Friday, March 27, 2015

2014 25th Anniversary Trip Part 11: Guatemala

After Costa Rica the ship headed out for one day at sea before getting to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. It was a quiet day of recovery at Sea before our next port...

"School" buses
We arrive at Puerto Quetzel on time, and this time there was no problem with disembarkation. Many of the cruise Director's staff was on hand to make up for the issues we had at Costa Rica. We quickly found our bus for our full day tour to see the Mayan Ruins.

City Model
We boarded a full size bus to head up for the 2+ hour journey to our destination. I found it interesting that aw we left the port, a police vehicle tagged along behind us. We got to see several volcano cones heading out, including one that was puffing smoke. But about 30 minutes into the bus ride, the bus started to have trouble shifting. Ten minutes later the bus pulled to the side of the road, Our tour guide told us another bus was called as the bus we were in was faulty. The police were outside standing guard. Surprising we only waited about 15 minute before another bus pulled up and we all transferred to the new bus. Since we were now a bit late, we skipped the "potty break" stop to head directly to our destination.
Cyn in front of old Temple Ruin

We passed many ex-US school buses along the way that were now jitney passenger buses, many decked out in odd colors, some still had the name of a US school district on the side. Now I know where school buses go to retire.

Old Altar
Soon we arrived at our destination, Iximche. This was one of last Mayan cities being built in 1470, and then conquered by the Spanish and abandoned in 1524. But the history felt very real here. There was a small museum giving the history of the site including a scale model of the city at it peak. 

We walked thru the ruins of the city. The only other groups were local school children. The local high schoolers were very intrigued by foreigner interested in their heritage. They practiced their English on us, and asked to have photographs of us taken with them. It was rather fun. 

Group photo
We even walked into a ritual by the local direct decedents of the Mayan who were offering goat sacrifice to their Gods, ad they still consider this location sacred ground. Out of respect no photos were taken.

Soon we were back on the bus. As we got back to the little village before the highway, the bus had to maneuver thru some tight corners. At on intersection, the bus driver had to go back and forth several times to make the the tight corner without taken out the local businesses awnings. We all applauded as he made it without scratching the bus or anything else.

Our next stop was a late lunch at a local cantina, The meal was included as part of the tour. We had a nice grilled chicken with refried beans and a local beer (we did not dare to drink the water). Outside of the cantina were many vendors selling their wares.

The rest of the bus ride was uneventful.  We had time to go thru all the shops at the port and bought a few things. I had also set up a geocaching event in the port, as there were no geocaches near the port or along our journey to Iximche. Two cachers from the ship did show up for the event while drinking coconut juice, straight from a coconut, and another local beer ($2 a beer was cheap).. son we were on board ship. I continued the event on the ship as it was leaving port in the Crown Lounge. 2 additional cachers showed up. The goal for all of them, including myself, was to add Guatemala to our caching map!
A Ball Court

We really enjoyed the day, and the shore excursion to Iximche was the best ship lead excursion we have been on to date. 
Temple Ruin

Old City square
Temple Ruin with a Tree growing in it.

Monday, March 02, 2015

2014 25th Anniversary Trip Part 10: Costa Rica

Needless to say after the Panama Canal, the excitement waned a little bit, but we still had 
The Chef in from of tonight's dinner, Lasgna

half a cruise to go! The day after the canal was a day at sea. The ship had a Make a Wish Fundraiser walk up on deck and were selling t-shirt signed by the crew which Cyn purchased. While she was relaxing and enjoying the morning, I was taking a behind scenes tour of the ship.

Crew Mess
The behind the scenes tour is rather expensive, but it was worth to see. I am very interested in logistics and operations of anything. The first stop was the Galley. We were lead by the head Chef of the ship. He was obviously very proud of his galley and staff. The Galley was on 2 decks. We also went down to deck zero and saw the stores area of the ship. They waste no space.
Engine Control Room

We got to see the crew mess and break areas and had a chat with the HR director on board. We also had to do a security check. At this point a security guard had to be with us.

Backstage, a lot of wigs
The tour then took us down "I-95" then runs through the center of deck 0 to the Engine Control room. We could not see the actual engine room (darn). But we did get to see all the control and cameras for the engines. The Legend of the Sea maybe a small ship, but she is the fastest in the Royal Caribbean Fleet. She is also used as the first ship to open any new port for RCI. She has a lot of plaques up on deck 9 with all the new ports she has been to on behalf of RCI.

The bridge
The Bridge
After the Engine Control room we went down to deck -1 to the Laundry room. We then went up to backstage of the theater and even chatted with the ships entertainers.

The last stop was the bridge. The captain was not up there but the first mate was who gave a tour. What a great view. The tour ended in the main restaurant for lunch with a small parting gift.

The show for the ending was Sing City by the ship's entertainers. Cyn and I really enjoyed the show!

The Costa Rica Train
The following day was out next port, Punterenas, Costa Rica. The ship arrived late and then we had gangway problems. It turned into a mini-disaster as the crew kept giving passengers conflicting information on what deck the gangway would be on. One we got off we found our shore excursion bus. We could tell the tour operators were feeling rushed as they were running nearly one hour late.
Pretty river, no crocs

We took a train/crocodile tour. This was probably the most disappointing excursion we have ever taken. The train ride was short, with not much history about the train. The line is narrow gauge and used to connect Punterenas with San Jose. But after an earthquake several years ago, the line was abandoned. This short section with a tunnel survives. I estimate the train went about 3 miles thru a tunnel, then we backed up about .5 mile to re-board the busses. The bus then took us to a river crocodile tour. We board a boat with about 20 people looking at wildlife and allegedly looking for crocs. We saw the head of one from a distance. Then we went back and they had local fruit to eat. The bananas (or were they plantains) were good. But we were very rushed by the tour as they needed to head back to pick up the afternoon tour groups.
Pretty Flora

Once back at port, there was a crafts market with very inexpensive gifts. This was the redeeming value of the stop. We got a dish of ice cream, which got us free wifi so I could Skype Emily to see how everything was doing (Our cat had a urinary tract infection which Emily had to deal with). I also went over to a local pub to have a local beer. Puntarenas itself was not much once you go 1 block away from the pier. I would not recommend it for sightseeing.
Puntarenas "beach"

Entertainment on the ship for the evening was Dee Dee Martin. As I writing this nearly a year later, it did not leave me any lasting impressions.

On to Guatemala....