Sunday 31 January 2016

Costa Maya, Mexico

Oh no, it's another one of those Disney style resorts. We are on the coast of Mexico and parked up next to a pier that leads to a fantasy style resort.
It was the same as a couple of days ago with expensive shops, souvenirs and cocktails.
It was also difficult to leave, but again very pretty so we just had a wander around.
They had a show where four men sit on the edge of a high platform while a fifth stays on the top playing a flute type instrument.
All of a sudden the flute player makes the top revolve and the other four lean over backwards and just let go. Fortunately, they have a rope wrapped around one leg and they slowly twirl down to the ground. Very entertaining, although I don't fancy giving it a go.
After all of the excitement of Guatemala it's good to have a lazy day, so I am just heading off to a deck chair.

Great time in Guatemala

A few days ago we went to the ship's lecture about Santo Tomas de Castilla, the port that we would be visiting in Guatemala. Usually the talks are very detailed, not this time though, as no one on board had ever been here before.
It turns out that it is in a very isolated area, and few cruise ships, or any other tourists reach it.
We headed out straight after breakfast, and joined a trip on a little boat called the Happy Fish, crewed by local people.
Our first stop was completely unscheduled, as we were suddenly surrounded by a group of dolphins that were hunting close to the shore. Not a great photo, but you couldn't guess where they were going to pop up.
Next we came across children from a fishing village who paddled out to show us their catch of the day. It was a Saturday so they weren't at school, and next to them were the men of the village fishing with a big net.
It is no exaggeration to say that the whole place was teeming with wildlife, and while the men fished, a group of egrets perched on their boat.
Eventually, we passed the town of Livingston, which can only be reached by boat. The town was founded by escaped slaves, many of whose descendents still live there today.
We sailed past it and up the Rio Dulce, marvelling at all of the birds and watching the locals in their canoes. We then reached an area full of waterlilies where manatees live, but we weren't lucky enough to see any.
Afterwards we stopped at a hot water spring that was the temperature of bathwater, before visiting a village that is home to a large boarding school. The school is run by a charity that enables local children to get an education, and they were all very friendly, although pretty shy.
Finally, we headed back to Livingston for a lunch of chicken, rice and beans at the Happy Fish restaurant.
Fantastic day, the definite highlight of the cruise so far.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Not really Honduras

Today we docked at a little island off the Honduran coast called Roatan. We arrived at a village that was a bit like a film set. It was very pretty, and the whole place had been created for visiting cruise ships.
It had cute buildings, fountains, bars, restaurants, and a beach with lots of sunbeds. It even had a chair lift that took guests from the dock, over a little area of rain forest and right on to the beach.
I can't really say though that we visited Honduras, especially as none of the rest of the country would be in the slightest bit like this place.
It was very nice though, in a clean and sanitised way.
Picture one is the entrance to the man made beach and number two is of a beach opposite the ship that wasn't part of the designated area.  The third is a humming bird that briefly sat still long enough for me to zoom in and take the shot.

Del Monte bananas

Whilst in Costa Rica we also went to visit a banana plantation. It cost a dollar to look around and we were given a Del Monte sticker to prove that we had paid.
The huge banana plants surrounded us, probably for miles in each direction and each giant finger of bananas was wrapped in a blue bag to protect it.
There was a pully system among the plants and workers were cutting down the fingers, putting them on hooks and then pulling them in long trains to the packing station.
There they were broken up into bunches and put into big tanks of water. They made their way slowly along the tank and workers pulled them out, then put them onto trays on a conveyor belt.
The bananas were then sent along and each bunch was given a Del Monte sticker. Finally they were packed into boxes and were then ready to be transported all over the world.
We watched for quite a while and the pace was relentless. The work was heavy and tiring, although our guide said that they were well paid, which I hope is true.
Afterwards we drove a couple of miles to a roadside fruit stall. All along the front were fingers of bananas and our guide told us to just help ourselves. Also, everyone who came to the stall grabbed a banana and ate them while they were buying the other fruits. I assume that they were all Del Monte rejects, and were just given away, but they tasted amazing - warm, ripe and super sweet.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Baby sloth in Costa Rica

A couple of days have passed since my Cartagena blog, and today we are in Costa Rica. We are taking a little river cruise near Puerto Limon.
It is actually very hot but we are dressed to avoid getting bitten, although it turns out that we didn't need to worry.
We are on a little boat with a few other passengers, and a local guide and driver. They have eagle eyes and spot loads of wildlife all around us.
We saw howler monkeys dangling from the trees by their tails, kingfishers, giant iguanas and a green lizard that is commonly called the Jesus Christ lizard - pic 3. That is because it can apparently run so fast that it can run on the water from one bank to the other. We didn't see that today as it just sat on a branch right next to the boat and ignored us, so I can't confirm if it's true.
We saw a few sloths high up in the branches, but they didn't move and just looked like a scruffy bundle of fluff in my photos.
Then after an hour long meander along the river we were almost back to the jetty, when the driver suddenly stopped and pointed to what at first looked just like the roots of a tree.
Nothing happened for a few minutes but then it started to move and we could see a female sloth, who had come down to the river to go to the toilet!  After she had finished she slowly, slowly moved, and we could see that she had a baby wrapped around her middle.
She carefully climbed on to the lowest branch and then made her way back to the trunk. I don't know if that is a rare sight, but it certainly felt very special to us.
Our guide told us that it was a three toed sloth and you can see that in the photos. They aren't very keen on washing and the rainy season has just ended, so this sloth is covered in green lichen and all sorts of bugs.
The sloths have realised that few of their predators live near humans, so they are often found very near to villages and are thriving, albeit in a very laid back manner.

