01-30-2014 Day 5 Roatan

Currently we are camped at NAS/JRB, Belle Chasse, LA Temperature: 47 F, and foggy

This is fifth in a series of posts about our NCL cruise on the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. Read about our first day at sea here,  about an evening onboard  here, Cozumel here, and Belize here. Also, keep in mind that the link to the left for my photos on google will take you to many more images of our cruise and the ports we visited

083Thursday morning the sunrise was somewhat muted by the rainclouds and fog hanging low in the sky around the island of Roatan.  Until recently, I had never heard of Roatan, and when we booked this cruise I had to look it up.  I read a bit about the island, the port, and then was delighted when friend Jeanne sent a quick email with pictures of, you guessed it, Roatan. 

Jeanne and her sweetie Alan decided to escape the Vermont winter cold for a week on the north side of the island at a lovely boutique hotel.  Photos were attached, and emails exchanged. 

Jeanne told us which beaches to avoid and gave us the name of their driver, Alex.  A few more emails were exchanged, and by the time we docked in Coxen Hole, on the south side of the island, arrangements had been finalized with Alex.  If anyone is reading this blog and wants information about a personal driver for time in Roatan, drop an email to me and I’ll send his email address and phone number. Alex was a sweetheart and I highly recommend his services.

Once again, the timing was near perfect.  With a rainy day ahead of us, we were really happy that we hadn’t booked any kind of excursion, trapped in a crowded bus with weather too rough for any kind of snorkeling. 

cruise day 6_003As we approached the port along the southern side of Roatan, I was surprised to see jungle covered hills rising above the port. The approach was quite lovely.My first impression of the port at Coxen Hole was much better than the previous day in Belize.  (See that post here). There was plenty of room for busses and taxi’s and the exit area was open and spacious. 

007As we emerged from the only open gate, Alex was waiting for us with a big sign with my name on it.  His car is a nice newer model Toyota SUV with comfy seats and we were his only passengers.  We originally negotiated for a simple ride out to the beach and then a later afternoon pick-up, but with the rainy day, we discussed shifting to a mini tour of the island.  Alec is quite popular it seems, and his English was more than adequate for our day. For $50 US for both of us, Alex took us to a few sights on the south side of the island, before dropping us off at Sandy Beach on the north side.

003Negotiating the narrow, winding roads, Alex drove slowly enough that we could enjoy the views and conversation.  We stopped at a few historical sites, but in the rain everything seemed less than spectacular.  Once at the top of highest hill on the island, the view opened up and through the light rain that was starting we could see the ship in the harbor below. The road only opens when ships are in port.  At this view site are several covered stalls where local people were selling their wares.  We took some photos, and explored the items for sale, finding some very well priced goodies to purchase. (Can’t believe I never got a photo of Alex!)

011Even in the rain, the jungles were lush and beautiful and the ride to the next site was enjoyable.  At the butterfly/flower garden we spent $10. each to enjoy a walking tour of the grounds by Joshua, a 13 year old boy who was very knowledgeable and well spoken. It was a bit of a touristy trappy kind of place, but Joshua made it fun and interesting.

Alex then took us to a more commercial area that was some sort of “official” tourist souvenir site, and we wandered around looking at lovely items for sale, with prices up to three times as much as similar items seen at the stalls on the hilltop.  I was really glad that Alex took us to the hilltop first! After perusing the shop, we settled in for an espresso and hot chocolate while we waited for the rain to abate a bit.  The sudden runoff was thick and brown and flowing in torrents down the rough roads.

050Among the most interesting items made on the mainland in Honduras were carved chests, doors and tables, all worked by hand in Honduran mahogany.  Raw mahogany is no longer exported from the country, but crafted items made from the tropical wood are allowed.  According to our guide, people plant mahogany trees to attempt to replace the old growth mahogany from the rain forests. 

Before lunchtime, we made our way to Sandy Beach and the Blue Bahia Grill, where the open air restaurant was nearly empty.  With an agreement to pick us up at 2, Alex left us to have lunch, wander the beach, and possibly go for a snorkel.  By then the rain was coming down in torrents, so we were especially happy to have a nice place to relax  and enjoy the view through the plastic curtains that kept us dry.

