Batten Family


 

CENTRAL AMERICA - 2012

Gary and Sonya Batten Joined Jean and I on the new Oceania ship Riviera for a cruise called Mayan Mystique during December 10 through December 22, 2012. The cruise started and ended in Miami with the Ports of Call being Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Santo Tomas, Guatemala; Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; and finally Key West, Florida. Riviera has four specialty restaurants named Polo Grill, Toscana, Jacque's and Red Ginger along with the Grand Dining Room, and the Terrace. All menues are developed by Jacque Pepin a noted chef Jean and I had seen a few times at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. After a start with a bottle of champagne in our cabin we enjoyed several dining experiences. See photos of the onboard experiences at the Riviera click here.

Our first port of call was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We took a tour along the south coast of the island to view the famous Pedro's Castle in the Pedro St. James National Historic Site. This was the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands. The site has been restored which transports you back in time. We then traveled through the original capital of the Cayman Islands - Bodden Town on the way to the Botanical Gardens with its exotic plants and endangered blue iguana. Next port was Cozumel Mexico. While we were in port here it rained hard for two hours but the tour took us to the museum so we could see some amazing art and crafts from the region. We then traveled to El Cderal, a once bustling hub of Mayan life. It is recognized as the first site found by the Spanish explorers in 1518. Much of the original buildings have been destroyed or fallen to ruin, but still is an interesting place. After viewing the East Coast beaches we then stopped at a Tequila Hacienda to view how the plants are harvested and processed into Mexico's ancestral drink. A tasting of tequilas from raw liquer to aged for many years plus several flavored tequilas was very informative and fun. See the photos of Georgetown and Cozumel Mexico click here.

Belize City, Belize was our next port. While there were some nice hotels on the beach, the overall visual impact was how poor and run down the city seemed. Belize is just now beginning to see development with a new port moorings. We took an Airboat tour of the Almond Hill Lagoon viewing the plants and wildlife. Ear protection was required since the engine is like sitting next to an airplane. At speeds up to 40 miles an hour, we took some fast turns sliding across the water and whizzing through tree lined pathways.

Santo Tomas, Guatemala offered the opportunity for us to visit the Quirigua Archeological National Park and see the Mayan stele or carved stone columns. Quirigua was established in a fertile valley at the edge of the Motagua River between 250 and 550 A.D. Once a magnificent Mayan city, it is now an impressive site of the early Classical Period. To see the photos of Belize and Santo Tomas click here.

Roatan, Honduras is an island off the mainland of Honduras with the jungle meeting a white powder-sand beach and crystalline clear waters. We traveled for a 45 minute drive through jungle with some lovely expensive homes to the Gumbalimba Preservation Park. Under the shade of the tropical forest canopy, flowers, butterflies and wildlife abound. We crossed over Gumbalimba Pond by a scenic rope bridge passing a garden waterfall to the Bird Sanctuary where friendly parrots and cacaws bring the colors of the Caribbean alive. To see the photos of Roatan click here.

Costa Maya, Mexico is just now developing surrounded by dense junble and turquoise waters. At least two Mayan sites are accessible from here although miles apart. We chose to visit the more recently excavated archeological site of Kohunlich, which is named after the giant cahoon palm trees that inhabit the immense site. The park-like setting includes a sunken palace, acropolis, ball court and courtyards but the main attraction is the Temple of the Masks. The pyramid-like temple have unique 10-ft high sculpted masks of the Sun God "Kinich Ahau" that run up each side of the stairways. Built before 500 A.D., these marvelous masks stlll retain some of their orignial colored stucco. Kohunlich's broad range of architecture, natural beauty and expansive, uncrowned seclusion set it apart from the more widely toured site. After the tour we had a late lunch next to an immense fresh water lake at Bacalar.To view photos of Kohunlich click here.

 

 


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