A Travellerspoint blog

Third Sea Day off Mexico

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Managed to upload yesterday's posts this morning despite the link dropping out twice. I've been frugal with my Internet use and now have some flexibility and can afford to restart the upload. The sunrise was scheduled for 06:50 which is unbelievably late for me. I'm expecting another time adjustment in the next day or so but even a 06:00 sunrise is fairly late.

Breakfast with Jenny after which we spent time at the International Café before I took the camera for a walk to capture some images of the St Patric Day decorations. The most impressive being the two huge cakes prepared by the pastry chefs.

Spent time in the cabin to catch up on some world news on the stateroom TV. The devastation of Vanuatu being the most frightening, not only for the immediate aid required but the longer term impact on a country that has so little infrastructure to start with. The BBC World Service provides the best coverage of events from around the world. The Israeli elections have been receiving a good bit of attention too.

After a quick visit to the gym to weigh myself I decided that I didn't need lunch. Even allowing for the weight of clothes and the fact that the scales were not totally stable I've put on a fair bit of weight. All my initial intentions regarding exercise and portion control have not been carried through. I'll have to get back into my regular routine as soon as we get back home and see if I can drop some of that weight before ANZAC Day.

After lunch I attended what was advertised as a "GoPro Seminar - Explore some of the features, functionality and the plethora of accessories of this unique new camera". The presentation was badly organised and did little to encourage me to lay down good money for what appears to be a gimmicky gadget for thrill seekers. I must admit that some of the captured video they showed had an interesting if quirky feel to them.

One of the group of us that meet for coffee most mornings is trying to organise a 'lunch' for us. He's undertaken the task of getting in touch with each of us. The plan is to meet at 12:00on Thursday 19 March which is less than 48 hours before the cruise ends. Amazing where all those days have gone. Another 'member' has collected contact information which he is planning to share so that we can remain in touch. This tends to happen during longer cruise but doesn't last long when we return to the 'real world'. There are two or three I'd like to stay in touch with.

Jenny has gone off to listen to the 'Pop Choir', a group of dedicated passengers who have taken time out to practise and present a concert of songs. I elected to stay back and finish my latest Kindle book and write up this lot.

Made our way to the dining room and found our regular waiter, Jigger, dressed up as a Leprechaun, very funny an Irishman from the Philippines. Service was a bit chaotic with a temporary waiter taking over from Jigger. The confusion showed itself when I received Chicken Broth after having ordered a Clam Chowder. Despite the mix-up we had a better than average diner.

Tonight's entertainment was provided by "John Bressler", a better than average pianist, a reasonable gravel voiced singer and mostly funny story-teller. His take on Rod Stewart was excellent and he certainly packed lots of energy into his performance. He's no 'spring chicken' claiming to be from the 'Woodstock Generation'.
Tomorrow we arrive in Puerto Vallarta for a relatively short visit 08:00 to 15:30. We have a ship's excursion booked and will be out on that for most of that time. Despite my luck at uploading yesterday's posts I've no way of knowing when this will be posted.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 03:58 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

At Sea off the Mexican Coast

Monday, 16 March 2015

At 05:30 this morning I managed to upload my postings for the past few days. I was further rewarded by a beautiful sunrise this morning at 06:27. Shared a breakfast with Jenny and then sat outside the Future Cruises Consultant's office. At the Captain's Cocktail Party last night, Angela mentioned a 48 day cruise from Southampton, England to Sydney. We spoke to her and have decided to book as the cruise is selling quickly. The ship is due to sail on 28 September 2016. We are looking at spending a week or two in Britain before the cruise. Plenty of time to work out what we'll do. The direction of the AU$ may also determine what will eventuate.

Attended the Destination Lecture for our last port before disembarkation in Los Angeles next Saturday. It appears that Puerto Vallarta is a very popular destination for holiday-makers. It will be Jenny's last chance to find that elusive gift.

Stayed in the Theatre for Robert Schirn's lecture on Charles Manson. His voice acts as a sleeping pill, I was out like a light within minutes again. His material is fascinating but his droning voice and unreadable PowerPoint slides just puts me to sleep. A pie and some fruit for lunch and we will spend time having a quiet snooze back in the cabin. There's a good chance that afternoon movie could also put me to sleep so I may as well be comfortable.

Dressed for diner and joined Don and Mary. Once again there were many empty tables and staff with little to do. We were finished in less than an hour when normally it takes at least an hour and a half. Decided to take a chance on a "Production Show" in the Theatre and were greatly impressed. We've tended to ignore them as they are repetitive and have been known to be boring and loud.

