March 31, 2002
Will we EVER get to the ship?...
Jim drove us to airport two hours early. We didn't want to stress and rush through all the new security procedures. We checked the monitors at the airport to see that our flight was showing "on time"! Great! I was worried because we only had about and hour and forty five minutes lay over in Dallas. However, the next time I checked, there was an hour and twenty minute delay! Mom thought I was doing an early April Fool's Day joke when I told her! They assured us this would also change the take off of our Dallas to Santiago flight. There was a bad rain, thunder lightening, hail storm in Dallas that shut down the airport for a while. We had a nice flight and landed safely in Dallas surrounded by flashes of lightening and rain. We stopped short of the gate and were told they shut down everything because of lightening and that it would be too dangerous for the ground crew to bring us to the gate.
We sat in the plane for over and hour waiting for the lightening to let up. When we were finally able to get off the plane and run to the gate of our Santiago flight. They said they would most likely cancel the flight for the night. So we waited for about an hour and a half . As soon as they opened up everything , they rushed us on the plane and we all crossed our fingers that we would get off the ground in time before they shut it down again! Once in the plane we had a very nice flight. The Boeing 777 is a beautiful comfortable plane. We had a nice hot meal and one again for breakfast. But we were both exhausted. I just have a real problem trying to sleep on planes.
When we landed in Santiago we had to wait in a line for over an hour to pay the mandatory tourist tax, $65.00 cash each. Then go to another line for an hour to immigration to have our passport checked. Then out to the Celebrity bus which was waiting for us in front of the airport. I thought that Santiago from the air looked a lot like Eastern Washington, but with palm trees here and there.
We had a relaxing bus ride , 2 1/2 hours to Valparaiso on the coast. It was interesting to see the countryside. We passed through a valley with a lot of vineyards. They said Chilean wines from this valley are very well known and popular, but only made for export. It was Easter Sunday, so they were closed. We were taken to a nice horse racing track where we were taken to a pretty room with places to sit at tables and have refreshments while waiting for our number to called for processing. I thought this was a very pleasant way to do it, instead of waiting in a long line in the sun somewhere at the port. It didn't take too long. Then we all got back I the same bus and had a short ride to the ship. We were so glad to finally see our cabin! I was so relieved that we didn't miss the ship! It was 4 pm. when we boarded. Mom laid down for a while, then we dressed and went to the Easter Mass in the Celebrity Theatre. I had a hard time staying awake. We went to dinner and met our table mates and had our first dinner. When we were finally able to go to bed, I felt like I had never been so tired in my life!
We two nice relaxing sea days. It was warm, but not hot. Warm enough to lay out in the sun and swim. We had the first of our three formal nights. We got an invitation to dine at the Captain's table which we of course excepted. Joyce Adamidis, the Captain's wife, and her parents, Joyce's lady friend, a nice gentleman from Brazil, two nice couples, one from Germany and one from San Francisco. It was a very nice dinner with good company. The next night we were told we were to be moved to a different table, than the one we had the first night on board. Unfortunately we ran into our table mates from the first night, and they thought we asked to move! I am so glad we were able to clear it up. We would never have asked to move! We really enjoyed their company. Our new table was next to the Captain's table in the middle of the dining room by the big back windows. Very nice view from there of the whole dining room. We had nice tablemates here as well. An older retired black couple, two gay men and one of the men's sister and her husband. We thought the two Gay men were a couple, but learned later that they were just friends :) We had fantastic waiters! The best ever I think.
I thought the food was excellent and never had a problem with any of my many meals on this long cruise. I do have to say that the lettice many times was brown and wilted, but I always ordered the soup, that was excellent. The fruit was great at the beginning of the cruise, but was progressively worse as the cruise went along. I think it was just a matter of not being able to get fresh supplies. I really enjoyed the homemade Sherbet they made fresh on the ship.
