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Old 07-09-2018, 06:31 PM
 
132 posts, read 67,346 times
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I have not been to all your ports but the ones I have seen are below.

1) definitely get the apps for Uber or Lyft.

2) Your hotel will keep your luggage for the day - ask the desk person, tip at least $1/bag.

3) San Diego is a great/compact port *I live here). The airport is under 5 miles to the port, which is within blocks of the downtown hotels. The Zoo is not that far from downtown.

Mexico -

Cabo is a nice town (best place to buy legal prescriptions, btw). Snorkel, golf, ride horses, fish.

Puerto Vallarta - go to the adjacent beach, make yourself at home and order drinks & food from a local hotel, you will be very welcome. Paraglider, horseback rides, etc.

Costa Rica - get on a tour that seeks out wildlife in the rainforest - but be SURE animals are the focus, you will see capuchin monkeys, huge McCaw parrots, green tree frogs, crocodiles. Beware tho; there is another rainforest tour called the "canopy tour" - avoid this. The only wildlife you will see is ants.

Cartagena - be very careful. Pickpockets, taxi drivers who will try to sell you illegal drugs. The locals will try to separate you from the crowd so they can steal from you, they will even grab one person and put them in a taxi so you have to get in another taxi quick. The obvious answer is "take a ship's tour" but there is not much to see.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:49 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,066 posts, read 18,997,066 times
Reputation: 24167
Quote:
Originally Posted by motterpaul View Post
I have not been to all your ports but the ones I have seen are below.

1) definitely get the apps for Uber or Lyft.

2) Your hotel will keep your luggage for the day - ask the desk person, tip at least $1/bag.

3) San Diego is a great/compact port *I live here). The airport is under 5 miles to the port, which is within blocks of the downtown hotels. The Zoo is not that far from downtown.

Mexico -

Cabo is a nice town (best place to buy legal prescriptions, btw). Snorkel, golf, ride horses, fish.

Puerto Vallarta - go to the adjacent beach, make yourself at home and order drinks & food from a local hotel, you will be very welcome. Paraglider, horseback rides, etc.

Costa Rica - get on a tour that seeks out wildlife in the rainforest - but be SURE animals are the focus, you will see capuchin monkeys, huge McCaw parrots, green tree frogs, crocodiles. Beware tho; there is another rainforest tour called the "canopy tour" - avoid this. The only wildlife you will see is ants.

Cartagena - be very careful. Pickpockets, taxi drivers who will try to sell you illegal drugs. The locals will try to separate you from the crowd so they can steal from you, they will even grab one person and put them in a taxi so you have to get in another taxi quick. The obvious answer is "take a ship's tour" but there is not much to see.
With respect, my views are pretty much polar opposites.

Cabo - America by the sea.
PV - pretty but overbuilt and touristy. Which is a shame; it used to be lovely.
CR - never been by cruise ship, only for a 2 week vacation to 3 different areas. Beautiful, diverse country (with pretty boring food)
Categena - when is the last time you were there? Fifteen or twenty years ago, your description is accurate. Now, it's just rather unpleasant. I agree there's not much to see that interested us, but I recognize others may not agree.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:56 PM
 
Location: Moku Nui, Hawaii
9,664 posts, read 18,856,303 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ditchoc View Post
Other than the canal, I like Costa Rica best. Nice people. Generally clean and well kept unlike many south American countries that seem dirty with trash everywhere. Did a volcano hike there that was strenuous but one of the major highlights of the trip. Have you ever cooked a marshmallow over hot lava?
We used to be able to get close enough to the lava around here that cooking marshmallows would work, although generally we'd burn sticks or grab a glop of lava and ruin a spaghetti server doing it. But, lately, the lava has been just a wee bit too lively to get too close to it.

Part of the trouble with the cruise was that it was very similar to home. If I want to tour a banana patch, there's one in the back yard.
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Old 07-19-2018, 12:20 AM
 
Location: Moku Nui, Hawaii
9,664 posts, read 18,856,303 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattks View Post
Any update on how the cruise was?
Aloha Mattks,

I should have put an update on the cruise here awhile ago, it's been a few months since we've been back.

For all the planning I did for San Diego, it turns out our extra day there became a day in Waikiki instead. Our direct flight from Kailua-Kona (Big Island) to San Diego was diverted to Oahu (Honolulu & Waikiki) because of the failure of one of their three compasses. Since they had the issues and it wasn't weather related, they put us up at the Princess Kaiulani hotel in Waikiki. It was a nice day in Waikiki, but it wasn't San Diego. Fortunately, we'd had the extra day planned in San Diego since we would have missed the ship had we not.

We got into San Diego the evening before the cruise and went to our favorite motel, The Dolphin. Back in the day, I think they rented that motel out by the hour, but nowadays it's a clean and inexpensive place to sleep in San Diego. I have heard that they are closing sometime soon, though, which is a pity, we will miss it during the long layovers in San Diego.

