We may have to re-evaluate….
Day 11/138, 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise
Happy New Year! 2023 is here and we still have 4 months and a few days left on this World Cruise!
We were up fairly early yesterday to watch our arrival into Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We wanted to watch the sail into the port from our balcony and this was the scene as we were arriving:
The pier in Puntarenas is a very narrow needle pier. We could see another ship in the distance already docked, so we knew that must be where we were headed.
Just as we were getting closer to Puntarenas, what came right up beside the Neptune and right below our cabin on the sea?
One of two tug boats that were helping to guide us into the pier in Puntarenas.
The Viking Neptune is docked beside the Star Clipper ship which holds 170 passengers and was leaving from Costa Rica yesterday for a New Year’s Eve cruise on a 7 night sailing to Panama and back to Costa Rica. The 930 passenger Viking Neptune dwarfs the small Star Clipper ship!
Until we booked this World Cruise, I had never heard of Puntarenas Costa Rica.
Puntarenas is on the West side of Costa Rica in a fairly protected bay, on the Pacific Ocean.
As you can see Puntarenas juts out out into the ocean and the actual name Punta and Arenas in Spanish means in English ”Sand Point”. The name dates back to the pirate Chipperton who arrived in 1720 and recorded a ‘needle like‘ area on which a city stood. Puntarenas has a population of 35,650 making it the 7th largest city in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is made up of 7 Provinces which are divided into 82 canons. Puntarenas is also the name of the largest province in Costa Rica.
I was looking forward to my shore excursion which was going to be my first excursion that I had been on since we left Ft. Lauderdale, that was organized by Viking. We attended the Port Talk for Costa Rica the previous evening at 4:30pm by watching the Port Talk on our state room’s tv. The Live Streaming is fantastic on the ship because there are times when you just want to watch from the comfort of your cabin, rather than going down to the Star Theatre for the Port Talk.
Viking Neptune’s Star Theater.
After watching the Port Talk I knew I needed to bring the following on the excursion: a hat, sunglasses, camera, extra batteries and memory cards and lens, comfortable walking shoes, long sleeved shirt, long pants, a lightweight rain jacket, mosquito repellent, Quietvox listening device, money for tips or shopping, hydration tablets, and oranges for hydration. Phew! I better get packing!
I definitely felt like a ‘tacky tourist’ or as we call my friend Lady B from Canada…”a BAG LADY!” Richard (my usual Sherpa) was not coming with me on this excursion so I had to pack and carry all my own gear. WAH!]
At our port talk Chantelle Grundling, the Shore Excursions Manager had said that the bus ride to where I would be going was going to be 1 hour and 45 minutes! Yikes. I didn’t realize when I signed up for this shore excursion that I would be on a bus for such a long time!
Reading this description of ’A Walk in the Clouds’ there was no indication that the bus ride would be 1.45 hours. I knew how long the excursion was because we would be picked up at 11am and arrive back to the ship by 5:30pm, but i guess I really didn’t do my research when I had signed up for this excursion to know that a Cloud forest really was up in the clouds and we were a long way from any mountains where the clouds would be.
What is a ‘Cloud Forest’ anyway? A cloud forest, water forest or tropical montane cloud forest is a tropical or subtropical moist forest characterized by a persistent frequent seasonal low level cloud. Cloud forests are among the most biodiverse rich ecosystems in the world with a large amount of trees which intercept the cloud moisture and the droplets from the clouds adhere to the needles or leaves of trees and drop to the ground. These cloud forests are the natural habitat for much flora and fauna as well as many animals and insects. I was really looking forward to photographing some interesting creatures and plants in the cloud forest on my excursion!
While I was getting ready for the shore excursion, my husband Richard was enjoying a Swedish Massage. No deep pressure massage for him, he prefers the “touch and tickle” variety of massages as I like to call them!
Luckily for me I was one of the last to board our bus, #18 and I was able to grab an aisle seat next to another lady who was travelling solo, sitting in row 2 of the bus. Our guide Rodrigo was extremely knowledgeable and provided us with tons of information on Costa Rica as we started to travel on our excursion. He kept saying “Puravida” or “Pure Life” to us as we embarked on our excursion. The term “Puravida” is more than just ”Hello” or “Good-bye” in Costa Rica, rather it means to be grateful for the things we have in life instead of dwelling on the negative things we don’t have. The idea is that no matter how bad you have it, someone else has it worse, so make the most out of life! So we were going to experience “puravida” today on our excursion to the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica!
