Monday, March 31, 2014

San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua – March 30, 2014

We wake up to the vibration of the anchor dropping.  Bernie heads down to get his tea and we sit out on the balcony to enjoy the view.  It is cooler right now but it seems like it will get very hot later.  The Patter says it will be 34C/93F Sunrise is 5:42 and Sunset is 5:53. 

While sitting on the balcony Bernie spots a pod of whales and we sit out and enjoy the whales as they breach and tease us.  Not many people are up on their balconies.  Probably down have breakfast I am guess.

We are in another tender port and there are a lot of ship’s tours.  We are planning on going ashore in our bathing suits and finding a restaurant and relaxing for the day.

I decide to try breakfast up in the Horizon Court, this time I was smart.  I went to the waffle station and saw that the machine was loaded with fresh waffles so I wait for them to be cooked and take one of them and this way I know they are hot.  They were very good.  I also enjoyed a big plate of fresh fruit.  This trip has had a huge selection of fruit, bananas, watermelon, pineapple, melon, oranges, apples, plums and today I even saw peaches.

We relaxed for a few hours enjoying a coffee on deck five watching the people heading to the dining rooms to get their tender tickets. 

Around 10 am we head ashore and a few minutes earlier they called for open tenders so no tender tickets required.  We have no problem getting on a tender and head up to the top to enjoy the vista and the cooler breezes off the water. 

For this port it would be very difficult to almost impossible for someone with mobility issues to get off the tender onto the dock.  It has steep stairs, there is a ramp but it was very steep and that too would be difficult, so be warned if you have mobility issues you may want to talk to Purser’s desk about options.

Once ashore we are hit with two things, HEAT and sand!  Yup Sand!  The wind picks up the sand when you walk along the beach and whips it at you.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.

There are a few venders with the port area and as soon as you leave the port gate there are numerous other vendors.  There were taxi and guides there offering tours and rides to Granada, etc.  Fares are not on meter so agree to a price before you get in.

We decide to walk along the beach to get cooled off.  Today is Sunday and the beach is full of families who have come down to enjoy the day with their families.  Kids are playing in the water, playing in the sand, playing soccer and enjoying picnics.  It is a lovely sight.

We walk all the way to the end of the bay.  The sand is hot as it is black sand from the volcanos and the beach isn’t that clean.  Sadly there is various types of garbage around.

Doesn’t look that appealing to swim in.  They really should look at coming and cleaning up the beach every day, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority and it doesn’t appear to be in their culture to throw items in the garbage instead of leaving it on the beach.  It was much cleaner at the end of the bay than where we docked. 

The water is lovely and just what we need to cool off.  But as soon as we walk out the wind kicks up and one side is pelted with sand.  It is hard to lay on the beach without getting an exfoliating treatment to one side of your body.  We last only for about 40 minutes before we can’t bear it any more.

We decide to walk out to the street and follow the beach this way.  Nothing really along the road except for homes.  Lots of places you can rent out too.  It is a lovely area, minus the blowing sand.

We walk along the main street and see a cute little restaurant/bar that I believe is called The Howler (after the monkey).  They served freshly made fruit smoothies and so we order up two and a mango quesadilla, which was so good.

We decide to head down a bit further and maybe stop somewhere for a beer along the beach.  We do stop and a large thatched roof restaurant right on the beach.  Bernie orders one of the local beers and I get a margarita and we sit and people watch.  Lovely place and the people are so nice too. 

As we leave the restaurant we decide to walk up the street to the main square and church and wander around a bit.  This place is so tranquil and quite reminiscent of some smaller Mexican towns we have visited.  There are no big name stores, restaurants, shops here.  It is way way laid back with many small stores/restaurants. 

We decide to head back on board so we enter the port area and we check out a few stalls selling items.  We see some lovely belts, the one I was looking it was all embroidered and they are asking $12.  A guy is also looking at it and he offers $10 and she says yes, so I pick it up and say $10 and she nods.  Bernie see a different one that is not as intricate and the other woman says to him it is $14.  When he asks why this is so much more than the one I want she responds, oh that one is $16, this one is $14.  I comment really this woman said $12 and took $10.  Really I said…. And we just walked away.  I don’t mind paying a fair price but I hate when someone is just trying to take advantage.
There is absolutely no line for the tender… Wow what a difference today’s tender operation was compared to all the others.  Today’s was very very smooth.