The next day in San Diego we just had a few hours to shop a bit before going to the ship. We just walked around in the area around The Dolphin, not a real touristy area, but it did have a lot of nice boats in the harbor to look at. Got some books to read on the ship at a used bookshop and some miscellaneous little things at some other shops.

Getting to the ship was easy, we took a cab which dropped us off right at the side of the ship. The stevedores took the luggage at that point. Going through TSA was about ten minutes or less. Barely had time to find the passports before it was time to show them to the agents. Then we went to the ship's side of the entry building and got our boarding number. There was a lot of seating at the waiting area and folks giving out lemonade and iced tea so it wasn't a bad waiting area nor that long of a wait. They have staggered boarding times.

Past the requisite photographer before getting on the ship. He was also the Mexican, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican and Colombian 'native' person in the photographs at each of the ports, although when he was dressed in local costume, one of the other photographers was taking the pictures. This was our first meeting with him and at this point he was just one of the ship's photographers.

The ship was the Westerdam and it is a nice ship. Seems to be in transition with some of it's decor, but that's a minor thing overall.

Our door keycard didn't work so we went to the front desk where they fixed it. They put a hole in it as well so we could put a cord on it. I like keeping mine attached to my camera, after all, we aren't going anywhere without either one.

Out to graze the Lido deck a bit and then to the fantail for the sail away. There was a fire up on the hills behind San Diego that night, so it was pretty surreal to see the glow from the fire.

Port One
The first port, Puerto Vallarta has the ship parking right across a crazy road from Wallymart. Which, in Mexico, they have everything listed in pesos, so loads of the prices had commas in them with more than one number in front of the comma. Very bizarre. We didn't do a ship's tour or do much of anything other than walking.

Port Two
I did like Huatulco quite a bit. We'd met some folks on the ship who spoke very good Spanish and went to the old town with them. They negotiated a taxi ride to where it came out $1 per person for the ride to the old town square. From there we wandered around and checked out the shops and bought a few trinkets and souvenirs and such. There was a painted church, their textile 'museum' wasn't much more than a tourist trap, but we did find some authentic stuff around the corner and a shop or two off the square.

The ship moored at the end of a longish pier right next to a really nice white sand beach. Had we had more time in port, I'd have gone swimming and had a bit of beach time.

The uzi wielding pier guards were a bit strange. If they need that level of guards on the pier, the town may not be as sleepy as it appeared. I think there had been some sort of political shake up in the not too distant past. There were several buildings we saw in town and near the harbor which looked like they'd been abandoned before being finished. In the old town around the square, there were several buildings which looked like they'd been either under original construction or under renovation and then the project just stopped. A one story building looks odd when the rebar for the next story is there but not encased in concrete.

Port Three
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala was kinda strange. All the ship's tours involved an hour and a half bus ride to a ruined something or other and over $100, so we opted for just wandering around their tourist village they'd made at the end of the gangplank. Actually, we slept in, hung around in the hot tub for awhile and then finally decided to go out and see the port. Very touristy.

In this port, they had the tray people (folks selling items off of trays as they wander around) were selling beaded birds, probably quetzals, although it was hard to tell. It's impossible to ask them questions about their tray things or even try to buy one since as soon as any interest is shown in the things on the trays, there's another half dozen tray people homing in on you. Then the 'one dollar' 'one dollar' item they hold up becomes a five dollar item or they trade the nicer one for a lesser one from their tray for the 'one dollar'. I guess 'bait and switch' is a valid technique in South American tourist areas.

All the ports seemed to have the prices artificially high for the days the cruise ships are in town. There weren't any particular inexpensive trinkets to take back. We did find bottles of vanilla at Walmart in Valharta, but that's just not quite the authentic trinkets we were hoping to find. All the stuff on the trays is identical in each port and although I didn't see any 'made in China' stickers on them, I don't know if the things were locally produced or who gets the income from the sales.

Port Four
In Corinto, the ship moored at an industrial harbor. I think they ship mostly sugar out of that harbor, but I didn't ask.

I liked Corinto, although it was not exactly a large or affluent town/village from the looks of it. The streets were cobblestone in some areas, although there was a layer of dirt over them which smooths them out. Most of the houses were small square stucco side by side with a big door in them which doubled as some sort of business during the day. There'd be a handwritten sign 'hoy tengo popsicles' or 'hoy tengo tamales' or some such on some of them. Others were much more business like with things for sale inside, although they were all items for the local trade and not tourists. I think we were there on a regular market day since there was a bit of a vegetable market going on in the streets.

