Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Wednesday, Mar 28 2018 

Another sea day. An opportunity to process my photographs and develop a narrative for my blog. We also anticipated our next port by attending Julio Delgado’s “Destination Presentation: Puerto Vallarta.” The “Enrichment Lecture: Ocean Travel – Then, Now & Tomorrow” by Angela Kelly was quite interesting. She briefly traced the history of cruising and offered visions of the future by telling about projects currently underway. We watched the Afternoon Movie, American Made, based on a true story that featured a daredevil airplane pilot who got caught up in secret CIA operations in Central America, including the Contras in Nicaragua.

Another sea day. We attended Julio Delgado’s final “Destination Presentation: Los Angeles.” Interesting information about a city I have yet to explore. Later in the morning we attended a “Get Surreal Art Seminar” on Destinos, a collaboration between Salvadore Dali and Walt Disney in 1945 that was not completed until Walt’s nephew discovered the storyboards in the Disney archives. In 2003, he produced an animated short film using originally recorded music. This short was nominated for an Academy Award. In the afternoon I finished reading Perla. This well written novel was an excellent choice while visiting Latin America. The evening entertainment featured a juggler, Steve Rawlings, on the Princess Theater stage. His final act involved balancing an upside-down wine bottle on his chin that held a tray, three wine glasses, and another bottle of wine while juggling three lighted torches. Amazing!

Puerto Vallarta's Seahorse

Puerto Vallarta’s Seahorse

We arrived in Puerto Vallarta mid-morning which gave us an opportunity to watch the docking procedure. From our starboard balcony we had a view of Marina Vallarta, filled with yachts. We were disappointed in our city tour because of its emphasis on shopping. We had a brief stop on the mile-long Malecón walkway where we saw the famous Seahorse statue by artist Rafael Zamarripa, the iconic symbol of Puerto Vallarta. We would have liked time to walk on the Malecón and more fully appreciate the coastline of beautiful Banderas Bay. A short walk with a bathroom stop at City Hall was followed by visiting the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe with its neoclassical design reminiscent of European baroque cathedrals. Then we were shown the hillside site of Elizabeth Taylor’s former home. A short bus ride took us into Old Town, known as Viejo Vallarta and our first shopping stop at Avilez Jewelry selling beautiful silver while offering margaritas, beer, or water. It was interesting to overhear the sales pitches. This was followed by another stop at a shop selling Mexican handicrafts and curios. Back on the bus, we drove by Cuale Island, shaded by tropical trees. Near there John Huston directed Night of the Iguana. Our next stop was at El Set, a cliff-top restaurant with great views of the Bay of Banderas. We ordered a margarita and enjoyed the view. Our next stop was a family-operated Tequila Distillery located on the banks of the Mismaloya River. We sampled their tequilas but didn’t make a purchase. Our final stop was in El Pitillal, the neighborhood where our tour guide grew up and where he now lives. The church, only 25 years old, features a remarkable wood statue of the risen Christ. Six years ago we visited this city for two days. One day we went horse back riding before snorkeling. The second day we visited at least two tequila distilleries.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua Outing Monday, Mar 26 2018 

Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho Volcano

We appreciated the professional navigation of our tender captain who safely guided us through moderate waves to San Juan del Sur. There we joined an excursion that introduced us to Nicaragua. Our first stop was at Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake, a massive, oval-shaped body of water situated in the central southern part of the country. Surprisingly, Lake Nicaragua, despite being a freshwater lake, harbors sharks. The outline of two volcanos could be seen through the clouds in the distance.

Our next stop was in Caterina on one of the highest hills surrounding the Apoyo Lagoon, the crater of a dormant volcano. We could see the whole lagoon, 8 kilometers in diameter, and the Mombacho volcano. This deep lagoon has a depth of 656. Market shops, of course, lined the street near the overlook.

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano

Masaya National Park, Nicaragua’s first (1979) and largest national park, contains the still-active Masaya Volcano. Eruptions were once believed by the indigenous people to be signs of anger from the gods, and sacrifices were made to appease them. The Spanish Conquerors dubbed it the “mouth of hell” and erected a cross on the crater in the 16th century to exorcise the devil. For health reasons, guests are limited to 10-15 minutes of viewing. Billowing smoke affected my snapshots.