We are back on board and in the cabin around 3:00 and first thing we need is a shower to try and remove most of this sand. 

Barb and Craig invite us over for a drink for sail away… so nice to have such great friends with us.  We spot more whales as we leave.

Tonight we decided last minute to head to the Crown Grill and Johan is joining us.  We are given a nice booth by the window and Hector is serving us again.  The place is relatively quiet although there are fewer waiters around too.  I believe there are three waiters for the entire place tonight, or maybe two waiters and one assistant and the head waiter.

We enjoy a bottle of Merlot from Tabali winery we went to in Chile… and we are reminded of our great day there.

I ordered the salad to start and it comes and there is too much salad dressing on it.  This ship really seems to enjoy dousing their salads with dressing.  I should of ordered it on the side.  Oh and Bernie also ordered the other salad with the beets and it too had way too much dressing on it.  As I always say “less is more”, I can always add more I can’t always take it away.

I then enjoy the Black and Blue Onion Soup which is great as usual.  For my entrée I have gone back to the fillet mignon and it is served on it’s own and cooked perfectly.
We get garlic fries, spinach and mushroom for our sides.
The garlic fries are once again very plain with very little seasoning, including no noticeable garlic.  I comment about this to Johan and he agrees and wonders what has happened.  The head waiter comes over and brings us a fresh one done the way we normally get it and right away we get a wiff of the garlic.  He comments that the old chef there had gone home and the new one is not making it the same.
For dessert I try the lemon tart and it is very good, but Bernie ordered the chocolate obsession and darn it sure looked good but I am glad I tried the lemon tart.

Sadly service was really lacking I thought.  Often our water glasses were not filled and we often had to pour our own wine.  Plates sat in front of us for longer than normal as waiters rushed passed us to try to accommodate those in the restaurant. 

Overall we have dined here three times this voyage, and three times in Sabatinis and none of the experiences have been that great, good but not great.  Sabatinis seems to have gone downhill, and even when friends with us said they wanted to go back we both declined.  Crown Grill had good food most of the time but service seems to be lacking.  Not that the waiters are not good but there just was not enough of them.  Just not the personalized attentive service we use to get.  Not sure why they didn’t call down another waiter.

After dinner it is relatively quiet everywhere as most people seem to be in a show somewhere.  Jennifer Fair a vocalist is performing in Explorers, she did have a lovely voice.  Chris Bliss a comedian is performing in the Princess Theater. 

We are back in the cabin around 10 pm and we read for a bit before we can’t keep those eyes open any longer.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Puntarenas, Costa Rica – March 29, 2014

It was a hard night, the cabin is so hot.  At first I thought it was just because of facing the sun all day but I think there is more to it.  When we come back today we will call down and report to get it repaired.

First I keep forgetting to put in the temperature each day, but I will go back and update the blogs when I get home with the temperatures so others sailing around the same time can know what to expect. 

Today it is FREAKING HOT!  Is that a technical term?  HOT, muggy and well HOT.  There is no wind at all which increases the temperature to STUPID HOT.  And it is only 7 am!  We are docked here, and there is another ship here with us a Fred Olsen Ship.  Seems odd to be sharing a pier with another ship, it has been such a long time since we have been in port with another ship.

So back to the temperature.  Today the Patter states it is 32C 90F but it actually got hotter than that.  Sunrise was 5:39 and Sunset is 5:49.

We have a private tour today planned that Trish from our Roll Call is coordinating.  We love adventure activities and zip lining and a few years ago we went to one that is no longer open.  We found this park and she decided to coordinate it. 

The park is we originally reserved with them with a small deposit and depending on the numbers that we got the price would go down. 

The tour including transportation from the pier to the park.  25 minutes of off road truck adventure with scenic views.  25 zip lines in total.  2 rappellings over a waterfall.  One suspension bridge.  On two of the lines you have the chance to jump into a spring water mountain pool.  Lunch also.  They also have a superman ride that is a small amount more. 

I don’t quote the prices here since prices change often and it depends on the numbers.  So check with the company for the current prices.

