A Travellerspoint blog

Seafaring Serenade Sojourn

32.22677 N / -124.02396 W en route to Hilo, Hawaii

overcast 58 °F

From today, February 12th, thru Friday, February 16th, we will be at sea. Since we're sailing at a whopping 16.3 knots (19 miles per hour) our journey to Hilo, Hawaii will span 5 days. One might wonder how to spend all this time on a ship, which, despite its size, can feel somewhat limited in space. To give you an idea of the current place we inhabit, our maritime home stretches 961 feet in length and 106 feet in width, with 13 decks to roam. The Serenade of the Seas is equipped to keep us entertained throughout the day. Just yesterday, we had the opportunity to watch the Superbowl Game on the pool deck, where the culinary staff served up burgers, hot dogs, and tacos, complemented by buckets of beer.



Here's a list of the activities we engage in (all around the ship):
1. Stay Active: Walk-a-Mile (which started on day one of the cruise) - Deck 12
2. Learn Something New: Continuing to work on my Genealogy studies
3. Relax: Unwind in the Solarium, reading a good book - Deck 11
4. Connect with Others: Workout in the fitness center with fellow travelers - Deck 12
5. Imbibe a Beverage: Coffee Latte from Latte- tudes - Deck 5
6. Entertainment: With our free internet we've been watching Reacher on Amazon Prime - Deck 10
7. Time in the Suite: Jeff "adjusts" the closet door (Finally got the screwdriver yesterday so the project could be undertaken. As those of you who know him will agree ... what's Jeff without a project?! He's already trying to "hire on" elsewhere on the ship :) )
8. Enjoy the Nightlife: Take in original theater productions such as tonight's musical event with classic hits from the 70's, 80's and 90's - Deck 5
9. Indulge in Good Food - our new, favorite expression - "Another day, Another dinner" - Deck 4

Let's see what lies ahead, as we steadily progress towards our next destination! As the saying goes "Who knows what tomorrow brings?!"

Posted by Where2FromHere 15:23 Comments (0)

The World is a Book - Part Two

Los Angeles, California

sunny 60 °F
View Around the World! - Part 2 & Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

We woke up back in the good 'ole USA. It's amazing to see the size of the port of Los Angeles, California. It's one of the world's busiest seaports and has been the number one container port in the United States for 23 consecutive years. The port's infrastructure includes 7,500 acres of land along 43 miles of waterfront. Operations of the port support over 300,000 jobs in the Los Angeles area and generate billions of dollars in economic activity each year.


Today marked the end of Segment one, "The Americas," of the Ultimate World Cruise. Since leaving Port Miami, we have visited several destinations in South America and the Caribbean, including Brazil, Argentina and the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao).The first leg of the cruise also featured scenic cruising in the Antarctic Peninsula, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, in addition to destinations in Central America and the Mexican Riviera. Now that we're back in the states, we have a chance to replenish items we're running low on. [Oh, and essentials like Lays potato chips and Blue Diamond Almonds.] Royal Caribbean heard we were all looking forward to shopping so they arranged a shuttle bus to Walmart, Target and a local mall for our convenience. Walmart was ready for the World Cruisers - Just look at the first display when we entered the store:

The Serenade of the Seas is starting the second leg of the 274-night Ultimate World Cruise today. Sailing from Los Angeles, the 88-night itinerary is set to end in Dubai on May 9 after cruising around the Asia-Pacific region.


Serenade will be sailing to three continents and a total of 40 destinations, including Hawaii, Tahiti, and the French Polynesia before reaching Australia and New Zealand. Then Serenade heads North, with visits to several ports of call in Southeast Asia and the Far East, including Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea, and Japan. Additionally, it will showcase three more wonders of the world: the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal in India.

i'm hoping you'll travel along with us for Part 2 of THE WORLD is a BOOK.

Posted by Where2FromHere 22:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

WATCH OUT - Wyoming Ground Squirrels!

Ensenada, Mexico

sunny 63 °F
View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Meet Cassiopea - a Harris's Falcon, with its tawny feathers and yellow legs. Today we were in the famed wine region of Baja California at the El Cielo Vineyard in the Guadalupe Valley. Here we learned about these versatile raptors and their involvement in sustainable wine production. Harris's Falcons, also known as Harris's Hawks, are used in the vineyards of Ensenada, Mexico, as a natural method of pest control. These birds hunt in groups and are considered the most social raptors. They have intense eyesight, which allows them to spot prey from high in the sky.


