We are two months into our Crystal world cruise, and what an adventure our voyage ambassadors Lynn & Buddy and guests are having! After hitting the hot spots in the Caribbean we reported on last month, they have journeyed through the amazing Panama Canal, and are now making their way around South America.
Here are some highlights from the ports they have visited:
Cartagena was a pleasant surprise. The modern, high-rise city was stunning to view as we sailed across the large harbor to the port and cruise terminal. Cartagena was new for us and we spent our time exploring the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old Spanish churches, gateways, plazas, monasteries, grand homes and balconies are colorful and beautifully preserved.
The Serenity entered the locks at 7 a.m. for the 9 hour trip through the Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks. This 50 mile transit required 52 million gallons of water and cost Crystal over $200,000.00. The original locks opened in 1914 and the larger, newer locks, at a cost of $5.2 billion, will be complete in 2015. The expansion will allow the largest oceangoing vessels to transit.
The modern city is full of beautiful high rise buildings, creating a interesting silhouette when arriving by ship. We can attest to the delicious octopus and shrimp ceviche served at a waterfront restaurant.
We enjoyed looking at local crafts, taqua nut (vegetable ivory) products, and Panama Hats which are the number one souvenir for most visitors.
Trujillo, Peru’s second largest city, is a 30 minute shuttle ride from the port of Salaverry. We were rewarded with a beautiful day and historic sites in this lovely colonial city. The city, founded in 1534, features cathedrals and magnificent Casas around the expansive Plaza de Armas. The colorful old area was easy to navigate and the locals were friendly. It was a good port and easy to explore on your own.
Wow! Today was another spectacular day on our cruise. The Serenity shuttle bus took us to the affluent neighborhood of Miraflores. This district of the city of Lima has most of the major hotels, restaurants, trendy boutiques, and entertainment venues. Our morning was spent enjoying the ocean views as we strolled along the high cliff parks, followed by a Peruvian lunch of “cebiche,” sea bass, and other local delicacies. Afterwards, we walked to the Inca Market which was filled with llama or alpaca wool sweaters, jackets, hats, socks, etc.
Spanish Colonial Lima, Peru:
After spending yesterday in modern Lima, today we chose to visit the oldest part of the city. A short 15 minute taxi ride from the port of Callao brought us to the Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas), center of the old town. It was from this spot in 1535 that Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistador, founded the city of Lima. Now a UNECO Site, the flowered square is surrounded by majestic government buildings, cathedrals and mansions. Good luck was with us as the streets were closed to traffic in preparation for a parade of local people dressed in native costumes, singing and playing indigenous instruments. They were having such fun! We viewed the changing of the guards at the Palacio de Gobierno (Governor’s Palace) and were awed by the magnificent La Catedral containing Pizarro’s remains.
General San Martin/Paracas, Chile:
The small fishing and beach town of Paracas was a short but beautiful shuttle bus ride through the desert. This trip and the sail away views from the Port of General San Martin were the highlights of the day.
La Serena, Chile:
We were blessed with good weather which allowed us to leisurely explore both towns (Conquimbo, and La Serena Chile). Interestingly, La Serena is the second oldest city in Chile but it shows little of antiquity probably due to an earthquake once upon a time which destroyed old Spanish buildings.
Valparaiso was a prosperous city until the Panama Canal opened and ships no longer had to go around South America. Michael the German Pirate was our excellent guide for a 2 day stop in Valpariso. The port city climbs a crescent of 45 hills (cerros), creating a maze of colorful homes, winding streets, narrow alleyways, and steep stairways. Ascensores (funiculars) were built in the 19th century as a way to access the upper elevations of the hills. There are still 17 ascensores in use carrying locals and tourists between the lower city and upper city. This was a unique and fun way to get around. Michael gave us an in-depth local look at the city including lunch at the German Fire Station. See the neat Valparaiso street art below.
Today about twenty golfers from the Crystal Serenity played golf on the Ushuaia Golf Course which is at Latitude South 54 degrees 29 minutes 52 seconds. In other words, if you go south of here you will soon bump into Antarctica and more penguins than you can count. After completing the first nine at 12:39pm, I immediately hustled over to the first tee to play on. The other three in my foursome were cold and for some reason tired of the forty-five mile per hour winds that had come up suddenly. Not me. After the first two drives to the first green, I looked around and realized that no one else had continued playing, opting instead for hot coffee and buns in the small club house. At that moment and now for the rest of my life, I realized that I was absolutely the most southerly golfer on the PLANET. HOW COOL IS THAT!!!!!
Cape Horn & Beagle Channel:
As we all know weather makes all the difference and especially when rounding Cape Horn. The Crystal Serenity had a very pleasant passage through the Beagle Channel and around “the horn” prior to arriving to Ushuaia yesterday. The forecast was for twelve foot seas which never materialized. Thank you Neptune!
Punta Arenas, Chile:
The sprawling Estancia Fitzroy is located seventy miles from the town of Punta Arenas, Chile. The countryside was very scenic and worth the long bus ride and ferry boat trip to Riesco Island. They have thousands of cattle and sheep. By the time we had lunch, there were fewer sheep. Those sheep with new haircuts were glad to see us go. Great Day!