We head ashore for 8 am and we walk the length of the pier.  Currently the pier is full of tour buses but later on there is a complimentary train/shuttle that will take you to the entrance to the pier. 

Remember it is very hot so bring water. 

We are met and directed into a van for the ride to the park.  We are a tight squeeze in the van (we are 14) and the air conditioning is not the best.  The ride to the park was about 40 minutes.

When we get there we are stunned at the view and make note that they also have accommodations here too.  Boy would it be nice to stay here some time.

We are all  harnessed into our apparatus.  They had about six guides for our group.

We then board a large off road truck for the ride up the mountain to start our zip line adventure.  Note this is a bumpy ride and definitely off road so be prepared.

They explain how to do the zip lines and we are off. 
It is a lot of fun and we really enjoyed the rappelling lines too, a little scary at first but once we got the hang of it, it was fun.

Make sure to bring bug spray and sunscreen, and if you want wear a bathing suit so you can enjoy the springs.  The guides did have water for us.

me rappelling

we stop at these falls, you can go in if you want

One woman did get very dehydrated and did have some issues but they were very quick at coming to her aid and getting her cooled off.  There were not many lines left so she went tandem with one of the guides for the remaining lines to the end.

After the zip lines we then did the superman ride.  It was fun but not very comfortable  -- those straps go into areas I am not sure I want them to go into.  The ride was not as good as we have done at the other park but still pretty fun. 

Once we got back to the main building we were served a nice lunch of chicken, beef or vegetarian meal.  Soda, beer, water were extra. 

We found the entire set up to be very professional.  The guides were fun but boy were they ever players and they were very flirtatious and was a bit disappointed when one said, you can have a beer and you can buy me a tequila…. Really!  Heck I could be their mother! If I had to do this tour again I would of aimed to keep the group to a more manageable size.  I believe we were 18 people in total and it was just too long waiting for everyone to go.  A group of 10 or 12 would be best I think.

We were then driven back to the pier – again not much air conditioner so be prepared.

They dropped us right at the pier and we decided to just head back on board.  But if you want to you can easily shop at the many stores along the beach.  There are numerous restaurants and shops in town too that are walkable.

We come back to the cabin and it is HOT.  We call down to the Purser’s desk and report and about an hour later someone comes up to check and there is an issue.  He does something to the thermostat and then takes off the grate to the AC unit and that helps too.  It still isn’t perfect but much much better. 

Tonight we are going to make it back to the dining room.  They are also offering the German Buffet and I would love to go to that but miss the dining room too. 

We also watch the movie Nebraska on the cabin tv and enjoyed that. Have really enjoyed all the movies in the cabin.  We have managed to see all the Oscar nominated movies on board this voyage. 

Tomorrow we are in San Juan Del Sur and hope to make it a beach day.

We had a lovely dinner in Da Vinci and it was so nice to see Mark and Lorelei again.  I had the crab and artichoke dip to start – very good.  Then the apple soup which I found to be not to my taste but Bernie loved his.  For my entrée I had the Pha Thai dish which I enjoy usually once a cruise.  It isn’t like my favorite Thai restaurant at home but it is pretty good.  For dessert I see they have my favorite walnut raspberry spring rolls and my first order comes and they are cold, not even warm and this dessert really needs to be served warm so the spring roll shell is crispy not chewy.  Mark gets me a new one that is hot and crispy and yummy.  But I have to say if someone had never tried this dish and got it cold they would be rather disappointed. 

Sadly this cruise is lacking in the food quality, now don’t get me wrong I am still finding lots to eat and lots of yummy things but food is often overly salty and not hot when it should be.  We have found this with pancakes, eggs, toast, French fries, and many items in the buffet.  I have yet to get cold milk with room service for cereal or even cold yoghurt.

The World Music Project is the show tonight in the Princess Theater but the times are not conducive to our schedule. 
We wander around a bit check in with friends as we meet them in the corridors. 

Once we get back to the cabin we notice that the air conditioner is still not performing as it should.  We notice that the Purser’s desk has called and left a message following up on the AC issue from earlier.  When I call them back they are very helpful and offer to send someone to the cabin.