The use of Harris's Hawks for pest control is part of a broader practice known as falconry, which involves the training of birds of prey to hunt or pursue game. In the context of vineyards, this practice helps to protect the grapes from damage, ensuring a successful harvest. A Harris Hawk, typically weighing around two pounds, is capable of hunting animals that are three to four times heavier. In the accompanying image, Cassiopea is pictured alongside her handler. The purpose of placing a hood on a falconry bird is to induce tranquility and manage the bird's behavior. Since these birds depend greatly on their vision, the absence of visual stimuli under the hood means they remain unafraid. The hood is utilized to keep the bird from experiencing stress in potentially frightening situations. Once it was removed, we all enjoyed an "up-close and personal" meeting with this beautiful creature.


All I can add is .. "Beware, Wyoming Ground Squirrels. A falconer and their Harris's Hawk might soon be patrolling your area."

Posted by Where2FromHere 23:27 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

"Life is nothing without friendship." - Cicero

31.21853 N / -116.7877 W en route to ENSENADA, MEXICO

We are just a few days shy of concluding the initial phase of our adventure "The Americas" - the first section of the book highlighted in this blog on December 10, 2023. That blog post featured one of my favorite quotes by Saint Augustine - "The World is a Book, and those who do not Travel read only a Page."


Along with that quote is another favorite of mine.


We have created many memories during the beginning of our global journey. Regrettably, some of our newly made friends will be parting ways with us upon our arrival at the last stop in this part of the journey, Los Angeles, California. We will sincerely miss them and all the enjoyable moments we have shared.


Here are just some of the standout moments we shared with our dinner companions, who by now feel almost like family - Anna Sophie before-and -after the loss of her front tooth; Max at playing pool and corn hole, fun times with our waiters, and out on the dance floor.



Max and Anna Sophie have made great strides in their English, while Jeff and I have made progress in our German, all thanks to the "lessons" we've had during dinner. Here's Max engrossed in reading a story that incorporates the German vocabulary we've learned.


If you're curious, you can explore both the German and English texts via the provided link. Additionally, for an extra touch of creativity, there's space to illustrate a scene from the story. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as we did!

And yet a final quote by Cicero ... "Life is nothing without friendship" - Here's to all our friends onboard the Serenade, abroad, and back home!

Posted by Where2FromHere 17:29 Comments (0)

Salsa, Salsa and Margaritas

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

sunny 70 °F
View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Cabo San Lucas, located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula is recognized as the Marlin Capital, and is home to the famous Arch, where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet. The Sea of Cortez, often referred to as "The World's Aquarium," is home to over 900 species of fish and more than 5,000 species of invertebrates, making it one of the seas with the highest biodiversity on the planet. [A lot has changed in this port since we were here many years ago with our friends the Gustafsons, Winterburns and Macks. I'm sure they haven't forgotten the dinner of the fresh tuna catch of the day ... or the mouse under the table!]


We took a tender boat into the harbor and had some time to spare before our planned activity. During this time, we decided to expand our collection of small bottles from different parts of the world by purchasing miniature tequila bottles from Espiritu de Agave. The distillery had attractive signs to encourage us to try their tequila. Having worked up a thirst, we stopped for a quesadilla and a cold one.


Jeff also bought a new cowboy hat for the summer, as his old one was pretty beat up, while I purchased new sunglasses to replace the ones I lost that I've had since hiking the Inca Trail in 2019 :( ). As you might expect, there are some good deals to be had on the other side of the border.

Next on the agenda was our Salsa, Salsa and Margarita class. We started by donning our chef's hat and tying our apron. Then, we joined the renowned dancing chefs to master the art of creating six unique and delightful salsas, including fiery red, tangy green, Oaxacan guacamole, pico de gallo, tropical salsa, and Rompope dessert. To complement the experience, we also delved into the secrets of crafting authentic margaritas and frozen strawberry margaritas. Finally, we transitioned to the dance floor to burn off the indulgence and refine our dance moves with the guidance of a skilled instructor.


By the end of the day, Jeff was indeed worthy of the T-shirt I bought for him!


