Friday, January 18, 2019

Almost home

The news today is just beyond belief.  376 people crawl under a fence (yeah, we already have a sort-of wall) and turn themselves in to Border Patrol officers.  Wow!  What a world, huh?

Well, I was going to write about hitting San Diego and LA on our cruise.  Of course our son and daughter-in-law live in the San Diego area but they were working and it's not like we never see them so we made no attempt to get together.  We came into port early so got to see the Star of India all lit up.

 We were right across from the Naval Yard on Coronado Island of course.

 We walked around the downtown area that we seldom visit.  It was pretty cool actually.  We got to visit the railway station that my wife remembers from her childhood.

And the YMCA where she learned to swim.  We aren't sure if there was a YWCA then or not or maybe they just didn't have a pool.  It was quite a while ago (she's not as old as I but......).
Yeah, the Y is pretty Armed Forces oriented since the Navy is such a big part of San Diego. 

Anyway, we had fun walking around seeing places she remembers but hasn't visited since she was a kid.  The bus system was excellent back in the day and she could visit anywhere for a dime.  She spent a lot of time at the zoo, Balboa Park and the museums all around town. 

In the evening the ship headed off for LA.  Cruise ships have to turn around quickly when the cruise ends so passengers were to be off the ship by 08:30 in the morning.  So we don't have lots of photos from LA.  Like none that are worth sharing!  We had a VERY LONG wait to get on a bus that promptly got stuck in traffic going to the airport.  And at the airport we had to stop at every terminal on the chance that someone needed to get off the bus so in was about noon before we got to our terminal:  7th out of 8!  We did find a bar and have some great chicken tenders and a couple of drinks.  Finally got our 45 minute flight to Vegas and made it home about 15:00.  What a wonderful day. 

There were a couple interesting things on the cruise that I haven't talked about.  One was a visit to the galley.  There were something like 2,500 people wanting to eat three meals a day on the ship.  The galley was pretty good sized but they didn't waste much room on the walkways.
One of the things we did on days at sea was attend a photography class.  The teacher was a former professional photographer from England.  He tried to give us ideas about improving our pictures.  It was a pretty simplistic sort of class but I'm thinking most of the folks learned something.  In this example he was posing with a woman from the class in a manner he suggested you might use for children.
You can judge for yourself the quality of the class!

Anyway, that was the cruise.  I'll probably come up with a few more thoughts but since we've been home for a month I suppose I should get on to 'real life'.  Thanks for stopping by.  Take care.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Pacific cruising

So leaving Panama City on the 11th day of our cruise we headed north up the coast.  Of course we were quite a ways offshore most of the time but at times you could glimpse mountains.  We had a day at sea then pulled into Puntarenas, Costa Rico.  Puntarenas is a quite small town with this one really long, thin dock that sticks out into the bay. 

The town of Puntarenas apparently didn't have a lot going on.  This is right after you get off the pier.

Puntarenas was soon left behind and we were bused inland to Esparza, another little town, slightly larger, to check out their festivities.  In Esparza there is a church (Catholic, of course) that was supposed to be something special.  The only unusual thing I noticed was that the ceiling was made of wood.

Outside in the square there was a performance set up for us.  Some of the local children had been trained in a little dance recital or something.  I hate things like this!  Not because I don't like children, I just find it demeaning.

There was one kid who was enjoying himself after he got into costume.
After the presentation we had time to look at local vendors of whatever they think tourists will buy.  This time we actually did buy something:  an apron in bright green.  Like most of the stops, dollars were accepted in payment.  The exception being Cuba where they have a separate currency for foreigners. 

We arrived back at the ship to discover that a dance group had arrived.  The music was basically drums with five or six young ladies dancing around.  This is the view from our balcony.  They were too loud to stand around in front of them and get pictures!
There is a lot of talk lately about living as an ex-pat in Costa Rica.  It turns out that both coasts of Costa Rica are rather hot and humid and that the middle of the country, up in the mountains, is where the ex-pats go to live.  It is kind of too bad because the coast could sure use the money.

In the evening the ship took off headed for Corinto, Nicaragua.  Again, Corinto is a small coastal village and we were bused inland to the city of Leon.  However, before we left a large group of people showed up on the dock to play and dance in welcome.
You can see that even before we got tied up they were hard at it.  The port is primarily for cargo however so the dancers had a nice background of containers! 
There were even some 'civilians' who joined in from time to time.  The town does seem rather poor.

Leon was a fair bus ride away and again we ended up in a square with a church. 
At least there were people in the square that were neither tourists or beggars; just locals enjoying the day.
There were stands where one could buy souvenirs but we managed to avoid those.  There was also a dance troupe but they too seemed as much for the locals as for us.  On the way to and from Leon we did get to see a couple of volcanoes.
I talk about getting carted around in a bus.  Well, they need quite a few!
In the evening we left Nicaragua and in the morning tied up at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.  Quite frankly my wife and I were tired of riding on a bus for an hour or more only to be visiting a church and seeing some trinkets.  So we made the big decision not to leave the ship!  It was a container port however and you have to wonder what could be in all those containers.
Now it was time to find a port in Mexico and the line chose Cabo San Lucas.  Hmmm.  It took us three days at sea to get to Cabo.  My wife and I enjoy the days at sea so we were happy enough.  We have visited Cabo however so we made the same decision we made in Guatemala and stayed on board. 