Or would we?
Well that’s where it got kind of interesting for me. As we pulled out of the town of Puntarenas our guide said if anyone wasn’t feeling well on the drive, to please let him know, so the bus could pull over and the person could come up to the front of the bus and sit in the front row. He also mentioned he had plastic bags if anyone needed them if they felt sick. When I heard our guide say these things, somehow it did not register with me that anyone, including me would really need to move up, or be sick.
Within about 10 minutes of starting out, the bus had to pull over for one of the passengers to move up to the front of the bus. The bus driver had a separate door into his space and once he closed the door, I could not see out the front window of the bus. Luckily, when this passenger moved up to row one, the bus driver left his door open and I had a good clear view of the extremely windy and twisty roads as we made our way to our destination.
After about an hour of driving, we finally came to another town called San Ramon, which was great, because it meant the bus would not be going on twisty roads for a few minutes. Thank goodness for the brief reprieve to catch my breath and not focus so much out the front window of the bus.
As we drove through the town of San Ramon I spotted a very familiar sign in the distance!
Scotiabank! I worked for Scotiabank for 37.5 years, retiring exactly 2 years ago today as Vice President Automotive Finance for Canada. Scotiabank, headquarter in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with over 90,000 employees and assets of over $1.3 trillion dollars, entered the market in Costa Rica in 1995 and operates 42 full service branches and 80 automatic teller machines in the country of Costa Rica. Scotiabank also employees 1,200 employees in Costa Rica and has an Automotive Finance Centre. Now if I could only speak Spanish maybe I could have a second career in Automotive Finance in Costa Rica!
Once we left San Ramon, the roads got really, really windy and twisty as we were heading up to Adventure Park San Luis.
We arrived at the Adventure Park and found clean washrooms, a tasty buffet lunch and some gift shops. As we were waiting for our tour to start the guides put some fruit out to attract some beautiful, colourful birds.
Very colourful birds eating fruit and putting on a good show for me to grab some good pictures. I believe the very beautiful and colourful birds are called ‘Tanagers’. The bird on the right in the last photo is a ‘Clay-Coloured Thrush’, which is the National bird of Costa Rica.
As we headed down the steep, slippery and wet path, our guide Rodrigo suggested we grab a bamboo walking stick. With all the stuff I was carrying, I was really happy we had walking sticks.
We had no sooner gotten on the path, when we saw our first creature.
A tree lizard. Notice the long brown long tail which seems to blend into the surroundings in the forest. He was posing for us and I am glad I was able to get close enough to capture him.
The excursion had been labelled “Demanding” because there was a steep decline into the cloud forest and it definitely was steep but there were steps cut out for us to use, so it wasn’t like the difficult hikes we had done on Vancouver Island last year and the year before, where there were no steps and every step had to be carefully placed before taking the next one.
We saw some very beautiful orchids in their natural state growing wild in the cloud forest. Orchids are the national flower of Costa Rica.
Spider Orchids in the San Luis Cloud Forest, Costa Rica.
More gorgeous flowers in the Cloud Forest.
Liverwort plant. The leaves are supposed to resemble the liver, so hence the name liverwort.
We crossed over 3 high suspension bridges in the cloud forest. From this photo you can really see how dense the vegetation was in the forest.
Looking down from the suspension bridge to the fairly dry creek bed below. If you look closely you can see another suspension bridge in the distance. We crossed over 3 suspension bridges on our walk in the forest.
I wanted to identify this plant but with very slow internet, it is impossible.
We were almost finished our ’Walk in the Clouds’ and thankfully for us we did not get rained on while we were walking in the cloud forest, but the animal life was largely hiding or had disappeared with two bus loads holding 60 people each, traipsing through the forest, scaring the wildlife away.
Just before the end of our walk we did see a very unique species of butterfly.
The ‘Owl butterfly’ which has one ‘fake’ eye on his wing to ward off predators who think he is looking directly at them. The fake eyes resemble owl’s eyes and their natural habitat is in the rain forests of Mexico, South and Central America.
After our walk, our guide Rodrigo had us get back on the bus for our 1.45 hour bus ride back to the. Viking Neptune docked in Puntarenas. I was not looking forward to the bus ride at all. My seat mate offered me the inside side seat for the ride home so I could look out the window. We were stopping in San Ramon at a souvenir shop for anyone who wanted to purchase Costa Rican coffee, chocolate or again use the facilities.
