Today is Saturday and we’re leaving the wonderful city of Miami.  We’ve had a great time here and have eaten some delicious meals.  Our hotel was located on Brickell Key right adjacent to the downtown area of Miami.  Here are a few shots of the view from our room.


And here is a shot of the skyline at night.

During our stay, we managed to roam many of the streets surrounding our hotel but also took Uber to South Beach a couple of times.  The architecture in South Beach is a great testament to Art Deco and gives you the feeling of the 50’s and 60’s.  Here are a few sample shots of the buildings and the beach itself.

We had dinner one night at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar – what a great restaurant and true Southern experience.  They specialize in Southern fried chicken and it was fantastic.  They also have the largest collection of bourbons in the state of Florida.  Here’s a recap of some of the items we ate:

Deviled Eggs
Deviled Eggs
Fried Green Tomatoes
Mac N Cheese

We also had dinner on our last night at Azul, a restaurant featuring modern American cuisine with an Asian influence.  It was an extraordinary meal and I even met the chef, Benjamin Murray, a young, rising chef in South Florida.

Swordfish, brandade, blood orange, melted cabbage
Swordfish, brandade, blood orange, melted cabbage

 

Lobster
Lobster

All in all, we had a great time in Miami and look forward to coming back.  We board the ship today and then we’re off for 16 days.  Please stay tuned to our next adventure.  I’ll try to update this blog as frequently as I can but can’t promise it will be every day.  Come sail with us.

Leaving Miami on Saturday morning was great.  The Oceania Regatta is a very nice ship but small – around 650 guests on board.  As one of the Regatta bartenders, Nicola, says, it’s a very social ship…. and it is.  I’ve attached a few pictures of our room and balcony, the top deck of the ship, and then our final adieu to Miami.

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Of course, the first night is very exciting and everyone is trying to explore the ship – the several bars, the fitness area, the spa, and the three main restaurants on board.  Sunday, our first full day on board and a full day at sea, allowed us to meet a lot of people.  There are a lot of Canadians on the ship and most of them are from Toronto.  Since we have the Beverage Package, all of our drinks are free and the bars are a great place to meet people.  We’re also allowed to book two reservations at each of the specialty restaurants, the Polo Grill (steakhouse) and Toscana (Italian).  Although our reservations occur later on the cruise, we managed to secure a reservation at Toscana on Sunday night.  The food was superb and I have attached a few pictures below.

Grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto
Grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto
Beef Carpaccio
Beef Carpaccio
Penne Ragu
Penne Ragu
Ravioli
Ravioli
Veal Limone
Veal Limone
Osso Buco
Osso Buco
Cannelloni
Cannelloni

On Monday we arrived at the Cayman Islands, our first port. Although the weather en route was stormy and windy, our day at Grand Cayman was spectacular – 85 degrees.  We signed up for an excursion which included a visit to the Turtle Farm and also an afternoon with the sting rays.

The Cayman Islands are a British colony so everyone speaks English and accepts American dollars – of course, they do.  We walked around Georgetown a bit but there wasn’t too much to see.  There were 3 cruise lines in port so there were a lot of tourists in town and you can tell that the local Caymans are used to many tourists.  We passed a fresh fish restaurant where the men actually clean the fish and then provide them to the restaurant – they appear to be red snapper.

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_MLM3896PCWe also saw plenty of iguanas – particularly when we visited the turtle farm.

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The turtle farm very interesting and we saw a ton of turtles. They raise turtles at this farm and then set them free in the wild. Or as our guide pointed out, turtles are a local delicacy that is especially popular during the holidays. Here are a few pictures.

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Our last adventure for the day was the stingray experience. We were taken out 3.5 miles on a launch to a sandbar where the stingrays thrive. The guides explain how to treat the stingrays and what types of gestures or manipulations to avoid.  The water is only about waist or chest high so it’s very pleasant to just stand there and let the stingrays surround you.  They’re very soft to touch but I kept thinking about those stingers on their back end – it made me a little nervous and I chose not to feed them the calamari that our guides provided.  Here are a few shots from out on the sand bar – the water is warm and a beautiful turquoise color.