059Jeanne had warned us that West Bay and many of the larger beaches are thick with cruisers, and Alec agreed that we might enjoy the little Sandy Bay area.  There were no shops, but there was our restaurant, and the attached hotel that was evidently a popular diver’s hotel, with a dive company in the courtyard. 

Lunch was fantastic, where I tried the smoked beef brisket sandwich Jeanne recommended and Mo had a BLT that was huge and delicious.  The rain let up a bit and we decided to walk the beach, sadly carrying along our useless snorkel gear.  The water was just too rough to attempt any kind of swimming or snorkeling, even if it stopped raining.  Not a snorkel day. 

086Just down the beach from the restaurant was the hotel where Jeanne and Alan were staying a few days prior.  We walked up from the beach to check it out, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. 

The owners were nowhere to be found, but all the doors were wide open, with the front desk computer open and running, jewelry sitting on a side table for sale, the restaurant closed but cash registers all exposed, and unoccupied rooms open for viewing. 

The small infinity pool was gorgeous, and we sat in the lobby enjoying the view for awhile before we found a brochure to read about the hotel.  Prices were notably absent, but the descriptions of the amenities were glowing, and from what we could see, were not the least bit exaggerated.  Might be more than we would ever spend, but it surely would be a great place for a luxury vacation on Roatan.

057Wandering back to the beach, the rain started in earnest and we asked our waitress at the Grill if we could wait inside for our driver.  She said, “Sure!” and we settled into a table to watch the rain, share some conversation with her, and wait for Alec.  Showing up just 15 minutes late, Alec was all apologies for a delayed flight for his previous passengers, and trundled us back to the ship in plenty of time for us to relax a bit before sailing.

The cruise port area is pleasant enough, but there was nothing for sale there to compare with our perfect previous purchases, so within a few minutes we went back to the ship and our waiting comfy stateroom with a view of the island.  The port side was a good choice for this particular cruise, where we had good views of both Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya, morning sunrises for most of the cruise, and sunset on our last day returning northward.

cruise day 6_006A light supper salad sustained us for our evening meal since we knew that the late evening entertainment included a Chocolate Buffet.  We ambled up to the Garden Café a few minutes early and were surprised to find a huge line of folks waiting for the doors to open.  It was a perfect example of why people often say they can’t imagine going on a cruise.  There were soooo many people!!!  And all jammed up and lots of noise and all that chocolate.cruise day 6_021

The buffet was just OK, with a few ice sculptures, a little bit of chocolate carving here and there, and did I mention the people?  I tried a couple of desserts, but they were also just ok, and Mo settled for a cup of good coffee while we watched all the activity around us. 

cruise day 6_025There was more entertainment throughout the evening, but we passed on all of it and went back to the quiet and peace of our stateroom.  Even with my ability to temporarily ignore crowd phobia, I was ready to get back home and away from all the raucous stuff.cruise day 6_009

Day 7 Holland America’s own little island

Blues Cruise Day 7 (20) I think most cruise lines that have Caribbean itineraries must own a piece of the Bahamas, some own whole islands, as this one owned by Holland America, others seem to own Cays on a bigger island somewhere.  Either way, it’s usually a day before the final disembarkation that the ship slides into it’s own private dock and with only 2000 people or so to spread around, it can even feel a bit remote if you know how to get away from the crowds.

these tenders can carry 250 people at once This morning our private island was Half Moon Cay (key), somewhere in the Bahamas.  I finally looked on Google Earth to try to get the lay of the land among the sea, but still don’t have a good handle on all of it.  This little island is very small, just a few miles across, and very low to the earth.  The vegetation is short and scrubby with the only palm trees some newer planted ones around the newer fake West Indies Village.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (28) Blues Cruise Day 7 (29) I didn’t care about all that, though, because today we had pre-arranged our one ship excursion and were going to kayak on the inland lagoon.  It was a good day to choose a bit of entertainment, since there wasn’t much else to do on the island except hang on the beach and listen to the music.  Have I mentioned music on this cruise?  Several bands were conducting our own private beach party by the water and it drew most of the ship’s crowd to that localized area for most of the day.

