Rock me on the water: our first cruise top 10

Rock me on the water The wind is with me now So rock me on the water I’ll get down to the sea somehow (Jackson Browne) Now that we’ve been back on terra firma for almost a week and back into the grind, begrudgingly, it is time to reflect on our time at sea and the top 10 things we liked about our first cruise together: 1. The staff. I am not sure if Viking is unique in this (I suspect this may be so) but the staff are wonderful. The bartenders, waiters and waitresses, excursion people, cleaners, etc were…

Cruising tips for non cruisers

As we sit in Miami preparing to board our plane home we are reflecting on our experiences on board. As a first time cruiser (second for Melissa), a few tips we thought we’d share for the non cruisers follow: Find your spots, be a regular and become a local. This goes for both communal spots like bars or poolside and private ones like little nooks where you can tuck away. It’s not really about establishing turf, it’s more about finding places you love and visiting them often because you will have a chance to really get to know people who…

The Rose Hall Great House, Jamaica

Ja mon, we come to Jamaica for a ghost story. But this one does not involve Bob Marley but a native son of Arkansas, the man in black, Johnny Cash. But we will get there…. On our day in Montego Bay, we toured the Rose Hall Great House. Built in the 1770s, and later owned by John Rose Palmer the Great House was once a great plantation with 3 wings and 12 bedrooms. A sugar cane plantation, according to Wikipedia, more than 250 Africans were enslaved here. But the most famous occupant was Annie Palmer. John’s second wife, reportedly a…

Nos gustamos la Cartegna, Columbia

Dipping our first toes into South America, we skipped the planned excursion and struck out on our own in Cartegna, Columbia. From the very first, we loved it. Yes, the port has the typical cruise ship and container ship busy-ness but as you pass through the duty free zone you are greeted by monkeys in trees, pink flamingos, peacocks and parrots, but not in a caged, overly contrived petting farm kind of way (this in contrast to other ports which typically offer a much less appealing welcome). Upon exiting the terminal, we ran the usual gauntlet of taxis and tour…

Trains, busses and ships: traversing Panama three ways, part two

One of the seven wonders of the modern world, the Panama Canal traverse did not disappoint. We had no idea what to really expect and knew embarrassingly little about the Canal itself when we woke up in the queue to make our way up the Gatun locks on the Atlantic side of the Canal. Cruise ships get to skip ahead in line and so we busted to the front of the many carriers with whom we sat for the early part of the morning. The Canal was finished in 1914. A man-made lake (Gatun Lake) was created to make the…

Trains, Busses and Ships: Traversing Panama three ways, part one

If our stop in Costa Rica was about natural beauty and wildlife, our time in Panama has been about the awesomeness of industry. Where Costa Rica has tourism, Panama has shipping. Since the Panama Canal opened in 1914 when about 1,000 ships passed its 48 mile stretch, in 2008 about 15,000 ships made their way from Atlantic to Pacific (or vice versa). But more on the Canal in our next post… On our first morning in Panama we docked in Colon. Our guide tells us that the city is basically being torn down and rebuilt and that, seemingly, is a…

Afloat on the Tortuguero Canals, Costa Rica

I could write, but the photos speak for themselves. Put this on your list and you don’t have to be on a cruise ship to experience it, lots of tours operate here. We saw sloths (including a mama and baby), black vultures perching atop trees with wings spread, snowy egrets, terns, a kingfisher and a “Jesus lizard” (he skims or walks across water). An amazing day.