calm blue seas with temperatures in the mid 70s. I'm really surprised at the mild temperatures near the equator - I was expecting much hotter weather.
We'll be crossing the equator again tomorrow. The Captain says he's been in contact with King Neptune and the King says he's still a little put out with events at our last crossing and is still trying to decide whether to let us cross. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Two more sea days - we'll be arriving in Costa Rica on Thursday.
Day 42 - February 10, 2009
En route to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
Linda is even better today and even ventured out to the Windjammer Restaurant for breakfast.
Another perfect day weather wise - a little warmer with temperatures in the 80s. There was absolutely no wind and the sea was so calm today it looked like a sailing ship would be 'becalmed' (is that the word?). It stayed that way from at least 8:00 AM until sunset after 6:00 PM and in that time we traveled over 200 miles.
We crossed over the equator about 5:00 PM. We gathered on the deck 11 to await word from King Neptune. Our cruise director explained that since our request for permission to cross didn't get to him in time last time, they would send in our request by email rather than painting the message on the back of a sea turtle like last time. Unfortunately after spending $2000 sending email, we still hadn't received permission to cross the equator. The Captain said that he had a schedule to keep and he was going to cross anyway. About that time, there was a big commotion and there was an announcement that we had been boarded. King Neptune appeared on a balcony and in a booming voice he commanded the ship to stop. He said he was really pissed since this was the second time in a month that The Mariner of the Seas had tried to sneak across the equator without following the correct procedures. The only way he was going to let us across was if the Captain was punished. The Captain was dragged out, had some junk poured over him and dumped into the pool. The photos below show Captain Johnny being dragged to judgment, punished, and climbing out of the pool after being thrown in. When he came out of the pool, he told the cruise director (guy with mic) "You're so fired!"
An interesting thing just occurred. As I was writing this, I decided to go into the bathroom to verify that whirlpools spin counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Much to my surprise, as the sink drained, it rotated in a clockwise direction. I checked our position on the TV channel and found that our latitude is 00° 05.50' S which means that we are still south of the equator at 8:35 PM. I think they faked it so we could have our little ceremony in the daytime. We finally crossed the equator at 9:01 PM.
One more sea day until we arrive in Costa Rica which should give Linda enough time to enjoy our tour of Puerto Caldera.
Day 43 - February 11, 2009
En route to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
Linda continues to improve - still not 100% however.
Someone pointed out that yesterday was Day 42 of our 46 day cruise ....... I'm afraid there's some inconsistency in my numbering scheme. Although the cruise is 46 days, we didn't get on the ship until day 5 of our vacation since we spent 4 days in Florida. We'll be arriving in Los Angeles on February 19 or day 51 of our vacation.
Today was another perfect day, identical to yesterday. The sea remains calm and there wasn't a breeze until about 4:00 PM. Days continue to get shorter - right at the equator there is always 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness with sunrise at 6:00 AM and sunset at 6:00 PM.
We're both looking forward to our river cruise in Costa Rica.
Day 44 - February 12, 2009
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
We weren't able to dock in Puerto Caldera because the depth at the pier is 0.6 meter shallower than our ship's draft so we put in at Puntarenas just across the bay.
Linda is still getting better and felt well enough to go out on our cruise on the Tarcoles River.
According to our tour guide, Costa Rica is about the same size as West Virginia with a population of 4.5 million people. It's largest city is San Jose with 1.5 million people. It is a place that exports more product than it imports - what an idea. It's major exports are bananas, pineapples, coffee, sugar, and beef. It also produces a lot of melons - honeydews, watermelons, and cantaloupes.
We boarded a bus at the pier and drove about an hour to a little town called Tarcoles which strangely enough, sits near the mouth of the Tarcoles River. Our entire drive was in rural areas and the only civilization we saw was at the small towns of Puntarenas and Tarcoles. As you can see from the three photos above, this part of Costa Rica is very beautiful. Our drive was very pleasant. We had a guide that spent the drive time talking about his country, its history, and interesting things we passed. He is an interesting fellow and the time went quickly even though there was a lot of construction delay on the highway we were traveling.