The next person arrives to check the AC – the room temperature is at 24.5 C and whatever he does seems to create the air flow that is needed and the room starts to cool off.  We actually wake up in the middle of the night and grab the duvet that we had placed on the chair and use it to cover up.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sea Day – Day Three March 28, 2014

I thought I could start with something exciting, something crazy, something that would keep you all on the edge of your seat. 

But nope, nothing like that happened.  No major excitement.  I almost feel silly writing about how little we did, but we did very little.

We had the clocks go back an hour so currently we are only a one hour difference from home.  Sadly this means we are closer to getting home.  But enough silly talk we still have a week.

Since we all gained an hour seems like many are up earlier than normal, including us.  We also crashed so early last night that we are awake at 6 am.  Feeling much better too.  A good night’s sleep is what I needed.

I write up my blog and post it to the extremely slow internet – I should of known morning is one of the worst times to get on line.

I meet up with Bernie down on Deck 5 to grab a tea, I am staying away from dairy right now.  The place is a zoo, worse than a zoo.  A day at the zoo when there is free admission. 

The Bijoux sale is going to start at 10 am and they are lining up at 9:40!  Yup you read it here, 9:40.  A guy actually put a chair right at the door to ensure he was the first one.  Not sure what the advantage would be.  Maybe they are selling the newest Iphone and no one told me, ha who am I kidding, they are selling usual tshirts, sweat pants, scarfs, magnets etc etc.  I did pop in but even though there are some great deals I really don’t need anything else and the line ups at the cash register deter me even more.

I grab a cup of tea and head off to Club Fusion for the morning trivia.  We are joined by Jan and Michael who help a lot and we don’t do too bad, a respectable score I would say.

We then spend the next while wandering.  We tried to go back to the cabin but it hasn’t been cleaned yet.  So we are out wandering the ship.  It is so hot and humid out that you can’t really spend much time out there unless you are in a bathing suit and enjoying the pool.  This causes large crowds to form in the indoor venues.

Lunch today is Indian Buffet in Café Caribe which is one of my favorites and we both enjoy a lovely meal up there.  We do giggle a bit as a few people around us are eating the Indian but are commenting “this is an odd buffet”, “different today”, “way to spicy” and “gee you think they would cater to the demographics”.  We smile and know that the Horizon Court is open on both sides for lunch today and is offering the standard North American buffet.

Bernie bought a new watch today a Citizen Eco Drive – he loves his other one and I know he will love this one.  It is a simple one and it will be perfect for work.  He is happy so I am happy.

Back in the cabin we start to read for a bit but both of us are having a hard time keeping our eyes open.  What is it with being on vacation and the need for naps.  I crash and so does Bernie and when I wake I see he is now on the balcony. 
Today was our complimentary wine tasting and we miss it again.  We have had three this cruise and we have missed all of them.

It is so hot out there is suffering but he didn’t want to wake me. Ahhhhh.  We are on the port side now and we get the sun in the afternoon and it is HOT.  We have to keep our drapes closed all the time and the cabin door otherwise it just gets way too warm. 

While relaxing in the cabin there is a knock at the door – odd since we have the Do Not Disturb up.  Cabin Steward is there.  He has the passport lock box and is looking for ours.  I said we already have ours since we got it when Bernie had to get if for the flight to the Nazca lines.  ARGH this steward is driving me NUTS. 

But the sunset draws us outside later and it is stunning.  And we enjoy some amazing sights and a glass of wine.

Not sure what we will do for dinner, but we need to get a good rest as tomorrow is Punta Arenas Costa Rica and we are off to an adventure park and meeting time is 7:40.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sea Day Number Two – March 27, 2014

Today marks 365 days we have sailed with Princess (actually I am 7 days more but want to celebrate with my honey).  It is also a formal night and we decide we will celebrate tonight with some champagne.

Today I surprise Bernie by heading up to Horizon Court with him for breakfast.  I had an egg, one sausage, some fruit, one piece of toast and all of it was hot, well not the toast but that is understandable.

What amazes me about this cruise is how crowded it feels.  Now we have sailed on this class of ship over 20 times and have never felt it so crowded as we have for these past 40 days.  The demographics of this cruise is much much older than we are use to.  I am sure this has to do with the length of the trip and that it sailed from a US port and returns to a US port.  Also these are very experienced cruisers they love their trivia and their evening shows.

