Monday, November 12, 2007

Ports of Call November 2007

San Juan, Puerto Rico – November 13
Leave Atlanta at 6:00 A; Arrive in SJ at 2:00P.
Board the ship in San Juan, PR after 2:00P, sail at 11:00P

At Sea, November 14

Willamstad, Curacao, Netherland Antilles, November 15

Curacao, Antilles 8:00A-6:00P (Mambo Beach 9A-2P)

Orangestad Aruba, Netherland Antilles, November 16

Aruba, 7:00A-1:00P

Cartegena, Colombia, November 17

Cartagena, Colombia, 9:00A-3:00P (??mud volcano 10A-2P??)

Panama Canal, November 18
Panama Canal Transit, 7:00A-3:30P

At Sea, November 19

Puntarenos, Costa Rica, November 20
Puntarenos, CR, 7:00A-7:00P (Train Ride & River Cruise 7A-12P)

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, November 21

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, 6:00A-4:00P
Puerto Quetzal, San Jose, Guatemala, November 22

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, 9:00A-6:00P

Huatulco, Mexico, November 23
Huatulco, Mexico, 12:00A-5:00P (Mex. Cuisine Demo 1P-4P)
Acapulco, Mexico, November 24
Acapulco, Mexico, dock at 7:00A, transfer to Hotel
Acapulco, Hyatt Regency
Acapulco, Mexico, November 25

Acapulco, Mexico, November 26
Acapulco, Hyatt Regency – flight leaves at 2:45P; arrive ATL 11P, spend night at Country Inn And Suites where we left car Head back to Rome from Atlanta

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Ø Where You're Docked Ships dock in two places. The best location is just across from the Sheraton Old San Juan (formerly known as the Wyndham) because you walk off the ship into the heart of the old city. Other times, your ship will dock just across the bay -- a stone's throw away -- but it's farther than it looks and you'll need to take a taxi to get anywhere.

Ø Getting Around On Foot: It's walking distance into the compact--yet fascinating--Old San Juan. Streets are uneven (constructed of blue cobblestones cast from furnace slag) and hills are steep so wear comfortable shoes. Taxis: At the dock. You can also hail minibuses (called "omnibus"), which shuttle along main routes; to hail one, respond with a wave when the driver toots his horn.

Ø Explore the Old CityOld San Juan is a wonder to see. Cruise ships dock right at the edge of the old city, and much of it is within walking distance. The two major fortresses, San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal, were built over 400 years ago. These massive structures are fun to explore, and the old city between them is full of of houses, cobblestone streets, and other interesting sights. The narrow streets of old town also hold surprises such as small bars, gardens, and amazing plazas such as Plaza San Jose and Plaza Colon.
Orangestad, Aruba:
As Aruba’s main harbor is only 5 minutes from the Oranjestad downtown area, passengers can easily walk to the shopping area, centering on Main Street and Bay area streets.

Visitors will find a wide variety of merchandise in attractive surroundings at affordable prices. In Oranjestad major Shopping Centers are Seaport Mall and Seaport Marketplace, Port of Call Marketplace, Royal Plaza Mall, Bayside Mall, Strada Mall, Aventura Mall, Kwihi Marketplace, Alhambra Shopping Bazaar and off course Mainstreet Oranjestad.
For those passengers concentrating their shore activities on the beach, the main bus terminal is 3 minutes walking distance from the Cruise Terminal. One of the first beaches you will encounter on your beach hopping journey is the “Druif Beach”, a broad stretch of white sand, located adjacent to Manchebo Beach Resort. The so-called Eagle Beach is located further north. A variety of water sports are available. The Palm Beach is located about 4 miles further to the north. Moomba Beach is located on Palm Beach, next to the Holiday Inn. Cruise guests may use all the club’s facilities. Malmok Beach is an ideal spot for snorkel fans that will enjoy plenty of fishes in the shallow waters. Arashi Beach is the last sandy beach to the north of the island. Arashi Beach is within sight of the California Light House, one of Aruba’s frequently visited tourist attractions. Close to the Queen Beatrix Airport you will find Surfside Beach and the Havana Beach Club where you will find facilities too.