Colours of Cartagena, Columbia

Bogota is the capital of Columbia, but most tourists visit the seaside city of Cartagena. We went on a bus trip from the ship today, and so we learnt lots of facts and figures.
The Colombian flag is very colourful and the yellow is for the huge amount of gold that has been found in the country. Blue is for the sea, and red for all the blood that has been shed by the Colombian people over many years.
I met a patriotic macaw and his friend, who joined me for a photo opportunity.
As we were on a bus trip there was a stop buy souvenirs and a musical performance. The dancers were lovely and put on a very lively display.
We sat on the front row and I was hoping that one of the ladies would ask Darren up to dance, but fortunately for him, they didn't include audience participation.

Saturday 23 January 2016


Aruba is one of the ABC islands. We visited the C - Curacao - yesterday, missed out the B which is Bonaire, and arrived today at the A.
Aruba is a fairly small island, but it has a seven mile stretch of white sand beach.
We walked from our ship and joined it at one end, just as a pelican splashed right down in the sea beside us. It was fishing for an early lunch and kept flying up into the sky, then diving straight down to catch little fish.
We carried on walking through an expensive resort, then got to a quiet stretch of sand to set up our camp.
There was a strong breeze blowing that whipped up the waves, and turned our suntan lotion very crunchy, but a very lovely morning.

Friday 22 January 2016


Arrived nice and early for a full day in Curacao. The captain's first task was to wait for the floating pontoon bridge to slide open, and then to dock just beyond it. It looks quite easy in the photos, but there was a gale blowing sideways, and I think it was a bit of a challenge.
I noticed the other day that there was a big dint near the front of the ship, so there must have been a bit of a collision some time ago.
We caught an air conditioned bus - no windows so very blowy - for a guided tour of the island. Curacao is near to the south American coast and is very dry, with lots of giant cactus and spiky bushes.
We were told about the 'chickens in the trees' which are actually iguanas that climb to the top branches and bake in the sun. We found a few that were very well camouflaged. Local people eat them and apparently they taste like chicken.
Finally, Curacao is a Dutch island and it has lots of beautiful old Dutch style buildings. However, there is a Caribbean twist - they are all brightly painted in pastel colours.

St Lucia and a sea day

Yesterday our ship spent the day in St Lucia, and we spent our morning alternately sunbathing and sheltering from tropical rainstorms on the deck.
We headed into Castries, the main town in the afternoon, and stopped at the statue of Derek Walcott. He is a St Lucian who won the Nobel prize for literature in the early 1990's.
Also note my new folding sunhat.
Today we are at sea so I thought that I would say a bit about our cabin. We have an inside one which means that it is basically a big box.
In the place where you would usually find a window we have a mirror, and we have no way of telling night from day (although obviously I can find out by looking at my watch).
To give the impression of dawn breaking, Daz has bought us a sunrise alarm clock and we set it every evening. This morning the real sun rose at 6.38 am, and our electric sun rose at the same time.
If we leap out of bed quick enough we can make it up onto the deck to catch the first rays. Pic three is one I took a few days ago, as the novelty is wearing off now.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Antiguan beach life

Armed with our swimming costumes we set off to walk to the nearest beach. I thought that the ship's information leaflet said that the beach was about a mile away, but by the time we got there it was more like three.
Still, it was good exercise and arriving hot and sweaty is a great reason to just get straight in.
The beach was surprisingly quiet, so maybe the other passengers had read the leaflet more carefully and had caught one of the very many taxis to one of the more well known beaches.
Fantastic news for us as we had the beach almost to ourselves, apart from the guy offering horse rides through the waves.
Interesting fact of the day - Antigua is roughly circular in shape and only 12 miles in diameter, but it has 365 beaches. How fantastic!

Arriving in Antigua

We arrived at the harbour of St John's just as the sun was rising. A pilot boat shepherded us in and the captain slowly edged us into our dock for the day.
Look closely at picture two and our ship fills the whole left hand side, with the captain's lookout about halfway up the photo.
We totally tower above the town, but just along side us is a much bigger German cruise ship that is covered with balconies. They won't be getting too much sun today.
Fortunately, all of this metal hasn't frightened off the frigate birds who circle the ship at deck 13 level.
Right on time the steel band set up and start playing just as the first passengers start to disembark.
We are a bit more laid back and are going for breakfast before starting our day.

Monday 18 January 2016


What a lovely welcome in French speaking Guadeloupe! We left the ship and immediately heard a Caribbean band, then a hugely friendly lady at the information office gave us a free hat and map.
As we walked around the town we saw lots of ladies and children dressed in exactly the same material, so we felt right at home.
Daz also had a lovely time sampling and buying mango and passion fruit flavoured rum in the town centre market. The rum bottles also had little hats made of the bright tartan fabric.
Later we went out to sample the local rum in a bar, just as a band started playing. We stayed for a happy while and then headed back to the ship, past some brilliant murals.
Ps, apparently there are also great beaches in Guadeloupe but we didn't quite get around to finding them.