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A few final shots of Grand Cayman including Rich, Bill, and Penny on the launch (we’re celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on Wednesday), a nice shot of the Regatta, and a sunset shot under cloudy conditions.  I’ll try to provide more frequent updates moving forward but the internet speed on board provides a lot of challenges.  Until our next port of call – Cartagena, Colombia.

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No pictures tonight but an update on our progress toward the Panama Canal.  Today, we spent the entire day at sea on our way to Cartagena, Colombia.  Last night was an extremely windy cruise from the Cayman Islands to Colombia.  Evidently this is normal for this stretch of the Caribbean traveling to Colombia.  We rocked and we rolled all night long as the waves splashed across our veranda.  At the same time, the temperature stayed around 80 degrees.

This morning the pool area was closed as were most of the outdoor areas.  You could see sprays of mist covering the entire pool deck area and the fitness track above.  The outdoor area was finally opened shortly after noon but the winds were still severe.  You could barely walk in a straight line as the ocean mist hit your face leaving a very salty residue.  Many of the passengers were ill and vomit bags were placed at strategic places on the ship.  As a result, many of the bars and restaurants were empty as many passengers stayed in their rooms.  Fortunately, Rich and I were fine and stayed mobile throughout the day.

I managed to do 30 minutes on the treadmill at the front of the ship this afternoon – and was that an experience.  I had to hold on tight for fear of falling off the machine.  At the same time, the treadmill faced windows that viewed the expanse of the seas and you could see the extreme waves that billowed across the horizon.  According to the captain, the swells were 15-20 feet at times.  The ship rocked, rattled and jarred significantly throughout the day – even the ship’s crew were exhausted by the continual rocking and swaying.  I also managed to go to the spa in the afternoon and the receptionist told me that 5 people actually vomited while having their massage.  Isn’t that a pretty picture?

Anyway, we expect that the turbulence will subside after midnight and that we’ll arrive in Cartagena by 9am or 10am – a few hours behind schedule due to the use of the ship’s stabilizers.  The temperature in Cartagena is expected to be 92 degrees – I wonder whether it will be humid…. ha ha.

So that’s the latest from the Regatta.  After our excursion to see the highlights of Cartagena, we’ll spend the evening with Bill and Penny celebrating their 50th anniversary.  Should be fun.

After another stormy night at sea, we finally arrived at Cartagena and the weather was great.  Everyone we encountered spoke about the rocky evening and the inability to sleep – even the crew said that they had not experienced rough seas like this in a very long time.

There wasn’t much to see as we entered the port in Cartagena.  We quickly ate breakfast and prepared for our excursion entitled “Highlights of Cartagena”.  Our guide was wonderful – her name was Maria Rocio and you’ll see that we all had tags bearing her name throughout the excursion.  No – I didn’t change my name to Rocio although it is a little classy eh?

Our first stop along the way was the fortress which protected Cartagena from marauders and enemies.  You’ll see a few pictures of the city’s skyline and the fortress itself.

I wasn’t that impressed with the fortress because the views weren’t terrific.  At the same time, it offered some badly needed exercise after being on the ship so long.  I did capture a photo of two small Colombian children and also a family portrait opportunity that I seized upon.

Skyline of Cartagena
Skyline of Cartagena
Colombian children visiting the fortress
Colombian children visiting the fortress
Colombian family
Colombian family
The fortress
The fortress

After leaving the fortress, we traveled to the so-called dungeons. The dungeons were a series of 23 small shops that sold goods from Cartagena – clothing, souvenirs, and such. We didn’t purchase anything but were continually approached by the aggressive street vendors. When I say aggressive, I mean exactly that. They never took “no” as an answer and continually bothered us.

And then… on to the old town of Cartagena. What a beautiful city it is! Our guide said that Cartagena, or maybe just Colombia, is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world following The Netherlands. It became immediately apparent. You’ll see below pictures of balconies filled with flowers. The architecture is very reminiscent of New Orleans with the beautiful balconies and small streets. They also have every imaginable fruit juice that exists and is provided by all of the exotic fruits that grow in the region.