Sightseeing is a must! You can rent a car and venture out on your own or take one of the many tours available to you. Some of the main attractions to see are the Natural Bridge, ruin of gold mills of Balashi and Bushiribana, Fontein Cave and Arikok, both with Indian drawings, Rock formations of Ayo and Casibari, historical graves, Tunnel of Love and much more. Or you can combine your favorite activities with Drive and ride jeep and horseback combination tours.

A wide range of dining and entertainment facilities are within walking distance from the ship’s mooring area. Information on these facilities can be obtained at the information center in the cruise terminal or during office hours at the Tourist Bureau.
Willemstad, Curacao, Netherland Antilles
Cartegena, Colombia

Entering the Harbor, is in itself, an interesting part of your visit, and traces the path of the early galleons. Your first indication that you are approaching Cartagena occurs miles from the city, as your ship majestically glides right between two ancient Spanish Forts near Bocachica (Small Mouth), and then mid bay between the Forts of: Castillo Grande and Manzanillo. As pirate ships appeared on the horizon, a under water chain was raised from the sea bed between the forts, tightened and held fast, with a large capstan. From this advantage the ship was pummeled with cannon shot from the two opposing forts. As you continue your approach to the city you will see additional fortifications including the mighty Fort San Felipe de Barajas, which arguably is the largest and most impressive fortification in the new world.

The Port of Cartagena is one of the most modern in South America and one of the busiest in Colombia. The Port cooperates fully with Interpol (of London, England) and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) of the United States. There are video cameras everywhere, as well as a large contingent of well armed and trained police, plus drug sniffing dogs. Please do not be alarmed. The "troops" are friendly to tourists, and they will help you in any way that they can. A primary reason for this heavy security results from the insatiable demand for drugs consumed in the United States and other prosperous countries of the world.

The first law of Economics is: supply will meet demand. First, there is demand. The U.S. problems relating to drugs is shared by the people of Colombia, where more than 40,000 have been killed in the past 35 years. Within this same period, a much higher number of drug related deaths, have occurred within the United States. Both countries share a "bad name" when it comes to drug violence and killings.
Your visit to Cartagena is very much appreciated, and a big help to the local economy. The vast majority of locals truly love and appreciate gringos, and others foreigners who visit their city. There are more than 80,000 Colombians residing within the United States. It is a sad note, but it can be safely said: the majority of youth in Colombia, would love to: "live and work in the states". For many, it is their daily dream!

Some of your shipmates will not get off the ship in Cartagena. Others, who are equally uninformed, will venture off the ship, but remain in the port, so they can brag to their friends: "I was in Colombia". The usual response will be: "you were where?…are you crazy?"

Cartagena is not representative of Colombia, and there is little to worry about when it comes to your personal safety. The city, and in particular, the old walled portion called El Centro, is clean, safe, fun and romantic. Those who are not as informed as you, will be the big losers if they miss this golden opportunity to visit one of the greatest cities in South America.

While on your Cartagena adventure, you will see poverty-up close. The U.S. State Department for years, has issued a: Travel Warning to U.S. Citizens against visiting Colombia. If you seek a more balanced and accurate report, visit the Canada Advisory. Canada has a consul in Cartagena. They know first hand about personal safety. The Travel Warning issued by the U. S. State Department is seriously hurting the economy and people of Cartagena! If you are a U.S. citizen, you should feel good knowing that your visit will help our economy. You are welcome, and the people of Cartagena thank you.

Note: This text is written by a 62 year old U.S. citizen who lives and works in Cartagena. "Even with a so-so command of the Spanish language, I don't feel that I have ever been in personal danger in Cartagena. My work keeps me out at all hours, visiting clients, many times while I am alone. Of course, I am cautious as to where I go, the way I dress and act, but this is also true when I visit my home state of Florida." Use a little common sense, and you will have no problems.