Deb was excited about the kayak trip, and we both knew there would be plenty of time for music later.  We stayed on the top deck to watch the ship pull part way into the bay and see the tenders coming out from shore.  These tenders are stored on the island so are much larger than the tenders carried on the ship, with a 25o person capacity.  They would run all day at fifteen minute intervals so cruisers could come and go at will.

Once we landed, in no time we were on shore, signed up for our little kayak trip, and told to wait under the shelter for a half hour or so before we would be driven inland.  There are pathways and narrow roads, with small open air vans that transport people to various water excursions, including para-sailing, jet-skiing, sailing, all the typical cruise excursion types of activities.  We were glad we hadn’t tried to do any snorkeling with the cool temperatures, and high winds.  Even kayaking was a bit of an effort in that stiff breeze, but it was still great entertainment.

heading out into the lagoon on Half Moon Cay I have to admit, I felt like I was slogging along the entire time on that heavy, sit-on-top plastic boat, with paddles that weighed five times as much as my slick new Werner’s.  Deb and I asked for single boats and two other couples were part of our group in tandems and we set out on the crystal clear lagoon that was landlocked on the island.  There were mangrove alleys to explore, but the tide was too low for entry, so we stayed on the main part of the water.  Our guide was young, very talkative, and provided a basic view of the island life but didn’t have much knowledge of the actual ecosystem beyond grade school level, so that was a bit disappointing to me.  I was there for the boating, however, and managed to have a great time.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (48) Afterward, Deb and I chose to walk the pathways back to the beach and the big island bbq provided for us, with ribs and chicken and all the fixings.  It was a decent meal, and I really enjoyed the watermelon and fresh berries.  We then ambled down to the beach to find a couple of chairs and sit in the sun.  The far end of the beach was quiet enough, but it was getting colder as a storm approached and the winds made it too uncomfortable to think about snorkeling, so we swam a bit and sat in the sun a bit before walking back to the beach party. 

Blues Cruise Day 7 (76) I walked to the far end of the beach, watching the people on the horseback riding excursion following the leader along the beach.  They advertised riding in the ocean, but I didn’t see them enter once.  They looked hot in long jeans and helmets, even on this cool day.  Deb had considered the “ride the horse in the ocean” excursion, but we thought better of it and decided to kayak instead.  I’m glad we did.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (63) We needed to get back to the ship before 3:30, and the tender line was quite long when we went there at 2:30.  It probably took 45 minutes to actually get back on the ship, but standing in line was entertaining while we listened to great music and had interesting conversations with other line-ees.

0111 Blues Cruise 300 Once on the ship, we cleaned up, relaxed a bit, and went to the last dinner of the cruise in the dining room.  This time we asked for a table for two only, not wanting to have to carry on conversations this evening with anyone but ourselves.  It was good we went early, because the dining room filled almost immediately with very large groups of people pulling tables together and raucously celebrating the final night of the cruise.  The dinner was excellent as usual, with the obligatory surf and turf meal that is usually offered at least one night on a cruise like this one.  I am not a filet lover, and that was the steak on the menu.  I also am of the mind that any good steak requires charcoal, so wasn’t too excited about my choice.  When it was served, however, with our bottle of truly great Spanish wine, I was impressed.  It was butter tender and flavorful even without the smoky flavor I think I require. 

0111 Blues Cruise 313 As we approached the end of our meal, I asked our waiter if the crew was going to do the dining room dance, the one where all the folks wave their napkins.  I know it’s silly after the first time, but Deb hadn’t experienced the first time, and I remember how tickled I was when this happened to me on my first cruise a long time ago.  Our waiter said, “No, we don’t do that on a charter cruise like this one. But if you wait just a few minutes there will be a special surprise.” In a few minutes, a few members of our Indonesian dining room staff took center stage in the brilliantly lit stairwell and proceeded to entertain us with a rousing blues tune that they had practiced for two months in readiness for this cruise.  They were received with a standing ovation and lots of rowdy calls while several diners jumped up to dance.  The small band played a few more songs and then played some of their own local Indonesian music for us as well.  It was really sweet, and a real treat, and they were so proud of themselves.  I’m glad the blues cruisers were the kind of people to appreciate their efforts and cheer them on.  Old travelers can get a bit jaded and hard to impress sometimes.  I was glad to see the happiness on their faces and the delight on the diner’s faces as well, including mine.