We enjoyed a buffet lunch in the picturesque colonial city of Granada, situated on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. It was founded in 1524 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. Its rich architectural and cultural heritage is showcased in its quaint churches, brightly painted structures, and elegant squares. It was a two-hour bus ride back to San Juan del Sur. The tender ride back to the ship was on smoother waters than the morning trip.

After returning to the ship and eating dinner, we enjoyed the magic and comedy of Michael Miso. He did some amazing tricks with a rope.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica Outing Sunday, Mar 25 2018 

Another sea day and another Julio Delgado “Destination Presentation: Puntarenas.” It was interesting to see his pictures of San Jose, Costa Rica and remember our trip there nine years ago. Cruising offers the traveler a room with a view, outstanding cuisine, and entertainment variety. Getting to know a country, however, is generally superficial. One can only get a taste of a country in a one day stop. Nine years ago, we learned much more about the country on a tour with only five people for more than a week.

Angela Kelly’s “Enrichment Lecture: South America” highlighted quick facts about each country and pictured scenic spots not covered in this cruise. We need to return to South America because there is more to see and do. An early dinner allowed us to grab good seats (45 minutes before the show) for Donny Ray Evins “Unchained, R&B, and Soul.” He has a deep, resonant voice and engaging chatter about the greats in these genres. It was difficult, however, to understand why he sweated so profusely. At 1 a.m. it became official: We crossed the equator by ship!

Fruit & Vegetable Bird

Fruit & Vegetable Bird

Before our excursion in two days, we attended Julio Delgado’s “Destination Presentation: San Juan Del Sur.” A little later we went to the Piazza, the ship’s central atrium, for a fruit and vegetable carving by the ship’s two master carvers. Within 45 minutes, Sandy and Luis completed five carvings: a cat, fish, bird, monkey, and two penguins. We attended the “Production Show: What a Swell Party” featuring the Emerald Princess singers and dancers for the second time on this cruise. It was better this time. We then made our way to the Explorers Lounge for “Dixieland Tribute Showtime“ with Musical Director Dan and the Emerald Princess Orchestra performing jazz, blues, and Dixie.

Tarcoles River

Grande de Tarcoles River

In Puntarenas we entered one of three smaller tour buses (19 passengers) for a one-hour drive to Orotina. After twenty minutes our bus pulled over so our guide could confer with another guide and by telephone communication to determine whether the tour would take place. Although there was a fire producing smoke near our destination, the decision was made to go on with the tour. We were not bothered by smoke. Our destination was the Turu Ba Ri (“Bright Moon River” in the Huetar dialect) Eco Park. The 538 acres park is nestled between the banks of the Grande de Tarcoles River on the northeast and the Turrubares hills and Carara National Park to the southeast. It has a sugar mill; and traditional plantations such as coffee, sugar cane, plantain, annatto, noni, cinnamon, lemon grass, oregano, papaya, habanero peppers, and others; a butterfly garden; rainforest trails; orchid, cactus and bromeliads gardens. From the aerial tram to our lunch spot, we had spectacular views of the Turrubares River.

On our return we made a quick stop in our stateroom before leaving the ship to walk along the ocean in Puntarenas. There were some interesting opportunities to frame the ship, including a crocodile sand figure. I was quickly informed that this was a local’s money-making opportunity. Additionally, the sidewalk was lined with market stalls.

A major component of a cruise is food. Because of our cabin, a mini-suite, we qualify for Club dining. This is a special dining room with only the best wait staff and special meal choices in addition to the regular daily menu. For example, last night the special was surf and turf, two lobster tails atop a 6-ounce filet mignon with a mix of vegetables including a half tomato cut with a special shape and covered with a special sauce. I prefaced this entre with a Caesar salad topped with anchovies and finished my dinner with a mango sorbet. This morning we had a diced fruit cocktail followed by two eggs and steak with a side of mushrooms and drank a glass of orange juice and sipped Earl Grey tea. For lunch, a lobster crepe. Every meal is worthy of a photo, and should be followed by exercise.

