January 17, 2013 Sea Day

January 17, 2013 (Sea Day)

We have a new lecturer speaking on the subject of architecture. Sandra Millikin is an American who has lived in England for over 40 years. Educated at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and at the Courtauld Institute in London. She was the assistant curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings collection and a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Her lecture today is on “Architecture As I See It” where she gave insight into what architecture is and how it might differ from a building. She encouraged us to look for architecture and how to appreciate it.

Another new speaker by the name of Dr. David Pasta joined us as well. David is an Energy Geoscientist educated at UCLA where he received his B.S., M.S. in Geology and a Ph.D. in Geophysics. He did his doctoral dissertation on Plate Tectonics. His lecture today was titled: “Journey to the Center of the Earth and Back Again” where he discussed how earthquakes, tsunami’s and earthquakes affect the earth as well as how the continents were formed over millions of years and what they might look light in millions of more years. The lecture was somewhat interesting but not sure how useful.

The entertainment on this night was a group called “AbbaFab” who performed the music of Abba with the Amsterdam orchestra accompanying them. The two girls had good voices and it was an entertaining evening.

January 16, 2013 General San Martin, Peru

January 16, 2013 General San Martin, Peru

Kent at Tombo Colorado

Tombo Colorado Lunch Dancers

The landscape here is extremely barren due to the lack of rainfall in this portion of Peru. Annually they have no rainfall at all with the exception of El Nino years when they might have a shower or two. The soil is a reddish brown in color and very sandy. When the wind blows the sand creates smooth sandy hills.

On this day we drive from the ship through the town of Pisco on the coast and then inland through the barren landscape to the ruins of Tambo Colorado. Here we explored a well-preserved adobe and stone structure, built atop an ancient fortress of the pre-Inca culture of Chincha. It was once a grain depository, administrative and military center of the Inca Pachacutec in the 15th century. It is also believed that they used this site to worship the sun, as well as study astronomy and everything related to agriculture. This site is still the best-preserved artifact of the Incan civilization along the Peruvian coast. The site was located along a river and is well preserved considering it was built more than 500 years ago. We were able to walk through the quarters where the royalty and their families, soldiers, common people and virgins lived. There were rooms including storage rooms, bedrooms, baths for bathing with sunken tubs, as well as a lookout tower for the soldiers. Some 2,000 people are believed to have resided here until the Spanish invaded the country.

After visiting the ruins we visited a large hacienda and farm where they grow tangerines, macadamia nuts, green asparagus and many varieties of grapes. The grapes are used to produce the liquor called Pisco and is used to make the Pisco sour. Behind the family residence we enjoyed roasted macadamia nuts and potato appetizers before having a buffet lunch. A men’s musical group along with a women’s dance troupe in vibrantly colored dresses performed local dances during the lunch. The buffet included asparagus and mixed vegetables, stewed beef, rice, lima bean salad and potatoes with cheese sauce.  Dessert was a napoleon like cake with a chocolate caramel sauce and fresh fruit with honey.

On the farm there was also a small weaving factory where we could see how some of the local textiles are made. They also had a small showroom where you could purchase the local textiles made into purses, scarves and clothing items. Pisco was available for tasting with most people thinking it tasted more like rubbing alcohol. A small group of musicians was performing local music and selling CD’s.

Tonight’s entertainment is a comedian by the name Jack Mayberry who has performed on the Tonight Show more than twenty times. Even so he was not that funny.

January 15, 2013 Lima, Peru

January 15, 2013 Callao, Peru (Lima)



Traffic Circle in Lima, Peru

Traffic Circle in Lima, Peru

Our second day in Lima included an archeological tour where we visited the National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, with Peru’s largest collection of artifacts from pre-Hispanic cultures. The museum is housed in an old stately colonial mansion that was once the home of Viceroy Joaquin de la Pezuela and the leaders of the struggle for independence, Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar. We saw many stone sculptures, ceramics and pottery from Peru’s past 1,500 years of history.   However, there was not one stone-carved or pottery penis, which was an important part of their worship ritual.  Must be those conservatives running the show.

Our next stop was a visit to Huaca Huallamarca, located in the district of San Isidro. This was an oracle center that functioned for 1,200 years, up until the Spanish Conquest of Peru. This imposing monument is located in the center of a beautiful older residential community where Lima’s who’s who live. This two-story tall mound of adobe clay bricks has a steep ramp on one side leading to the top of the mound. Within the mound archaeologists have unearthed mummies, one of which is on display with other ancient objects in an adjacent museum. The mummies were found encased within an egg-like wicker basket casing, in the fetal position as compared to laying flat like we think of many mummies.

