Well, we have been back from our trip for almost two weeks now so I guess it’s time I wrote the epilogue which I promised. I do apologize to my faithful readers for taking so long to complete this task but once I returned to “real life”, real life concerns and duties seemed to keep pushing my writing to the back list.
First of all, I wish to thank everyone who posted comments, sent emails and upon our return had kind words regarding the blog. This was my first attempt at writing a blog; my first attempt ever to write anything for publication for public viewing. Your words of encouragement has meant a great deal to me and inspired me to keep at the task.
Before you start, I must warn you that this post is long and has many photographs. If you get bored just hit the “page down” button!
We concluded our voyage on Saturday March 12, 2011. We docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale around 4:30 AM. We were up early to take care of the final packing, get breakfast and be ready in case were called early. Our departure ticket was for approximately 8:45 but the ship cleared customs early and we were called shortly after 8:00 AM. We quickly made it down to the gangway deck and were scanned “off” the ship. Well, everyone except me. It seemed I was one of the lucky ones flagged for full customs review. I was given an escort off the ship and had to claim all my baggage which was to be shipped by FedEx. Our escort and a porter, with the luggage, then took us to the customs desk. At this point the Jarvis’ and Wellborn’s had already left the terminal building and engaged a van for our transport to the airport. Twenty minutes later, after someone from the ship had to appear at customs because they were not following correct procedure on duty-free purchases and the customs line ground to a complete halt while the issue was resolved, we finally were released (without paying the additional $350 customs first demanded) to join our friends for the trip to the airport. Between the porter and the additional tip to the driver for waiting (he did not charge extra!) the customs delay cost me an extra $40.00. Oh well, this trip was billed as an adventure!
Our concern was for missing our flight. Delta had already changed our departure time twice, moving it up to 11:05. We made the airport with a little time to spare, and guess who was pulled out of line by TSA at security for an examination of my carry-on. Yeah, that’s right, me. I guess all the electronics with my camera equipment must have looked like a possible bomb. They actually did the chemical sniffer on the contents of the bag. It really only delayed me by a few minutes but it seemed like forever. (The same bag, same contents passed through Atlanta without any problem) We hurried to our gate, and a few minutes later were informed the flight was delayed due to maintenance issues. We finally left Ft. Lauderdale about one and one-half hours late. This of course required me to call the limousine service which was scheduled to pick us up and reschedule the pickup.
Finally we arrived back in the Canyon about 4:00 PM. I must say that probably the most difficult part of the entire 68 day trip was getting back to Canton from Fort Lauderdale. Folks, it just shouldn’t be this hard…..
Now for the summary of our trip. Probably the most frequently asked question is” What was your favorite (port, place, country)?” This was followed by are you all still friends after 66 days together on a ship? And finally, was 66 days too long for a cruise.
I will address the second question first, since it is the easiest. Yes, we are all still friends; if anything we are better and closer friends than we were when we left. We are all individuals with our own likes, dislikes, agenda, plans, etc. We recognize this and accept it. Often when in port we would all have a different excursion planned for the things which mattered most to us. We all kept each other informed what our plans were and all were welcome to join any of the others if we wished. There were no hurt feeling or cold shoulders if no one wanted to do what you were doing; you just went your own way. On the other hand, there were many times where the six of us did shore activities together or sometimes four would be together and the other two went their separate ways. The same procedure worked during sea days as well. The one exception was dinner. We always had dinner together in the formal dining room, even if we had not seen each other all day. This gave us a chance to exchange information and update each other on what they had missed. We often had breakfast and lunch together, but it was seldom planned. If more than one showed up for lunch at the same general time, we ate together.
I think this attitude is essential to survive close quarters for a long length of time, we shared great moments and we shared problems and concerns, just like a family would do. I fully believe traveling with friends under these conditions enhances the experience tenfold.
It is true, 66 days is a long time to be away from home and family. It is also a long time to live on a ship in a cabin which is smaller than your master bathroom. Was it too long to enjoy? Absolutely not. I never heard anyone in our group (or anyone on the ship for that matter) say they wished they were home or they would be glad when the cruise was over. I believe we were all mentally ready for our journey to end when it was time. There was no pulling of hair or gnashing of teeth at the end. My biggest regret was leaving the friends that had been made among the fellow passengers and the crew. In two months you inevitably become close to those around you. On the other hand, I did miss my children and grandchildren and friends back home. Email and an occasional phone call helped with this though. I believe the key to a successful long voyage is making careful preparation prior to your departure. If you don’t have to worry about things back home, you will have a much more relaxed trip.