Our day ended after we attended Alison Ward’s “A Night of Divas” show. She exhibits enthusiasm, confirms her status as a “Chatty Kathy,” and stands tall at 5 feet eleven plus high heels and lots of hair.

Lima, Peru Wednesday, Mar 21 2018 

Cathedral of Lima Altar

Cathedral of Lima Altar

Eight years ago, we flew to Lima to join a tour with 21 participants that made its way to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. On that trip we remember visiting the Cathedral of Lima for a short visit that included seeing the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s sepulcher and eating lunch at a nice restaurant. On this visit our tour group tallied 39 members and was one of eight from the Emerald Princess leaving from the port city of Callao for a full day in Lima. Once again, our first stop was the Cathedral of Lima but with more time to explore the chapels in addition to Pizarro’s tomb. Then we took a short walk to the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, the oldest church and convent in Lima. We learned about two local saints, Saint Martin de Porres and Saint Rose. The statue of Saint Martin features a broom which symbolizes his humility. The story is told that he saved the lives of rats by feeding them which kept them from pillaging. The statue of Saint Rose includes an anchor because she provides security. Our visit included seeing the library. We learned that Lima is called the “City of the Kings” because its founding dates to January 6th, 1535, the Feast of the Epiphany.

With a metropolitan population approaching 10 million, Lima is the fifth largest city in Latin America, boasting one of the region’s largest financial hubs. Our next stop was the Gold Museum. Local businessman and art lover, Miguel Mujica Gallo, collected some 20,000 different items of Incan gold. I liked the drinking cups, gold masks, and ceremonial knives called tumi. I respected the mummies on display by not taking pictures.

Parque del Amor

Parque del Amor

A local restaurant served 300 guests from the Emerald Princess with space for more. We partook in three appetizers and three main courses washed down with a strong Pisco sour and an Inca cola. After lunch we stopped at the Parque del Amor located in the exclusive district of Miraflores. We wandered through the love-themed gardens and sculptures, admired the mosaic tiles and enjoyed breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Our final stop was at the Indian Market bustling with stalls of traditional Peruvian knitwear, silver, weavings, ceramics, and miscellaneous trinkets. The vendors in this huge, colorful market were more laid back than those in China or Turkey. On our return trip to the ship we traveled next to the Pacific Ocean. The steep hillside is covered with netting to reduce damage from earthquakes.

On our reentry to the ship a woman and her husband were leaving with a small of piece of luggage. Some people were leaving the ship for a hotel room in Lima, so they could more fully participate in the excellent restaurants and night life. Another option a couple that we had shared a meal with in our dining room chose was an evening excursion to a local restaurant. With 100 people from the ship, however, it was not too intimate. Yesterday morning our ship left the port of Callao. It was interesting to watch the maneuvering necessary to guide this huge ship back into the ocean waters. We spent the afternoon exercising and relaxing. We went to the Crown Grill for another special dinner. I have pictures to document the outstanding presentation of our four-course meal. We enjoyed the humor of Canadian comedian Scott Harris in the Princess Theater. His rapid fir jokes about being old fit the crowd. We’re beginning to count down the days when we must leave this life.

Tambo Colorado, Peru Tuesday, Mar 20 2018 

On our first of two sea days, we attended Julio Delgado’s latest “Destination Presentation: San Martin.” This gentleman is seriously funny. In the afternoon, I continued reading my current novel in our stateroom, enjoying the cloud covered skies and calm sea as we make our way north to Peru. After an early dinner, we drank a glass of Champagne while watching couples get their picture taken pouring Champagne over a pyramid of glasses in the Piazza. However, when we tried to find seats in the Princess Theater fifteen minutes before the evening entertainment performance, we discovered that is not early enough. There are only 800 seats for more than 3,000 guests. We retired early and dutifully turned our clocks back one hour.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! On the second of our sea days before arriving in Peru, we rose early enough to catch a red sliver of sun silhouetted between the sea and clouds. The temperatures are warmer than earlier days. We attended Julio Delgado’s “Destination Presentation: Callao” which also included Lima, Peru. We have an all-day excursion scheduled but were under the impression after his talk that we were in port for two days. We checked with the Tour Desk and learned that we will leave Callao early on the second day so no second excursion. Later in the morning we attended Angela Kelly’s “Enrichment Lecture: Darwin’s Discoveries,” how a voyage to the Galapagos shocked the Victorians. After lunch I attended a “New Cruisers Event” hoping for a raffle prize. Alas, folks next to me and behind me won. We took advantage of our travel agency’s gift of specialty dining in the Crown Grill for an exquisite experience. I finished my book and started a new one by the same author, Perla.

