Monday, February 28, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 – At Sea – Off the Coast of Panama – Sunny – 80s

Another beautiful day at sea (my thanks to the Captain). 

2-9 On Deck (Small)

I don’t have much of the morning to relax since my talk is at 11:15 AM (“DNA Testing:  A Genetic Eyewitness).  This time the crowd is even larger – estimating 220 – 230 attendees (based on the 300 person capacity).  The talk went well and soon we were off to a late lunch in the Windows Cafe.

A little reading on deck after lunch and then I catch Bill Fall’s presentation on the Panama Canal (near full house – the key presentation of the cruise). 

We are forgoing eating in the dining room tonight and instead have a quiet dinner in the Windows Cafe.  The Buffet is actually quite nice with tablecloths and candles and wine service. The main attraction is the fresh fish procured in San Juan Del Sur.  I think the fish is a Dorado (AKA Mahi Mahi) and it is being filleted and pan fried to order).  We try some – good but there is something about having that whole fish around.  I opt, instead, for pasta made to order.

 Big Fish (Small)

We have our dinner out on the back deck.  There is no better place to eat especially when it is warm and no breeze.  The beautiful sunset was a bonus.

B and Z Dinner on deck (Small)

We don’t take in the Headliner tonight (Doug Cameron, violinist) since we have seen him several times in the past.  Instead, it is quality time with Carlos Avalon in the Mosaic Cafe.

Another nice day at sea…tomorrow the Canal.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 – Puntarenas, Costa Rica – Party Cloudy – 88F

Distance from San Juan Del Sur to Puntarenas, Costa Rica: 188 nautical miles

Back in Puntarenas, CR for the second time in a couple of years.  It is a beautiful day (the predicted rain does not look like it will arrive).

 MV Journey Puntarenas CR (Small)

Journey Docked

We are not on tour today – we did an extensive tour last time we were here (and in Puerto Limon,CR last year).  We plan to walk around the town and see whether we can find any bargains from the vendors that line the beach.

Church Puntarenas CR (Small)

Above is a church in Puntarenas – more significant is the Internet Cafe to the right where I spend about an hour chatting with both girls simultaneously, while Ellen spent some quality time at a day spa. 

Puntarenas has a great beach (below) and a good backdrop for a nice photo.

B Puntarenas CR (Small)

After cleaning up from the heat and humidity, we had a nice dinner followed by the show in the Cabaret Lounge.  Tonight, the local singers and dancers had the show.

Cabaret Singers 1 (Small)

Also spent some time with Carlos Avalon in the Mosaic Cafe.  You can’t get enough lattes.

At Sea tomorrow heading for the Panama Canal.

Monday, February 7, 2011 – San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua – 85F – Clear and Sunny

Distance from Huatulco, Mexico to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua: 660 nautical miles

A beautiful day in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.  A special day today:  Ellen’s XX birthday.  She looks good for some who is XX years old.

 The Big 64 (Small)

The Birthday Girl

We are on tour today, scheduled to tour the Nicaraguan countryside on our way to Granada, a colonial city about two hours from San Juan Del Sur.  San Juan Del Sur has a shallow harbor so we are tendering today.  It’s a pretty smooth ride (unlike some recent tender rides).

San Juan Del Sur Journey from tender (Small)

The MV Journey from the tender

The countryside is scenic with farmlands dominating the landscape.  Most impressive, however, are the three volcanoes along the way.  The first one we see is Volcano Concepcion located on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua.  In the photo below, those are clouds covering the peak of Concepcion.  It is an active volcano as are all of the volcanoes in the area.

V Concepcion from bus (Small) 

Next to make an appearance is Volcano Mombacho (photo below).  This volcano appears to be missing its peak perhaps due to an earlier eruption.  Still pretty impressive.