Posted by Where2FromHere 20:47 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

60 days .. but who's counting?

17.07264 N / -102.77427 W en route to CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO

We're on our way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and will get there tomorrow. When we left Guatemala the winds had kicked up so Captain Stig chose to change course to give us a smoother ride. We "hugged" the shoreline, traveling an additional 50 nautical miles .. as you can see on the map, rather than follow the original plan which is shown as a dotted line.


The winds were strong gale force (or about 60 mph) and waves at approximately 11 foot swells but with the Serenade of the Seas' stabilizers it was not as bad as it may seem. We were only in this situation from 2 AM until 9AM. And besides, Captain Stig now refers to us as fellow "sailors."

And what a change a day makes, we are presently along the coast of Mexico, with seas that have barely a ripple, and a light breeze.


As of today we've been on this Voyage for a total of 60 days! We've traveled 16,800 nautical miles since leaving Miami and have used 6,400 tons of fuel or 105 per day. Captain Stig tells us that we move about 7 feet for each liter of fuel! I noticed this morning that the sun didn't rise until 6:21AM which is later than we've been used to while traveling in the Southern Hemisphere. Time is flying by and it's been a very interesting two months. Speaking of time, by the time we reach Los Angeles on Sunday, we will have traveled across all the time zones in the continental United States. So that got me thinking, about the history of the zones, and here's what I found out:

The history of standard time in the United States began on November 18, 1883, when United States and Canadian railroads instituted standard time in time zones. Before then, time of day was a local matter, and most cities and towns used some form of local solar time, maintained by some well-known clock. (Imagine that!) The new standard time system was not immediately embraced by all, but then again most change isn't readily accepted. The four time zones, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific, were made mandatory in 1918 by the Standard Time Act. You might find an article entitled America's first time zone to be of interest on why time zones were created. Here's the link: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/11/americas-first-time-zone/
See you next time .... and thanks again for following my travels around the world!

Posted by Where2FromHere 18:02 Comments (2)

What do Wyoming and Guatemala have in common?

La Antigua, Guatemala

View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Our travels took us to La Antigua, Guatemala in the central highlands of Guatemala. It was once the most prominent seat of Spanish colonial government in this area and served as Guatemala’s capital for almost 300 years from 1543 through 1773. It was abandoned following a series of devastating volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods. Today, it is a vibrant town offering access to a myriad of activities and is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, including numerous churches and monasteries, and its picturesque setting at the base of towering volcanoes.




Who would have thought our state of Wyoming could have anything in common with the country of Guatemala, yet here are some of the similarities:

  • Mountains and thermal activity: Guatemala sits on three tectonic plates and has 31 volcanos with three that are active, including the towering Volcán de Agua, Volcán de Fuego, and Volcán de Acatenango. They provide a picturesque backdrop to Antigua at an elevation of 5,070 feet. Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountains were formed as a result of a combination of tectonic and volcanic processes over millions of years. Although Wyoming only sits on one tectonic plate and doesn't have any active volcanos, it has significant geothermal activity, primarily in the form of thermal springs, the most notable ones located in Yellowstone National Park and Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis.
  • Jade: The term "jade" is properly applied to only these two different metamorphic rocks, nephrite and jadeite. Jadeite, found in Guatemala, is a pyroxene mineral that is rarer, harder, and more colorful than nephrite. Nephrite, which is found in Wyoming, is a variety of the calcium and magnesium-rich mineral actinolite which is tougher, more durable, and more common than jadeite. Nephrite often has darker inclusions throughout the stone, while jadeite has a very tight interlocking crystal structure. Jadeite can be polished to a higher luster and is more expensive than nephrite. Guatemalan jade, lost for five centuries, was rediscovered in 1974 by an archeologist. As recently as February of this year, a jade mask was discovered in a 1,700-year-old tomb at a Guatemala Mayan site. We visited a jade shop while visiting Antigua and here's what we saw:



  • Coffee (Starbucks): Starbucks has a significant presence in Guatemala and has been involved in the country's coffee production for several years. The Antigua Valley of Guatemala is particularly treasured for its coffee, known for its 100-year-old farms, nutrient-rich volcanic soil, and high-quality coffee. Coffee plants are grown under shade trees which create a suitable environment for their growth and to enhance the quality of the coffee.