Tambo Colorado

Tambo Colorado

Upon arrival in San Martin, Peru, we joined our excursion to Tambo Colorado. The immediate surrounding of the ship was desolate desert. After we passed the nearby city of Pisco and a muddy river flowing from the Andes with the same name, we observed a variety of agriculture fields: grapes from whence Pisco brandy is distilled, corn, cotton, potatoes, and asparagus. Strategically positioned between the Pacific Coast and the mouth of the Pisco River, the Tambo Colorado archaeological site is considered one of the best-preserved adobe ruins in Peru. Pachacutec, the ninth Inca ruler, is said to have constructed this structure around 1440. The fortress features a wide platform, dwellings, offices, storehouses, and rows of barracks. It was interesting to explore this labyrinth site. It’s not Machu Picchu, but it got us off the ship. The boat excursion to Islas Ballestas, called the “Galapagos of Peru,” was canceled because of bad sea conditions.

The temperature was warmer than previous days. In fact, many people were complaining about how hot it was. Because I have now experienced Phoenix heat, I thought it was quite pleasant. I wandered the upper decks of the ship as we set sail. After dinner we headed to the Explorers Lounge where Dan Delgado performed a half hour show with the ship’s band. He is a talented singer and trumpeter. It could have been longer.

Coquimbo & La Serena, Chile Friday, Mar 16 2018 

Third Millennial Cross

Third Millennial Cross

We woke up yesterday with a beautiful view of Coquimbo, which means “calm waters.” We had a great view of the distinctive Third Millennial Cross. Standing atop a hill at 93 meters high, we learned that it is the largest in South America. On our next visit we should take advantage of its panoramic view, 15 life-size stations of the cross, and museum. During our tour and later during our walk, we had views of the Mohammed VI Mosque. It’s a scale replica of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. A previous mayor built it to celebrate the diversity of religion although there are only about 20 Muslim families in the area. That mayor also envisioned building a synagogue but that hasn’t materialized to date. Our excursion’s first stop was in Totoralillo, a small peninsula with white sand beaches. I admired two of its four interesting sculptures “Maternidad” and “Hombre Ingles.”

La Serena Lighthouse

La Serena Lighthouse

From there we passed by classic colonial buildings and contemporary hotels for a stop at La Serena’s landmark lighthouse. Chile’s second oldest metropolis lives up to its name, “The Serene.” The city was founded in the mid-16th century by Juan Bohon, a Spanish captain and the governor of Santiago. Soon after, silver was discovered in the area, fueling an economic boom that attracted people from all over South America. The local indigenous people, the Diaguita, were known as walking farmers, moving from the coast to the mountains depending on which climate would give them the best agricultural results. Pottery inspired by the Diaguita culture could be seen during our stop at the historic La Recova Market. This indoor market houses almost 150 artisan stalls and spills into a plaza with spouting water. Our tour concluded with a visit to an observation point on a campus of La Serena University for panoramic views of La Serena, Coquimbo and the Pacific Ocean. When we signed up for this tour, it was to include a tour of the Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately, this museum is temporarily closed for remodeling. Maybe next time.

After a quick lunch aboard the ship, we walked along the Ave Francisco de Aguirre which parallels the coastline. We took in the sights (and smells) of the Fish market. On our return we crossed the street and walked through the market filled with stands offering fresh vegetables as well as clothing and cleaning supplies. We took a detour that allowed us to visit a four-story shopping mall. The outside wall had a section with plants. We had seen this in some previous stops, but this was the first time close-up. We visited a large tent filled with local wines where we purchased a Chilean pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon.

Last night’s entertainment was a performance by Dan Delgado who plays the trumpet as well as sings. He was excellent in both mediums. The entertainment on this cruise involves individual performers who are onboard for a few days as well as bigger productions by the resident singers and dancers.

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