V Mombacho from bus (Small)

When we were here last, we spent most of the time in the city of Rivas (San Juan Del Sur was a last minute stop due to the swine flu issue in Mexico).   This time, we pass through Rivas on our way to Granada.  The bus lets us off at the Parque Colon (central plaza), where we have a little time. 

Plaza Colon San Juan Del Sur (Small)

Fountain – Parque Colon

Granada Cathedral (Small) 

Cathedral of Granada

While waiting for our group to gather at the Cathedral, we were treated to a wedding procession (below).

Wedding Party S J D S (Small)

From the cathedral we walk to the St Francis Church and Convent.  Along the way, we run into an unusual restaurant – One that serves breakfast – American style (waffles, etc.).

Good Breakfast Place S J D S (Small)

Kathy’s Breakfast Restaurant

Wedding participant S J D S (Small)

The tall woman above was part of the earlier wedding party.  They wanted money to photograph her – NOT.  The stop at the convent was brief.  The location did afford a great shot of V. Mombacho in the distance.

V Mombacho from St Francis Church and Convent (Small)

Heading back to the ship, we passed what looked like a muddy field but was actually a rice paddy.  Rice, along with the ubiquitous mango, are major crops in this area.

Rice field S J D S (Small) 

The guide promised that we would get a good photo op of the volcanoes on our way back.  He tried twice to stop the bus across the road but the volcanoes were obscured by trees and lots of power lines.  I suggested that we go to a spot we passed on our way to Granada; he initially balked – safety concerns – but we pulled into a small parking area that led to the shores of Lake Nicaragua.  An excellent spot for viewing these two terrific volcanoes located on the island of Ometepe.

Concepcion and Madera (Small)

V. Concepcion (L) and V. Maderas (R)

The guide told us that Concepcion has the second most perfect conical shape (Mt. Fuji is Number 1).  We heard the same thing about a volcano in Chile.  Concepcion is shown below (with and without me).

V Concepcion 1 (Small) Me and Volcano Concepcion (Small)

The other volcano, Maderas, may not be a perfect cone but it is still an impressive natural formation.  Ometepe and its two volcanoes were nominated to be a UNICEF World Heritage Site (didn’t get enough web votes according to the guide).

V Madera (Small)

V. Maderas and Lake Nicaragua

After returning to the city, we explored a bit – there had been some new construction and business opened since we were here a couple of years ago.  The city has a great beach (below) so it should appeal to tourists – it does need a viable commercial (restaurants, shopping, etc.) area.

Beach at S J D S (Small) Beach SJDS and Journey (Small)

San Juan Del Sur Beach – MV Journey in the distance

Soon we are back on the tender and returning to the ship (below).

Return Tender Ride (Small)

After dinner, we spent a few minutes listening to Jaqueline Dolan’s harp music.  I asked her to sing Happy Birthday to Ellen and she did.  Low key enough to be acceptable.

We caught the headliner, vocalist Dolores Park, in the Cabaret Lounge.  I am going out on a limb here but she is the best vocalist we have encountered on a cruise ship. She had stage presence and a killer voice (she also has four kids at home).  Hope to run into her again.

Dolores Park (Small)

Long day…

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mid 70s

Another beautiful day at sea…

 At Sea 2-6 (Small)

We have the whole day to relax since I don't speak until 3:00 PM.  The day is spent mostly reading and relaxing on the open deck.  The seas are smooth and the weather is great.

Today’s topic is “DNA Testing: Cold Cases Solved”.  The crowd is pretty good – perhaps 175 – 200 people (not a lot of empty seats).  The talk went well and I felt the audience connected with the material.

After dinner, we ran into our new friend, Debbie (from Walnut Creek – really) and Lenny Welch.  Seemed like a good photo op

Debbie and Lenny Welch (Small)

A nice day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011 – Huatulco,, Mexico – Sunny 84 F

Distance from Acapulco to Huatulco:  245 nautical miles

Another beautiful day in paradise – this time paradise is Huatulco, Mexico.  Not too hot and the town is very close to the pier.  There is a beautiful beach area and a small downtown section.  We are not on tour today so we are planning to explore the town and see what has happened since the last time we were here.