Would I do another 66 day cruise? You bet! I am not sure that I am ready for a 100+ day voyage yet, perhaps in a few years!
Now, I will address the more difficult question. What was my favorite thing, port, city, country, etc.? First of all, I can only answer for myself. We all had things which really stood out for us, but I will tell you what mine were. It is impossible to specifically say “this was the best”. The experiences were too varied and encompassed too much to specifically point to one and say it was the “best”. Therefore I will take the destinations in order and give my impressions of each. Any that are left out, well that sums up my impression…. Some of these photos have been previously posted on the blog and others are new. A few are courtesy of David Jarvis. Enjoy.
Devil’s Island, French Guiana – The contrast between its beauty and it brutal history was almost too much to comprehend. As I walked through the grounds, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have been imprisoned here. When you look at the cells and chains you can almost feel the suffering which took place here. I know this doesn’t sound like something you would say was a great place to visit, but it certainly did make a lasting impression and I for one am glad I had the opportunity to visit the islands.
All of the above are from Devil’s Island, Fr. Guiana
Macapa, Brazil. About the only thing that really made an impression on me in Macapa was the Zero monument on the equator. For some reason this had a greater impact on than I expected. I have always loved geography and I guess the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at once just appealed to me.
Boca da Valeria, Brazil. What can I say about this stop. It is impossible for us in America, even the most abject poverty stricken of Americans simply cannot imagine what life is like on the bank of a wild river which can, and almost always does flood every year. There are no roads, no airports. The river is the only means of transportation and the lively hood consists mainly of what they can grow or catch. The one or two cruise ships which stop each year provides some assistance both from the passengers and Holland America Lines. These are a beautiful proud people who have no hope of escape from their situation. It was a very moving experience for me.
Manous, Brazil, about a 1000 miles up the Amazon, was one of my least favorite ports. The town was large, rundown with much poverty and crime. There were two of our fellow passengers mugged here. The city held nothing I cared for. On the other hand, we had probably the most exciting excursion of the entire voyage in Manous. We took what turned out to be a 10 hours tour is a small boat up and across the Amazon and proceeded into several smaller tributaries. There were about three times when I actually felt my life was in danger. Not from muggers, but from the inherent dangers we faced on the river. If you have never been caiman hunting after dark on an isolated tributary of the Amazon, well you have never lived! Then the boat ride back about 3 miles up the tributary and across the Amazon at full speed in the dark…. All I could think about were the 4 foot diameter logs we had seen floating in the river during the day. If we hit one of these, it would have been all over for us. If we didn’t die from impact, there were always the piranhas, caimans and anacondas to get us, that is if we didn’t drown first…..
Life is hard on the Amazon and unforgiving. Nevertheless there is great beauty here, just keep me out of the cities!
Despite its beauty, this walkway just didn’t feel safe to me. I was glad when I was off of it.
The next four ports in Brazil were Alter do Chao, then Beleme at the mouth of the Amazon, Fortaleza and finally Maceio. Although each of these ports had something to offer, especially the beauty in Alter do Chao and Maceio, I can honestly say that I would not go out of my way to plan another visit to any of these towns.
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil is a large city with strong African influences. It was an interesting and colorful city with the most magnificent cathedral we saw on our trip. The elevator used to transport one from the lower level of the city to the upper level is quite unique.
Ilheus, Brazil is another east Brazilian coast city which I could skip next trip. It’s not that there was anything bad about Ilheus, it’s just that there wasn’t anything in my opinion which made it stand out for so many other of the east coast Brazilian cities.
Our next port was Rio de Janeiro. Of course if you have the opportunity to visit Rio you must. It is huge and beautiful. Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer should be on everyone’s bucket list. As you have probably already discerned, I am not a big city person; nevertheless I would put Rio on my repeat list. There is just too much to see and do in the short span of two days. The beaches, the parks, the museums and the people all deserve more time and attention.
Then came a surprise; Parati, Brazil. This port was added due to some port of call changes. This was a maiden port for the Prinsendam and also I believe for any Holland America ship. This is a small quiet colonial town, which for the most part is unchanged for the past 200 years. It is a favorite location for local tourists, but not frequented often by foreigners. Here we found much beauty and a quiet serenity not found in the cities. This is a place where I could come and spend a quiet restful week.
We left Pariti (pronounced Parachee) with light hearts and a smile on our faces. After two fun and restful days at sea we arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo is a modern European like city which was not overwhelming in size. I really enjoyed our day in Montevideo. I would very much like to return someday.