Trying to find a seat in the International Café in the morning is a game of chance and speed (which works in our favor because we are much younger than most).  Trivia, both morning and afternoon is well how do I put it, survival of the fitness.  Some teams are downright mean!  And rude! 

Making really nasty comments to whoever is hosting.  People it is just a game!  Sadly some of the more nasty comments come from the most travelled passenger Ju. 

Every time I run into her she has some nasty thing to say about cruise staff, the ports, the ships, the officers, and even Princess.  Now really!  They have sailed over a 1,000 days more than us, you would think if she hates it that much she would just stay home.  Okay I have vented.

Lisa Ball the Cruise Director is giving a talk on Life at Sea.  She has prepared a presentation that talks all about ship life, chain of command, contracts, cabins, dining halls, how to get hired etc.  This is the first time I have seen this type of talk and I am interested.  I come early (20 minutes early) and the place is already ¾ full.  I take a seat along the back wall where I can’t see the podium but I love that they show the presentation on the tvs so it is not necessary to see her.

I took lots of notes and will prepare a full article that I will publish on my facebook page Cruising Princess Cruiseline with Vickie so look for it there in the note section.  Facebook page

What I was impressed with was Lisa saw how busy it was getting and called for more chairs to be delivered.  Also she took questions after the show, which is great, but also not so great.  Most people seemed to take the time to complain.
I even heard a woman complain on how there are not many hand sanitizers around the ship.  REALLY – I not sure why us North Americas have been hypnotized by these large companies like Purell that this is the be all end all for hand cleaning.  First it DOES NOT kill the Noro virus.  Second it does not replace proper hand washing.  Third people have a false sense their hands are clean and don’t wash them properly.  Wash your hands in the washroom with soap and water, dry with paper towel and you are good to go.  I have seen numerous people walk right by the washroom into the dining room and use the sanitizer there, and people leave and use the sanitizer and but walk right past the washroom again.  By using just the sanitizer you have not cleaned your hands of any viruses.  You are better off walking into washroom before a meal and washing your hands, and when leaving go in and wash again.  Okay I have vented again.

Theo is conducting the Zumba and I remember Theo from the Star.  He just boarded in Valparaiso.  I decide to stay for the class, and once again it is packed.

Back in the cabin we relax for a bit and I am trying to decide what I want to do this afternoon.  The Crossing the Equator ceremony is this afternoon. 

Oh I forgot to mention that Lauren did the noon announcement and she talked about crossing the Equator and made us laugh when she said we may all feel a bump when we cross. 

We opt for the ceremony since I missed it last time.  This time it is being held at the pool with the MUTS.  This is good and bad, they are videoing it and showing it on the big screen too but sadly many people have pushed their lounge chairs up to the glass on the second level meaning few people can watch from above.  Next time they should remove the lounge chairs so more can see.

Bernie and I sit around the pool bench and soon there throngs of people that I almost think about leaving but glad I stayed. 

Now many of you will rememeber that two years ago on the Star when I was a Pollywog I was picked to be in the ceremony.  That ceremony was quite different than this one.  This one was similar with the crimes the Pollywogs had committed but the rest was different.

Lisa Ball - Cruise Director

In the end lots of chocolate sauce, spaghetti, jello, cream were doused on the guilty Pollywogs and most of the crew that participated.  As an observer it felt like the ceremony was more about the crew having a food fight than the Pollywogs being included.  Seemed like the passengers watching and involved were more of an afterthought.  When I participated last time it didn’t get this bad and the four Pollwogs and the passengers were included more.  Click here to read about that day when I crossed the Equator for the first time.

It is late afternoon and I am hungry so we grab a small bite to eat.  I love the afternoon snack at the Horizon Court cause they serve baked potatoes.  I then add cheese, sour cream, chives and enjoy.

I have been experiencing a tummy ache all day – I am sure it is something I ate or drank.  I have been having a hard time digesting the milk in the latte and if I have two I find my tummy really acts up.  May be a lactose thing but find I don’t get the same problem at home.  Oh well, I am just going to have to watch myself. 