The Internet connection is still unreliable. Another sea day as we sail withing sight of the Mexican coast. The BBC TV reports massive rains across parts of South America, we haven't had a wet day to upset any activity in the 20ports we've visited. As far as the weather is concerned we've had a dream run.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 04:20 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Sea Day After Nicaragua

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Didn't get to send yesterday's blog because I hadn't finished it and the satellite link was described as unreliable. After a lovely sunrise I joined Jenny for breakfast and then spent two hours writing up yesterday's story. Next item on my agenda was the lecture by Robert Schirn, today's topic being the "Kidnapping of Patty Hearst". I'll have to watch the replay on TV as I lasted all of 15 minutes before nodding off. I figured that was an indication that I was in need of some sleep.

A quick lunch and back to the cabin and I flaked out until about 16:15. Felt a lot fresher after that. Got up to dress for the Captain's Cocktail Party and after that to diner with Don and Mary. Both off them look better than they have for some days. Jenny too appears to be responding to her medications.

After diner we went off to the Theatre so witness the astounding ability of Wayne Hoffman. He was billed as a Mentalist and Illusionist and I've no idea how he managed to perform his feats. His ability to 'read minds' amazed us all. At one stage he asked us all to think of a name or number and focus on that. He then asked if there was anyone with certain initials. One person indicated and was passed a microphone. He questioned the person and determined they were thinking of a dog and when he asked if the dog's name was some strange name the selected person just exclaimed "Shit, you're right !!" He did this not once but three or four times. There were other amazing demonstrations and he easily filled in the 45 minutes. Awesome !!

Back in the cabin we worked out the amounts for each of the crew that have provided us with excellent personal service, stuffed the money in envelopes and got them ready to distribute over the next two days. Some of them finish their contact in Puerto Vallarta.

We continue to experience communications difficulties not only on the Internet link but the Satellite TV as well. We are sailing in a NorthWesterly direction off the coast of Mexico with two more sea days before our next port.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 04:24 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Saturday, 14 March 2015

View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

The ship arrived off San Juan Del Sur under a cloudy sky and a wind registering "Gale Force". Despite this ominous start the tenders are launched and all tours proceeded on schedule. Our tour required us to rendezvous in the Theatre at 06:50 so a very early start. While waiting we were reminded to have our 'health declaration" required by the Nicaraguan Health Authorities. On arrival at the pier we had our temperature taken and we handed in our forms. On the way over in the tender we discussed this health form and a number of passengers had obviously been less than truthful. The general health aboard the ship is not improving, people admit that they are self-medicating rather than risk insolation as a result of visiting the doctor. Donald and Mary spent two hours waiting to see the doctor. They say the line was out the door.

By 07:30 we have boarded the coach and set off on a long drive to our first stop. Our guide starts off with an enthusiastic welcome in Spanish and appears surprised at our lack of reaction. With a dead serious face he asks "This is the Spanish language tour isn't it? His English was almost impeccable and his sense of humour was wicked. As an example he explained that it was considered good practise to make a sacrifice to the volcano God. Traditionally this would be a virgin female but as there were none available, wives could nominate their husbands. This thread continued for the duration of the tour.

Our first stop was the markets of Masaya. The market stalls are housed in a massive stone-walled enclosure that occupies an entire block. We were a bit early and stalls were still being set up. An amazing array of handicrafts mostly in various rain-forest timbers. A speciality was hammocks in a range of colours, sizes and materials. As with most stops there was a delay as we waited for a single person who appeared to have forgotten the 'back by' time or got lost.

From the market to the crater. We drove into the Masaya Volcano National Park and right up to the rim of the active volcano. The crater was huge and filled with a cloud of sulphurous gas which fortunately was blown away from the viewing area. There were copious warning signs directing the evacuation route and advising that vehicles should be parked facing the direction of the exit. The crater of the Nindiri volcano has three smaller craters within it but none of that was visible. Looking out from the side of this volcano we could make out the huge area surrounded by a crater rim, the outer crater forms the boundary of the National Park, it must have been many kilometres in diameter.

The bus drove us back through the park and pulled into a local restaurant, I think the name was El Filete - a local steak house. Here we enjoyed a 'local' meal of salad, rice, beans, chicken and beef. A complementary cold drink, coffee and fruit rounded out the lunch. We were also entertained by a local mariachi band. The meal was interesting but lacked the spices I'd have expected. Our guide told us that the rice and beans in various combinations constitutes the basis for almost every meal.