 Huatulco Mexico Beach (Small) Huatulco and Journey (Small) 

Top: Beach from the pier; Bottom:  The Journey from the beach

There has been some development since our last visit.  There are a few more restaurants and bars and some new stores have opened.  There is also a clear military presence here (a naval facility is nearby) with the pier manned by armed naval personnel.  We walked in the morning, then had lunch on the ship, and I did some walking in the afternoon.  A very nice day in this small but cute little town.

Sail away provided an extra treat and we were able to see the local pilot disembark while the Journey was moving at a pretty good clip.  He tried several times to jump from the ship to his boat and finally made it on about the third time.

Huatulco Pilot departing (Small)

Pilot disembarking the Journey

Some additional quiet time on the deck kept the relaxed feel of the day going.

Following dinner, we caught Lenny Welch’s full show in the Celebrity Lounge.  He must be in his 70s but he is in real good shape and moves around the stage like he used to.  Seems like a nice man as well. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2010 – Acapulco, Mexico – Mostly Sunny – 84 F

Distance from Mazatlan to Acapulco, Mexico:  595 nautical miles

A beautiful, sunny day in Acapulco, Mexico.  Up early enough to catch a beautiful sunrise and the arrival of another cruise ship.

 Acapulco Sunrise and Oosterdam (Small)

When it is this nice in the morning, there is no other option but to eat breakfast on the back deck. 

Breakfast Acapulco (Small)

We are on tour today:  “Historical, Traditional, and Picturesque Acapulco”.  The tours today do not involve standard busses but a convoy of 18 minivans (each holding about 8 persons).  This makes it a lot easier for escorts.  It’s great for me since the guide asked me ride “shotgun” on our van.  No carsickness today.

I catch up with Ellen at La Quebrada, where we again are treated to the Cliff Diver show.  This time, unlike the last time, the divers do not spend a lot of time meditating before their dives.  It’s climb and go – the only thing that they wait for is the right amount of water rushing in from the sea.  I take some of my tour folks up to the hotel area where there is a good view and plenty of shade – the only thing they don’t have are their cameras.

H and E Cliff Divers (Small) Acapulco Cliff Divers (Small)

From La Quebrada, the vans makes its way through the Acapulco Gold area (hotels and shops plus plenty of traffic) to the ritzy Las Brizas area (million dollar plus homes).  Here, we enter a gated community known for the “Chapel of Peace”, a non-denominational (sort of) church built by the wealthy family that constructed the housing complex.  The church is easily spotted due to the 150 foot tall cross near its entrance.

We noticed a lot of large birds circling in the area – the guide said they were vultures – I confirmed that with a picture of one of them perched on the cross.

The Chapel of Peace has a great sculpture at the entrance – an open hand. 

Chapel of Peace Acapulco (Small) Chapel of Peace (Small)

The view from the Chapel of Peace is spectacular.  From this vantage point, we can see the entire Acapulco Bay.

Acapulco and Journey (Small)

Azamara Journey docked near the old city of Acapulco

Acapulco Mexico (Small)

Acapulco Bay from the Chapel of Peace

From Las Brizas, the van heads back through the congested downtown area and back near the Cliff Divers for a final stop at the Flamingo Hotel.

Acapulco Traffic and stores (Small)

The traffic is very heavy and it takes almost 45 minutes to get through it.   Lots of construction – in Acapulco, there are not warning signs of upcoming construction.  Must lose some workers every year.  The main street also has all the familiar stores including a massive Walmart. 

The Flamingo Hotel used to be a favorite hangout for Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan fame) – his pictures are all over the lobby.  It is still a nice place with great views of the ocean.  Many of the tour folks are hungry at this point and have nachos, beans, and salsa (again, braver than me).  I do try a Pacifico Beer (complimentary), which was touted by the guides in Mazatlan as the best.  It was a good beer made even better because it was quite hot in the open air restaurant.