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We then went to the Church of St. Peter Clarion where Bill and I got to have an encounter with some colorful birds.  You’ll notice that the parrots are kissing in one of my pictures – very cool.

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After a great day touring the city, we got back to the ship and left Cartagena around 4pm headed to the Panama Canal.  Fortunately, the rough seas were far behind us and we had a smooth sail all night.  Good thing because we were celebrating Bill and Penny’s 50th anniversary in the Grand Dining Room.  It was a great evening of good food and a special cake that the ship provided.  Here’s a shot.

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We had a wonderful time in Cartagena and look forward to entering the Panama Canal tomorrow morning on Christmas Eve.  I’ll try to have another update as quickly as I can.

We arrived on the Atlantic Ocean side of Panama early morning on Christmas Eve.  The weather was pleasant but you could very much feel the humidity.  We began the transit early in the morning and didn’t reach the Pacific Ocean until about 8pm – roughly 12 hours later.

There is a significant amount of waiting time to enter the locks and file in line with the cargo ships.  There are essentially 3 sets of locks that constitute the amazing engineering feat that we call the Panama Canal.  There is also a large man-made lake that takes up a considerable amount of transit time.

Once we began the process, the captain of the Regatta relinquishes control of the ship to the Panama Canal authorities.  They board the ship and ensure that the vessel is safe throughout the transit.  There are “mules” which guide the ship into the locks and the water levels are adjusted.  It is an amazing process to watch especially since this has been in place for 100 years.  Here are some pictures of our transit.

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Everyone watching as we enter the canal.
Everyone watching as we enter the canal.
The mules that guide the ship so it doesn't hit the sides.
The mules that guide the ship so it doesn’t hit the sides.
One of the locks
One of the locks
Waiting for the water to rise.
Waiting for the water to rise.
Out onto the lake
Out onto the lake
Many, many ships out on the lake
Many, many ships out on the lake
Look at the water levels
Look at the water levels
We're almost at the end and the tugboats are waiting.
We’re almost at the end and the tugboats are waiting.

 

All in all, I thought that the transit was incredibly interesting but far too long – it takes a very long time to go the entire length of the isthmus.  There are some interesting experiences, nonetheless… the fact that we visited two continents, North and South America, and the journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans – very cool.

By evening, the Christmas Eve festivities began as we approached the Pacific Ocean.  Many of the crew came to the central area of the ship dressed in Santa Claus hats and sang Christmas carols with the audience – it was very nice to participate in the show.  We then had dinner in the Grand Dining Room with a Toronto family we have met onboard the Regatta – Sylvia, Al, John and Rob.  They were great fun and we had an excellent meal with plenty to drink.

Rich at the Martini bar - one of our favorite hangouts.
Rich at the Martini bar – one of our favorite hangouts.
Christmas carolers
Christmas carolers

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Santa (and Santa is a she) and a friend
Santa (and Santa is a she) and a friend
Our Toronto friends - from left to right - Rob, Sylvia, Al, and John
Our Toronto friends – from left to right – Rob, Sylvia, Al, and John
Exiting the Canal - the Bridge of the Americas
Exiting the Canal – the Bridge of the Americas

Christmas Eve was wonderful and we had a great time – very different at 90 degrees but nonetheless very memorable. We enjoyed the transit and are now ready for Costa Rica. Merry Christmas to all of you who are following the blog. And here’s our diploma for transiting the canal.

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We arrived early Saturday morning into Puntarenas harbor.  Christmas Day was very peaceful and hot on the Pacific Ocean.  We had a very nice day including a premium wine tasting in the early afternoon.  The owner of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Bill Phelps, participated in the wine tasting and his presence added an additional interesting touch.  I also met his daughter, Allie, a little later in the day.  She teaches culinary skills in San Francisco so we might take a trip sometime next year to check it out.  Meanwhile, here are Bill, Penny, and Rich at the tasting table.

_MLM4132I also captured a picture of the open sea on our way to Puntarenas – very calm seas as you’ll see.