We also drove by the Huaca Pucllana, which is another similar style archaeological center that was active between the 5th and 8th centuries AD. They are currently excavating and restoring this site.

As we sail away from Callao it is obvious that the sea is a very different color in the port area for some reason. The water is a very light green color and has an opaque look to it rather than a clear appearance. For many miles out of the port and into the sea we are surrounded by millions of jelly fish of all sizes. They ranged in color from white to reddish brown to multi-colored. They are only a few feet apart from each other and they could be seen around the ship for as far as the eye could see. I have never seen anything like this.

The entertainment this evening is a guitarist by the name of Fabio Zini.

January 14, 2013 Lima, Peru

January 14, 2013 Callao, Peru (Lima)

Cathedral of Lima



The city of Lima was founded in 1535 by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro. At the height of the Viceroyalty, virtually all goods produced in Peru, Argentina and Bolivia were carried over the Andes by mule to Callao, to be shipped to Panama, carried overland to the Atlantic and then transported to Spain via Cuba. The large port of Callao is approximately a one-hour drive from the city center of Lima. Lima is a huge city with approximately ten million inhabitants; nearly one third of Peru’s population lives in Lima. Eight percent of the population is of Chinese ancestry and thus you see many Chinese restaurants.

During the 1980’s Lima suffered from terrible safety concerns as the Sunshine Path terrorists came from the countryside into Lima to protest the rich and the way the government was running the country. The violence was so severe that it was unsafe for people to be out in the streets and they began to wall in their homes and add tall wrought iron fences, many with electrical fencing atop them to feel safe in their own homes. While it is much safer today, many of these walls and electrical fences still exist today.

Some parts of town are filled with graffiti and do not look particularly well kept, while other parts of town are clean and the homes are beautiful. You see homes that are very traditional in style such as colonial, Spanish, and English Tudor mixed with modern and any style in between. Many streets are lined with high-rise condos and apartments to accommodate the enormous number of people in the City.

While it is mid-January we still see many Christmas trees in homes windows and the public parks and businesses still have holiday decorations up. We even saw a Santa Claus in the main square.

Taxicabs are unregulated which allows anyone who would like to call themselves a taxi can put a sign on their car and charge any amount that the traffic will bear.  Buses and bus routes are privately owned and most anyone can get a job driving a bus. They stop to pick up people anywhere along the bus route and charge whatever they can get. At the end of the day the bus driver is required to share the fares with the owner of the bus.

On this day we visited the main square in downtown, which is beautifully landscaped and maintained. On the square is the Government Palace, Town Hall, Cathedral of Lima and the bishop’s palace. The Cathedral is very large and beautiful with an ornate altar including a statue of Christ carved from ivory, huge vaulted ceiling, mosaics, stained glass windows and many elaborate side altars. The crypt of Francisco Pizarro is here as well.

Another stop was the Convent of San Francisco, considered to be the most important religious monument in Lima, built in 1542 in Baroque style and consecrated in 1673. Included here are carved wooden ceilings, many original oil paintings including one of the last supper with a round table, murals, statuary and a lovely church.

A newer section of town called Miraflores is a newer section of town built over the last 40 years along the coast. This is the more touristy section of town with many of the hotels, restaurants and shops located here. Starbucks, KFC, Pappa John’s, Domino’s and many more familiar establishments can be found here. There is also an Inca Craft Market, which sells all types of local handicraft items such as silver, textiles, sweaters, leather goods, paintings and more.  Kent used his Spanish to inquire about buying me a pair of Alpaca under panties.  There are many large buildings with one stall after the next, many of them selling the exact same merchandise.

Meanwhile back at the ship, we enjoyed a Gaucho barbecue prepared poolside for our dinner. They had grilled chicken, lamb chops, sausage, pork, steak and shrimp accompanied by corn on the cob, salads, vegetables, baked potatoes and many desserts. The food was excellent.

A local entertainment group by the name of Inkamerica was onboard to provide the night’s show. The culture, colors and sounds of Peru were expressed through dance and music. They were an excellent dance troupe in beautiful Peruvian dress showing us their native dances from the mountains, jungle and coastal regions. They were accompanied by a group of local musicians. The entire ensemble was extremely well rehearsed and synchronized making for an enjoyable evening.