Acapulco Flamingo Hotel (Small)

View from the Flamingo Hotel Restaurant

We were pretty hungry when we returned (another tour that went past lunch with no lunch provided).  After a snack, we watched the sail away from Deck 5.

Acapulco Sail Away 1 (Small) H and E Sailaway Acapulco (Small)

After a nice dinner, we headed up to Deck 9 for the Dance Party hosted by Justin Nurse and the Cabaret Singers.  It was a beautiful night and the music was good – also did a little dancing.

Dancing Pool Deck (Small)

Stephanie belting (that’s her style) out a song

Dancing Pool Deck 1 (Small)

Justin and Linda performing a duet

The dance party was very nice…

Thursday, February 3, 2010 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mostly Cloudy – 75 F

Another beautiful day at Sea

At Sea 2-3 (Small) At Sea 2- 3 1 (Small)

Bill Fall and I are still alternating morning and afternoon presentation slots so today I have the 11:15 AM Slot.  The talk today is my UK heavy presentation: “DNA Testing: Landmark Testing”.  The audience continues to increased with each session.  It’s had to estimate because everyone is spread out but a good guess would be 120 – 150 attendees. At the last minute, I decided to add a section on “SelectaDNA Theft Deterrent Technology”.  It apparently, was the hit of the presentation (one attendee had actually purchased the product). 

The food and service in the Discoveries Dining room continues to be excellent and we always stay a bit after dinner to hear Jacqueline Dolan on the harp.

The Showtime headliner tonight is our own Tony Markey, Cruise Director, doing a one man show called “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go”.  He is quite the showman and sings extremely well.  He has some stage experience but he is also quite well educated with a degree in Biochemistry.  He has taught forensics as well (a major ringer).  It was a great show.

Lattes after the show…why not.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – West Coast of Mexico – Upper 60s – Partly Cloudy

Choppy seas and creaky cabin – not so much sleep

Another beautiful day at sea…

Sea Day 2-1 (Small)

The Coast of Mexico of the Port Side

Following the usual breakfast, we are in the Looking Glass Lounge enjoying the view and reading or blogging.

We had lunch on the back deck (Windows Cafe) even though it was still a bit cool.

 On Deck for lunch (Small) On Deck 2-1 (Small)

Lunch has a gelato bar so I am enjoying a cappuccino gelato in a waffle cone.

Capuccino Latte (Small)

The Activities Manager, Chris, is alternating the two speakers, Bill Fall (Destination) and me, between mornings and afternoons.  So today I am on at 3:00 PM for my “Science of CSI” presentation.  The audience is a bit larger – 100 -120 people (the Cabaret Lounge is 300 at capacity).

Science of CSI 2 (Small) Science of CSI (Small)

We switched tables in the Restaurant to a window near the front (to get away from the engine vibration and yaw).  In addition, from this table, you can hear the harpist, Jacqueline Dolan, who is playing the adjoining Discoveries Bar.

After the talk, it was up to the Looking Glass Lounge (Deck 10) to read and ocean watch.  Cabo San Lucas, Mexico was off the port side. Too bad we are not stopping – it’s a nice port of call.

Cabo (Small)  

The Journey does not have a production company.  Instead it has Cabaret Singers - “Azamara Vocalists” – three girls and two guys.  They sing and dance a little and they are very close to the audience.  They are pretty entertaining.

Cabaret Singers (Small)

Tonight’s show - “Songs of Hollywood” was very good.

Following the show, we listened to Carlos Avalon – piano man – in the Mosaic Cafe.  All drinks, except bar drinks, are included on this ship so my new drink is a Decaf Latte (regular or iced).  Carlos is funny and has a guest microphone for any secret karaoke singers.

Tomorrow is our first port of call, Mazatlan, Mexico and we are on tour so off to the room to rest.