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Holland America Rotterdam Cruise
February 6 - March 8, 2010

Mexico, Central and South America


San Diego, California

Our pre-cruise hotel room in San Diego
had a great view of the harbor.
  Of course, we had to visit the famous San Diego Zoo.
Although it was pricey ($37.00 per person), the zoo was a combination of zoo & botanical gardens
and was definitely worth seeing.
Mom & Dad were in long sleeves,
but the surfers were out all along the beaches.
  We saw the La Jolla seal rookery where babies are born between January and May. One was only 5 days old.


Puerto Vallarta has one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever visited. This is the view from the apartment of our friends, Jimmie & Mary, who took us to lunch a their favorite beach bar.
A short walk from their apartment took us to the Malecón, the sea side walkway, and the old town city center.

Zihuatanejo was a sleepy little village with a calm bay
and killer views of the mountains that surround it.

  We saw men standing in waist deep water fishing
with only reels (no poles) and others
coming in from boats with their Black Marlin trophies.

Antigua, Guatemala

Mayan indian women wearing traditional huipiles scrubbed their clothes in a pila (wash house).   Most women had handicrafts for sale.
The babies came along for a ride.   The old city center was where the original Spanish conquerors had lived. Today their homes have been converted into shops and restaurants.
In Ciudad Vieja we visited an all-girls elementary school.   On the edge of town, Casa Santo Domingo (a former convent) is a five star $260 USD per night hotel, where President Bill Clinton stayed while visiting.

Corinto, Nicaragua

The colorful town of Corinto, Nicaragua is not there for tourism. Most markets and shops are for locals and we didn't see any hotels.   Baseball is the national sport of Nicaragua and the Rayos (Stingrays) were getting ready for the Saturday game.
Fishmen showed off the morning catch and two beautiful little girls, Diana & Margarita, played on the littered beach.


We had the opportunity to take a canoe ride up the
Chagres River to visit an Emberá Indian Village.
  The Emberá girls were very pretty -
and wore tops in our honor.
Men, women and children were heavily tatooed with temporary black ink that lasts about 8 days. The ink serves as an insecticide to help keep away mosquitoes.   The village of about 85 people live
in elevated huts near the river.
Their land has been taken over by the Panamanian park system and they are no longer allowed to hunt or plant fields, so their income is gained from tourists who purchase their woven baskets and visit the village.   They are allowed to fish; and we ate fried tilapia and plantains served in palm leaves.
The Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal were constantly busy. In the morning, ships move from the Pacific to the Atlantic. In the afternoon, they go the other direction.   Many of today's ships barely fit in the canal; and the Panamanian government is in a hurry to build a newer, wider canal to accomodate these huge ships.

The Northern Coast of Peru

This huge Huaca del Sol (Peruvian style pyramid to the Sun) was built over 2,000 years ago from adobe bricks!
The huge Chimú Indian temple compound of Chan Chan is being restored in some sections.   We stopped and talked to the men working
in the scorching heat making the adobe
using the traditional methods.
In nearby Huanchaco, Caballitos de Tortora (reed boats) are built in 2 hours and last one month.   The largest main square in Peru is
the clean, beautiful and safe Plaza de Armas in Trujillo.

Lima, Peru

The Rafael Larco Herrera Museum has a huge collection of Incan artifacts, including these enormous gold ear plugs (that look like saucers) worn by the nobility.
The earring posts are 2 inches thick!
  We didn't know the names of most of the exotic fruits at the market, let alone the over 1,000 varieties of potato!


The 1 1/2 mile Malecón area in Guayaquil contained a stunning tropical garden. The raised boardwalks allowed us to see the lovely plantings and fountains.   Our friends, César and Yolanda, invited us to share an incredible lunch in their home.
Their wonderful company surrounded by beautiful paintings and an elegant table made the meal
an unforgettable experience.

One of many the courses included a delicious soup of corvina (Chilean sea bass).
To read more about visit read our BLAB.

The artesan markets in Manta were filled with tablecloths, ponchos, paintings and our hand crafted musical instruments like the one we bought - a charango (a small guitar) with the back made from an armadillo.   In Montecristi, three families still weave Panama hats (which cost between $10-$500)
the old fashioned way from reeds.

Costa Rica

The shops were filled with beautiful crafts made by Costa Rican artisans.


The southern coast of the State of Chiapas in Mexico is not set up for tourism. The Mayan ruins of Izapa are only few miles from the Guatemalan border.   The whole settlement is probably over 300 acres, but only one small area of Izapa has been excavated. There are no fences, no admission charge and no guides nor guards.
The large city of Tapachula houses an Archaeological Museum with relics from the Izapa site. This skull was probably a chief. His head was partially covered
with gold and pieces of jade.
  The small village of Tuxtla Chico, also known as Chocolate City, had a large, lively outdoor market.
Several stands sold soft tacos and fried empanadas. Each one was made using fresh masa (dough)
flattened in a wooden press.
  What are these? Fresh cashews. The red part is edible and sweet, but highly perishible; so it is not shipped to the USA. The greenish-grey stem is poisonous if eaten raw, but after it is baked and salted; it's ready to go.
In Huatulco we took a small boat out to several bays where we snorkeled and saw huge schools of bonito jumping while chasing even smaller fish.   Acapulco lived up to its reputation with great beaches and hotels framed by a dramatic mountain backdrop.
In Cabo San Lucas we kayaked out to several beautiful secluded beaches surrounded by towering sharp rocks.   We were so sorry to say good-bye to our wonderful tablemates - Mary Fran, Art, Julie and Maggie.