I added to my Starbucks coffee mug collection and enjoyed a sampling of the rich coffee that of course is a favorite in the states, including Wyoming.

  • Enchiladas: Enchiladas have a long history, dating back to the Mayans, and are a popular menu item in many restaurants. They can be made in various ways and with different ingredients, making them a beloved and iconic part of the cuisine. The Guatemalan version, with its own unique preparation and presentation, are assembled over a crunchy tostada and layered with fresh lettuce, ground or shredded beef or chicken, and the vegetable mixture of beets and cauliflower, and topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and a hard cooked egg slice. We enjoy Enchiladas della casa at our favorite restaurant in Pinedale, Wyoming, Los Cabos, but they're made differently than the ones we ate today.


We also had a luncheon of Guatemalan cuisine, a fusion of Mayan and Spanish influences, with corn, beans, and chilies being staple ingredients. Todays menu included:

  • Tamales, a typical dish, which are flavorful mixes of dough, meat, and sauces.
  • Chuchitos, a smaller version of tamales, filled with pork or chicken and a tomato-based sauce, and wrapped in corn husks.
  • Pepian de indio, a chicken stew cooked in a lightly-spiced tomato sauce. What a treat to enjoy this meal in such a unique restaurant, with our friends Greg and Jill. After, our fabulous lunch, we also visited a candy store with a very interesting selection of sweets, and received a little bag of treats to take with us back to the ship.



Although there are many similarities between Guatemala and Wyoming, there are some significant differences too. Of which population is a major one! While we have 6 miles per person in Wyoming (being the least populated state in the USA), there are 167 people per kilometer (.62 miles in a km) in Guatemala. In fact, when our guide spoke about production in Guatemala, he mentioned "people" as one of the top three "items" of production in the country. He also stated that of the top three means of income for the country, #1 was money sent back home from Guatemalans living in the USA. Beyond that, income comes from #2 tourism and then #3 agricultural products with names you'll recognize - Coffee (Starbucks) and Bananas (Chiquita).

We enjoyed the day in La Antigua, Guatemala so much that, who knows, we might even visit this fascinating city once again!

Posted by Where2FromHere 02:34 Archived in Guatemala Comments (1)

From Lava to Mist (and a promise)

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

sunny 87 °F
View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Costa Rica is a peaceful country, without an army since 1948, in a region known for political unrest. In place of military spending, the government allocated those funds to education, resulting in high literacy rates and a productive workforce. The country is renowned for its natural beauty, offering diverse ecosystems. It has a population of 5 million and more than two-thirds of its coast is foreign owned. We traveled from a steamy, hot port to a refreshingly cool mountain region during our visit. Agriculture and tourism are of major importance to Costa Rica.

Their production includes:

  • Coffee: Costa Rica is famous for its high-quality coffee
  • Salsas and Hot Sauces: Costa Rica has its own local sauces used on meats, fish, and rice, such as the Tipica Tropical Sauce and Salsa Lizano.
  • Handicrafts, Fabrics and Wooden Souvenirs: Costa Rican handicraft souvenirs include fabrics, embroidery, and cloth crafts, often reflecting local themes such as flowers, butterflies (especially blue ones which hold special significance), and animals of the jungle.
  • Chocolates and Rum: Costa Rican chocolates and rum are also popular products, with various local brands offering unique flavors.

Tourism is also a major player with surfing opportunities, and attractions like the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Poás Volcano. Although the waves were prime for surfers, we opted out and chose the latter.

The Poás Volcano in Costa Rica is one of the country's most active and frequently visited volcanoes. It has erupted 40 times since 1828, including a significant eruption in April of 2017, after which visitors and residents were evacuated and the park was closed for nearly 17 months. Its most recent eruption was reported January 26th this year. The volcano is known for its green acid crater lake, called the Laguna Caliente ("hot lagoon"), and during some of its frequent phreatic eruptions, water from the lake is ejected like a geyser.


