World Cruise 2013 - Part 1

This is part 1 of Sandy and Mike's 2013 World Cruise report. Holland America's Amsterdam is "home away from home" for almost 4 months, with 1200 other adventurers. (The Amsterdam is rather small by today's cruise ship standards.) Almost all of their route around the world is in the southern hemisphere.

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Leaving Fort Lauderdale, the ship headed down to the northern coast of South America, calling at the port of Cartagena, Colombia. (By coincidence, Sandy and Mike were in Cartagena, Spain, just about a year earlier.) Cartagena is Colombia's 5th largest city, and quite clean and nice. It has the usual cathedral, old fort (from Spanish days), and a monastery on top of the hill with great views overlooking the city and harbor.

Next up was the Panama Canal, as the ship headed over to the Pacific Ocean. Sandy and Mike have been through the Canal several times, but an added attraction this time was seeing the construction of the new set of locks - much bigger than the original 1914 ones, to accommodate today's larger ships. Most of the construction of the new locks that was visible is on the Pacific end of the canal. We shared transit with a "Panamax" (largest size ship that can fit in the existing locks) container ship heading back to Taiwan.

Now on the west coast of South America, the next port was Manta, Ecuador. Some left the ship at this port for a side-trip to the Galapagoes Islands. Since Mike and Sandy have already followed Darwin's footsteps there, they stayed in Manta, seeing tuna being unloaded from big fishing trawlers, the hall where Ecuador's constitution was written and adopted, and some Panama hats being made. (Ecuador is actually the birthplace of the hats, not Panama - Who would have guessed?)

The first of two stops in Peru was the port near Lima, the capital. A few guests left the ship here for a multi-day overland sidetrip to Machu Picchu, up in the Andes. As Sandy and Mike have "been there and done that," they did some exploring on foot around Lima and its suburbs instead.

The ship moved on south to Pisco, Peru, which is the jumping-off point for cheaper alternatives to well-known landmarks such as the Galapagoes Islands and the Nazca Lines. Mike and Sandy took a boat trip out to the Ballestas Islands (part of the Paracas National Wildlife Reserve area, an enormous Peruvian national park). The island has birds and sea creatures sort of like those on the Galapagoes, but fewer and not so diverse a collection. They also saw the Candelabra, a huge figure cut into the rocky side of a hill, again sort of like, but smaller than the more widely known Nazca Lines, a collection of similar patterns cut into inland mountainsides.

Mike and Sandy had their fingers crossed as they headed towards Easter Island, since weather & waves prevent 7 out of 10 cruise ships that call from getting any of their tenders to shore. The ship's captain picked the best of 3 possible landing sites on the island, and we made it to shore, and back in the afternoon -- although both ways definitely qualified as "E-ticket rides."

Easter Island is one of the more unusual spots on this cruise, with its strange giant stone statues. Only a little is known of the people that lived there, and exactly why they quarried and carved these enormous and heavy figures (although some sort of ancestor worship-based religion is a popular theory). We visited several sites where status have been restored to their original positions by archeologists who have been working here since the 1950's. (Earthquakes, tsunamis, and local warfare had toppled many of the statues off their bases.)

We also visited the quarry, where we saw many statues that had never been finished and transported away from the quarry. The first carving was done in the side of the mountain, with the statue lying on its back. Later it was cut away from the mountain side, raised upright, and more details carved. The eyes were placed only when the statue had been placed on its final platform.

Exactly how the islanders got these statues from the quarry to the shorelines of the island, and then stood them up (the larger ones weigh almost 100 tons!), a feat akin to the building of the pyramids in Egypt, is the subject of much scholarly debate.

We had the priviledge of being guided around the island by a young woman whose grandfather was one of the first archeologists to work on the island.