_MLM4136Back to Puntarenas… I took a shot of our arrival into Puntarenas harbor with the morning full moon and then the port city.

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Our excursion in Puntarenas was to the Macaw Sanctuary which was roughly an hour bus ride from the ship. During that time, our guide gave us significant information about Costa Rica and how rich it is in native plants and animals.

Once at the sanctuary, we walked through the jungled area which consisted of cages with birds and animals and also birds and monkeys which were released into the wild. The sanctuary protects the birds and animals with the intent to release them at some time back into the wild. In many cases, these birds and monkeys refuse to leave.

Before we got to the sanctuary, we were unaware of the conditions of the grounds. It was extremely hot and humid (90 degrees) and filled with bugs and mosquitos.  Since I’m an easy prey, I got bit about 20 times.  Had we known, we would have brought the bug spray which was sitting in our cabin on the ship.  Anyway, it was a very informative tour with lots of opportunities to see the wildlife.  Here they are:

Green macaws - the rarest color
Green macaws – the rarest color

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Toucan
Toucan
Macaw out in the open
Macaw out in the open
Macaws interacting on the ground
Macaws interacting on the ground

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Jaguar
Jaguar
Butterfly
Butterfly
Parakeet
Parakeet
Monkey out in the wild
Monkey out in the wild

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Finally, I’ve included some pictures leaving Puntarenas and a nightly stroll on the Regatta after dinner.

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Good night from Costa Rica.

Our next stop was Corinto, Nicaragua.  There wasn’t much to the port but our excursion took us one hour from the port to the town of Chichigalpa – the Town of Sugar and Rum it is said.  Our excursion today was rum tasting at the Flor de Cańa Distillery.  The company claims to have the best rum in the world because of their multiple distilling processes.

The tour was excellent and well coordinated by our company guide.

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We began immediately with a tasting of their 18 year old rum.  It was presented to all of us in a brandy snifter with a fairly large pour of the rum.  Our tasting guide said we needed to taste with all 5 senses – sight for the color, smell for the aromas, and taste.  He also had us pour a small amount of rum into the palm of our hands and then rub them.  It left no stickiness at all because they distill all of the sugars from the alcohol.  Supposedly, because of this, there is no hangover – not sure I believe that.  For the final sense, hearing, he said let’s all toast to this wonderful experience and click our glasses.  What a great tasting!

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We then took a tour of the cooperage where the rums are barreled and stacked. They exclusively use previously used Jack Daniel barrels.
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Our final stop was the museum and store where we were able to purchase items in the world’s largest rum barrel.  Rich and I tasted the 25 year old rum and then purchased a bottle…. of course, we did!  I also caught Penny mesmerized by the event.

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I forgot to mention that Chichigalpa is located at the foot of one of Nicaragua’s many active volcanoes.

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All in all, it was a fun day. We returned back to the ship and then started our now routine activities – drinks in the Horizon Room while leaving port, then more drinks in the Martini Lounge, and finally dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

We had a great dinner and finished with some tasty desserts.  As our Filipino head server came by, he noticed my white linen shirt.  He said I looked like a Filipino Senator and took my picture.  I’m not sure whether that was a compliment or a slam.  Anyway, it was good fun.

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We now head to Guatemala. No excursions there and we stay onboard the ship. I’m not sure that I’ll have anything to share but we’ll see.

Today was a great of doing absolutely nothing. Yes, Anette, I had a fantastic spa treatment in the afternoon. I did my 30 minute cardio around the perimeter of the ship in fairly strong winds…but I persevered. Needed a bloody mary soon thereafter.

My goal today was to focus on taking people pictures…. this is just for you, Karen!  I wanted to capture pictures of the many outstanding crew members we met throughout the cruise as well as the many passengers we encountered on the Regatta.  You’ll see that there were plenty of wonderful people we met along the way – all of whom were charmed to be asked for a photo.

First, the passengers….