The two types of eruptions include:

  • Phreatic eruptions are driven by the heating and pressurization of groundwater by magma. They do not involve the ascent of magma to the surface. Instead, they result from the interaction between water and hot rock.
  • Phreatomagmatic eruptions, on the other hand, occur when magma comes into contact with water, leading to the explosive ejection of steam, water, ash, and rocks. A few in our group were able to witness a small plume from an eruption break through the clouds. Here's what an eruption from January of this year looked like:


Not to worry - as we had hard hats and the air's gases were being monitored continuously (plus gas masks were available in the evacuation shelters). Needless to say, we were happy there wasn't a need to make a rapid escape during our brief stay. Below is a link to a video of the action while we were there:

On the trip to both the volcano and to the waterfalls we observed a wide array of beautiful foliage. Here's but a smattering of what we saw:




La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a nature park and wildlife refuge in Costa Rica that features the largest animal sanctuary in the country with many species of animals, including monkeys, pumas, jaguars, and oxen. Additionally, there was a replica of the decorative oxen cart traditionally used in the region.


La Paz gardens also features a lush tropical rainforest, flowing white rivers, and four magnificent waterfalls.



Here's yet another video - this one capturing the cascading waters of one of the falls in La Paz:

The day turned out to be much longer than expected, lasting nearly 10 hours instead of the advertised 5-hour tour. This caused us to almost miss our ship's departure. Despite SEG's guarantee of getting us to the next port if we miss the ship, the poor communication and limited understanding from the guides was a huge concern. I couldn't imagine if the ship left without us how they would ever get us to Guatemala and back to the Serenade of the Seas, especially when their execution of this day's tour was one of the worst we've ever experienced. I made a solemn promise to Jeff that we will always do Royal Caribbean excursions from here on out so we never have to fret about a timely return. It may cost more, but trust me, it's worth it!

Posted by Where2FromHere 18:15 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (2)

Bypassing Turbulent Ecuador

-9.46213 S / -79.39063 W en route to Costa Rica

Civil unrest and violence affecting the port cities of Ecuador, particularly Guayaquil, has transformed Ecuador from "an island of peace" to one with the highest homicide rates in Latin America. The country has experienced a surge in crime and violence, with organized crime spreading and the economy faltering. So, needless to say, we are bypassing Ecuador as we head to Costa Rica.



In the past, we visited Ecuador when it was peaceful and saw the production of Panama hats and Tagua buttons. Panama hats are made from toquilla straw, which is hand-split into strands and woven so finely that they appear to be made from linen. The production of these hats began as a cottage industry in the coast of Ecuador in the 1600s. The weaving process, from the center of the crown to the brim, can take a few days, weeks, or even several months, depending on the desired fineness. Each hat is woven by a single artisan and hand-blocked, making it a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.

By clicking on this link you can watch the intricate process of weaving this famous hat:

You might wonder why they are called "Panama hats" when they have never been made in Panama. The name was introduced in 1906 when photos of President Roosevelt were published in the press while he was overseeing the Panama Canal construction. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for these hats from Ecuador, leading to the misnomer "Panama Hat."


Ecuador is also a significant producer and exporter of tagua blanks, which are used by corozo button manufacturers around the world. By 1920, 20% of the buttons produced in the US were made of tagua from Ecuador. Tagua, also known as vegetable ivory, is a natural material derived from the seeds of certain palm trees, particularly the tagua tree. It is used in button manufacturing due to its resemblance to ivory and its eco-friendly properties. The tagua nut goes through a process before it becomes a button. Firstly, the nut needs to dry for a month, then it is peeled, and the seeds are extracted and carefully dried. This material is highly durable, has a unique grain pattern, and is completely biodegradable, making it a sustainable alternative to plastic for button production.

Captain Stig, who now refers to us as "Fellow Sailors," informed us that we passed the Equator at 3:30AM. We're headed north and slightly west so once again we can move our clocks back. We need the extra hour of sleep after the 3 long days in Peru and last night's Chef Table Dinner, and the Western party afterwards.

  • Here's the menu, the group, Chef Jane and our Sommelier


  • Here's the wine that's been paired with our menu selections


  • And these are just a few of the fabulous dishes (the tomato soup is my favorite!):


Posted by Where2FromHere 17:36 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The South American Capital - where the City meets the Sea

Lima, Peru

Before we leave Cusco, I wanted to share a few photos from the Monasterio which was our home for two nights while in Cusco, Peru. It is a former monastery dating back to 1592 and is considered a protected national monument.


That final photo of the door within a door [won't surprise those of you who know Jeff] is a part of a collection of doors and door knockers from around the world.