January 13, 2013 (Sea Day)

January 13, 2013 (Sea Day)

On this day we took in a cooking class where we learned how to make a lobster salad and a crème brulee from the Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan and served onboard the ship in the specialty restaurant called The Pinnacle.

We took a tour of the kitchen on board the ship where 96 crew members prepare all the meals throughout the ship. On a weekly basis guests consume 8,500lbs of meat, 3,814lbs of poultry, 1,875lbs of fish and 2,575lbs of seafood. They also use 18,000 eggs, 750lbs of sugar, 2,850lbs of flour and 4,750lbs of potatoes. It is amazing to see how a kitchen of this magnitude operates not to mention the dishwashing areas and bakery where all of the fresh breads and desserts are made.

Speaker Jon Bailey finished up his series on musicals with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. Jon tried to show how this again was a reflection of the times. The musical shows us how we perceive those who are different than ourselves and how we think of them. All these old show tunes make Kent weepy.

We had dinner in the Italian Specialty restaurant with several friends. Included with the dinner was a large dinner plate of pink cotton candy that arrived at the table between the entrée and the dessert course. The food was excellent and the portions were very large. Luckily the scale in the gym has not been working when we are at sea and the ship is in motion. Hopefully the damage is not too bad yet. The entertainment this night was a variety show featuring the comedian Joe Yannetty and the violinist Alwyn Wright who both had performed earlier in the week.

January 12, 2013 (Sea Day)

January 12, 2013 (Sea Day)

Today was a fairly quiet sea day but the time just seemed to fly by. We have not been sitting around bored wondering what to do next. We try to do a walk around the deck each day to burn a few calories. The temperature was much cooler today and the humidity was much lower making for a much more pleasant day out on deck.

Travel guide, Barbara, discussed what to see and do in the port of General San Martin coming up in a few days. Jon Bailey’s presentation was on the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” where he explores a father’s need to honor tradition and still respect his teenage kids. He also discussed how the Jewish life came to the stage. Barbara Geisler spoke and showed photos taken from both the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The theme for formal dinner this evening was black and silver. The entire dining room was decorated from top to bottom. Every table and chair in the dining room had a slip cover in black or white, fabric was hanging from the two story dining room ceiling and black and silver party decorations were extensively hung from every possible surface in the dining room. The dinner menu included lobsters, filet mignon, rack of veal and other delectable items.

After dinner instead of a show there was a Black and Silver Ball in the Queen’s Lounge, which is the main showroom. The room was transformed similar to the dining room with all black and silver décor, and a large dance floor in the middle of the room. The orchestra was playing dancing music, the men mostly in tuxedos and the ladies dressed to the nine’s in black and silver made for a festive evening.

Each night when you return to your cabin you discover your bed turned down, a chocolate on your pillow and a note from the captain wishing you a pleasant nights sleep. Many nights you also find atop your bed a delightful animal created by your cabin steward from towels. We have had a lobster, elephant, dinosaur and a puppy so far. On formal night you each have an added surprise as there is a gift awaiting you on your bed as well. The first formal night we received purple colored Holland America travel bags suitable for taking ashore with a towel, umbrella, sunscreen, etc., along with an emergency medical kit and ID card holder.  On this night we each received a set of luggage tags and a beautiful journal for documenting your world cruise adventure.

January 11, 2013 Manta, Ecuador

IMG_4829January 11, 2012 Manta, Ecuador

Manta is an important port for fishing and tuna processing. The harbor is filled with large tuna fishing vessels. We were docked next to one that had just returned from a couple of months at sea catching tuna. The vessel had caught and froze at sea over 16,000 pounds of tuna. Our ships captain exchanged a few pizzas for some tuna fresh from the ocean.

Manta has existed since pre-Columbian times and is the fifth largest city in Ecuador with a population of 225,000 inhabitants. Once a small trading port for the Mantas and the Incans, today it has a booming economy in tuna fishing, tourism and chemical products ranging from cleaning supplies to oils and margarine. Manta is also known throughout Ecuador for its superb seafood and unique variations of preparations. In 1735, Charles Marie de la Condamin landed in Manta leading the French expedition to measure the location of the equator.

The town of Manta has been used by the U.S. Air Force in conjunction with Ecuador for supporting anti-narcotics military operations and for carrying out surveillance flights in a strategic warfare program against Columbian drug trafficking cartels. It also serves as a geographical lookout point for the United States for any war craft headed north from the Middle East and Asia. A regular stop for US Navy warships, Manta proves to be of importance for its location and for the respite it offers the military with its beauty and pristine wilderness.

