by Irene Wiseman
Feliz Navidad y Bueno Neuvo Ano
These are just a couple of the new Spanish phrases I heard on numerous occasions, during our 5-week cruise from Los Angeles to Rio De Janiero, embarking on December 3rd and concluding January 6th with our arrival back in Salmon Arm.
When translated of course this means Merry Christmas and a Good New Year.
Holidays, so precious to take, and yet when we compare our standards and living conditions to other countries we realize how fortunate we are to live in this great Country of Canada. Although both Clarence and myself have in past years traveled to various spots on the globe, neither one of us had really traveled thousands of miles by ship and visited 10-different countries in such a short period of time.
I must admit it was exciting planning, getting ready and taking that first flight to California which allowed us to board The Star Princess, a ship in the Princess Fleet which holds in excess of 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew.
The Festive Season is family time and I must admit although we enjoyed this type of trip once, we both had a tear in our eye as Christmas Eve arrived. I did manage to sit on Santa’s knee and we had a great dinner and celebration evening with other guests and crew.
The first few stops included Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Lima, Peru. Although the number 13 can often be a bad omen, for us it was not so. That number we will always remember as the date we CROSSED THE EQUATOR – something special for wayfaring seamen and of course a necessary celebration was the Order of the Day. The ritual not solemn, as one might expect but more like a rite of passage into a Fraternity House at your favorite University.
The willing passengers who participated in the rite will never forget. We were fortunate enough not to have been selected for those embarrassing moments.
Some passengers did take the opportunity at the Lima, Peru port to take a 3-day excursion to the famed Machu Pichu. We elected to wander the streets of this wonderful city. This as well gave Clarence an opportunity to practice his “street smart Spanish”, something that saved us pesos and also allowed us to have a more intimate tour with a local cabbie rather than the sterile organized City Tour which in most cases always places you on the wrong side of the tour bus for taking photos.
The next two countries on our list were Chili and Argentina. South American countries have one thing in common, and that is Spanish invasion and eventual revolutions. The central squares in all the major cities have the many statues of their revolutionary leaders, churches and government buildings. In Chili in the Port of San Martin we discovered we were quite close to the Nasdaq Plains, an archaeological site worth visiting but we were on a time restraint. Rather than do that, we elected to wander and discovered their national drink called the Pisco Sour. Feeling that was worth experiencing we followed suit with such “tastings” in both Argentina and Brazil.
We found the South Americans very friendly. In one port, an ambitious young man trying to make it in the tourism industry, latched onto us and wanted to show us the various sites in this very small port. He was practicing his English as much as Clarence was his Spanish. What was very evident at the end of his half hour with us, was that he expected nothing in return for sharing his local knowledge. We even had to “call him back” for his tip (or as they say in Spanish – his propina).
The architecture in all of the cities was most striking and in many cases buildings had been erected many hundreds of years ago and survived numerous earthquakes.
The next two milestones in the trip were going around Cape Horn the bottom of South America. We were aware that seas in the area can be rough and we did have a taste of that prior to arriving at the Cape with 3-days of chop and swell. Captain Stefano Ravera played this period of time on the side of caution and cut throttle to about 10 knots and dodged in and out of channels which gave us shelter from the wind and waves. But the day we rounded the tip of the continent mother nature treated us with kindness – calm winds and sunshine.
Clarence did discover that having “rounded the cape” he was now entitled to wear an ear ring in his left ear. He says likely in another life.
After Cape Horn we had a two day trip to The Falkland Islands. Although the war with Argentina happened over 20-years ago there still seems to be some sensitivity about this period of history with the two countries. We managed to visit a Penguin Colony here which was indeed a highlight of the trip in some cases standing within a couple feet of these unusual birds.
The last three cities we dropped anchor at were Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Rio De Janeiro. They all have their uniqueness and of course Rio will host the Olympic Games this August. We did manage to take a cable car up to the highest peak in Rio, which is Sugar Loaf Mountain and also visited the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Although time did not permit us to take the rail car up to the famous Christ The Redeemer, the cross is visible from most areas in the city of 12 million people.
As a Celiac it was also interesting to note that in Rio many of the major manufactures do label products as gluten-free or containing gluten even water had a no gluten label. This was my clue as to how to figure out just what had gluten in it. The restaurant also had a menu in English. We had a couple of meals sitting at our outdoor restaurant with the ocean and Ipanema beach right across the street. It can’t get any better than that.
Princess Cruises also caters very professionally for anyone with food allergies. I talked to the head waiter and learned that they are very careful and know just how important the food prep is.
An amazing journey – 31 days on the Cruise – total distance covered 11,300 statute miles, 10 countries and 18 bottles of red wine. Irene and Clarence’s trip of a life time.