|Home||Pauline||Howto Articles||Uniquely NZ||Small Firms||Search|
|Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2011
Maiden World Cruise - part 1
This chart shows the routing at the time of printing of the brochure.
All the pictures on the pages provide details of where they were taken if you hover a cursor over them and they can all be clicked to open a larger version in an Overlay (Lightbox) or Popup Window. The image display options can be set on the settings links at the bottom right corner of every page which includes pictures.
All the pictures on the pages provide details of where they were taken if you hover a cursor over them and they can all be clicked to open a larger version in an Overlay (Lightbox)
We now had the two day passage from New York to Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale for Miami. The three names caused great confusion with some people. We have visited both Fort Lauderdale and Miami on previous cruises which then took us into the Panama canal or the Caribbean. There was nothing to do ashore in the area other than a free shuttle bus to the local shopping malls and we had already done the best tour which takes one into the Everglades by Air-boat twice so we elected to stay on board. It was a good decision as none of the shops opened until 1200 on a Sunday so many passengers were disappointed and kicking their heels for hours waiting outside the shopping malls.
If it is a first trip you should not miss the Everglades which is a fascinating huge area of swamp land, or to be more precise a wide shallow river covering thousands of square miles. last visit we had a trip out into the Sawgrass on an air boat, a flat bottomed boat driven by two huge V8 engines driving cut down aircraft propellers. These boats can travel at high speed through and often over the sawgrass in even a few inches of water so the wildlife can be seen. Perhaps the most interesting are alligators and several turned up as soon as the boat stopped and floated a few feet away. The ones we saw were between six and eight feet long and lethal with a bite of 3000 lb/sq inch - they normal only attack prey small enough to swallow and we were assured do not like human flesh as it is too salt! The standard tours also take one to the park centre where one can see captive alligators and crocodiles and the trainer shows off some of the 'tame' ones. Last visit Pauline was even persuaded to have her picture taken with one of the smaller ones - perhaps 60 cm long.
This year we enjoyed our stay on board - the ship was almost deserted and the weather was super with temperatures in the mid twenties so we could swim, sunbathe and do all the things we never normally find the time for whilst everyone else was caught up with the thousands others ashore. We were one of 8 cruise ships and probably we and the Queen Victoria, which was moored right behind us were the smallest with the norm being more like 3000 passengers and the Allure of the Seas moored opposite carries 6000 passengers.
At 1730 the ships started to leave in turn. We were due to be second with the Queen Victoria right behind, although it did not work out quite like that. We did have a great send off with both of the local tugs putting on displays with their water canons - one of them putting on an interesting display of manoeuvrability spinning round and round in front off us like a giant irrigation spray. There were a good number of hundreds of people to see us off from this maiden visit and there were even Cunard flags hanging from some of the balconies on the blocks of apartments. Th evening light was perfect and we were had photographic helicopters accompanying us - unfortunately the Queen Victoria did not manage to catch us up in time for joint pictures before the sunset was complete.
We then had two days at sea as we traveled slowly across to the edge of the Caribbean to Willemstad in Curacao which is at the crossroads between South America and the Caribbean. Curacao has a rich ancestry but is now very Dutch in character. The centre of Curacao is a UNESCO World Heritage site with brightly coloured buildings lining the waterfront and the narrow streets behind. As with every such heritage site we have visited there was a McDonald's prominently placed in the centre - it is getting to be a standing joke between us.
We were moored at the new quay and the smaller Ocean Dream, was moored at the old cruise terminal on the narrow entry channel which we had to cross to reach the old city. There is a fascinating floating pontoon bridge which is over a hundred metres long and is swung aside up to twenty times a day by two overgrown outboards at one end. The pedestrians continue to stroll from end to end as this takes place. There is a free ferry for the periods when the bridge is swung which we took at the end of our time ashore as the bridge was open.
Curacao is perhaps best known to many people for the liqueur from bitter local oranges - the sweet oranges from Valencia turned out quite different when grown on the island and were accidentally fermented to give the liqueur. We bought a bottle and one of the local rums last visit and our consumption of spirits and liquors is so low we did not need to stock up further. Clothing, towels, bags etc were very cheap.