It started off a little overcast, as it did in many of our ports, but soon the sun came out and it was a nice . About 80 degrees with a nice breeze. We took the shuttle that was provided for us to get us to the gate at the entrance to the port. It was just though the park to the main square and the church. An easy five minute walk. We found this town to be very charming and the people to be polite and friendly. If you didn't want to buy something, it was no problem they didn't harass you or act mad when you said no thank you. It was a pleasure. I think some folks in the Caribbean can learn a lesson form these vendors. It made we want to buy more, not run away. We got some fantastic deals on Alpaca throws and Alpaca wool rugs. I also got a very nice watercolor from a local artist that I will treasure. There were not many people here that spoke English, so it was somewhat of a challenge. Just to tell them , "yes, I would like to buy it". After spending time in the church, we walked a few blocks past the square and got a couple of the best ice cream cones in the world! One dollor each. A man on the street heard me tell my Mother, that I would love an ice cream cone. He recommended this place. He said they make all their ice cream homemade.
We docked at a port outside of Lima, Peru. We were not sure what we would do at this port. Non of the excursions sounded interesting to us here. We left the ship to catch a cab, and learned there would be 30-50 minute wait for a taxi! I was shocked. Usually there are more taxis than passengers to take them. He told us there was a free bus taking people to the Miraflores area, which is where we had planned to take the taxi! There was some information in our nightly ship newspaper about the area and it sounded like a nice tourist area by the beach. The bus drove us though a very rough area of town! I would never walk around here. We drove quite a distance. We were dropped off at the Marriott Hotel Very beautiful hotel and Casino. Mom and tried out the slot machines, and each won about $20.00. There was a park and shopping mall across the street. We took our lives in our hands crossing the street! There are no crosswalks or lights there to stop traffic. The shops there were very American and not really what we came to S. America for. Subway Sandwiches, Radio Shack, etc. There was a Senior Frogs. We saw a nice restaurant with outside eating area overlooking the ocean, called "Mango's". We were up on a high ridge overlooking the road and beach below. I was disappointed in the beach here. Everyone said the water was too polluted to swim. The beach was rocky and the water looked brown and smelled bad :( Mom and I had a very relaxing lunch. Once again, I wished I remembered more Spanish from Junior High School. The waiter didn't speak ANY English! Mom wanted to try a Sangria. We ordered two drinks, a Shrimp and Rice dish and Prawns coated in some sort of a chopped nuts. It was delicious but we were shocked that we accidentally ordered a pitcher of Sangria, not a glass! We tried our best to drink as much as possible. It was a very nice sweet red wine with fruit in it. One note about the service. In Peru, they lounge over their meals. Not like in America. From the time we ordered until we finally got our food it was almost two hours! So as you can imagine we were pretty drunk by then! Somehow we made it back to the bus and back on the ship! We had a half an hour to shop in the shops next to the ship. We bought several things here until one of the ships officers rounded us all up and said it was time to leave. I swam and laid by the pool when I got back. Mom took a nap in the cabin. I didn't order wine for dinner that night.
Another relaxing sea day...
I can't remember what we did on any specific sea day, there where ten. We participated in some ship board activates, like wine tasting, Spanish Class, cooking demonstrations, port lecture, Gem and Jewelry seminar, pool games like the "King of the Mercury" which I got talked into jumping in the pool with a lot of other folks. We visited the library. Met with new friends, but tried whenever there was a chance to lay out in the sun and swim and listen to the pool band. Mom read a couple of books. Then of course breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner! We were usually in our cabin by 6 pm. Taking showers, planning what to wear to dinner, ironing etc. We found out we could check out movies at the front desk, so we would put in a movie and listen to it while we were getting ready. Sometimes we would nap for a hour.
It was raining really hard in Manta and poured rain all day without letting up. I think it finally stopped as we were pulling out of port that night. We purchased tickets for the Manta Beach Break Excursion. We met in the Celebrity Theatre, where we were told that excursion was cancelled because of rain and we would be credited for it. We were happy, because we knew it would not have been any fun in the rain. We went done the gangway each clutching our umbrellas, and tried to catch a cab. We decided to take a cab to the hotel we were supposed to spend the day at on the tour to see it. Non of the taxi drivers spoke English. There was one man with a radio and he would hail a cab over to you and tell him in Spanish where you wanted to go. There were giant puddles, more like lakes, everywhere. Non of the drains on the streets were working, if there were drains? It was quite an adventure going though one of the puddles with our little cab. The water would completely go over the top of the cab and it was like being in a submarine! We got to the hotel and walked around a bit looking over the hotel and swimming pool. I bought a hat from a nice local lady, to help stay dry. Mom and I talked to a man from Philadelphia, who was in town on business for the U. S. military and was stuck there for two weeks. He said it had been hot there for the whole time he was there until that day. He also told us the hotel locked the gate to the beach, because it is too polluted to swim. He said raw sewage was always being dumped into the sea right by there. Nice. He also told us that he was told NEVER to go walking down the street alone. And always be careful of pick pockets. Not having much fun, we taxied back to the ship, and caught a free shuttle to a mall which was surprisingly far! It was in a different town. It was a modern Mall very much like a mall in the states. I thought it was funny though that one of the movies playing at the movie theatre was "Miss Congeniality". Mom bought a large suitcase in a department store here for all the stuff she bought in the other ports. This is by far the dirtiest, most depressing port I have ever been to. Would never want to go back.
