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About Freyward_Cruiser

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    United States
  • Interests
    We love exploring! A balance between fun activity and pure relaxation is the goal!
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Royal Caribbean and Norwegian
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    We love it all...

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  1. Our stop in Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera), Costa Rica on February 21, 2019 was part of our Panama Canal Cruise. There were four in our group, two younger guys and two older ladies. Before the cruise I booked a tour with Odyssey Tours, the 10 in 1 Puntarenas Highlights Tour. Their website is: http://www.odysseytourscr.com. We decided that this was a good option for us because it allowed us to see a broad spectrum of things, without being too physically demanding (one person in our group is on oxygen). We were lucky enough to have the van and driver to ourselves for the day! It turned out to be a good choice. We paid the same amount of money that the cruise wanted to just see the crocodiles on the river (more on that later). They also don't make you pay anything for the tour until you arrive, but we didn't have to pay until the tour was over. The Odyssey Tours website has a good general description on their website, but I will go into the details a little bit. We met outside the port gate, as arranged via email. Our driver was Roarner, or as he said, to just call him Mr. "R"! He was friendly and ushered us into the air-conditioned van, thank goodness! It was hot and the dry season here in Costa Rica. He stopped by a little store and got a snack, but it wasn't for him, he said. We soon found out it was for the white-faced monkeys! We literally pulled off the highway a sort time later and he calls out into the trees and opens the food. Sure enough two, then three, then five monkeys were around us and the small crowd that was now there. They took the food and climbed on our shoulders (only if you wanted them too). These had been trained to take food and be around people, but it was still neat to see them! Our next stop was to a small roadside fruit stand. Friendly service, it felt like they knew our driver pretty well. They let us try watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and 'jugo de cana' a.k.a. sugarcane juice. All delicious! We also tried the fleshy part of a cashew nut, which tasted like a sweet squash? Interesting, but not my favorite. We then bought some fruit smoothies with rum ($8), why not?! We enjoyed them as Mr. R told us about his country on the ride out to the Punta Leona beach resort area. This was down a dusty and bumpy gravel/dirt road, a shortcut. Well, we ended up at Playa Mantas. Walked the beach for 30 minutes or so, until we were ready to move on to the next thing. This was a shop called 'Maravillas Souvenirs and Woodshed' and it sold souvenirs and beautiful wood art. We browsed and bought some little things. No sales pitch and no pressure! When we were ready, we left. From there we rode up the hills to a little hotel called the 'Carara Costa Rica Ocean View Hotel'. The main reason for the stop was the view. It was gorgeous and we could see fields, the rainforest, and the ocean far, far below. Our ship was not visible, it was lost in the haze. Didn't stay long, but we did get to here the incessant chirping of cicadas! I guess they emerge every 7 years for about 7 days... lucky?! Around the corner from this place, we stopped at a local resort called 'Villa Lapas'. The grounds here are amazing! I guess macaws are often spotted here but it was mating season and they are more reclusive then... we heard one though! Then it was on to the best part of the whole tour, in my opinion. We road out on the Tarcoles River to see the crocodiles! We joined a boat of the 'Original Crocodile Man' fleet. The boat tour was about an hour long and our guide, Ronnie, was awesome. There is lots of birds, lizards, iguanas, and of course we saw crocodiles. At one point Ronnie lured a massive one out of the water, impressive. At the very end we did get a fleeting glimpse of two macaws. We were also lucky enough to watch the biggest crocodile in the area surge out of the water with a huge fish in it's mouth, without any prompting by the guides. It was great! Then it was on to a late lunch. It would have been earlier but our boat tour was later due to tides. So by the time we ate, we were starving and the meal was simple, but delicious! After lunch, we did a quick drive by of the main sites in the town of Puntarenas itself. It was nice to hear about these sites from Roarer's point of view. We made it back to the port gate, paid the guide, and we were back on the ship in time for the all aboard. Like I said, this tour really does offer a good overview of the highlights of the area. We got to see so much more than just the crocodile boat tour that the cruise line was offering. It isn't the most immersive, nor is it the most adventurous tour, but it's a good intro to the area and Costa Rica. I say, if you want more value, go with this tour from Odyssey.
  2. We were on a 14-day Norwegian Panama Canal Cruise and rolled into the Panamanian coast on February 19, 2019. We got up super early to get a spot at the front of the boat. It ended up being worth it to get a great view of the new bridge spanning the canal and then eventually the Gatun Locks. I say eventually because it was a long wait! We had sat in chairs at the front of the boat and they were great seats, until people stood at the rail in front of us. Literally stood right in front of us and didn't say a word! Okay... so we had to stand at the rail with them. For a few hours. But it was so cool seeing the cargo ships in front of us going up the one side (and down the other side) of the Gatun Locks. I suggest taking photos of these ships going up and down with the locks and all the marvelous engineering that makes it happen now, because once your ship is in the locks themselves, it is hard to see much. But I do suggest going down to the lower outer deck (usually where your lifeboats are) to see some of the action along the sides. Admittedly this is more fun when you come out the other end of Gatun Lake and are sinking down to sea level. The gap between the ship and the canal is very noticeable here, with only 24 inches to spare on each side, holy crap! They literally have to pull in all the side lamps of the ship so it can fit through. It is incredible that they can get these massive ships across a continent! The views on the lake itself are also fun to watch go by. I was surprised at how lush and green everything is, the whole time. The ship gives you a pamphlet with facts and history of the canal. It is worth looking at beforehand or as you go through the locks to help you appreciate it that much more. The captain also talks about it over the loudspeaker. Make sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen if you are going to be out on the deck for a while. It gets hot early and the sun's rays are very strong here. All in all, it really was an incredible experience and a must do in my opinion! Get up early so you have a good view and then enjoy the ride!
  3. We knew we didn't have much time in this large city so we decided to explore the Old Town. We were on the Norwegian Star and arrived in Cartagena on February 18, 2019. We did book a cruise excursion called "TRANSFER TO OLD TOWN BY CATAMARAN" and it basically took us to Old Town via an open air ferry boat and dropped us off with the understanding we could take any return boat of theirs when we were ready to come back. It was worth it (especially with our $25 discount). Approaching the city from the water was beautiful. Our boat out did not give us any info, but the return boat did narrate what we were seeing. I guess it depended on the boat/captain whether you heard information? Once docked, it is a short walk across the street and under a wall and you are in the Old Town. We had signed up for a free walking tour in Old Town, separate from the cruise, and we showed up and waited and waited... it ended up being an hour late and then we didn't move through the city much so we walked off and explored on our own. The free tour would have been great and informative if we were in town for a few days but not ideal for someone with only 6 hours to experience a slice of Colombia. We absolutely loved walking through the Old Town of Cartagena, Colombia! It was hot and muggy but we still enjoyed every minute. The ornate wooden balconies overhanging the narrow streets with vines and flowers are so full of charm. Great photo opportunities around every corner. We even found a small restaurant where we got to sit out on one of those balconies and watch the street life go by below. So, if you ever find yourself in Cartagena, Colombia and you are short on time... and don't want to do a planned excursion... definitely walk the Old Town! It is beautiful and full of life. We don't speak Spanish, but not once did we feel unsafe or lost. We ordered food and beer without too much difficulty. We bought a painting, and haggled, no problem. The Old Town is also fairly easy to navigate as it is walled in and also has some tall churches to orient yourself with. The streets/sidewalks can be uneven at times and are not ideal for those who have difficulty on uneven ground. But they are manageable for most. Go explore!
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