The river cruise was really great. We saw many, many birds from dozens of species. We were each given a pamphlet of local bird species with example photos. Our guide would point out birds and tell us their name and number so we could look them up on the pamphlet. He was never wrong. We also saw many crocodiles swimming in the river and basking on the shore. The highlight of the cruise as far as I'm concerned, was when the captain of our little boat used a chicken carcass to chum up a huge crocodile. We saw the crocodile in the water near shore. The captain pulled into the shore about 50 feet upstream of the crocodile and jumped out of the boat with the chicken. He then slapped the chicken carcass in the water and made a moaning sound - everyone in the boat was told to be very quiet. The crocodile turned and slowly approached - it was huge. The captain then held up the chicken and the crocodile came right out of the water after it. This was all within 10 feet of the boat and very exciting. I'm surprised the captain still has both hands.
Our next stop will be Acapulco, Mexico which is about 1000 miles and 2 sea days north of here.
Day 45 - February 13, 2009
En route to Acapulco, Mexico
Friday the 13th? Hmmmm. I'm reminded that a group of us that worked at the Energy Commission in the 1980s used to get together for lunch on Fridays the 13th for many years thereafter. I wonder when we quit doing that - probably after most of us had retired. Makes me wonder how everyone is doing. I've pretty much lost touch with all my old colleagues.
Today is another day of clear skies, lots of sun, temps in the 70s, no wind, and glassy seas. I'd sure hate to be on a ship that relied on wind for power - we haven't seen any wind for the last three or four days.
While out on my daily walk around the ship, I spotted a manta ray that leaped out of the water and 4 turtles swimming by. Unfortunately, I was the only one on deck and the only one to see them. Does that count? Maybe it has to be confirmed before it's an official sighting.
I received a text message from Kyle that made me realize that I'm getting kind of homesick. I'm going to really be glad to get home - Linda says she is getting plenty homesick, too.
We should arrive in Acapulco on Sunday.
Day 46 - February 14, 2009
En route to Acapulco, Mexico
Another perfect day - it's a little warmer but not hot. We're finally seeing a little breeze, but the ocean surface still looks like a lake rather than an ocean - no waves.
Not exactly perfect ..... today is Valentine's Day. Linda remembered and placed a card where I would find it. Unfortunately I was oblivious.
We spent most of the day reading out on the deck and were fortunate to see a few turtles here and there.
About a week ago I started seeing an old guy that looked familiar. I told Linda that he looked exactly like one of the old time comedians but I couldn't remember which one. At tonight's show, the star was down in the audience and saw him - she asked him if it was OK to introduce him and he obviously said yes. She then introduced Marty Allen. OF COURSE IT WAS! He's scheduled to be starring in one of the shows in the next few days.
It reminds me of something that happened in Disneyland circa 1970. I believe it was my brother Jay and I and I'm not sure which one said what but ........... we were standing around waiting for something when (I think it was Jay) spotted an old guy standing on the corner and said: "Man .... look at the nose on that old guy over there." I looked and it dawned on me: "That's Jimmy Durante." And sure enough, that's who it was.
Anyway ............. nothing else today. We're looking forward to seeing Acapulco tomorrow.
Day 47 - February 15, 2009
Acapulco is a beautiful place indeed. According to our guide it was an isolated fishing port until around 1930 when the first highway connected it to inland cities and it started to attract a few tourists. It stayed pretty small until around 1950 when the airport was built and now tourism is its biggest industry. Its current populations is about 1.5 million and most of the development occurred after 1950. As a result, it seems to be a modern city and everything looks pretty good.
Our tour took us to three main destinations.
The first stop was at the first hotel built in Acapulco - it is called the Hotel Flamingo. According to our guide, it was owned by Johnny Weissmuller, John Wayne, and Errol Flynn and was a popular destination for the Hollywood crowd in the 1950s and 1960s. Today it is exactly as it was in those days - we looked around a little and enjoyed a cup of coffee in the restaurant. The photo at right shows us standing on the patio - it is a 400 foot drop to the ocean right behind us.
The next stop was at La Paz Chapel (Chapel of Peace) overlooking the city. The story goes ...... a well to do family had two sons the mother was really proud of. One became an engineer and the other an architect. For a graduation gift, she bought them a plane and they learned to fly. One fateful day in 1967, they took off from Mexico City headed for the family vacation home in Acapulco and they didn't arrive. On the second day the mother went to church and promised God if they were found she would build a chapel at the highest place in Acapulco. Two days later the plane was found, but the sons were dead. Apparently she felt God answered her prayer so she built the shrine with a cross 128 feet high. The Chapel was completed in 1970, however, shortly thereafter, the mother died and a couple of years later the father also died - both well before their time. It is now operated by one of two daughters/sisters. Very sad. The photo at right was taken on the grounds of the Chapel. As you can see, the views from here are out of this world.
