Pacific coast of
Central America and Mexico, and back to Miami opened new vistas for exploration and discovery. I flew to Los Angeles and boarded the Norwegian Star for a 14-day cruise to see many new and more remote places.
Our first stop was at the port of Cabo San Lucas, a new and popular resort at the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It is a former famous fishing village that is now full of plush apartments and condos. I boarded a boat to observe the huge and dramatic rock formations at Land’s End at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. It is a very picturesque sight of these antique rock shapes ascending from the sea.On our next port of call we spent a full day at the famous or infamous resort of Acapulco, the original party town that attracted the Hollywood elite in the 1950s. Sir Francis Drake used it as a hideaway in the 17th century. Many tourists have been attracted to its charm with its stunning topography of soaring cliffs, wide bays, intricate caves and pristine beaches.
We docked alongside Fort San Diego, rebuilt on an original fort built to protect the harbor in 1615. It was later destroyed by an earthquake. It commands a panoramic view of the city and harbor. I also visited Zocalo Square near the waterfront that features a colorful and attractive cathedral. Acapulco is very large and spread out along an immense bay. It remains a prominent international resort.Our next port of call was at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, the country’s largest Pacific Ocean port that has only been developed as a cargo port since 1984. Since there is nothing to see in town, I took a tour of the UNESCO world heritage city of Antigua, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Americas. While I have visited here before, I still enjoyed the original colonial sights, such as the large plaza surrounded by a cathedral and government buildings, the preserved Arch of Santa Catalina, and the many colonial cobblestone streets lined with Spanish buildings and homes. Antigua is one of the most historic and attractive cities in central or southern America. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua was our next destination. It is a fairly modern town surrounded by mountains and a large bay. It has a large artisan market and many craft vendors. It is clearly been developed to receive cruise ship passengers with so many places available to eat and shop. It is best known for surfing.
Our final port along the Pacific was Puntarenas, Costa Rica, mainly a cargo port that has a worn appearance with older homes and buildings. It has the usual craft and souvenir stalls, but an attractive church is the only place worth observing.The highlight of our trip was the total traversing of the 40-mile Panama Canal. I have been there twice before, but one never tires of the experience of sitting on the open decks of a huge ship as it rises and falls in the locks that makes this canal voyage one of the wonders of the world. Since 1914 this waterway has saved countless ships of the world over billions of miles around the continent. It is a rite of passage to participate in this sail on the channel that crosses the Continental Divide. The journey took most of the day. Our final stop was at the port of Cartagena, Colombia, a colonial city full of history that rivals our previous stop at Antigua. Founded in the 16th Century, it retains large ornate squares, and ancient cobblestone streets that are framed by colorful colonial buildings, many with iron balconies. Horse and buggies and a large variety of colorful vendors and fruit and vegetable stands adorn the streets. It is one of the most visited colonial cities and worth the time spent there.
Unfortunately, I found the ship itself seeming to adopt policies and practices used by today’s airlines. No water can be brought on the ship from any port, no lobster or filet mignon is served in the main dining room, prime rib is served paper thin, leftovers from the previous evening are served the next evening, the sauna and steam rooms are only available in a special area for someone willing to spend $58 a day. There are prominent smoking areas, and other similar changes from previous cruises I have been on. The pleasure of cruising seems to be changing. But the ship’s route was at least very worthwhile.Dave Pattison has lived in Marco Island since 1999. He has traveled to every continent and over 100 countries, and still takes five-six trips annually. Dave is a well respected travel writer, winning first place in a Florida Press Association contest. Dave was a lawyer/ lobbyist for the insurance industry, and had worked in the White House for four years before retiring. A widower, Dave has four adult children and five grandchildren.