That's most of our trip.  There are just stops in San Diego and Los Angeles.  I'll leave those for another day.  Have a good one!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

On to the Canal

Last time I talked about leaving Miami and visiting Cuba.  It was really quite a surprise leaving the modern, metropolitan city and ending up in the very rural and quite poor area in Cuba.  That's ok, it is a legitimate choice but I wish I knew the thought behind it.  Perhaps they just thought Havana to be atypical.  At any rate we followed our days in Cuba with two 'at sea' days prior to visiting Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena's skyline brought us back to the modern city.
The tour we took started off by giving us a view of the modern part of the city which was all highrises and beachs.  The modern city could easily have been Miami with the signs all translated into Spanish.  They did show us some of the old town but it really did seem to be as clean and well ordered as Miami.  Of course they have the huge fortress in the middle but that was the 'local color'.  What was facinating my wife and myself was that we were docked in a real working port!  Across from us was a container ship being loaded and watching that was fantastic.
Imagine, we may well have seen a few thousand pounds of cocaine being loaded for shipment to New York; mixed in with a larger quantity of legitimate goods, of course.
Of course by the time we got back from our tour of the city there was another ship spoiling our view.  This photo was taken from the tour on the modern side of the city looking across the bay.  Our ship is on the right facing out.  The newcomer was the AIDAdiva - I'd never heard of the line
We left Cartagena and the next morning about 06:30 we started entering the Panama Canal.  We were both really looking forward to seeing the Canal and were thrilled that the cruise line was smart enough to do this during the day.  The fact that this cruise transited the entire canal was the reason we chose it!  BTW, this is the 9th day of the cruise.  We started the day following the Norwegian Jade into the first lock.
We'll see the Jade later but first how about another view of how much some of these ships fill the locks.

There is a train engine tug or two on each side of every ship helping it through.  These are the famous Gatun Locks.
Leading, of course to the lake by the same name.  The lake is formed by a river that is dammed on this (eastern) side.  We weren't quite out of the last lock when this photo was taken.
Oh, and there is our friend the Norwegian Jade.  It has entered the canal and gone through one series of the locks and now is waiting in line to head back out to the Caribbean.  How disappointing that would be if you were thinking of transiting the entire canal!
So I could post a bunch more photos of the canal, the ships and the people on them but I imagine you have the idea.  Between my wife and myself we took about 250 photos so it might get a little dull for folks not so facinated by the canal and the sea in general.  So we were on to our next port of call:  Panama City, Panama.

Panama City is another modern city with some ancient bits.  We were anchored out again and had more runs on those lifeboats.  I know how much I'd appreciate a lifeboat if I needed one but as tenders they leave quite a bit to be desired!  However, being anchored out we did get a great view of the city.
Again our tour was of the city.  We drove through the modern bits then paused in the old quarter to drop off some money with the local tee shirt vendors (or whatever your addiction might be).  It was December 1st so the square had a reasonable number of local artists trying to sell things and the Christmas decorations were starting to appear.
There was a church of course!  We did not go through it but I found the old center with the new towers unusual.  Someone had an idea there but we know not what.
Of course there was a little side street where the shops were located.
So that was our first port on the Pacific side of the canal.  Very nice.  I must say there was a larger police presence in Panama City than anywhere we've been so far.  Next time we'll be cruising the Pacific up the coast.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year!!!

2019 -wow.  We are having temps in the 30's (1-2C) and 20-25 mph (32-38kph) breezes.  Not all that much fun to be outside!  So I'm going to talk about our trip through the Panama Canal.  It was more like 85F (30C) most of the time down there!

So we leave the Vegas airport at 01:00 in the morning on Thanksgiving day.  What a treat!  Well, it all started with a little drama.  This drunk guy was trying to convince the airline people that they should let him on a plane.  They kept refusing and he kept insisting.  He started shouting and swearing coming pretty close to hitting someone.  Finally the airline people called the cops and just in time because he did finally take a swing at one of the guys from the airline.  The cop was a little guy but he threw the drunk on the floor and eventually got some help to take him away.  Nice little drama to keep us awake!

Anyway we didn't land in Miami, the origin of the cruise, until mid-afternoon.  Yeah, really lousy!  Anyway, we finally made it to the ship.  The ship was the Viking Star; sistership of the one we took across the Atlantic earlier in the year.  It is virtually identical to the other ship.  We got on about 14:00 and were underway by 18:00.  Goodbye Miami!

We had a day at sea and then entered the harbor at Santiago de Cuba.  Santiago is a good sized city on the southern side of the island.  The revolution had some beginnings there but it was quite a change from Miami!  There was the usual convoy of buses to take folks sightseeing.  Highrises, not so much!
Cuba is quite poor and some things are just really amazing.  Of course we went to the main town square where the cathedral is found.  There were plenty of beggars around as well.  They were fairly aggressive about it.
After seeing a bit of the downtown we wandered off into the country to see another church.  Here I found a rather old fashioned means of getting around.  It was a donkey cart and it wasn't the only one I saw.
Finally the bus took us back into town where I saw what is used for public transportation:  old trucks.
Back on the ship and off to visit the next stop on our cruise; Cienfuegos, Cuba.  The Cienfuegos harbor is on this little river/bay that takes some getting into!  The pilot certainly earned his or her fee.  We had to anchor out and the lifeboats are used as water taxis.  They aren't very comfortable and got really warm in the afternoon.

 Here I am on the way back to the ship in the lifeboat.

We paid extra for a tour of the harbor and felt pretty unhappy when the tour consisted of going back out to the ocean then coming back in just as the ship had just done!  There were photo ops of course.  A local ferry.
A boat, maybe a fishing boat, that didn't make it back home or maybe was just left there.
The town had a cathedral of course.  And happily fewer beggars.
After Cienfuegos we went back to sea for a couple days.  Next up will be Cartagena, Colombia but that will be next time!  Until then let me wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!  Take care!