Upon leaving Cusco, we were disappointed about missing out on Machu Picchu. However, true to Royal Caribbean's form and despite the situation of the protestors being out of their control, they organized a tour in Lima to lift our spirits. After a somewhat entertaining trip back to the ship (where we observed trucks, cars and even motorcycles try to outrun an oncoming train), we spent a brief moment "back home" before leaving the ship once again.

Our first destination was Love Park, located in the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores in Lima, Peru, surrounded by mosaics with phrases and poems about love in Spanish and Quechua, inspired by Park Güell designed by Antoni Gaudí, in Barcelona, Spain. Love Park consists of decorative mosaic walls and benches and a sculpture of kissing lovers. While there we heard and saw the Melodious Blackbird, known for its melodious and loud whistling calls (such a big "voice" for such a small bird.)



We made the most of the opportunity to enjoy a Peruvian Pisco Sour - our favorites - made with freshly cracked eggs. They were exceptional ... along with the best Brushetta we've ever had!


Our next stop was the Circuito Mágico del Agua, famous for its impressive fountains, light shows, and interactive features. The park holds the Guinness Book record for the largest fountain complex in the world, displaying 13 distinct fountains with continuously changing color schemes and is the second most visited site in Peru besides Machu Picchu.


Jeff might of wanted to ride the train, but foiled again , this time because it was filled with a younger crowd!

After yet another quickly-arranged yet impressive family style dinner in Peru, we returned to the Serenade of the Seas. Isabelle, the shore excursions director, was there to greet us. Our thanks to her and her team for all they did to make this a memorable three days. We'ill need a few days to recover from the adventure (as Jeff whispered to me - RCCL might have forgotten how old some of us are :))

Posted by Where2FromHere 22:55 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Making Lemonade & the last stronghold of the Inca Empire

Ollantaytambo, Peruvian Andes

View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

We had planned a repeat visit to the Wonder of the World - Machu Picchu, but we missed the train. Well, not intentionally. There just happened to be a demonstration at the time that blocked the train tracks. So, the only other way to Machu Picchu would have been to hike and, we're not doing that again, nor did we have the four days to do so. This was so unfortunate for our fellow travellers who had this famous site on their bucket lists. But you know the saying, "when life gives you lemons ... make lemonade."

Royal Caribbean and the tour company, Akorn Destination Management, did a remarkable job of making the last-minute arrangements for us to see more in Cusco, visit the Sacred Valley, and tour the Inca site at Ollantaytambo. Imagine this - they also arranged, on the spur of the moment, a luncheon for over 450 people and a horse show featuring Peruvian Pasos. Amazing and very well executed!

The first stop of the day was to the Convent of Santo Domingo which was built by the Spaniards on top of the ruins of the sacred Inca Temple, Qorikanch. In Quecha, Inca's native language, it means "house of gold". This was one of the most important temples and housed the Emperor during his reign as well as the cosmic and terrestial gods of the Incas made from silver and gold. The darker, blackened wall you see in the front of this photo was part of the original Inca Temple.


During our previous visit, we frequently passed by this structure but never ventured inside. It is renowned as the most exceptional example of Inca architecture within the entire Inca Empire. The basalt and andesite stones used in its construction were transported from a distance of over 20 miles. To safeguard the structure against seismic activity, all its walls are inclined at an angle of approximately 14 degrees.


The stones were assembled using a tongue and groove method without mortar, creating such a tight fit that even a credit card cannot slip between them.



The enclosures within Qorikancha were of the gods that the Inkas worshiped: the stars, the moon, lightning, thunder, the rainbow and most importantly, the sun. Each of the rectangular rooms were constructed in such a manner that you could see from one to the other through trapezoid shaped openings.

We then journeyed through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, a region in the Andes. This area was highly important to the Incas due to its fertile land, lower elevation, and proximity to Cusco. The valley is characterized by its stunning landscapes, Inca archaeological sites such as Ollantaytambo, and traditional towns. It served as the agricultural heartland of the Inca Empire, cultivating a variety of crops including maize (corn), potatoes, quinoa, beans, chili peppers, squash, and cabbage. During our travels, we passed numerous cultivated fields and observed the local Peruvians.


In the midst of magnificent natural surroundings, encircled by the breathtaking Andes mountains, we arrived at Ollantaytambo.