Cartagena, is the most popular tourist city in Colombia. Our poverty is demonstrated by the high number of street hustlers. Foreigners stand out. You can be spotted a block away. When you are in a crowd, such as on a shore tour, the word passes quickly, and your group will be besieged like bees heading for the flowers. Hustlers are poor, and tourists represent the rich honey pot-their next meal.

DO NOT PAY THEM ANY ATTENTION! Do not even look at them. Do not talk to them. Continue what you are doing…..PLEASE FOLLOW THIS ADVISE!
You will be safe, and generally, you will not even be touched, including a friendly hand on your shoulder. If you give the hustlers, beggars, or children as much as a single coin, you will be hurting them. They have no pride. You cannot humiliate them, for they are at rock bottom. If you have no pride, hustling and begging is easy. If you give them anything, they will be encouraged to continue their ways, looking to the tourists for support. Their presence in the streets of Cartagena, is seriously hurting the tourists image of our great world heritage city, causing great and lasting economic damage.
(Note: Colombia spent more than a million dollars to "clean up the streets" when President Clinton visited Cartagena. However, they have no funds for a continuing effort, or solution, to help the poor. Meanwhile, the U.S. government sprays poison upon the poor farmers of south Colombia, rather than adopting a sustained commitment to help with needed education, and improved economic opportunity.)

These street hustlers and beggars have other means of honorable support, such as: "work". As an example, look at the street peddlers of Cartagena. They sell products and offer services to both the people of Cartagena, and the tourists. They work long and hard. Their honest work provides a poor, but adequate income. The cost of inventory for a street peddler is very low, usually less than $10.00. If you give the hustlers or beggars money, many will quickly spend it on: lotto tickets, alcohol, cigarettes, slot machines, drugs, etc. Many of the barefoot beggar kids buy glue to sniff-which permanently damages their brain and nervous system. You can easily spot the glue kids. They wear long sleeve shirts which hide their stash of glue. When they raise their wrist to their nose, they are getting a "fix"-inhaling the deadly fumes. Give the kids shoes, and they will sell them, perhaps to buy again, from the above list? The reason is simple: if they wear shoes they will not look poor enough, and their begging income will quickly drop. Some beggar women rent children to pose as their own. They carry the child in their arms, begging. They point out the child's deformities, seeking your sympathy-and then your money! Note: The following is sad but true: Many of these "rental children" have been intentionally maimed, such as an eye gouged out, an arm cut off etc. The reason: it raises the rental value of the child. The more pathetic and sickly the child, the more the "loving and caring" tourists will give. Tourist money has been the cause of many maimed children-the world over, it is not just a Colombia problem.

When tourists, become more informed and involved in supporting lasting solutions, this may stop. We have hope that the Internet will be a primary tool in this educational effort. In the mean time, simply giving money, only continues this deplorable situation.

Don't be upset about what you have just read. The people of Cartagena thank you for your concern over their economic problems, but above all, they want you to have a good time-for that is the reason for your vacation!

So back to your shore visit. You can take the ships shore tours, or you can go it alone. Either way to visit Cartagena is fine. When you take the bus tours, you will be escorted to places that may not interest you. There will be many sites where you want to stay longer, (or shorter), but you have no choice, you go where the bus goes. Additionally, you will not be able to hear all that the tour guide has to say. And, you may have questions that will remain un-answered? However, these tours can be a loads of fun, and many enjoy them. There is a touring alternative. A private guided tour!
By far, the best and most positive reports appearing on the Internet Newsgroups, come from tourists who have taken a taxi tour of Cartagena. Taxis will be waiting at the dock.
Note: Cartagena taxis are modern, compact, 4 door models, some with air at an additional cost of 10%. The streets of the old city are very picturesque, narrow, and therefore, just right for compacts. You will probably want to spend at least 75% of your tour in the old walled city? Costs per tourist will be minimum if there are four persons in your private group. Try this tip. As soon as you hit the dock, each of you head for a different taxi and quickly talk (mostly "listen") to the drivers. Test their English, or your desired language.