So we relax for a few hours in the cabin. I really don’t feel like going to dinner tonight.  I am not hungry and with this tummy ache I know I won’t be able to eat anything.  But we are celebrating and Johan is joining us so I dress in my formal wear and meet up with Bernie and Johan at 8 for dinner.

Champagne was served, toasts were made, picture was taken….. aren’t we fortunate.

Tonight is also lobster night and Bernie said he really enjoyed it.  The appetizer gnocchi was very salty again.  Me, well I had to apologize and bow out cause of sore tummy but I left Bernie in the very capable company of Johan.  The boys can have fun tonight without me. 

I head back to the cabin and watch Cocktail – yup the one with Tom Cruise – Hubba hubba.

Oh and by the morning my tummy was settled down and back to normal – fingers crossed and no latte for me today.

Sea Day – March 26, 2014

Jasper tries on some bling from the Silent Auction

I love sea days and after two days in port the crowds seem to be ready.  I am writing this on the 28 so I am racking my brain to try and remember what we did each day and night.
Most of our days are spent relaxing in the cabin first thing.  The weather is warm again and we love sitting out on the balcony and enjoy our coffees and look out at the ocean.

We run into Sherri and Ken and catch up with them in the coffee bar, it has been awhile since we have seen them.  Amazing you can be on the same ship and not see each other. 

Cabin is still taking quite a long time to get cleaned in the morning.  We were gone for four hours and when we came back it was still not cleaned so we went off again.  This steward Ronalda does his job but he is not great.  I finally had to ask for some items that should be standard.  Soap, beach towels, clean the mirror (not sure what was smeared all over it when he cleaned it last time).  Sadly this steward is worse than the last one.  But still sure beats the heck out of cleaning it myself.

We end up having lunch in the dining room with Barb and Craig.  I had the Mediterranean Panini again LOVE IT.  Oh and for dessert they have a banana split and we all indulge in one.  It is just the right size and much smaller than the volcano.

Lots going on around the ship.  Hole in One Challenge, Zumba, lecture about Puntarenas with Julio, Horse Racing, Scrabble get together, Bar Wars, Enrichment Lecture about the Mystery of the Pyramids with Jeffrey Wolff, Move The Place Beyond the Pines, Soccer 3 on 3, Tango class, Carpet Bowls, Muts is showing Overboard then Billy Joel Concert then Frozen, Afternoon Tea, Trivia.

I have Afternoon Tea and really enjoyed it today – I had only one small sandwich and one scone and they were less salty this time.  It is lovely that Princess still does Afternoon Tea, it is a civilized break in the afternoon.

Barb and Craig invite to their balcony for drinks.  They have the last aft cabin on the Starboard Side that is large and you can see right down the side of the ship.  It is not very private, everyone can look up and down and see you and the walls that surround you are all metal and can be quite noisy when the sounds bounce off it.  Another downfall is that if you want to see to the right you can’t really do it cause of the wall.  The positives are that it is large, you can easily accommodate four, you have a stunning view down the ship.  We have also noticed quite a bit of vibration when we are back there.

We see quite few pods of dolphins – large numbers and they are playing in the surf.  Many jump up and right out of the water.  Sadly I didn’t have my camera but I loved watching them. 

Back in the cabin we are kind of lazy (why I don’t know we have done nothing all day).  The remains of the sunset have drawn us outside.  We sit and enjoy the skies for about 45 minutes and really take it all in.  This moment of Relaxation is Brought to You By Princess Cruises.

We decide to head down to the dining room for dinner, it is always lovely to see Mark and Lorelei. 

Just as we are leaving we run into Johan who was looking for us and we sit in Vines and enjoy a bottle of wine.  Anthony is there and he serves us.  We haven’t been in Vines much this leg.  The first two legs we were here more.  We catch up with him and he comments that Mark Cornish’s show was excellent and we agree to go see him for the 10:15 show.

Mark Cornish is one of the cruise staff.  We have sailed with him before and he has an amazing talent of not only being a great cruise staff but he has an amazing voice too.  He is quite comical too and has many of us singing along and laughing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lima in the Evening

We are back on board around 5 pm and we are hot, dirty and tired.  I have a shower and lay down on the bed and I fall asleep for an hour and a half and wake up groggy and dazed. 