By 1533, when the Spanish conquistadors reached Peru, Ollantaytambo had become one of the largest and most significant settlements in the Inca Empire. It encompassed urban areas, temples, palaces, agricultural zones, watchtowers, and food stores.


Situated amidst three valleys, this city served as a strategic vantage point, potentially contributing to the Incas' sole triumph over the Spaniards at this location. Climbing a portion of the terraced site, evoked memories of our previous experience on the Inca trail from years ago.

As you may know, when you're on a cruise vacation, one is never far away from a good meal and entertainment. We concluded our visit to the Sacred Valley with a late luncheon, followed by a horse show with Peruvian dancers and Paso horses. The restaurant was situated high in the mountains and trust me when I say it was a challenge to get there but offered an incredible vista.


I couldn't resist the photo of the napkin. [Dan Prailes, you probably remember the napkin folding class in the Bahamas .. but I don't think any of our works of art turned out like this replica of the condor!] The luncheon was followed by a Peruvian horse show at the same location.



The Peruvian Paso was bred specifically to cover long distances on mountain trails, creating a smooth-riding horse with a big (compared to Paso Fino) ground-covering stride (this breed also developed the outward swing of the front legs.) The barefoot dancer performed the Marinera, a Peruvian dance, alongside the horse. [Jeff said we'll try this when we get home. He claims Amber will do a better job of the pivot on the hind leg. But I can assure you I won't be barefoot!]

Posted by Where2FromHere 16:48 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Unveiling the Magnificence of Inca Heritage

Sucsayhuaman - Cusco, Peru

View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Today, our journey starts in Cusco, Peru at an elevation of a little over 11,500 feet above sea level. After flying from Pisco, Peru, we headed to Limo restaurant, located in a beautiful old colonial house with a stunning outlook of the "Plaza de Armas." Despite the ongoing citizen demonstration, we felt safe and secure due to the noticeable police presence.


This historic city center was filled with cobblestone streets, colonial churchs, and building foundations laid by the Inca more than 500 years ago. We visited the Baroque-style Cusco Cathedral, built in the mid-1500s on the foundations of an Inca palace. The interior of the cathedral is adorned with numerous works of art, including the High Altar, which is entirely made of silver, and the choir, built entirely in cedarwood. We marveled at the pulpits carved entirely from the trunk of two cedar trees -truly a work of unbelievable craftsmanship.


The next stop on our journey was Sacsayhuaman, an ancient fortress-temple located on the northern outskirts of Cusco. The site's name is derived from the Quechua words "Sacsay," meaning satisfied, and "huaman," meaning falcon. It was built in the shape of a puma, a symbol of power in Andean culture. Construction began in 1350, taking 25,000 Incas 90 years to complete. When you see the massive stone walls and intricate stonework, it's easy to see why it took so long to build. The stone in the photo on the left was 21 feet tall!


There were architects, engineers, astronomers, drillers and craftsmen who worked with these immense blocks of limestone which were hauled from a nearby site. No two rocks are the same. There are three levels to the principal structure which consists of massive zig-zag walls. No mortar was used and the rocks weighing from 90 to 120 tons were put together like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle with amazing precision.


Our day ended with a grand dinner event in a historic convent, where we were welcomed by costumed characters. The dinner took place in a stunning setting, and a performance representing the Incan gods - Sun, Moon, Mother Earth, Rainbow, and Lightning - brought the event to a close.


We retired at the end of a very long day at a remarkable hotel in an old monastery.


Posted by Where2FromHere 19:36 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

What lies ahead - Another Wonder of the World

Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru

Five years ago, we embarked on a four-day adventure, hiking the Inca Trail, which was an indescribable experience of a lifetime. The journey included memorable moments such as "Dead Woman's Pass" and the climb up to the "Sun Gate" on all fours. Below you can view some collages of each day of our previous Inca Trail hike:











The best part about this upcoming journey is that we not only get to see the stone wall at Sacsayhuamán (which we missed last time),

... but this time we get to take the train up to Machu Picchu!