We and our friends, Patrick and Stephen, were picked up at the port by Andre Pilco, an international student that we had mentored at San Diego State University in 2006. Andre’s family owns a salt mine in the town of Salinas about a three hour drive south of Manta. Andre drove us to a nearby town of Montecristi, now famous throughout the world for weaving the original and official Panama hat. With a population of 15,000 this small town still creates the finest straw hats in the world out of the fronds of the Toquilla Palm. Other parts of the world have attempted to grow this variety of palm but have not been successful in replicating the fine quality of fronds that are grown in this region of the world. Many small hat shops line the streets where you can see people weaving and selling these famous hats. Also very popular are brightly colored hammocks for relaxing under a tree in the heat of the afternoon sun. This region still closes for several hours in the afternoon for lunch and a nap before returning to work.

There is a small town square with a beautiful Catholic church in town. Atop the hill overlooking the city with views of the coastline stands a recently constructed convention center. The center includes a museum and mausoleum to Jose Eloy Alfaro Delgado who was president of the country from 1895 to 1912 and was born in the town of Montecristi. Alfaro was a champion of liberalism. He stripped the church of power, legalized marriage and divorce and established freedom of speech and religion. In 1912 he was murdered and burned by a conservative mob in the town of Quito. The locals seem to be proud of the liberal ideas for Alfaro and have created a beautiful museum and large mausoleum in his honor.

We then headed back to Manta to a small beach side restaurant where we had a delicious Ecuadorean lunch:  ceviche, seafood stew with pureed plantains and peanuts for the gravy, rice with a variety of seafood and thinly sliced and baked plantains. Blended fresh fruit juice drinks with a bit of sugar and water are everywhere. Everyone enjoyed the lunch and it was great to catch up with Andre.

Onboard ship we enjoyed another dinner in the dining room followed by a wonderful performance by violinist Alwyn Wright. She can play most any style of music on the violin and she did it effortlessly. She was accompanied by the ship’s orchestra when she was not performing solo. Alwyn is from Los Angeles and has performed at David Foster’s wedding, Barbra Streisand’s party, Josh Groban’s tour and Paul McCartney’s latest album.

January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013 (Sea Day)

We attended “Good Morning Amsterdam” this morning where the cruise director, Bruce, hosts a morning talk show in the culinary arts center/movie theater every morning. This morning he was discussing the Academy Award nominations and was interviewing one of his staff members, Nikki, who books the entertainment on board. Nikki is also responsible for the daily bulletin, which lists all of the day’s activities, show times, meal times, bar hours and most everything that is happening on board the ship.

The weather today is mostly gray, cloudy and raining, although the temperatures are still near 80 degrees and the humidity is high.

We attended a presentation with Barbara, the Travel Guide, who spoke on what to expect in Lima, Peru. Next is a presentation by the Star Lady Donna Giesler about all of the stars that would be visible from the southern hemisphere. Although astronomy is not something I am particularly interested she was an excellent speaker and made the presentation fun and interesting. After lunch we attended a presentation by Jon Bailey titled Shakespeare on Broadway: “West Side Story” where he took a look at Leonard Bernstein’s musical about gang warfare, family intrigue and young love.

Tonight’s entertainment is a celebrity guest by the name of John Amos with a look back at his life and career. He is probably best known for his acting in television shows like “Good Times”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “The West Wing” and his Emmy award nomination for Best Actor in the mini-series “Roots”. He also was a football player, worked in advertising, wrote copy for television commercials, a comedy writer for the Lohman and Barkley Radio Show and later the Leslie Uggams’ Show. He acted in commercials for Midas Muffler and also acted on stage on “Norman is That You”, “Tough to Get Help” opposite Jack Cassidy as well as his own one man show, “Halley’s Comet”.