Dining room is completely open seating tonight, but we know what and who we want to sit with.  Mark and Lorelei.  Their section is quite and they are happy to see us since we missed them yesterday.

We are not very hungry and I just have a salad and a small serving of the pesto pasta with green beans and red potatoes.  Oh and they have one of my favorite sorbets, lime vodka sorbet. 

All aboard is 9:30 and there are a few things going on around the ship but not much.  Not many people are out and about – I am sure they are tired.

We walk by Explorer’s and see a magician – sorry I don’t remember his name because I later find out he was not scheduled for tonight because the originally scheduled performer Matt Henry did not arrive with his luggage so Lisa asked this other guy to perform.  I will try and get his name and come back and edit this blog with the real name.

The Princess Theater had a performance of Local Folkloric artists called Inkamerica which offered a taste of Peru.  The early show was packed and they were lining up for the late show before the first show let out.  Also heard there was numerous issues with people saving seats, bad!!!  We didn’t make it.  Actually even though we would love to see this type of show we tend to stay away from the very busy shows and look for quieter intimate venues.

We pop in to see Sanja in Facets to see how she faired after we dropped her off and she fills us in. 

We are up in the cabin around 11 pm and we sit out on the balcony and watch as we clear the channel.

Not sure when Princess installed the six extra decks to the forward elevators but this said 22 all day... a little giggle

We now have three sea days…. Ahhh I bet you can see my smile.

Pisco! Sour! -- Callao/Lima Peru – March 25, 2014

We are back!  Last time we were delayed because of fog and we were delayed by over four hours so we didn’t end up doing our tour with Taxi Lima.  This time I needed to make it up to Renato and arranged a 7 hour tour for 8 of us.  This is a spot we had been looking forward to.

We docked early, and once again this is a large industrial port.  We don’t dock in Lima we dock in the district of Callao, which in itself is a large city and is right beside Lima.  Together the area has over 10 million people in population.

We were given a letter a few days ago from the Captain warning us of the dangers in Callao of muggings and petty crime and to use caution when travelling around Callao and the port area.  Of course many on board freaked right out and many were not even going to get off the ship. 

I was a little disappointed to hear this and felt that these people are really going to miss out.  I am also surprised that head office did not offer the same serious warning of petty crimes for Rio, Buenos Aries, and Valparaiso where petty crime is also rampant.  And we encountered people who were robbed here.  But please use caution wherever you travel.

Like many other industrial ports we had to take a shuttle from the pier to the port gate.  But unlike Buenos Aries and Valparaiso this port does not have big buses they have only small vans to transport all the people. 

We got off at 8:30 to give us enough time to get to the pier gate for 9, but when we got off the queue was just forming and we were near the front but it still took over 45 minutes to get to the gate.  And I would say the line was about 200 people when we finally got in the van.  This has been like this for a few years and I have to say was the only big negative for this city.  We are standing out on the pier in the direct sun and long waits with no clear direction. 

The ship did offer a free shuttle to the San Miguel Plaza Shopping Mall that started at 9:30 and ended at 8:30.  This was free but I have a feeling this was added last minute when the warning came out, but not a 100% sure.  Why they couldn’t of moved more people just to the gate I don’t know. 

Note the Princess tours loaded onto buses right at the pier and didn’t have to deal with this issue.  But because we were on a private tour we had to take the small shuttle.  Hindsight I may have arranged for Renato to pick us up at the shopping mall, but not sure if Princess will have the same shuttle in the future.  Either way if you are on a private excursion make sure you take into consideration the long lines for the van to the gate.

Renato of Taxi Lima was waiting for us.  We had a bit of a wait for the van cause his normal van was involved in an accident and he was getting another one. 

The van arrived and we all pilled in.  We were a group of 8 and it could of accommodated two more but that would have been very tight.  As it was I think if I did it again I would of done with 6 people to make transportation a little more comfortable.  But thankfully we are all good friends and we managed fine.

Our first area was visiting the area of Callao.  Here the houses are painted a minimum of two colors it really has character.  We stop at a beach area and then our next stop is at a lovely park.