You are lucky to have visited and studied this web site, for here you can learn exactly what it is that you want to see, where you want to shop, or stop for drinks or a great meal. Print out the first page of our web site Walking Tour, and check off the things you want to see. Show this list to the driver. Don't forget to allow enough time for shopping. And if you or your group is interested in buying emeralds or gold, be sure to check out our extensive site: Buying Emeralds and Gold in Cartagena-Tips to Save you both Time and Money. Taxi rates are uniform, and they are printed on a plastic card carried in the glove box of all Cartagena taxis. Tip: Ask to see the card, and then ask the price per hour, and total based on the minimum number of hours, for your planned tour.

There is so much to do and see in Cartagena, and your time is very limited. This web site is dedicated to helping you make the best of your time and your money, so you will fully enjoy your Cartagena experience. A little planning on your part will go a long way. When you return home, you may want to tell others on the cruise news group of your Cartagena experience?

Cartagena is a great romantic and historic city, certainly worth at least a week of your time. Who knows, you may want to stretch your pension and live the good life, here in Cartagena on the Cari

Today was Cartagena-- a very modern Latin American Port. When I stepped out onto my verandah, the first thing I noticed was my camera lens fogging up ! It's tropical South American hot here, and very humid. I have to say, I was a bit weary of this port, but it is well policed and a very European-style city. I rented a cab with some fellow passengers and we went to the Monastery (on a hill overlooking the city/port), then to Old Town where beautifully colored colonial streets are full of fruit and merchandise vendors.
shuttle bus next to the ship. It only took me to the entrance of the port area, where there was a small shop, but enough to buy some souvenirs. I went back to the ship and got Mother to go back with me (I told her that there were caftans/mumus there). Sure enough, she found one to buy (see the picture).

Puntarenos, Costa Rica
Some see Puntarenas as a fallen jewel with vast potential; others see nothing more than a run-down, rough-and-tumble port town best seen through a rearview mirror. I tend to hold the latter view.
A 16km (10-mile) spit of land jutting into the Gulf of Nicoya, Puntarenas was once Costa Rica's busiest port, but that changed drastically when the government inaugurated nearby Puerto Caldera, a modern container port facility. After losing its shipping business, the city survived primarily on commercial fishing. Watching the tourist boom bring big bucks to other cities, Puntarenas decided to try to grab its piece of the pie. After decades of decay and neglect, Puntarenas has definitely received some long-overdue attention; however, it still needs some work. In the 1990s Puntarenas initiated a large public-works and renovation project that has so far yielded a new cruise-ship docking facility, a convention-and-recreation center, a modest maritime museum, and an artisans' row where visitors can stock up on regional arts and crafts.

There's a good highway leading all the way from San José, so Puntarenas can be reached (on a good day, with no traffic) in a little more than 2 hours by car, which makes it one of the closest beaches to San José?at least in elapsed time, if not in actual mileage. Because Puntarenas is a city, a former port town, and a commercial fishing center, this beach has a very different character from any other in Costa Rica. A long, straight stretch of sand with gentle surf, the beach is backed for most of its length by the Paseo de los Turistas (Tourist Walk). Across a wide boulevard from the paseo are hotels, restaurants, bars, discos, and shops. The sunsets and the views across the Gulf of Nicoya are quite beautiful, and there's usually a cooling breeze blowing in off the water. All around town you'll find unusual old buildings, reminders of the important role that Puntarenas once played in Costa Rican history. It was from here that much of the Central Valley's coffee crop was once shipped, and while the coffee barons in the highlands were getting rich, so were the merchants of Puntarenas.

Still, Puntarenas is primarily a place to spend the night during transit. Here you must pick up the ferries to the southern Nicoya Peninsula, and many folks like to arrive the night before and get an early start. It's also a good place to break up the longer trip up to or back from Guanacaste. Puntarenas is also popular as a weekend holiday spot for Ticos from San José and is at its liveliest on weekends.