Punta Arenas, Costa Rica...
Cruising into the port in Costa Rica was very pretty. You could see the mountains and volcano in the distance, and the water and beach looked cleaner here. There were a lot of fishing boats anchored in the little harbor. One boat came along side with fisherman waving and dancing. They had a half dozen Pelicans on the back of their boat bumming a ride. I imagine the fishermen feed them all sorts of disgusting things, like fish guts :( We had a tour here, so we met the others and boarded a nice bus with bathroom facilities. We didn't know when we bought the excursion that it was an 8 hour tour! Thank goodness for the restroom! We had a nice local guide that spoke very good English, but with a heavy accent. You had to listen to her very closely to understand. She also spoke German. We had people from several nationalities. Americans only made up of maybe one third of all the passengers. On this tour alone, we had folks from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, England, Switzerland, Canadians, Japan, S. American, and Ireland. The guide asked everyone where they were from. We we're told we were going to visit a coffee plantation. It was 21/2 miles away. We climbed up into the mountains 6,000 feet. On scary, narrow winding roads with no shoulder or barriers! The view was breathtaking! We arrived at the Doka Plantation and had a nice tour around the facility. We went through the barns where they store the coffee bean etc. The have it the same as it was 100 years ago. Although it is a working plantation, they have more modern facilities elsewhere. This was a small 600 acre farm, they set up mostly for the tourists to se how coffee used to be grown and processed. The family has 6,000 acres all over Costa Rica. They sell their coffee all over the world. Even to Starbuck's. We preceded to head back to the ship. On the way we stopped at a pretty restaurant and had a nice buffet lunch. This facility was a tourist place. Beautiful grounds, and restaurant with open air eating area. It is only open for private tours etc. Not to the public. There is a security guard at the gate and tall fencing all around the place. It was like a park and with gardens. We drove back to the ship after lunch, about 1 1/2 hours away. Mom and I took our stuff back to the cabin and immediately got right back off the ship to take the little train tram to the end of the pier to shop in the straw market by the beach. It was a nice day. Not too hot, around 80. We shopped a while and went back to the ship. One thing that really upset me in Costa Rica. was all the bars on peoples windows and decks and patios. From the poorest shacks in the countryside to the nicer home in town, every house had bars on their windows , bar cages around their patios and decks. Iron fencing and even razor wire on top of the fences! It would be awful to live in a cage. Even the church had bars. :( The tour guide said there are only a few cats in Costa Rica. She said the Costa Ricans have not learned to appreciate cats. They are dog people.
We were supposed to tender in at this port. Mom and I purchased the "City Tour' here including the famous cliff divers. We had to get up early and have a fast breakfast, so we could be in the Rendezvous Lounge by 8 am. to meet for our tour, so we could all tender in together. But after breakfast we went out on deck and realized that we were docked! There was no announcement, we were just docked instead. So, we asked at the Guest Relations desk and were told to meet on the dock instead. We found out later that the "Mercury" beat the "Statendam" into port and we took their spot! They were now anchored off shore and had to tender. The Sea Princess was docked in front of us. Apparently it is first come , first serve in ports. We heard from a passenger on the Statendam, that the Captain of the Statendam was furious with our Captain, and made an announcement on his ship that the reason they had to tender was that the Captain of the Mercury stole their spot! We thought that was very unprofessional. So now the race was on! They were just behind us in Mazatlan, ahead of us in Cabo San Lucas but we beat them to San Diego and got their berth there :) We had a nice day. First we went to see the cliff divers, They were really something! We drove past all the hotels discos and tourist traps in the main area of Acapulco Bay , then headed out of town to the Diamond district. past mansions and luxury hotels. We went to the Mayan Palace Resort. The largest most impressive resort in Acapulco. It was nicer here, because we were out of the bay and on the open ocean. Much cleaner and big surf. The guide said if we wished to stay and take a cab back to the ship, we could. So we did! We had a Margarita and lunch by the swimming pool and then went down to the beach and stay under a Papilla on lounge chairs. It was VERY hot that day. Over 90 degrees. We waded in the water and eventually taxied back to the ship. There was big traffic jam on the way back. It took over an hour and a half to get back. By then, we were HOT and swallowed too much exhaust fumes. Mom and I were both feeling sick. She took a cold shower and took a nap. I drank 6 glasses of water as soon as I got to the cabin, and then went swimming! Then I got off the ship just long enough to call Jim, and got back on. We we're in port until 8:30 pm here.