We drive along the water to the Mira Flores District to the Nazca Lines Park.  Here the gardeners have recreated some of the Nazca Lines in flowers in this huge garden.   The views are stunning too.

Next stop is Lovers Park with the iconic statue of two lovers.  The statues is surrounded by a stunning mosaic wall that provides glimpses of views thru the openings.  Here we encounter four huge Princess tour buses and the only place we felt we were crowded with tourists.

Renato stops at a shopping mall.  At first I didn’t want to see this cause heck we see malls all the time and this mall has similar shops as to home, even a Starbucks.  But I resisted. 


But this mall has it’s parking underground and the whole thing is on the side of a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean.  The architecture is amazing and in the end we were not here long and it was quite interesting.

Renato of Taxi Lima with Jasper

Next stop is lunch that is situated in a lovely square and doesn’t look like much from the outside but it is HUGE.  The restaurant is called Rustica and for lunch they offer a Peruvian buffet that costs us around $11 US per person and I have to say was well worth it.

Many of us order Pisco Sours – research you know.  We need to compare the two countries’ versions of Pisco Sours.  After trying them both I prefer Lima’s version.  I even try a chocolate drink that has Pisco in it too and that was darn good.  In the end the boys have numerous Pisco Sours and a new chant was started.  One person says Pisco the remaining say Sour, Pisco!  Sour!  Come on say it with me.

The food was to die for and so different than the other South American Countries.  Renato comes up with us to the buffet and explains the dishes.  I tried many new items today, including Chicken Blood stew, which was sort of like the Argentinian Blood Sausage but better I thought. 
Here in Peru they use spice --- FINALLY. 

We go up for seconds and we are stuffed, but I did save room for a bit of dessert.

Back on the road the large meal is slowing us down but thankfully Renato is on top of this.  We are now in the Chorrilos District  area, we started on the upper area and now we are down on the lower area.  Beautiful beaches, amazing statues, and we can see the open air church and the illuminated cross here too.  Also in the distance we can see Lima’s version of the Christ Redeemer statue that was built by some Brazilians.

We are now making our way into the downtown of Lima and the traffic is noticeable heavier, bumper to bumper in fact.  But the architecture is stunning.

The driver drops us off and Renato starts showing us on foot all around. 

When we arrive in the main square I glance up and left, right, all around – WOW.

The Cathedral, these stunning Colonial Balconies, The House of Inquisition, The Congress Building, the Government Palace and the huge square.  He explains each building and wish we could spend more time here but we know we will be back and we will explore more then. 

We are now on our way to a private home that his friend manages and lives at.  The home was built in 1740s and it is the largest residential homes in the city.  We enter this huge door into a large courtyard.  Renato explains that the large doors are because visitors would arrive with horse drawn carriages and the doors had to be big enough to accommodate.  The large stair case to the left is wide to accommodate the large dresses the women use to wear. 

Today the lower floor is occupied by some private organizations which pay rent and help to offset the cost of the upkeep. 

We make our way upstairs to the area that was once the actual residence.  A large room that they call the ballroom use to conduct large dances here.  Again a big wow!
We are directed to the wooden balcony, very ornate.  Boy are we fortunate, I am pretty sure most tours do not get to see things like this.

Back out into the courtyard balcony, we are head up a very narrow staircase.  It was like this because in case of invasion you could protect yourself at the top of the staircase and since the staircase is so narrow only one person can go up at a time it was easier to defend. 

We are now on the third level and the views from her blow me away.  There are a lot of abandoned buildings around and you can now see how large the city is.
Up another level to a small look out and well can I come up with another word for wow.

Here is a picture of the house we were just in and you can see each level.  At the end we were at the very top with the domed roof.

Back in the van and we need to head back to the ship. It has been a long day and we have seen a lot.  But we have so much more we wish we could of seen.  We need to come back here and spend more time, maybe a week.  I know for sure we would be contacting Renato for assistance.

He was very professional and helpful.  He responded to emails efficiently and even helped us answer other questions about Peru.  He arranged for tours for some others on the ship who had found his services thru my blog from two years ago too.

Back at the dreaded gate!  We wait about ten minutes for another shuttle van.  Boy wish they would improve this.  Even showing some skin and putting our thumb out doesn’t help.