The dress code for the evening was pajamas.  We decided to NOT wear pajamas to dinner, but afterward went to change.  I have to admit, I felt truly silly in my pajamas, cute capris though they were, and while many people were wearing all sorts of get-ups, including shorties and big slippers, many people had avoided the pajama thing entirely.  I wished I had been one of those, and before long went back to my cabin to change into something a bit more reasonable.  It was just too dang early for pajamas.

Blues Cruise Day 7

Many more photos of this blue day on Half Moon Cay are located here.

Day 5 Deb celebrates a turquoise birthday on St John, USVI

St John Day 5-45 For me, this was the day I had been waiting for the entire cruise.  When Mo and I cruised in 2009, we ported in St Thomas and didn’t have enough time to take the ferry across a few miles of water to explore this magnificent island paradise.  I read about St John, and wanted to see the lovely land covered by forests and trails and surrounded by pristine beaches and pure white sand.

St John Day 5-3 Cruz Bay, located on the west coast of the island, is the largest commercial center and the location of the main port.  We heard later in the day that it is rare for a cruise ship of this size to actually port in Cruz Bay, with most cruise lines choosing the more commercial port of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. The population of the town is under 3,000 people, and while there are shops and restaurants, the island is much more celebrated for it’s beautiful beaches and national park.

Word of the Blues Cruise landing here had spread St John Day 5-5throughout the local islands, and many folks from the British Virgin Islands, and the US Virgin Islands were also on shore ready to jam with the musicians on our ship.  The St John department of tourism planned a full lineup of the local entertainment, cultural activities, and educational events to complement the arrival of such legendary performers.  My daughter knew of musicians in St Croix that made the trip especially to be part of the shoreline activities on this day.

It was Deb’s birthday, but I was the one with a particular agenda for this day.  No matter what we did later, I really wanted to spend some quality  time on a St John Beach.  With Trunk Bay being the most famous and listed somewhere as the second most beautiful beach in the world, I thought it would be a good choice.  However, most of the blues performances were across the island at Coral Bay, all the pubs filled with great music all day long.  The famous pubs there included Skinny Legs, Island Blues, and Shipwreck Landing, and the pub crawl was the order of the day. We compromised on a plan that included a taxi trip to Trunk Bay, possibly going on to Cinnamon Bay and ending the day at Coral Bay, taking the ship provided shuttle to return in time for the sail away.

St John Day 5-7The trip to shore was Deb’s first experience on a tender, and we were in line for an early departure from the ship so were on the first tender ashore.  In this case, the tender process required a visit to the Main Stage to get a tender ticket, and then on to the tender.  Deb went down there first and I was to follow immediately, but then realized that I had forgotten something, and had to run back to the cabin.  Another long walk before I discovered I was going toward the wrong end of the ship made for more confusion.  By the time I showed up at the Main Stage, they were calling my name and Deb was a bit distraught.  It ended well, and we still managed to get on shore in plenty of time to locate an open air taxi to Trunk Bay.

St John Day 5-20 At Trunk Bay, the magic of the Caribbean washed over us completely.  Deb rented chairs and an umbrella, and we walked down to the far quiet end of the beach to settle in for the morning.The air was warm, the skies were clear, and the water was translucent turquoise.  The seas were still a bit rough from previous storms, however, so the famous national park snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay was closed.  It would have been Deb’s first time with a snorkel, so we though better of trying to teach her the technique in choppy water, and instead filled our hours with swimming and floating and oohing and ahhing over the clarity and color of the water, the brilliance of that magic blue line between sea and sky, and the sound of palm fronds waving in the warm breezes. 

St John Day 5-23 If I were to think of a perfect vacation, it would include a week or so in a little house somewhere on this island, with time to explore every single one of it’s beaches and hike as many trails as possible that thread throughout the national park. I loved St John, and so did Deb.  The photos of her on this beach are some of my favorites of all time. What better way to spend a birthday than this!

