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Old February 28th, 2009, 01:16 AM
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Day 10 – Silver Shadow – Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Early last evening I spoke to our butler Vierny about the possibility of hosting a cocktail party in our Suite for some of the people we’ve met during the cruise. He said, no problem, we can do it tonight! I thanked him, but told him I’d give him more notice than that.

Today The Shadow’s port of call was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, the country’s largest Pacific Ocean port. I had been told that like in Costa Rica, most of the major sites you want to see are some distance, and a considerable time to get to. This is a port we haven’t visited before, and I initially thought a ship’s tour might be best. As I considered the options it became obvious that all tours offered were between 8 and 9 ½ hours in length.

There was one tour that interested me; hiking on an active volcano. I didn’t pre-book it, because I wanted to wait and find out how much of the time was spent on the bus getting to and from.

I detest tours involving long bus rides to anywhere, and in situations like this you often spend as much time getting there, as you do “there”. Even the golf we did in Costa Rica resulted in a 1 ½ hour bus ride each way. I understand it may seem odd to complain about having to spend time getting somewhere when traveling, because that’s essentially what traveling is defined as… but at my size, I’ve yet to come across a bus with space enough for me to be reasonably comfortable.

The flight excursions ranged from $599 per person, to $2229 per person. We’ve done helicopter tours in Alaska, and though I’m a lousy flier, helicopters ride quite differently. But, right or wrong, I had my own misgivings about helicopter tours in Guatemala. Irrational probably, but after hearing of the tour bus crash last week in Dominca, I thought I would be cautious.

I have to admit in many ways I am an unadventurous adventurer. I like to explore independently, but only when I mentally believe I’m safe. I’ve often wandered the side streets of many major European and North American cities, even where crime can be rampant, with no problem. At 6’ 3” tall, and over 200 lbs., I normally feel safe.

Yet, on a first time visit to an underdeveloped country in Central America all I really wanted to do was call my momma and get my “blankie”. My concern with Guatemala was not with crime, but rather questioning the infrastructure. I was very busy before the cruise, with a CruiseMates Group Cruise, and I failingly hadn’t researched it before the cruise, so had no mental comfort zone.

We opted for breakfast on the veranda of La Terrezza to begin our day. The buffet had all variety of fish, as well as more customary breakfast items. The coffee is served at your table by waiters, and if you want to order freshly made eggs, the waiters take your order, and deliver them when ready.

Many of the tables on the veranda were unusable this morning, as both tables and chairs on the railing had a layer of soot on them; we were told this was from a plant nearby. I thought it might be materials from the ship’s funnel, but we found the same soot on our balcony furniture on our balcony, and since it’s on the bow of the ship, it couldn’t have come from the funnel.

After sitting for a bit we decided to at least venture off the ship, to the pier-side market, and then decide if we were going to carry on further from that point. The vendors at market were very friendly and not pushy at all. They invited you to look at their wares, but there was no harassment at all. As we wandered amongst the kiosks we came across a fashion show being held illustrating traditional native fashions of the various regions of the country. It was quite enjoyable and the models they were using were really quite good looking. Mrs. Kuki wanted to trade me for one of the male models, but she found they don’t accept Canadian “currency”.

As expected the vendors in the market were quite open to bargaining, but were very polite about it. Their polite and friendly manner helped them close the sale with me, as I wasn’t nearly as aggressive in my bargaining as I am in places like Jamaica, where I react to the aggressive vendors. Besides which, they were selling some very beautiful locally made goods, and they weren’t expensive to begin with.

The posted taxi fares seemed a bit expensive, and though some bargaining would have no doubt lowered the prices, we decided not to venture any further. The ship was quiet this afternoon as many of the passengers were more adventurous than I, and had gone out on tours.

I also found out later talking to some crew members that there are several interesting things to do close by. As I said above, I should have researched in advance, or spoken to the crew earlier about Guatemala. The crew is always the best source of information about what to do in ports of call.

Our suite is the first from the bow, on the second deck of balconies up from the pier, in the above photo. Wave!

Silversea is different than more traditional cruise lines, in that their ships do not run regular itineraries; leaving from and returning to the same port for long stretches of time. The Silversea ships, with the exception of expedition ship, Prince Albert II, are operated for travelers; meaning they sail around the globe, opening up a wide variety of exotic itineraries. Today the Silver Cloud is in Parati, Brazil, the Silver Wind is in Visakhapatnam, India, the Silver Whisper is in Xiamen, China, and the Prince Albert II is in Punta Arenas, Chile
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