January 12, 2017
Paul Groves

Costa Rica–A Coffee Plantation

(Day 8 of 111) Costa Rica
Like many people, I am very fond of coffee, especially French Roast coffee. So, it was very interesting to visit a family-owned coffee plantation. This one was about 50 acres. Coffee originated in Africa, but since we are only 10 degrees from the equator in Costa Rica, the beans grow well here. The coffee grows at the higher elevations (that is, the Aribica beans) which produce the best coffee. It is grown on the hills, so it has to be harvested by hand.


I was surprised to find out that the coffee bean is actually a seed from a red berry on the coffee plant. Inside each sweet-tasting berry, you can squeeze out two seeds. The berries are picked and then sorted using density. The berries are dumped in water. The better seeds sink. The lesser seeds float. The beans have to be fermented, dried, and finally roasted. It is the roasting step that actually gives the coffee it’s distinctive coffee flavor.

The difference between a blonde roast and a dark roast is only about two or three minutes of roasting time (15 minutes for blonde, 17 minutes for French Roast, and 19 minutes for dark roast). We also saw some beautiful tropical flowers in the Doka Coffee Plantation’s butterfly garden. A great visit where I learned a lot.

January 12, 2017
Paul Groves

Two-Toed Tree Sloth

While we traveled back from the volcano, we spotted this sloth hanging on the electrical wires next to the road. I was not able to get a great picture, but he/she was fun to see. We were told that there are three-toed and two-toed sloths. The two-toed is more rare and larger and lighter colored in fur. We also saw some cute birds at the volcano state park.

January 12, 2017
Paul Groves

Costa Rica–the Poas Volcano


(Day 8 of 111) Costa Rica
We spent the entire day in Costa Rica. Our first visit was to the Poas Volcano in what I learned was a tropical cloud forest. We went through many different microclimates as we traveled from the Pacific Ocean to the top of a mountain. We got to see some beautiful tropical flowers. When we reached the volcano park, however, the elevation meant we were socked in with fog and cool winds. It was a beautiful hike to the edge of the volcano, but there was nothing to see except fog in the crater.

Luckily we were able to purchase parkas in the shop near the parking area since I did not think that visiting a volcano would involve cold, wet, foggy winds.

January 9, 2017
Paul Groves

The Panama Canal–More Amazing Than I Thought


Day 6 of 111. The Panama Canal
We got up at 5:00 a.m. to watch the ship enter the Panama Canal. I learned from a documentary shown the night before that the entire project is much different than a just a couple of locks that the ships pass through. I am very impressed with the entire project, the ingenuity of the designers of the project and the hardships that people had to go through to create the Canal. The passing through the locks was very interesting. I think we entered about seven different chambers that filled with water or emptied in only about eight minutes! The ship gave us Panama Hats to wear, and they came in very handy once the sun came out. Watching the gates open and close and fill with water was fascinating. To think that this canal is a little over 100 years old already. The lake that was created to make this project possible is 84 feet above sea level and crosses the Isthmus of Panama. You use the locks to get from sea level to the lake level and back down again. Amazing.

January 8, 2017
Paul Groves

Onboard Cooking Class


Day 5 of 111. Sea Day before the Panama Canal
Cooking class aboard the ms Amsterdam. We learned four dishes. Ours was an avocado soup. The photo totally washed out the green.

Avocado soup, lobster spring rolls, coconut chicken with banana and prosciutto, grilled pineapple over pound cake with rum caramel sauce. Yum. It is interesting that even though we work in teams to cook the food, we are not allowed (US Health Dept Regulations) to actually eat any of the food we cook in the class. The chef makes the same dishes for us and we get to taste the creations in the fancy dining room across from the culinary center.

January 7, 2017
Paul Groves

Tayrona Park Tour



Day 4 of 111. Santa Marta, Columbia
During the tour, Ron took lots of photos. The views of the beaches were really nice. The walking was not overly strenuous but I did enjoy the opportunities to sit quietly and cool down. It was fairly humid. We did catch glimpses of some pretty butterflies and a clear-winged moth landed on one of the other tour members but did not see a lot of wildlife (I should probably be thankful). We had a nice lunch of meat, beans, rice and fried plantains.

January 7, 2017
Paul Groves

First Port–Santa Marta, Columbia



Day 4 of 111. Santa Marta, Columbia
Tayrona National Park is a nearly pristine park where we walked, looked for wildlife and had a nice lunch. The bus trip to and from the park was a great opportunity to see the different styles of vegetation as the altitude changed as well as the varied types of housing from very poor to very nice. I must admit that one of the great features of this trip is the fact that the bus has WiFi! The fellow in white was our tour guide. We docked far from the town of Santa Marta in a dock usually reserved for coal ships. There were buses to take passengers to the town and our tour bus came and picked us up at the dock. When we left the dock, we passed many very shabby dwellings.

Ron and I were especially struck by a sign in the park that seemed kind of philosophical. It basically stated that If you go off the established path, you are making a decision; you are on a learning path. How true!

January 5, 2017
Paul Groves

The First Sea Day


Day 2 of 111. Sea Day
Today is the first “sea day” and I am learning that they are at least as important as the ports we visit. They change the rug in the elevators each day so we know what day it is. This is very helpful. I had a Windows 10 class, a watercolor class and an arts and crafts class. I had time to read some J K Rowling short stories and it is only 2:30 p.m. Ron attended a cooking demonstration, signed up for some hands-on cooking classes and joined me for the arts and crafts class introduction.

January 4, 2017
Paul Groves

On Board


Day 1 of 111. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
We have embarked and are situated comfortably in our stateroom. It is nice, with two beds, a couch, lots of closets and even a bathtub. We have explored the ship, signed up for some cooking classes, found the movie theater (Florence Foster Jenkins shows tonight) and had a little to nibble on. It was nice looking out the aft of the ship with the Netherlands flag flying in the breeze. From our window we can also see one of our pieces of luggage sitting on the dock (the bright blue bag). We don’t actually sail until 10:00 p.m. tonight so I am not at all worried that the last two suitcases will show up in the room. We just finished our muster drill, so all is well. If we end up on the news, look for lifeboat #8!

January 4, 2017
Paul Groves

Morning on the Beach


I got up early to use the WiFi in the lobby and see the sunrise over the beach. I am still collecting Pokémon and the beach offers some great variety compared to home. There are lots of Squirtles and Bulbasaurs and I even caught a Dratini. When Ron joined me, we walked around the hotel. It looks rather different during the day! I love using the portrait feature on the iPhone 7s.