We headed out and at least I knew I would get a reprieve in San Ramon from the twisty and windy roads, but what I did not realize was that sitting and looking out the window, with the bus swaying from side to side on these roads would make me horribly car sick. Lucky, after we stopped in San Ramon for about 30 minutes, and eating a ginger candy which I had thought to throw in my bag, my seat mate agreeably allowed me to sit back on the aisle seat to be able to watch the road through the front window of the bus.
We arrived back to the Neptune and the pier in Puntarenas at about 5:30pm and we had reservations for dinner at The Chef’s Table at 6pm. Richard was anxiously waiting for me in our cabin and wanted to hear all about my ’Walk in the Clouds’ excursion. I threw myself on our beautiful king size bed and asked him to please get me a Diet Coke (Coke Zero actually) out of the bar fridge in our room. Richard called Guest Services to please change our dinner reservation to 7:30pm which they so willingly accommodated.
After a nice hot shower and an entire Coke Zero, I was able to get ready for our New Year’s Eve dinner and not feel as green and nauseated as when I first arrived back to the ship! Whew! Thank goodness for Coke Zero and nice hot showers with fantastic water pressure!
Our special New Year’s Eve dinner at the Chef’s Table was all of the flavours of Mexico!
Prickly pear granita. Short ribs in mole sauce with sweet potato for Richard and regular potato for me.
And of course the piece de la resistance….
A beautiful chocolate dessert! Accompanied by the port wine from Portugal, this dessert just ‘popped’ in our mouths! Delicious!!!
We wanted to see the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Deck 7, but after the long day on the bus, I was not in the mood for dancing on the pool deck. Viking did a fabulous job of helping us to celebrate the New Year’s arrival with the Viking band Ocean Groove playing as back up to the singers Joji, and Jovie.
We went up to Deck 8 to walk around and also to get a better view of the band. What a wonderful night for the pool deck to be open with temperatures around 81F and a beautiful ocean breeze coming directly off the Pacific Ocean.
I had not seen the Viking logo lit up on our ship before, so I had to take a picture of it for posterity and to remember this magical evening as we sailed from 2022 into 2023 on the calm Pacific Ocean.
I think at this time of year everyone takes some time to reflect and re-evaluate what is important, what they want to do more of, what they want to refrain from doing, who they want to make an effort to spend more time with etc. I will not call these New Year’s resolutions, rather some time to listen to our inner voice, the one that we choose to ignore from time to time, and then realize we’re spinning a bit out of control, since we aren’t at peace, or are feeling run down and frankly are not as happy as we could be. My time horizon for reflection and re-evaluation is immediately for the next 4 months as we venture on in the World, on this cruise with Viking. Knowing my limitations now after yesterday’s bus ride, I am going to re-evaluate all of the future excursions we have booked for this cruise to see how long the bus rides are, as well as what types of roads the buses will be on. There will be little enjoyment on an excursion if I’m dreading the bus ride back to the ship, so the smartest thing to do will be to review the excursions, and meet with the lovely Excursions Manager to understand better my options for excursions. I should have done my research yesterday to understand exactly where were we going and then investigate the terrain, knowing that I would not do well in a bus for that length of time. I have also learned that the nice description of the shore excursion is not always as accurate as it is made out to be. Thinking I would be seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, when there were in fact more ‘humans on a shore excursion, in the forest than wild animals was my big mistake. Lesson learned. Time to re-evaluate and move on.
The internet is hopeless right now because we do not have our Starlink connection as we are off the coast of Guatemala and according to the IT Manager for the ship who I cornered at dinner this evening in the Star Cafe, he thinks the internet will be up soon. Now I understand how bad the internet can be on a cruise ship and how last year’s World Cruisers who blogged like Kolbs on the Road and Rose and Ted’s Excellent adventures felt when they were trying to publish their daily blogs. Some things we just cannot control! Roll with it. Re-evaluate what to do instead. The ship is full of tons of entertaining things to do and I also need to set my reading challenge on Goodreads for 2023 and get some reading done. I’ve not spent any time reading since boarding the ship and that is about to change tomorrow!
Happy New Year! Time to reflect and re-evaluate! Cheers!