12/28/12 - 1/2/13
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It's with mixed emotions that I type this very last blog on my flight home to San Francisco. What an amazing 25 days it's been! It's hard to believe it's all over. Let me first go back and start from where I left off after my last post:
We spent Friday, Dec. 28 in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. I was expecting the port city to be similar to Corinto in Nicaragua, but as it turned out, we were one of three cruise ships there that day, so there was quite a bit of activity happening almost immediately outside the gates from where we disembarked. There was a whole market place of shops and craft stands right in the terminal and although we may have been able to burn a whole day shopping there, we opted instead to travel to Antigua, which, according to Lonely Planet, is a not-to-be-missed destination in Guatemala. So we piled into a 15-person taxi shuttle with others from our ship and made the one-hour, 15-minute drive to Antigua. I found this city to being of the most bustling and enjoyable of all the places we'd been. There was lots of activity, with a good mix of both locals and tourists milling about. We ate lunch at a small place that looked a bit like a hole in the wall from the street, but once inside, it opened up into a really cute courtyard with nice natural light and cement stone furniture (in a good way). We had a great meal there (except for the micheladas - they were not what we’re used to drinking in the U.S., so if you find yourself in Guatemala my advice would be to AVOID them). After lunch, we walked around the city and popped into a couple of shops. My favorite was the marketplace full of craft stands selling goods made by the locals and where every few minutes a voice would come over the loud speaker and sing "Mercadito" over the music that played in the background. Yep, just the word "Mercadito" - that's definitely not getting out of my head anytime soon.
We did some damage shopping in Antigua, but that still didn't stop us from hitting the terminal market once we returned to Puerto Quetzal. So for those of you who may be expecting a small token from my travels, don't be surprised if it comes from Guatemala!
Once back on the ship, we settled in for two days at sea -- this actually required a bit of an adjustment since we had just spent the last four days straight in port (two in Costa Rica, one in Nicaragua and one in Guatemala). This is when the fact that we only had a few days left really started to sink in. My Spanish class wrapped up and though I'm not sure there was enough exposure there for me to retain a whole lot, I am hopeful that at least a little bit will stick (I've wanted to learn Spanish ever since I moved to CA). We also heard one more lecture from Jonathan Murray (the tv producer), which was a fun look back at the season of Road Rules they did that took place on Semester at Sea - anyone remember that? We also had one final talk from Julian Bond on race and rock & roll in the US -- it was really great listening to him recount the music of his youth and watching him bop his head in time to the music!
But we still had our final port of call: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I felt a little bit embarrassed to admit that this would be my third trip to Cabo this year, but there are much worse places to have visited that many times in 10 months! And this was a fun destination for me personally since I sort of knew my way around and was able to make suggestions about what to do. Also fun was that there is no cruise ship dock in Cabo, so what they do is "park" the ship out in the ocean near the shore and then we take our smaller lifeboats, which are called tenders, into the marina. It was a nice change from the standard gangway down to a concrete landing like we had in every other port. Once on shore, we walked around the perimeter of the marina to the beach area and then decided to take a glass bottom boat tour out to Lovers Beach and the Arch. We saw some colorful fish along the way and even came upon a group of sea lions lounging on the rocks near the Arch. We returned to the main beach and then made camp at a bar/restaurant right on the sand, which became somewhat of a meeting group for a bunch of other folks from the ship. Experiences like that bring back memories for me from Semester at Sea, when even though you may not personally know all your fellow voyagers from time spent together on the ship, if you see others on land while in port, it's like you're old friends that go way back!
On-ship time was early again, 3pm, so after another tender ride back to the ship --this one pretty rough! -- we were on board again and it was time to get ready for New Year's Eve. Sadly, the excitement for the festivities was short-lived for me because I ended up spending the better part of the evening getting sick from something I had either eaten or drank on the beach that afternoon . I tried to make it to the fancy waiter-service dinner, but the smells of all the food were just too much for me so I although I did make it to our East Coast New Year's celebration at 10pm, I retired to my cabin shortly after. Paul ended up getting sick later that night as well, so who knows what the cause was. I was fine by the next morning so while NYE itself was a bit of a bust, I still got to bid adieu to 2012 with a day in Mexico and a night on a ship in the Pacific Ocean -- how many people get to say that??
New Year's Day marked our very last day at sea. Most of it was pretty quiet with folks packing up and preparing for their journeys home (some people were headed all the way back to London, Paris, Australia, even Japan!). Last night we enjoyed a few bottles of sparkling wine (so my champagne toast came 24 hours late) with some of the friends we made on board, which was a great way to say goodbye.
And that brings me to today. The disembarkment process was pretty smooth this morning and we flew through customs at the San Diego port. Then it was a short ride to the airport and a quick flight home to San Francisco. And just like that, it was all over!
So now it’s back to reality – what a discouraging thought! This trip was yet another amazing experience, brought to us by the ever impressive Institute for Shipboard Education (the parent to both Semester at Sea and Enrichment Voyages). I would definitely encourage anyone who may be considering a cruise in the future to look into the trips that they offer. The Enrichment Voyages are typically scheduled in December/January and April/May. There’s a wonderful European voyage planned for this Spring that I would kill to go on! Here’s a link to their official site: http://enrichmentvoyages.org/. I do get credit for referrals if I ever sail again (and of course I do plan to) so make sure to mention my name if you end up booking with them!
I’m working on getting all my photos uploaded so those will soon follow. Thanks to everyone who followed along with me on voyage. I can’t wait for my next adventure!