We started with a walk round the town including the market where Pauline bought a hand crocheted bright yellow cloche hat which is Art Deco style. We continued our walk round the 'lake' and as far as the church before it got too hot. The church had what seemed to be a funeral of a local public official so we did not venture in. We visited the Maritime Museum on our way back - it is on the other side of a very Dutch lift bridge. It had a lot of interesting information and exhibits so we were there for quite a while. The surrounding area also has some elegant buildings and last visit the light was perfect and we took some stunning photographs which we see no reason to replace in this write up.
The prices for water and other drinks were outrageous in the tourist area ($5 for a little bottle of water) so we went to the local supermarket which is just behind the market which we also explored. Wine was $5 for a bottle of a basic Berberana Spanish in the supermarket and nearly $20 for a slightly better Spanish in town. We were sufficiently hot and loaded down that we walked back to dump the proceeds and have a cool snack before continuing.
In the afternoon we walked back into town and did some final stocking up at the supermarket before walking round the waterfront. We watched the bridge swing and the local boats pass on the waterfront. The bridge being open gave us a chance to use the local ferry on our way back.
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The terrain is flat and marshy, especially in the coastal regions and in the north, but it gets progressively more mountainous going toward the south. It covers a total land area of 9,200 sq kms. Christopher Columbus gave it the name Costa Rica (Rich Coast) in 1502 under the assumption that the land was filled with precious metals. The earth never yielded gold and silver, but the name still proved appropriate because of the wealth of natural beauty and flawless climate.
There were between 300,000 and 500,000 people living in Costa Rica when Columbus landed - the coastal tribes put up quite a battle. Between their resistance, the impenetrable jungle and the apparent lack of treasures, the Spaniards didn't give Costa Rica high priority. However, they did go ahead and colonize Costa Rica when they discovered the richness of the farmlands. Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas; its first election held in 1889. The few times tyranny tried to gain the upper hand it quickly failed. In 1949, the modern constitution abolished the army and directed the countries resources to education, social programs and economic development. Slavery was abolished in 1823, the last execution held in 1859 and capital punishment officially abolished in 1871. Women won the right to vote in 1949 at the time Afro-Caribbeans won citizenship. Costa Rica has been twice nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and this was awarded in 1987.
Costa Rican has preserved vast areas of territory in the form of national parks and biological reserves. The official language in Costa Rico is Spanish, but English is taught as a second language in all public schools, so there will always be people who make themselves understood and try to understand you, with a "poqui-tico" (tiny bit) of English.
The climate is hot and humid with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season starts in May and finishes in November, the remainder of the year is warm and dry although the temperature differences between the seasons is only slight.
Coffee was first planted in Costa Rica in the early 19th century and was first shipped to Europe in 1843 - it soon become Costa Rica's first major export and would remain Costa Rica's principal source of wealth well into the 20th century. Most of the coffee exported was grown around the main centres of population in the Central Plateau and initially transported by oxcart to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. It soon became a high priority to develop a transportation route from the Central Plateau to the Atlantic Ocean to satisfy the main market in Europe. For this purpose, in the 1870s the Costa Rican government contracted with U.S. businessman Minor C. Keith to build a railroad to the Caribbean port of Limón. Despite enormous difficulties with construction, disease, and financing, the railroad was completed in 1890.