Back on the bus and off to the historic city of Granada established in 1524 by the Spanish. Set amongst volcanoes on the shore of Lake Nicaragua the city has suffered many earthquakes and was burned to the ground by pirates who had found their way into the lake from the Caribbean Sea. The central park was surrounded by beautifully restored colonial buildings and appeared a popular place for local people. Our bus-load of foreign tourists attracted a horde of hawkers trying to sell their wares. From colourful earthenware pots to sunglasses and cashew nuts. We walked a short distance to the Convent of San Francisco a massive structure that has served many purposes in its long life and is now a museum of pre-Columbian statues carved from volcanic rock.

Back on the coach for our return trip to the port. Our guide had the good sense to take a break and we were left to view the bleak countryside. The country has had a number of devastating droughts and it is the end of the dry season so there's a lot of dust about. There was also a lot of litter in the form of plastic bags, drink containers and general refuse. The guise said that they were trying to clean the place up but they've along way to go. The people are poor, the country is fertile but dry and infrastructure is lacking. In many communities water is delivered daily in tanker trucks. They've endured years of political upheaval and there is rampant corruption. I think our guide was genuinely grateful that we had visited and helped the economy. As a place to visit, Costa Rica wins my vote hands down.

Back to the ship on the very efficient tender service with just half an hour to diner. Once again the dining room was almost deserted and Don and Mary failed to put in an appearance. I checked on them after diner, they were both unwell and had stayed in their cabin for most of the day after spending some hours in the medical centre. We went to the Theatre to see a "Comedy Variety Show" by Steve Carte. We didn't last to the start, blasted out of the place by overly loud harsh noises purporting to be music.

Back in the cabin I started to compose this text and couldn't find the energy to go past the second paragraph. I'm finishing this on Sunday morning.
Three sea days to the next port and less than a week to the end of the cruise.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 04:20 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Puntarenes, Costa Rica

Friday, 13 March 2015

View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

A subdued sunrise was blocked by the mountains of Costa Rica but there was a promise of a clear day. We had a booked Shore Excursion with a rendezvous in the Wheelhouse Bar at 08:30. We had a quick breakfast, grabbed our gear for the day and watched the ship coming into the berth. There was already one of the Princess ships tied up at the end of a long narrow pier. The tour buses have to back the entire length as there isn't enough width for them to turn around. With two buses side-by-side there was barely two meters for pedestrian traffic.

With the Island Princess's 2,000 passengers and our 3,000 there were a lot of people being processed. We boarded the coach and set off on a long journey into the highlands. After about two hours we stopped at an extensive souvenir shop primarily for a comfort stop but also to taste the local coffee and buy those elusive bargains. We escaped having spent just US$8.00. From there we travelled through more mountain passes to the town of Palmares, set in a beautiful valley and home to a 200 year-old church build from blocks of volcanic rock. Built before the advent of 'cement' the bonding material was a 'mortar' of egg-white and limestone. The church took 13 years to complete and has survived a number of earthquakes.

Heading further into the high country we arrived at the major destination. The family-owned Doka estate where we enjoyed a simple but tasty buffet lunch before being guided through the various stages of growing, harvesting and processing the coffee beans. The local plantations are all on the sides of steep hills and are picked entirely by hand. The mill is the oldest "wet processing" mill in the country. Once the shell is removed the beans are allowed to ferment in water for three days. The beans are then spread out on large concrete pads to be dried by the sun. They are spread out in a very thing layer and are turned over every hour - by hand. Eventually the dried beans are bagged into 40 to 50Kg bags and warehoused for export.

Only a small percentage of the crop is roasted for local consumption the bulk is shipped to processing plants around the world. The estate supplies all the coffee for Starbucks and the beans are roasted in Seattle in Starbucks' roasting facilities. An educational and most interesting couple of hours.

The final stop on the tour was a botanical garden which also provides refuge for local birds that have been injured. The endangered Scarlet Macaw is also housed here in an attempt to bread them in captivity. The botanical specimens were magnificent as were the amazing species of orchids. We then travelled a newly completed highway back to the port. We were told that it took 30 years to complete this highway, it certainly reduced the time it took to get back to the ship.

We were finally back on board at about 17:15 and decided to eat in the dining room dressed as we were. The four tables that are served by our waiters had a total of just eight seats occupied out of a total of 22 seats. All throughout the room, staff were talking amongst themselves and trying to look busy. Tonight's entertainment was provided by the very talented vocalist Christopher Riggins who presented another excellent range of songs to a less than crowded room.

Tomorrow we will be in the tendered port of San Juan Del Sur where we have a shore excursion booked with a rendezvous time of 07:30. Only 7 days remaining.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:31 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

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