by Carol Kelly
Carol Kelly photos
Oh I know- you’ve all heard the horror stories about the Plantation’s latest cruisers: plague, pestilence, famine, etc., and believe me some of those stories are true! However, allow me to regale you with some of the good things we stalwart explorers experienced on our recent cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal with stops in Central America, San Diego and then west to Hawaii.
- Food: Lobster, scallops, shrimp, prime rib, veal, Black Forest Cake, crème brulee, homemade ice cream…Is your mouth watering yet?
- Service: Greeting by name from smiling crew members asking about your day, health, needs, etc. We didn’t even have to put our napkins on our laps; it was done for us!
- Beds: The beds were fantastically comfortable. (I even know someone who liked them so much she bought one for her home!) Not to mention we didn’t have to make them and they were turned down for us at night with chocolate wafers on our pillows.
“Yeah, yeah,” you’re saying, “but what about all those other things that happened?”
Oh come on now, you don’t really want to read about those. Let’s continue with the high points of the trip:
- Cartagena: No I didn’t get to meet Michael Douglas and get to Romance the Stone but we did get a lovely tour of the old town, and one of our number bought a gorgeous black hand-painted shawl from a local vendor.
- Panama Canal: Even though several of us had been through it before, one can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity and beauty. Gatun Lake is alluring.
Cruise on the Mango River, Costa Rica: After a comfortable bus ride across the countryside, we were treated to a lazy boat ride through a rain forest lush with tropical birds, flowers and crocodiles. After the cruise we indulged in local fruit and cerveza (beer).
Leon, Nicaragua, and Antigua, Guatemala: Touring Spanish colonial cities might seem disappointing. All the streets are lined with stucco walls and nasty cobble stones with only an occasional door to break the monotony . BUT, just walk inside one of those doors and you’ll find an oasis of colorful shrubs, flowers and fountains; a feast for your senses.
Also in both countries, we marveled at the smoking volcanoes and were even treated to a low menacing rumble from one in Antigua, Guatemala.
- San Diego: Birthed right next to our ship was the aircraft carrier Midway, so we took the tour. In one of the ready rooms we met a retited captain acting as a docent and he and Steve had a grand time swapping “war” stories.
In the adjacent park, however, I was enthralled with the iconic statue of the kissing sailor and a bronze replica of Bob Hope entertaining the troops for the USO. This statue was enhanced by a continuous broadcast of one of his famous monologues.
- Kauai, Hawaii: As with the big island, we never made it to Kauai on other trips and we looked forward to visiting both on this trip. Unfortunately we were both too sick to visit Hilo but we looked forward to spending a week recuperating on Kauai. The beach resort where we stayed was a lovely quaint sanctuary overlooking the ocean with beautiful gardens, and the surf was extraordinary…20-25 foot swells!
- Waikiki, Oahu: We stayed at a lovely hotel overlooking the beach and Diamond Head, but what a difference from laid-back, sleepy Kauai! Here we were reunited with the gang from AP who went to Maui at a wonderful dinner, enjoyed the sunset, and then saw them off for the mainland.
The next day was Super Bowl Sunday. Around 3pm Hawaiian time the game began and we listened to roars of the fans at the sports bar down the street from our balcony as they celebrated the Falcons’ scores. I convinced Steve that a leisurely walk to the church down the street would do him good in both mind and body…and did it ever!
St. Augustine’s church, although a modern structure, resembled a native gathering place, and as we waited for Mass to begin people began to arrive in native dress. Men wore skirts made of varnished palm leaves over black kilts and women wore intricately woven grass skirts over tunics and muumuus. They all sat together in the center of the church and when the priest processed down the aisle they stood and began to sing acapella. The melody and language was Tongan and we didn’t understand a word of it but their voices were that of angels. Tears rolled down my cheeks from the sheer beauty of it all.
After dinner we returned to our room to learn the Pats had won…How good is that???
- Las Vegas, Nevada: After leaving Hawaii, we visited friends in Los Angeles and rented a car to drive to Vegas. Our Californian friends warned us that the drive is terribly boring, and I suppose it would be to someone used to that kind of scenery, but to an Easterner who thinks sand is only at the beach and cacti grow in dish gardens, this was neat. Also neat, was our suite on the 53rd floor of our hotel, which looked right down The Strip, and with a marble bathroom the size of my living room! Luxurious living…but, let’s admit it, there’s no place like home!