Since we have been here twice we knew we just wanted to go do some shopping at the Golden Zone and spend some time on the beach. We shopped for a long time at the shops by the ship. Then took an open , golf cart looking cab to town. Our driver was a maniac! We did some major shopping here. Mazatlan has the best prices in Mexico. We walked to the beach for some lunch. We each had a Strawberry Margarita and Beef Burritos. I should have learned NEVER to drink Mexican Margaritas! We went down to the beach afterwards and spread out four sarongs to make our own little colorful island. I blew up my swimming ring and went in the ocean. The surf was strong and I was flipped more than once getting a lot more drowned than I intended! But it sobered me up! We walked up the beach to find a good place to go back to the main road and catch a cab. We saw a lively place called the Oyster Bar and decided to go there. There were suddenly a lot of men with guns! My first thought was that they had pretty over the top security for the restaurant, until I saw the machine gun! We walked past the men with guns and into the bathroom. I didn't want to get caught up in anything. We saw men in flat jackets jumping into the back of a pickup and then one of the men came in the bathroom and searched the stalls looking for someone! We stayed there a few more minutes until they left. A woman said it was the police. But they didn't have uniforms on? Pretty unsettling. We caught a cab back to the ship. We had a better driver this time. He played music, LOUDLY, and took us the pretty way back along the waterfront.
Cabo San Lucas...
We tendered here. The water was pretty smooth for Cabo on the way in. We were on the first launch. We were to meet a friend of ours that has a condo in Cabo. Chris and her live in boyfriend Bob, met us at the launch. Bob drove us to their beautiful condo and we visited and had a look around. Then we drove to the marina to see Bob's beautiful yacht! They took us out to lunch a wonderful restaurant off the beaten tourist track. It was just incredible. Mom had seafood including some of the best lobster she has ever had, and I had baked chicken breasts with a white sauce and scallops. We were served a cold tea made from Flowers. The whole lunch including drinks was $30.00 for four people! They took us to the new mall and then a neat store with a bit of everything, where we bought pure pewter platters and bowls. Back to the condo for some of Chris's homemade banana bread and then to the ship. It made it very special to see friends so far from home. Things are higher here in the shops and straw market, so we didn't buy anything by the ship.
I think San Diego is one of the prettiest ports I have been to. Very nice. The airport is very close by. Unfortunately after being assured that they loaded our luggage onto our bus to the airport, when we got to the airport we were missing Mom's large suitcase with most of her clothes and jewelry in it! The bus driver was NO help. He just said it would be on the one of the busses eventually. He didn't know where in the LARGE airport it would be however. So I spent 2 1/2 hours walking from one end of the airport to the other watching them unload EVERY Celebrity bus! I have no idea why it took so long to make it to the airport! The bus driver said he didn't work for Celebrity and it wasn't his problem. :( After getting all our stuff gathered together and to the ticket counter, they ended up charging us for one extra bag. We apparently are only allowed to check two pieces of luggage each. The flight went on schedule and were both pretty short. I would have liked to spend the night in San Diego. The beaches looked very nice from the air.
Jim met us in the baggage claim area. We were so happy and relived to see him!
This has been the best cruise I have ever been on. The service was perfect. Our cabin stewards were nice and helpful and never forget anything. The waiters were without mistakes. Our meat was always cooked the way we liked it. No mix up on the orders. Just perfect! ! It made it nice to only have 1,200 passengers for this cruise. It never was crowded anywhere.
I was totally spoiled!