Most Afro-Caribbeans, who constitute about 3% of the country's population, descend from Jamaican immigrants who worked in the construction of that railway. Bananas were planted along the line of the railway to provide cheap food for the workers. In exchange for completing the railroad, the Costa Rican government granted Keith large tracts of land and a lease on the train route. He increased his banana production for export to the United States and soon bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export. Costa Rica still has a sizable export economy from agricultural produce (coffee, bananas, meat, sugar and cocoa). The export sector is now expanding due to non traditional exports such as fruit (pineapple, melons, mangos), heart of palm, ornamental plants, flowers and foliage. Costa Rica is however still famous for its gourmet coffee beans, with Costa Rican Tarrazú among the finest Arabica coffee beans in the world used for making espresso coffee, together with Jamaican Blue Mountain, Guatemalan Antigua and Ethiopian Sidamo
Costa Rica is made up of seven provinces; San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Puntarenas, Cartago, Guanacaste and Limon. The capital, San Jose is in the province of the same name which is the most densely populated of all the provinces. The Limon province stretch's along the entire Caribbean coast of and is a mix of mangroves, pristine beaches and tropical forests. There are some exceptionally good national parks offering an abundance of flora and fauna in a rainforest setting. Its capital is Limon City with a population of 90,000.
Puerto Limón, commonly just known as Limón, is the capital city and main hub of Limón province, as well as of the cantón of Limón in Costa Rica. It has a population of about 60,000 including adjourning settlements, and is home to a thriving Afro-Caribbean community that traces its roots to Jamaican labourers who worked on a late nineteenth-century railroad project that connected San José to Puerto Limón. Other parts of the population trace their roots to the Nicaraguan, Panamanian, and Colombian turtle-hunters who eventually settled along the Province of Limón's coast. The Costa Rican government did not recognize Afro-Caribbean as citizens and restricted their movement outside Limón province until as late as 1948. This "travel ban" led to the Afro-Caribbean population became firmly established in the region.
Puerto Limón contains two port terminals Limón and Moín used for the shipment of Costa Rican exports (primarily banana) and cruise ships. Puerto Limón is famous in Costa Rica for its yearly autumn festival called just Carnival which occurs the week of October 12, the date Columbus first anchored off Limón's coast in 1502, on his fourth voyage as well as the date the Queen named our ship. The event stretches across two weekends, and includes a parade, food, music, dancing, and, on the last night, a concert in the Parque Vargas.
We docked in Limon and the weather was exactly as the book said with a hot humid day forecast to reach 81 degrees (one degree below average!) The basic Cruise Terminal is right on the edge of town so we were only 5 minutes walk from major streets. We did not want to do a tour but if we had wanted to explore further there were numerous taxis and minibuses vociferously offering a multitude of options for exploration before we even got into the market area which one passed through. We had a quick look at Coffee prices as we wanted to obtain some of the local beans both for use on board and for when we reach New Zealand. The coffee on the Queen Elizabeth is very much better than that on the QV but we still like to make some of our own from beans using our cafetiere mugs.
We then ran the remaining gauntlet of enthusiastic smiling taxi drivers and walked round town which had lots of pavement stalls as well as seeming to specialise in shoes and cheap summer clothes. We spent time in the Cathedral which is only a few years old replacing one which had been progressively damaged by earthquakes. It was the highlight of our visit to the town. We then found a locals supermarket which had a good stock of coffees including everything we had seen at the port and at more favourable prices although the stall holders had seemed open to bargaining. We picked up three different sorts, mostly dark roasts and better quality beans from the high ground - we have yet to try them so we cannot yet report. There is also a Municipal Market, built in 1931, which contains more shoe shops and clothes, meat, fruit, vegetables and hardware. We tried to purchase a cafetiere but the concept did not seem to be known; there were only espresso machines. For a town which exports plants and flowers we were surprised to find none in the markets, although there was a plant shop down one of the sidestreets.
Finally we spent some time just sitting in the Balvanero Vargas Molina park cooling off under the tall tropical trees, in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth, before returning to cool down and have a snack lunch. We returned to town for a couple of hours in the afternoon but it was really a bit too hot. The International Cruise Terminal had a branch of the Post Office so it was easy to send off our postcards, and there were dozens of craft stalls selling local products. We were looking for a traditional Panama hat, but only cheap cotton ones were for sale. If we visit Costa Rica again then we would take a trip into the interior and visit the National Parks and Canals. Published prices for a shared taxi were much cheaper than taking a Cunard tour.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Layout revised: 11th June, 2015