I vowed to write no more blogs. But when I thought about how we could communicate some thoughts and pictures from our recent trip, this seemed the easiest way. Rather than start a new blog, and risk setting a precedent, I used the old one which was less work.
Since travelogues are inherently boring to others I will confine my comments to a few random thoughts. These are basically for a family and friends who like this sort of stuff. As background, we decided that we should see some new places, our of reach of the trailer, and also try “cruises” in case we liked them. In essence … we did, and luckily we missed the February extreme cold.
Rail to Windsor, Ontario, taxi to Detroit, and a cheap flight to Vegas. Always a fun town, but more expensive that in earlier times. After a couple of days in Paris (Las Vegas), a good show and excellent meals, another cheap flight to Long Beach, California. (See footnote). Overnight there on the old Queen Mary, which was like sleeping in a museum. Extraordinary. Taxi to the cruise dock and off to Mexico, Costa Rica, and through the Panama Canal to Columbia and Miami.
Norwegian Cruise Lines was first-rate, with excellent shows, and they were obsessed with clean hands. Reassuring. An older crowd, but good fun and interesting stops. But the organized tours add a lot to the overall costs of cruises. In Cabo San Lucas we found one answer: a little old boat for a cheap wander around the local sights. The motor was intermittent, but the captain remained optimistic. He only got fuel after we had paid. We did manage to catch the ship departure.
In Costa Rica we risked a private minibus tour, which took us to places that the official “tour buses” could not reach. The white faced monkeys reminded me of someone, but I could not quite recall who. It came to me later, when I looked in a mirror.
The Panama Canal was fascinating, with a couple of feet on each side to challenge the locomotives that pull the enormous ship through the locks. Cartagena, Columbia was full of history, vendors, tourists and heat, but most interesting. We were pleased that Bolivar put an end to the inquisition around 1811. To photograph the dressed up fruit vendors was a $2.00 charge, so Elaine bought a $1.00 banana and we got a photograph anyway. How cheap can you get?
Norwegian docked in Miami dead on time, and we rented a car for a laundromat visit, haircut for John, and lunch. Then on to Costa for a cruise through the Caribbean islands This (larger) ship was like being in Europe. Less hand-washing than Norwegian, but rigorous lifeboat drill, which is, of course, based on history. Costa had outstanding Italian-themed food and a cosmopolitan collection of shipmates. The first intimation of this was when I met a black woman, and we spoke in French.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Whereabouts in France?
Most of the black people on board were from Guadeloupe, which is a “Department” of France. Our visit there was a highlight, and strange to find oneself in a French environment with “first world” smooth roads and infrastructure, Then the woman asked me: “Where are you from?”
“You don’t have a Canadian accent … I can actually understand you!”.
Also on the ship I met a man from Birmingham, and I asked him what Britain was like these days. In a rich Midlands accent he replied: “Oh … not what it was … too many people coming in from places like Turkey and Bulgaria.” Since his parents were from Pakistan, I found this to be a strange comment.
Costa was a lot of fun, and on “Italian night” the staff marched around to Grand Opera music with cakes and sparklers and distributed free champagne. Elaine danced with our waiter, and then joined the Conga line round the restaurant. Amazing.
OK … not a travelogue … just some impressions. And yes, both Elaine and I swam in the sea in Antigua. Marvellous! A few random pictures follow.
John … with editing and comments from Elaine.
Footnote: We avoid big airports, early departures, late arrivals, buses and other forms of torture as much as possible. This results in interesting routings, but often major savings.