Due to the unrest in Peru, all of our excursions there were cancelled and replaced with two days in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We will still make a “technical stop” in Peru to resupply, but we will not be allowed to leave the ship. Guayaquil is the second largest city in Ecuador with a population of about 3 million people. It is the starting point for trips to the Galápagos Islands some 500 miles away.
On Sunday we docked in Manta, Ecuador and took a chivas bus to the town of Montechristi where Panama hats are made. The first question you might ask is “Why are Panama hats made in Ecuador?”. That style of hat has always been made here. During construction of the Panama Canal, these hats were very popular with the workers to protect them from the sun. When Teddy Roosevelt was visiting to check on the construction of the canal, his picture appeared in the New York Times with one of these hats which he mistakenly called a Panama hat. The name has been used ever since.
On Thursday we visited two villages in El Salvador. Our guide said it was the second safest country in Central America, which probably isn’t saying a whole lot. Oceania has made some schedule changes which they say are motivated by improving their energy efficiency. The downside is that in all cases we will have less time in ports. In El Salvador, the result was most tours left at 6:45 in the morning. We switched our tour to the one that left the latest: 8:45AM
On Wednesday we went on what was billed as an art history tour of Comalapa, Guatemala. The population of Guatemala is about 50% Mayan with most of the rest being Spanish or mixed. Comalapa is 97% Mayan and 3% mixed. It seemed like a very authentic town with no obvious tourists other than our group of ten. Since we like cultural experiences, this was our kind of tour.
This is the fourth blog of the trip. My web hosting company made some changes, so I hope subscribers received an email this time. On the iPad you can look at the previous blogs by simply scrolling down.
This is the second post I have made for this trip. It appears that no email was sent out for the first post. I have made some changes, and hopefully subscribers will receive an email for this post. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to review the previous post for general information about this trip.
On Friday, we took a tour from Manzanillo, the largest port in Mexico and much larger than our port in Wilmington, to the interior towns of Colima and Comala.
Several years ago when we thought COVID would be a distant memory in 2023, we booked a 180 day Around the World (ATW) cruise on Oceania. The tour started in San Francisco, went around South America including a visit to Antarctica, crossed the Atlantic to Africa, went around Africa to Dubai, went along South Asia and east Asia, made many stops in Japan, went up to Alaska, and finally back down to San Francisco. Apparently, everyone else was also optimistic as the cruise sold out on the first day it was offered. Our travel agent came into work early to insure we got a spot. Over time people dropped out and the long wait lists disappeared, so they started selling the cruise in segments. Ultimately, we switched from full ATW to just the first four segments of 100 days from San Francisco to Dubai.
Travel is a little easier this year than it was last year. The ship no longer requires proof of vaccination (I personally wish they did), but we will have it with us just in case. They also don’t require a negative test. I do like this as it was very stressful when your whole trip was dependent on this last minute test. There are also no health questionnaires to fill out. This also relieves the stress of trying to figure out all the proper forms.
Of course 100 days is still a lot to plan and pack for. We sent one suitcase to the ship via Luggage Forward on 31/Dec. I have been packing in the guest bedroom since New Years Day. Susan is more a last minute type and she started packing three days before we leave. We each had one checked bag, one carry on bag, and one personal item. There was of course some stress when the FAA grounded all flights a few days before we were going to fly, and the weather reports in California were consistently bad.
Fortunately, our flight to San Francisco was uneventful and all of our luggage made it to the ship. The pilot prepared us several times for a rough landing in San Francisco, but the landing was very routine. The weather was cool with occasional rain. We walked to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. We were surprised at how deserted it was and how many restaurants were closing early on a Saturday night. We did find one open and enjoyed crab chowder in a sourdough bread bowl and Dungeness crab.