Our visa was running out for our six month stay in Mexico, so we began looking for something fun to do when we had to leave the country. We are constantly scanning travel sites searching for bargains on transportation. Lucky for us, a very good deal for a 14 day Panama Canal cruise popped up and we jumped right on it.
Unlike repositioning cruises where the port taxes are inexpensive, you will pay at least double the amount on port taxes when travelling on Central and South American cruises. Along with the daily gratuities, this will almost double your basic cruise price. So please keep this in mind when you are shopping around.
We had to tender in (small boats that bring you from the ship to the port) at our first stop which sits at the bottom of the Baja Pennisula. Known for its beautiful water and amazing deep sea fishing, Cabo is not the cheapest place to visit in Mexico, but it does have a simply rugged beauty.
I was interested in a deep sea fishing trip that I could take when we returned to Mexico after the cruise so I checked on prices. The best deal I found was $300 (maximum of 4 people) for 5 hours. I'm planning to arrange a fishing trip to Cabo later this summer so contact me if you are interested in coming along.
Outside of the famous cliff divers, there is not much else to see in Acupulco. I saw the cliff divers when I visited Acapulco nearly 35 years ago, so we just used this brief stop to check our email and get a few small toiletry items to take back on the ship.
We had another tender stop at this small port. There was a huge problem getting passengers off the ship because they only used four tender boats. Passengers got very testy when they had to wait hours to board the small tenders.
We managed to finally get off and find a nice place right on the beach to have a few drinks and do a little research for some friends of ours who are thinking of moving here when they retire next year. San Juan is a sleepy little surfer town on the isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua.
The nearest large town near San Juan del Sur is Rivas, which is located on Lake Nicaragua. Here you will find major hospitals and schools without having to go to Managua, which is the capital.
Getting to this port on a Sunday happened to be very bad timing. Most shops and cafes were closed because in Latin American, Sunday is considered family day.
There is a large beach area and a picturesque malecon that accommodates the cruise port. These are not the pristine white sand beaches if you are looking for that. However, there are many excursions to the rain forest that originate from here if you want to explore.
If you are a shopper, make sure you politely haggle and stay away from the area nearest to the cruise ship dock. These stalls/shops are always the most expensive.
Lovely Cartagena was our favorite port of call. The old walled city is not to be missed. The historic architecture is uniquely beautiful and it's a great place to beat the heat because the alleyways are narrow so at least one side of the street is always in the shade.
Opportunities arise for us at the most unexpected times. While enjoying a Colombian cup of iced coffee (strong but delicious!) in a modern little coffee shop, we started chatting with a couple of ladies sitting next to us about the area and prices of rentals. One of the ladies just happened to be the coffee shop's owner. We began talking about our travels and our life as former teachers. She was so impressed with Lori's ESL (English as a Second Language) background that she offered her a job right on the spot. The owner was specifically interested in hiring Lori to teach her staff conversational English to use with the customers. The owner hires disadvantaged and at-risk young people to give them a sense of independence and confidence. Lori was very honored to be asked, and told the owner that she'd be in touch when we return for a longer stay. It is nice to know that employment and volunteer opportunities abound as we travel.
Our last port stop was at Grand Cayman. The first thing you notice about this place is the how beautiful the water is that surrounds this island. The second thing you notice is how VERY expensive things are here! If all you see when you get to a port are high end shops (Rolex, Cartier, Diamonds Int'l) and fancy international banks every few blocks, you know there will not be many bargains to be found.
We found one fun way to get a lot of "bang for our buck" while in Grand Cayman. Around the port are many local bars. If you buy a drink in these establishments, you have free access to their snorkeling gear. You can snorkel right off the pier at the bar for just the cost of a drink. Even in an expensive place like Grand Cayman, this is still a great deal compared to any other organized tours.
Another thanks goes to Sunday and Rob for hanging out with us. We appreciate it and plan to visit British Columbia soon.
We hope to see everyone we met down the road. Until we do, happy travels to you all.