As mid afternoon wore on, we thought it might be time to amble on to Coral Bay, so reluctantly packed up and found another taxi.  It seemed more reasonable to go back to Cruz Bay rather than try to get all the way around the island, so we did that with the encouragement of the taxi drivers.  Once back at Cruz Bay, the entertainment going on at Frank Powell Park sounded fun, and someone St John Day 5-42said, “Hey, the music here is better than anything at Coral Bay”.  That sounded fine to us, since we were tired and hungry and just wanted something good to eat and drink.  Wandering down the walks through town led us to a little open air restaurant along the bay with a view of sailboats and water and our ship around the corner.  We waited in the bar area for a seat, and a sweet looking man came up to us asking if we wanted lunch, and when we said yes, he led us to a big table for four right on the waterfront.  Laughing, he said, “ I am the owner, I can seat you anywhere I want!”

St John Day 5-84 I had a pina colada to die for, and we ordered some truly fabulous yummies for our late lunch.  Dang if I can even remember what I ate, but I remember Deb saying hers was the best she ever had, and I know mine was. Again, I am reminded of just how much I can lose about a trip if I don’t write about it while I am doing it.  As Erin reminded me recently, the goal is to have fun, not to write about it, so that is exactly what I did on this trip.  So I have no clue what we had for lunch, but I do remember feeling absolutely and wonderfully happy and a bit tipsy as well.  Perfect feeling for an afternoon on a tropical island, I think.

St John Day 5-92 We sat there for a long time watching the water, listening to the distant music, before we decided we had no need to go anywhere else except this sweet little town. We ambled around town a bit, and then back in a park somewhere Deb ran into a young man who was incredibly sweet and friendly, offering her a bit of rum and talking about his life on the island.  St John Day 5-105The flirtations were quite adorable, and safe, since her mom was with her and we were heading for the ship!  I laughed with them and felt like “mom”.  I was sure our sweet little guy had all sorts of ulterior motives, and  Deb decided that she wanted to quit her job and move to the USVI where everyone was cute and friendly.  Instead, we managed to return to the ship and to our cabin.

 St John Day 5-115 Once back on board, we had no need for supper and instead enjoyed the wild music sail away party on the back deck before going back to our cabin and dressing up for the evening.  It was Deb’s birthday, after all, so she wore one of her prettiest dresses and we went back upstairs to listen to more music, dance, and have birthday toasts.  Deb’s name was listed on the Daily Program with a few other birthdays, and a lovely chocolate cake was delivered to our stateroom. She also got several happy birthday coupons for spa treatments and such, but most of them including spending a fair amount of money, so she didn’t bother.

St John Day 5-149 A perfect ending for her birthday celebration was the ships Dessert Extravaganza on the Lido Deck at 11pm.  I have to say, I wasn’t that impressed with the artistry of the offerings at the Extravaganza.  I guess I may have been spoiled by the beauty of our formal buffet’s at sea with Celebrity, but Holland America seems to be lacking in the expression of true loveliness and creativity that used to be standard with these kinds of specialties. More sweets, more music, and I went back to the cabin to fall into a deep rocking sleep while Deb danced up on deck until who knows when.

Not a bad birthday for this first born child of mine.

The rest of the photos for our day on St John are located here.


January 25 Antigua

Blues Day 4 Antigua (6)

Today we port in St John’s, Antigua, largest of the British Leeward Islands, where Lord Horatio Nelson headquartered for his forays into the Caribbean to do battle with the French and pirates in the late 18th century.  Appropriately, the theme for the night is “Pirate Night”, with the highlight of the evening to be the Pirates Parade at 10:00 PM on the aft deck. 

Blues Day 4 Antigua (9) 

In the mean time, we have a beautiful sunny day to explore the island and soak up the sunshine.  With a mostly sunny forecast and a temperature of 77 degrees F, it couldn’t be any better.  I am excited about seeing this island, since I haven’t been here before, and it’s Deborah’s first landfall anywhere in the Caribbean.  There’s something really special about being around for a “first” like this with Deborah.  Her eyes light up and she gets excited in the way that a jaded traveler might not.  It’s like having the experience for the first time myself all over again. For some unknown reason,  Antigua was on one of Deb’s long time lists of places to see, and today we were going to be there.