Next stop – Buenos Aires, Argentina. Again, this is a huge city, but beautiful with much to see and do. We spent two full days. My favorite things were visiting the tomb of General San Martin, the Tigre River and the river people and of course the tango….
After we left Buenos Aires, we enjoyed another two sea days. These days were filled with lectures about the Antarctic as well as many other fun and educational activities. When we arrived at Stanley Falkland Islands there was some doubt about whether we would be able to tender to the dock. We did manage to get ashore and I am certainly glad we did. Stanley is a quaint British town in a very harsh environment. We enjoyed the people, the penguins, the food and the town. I would return.
We departed the Falklands early Wednesday evening on February 10 on our way to the Antarctic. We spent the next five days at sea and enjoyed the most spectacular scenery you could imagine. No photos or videos can possibly compare the experience of standing on the open deck with the grandeur of the Antarctic completely surrounding you. I guess if I had to choose a single favorite location for our journey, it would be the Antarctic. There is just simply nowhere else on earth that can compare or compete for the sheer beauty and scale.
Late on the last day at sea, we rounded Cape Horn. This too was a very exciting part of our trip. This is a piece of geography which contains so many stories and so many tragedies. If only the Cape could talk!
Ushuaia, Argentina was another of my favorite ports. I only wish we had more time here! I would really love to return to southern Argentina and Chile, the Patagonia area and spend a month at least. The country is absolutely beautiful.
We left Ushuaia in the early afternoon and proceeded up the Beagle Channel. The beauty was non-stop. Glaciers, snow capped mountains and the feeling of almost total isolation. There are no towns, no villages and only a few small boats were spotted.
On Thursday, February 17 we arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile. This was an interesting and fun stop. I would like to revisit every stop we made on the western coast of South America. To me western coast of South America was much more interesting that the eastern coast.
After two more days in the Chilean Fjords and the Pacific we arrived in Puerto Montt, Chile. Everything I said about Punta Arenas also applies to Purto Montt (except we saw no penguins).
500 miles later we arrived at the Isla Robin Crusoe, Chile. This was both a beautiful and heartbreaking stop. We arrived almost exactly one year after the tsunami of February 2010 took the lives of over 20 persons on this small island with a population of only. The devastation was still very evident and much rebuilding was still needed but nevertheless the locals welcomed us and some fellow passengers even were invited to lunch in private homes. I would love to return in a few years to see the progress.
Our next port was Valparaiso, the port city for the capital of Chile, Santiago. I absolutely loved Valpo. I didn’t even make the 60 mile trip to Santiago, although I understand it was a beautiful city. I could easily spend a week in Valparaiso…. I loved the colors, the street art and the elevators between city levels. And everyone seemed to be happy. We spent two days exploring the city and only touched on all the things to see.
After two more days at sea we arrived at the port of General San Martin. We had been warned, but this was truly just a dock; and a commercial dock at that. The major export here is salt and it was everywhere. This small town serves as the port for the city of Pisco, Peru. We didn’t get to Pisco but we had an incredible time seeing the sights of the upper Atacama Desert and the wildlife fill island of Ballestas. I loved this area and would certain return if I get the opportunity.
We spent two days in Callao, the port city of Lima, Peru. Well actually we spent the two days in Lima; we had full day tours planned for both days. Lima is an interesting city, huge and sprawling. There are many nice museums and the Larco ceramic museum of pre-Columbian artifacts was my favorite stop. The San Francisco Cathedral catacombs also were exciting to visit, but disappointingly photography was not allowed.
After two more fun days at sea and then Manta, Ecuador. I would like to return to Ecuador some day.
One day was spent watching wild life in the ocean…
Tuna and Panama Hats were the big attractions in Manta.
The transit of the Panama Canal was a thrill. Other than the canal, I didn’t see a lot in Panama which would entice me to return.
Aruba was beautiful, but let’s face it, it’s just another beautiful Caribbean Island. I wouldn’t mind returning, the locals were very nice and it seems to live up to its motto “One Happy Island”.
The last cold beer on Robinson Crusoe Island $3.00….. (and it really was the last!)
A ride on an Elevator in Valparaiso $0.15 (and worth every penny – better than Six Flags!)
Spending time with old friends and new….. PRICELESS
Mike and Pauline
Dot and Tom
Karen and Brad
Just to name a few……
It’s been fun, and now I expect everyone who has persevered through my musings to take the plunge and do a blog the next time you travel.
Thanks for reading,