It was a cruise meant to check items off the bucket list and it was amazing. Before the trip I had dinner with my brother and sister-in-law in Napa at the new CIA Copia Restaurant. It's a fun "tapas style" concept, they bring every menu item to your table and you decide what you want to try and what you want to pass on for each course. The next morning I woke up early and headed to SFO for a my flight east. Although it wasn't the original flights scheduled (mechanical issues) and my bag didn't quite make it with me, I did make it and my bag followed me a little while later.
We got onto the cruise ship, the Celebrity Infinity, and our journey south began. We took a really fun galley tour ... saw them making all the fresh breads, pastas, salads, pastries and much more, spent lots of time relaxing and there is nothing better than watching the sun rise and set from a cruise ship. There was also a little bit of learning, I really enjoyed the guest speakers including "Panama Bill" who spoke extensively about the Panama Canal, its history and how it worked; and MickeyLive who made learning fun throughout the journey with talks on many of the ports and he hosted a morning sunrise club. At the end he made CDs of pictures for everyone that wanted them (complimentary if you gave three or more pictures) and was always available to answer questions.
Our first stop ... Cartagena, Columbia. My parents and I have been there a few times on different cruises, but this was my first time going to the monastery on the top of the hill for some great city views, plus their port is just fun to walk through with beautiful parrots, peacocks and flamingos.
Stop two ... Colon and the Panama Canal. I'd been to the Panama Canal, but this was my first time going through it on a ship. It was amazing. I didn't know what to expect, but it was fascinating and I think I walked the entire ship multiple times just to get views of every point in the journey from a different vantage point ... the upper decks, our balcony, the outdoor deck around the middle of the ship, the bow, and even the back of the ship.
Stop three ... Manta, Ecuador. After sailing into the Southern Hemisphere we made it to Ecuador. The city was still recovering from a large earthquake, but in most parts that we visited it seemed to be business as usual. We headed to the best fish market I've ever been too (they literally pull the boats onto the beach about 100 feet away from the market), then took a taxi all around the city, up into the mountains/rain forest, had a beer on the beach, and saw where they make "Panama" hats ... yep, Panama hats aren't really Panama hats, they're Montecristi hats.
Stop four ... Lima, Peru. We skipped some of the typical tourist things (I want to go back to see some of them) in favor of spending time with a longtime family friend. She took us to her house where we met her son and husband, then we went to a local fruit/vegetable market ... she let us try some things and also they have the largest carrots I've ever seen in my life. We kept walking through town to another shopping market, then took the bus back to her house and headed to lunch. El Bolivariano Restaurant was a great choice, we let her order for us and she picked some very tasty main dishes and drinks.
Stop five ... Arica, Chile. The driest spot on earth ... they 0.03 inches of rain a year, which is great for seeing some of the archeological sites of the area including geoglyphs and the oldest mummies on earth (older than the ones in Egypt). We also had a fabulous lunch, before heading to the coast and walking through beautiful seaside caves. We then headed up to the top of a hill to see a very large Chilean flag and sweeping views of the coastline.
Stop six ... Valparaíso and Santiago, Chile. It was sad to be at the end, but Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Casablanca and Santiago were a very sweet ending. First ... the coastal cities are beautiful, we took a walking tour through Valparaíso, saw the graffiti (it's famous and well done) along many of the streets, took a funicular up to the top of one of the hills, then headed to Viña del Mar for lunch at Fellini's after seeing the only Easter Island Moai that has made it off the island. Next up we headed inland to the Casablanca wine region of Chile for a stop at Indomita. I wish I had more room in my suitcase ... the wine was great and it was only $6-$9 per bottle. We kept on heading inland, saw the Andes mountains in the distance and made it to Santiago for a quick city tour (due to some safety concerns we didn't get out too often, but we did walk to the top of a hill inside of a park to see the city from the center) and then headed to the airport for our trip home.
All of the cruise pictures here.