Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenhemier are taking us along on another amazing journey. We hope this series shows you what you can expect on a Holland America Grand Voyage. First was the kick off, then Costa Rica and now the next stop in their Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage (next voyage January 2018).
At 5:15AM, it’s still dark, but that’s the time we are scheduled for our approach to the Panama Canal. A small but mighty group is already out on deck to catch every minute of the experience.
We made it out around 6:30AM, just in time for our entrance into the first lock. And of course, the Panama rolls, those tasty sweet pastries filled with apricots, were available for an early snack. A speaker provided by the Canal Authority is giving commentary on the outside decks. He was full of all sorts of interesting facts.
One of our favorites is that it costs about 600 million dollars annually to run the canal while they take in 3.4 billion in revenue! Wouldn’t you like a share of that! The transit takes all day and provides some wonderful scenery. Someone referred to it as serene.
There are three sets of locks to transit, a cruise on Gatun Lake, two beautiful bridges to pass under and a splendid view of the very modern Panama City at the end. The new parallel set of locks opened earlier this year to accommodate the biggest ships, but we were too far away and couldn’t really see anything going through.
It was hot and extremely humid, so we all needed to take breaks from being outside. But very few activities are scheduled so that passengers can just relax and take in the awesomeness of the experience. And at the end of the day, we have crossed through and are sailing in the Pacific Ocean.
Our next port, Manta, Ecuador is a jumping off point for many excursions:
- Holland America three-day overland tour to the Galapagos Islands.
- A flight to the capital city of Quito
- A two hour drive to reach the Isla Corazon, a bird lovers paradise
- A ride to the 100,000 acre Machalilla National Park.
One must leave the city to see how the Panama hats are made, in the small colonial town of Montechristi. Remember Ecuador is the home of those hats – not Panama. Having been here several times, we spent our day walking the beach which is very close to the port entrance and had a wonderful lunch at one of the many cafes bordering the sand.
Ceviche is the well known dish here so we had the seafood sampler which included 5 different types of fish. With a local beer, it was the perfect lunch. We watched the freshly caught fish being brought to market all along the waterfront. This city refers to itself as the Tuna Capital of the World and we’d believe it looking at the hundreds of fishing boats of all sizes that clutter the harbor.
We also made the required stop at the downtown craft market to see some locally made jewelry, leather, tagua nut, and hand painted products.
We have arrived at the port city of Callao, pronounced Kai-ow, where we will be docked for three days and two nights.
Just before arrival, we were given the Captain’s letter of warning about this port presenting more safety and security issues than some others. It includes lots of common sense suggestions about dressing down, leaving good jewelry on the ship, minimizing the amount of cash we carry and staying in open, well lit public places. We were also cautioned about drinking Pisco Sours which are made with raw egg whites and can cause serious stomach distress if the ingredients are not handled properly.
This is the place where many Guests will embark on their multi-day and night adventures to Machu Picchu, either with Holland America organized tour on a private tours, where it is their complete responsibility to get back to the ship on time (yikes that makes us nervous!). In Lima downtown, the Plaza de Armas is the historical center of the city and walking tours are popular here to take in the architecture, the people and the food. The Rafael Larco Herrara Archaeological museum with its extensive collection of pre-Columbian art and the Gold Museum are good places to spend an afternoon. On day two, in the evening, we were treated to a wonderful folkloric show from a group of local musicians and dancers. They had fabulous costumes and amazing energy – one of the best local shows we have seen. Another tour option is Pachacamac, the sacred city that worshiped the god Pachacamac. The sanctuary is located in the Lurin Valley where it was inhabited from 200-600 AD. When the Spanish arrived in 1533, Pachacamac was the most important religious sanctuary on the coast, but was ultimately abandoned during the colonial period.
Whether you want a short South American adventure or full Grand Voyage, we’ve got options for you!
Contact Cruise Consultant Diane Ritchey, whose 40 years of experience will help you find the perfect vacation.