The final stop was kind of bizarre - it was at a private residence called Arabesque. This place could be one of Sadam's homes. It was built by a very, very rich couple that had no children and couldn't think of a better way to spend their money. It is so garish and over the top that it's depressing. All I could think of was all the worthwhile things that could have been purchased with the money it must have cost - worthwhile things like motorcycles and cars. Our guide tells us the house was used in the James Bond movie, License to Kill. The idiots that built the place died shortly after it was built and it is now owned by a sister of one of them - only two people live in the house.
Our next and last stop before Los Angeles is Cabo San Lucas and we're supposed to arrive Tuesday.
Day 48 - February 16, 2009
En route to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
It was a little cooler today. In his noon address, the Captain said the air and water were the same temperature - 79°. Linda and I both thought he must be crazy because we were on deck commenting on how cool it was. Shortly after his announcement, I went back to our cabin and put on a pair of levis and a sweatshirt and I'm still wearing them after 9:00 PM and I never felt too warm all day. Tomorrow we're going on a Zodiac whale watching tour and hoping it's a lot warmer. Our last Zodiac ride in Hawaii resulted in both of us getting wet.
Marty Allen was on tonight and he still has some pretty good moves. He's 87 years old and can still deliver a one-liner that made me laugh out loud.
We're both looking forward to our Zodiac whale watching tour at Cabo San Lucas. We'll be arrving in Los Angeles two days later on February 19. We're both looking forward to that, too.
Day 49 - February 17, 2009
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Our Zodaic whale watching tour exceeded all of our wildest expectations. The top left photo shows a Zodiac exactly like the one we rode in today. We saw so many whales that I lost count of how many. At one point we were following alongside a family of three whales - father, mother, child. We were literally only feet away - you could hear the sounds of their breathing. At one point one of the parents was swimming just below the surface alongside our Zodiac and it turned over on its back and waved a flipper at us. It makes you wonder what they must be thinking about. We took many, many photos and some of them are quite spectacular.
After a couple of hours of playing with the whales, our Zodiac headed back to Cabo San Lucas and made a brief detour to Land's End for some photo opportunities. The Zodiac showed some of its capabilities by moving right in among the rocks to put us as close as possible.
Shortly after the ship pulled away from Cabo San Lucas about 4:30 PM, the Captain announced that whales were in sight - everyone rushed up on deck and crowded the railings, trying to catch a photo from 500 yards. Linda and I didn't bother to join them.
The next time we set foot on land it will be in Los Angeles on Thursday - it will be good to be home.
Day 50 - February 18, 2009
En route to Los Angeles, California
This is our last day at sea. It's not a very good day to be out on deck. We've had a headwind all day of about 20 knots and the ship's speed is 23 knots making for a net wind on deck of almost 50 miles per hour. I don't know what the temperature is, but it feels damn cold.
We've spent most of the day getting packed up and getting ready to leave the ship. Other than that, we've just been sitting around waiting ............ and waiting.
We are scheduled to leave the ship at 8:30 AM tomorrow. We'll be driving a rental car home and hope to be there by early evening. On the news last night we heard mention of a big storm hitting California. I hope by tomorrow everything will have subsided.
Day 51 - February 19, 2009
San Pedro, California to El Dorado Hills, California
We were up at 6:00 AM and reported to customs around 6:30 AM. Unfortunately the customs folks were about 45 minutes late and threw off the whole departure schedule by that amount. A lot of unhappy customers. After the usual hassles of getting off the ship, picking up our luggage, and getting a cab and picking up our rental car, we finally got headed for home around 11:30 AM. If I ever stand in another line, it will be too soon.
The trip home went exceedingly well. We wound up with a nice little Ford Focus and our worries about the weather were completely unfounded - we had clear blue skies. We pulled up into our driveway at 7:00 PM sharp and found our house and cat in great shape - our house/cat sitter did a great job all around.
In the next month or so I hope to sort through the hundreds of photos we shot and select the best ones for viewing.
Just for fun, I added up the miles we traveled on our epic trip:
The Mariner of the Seas presented each of us with the following documentation for our trip - it is a nice little summary and has some interesting nautical facts.