Saturday, April 14, 2018

Going to Guatemala on Holland America's Rotterdam

Happy weekend my dear friends.  I've been away on a short spring break vacation with my family.  I actually returned home last Monday but I thought it was time to update my blog.

On April 1st we sailed out of Tampa, Florida on Holland America's Rotterdam.  It was our first time sailing on Holland America and I must say, it's going to be one of my favorites.

Leaving the port in Tampa, I loved seeing these iconic homes along the shore all dressed up in their pastel colors.  

Our first port stop was Key West, Florida.  It had almost been 20 years since I'd been to Key West.  Last time I went there it was extremely hot, humid and uncomfortable in the heat of an August summer.  This time the weather was quite agreeable but I must say, the quaint town has been damaged by being a cruise port.  I saw the typical cruise shops you will find in any port city.  Loud music and lots of people.  We did take the conch train ride and ventured a little ways outside the main center.  I loved this home that is still wearing it's natural wood color.  It's now a home decor shop over 100 years old.

On the same street was this cafe/coffee shop dating from 1909.  It's amazing that it still is standing and still doing business.

At this same place, this sign was posted on the fence.  Imagine that  President Truman was here in 1946. I'm sure Key West was a charming seaside city back then.

Next up was Roatan, Honduras.  I'd been to Roatan before but never to Mahogony Bay. It was a private beach area for the cruise lines.  The beach was beautiful but crowded with 3 ships in port!

One place I'd never been before was Guatemala and I am in love with this country!  Such natural beauty.  We took a proper tour and drove over an hour through the lush, green countryside.  Our port was in San Tomas de Castilla which is an industrial port city.  But, once outside, it was beautiful.

Our destination was the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara which is on the Dulce River. 

The fortress dates from the early 17th century.  This property was added to the  UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. 

The canons are still mounted and aimed at the intruders which came via the Dulce River.

This is the inner courtyard of the fortress.

Upon entering the fortress, is was surrounded by a moat.  It was soon time to get back on board the bus and head back to the ship.  It was a most interesting ride back as we went through a little town where the people where making tamales, selling and buying fruits and vegetables and also selling ready made meals for the workers.  Our tour guide had light brown hair and blue eyes; his grandparents were Belgian and English!  He told us it was the Germans who developed the coffee industry in Guatemala and still today there are a large group of Guatemalans with German ancestry.  It was very quite interesting.  My dear son-in-law was born in Guatemala of Guatemalan and Spanish ancestry.  

We stopped at a port in Mexico where I had never been before; Costa Maya.  Here is a replica of a Mayan monument in the city square.  It's a small beach town with a thriving tourist industry.

We ventured off to a private beach club, Maya Chan, owned by Americans from San Diego, CA.  It was really quite lovely and excellent hospitality from our gracious hosts.  They had all kinds of nonmotorized watercraft at our disposal, and all inclusive food and drink.  The only glitch is that this part of the ocean has an abundance of sea grass but it was wonderful being out in the water and enjoying this beautiful, tranquil setting.

Many times I read where people say they will never take a cruise.  My family started cruising 20 years ago and we go at least once a year.  It makes it so much easier as a family since you know where you are going to sleep each night, you can eat whatever your heart desires at anytime, and there are so many activities to do. My little grandson who is 8, just completed his 12 cruise and my granddaughter who is 2 just finished her 4th!  It's a pleasant way to see the world.  As I mentioned above, I was really impressed by Holland America.  Guest Services printed out a list of the art that is onboard.  The above is in the center atrium of the ship.

This is a very poor photo I took of a 17th century Italian desk with all these little compartments.  The parquet design was amazing.

And, this is a lovely marble design in floor of one of the lounges on board.

There was a lovely mix of passengers on board; old, not too old, young and a few youngsters.  Just the right mix.  And I enjoyed the ambiance of the ship.  It was a lovely trip except for our flights.  We had chosen the discount airline Spirit Air and it turned out to be a disaster.  Long story short, our flight home was postponed, we spent an extra night in Tampa and arrived back home on Monday instead of Sunday!  But, all is well and everyone is back to their routine.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  My Saturday was spent at a Norwegian heritage fair where I made waffles!

My best wishes to you,