0111 Blues Cruise 070

We had planned a room service breakfast the night before, so we could be on deck for the sail in.  Each day we ordered coffee and tea in our room and it was always delivered right on time.  The breakfast we had only once, and it was terribly bland and boring compared to the offerings upstairs, so we didn’t do that again. On this morning, however, the small sweet rolls and coffee were just enough. 

I love the morning arrivals, and we found our way to the 11th deck to watch the ship sail into the harbor, watching the landscape appear as we approached the dock.  The island looked green and beautiful in the warm morning light and before long, the captain announced that the ship was cleared and we could go onshore. 

0111 Blues Cruise 091 Blues Day 4 Antigua (13)

I thought that Antigua was small and simple enough to explore on our own, without being tied to the timing of a group tour from the ship.  Sometimes it makes things easier, but it really is a lot more fun to amble off the ship when we want to, and walk through town at our own pace, to see what we want and leave when we want.  It worked perfectly for us this morning, as a sweet woman met us coming off the dock with offers of hair braiding.  I know, I know, but it did sound like fun, and she really was a sweet lady.  In a moment, she led us to her outdoor salon and had Deb in her chair.  Deb has very curly hair and often wears hair bands, so the braids and beads looked perfect on her.  I somehow got pulled into the fun, and while braids and beads looked rather stupid on me, I was still glad I did it.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (12)Blues Day 4 Antigua (76) Jenny, our braid lady, was originally from Montserrat, but was run off the island a few years ago when the volcanic eruptions caused 80 percent of the islands population to leave.  I hadn’t realized that this famous volcanic island was so near to where we were traveling.  Jenny’s story was fascinating, as she discussed her 11 aunts who had to leave Montserrat and their home forever.  Living is expensive on Antigua, more so than it had been on Montserrat.  Jenny laughed with us throughout the morning and her sweet warm nature was a delight.  I was glad to pay to have my hair braided even if it looked a bit silly on me.  It was great for swimming at least, and Deborah looked gorgeous.  She might have to try to find a hair braider back in Portland!

Blues Day 4 Antigua (27) Blues Day 4 Antigua (29)

After our little island culture experience, we ambled up the streets of the town, outside the slick confines of the port area, the town was a bit shabby, and felt very real.  We found a shoe store where Deb bought a great pair of sandals cheaper than they would have been back in the US, and then perused the standard linen shop with all the embroidered tablecloths and runners, where we found a great runner for Deb.  ( I have plenty of such linens from my previous Caribbean voyage, so didn’t need more).  We talked to Jenny about getting around the island and she pointed out some of the tours offered up the street.  We found one that looked good, and for 20 bucks each, joined 4 other folks in an enclosed van that promised a trip over the island and commentary on island history with some stops along the way.

0111 Blues Cruise 104 Blues Day 4 Antigua (35)

The island is actually quite nondescript, not particularly scenic as Caribbean islands go in my opinion, but it was green and the air was spectacularly fresh.  Our guide Nathanial offered stories of the history of the island as we wound through the streets and neighborhoods and traveled to the central part to St Barnabus Anglican Church, established more than 250 years ago and is the oldest church on Antigua.  Continuing to the southern side of the island, we saw a lovely view of English Harbor and Eric Clapton’s big rehab house on the hill above the bay.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (56) Once on the south side of the island we had a misty view of the island of Montserrat on the horizon.  A low cloud obscured the top of the volcano, and it looked mystical and dangerous.The Soufrière Hills volcano on the island began erupting in 1995 after a long period of dormancy, and has been active ever since.  It destroyed the capital city of Plymouth and more than half the island is completely uninhabitable now.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (62) We had time to wander a bit on the beach before arriving back in St John’s and the ship.  We were a bit worn out from the day, and we needed some cash after spending most of what we had, so needed to return to the ship.  Once there, however, we found it too hard to get back off the ship and just decided to stay onboard and relax a bit before supper and another night of music an parties. 