Yesterday, we spent the day at sea, between the Panama Canal and Costa Rica. I talked Mother into going to the show last night, which she enjoyed (mostly the singer, not the comic or the magician). She found a new bridge partner yesterday (he is hired to dance with all the single ladies... even talks like Walter Matthau in the movie "Out to Sea").

Today, we spent a whole day at the port of Puntarenas. After breakfast, Mother and I took the little shuttle train down the dock, where the vendors were lined up. We spotted the dress in this picture in one of the first stalls, and came back and bought it when we finished looking at all of the rest of the stalls. We also bought our refrigerator magnets souvenirs. She lasted less than an hour outside in the heat and humidity, so we went back on the ship for lunch.

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur is a tranquil fishing village nestled at the head of a horseshoe-shaped bay on the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua. The lovely bay is peppered with small, private yachts and commercial fishing boats. The inhabitants of San Juan del Sur make their living fishing, diving, and catering to the visitors drawn to the bay's beautiful white-sand beaches, smooth waters, and ecological richness. In and around San Juan, you are sure to find plenty to see and do. Numerous beaches await exploration, the scenery is superb, good surfing can be found nearby, and the sport fishing and sailing are world class. Or you might prefer doing nothing at all-pure and utter relaxation-in one of Nicaragua's most beautiful areas. Come, explore, enjoy.

You cannot miss the main attraction of Nicaragua’s newest cruise call San Juan del Sur – the pure white sand beach stretches for more than two miles. It is perfect for swimming or for just admiring from one of the cafes along the front.
The views are equally spectacular over to the mountains and forests which are the backdrop to this ultra laid-back town (and former pirate haunt) on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, just 15 miles from the border with Costa Rica.

Although there are the ruins of the William Walker fortress to visit, this is a place really made just for chilling out. For sightseeing, you need to take the tour to Granada, one of the country’s most important cities.

On the shores of 92-mile long Lake Nicaragua and overlooked by the Mombacho volcano, Granada was founded by the conquistadors in 1524 making it the country’s oldest Spanish city. Nicknamed “La Gran Sultana” (the Great Sultan) after its Moorish namesake in Spain, its colonial style cathedral and plaza plus a lovely park (Colon) make it a hugely enjoyable place to walk

Nicaragua has the largest area of primary-growth rain forest north of the Amazon, hundreds of beaches, six active volcanoes, and plenty of sleepy surf towns. Since 2002, the government has created 7 national parks to protect the country's wildlife.

San Juan del Sur, The Pacific Pearl

San Juan del Sur is situated in the Rivas Province. Rivas is an isthmus bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua (Cocibolca). 142 km from Managua City, San Juan del Sur is an ideal place for surfers and seafood lovers. It is one of the most popular recreational areas. The beach is sun drenched, clean and loaded with small bars, restaurants, hotels and picnic areas where you can find delicious seafood dinners and pleasant music