Roberto - originally from Naples, Italy and now living in Palm Springs.
Roberto – originally from Naples, Italy and now living in Palm Springs.
Marie and Ronald from Vancouver, Canada - Marie had lots of fun stories to tell.
Marie and Ronald from Vancouver, Canada – Marie had lots of fun stories to tell.
Rich and John (from Toronto). John celebrated his birthday on the 27th aboard the Regatta.
Rich and John (from Toronto). John celebrated his birthday on the 27th aboard the Regatta.
Gene and Judy from Ottawa, Canada. They were our drinking partners at the Waves Bar near the pool.
Gene and Judy from Ottawa, Canada. They were our drinking partners at the Waves Bar near the pool.
Al and Sylvia (John's parents) from Toronto, Canada. They celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary aboard the Regatta on the 26th.
Al and Sylvia (John’s parents) from Toronto, Canada. They celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary aboard the Regatta on the 26th.
Barry and Marc from Ottawa, Canada
Barry and Marc from Ottawa, Canada
John and Rob from Toronto, Canada.
John and Rob from Toronto, Canada.
Bill Phelps and his wife, Andrea. Bill is the CEO of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Bill Phelps and his wife, Andrea. Bill is the CEO of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Marc and Rich with Bill Phelps. He was extraordinarily friendly.
Marc and Rich with Bill Phelps. He was extraordinarily friendly.
Judy and Richard from Georgia.
Judy and Richard from Georgia.
Ally Phelps and Rich - Ally works at Cavallo Point in Sausalito.
Ally Phelps and Rich – Ally works at Cavallo Point in Sausalito.

And now our faithful crew members….

Mercy from the Philippines. Mercy is the Maitre D' of the Grand Dining Room - always pleasant, friendly, and a wiz with passengers' names.
Mercy from the Philippines. Mercy is the Maitre D’ of the Grand Dining Room – always pleasant, friendly, and a wiz with passengers’ names.
Marek from Poland - friendly server at the Martini bar.
Marek from Poland – friendly server at the Martini bar.
Raj from India - serving cappuccino at the Barista bar and more importantly one of the sommeliers.
Raj from India – serving cappuccino at the Barista bar and more importantly one of the sommeliers.
Daniel from Mexico - great bartender on the Regatta.
Daniel from Mexico – great bartender on the Regatta.
Ricardo from El Salvador and Stan from Macedonia - always attending to our needs at the Martini Bar.
Ricardo from El Salvador and Stan from Macedonia – always attending to our needs at the Martini Bar.
Ricardo and Stan clowning around - wait...is that our Makers Mark bottle?
Ricardo and Stan clowning around – wait…is that our Makers Mark bottle?
Yuhi from Indonesia - one of the many friendly servers.
Yuhi from Indonesia – one of the many friendly servers.
Vicenzo from Naples, Italy - Maitre D' at the Toscana Restaurant.
Vicenzo from Naples, Italy – Maitre D’ at the Toscana Restaurant.
Rich and Abu, our butler from India - very attentive and able to get us quick reservations.
Rich and Abu, our butler from India – very attentive and able to get us quick reservations.
Our Waves Bar bartender, Nicola, from Serbia. Always great service and good conversation.
Our Waves Bar bartender, Nicola, from Serbia. Always great service and good conversation.
More Waves action.
Vita from Ukraine and Nicola.
Alice, our great barista from Verona, Italy.
Alice, our great barista from Verona, Italy.

I’ll end this fun-filled day at sea by posting my shot of the sunset across the Pacific. See you in Acapulco!
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On Wednesday we sailed into the stunning harbor of Acapulco and what a beautiful harbor it is.  Our tour guide said that it has been described as one of the 5 most beautiful harbors in the world.  Our tour began with the famous cliff divers of Acapulco at the Hotel Mirador.  I’ve collected a lot of shots of the cliff divers so you’ll have to bear with me a bit.  The divers were phenomenal and I could only capture a fraction of the excitement.

There were several jumps from a lower part of the cliff – lower but still quite dangerous.  I captured a single diver, a pair of divers, and then finally a single diver from the highest point on the cliff – it was fantastic to see them in person.

