Panama Canal Cruise – Day Ten

Here we are on another Sea Day.  A large number of passengers started the day with a 5 km Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer Research.  It was amazing how many passengers participated – even after the late night before.  Holland America’s  fundraising for this cause has generated over $2 million to date.  At the end of the walk Captain Harris was there to congratulate the finishers – just another touch to make you feel special on this ship.

Speaking of Captain Harris, we have been anxiously awaiting news as to the state of the rest of our cruise.  At this point, we had 4 ports left to hit before San Diego – all in Mexico.  The US, UK and Canada have all declared a semi state of emergency with the outbreak of Swine Flu originating in Mexico.  There is somewhat of a panic on board as people were concerned about what the plans would be for us.  Would we be floundering out in the Pacific Ocean for the rest of our lives??!! 

Finally we got the news that Holland America would not be stopping at ANY Mexican destinations.  So, goodbye to Acapulco, Haultico, Cabo san Lucas and Porto Chiapo.  Guess we have to do this cruise again!!  At least we saved about $300 in excursion and port fees by not stopping. Our captain and the Holland America line were frantically trying to find alternatives so we would not end up just sailing in circles for a week like a ghost ship.  The first stop they were able to secure for us was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala which was rather neat as now I can cross another country off my list. Later in the evening we found out that we would also be turning south and heading to Nicaragua before heading back north to San Diego.  The trip to Nicaragua will be very exciting since this will be the very first time that a Holland America ship has docked in that country.  We will be making history.

Because it was a Sea Day, we had another Formal Evening.  CAA Niagara Travel hosted a cocktail party in the Crow’s Nest for our group so Rick and I were dressed for the occasion.  The party was a success with all of our group attending.  Sparkling wine and tapas were served.

The rest of the day was a typical shipboard evening of dinner, show, piano bar and dancing.  There’s always something to do on a ship if you want to keep busy.

For more information, go to CAA Niagara Travel

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Nine

A day I have been waiting for – Costa Rica!!  There were several eco-tours available from bus tours to zip-lining.  I don’t think any of our group decided to go zip-lining, but I could be wrong.  Rick and I were definitely the only ones NOT to see a monkey on our tour.  We did the Tropical Rainforest Aerial Tram.  This was a 7-hour excursion so we didn’t get into the city of Puntarenas at all.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country – green and lush – with pristine beaches by the pier. Unfortunately, as you get away from the docking area its true colours start to show.  There was quite a mix of abodes from gigantic ocean-side homes to tin-roofed shanties by the sea.  This I could take, but the filth was somewhat surprising.  There was garbage everywhere. 

Costa Rica is a fast developing country especially since Intel opened their chip plant here.  Microchips are now Costa Rica’s biggest export over bananas, coffee, and cocoa. They have a 93% literacy rate, universal health care and are heavy into ecology.  These are reasons it surprised me that garbage didn’t seem to matter to them.  You’d think they would take better care of their own environment.

At the conservation area we went to, part of the over 70% of land-mass reserved for conservancy, we found a wonderful group of highly knowledgeable people who had all kinds of information about the flora and fauna of this region.  Our Aerial Tram guide was against the whole zip-lining thing in the conservancy and I certainly didn’t blame him.  These rides were very noisy and I think there was a lack of birds and animals in the area because of them.  Of course, the main reason they have them is to make more money to support the whole conservation process so sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.  Personally I don’t get the why of this activity.  You can’t see anything while you’ve got your eyes shut and your sphincter closed tighter than skin on a wiener!!  You have to change your shorts between zips…..

We had an authentic Costa Rican meal which included fruit and their mainstays of rice and beans.  Our guide told us that Costa Ricans eat rice and beans at just about every meal including breakfast.  I find that a little much. That would even be worse if you were into zip-lining…

I don’t think the port we were at was a major tourist area but even so, the scenery was amazing.  Costa Rica is very mountainous – not as mountainous as Vancouver but quite a change from Aruba and Santa Marta. 

After our long trip to the rainforest several of the youngest (over 30) passengers  did The Great Westerdam Pub Crawl.  The crawl went to five of the bars onboard where they poured every participant a drink.  These were not little sampler glasses but full-sized drinks with a little extra in each.  The crawl ended at the Lido Deck where the Lido Pool Party was going on.  Charlie and the HAL Cats were playing so the crawlers were only too happy to dance the rest of the night away. After about 20 ounces of booze a piece, the party was quite happy to adjourn to the pool – clothes and all.  Fortunately I had on my $15 cheapo watch as we found later that time stood still for the rest of the night at 10:35 pm….

I would highly recommend the Pub Crawl if you are young at heart and want to meet similarly gregarious passengers.  The Pub Crawl should be on the 2nd or 3rd day of Holland America cruises to help us find each other for the rest of our stay.  We found that there were way more of us than we could find in the Lido and have had lots of fun ever since.

For the Spin doctor’s take on Costa Rica, go to CAA Niagara Travel

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