Blues Day 4 Antigua (72)Pirate Night on the ship was great, with amazing, detailed pirate costumes paraded around the ship by a majority of the cruisers.  People who have done this cruise in the past are known for bringing a complete extra suitcase of simply costumes, although it isn’t as easy any more with all the baggage restrictions on the airline.

evening sail away from Antigua Eurodam flying the Jolly Roger for pirate night



Can you see the Jolly Roger flying on the aft deck as we sail away from Antigua?

0111 Blues Cruise 170

Another Sea Day and Costa Rica January 9 and 10

01_09_2 (2) We wakened at 7am to the clear fresh skies of the Pacific Ocean and another peaceful day at sea.  Up to the track to walk our morning mile, then down to the rear deck of the seaside cafe for an excellent breakfast.  Spent some time in the computer lab checking email, went to the theater for an interesting talk on the plants and animals of the rain forest, and spent the afternoon sunning and swimming.  Typical for a day at sea, and I barely remember the details.  The day just completely fell into the rhythm of eating, walking, reading, knitting, and just sitting in the sun.

01_10_Costa_rica (3) After a peaceful night at sea, Sunday morning dawned, our day in Costa Rica!  I looked forward so much to this part of the trip.  Mo has been to Costa Rica before, but for me this was just a little taste of a country I hope to visit more in depth.  We were in port by 7am, with the mountains misty and beautiful all around the bay.  We landed at Puntarenas, a small beach town/fishing village on a peninsula on the western coast.  The outing we chose stayed on the drier side of Costa Rica, in order to experience the more rural countryside instead of the hugely popular zip line/canopy tours in the rainforest. Costa Rica is a small country, just about the size of West Virginia but it has three mountain ranges and such an abundance of flora and fauna that almost one quarter of its total land is held as national parks or private reserves. Most Costa Ricans reside in the fertile agricultural plateau in the heart of the country, many near the capital city of San Jose.  We traveled in the western part of the country, the dry side (with only 120 inches of rainfall).

01_10_Costa_rica (11) The day was lovely, with a long bumpy bus ride through small towns and 01_10_Costa_rica (42)villages, on rough dirt roads.  We stopped at a small store and restaurant along the way for coffee and a visit with the wild macaws that live in the trees.  Only partially wild, since they were happy to be hand fed by the tourists while we took their picture. Since it was Sunday, there were people around, hanging out on porches, sweeping floors, leaning on brooms and shovels, and watching us watch them. 

01_10_Costa_rica (79) When we arrived at the Tempisque River, we boarded a long narrow wooden boat with our fellow tourists and the guide to see crocodiles and look for bird life.  It was a bit scary, since the wind was high and the river was wild and muddy.  The boat seemed entirely too small for the rough waves, especially with large crocodiles in the river!  When something appeared on shore, silly tourists were all rushing to one side of the boat or the other, tipping it precariously in the wind and waves.  I wasn’t at all sure that this boat was made for the number of people on it, especially dumb people, and especially in the wild winds! 

01_10_Costa_rica (85) We enjoyed the ride in spite of the scares, hearing howler monkeys, gorgeous birds, a brilliant roseate  spoonbill, huge iguanas, and a very big crocodile.  After we landed on shore, we were herded into brightly painted oxcarts and hauled across the open countryside to an animal reserve. The cattle in Costa Rica, in this part at least, are all brahmas, beautiful soft faced cows and bulls, with muted colors.  I think they were the prettiest cows I have ever seen.  At the reserve, we saw many rescued animals, ocelots, monkeys, toucans, tapirs, peccaries, and some very huge crocodiles.  Our lunch was typical Costa Rican food, beans and rice and wild tasting but good chicken. 

01_10b_Costa_rica (49)On the  way back to the ship, we had hoped to shop for some Costa Rican coffee, but since it was Sunday, all the shops were closed.  We arrived in Puntarenas at sunset for boarding our ship and sailing out of the harbor.  Beautiful.  I would truly love to spend some more time in this country.  The day trips from a cruise ship are such a tiny taste of what is part of a magical, tropical country.

The rest of the photos of our day in Costa Rica are here.