Posted by Where2FromHere 19:50 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

One of the most significant events in South America

Carnival in Arica, Chile

View Around the World! - Part 1 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Sometimes timing is everything ... and today we timed it right. The Arica Carnival, considered to be the happiest festivals in Chile, began today on the shores in the immediate proximity of where the ship docked. The international Andean Carnival named The Strength of the Sun was an explosion of colors, rhythms, and traditions. Not only Chileans, but also Peruvians, Bolivians, Aymara, Afro-descendants, among others come together to thrill an audience of over 100,000 spectators in a celebration of the diversity and cultural richness of the region.


This celebration brings together more than 60 groups, made up of approximately 20,000 performers and musicians, in Arica. The atmosphere is filled with joy and lasts for three days of non-stop festivities. The competition is intense, featuring a variety of dances, including the acrobatic tobas with feathers, the caporales, and the Bolivian tinku, which is a type of ritualistic combat. Participants traverse a distance of 2 miles, with many female dancers performing in heels, all under the scorching desert climate of Arica. Here are just a few of the extravagant costumes:


We were headed to the church, as an original part of today's tour, but the crowds were massive in spite of the time of day and the heat. Below are two of my favorite photos - our young friends with some of the Afro-descendates, whose dance was brought by African slaves 400 years ago and the corporales, in their high heels!


We also took a tour of an olive garden located in the Azapa valley. The original olive trees were brought from Africa, some being as old as 150 years. Additionally, we saw the Geoglyphs on the hillside, which are believed to have guided travelers towards the coast for trading activities centuries ago.



The Asoagro Market was our subsequent destination, a place that is highly recommended for those keen on immersing themselves in Arica’s local culture. This market is a treasure trove of regional agricultural produce, sourced from various geographical terrains, encompassing a range of items such as potatoes, tomatoes, fruits, and notably, olives. The market is thoughtfully designed with a thatched roof, providing us with much-needed shade from the intense sun and heat.


Our tour concluded with a visit to a re-creation of a village, the likes of which are usually found at Chile’s highest altitudes, around 14,000 feet above sea level. We were welcomed with a Mango Sour, took a leisurely stroll through some of the shops, witnessed a traditional dance performance, and savored a revitalizing Porter.


During the day, I was compelled to capture images of two “Classics”: An antique GMC - a straight frame flatbed [for my son-in-law], and another relic of the past, a payphone. Interestingly, the payphone was accompanied by something frequently seen in Chile - directions to an evacuation route in the event of a tsunami triggered by an earthquake. The area had recently experienced an earthquake in 2014, which struck off the coast of Chile on 1 April, at a magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale (which goes from 1 - 10). Our knowledgeable guide, "Jave", said Chileans are so used to earthquakes that they are largely unfazed by them. After all, they reside atop a tectonic plate.


Fortunately, the only thing we felt shake, rattling and rolling today was from the drums and dancing during Carnival!

Posted by Where2FromHere 17:49 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Blue on Blue

-22.1137 S / -71.03712 W en route to ARICA, CHILE

"Blue on blue" can be used in a broad sense to describe something that is completely different from another person or thing. Today the ocean was like none other we've witnessed before. The water was smooth, more like a lake, rather than an ocean with waves tumbling across the surface. So what makes the ocean so blue? Well, the ocean appears blue due to the way water absorbs colors in the light spectrum. Water molecules absorb colors in the red part of the spectrum, leaving behind colors in the blue part of the spectrum for us to see.This effect is intensified in the ocean, making the blue appear darker. In shallow water, floating particles like sand, silt, algae, and corals absorb light wavelengths differently than water, which can change the color of the water we see. And in deeper waters, light from the sun interacts with water molecules which can then be absorbed or scattered. If nothing is in the water except water molecules, light of shorter wavelengths is more likely to hit something and scatter, making the ocean appear blue. In shallow areas with clear water, light reaches the ocean floor, bounces off the sandy bottom, and turns the water a brilliant blue - this is apparently what caused the blue, blue ocean we observed today



The day at sea was truly serene, and if the captain hadn't announced to look to the port side of the ship, we would have missed the spectacular show put on by our fellow ocean-goers. Thanks to Juergen Draxler, who granted me permission to share the video he created, you too can experience the mesmerizing sight of a school of dolphins, which reminded me of a group of water ballerinas, as they gracefully danced alongside our ship. [Be sure to turn up the volume to fully appreciate the creativity of the production.]

I hope you enjoyed that as much as we did here on the Serenade of the Seas!

Posted by Where2FromHere 00:34 Comments (1)

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