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Over 60 . . . And Getting Younger: January 9, 2014

Our Latin American Cruise - Part II

I never thought I would ever go to Guatamala. The ship docked at Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala, home of Mayan ruins. We bused to Colonial Antiqua. We viewed a magnificent old church at Plaza de Armas, that was built in 1680 and years later destroyed by earthquakes.

Our next visit was to a former convent, built in 1642. The grounds were gorgeous. Today it is a luxurious hotel, where we had a Spanish-style lunch of steak, chicken and flan. I love flan. Walking through Colonial Antiqua’s cobblestone streets was like stepping back into the sixteenth century. We visited a Jade factory and then back to the ship.

Next stop Puntarenas, Costa Rica, home of four and a half million people and 100 volcanoes, a Pacific port. A motor coach ride to the Tarcoles River, where we boarded a boat. We saw herons, lizards, iguanas and other wildlife. There were even crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks. Our brave boat captain, Jose, stepped off the boat on to the riverbank and dangled pieces of chicken about eight inches above the “crocs” as everyone on board shuddered.  

He survived, and returned to our boat, as we heaved a sigh of relief. Next, we boarded a historic train (one hundred years in service) and enjoyed a scenic tour of the Costa Rican countryside. We stopped for coffee, watermelon, papaya and cantaloupe.

Our boat docked next in Colon, Panama. It is the gateway to the Miraflores Locks. Here visitors have the opportunity to watch one the world’s greatest feats of engineering, the Panama Canal. Most of the 2,000 passengers on board came out to watch our ship go through the Canal. The Locks would fill with water, we would float in and soon we were in the natural lake and soon after we were in the Caribbean Sea.

A one-hour bus ride took us to Panama City, capital of Panama. Panama is the size of South Carolina. The waterfront view was filled with modern skyscraper condominiums. The South Americans and businessmen buy the condos as the economy prospers through the Panama Canal. This was a revelation. After Panama’s independence in 1903, Panama negotiated an agreement with the United States for the construction of the Canal, finished in 1914 and then the U.S. managed until 1999.  

On Dec. 31, 1999, Panama took over full operation and maintenance of the Canal, in compliance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties negotiated with the United States in 1977. We did not see statues of Jimmy Carter or Theodore Roosevelt during our visit. Seeing the Canal at work was truly a highlight of the cruise.

Our last stop was Cartagena, Columbia. It is a walled city built to protect its people from pillaging pirates. We saw the “scarry” Inquisition Palace, where the Spaniards tortured the non-believers. The name Cartagena is related to Carthage in Africa. The country produces coffee, bananas, pineapples, oranges, sugar cane and cattle.         

Our ship now sailed for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Two days at sea were needed to come to reality. A wonderful escape for two weeks. Lovely ship-mates, good food, good drink and overall good gambling at the casino. We sailed through the Panama Canal and can tell the story to our children and grandchildren.

Thanks for joining us.