Sunday we were up and off, heading to San Juan, PR where we would stay a few days before boarding an experience of a life time. This wouldn't be our first cruise through the panama canal but it would be a "first" at many other experiences. Like getting in a mud volcano, seeing the poverty of countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and many other things. So come join us as we share this experience - the good, bad, and the ugly.
Our first stop - San Juan, PR. This has become a popular spot for us to pick up cruises since we can start out enjoying the weather and sun. We checked into our hotel in the Condado area which isn't normally the area we stay in. As always we do our walks around the fort walls and up by San Felipe Del Morro Fort or El Morro as it is known. And a visit to our favorite fountain - Raices Fountain in Old San Juan. The narrow streets of Old San Juan are famous for their shopping. We love to take a stroll down the cobblestone streets that have every store you can imagine. And as always, we headed to our favorite eatting place - El Hamburger - favored by locals.
On Dec 6th we arrived in Curacao - a quaint Dutch influenced town that is well know for its colorful building lining the entrance of the port. Getting off the ship we headed to information (right at the gang way) to find our rental car place. Needless to say - that bombed. Instead we took the walk over to town. It is always fun to walk across the floating bridge that opens sideways to let cargo ships in. I have also posted a photo of the area where the ship is docked. As you can see it continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
Next we headed to Aruba for a short visit. As we walked through town - you can see the beautiful buildings lining the main road. But if you get a chance, get away from town. We love renting a jeep or atvs and taking the island on for the day. Here you can see the remains of an old gold mine. (very close to this is the natural bridge) Also a picture of the famous California Lighthouse. (also a shot of the main area from the ship's skydeck)
Next it was on to Cartagena, Columbia. We booked our tour through the ship which ended up being great. First stop on the tour, San Felipe Castillo (Fort). We were here back in the late 80's or early 90's and this was the first time since then. Last time I remember was my first experience taking a picture of something and them making you pay so I was careful this time. lol Part of our tour was to go to and get in a Mud Volcano. Ok, I am nervous but game. On the drive there, we saw a lot of poverty. People really lived poorly in the outlying areas. And mostly that is around some form of water. But the highlight was just ahead of us. My imagination of this was quickly changed when I noticed the volcano was more like a human ant hill. And the stairs to climb it - well, lets just say they needed a great carpenter. But the experience was worth the entire tour and climb. I wasn't for mud on the hair or face but the rest was ok. Oh, and there are guys in the mud with hats - they are there to help you and massage you. lol The experience didn't stop there, afterwards you were lead down to a lake where you entered the water with a local who washed you. So get deep in the water because the swimsuit is going OFF. Yes, I call that skinny dipping. lol And imagine how hard it is to put that swimsuit back on in the water. Overall, I would suggest it to everyone. So well worth it. Oh, don't forget the guys in the mud and the person who cleans your swimsuit are neither there for fun. They are expecting tips at the end. Call this a "first" and an experience of a lifetime.
As we continue through Central America, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua was our next stop. Another ship tour which met at 7 a.m. Our tour took us to the town of Granada and includes a boat ride around the 365 islands that some people call their home (many islands are only big enough to hold one home) The bus ride was long and very bumpy. (roads are in disrepair) It was like going back in time. People riding with carts and oxen or horses with carts and homes were made from little of nothing. Most homes were one room with hammocks and outside they had a well, concrete wash area also used for washing clothes, a concrete box used for cooking, and this was all done outside the house. In Granada we saw Plazas were people years ago were sacrificed, we saw historical churches, and much more. In the plaza we were swarmed by vendors and in one area a dance was performed by a young group trying to make money. We then headed to our boat to tour the islands. Our tour did include a wonderful lunch but we had no shopping time. Tenders were used at this port also. And like Costa Rica - this was a poor country.
Finally, to Acapulco, Mexico. Another place we love. Or should I say one of our very favorite hotels. The Las Brisas. Known for its pink and white decor along with jeeps in pink and white used to transport you around the cliffside and down to the La Concha Beach club. The Las Brisas sits up on the cliffside overlooking the bay in Acapulco. It use to be used by the celebrities so many handprints are found on the walls. Every unit either has its on private pool or shared a pool with one other unit. In the morning, the staff drops off a continental breakfast in your "magic box" and turns your pool on, placing hibiscus flowers carefully on the top. What a beautiful thing to wake up to. After spending the day between the pool and La Concha private beach club, we headed to bed for an early morning flight. But not without one last photo - sunset in Acapulco Bay. Beautiful. Great ending to a fabulous, awesome vacation.