In January I took a ten day cruise with my best friend/college roommate of forty years ago.
Holland America has its own private island. I have been there before, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but it is a good first day to decompress from life. Warm, turquoise water. Soft Australian sand.
Aruba was beautiful, but I didn’t see much of the island as we took a sailboat to a reef to snorkel. That was fabulous! So many beautiful, colorful fish. We snorkeled over a shipwreck, which was cool, but also cold as the water was deeper, and the current was stronger. I am glad to have done it, but once was enough.
In Curaçao, I visited an herbal garden and folkloric dance show. It was underwhelming, but I still enjoyed it. I bought some moringa oil to try. We also visited the Chichi factory, a tourist trap. The traffic getting back to the ship was horrible. But we did get a chance to walk across the swinging bridge to the older part of town. I had been there when I was sixteen, 46 years ago, and at least that part hadn’t changed at all.
The architecture is gingerbread ornate, but it works surprisingly well here. It is a UNESCO heritage site, so quite pricy but protected. I remember the bells playing on my first visit, but they seem to be broken now. The tall bridge in the back is the traffic jam from above. Nice to have a way around, but quite the bottleneck.
The main reason I wanted to do this cruise was the Panama Canal, and it did not disappoint. We arrived at O’dark thirty, but by the time we lined up for the locks it was light. We started on the bow deck, but moved to the side and back to experience different aspects. It is a prolonged process. This was an “in and out” cruise, not a full transit, but we still got to see three locks.
We tendered off the ship to experience Panama. My friend went to a museum in Panama City while I went to an old Spanish fort. They had to protect the gold leaving the new world from pirates. It was a very rainy day, but it cooperated and only rained hard while we were in the bus. They recommended we wear raincoats, but at that temperature it was like a sauna. I would prefer to get wet! We saw white faced monkeys in the trees.
We went by the “new canal” with wider locks. The ship going through just barely fit, it was mammoth! They use tugboats instead of the little trains on the old canal that we went through. I will admit it is an odd sensation to watch your ship sailing away without you. But I got to see it going back through the canals. Never fear they come to pick you up in Colon.
Not much to say about Colon, it is an armpit of a destination.
In Puerto Limon, Costa Rica I took the Tortuguero canal trip. We saw herons, sloths, tiny bats lined up six feet away, toucans and poison dart frogs. That was all in the wild. Then we took a very long bus ride up to a rainforest preserve that had a snake house, frog house, and butterfly enclosure. They have an aerial tram that takes you down to a waterfall walk. Nice to see the top of the canopy. My friend went ziplining and had a blast, but heights are not my thing.
We had an extra day in Fort Lauderdale so we drove down to the Everglades. As a westerner it is difficult to appreciate such a flat landscape where a matter of inches in elevation can make a vast difference in biomes. But it was fun.
We also visited Key Biscayne. I enjoyed the drive and lighthouse, but again, “Where are the waves?” Too quiet on the beach. We stayed in the Light Haven motel, which was kitschy and retro. I had a key lime pie in honor of my father on the anniversary of his death. I would have liked to have been there to support my mom, but both her and dad would rather see me out there enjoying travel.