Arriving at the hotel.
Arriving at the hotel.
A view of the sea from our vantage point.
A view of the sea from our vantage point.

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This is where they land
This is where they land
Bill and Penny watching from the balcony.
Bill and Penny watching from the balcony.
Group shot of the divers.
Group shot of the divers.

Now here’s the sequence of photos of the single diver – from the lower level of the cliff.

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Now two divers.

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And finally the single diver from the very top of the cliff. You can’t necessarily see this from the photo, but the sides of the cliff actually jut out so the diver can’t just dive straight down.

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Following the diving show, there was also a folklorico program with a Mexican dancing couple and an Aztec ritual dance.

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We then left the Hotel Mirador and proceeded by bus to the other side of the harbor.  The harbor itself is huge and the traffic was incredible.  Apparently, the holidays are a favorite time of year for Mexican families to visit Acapulco – entire families.  The bus crept along the main thoroughfare in bumper to bumper traffic.  We could also see a ton of Federal Police and soldiers along the way – all carrying major weapons and machine guns.  Here are a few more shots of our trip along the way with shots of the main harbor and also the small harbor of Puerto Marquez.

Acapulco Harbor
Acapulco Harbor
Acapulco Harbor
Acapulco Harbor
A stop at the Linda Vista restaurant with beer in hand.
A stop at the Linda Vista restaurant with beer in hand.

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Puerto Marquez
Puerto Marquez
Puerto Marquez
Puerto Marquez

Acapulco was lovely and very much worth the stop.  From here, we’re on the seas again to celebrate New Year’s Eve and then on to Cabo San Lucas.  I’ll have an update sometime tomorrow of our New Year’s Eve festivities.  This will be the first Rose Parade we will have missed since 1985.  We hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve and begin 2016 in a smashing way.

I’ve missed a few days of blogging so I’ll try to bring us back to where we are at this time.  We just arrived this morning in San Diego after a wonderfully restful day at sea.  Before sharing some of my Cabo shots, I’ve included some of our evening shots on New Year’s Eve.  We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room with 6 of our onboard friends.  Here they are:

Rich in the Horizons Lounge
Rich in the Horizons Lounge
Marc and Rich in the Horizons Lounge getting ready for dinner.
Marc and Rich in the Horizons Lounge getting ready for dinner.
Rob and John
Rob and John
Sylvia and Al
Sylvia and Al
Bill and Penny
Bill and Penny
Marc and Rich
Marc and Rich
Family Portrait
Family Portrait

We entered Cabo San Lucas on New Year’s Day without having booked an excursion through Oceania. Instead, Rob and John had been here before and recommended that we all taxi to San Jose del Cabo. What a great idea! We were able to shop a little in the quaint shops and then have a wonderful lunch at Casa Natalia. We had margaritas, chips, and quesadillas – it was all delicious.

Finally here are some shots of our departure from Cabo. We were able to see two whales breaching the surface but I was only able to capture the tail in my picture….c’est dommage!

Arriving into Cabo - the arches.
Arriving into Cabo – the arches.
A closeup as we're leaving the arches.
A closeup as we’re leaving the arches.

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Missed the entire whale
Missed the entire whale

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Well, we’re now in San Diego and very happy to be back in the USA.  We’re planning to go downtown and check out the restaurants and bars.  We’re scheduled to be back onboard by 10pm and scheduled to be in San Pedro by 8am tomorrow morning.

It’s been an incredible voyage aboard the Regatta.  We’ve traveled approximately 5,000 miles and visited 7 countries along the way.  The food has been terrific in all of the venues.  In particular, the people onboard the ship have been amazing – both passengers and crew.  In fact, the crew without exception has been outstanding.

I’m now closing the blog and thank all of you who have visited along the way.  Until our next destination.  Thank you.

 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hey guys:

    Nice to hear from you, glad you enjoyed Miami so much, the food looked wonderful. As usual Marc, your photography is amazing and appreciated. Have a great cruise and will look forward to hearing from you again.

    K.

  2. Bon Voyage
    Looks & sounds like Miami was a hit⛱
    Happy⚓️Can’t wait to see more

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