January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013 Transiting the Panama Canal

Freighter Trasiting Panama CanalShip with Mules at Panama CanalPanama Canal Locks ClosingPanama Canal Empty Lock

The Panama Canal, a masterpiece of engineering is considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World and has shortened the trip around the continent of South America by 7,000 miles. First perceived by King Charles V of Spain, who, in 1523, prompted by Balboa and Cortez, decided to make a survey of the canal area. The survey was completed in 1524, but the enormity of the task disillusioned the Spanish and discouraged any attempts at construction. In 1894 the Gold Rush brought about both the completion of the Panama Railroad across the Isthmus and the development of the West Coast of the United States. After Panama’s independence from Columbia in 1903, Panama and the United States signed a treaty authorizing construction of the Panama Canal. The United States guaranteed Panama’s Independence and, for the sum of $10,000,000, Panama granted the United States power and the authority within the then “Canal Zone”. In addition, the United States agreed to pay an annuity of $250,000 beginning nine years after the ratification of the treaty. This annuity was increased to $430,000 in 1936 and to $1,930,000 in 1955. On May 4, 1904 the United States purchased the rights and properties of the Canal construction from the French Canal Company for $40,000,000. Ten years later, after the loss of over 6,000 lives from Yellow Fever and Cholera, the Panama Canal was completed at a cost of $387,000,000. In 1999, the government of Panama was granted full authority of the enterprise.

The canal transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific took us approximately twelve hours with the exact timing of the lock transits being unknown due to the number of ships transiting on any particular day. The weather was hot and muggy with temperatures in the 90’s and humid. While it is in the rain forest and often rains most every day it was dry for our entire transit. Many of the folks onboard had transited the canal more than once or twice and we even spoke with someone who had transited the canal twelve times. Even so, many people were excited to be out on deck, taking photos and sharing their past transit experiences.

Panama is in the process of adding a new section of canal at both the Atlantic and the Pacific ends to accommodate today’s much larger cargo ships and U.S. battle ships. The canal currently has a capacity of 14,000 vessels transiting annually and when the expansion is complete will be able to double its capacity. The new sections of canal are well under construction and expected to be completed in a couple more years. The new canal sections will include new locks with rolling lock gates rather than swinging lock gates. The current canal will also require dredging to accommodate today’s larger vessel hulls. The canal employs a work force of 9,500 men and women and has invested over $1.5 billion in maintenance and improved infrastructure over the last decade.

The entertainment this evening was a Champion Ballroom Dance couple who performed a variety of South American dances to celebrate our arrival in South America. They were excellent dancers although the show was a bit lackluster. It may have been that they had aged a couple of decades since they were Champion Ballroom Dancers. The husband looked tired the entire show.

January 8, 2013

January 8, 2013 Cartagena, Columbia

Cartagena, Columbia 2013Founded in 1533, Cartagena de Indias gained fame after the mid-16th century when great fleets stopped annually to take on gold and other products of northern South America for convoy to Spain. The city became a center for the Inquisition and a major slave market. In 1811, the province declared its independence from Spain and years of fighting followed. After falling into Spanish hands from 1815 to 1821, the city was recaptured by patriot forces. In the early national period, Cartagena continued as Columbia’s leading port, but it was handicapped by inadequate connections to the interior of the country. By the 1840’s it had declined in population and commerce. In the 20th century it experienced renewed growth and is now Columbia’s fifth largest city. The most significant factor in Cartagena’s revitalization was the opening of the petroleum fields in the Rio Magdalena Valley after 1917. Today Cartagena is a sprawling city of 850,000 inhabitants, a bustling  maritime and industrial center.

We shared a taxi into the old walled city with new found friends Patrick and Stephen from Boston. The old walled city is very pedestrian friendly with narrow cobblestone streets. Most of the buildings are two stories with large narrow wooden balconies protruding out over the sidewalks reminiscent of those found in New Orleans. The roofs of the buildings are mostly red clay tile and have a very Spanish look to them.

We visited the Palacio de la Inquisicion, which included quite a collection of torture mechanisms from body stretchers to head choppers.  They also had a unique art exhibition, which included such things as a depiction of the lords supper with Jesus depicted as a woman.  In Spanish, Kent negotiated our entrance under the children’s price, rather than the adult price.  We saved a few Columbian pesos!

The walled city is filled with small shops and restaurants and many street vendors wanting to sell you Panama hats, cups of fresh fruits, Cuban cigars and souvenirs. We walked a portion of the top of the wall surrounding the old town, which gives you a terrific view out over the ocean as well as having a great view of the high rise buildings of the new town. The new portion of town is built on a peninsula with a beach on one side and high-rise building of housing and businesses on the other side.

Back on board the ship we attended a lecture on what we would see as we transit the Panama Canal tomorrow. Tonight’s entertainment is a couple of gentlemen from Germany who put on a show titled “Pianotainment” which includes a variety or dual piano playing. Not only do they play the piano with their hands, but they also used such things as rubber balls. It was very entertaining and they were excellent pianist.