A short ride to the southwest of San Jorge is the costal town of San Juan Del Sur. Located only 15 miles north of the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Costa Rica, this small fishing village becomes very popular during Christmas and the Semana Santa celebrations at Easter time. My wife and I spoke with the German owners of a popular restaurant/bar that claimed to make enough money during these two holiday periods to cover their yearly expenses. San Juan Del Sur offers several beachside hotels and restaurants, and is Nicaragua’s first and only cruise ship port-of-call. It has everything that a typical cruise port offers, like handicraft shops, bars, restaurants, Jet Ski rentals, and tours of the area. A short hike up a hill on the south side of San Juan Del Sur will bring you to the ruined fort of William Walker. Walker was an American adventurer who in 1855 captured and briefly occupied Granada, the former capital. He was defeated by a Central American army made up of Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans shortly after.
Despite the increase in tourism, the biggest craze in this town is real-estate. San Juan Del Sur has several luxury homes that sit atop the hills that overlook the bay; with many more under construction. There are also many condominium and town home communities currently under construction in the surrounding area. The prices are climbing, but they are still very attractive when compared to similar homes only a few miles to the south in Costa Rica. San Juan Del Sur is clearly a town on the rise, and certainly one of Nicaragua’s top destinations.
Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala
Today, we spent the day in port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. There was a craft market right at the pier where we were docked. So, we went off the ship and within a few minutes, Mother found her while shawl. It is lightweight with very pretty design. After walking past all of the vendors, she decided it was time to go back on the ship. So, I got her picture next to the sign as we proceeded back on the ship.After returning to the cabin to get shorts on (not capri pants), and shed my shirt, I went back on shore, and did a lot more shopping (in the heat and humidity!). There were some very good prices on woven goods (placemats, table runners, napkins) and other stuff. I brought back two bags full of souvenirs.
Puerto Quetzal, on Guatemala's Pacific coast, serves as a cruise passenger's gateway to the inland attractions of this Central American country. As with most Central American countries, the population centers are located in the more temperate central highlands, rather than along the humid, tropical coasts. Accordingly, Puerto Quetzal, while offering plenty for shipping companies, offers little in the way of attractions for cruise passengers. $10|164$>The tune the town sings has changed from "Where the Boys Are" to "Where the Families Are". Local ordinances, zoning, and massive construction projects have transformed this city by the sea into a prosperous pleasure port, catering to family fun, upscale restaurants, yacht owners, cruise passengers and a fast-growing residential population.

Huatulco, Mexico
I got off the ship in Huatulco on Wednesday and bought a black sleeveless dress (sort of like a tank top, but down to my knees, and flows wide at the hemline - $12 or 2 for $20 - only bought one, couldn't find another one I liked). Very comfy. We pulled into the dock at noon so Mother didn't get off the ship that day; she stayed onboard to play bridge in the afternoon.When we got to Acapulco on Thursday, she went into the port terminal, and found this black shawl ($10) to go along with her new dress. So, she may be finished shopping for this trip (I told her to wait... our last stop in Mexico is Cabo San Lucas aka "Flea Market by the Boat Dock"). In the Acapulco port terminal I found a yellow tank dress like the black one (only it was $16 in Acapulco) plus lots of stuff at the Del Sol store (stuff changes color when you take it out in the sun). After taking mother back to the ship, I went back onshore to see what shopping existed beyond the port.Of course, this is Mexico. Shopping? It seems like haggling is the national sport! I was approached many times by locals, followed down the street, even though I said I just wanted to walk along the beach sidewalk. I found a grocery store, where I could get a bottle of Diet Coke for less than $1 (it's $1.95 a can on the ship). As I walked out of the store, a young man walked up to me and told me he was hired by the government to take care of tourists, showed me his photo ID badge, wanted to practice his English, and wanted to take me to the government flea market. I wasn't sure if this was a scam, but I knew there were other people from the ship walking back, so I let him take me there.It was the usual collection of little shops with tourist trinkets, toys, and trash, plus silver and gold on the fringes. They wanted more for the dresses than either of the ones I had already purchased ("Hey lady, what you want to pay? Give me your price."). But I wanted to see their leather purses, since a zipper on my Italian purse had broken. So, after an hour wandering around (and not finding anything I liked in clothes), I went back to the big leather store and looked at more purses until I found the one I liked. It is like my Italian purse, only wider (hangs over one shoulder and across my front). It is also made from ram's hide, not cowhide, so it is softer. I almost didn't buy it, because he didn't want to take my credit card (he says he would have to pay 20% tax), but I didn't have enough cash on me. As I started to walk away, they offered to show me to a cash machine, but I wasn't going to fall for that one. So, I was willing to give him a little more than I intended, so that I could use my credit card. After all, I still have Cabo ahead of me!My little guide took me back to the main street where I could see the ship, and I gave him a $5 tip. After all, I was back safely, and don't think I was ripped off (he said I got a good price - $67). But it was still uncomfortable to be alone in that situation..

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