The local transport seems to be pedi-cabs. We hired a fellow for $10 per hour to peddle us around town for a couple hours. I think we paid more in tips than we did in hourly rate. He had a little bit of English and we had a little bit of Spanish so we muddled along pretty well. His job is peddling the pedi-cab, although usually his clients are the folks in town doing their grocery shopping. Apparently, the pedi-cabs are preferred over the motorized cabs since the pedicab drivers will help unload the groceries once you get home.

It was a happy town. I'm guessing a very poor town, but overall everyone seemed happy. All the folks would wave and smile and there was a lot of comments to and from our driver while going around town. We saw a lot of the little businesses, the local schools, the local school yard equipment was all nicely made, but obviously locally produced. Most of the folks who were out and about were either walking or in the pedicabs, there were very few cars. There were chickens wandering around and dogs sleeping in the streets with folks walking around them instead of waking them up. There was a beach there, but it wasn't as nice as the one in Huatulco.

Port Five
Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica is a tourist town, but for local tourists. The ship moored rather a long ways out on a pier, but there was a little passenger cart train which would give folks a lift from the ship to the shore. There were a lot of small local hotels, the long beach with a beach walk alongside and lots of places for drinking and such. There were some interesting folks selling food from push carts, (one of them had a push cart with a charcoal grill on it) but I'm not sure if we should be eating that sort of thing when we're not from the area.

We walked up and down the beach walk, chatted with some of the folks along there, looked at the trinkets and things they had for sale, but didn't buy much of anything.

The transit of the Panama canal was interesting. Spent most of the day watching the scenery. We did buy the elapsed time video the ship's photographers made to go along with all the photos we took. Having gone to the ship's talks on the making of the Panama canal increased the interest factor, too. I should have worn my hat, I did get a bit of sunburn but not too bad.

Wish the ship would have ported at Panama City, that looked like an interesting city as we went past. There were also a lot of boats moored around outside the canal waiting for their passage time. We were already scheduled so we just sailed right in without having to wait.

There were a couple bridges that I was surprised the ship fit under. It was also very obvious that we had arrived at the point that designates exactly the size that a ship can be which plans to go from one side of the planet to the other without going down around the horn. There was maybe a foot (one third of a meter) clearance on each side of the ship when it was in the locks. We went through the old locks, there was a big red freighter who went through the new locks although we couldn't actually see the new locks from the old ones. We did see the big red freighter moving through what looked like a forest, although I'm sure it was actually in another branch of the river.

The whole middle of the Panama canal is very un-canal like. Much more of a monster big lake with loads of little islands scattered through it. There was a bridge under construction on the Atlantic side, it will be nice for the folks who live there when it's done since I think they now have to take the little car ferry we saw going across.

Port Six
We did finally sign up for a ship's tour in Cartegena, Colombia and I'm really glad we did. It wasn't a port that looked all that walkable and it was a crazy busy huge city too. The ship's tour was supposed to be a shopping and sight seeing tour with 'less walking' since some of the others involved climbing lots of stairs in the requisite ruins a bus ride away.

We got off the ship fairly quickly, although this was the most crowded we'd ever seen the ship. Even the official disembarking was a lot less crowded. Our tour bus was nearby and air conditioned, the tour guide spoke pretty good English. The bus driver was amazing. How he fit that bus through that traffic, I'll never know. There was a donkey cart as part of the traffic at one point, although the majority of it was cars, trucks and buses.

We started out by going to the big fort there. Out of the bus for some photo ops, but didn't go inside the fort. More folks selling things on trays. Then we went to a line of shops at a one story stucco building which looked like a porch on a big hacienda. The bus stopped in front of the bus driver's family's shop and he herded everyone inside there. It was a short stop, there wasn't much time to go anywhere other than that one shop, although the prices were still all tourist expensive prices. Then we went to a cathedral which was interesting. Around that cathedral was an old plaza with some interesting shops and they let us shop around there for a bit without being herded into someone's shop. Then back to the ship.

Not sure if it was all that good of a value for what we paid for the ship's tour, but Cartegena was not a port I'd be comfortable in running around on our own.

Then off to Fort Lauderdale and off the ship. Two weeks wasn't long enough!

The ship we went on was the Westerdam and so far that is our favorite cruise ship. It's one of the mid-size to bigger of the HAL fleet and it has more entertainment than the smaller ones. I really liked the Lincoln Center stage. The after dinner chamber music was just lovely and their playlist was interesting. I dunno how many of you are familiar with Radiohead's "Creep", but done as chamber music it's absolutely lush and amazing. From the Lincoln Center Stage we'd usually go to the jazz cafe a bit and then off to the main stage. Afterwards, there was still other entertainment, but we'd usually head off to our cabin to see which towel animal we got that day.

After several days of eating way too much at the Lido buffet (we tried not to, but the food is that good) we started eating at the dining room in self defense. Much better portion control when ordering off a menu.

This was our first cruise with multiple sea days and I found I really enjoyed the ship during the day and not having to scurry about in ports.
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