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Dec. 29 - LEICESTER, MA

snow 28 °F

It's almost time to travel!

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Hello, dear friends and travel blog fanciers. We are setting up our 2017 Crystal World Cruise travel blog. We have been loving being home in our “Christmas House”, but soon it will be time to put away the Christmas boxes and pack our suitcases for our next adventure on Crystal Serenity! We will join the ship on January 11th as she begins her “Southern Celebration” around South America.

We hope you will peek in from time to time.

Posted by Swenigale 13:45 Archived in USA

Jan. 10 - DANIA BEACH, FL

sunny 70 °F

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Just checking in to reassure our friends who didn’t want us to forget to bring Hästa – Here he is in sunny Florida, visiting the West Lake mangrove estuary and intercoastal waterway.

We board the Serenity tomorrow, and then….at 6pm we set sail and begin the 2017 “Southern Celebración”!

Here are a few photos from our wanderings in the estuary.

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Posted by Swenigale 18:45 Archived in USA

Jan. 11 - MIAMI, FL

sunny 77 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

Departing on our 112-day adventure

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At the start of every World Cruise we celebrate with a party, a count-down, and a massive balloon drop!

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Let the 2017 World Cruise begin!

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A moonlit walk in the Port of Miami

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The first segment's itinerary

Posted by Swenigale 14:15 Archived in USA

Jan. 13 - COZUMEL, MEXICO

semi-overcast 79 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We anchored near Cozumel, an island off the coast of Mexico. We are floating near the Yucatán Peninsula – ancient home of Mayan civilization.

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Today, there are (gulp) 9 cruise ships in port. Mexican tourism has done a good job marketing to the cruise industry!

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Water sports, shopping, beach time and drive tours to Mayan ruins are all available. The ruins at Tulum, Cobá and Chichen Itza attract many visitors.

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What’s Mexico without a Mariachi band…

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… and a frog.

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Back on the ship we attended an afternoon talk by Dr. Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan novels and Producer and inspiration for the TV series “Bones”.

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Posted by Swenigale 05:35 Archived in Mexico

Jan. 14 - COSTA MAYA, MEXICO

semi-overcast 79 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Still in the Yucatán, we docked at a resort on the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana-Roo (one of the 32 Mexican states).

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Unlike yesterday, today we were the only ship in port.

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Guys in traditional Mayan dress actually played instruments and were upside-down, securely tied to ropes around their waists. -

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They descended (the ropes were wound at the top of the pole) as their ropes unwound and they slowly and gracefully spun down to earth!

  • (The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (pole flying), is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony/ritual still performed today, albeit in modified form, in isolated pockets in Mexico. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica.)
  • Wikipedia

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For those of us with an appalling lack of desire to venture into the jungle, Mexico will recreate!

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Looks like the real thing!

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Still in the mood to soak up some sun we lazed by Costa Maya’s pool.

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Peek-a-boo!

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The crashing surf invited visions of ancient cultures and pirates.

Posted by Swenigale 11:45 Archived in Mexico

Jan. 15 - BELIZE CITY, BELIZE

semi-overcast 75 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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The large barrier reef (175 miles long!) lining the coast of Belize means ships must anchor far from shore. A fast tender ride still takes half an hour or more to reach land.

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We hired a guide and driver, heading 45 minutes west of Belize City.

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Our destination: The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. None of the animals here were taken from the wild. It was started in 1983 “as a last-ditch effort to care for 17 animals which were left from the filming of a natural history documentary”. The animals have either have been injured, orphaned, born there, given as gifts from other zoos or are confiscated pets from the government (it is illegal in Belize to keep wildlife as pets).

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The Tapir is Belize’s protected national animal. (Some call it the mountain cow.) Despite the way it looks, it is related to the horse and rhino – not the anteater! In ancient days, it was a source of meat for the Mayan people.

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Most entertaining, always, are the Yucatán Spider monkeys.

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What are YOU looking at?

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Yes, I mean YOU!

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The national bird: The Keel-Billed Toucan.

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Spectacled Owl

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An Ocelot, really!

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Margay, or “Tiger Cat”

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Too close!

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Jaguar

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Female Harpy Eagle

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Sorry , I forgot your name!

Posted by Swenigale 18:15 Archived in Belize

Jan. 16 -SANTO TOMÁS DE CASTILLA, GUATEMALA

sunny 84 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Welcome to Guatemala, where Mayan direct descendants still live. It is the center of the geographical region where that civilization flourished. Today, that 50% of the population use more than 20 different Mayan languages to communicate.

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Our destination today, far from the port, was Rio Dulce and the town of Livingston at the mouth of the river.

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Rio Dulce is the connection between Lake Izabel and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a National Park, because it is a biological corridor and, also, because of the bio-diversity it protects.

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A water Lily garden

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Locals wait to sell their handicrafts

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This family opened their home and small convenience store for us.

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Yum. Homemade tortillas and salsa!

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Need some motor oil with your cabbage?

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Stocking the “sale boat” (heh, heh.)

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The tropical shores were teeming with cranes and other elegant white birds (Ibis, Egrets, Storks?)

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We spent some time in Livingston, home of the Garifuna, a people who came from St. Vincent Island, off the coast of Venezuela. Our stop included a lunch of chicken, beans, rice and vegetables at “Happy Fish” Restaurant.

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Pelicans make a fishy crew.

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What glorious weather we had today in this tropical paradise!

Posted by Swenigale 17:55 Archived in Guatemala

Jan 17 - ROATÁN ISLAND, HONDURAS

sunny 80 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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In Honduras Bay lies beautiful Roatán Island. Knowing the reputation for excellent snorkeling, we were eager to get ashore!

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We were blessed with another beautiful day, but a strong wind made us wonder if we would be snorkeling.

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We took a taxi to West End Bay where the water was a bit calmer.

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We arrived at Captain Morgan’s Beach Resort (new career for a pirate!) one flat tire later, and arranged for a boat out to the reef.

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Yes, we enjoyed our snorkel – surrounded by beautiful fish and coral – but can’t prove it with photos! (no underwater camera) I caught Ed cleaning up as we prepared to return to town.

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Nice place to wait

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And the Serenity, and indoor showers, awaits us.

Posted by Swenigale 15:45 Archived in Honduras

Jan 18 - TRUJILLO, HONDURAS

sunny 81 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Trujillo, our 2nd stop in Honduras, has only recently been welcoming cruise ships. We are here on the “Mosquito Coast” – named for the Miskito People.

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We walked from the tender pier to the small town. Ships have come a long way since Columbus landed here in 1502!

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The port gate – the bay here is a good two miles long! No wonder it attracted Spain.

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History depicted on the prison walls

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The town sits on a bluff between the mountains and the sea. Here is the Cathedral San Juan Bautista.

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Fortaleza Santa Barbara – no match for pirates and privateers of the past.

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Hästa mans the cannon

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No, Hästa, no!

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Find the nicely camouflaged tourist!

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The Passeo Juan de Medina, just completed last July

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The tender/lifeboat waits our return.

Posted by Swenigale 12:55 Archived in Honduras

Jan 20 - PUERTO LIMÓN, COSTA RICA

sunny 86 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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The Tortuguero Canals of Caribbean Costa Rica – another chance for us to see some of Central America’s wildlife – six of us were in a covered shallow-bottom boat, slowly cruising and peering into the trees and shoreline. A Cormorant observed us calmly.

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We saw several Blue Heron, and, also-blue butterflies! (no picture of the butterflies unfortunately)

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Oh boy – a Three-Toed Sloth! Later, we also saw a Two-Toed Sloth that was actually moving!

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Carlos, our sharp-eyed guide

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Carlos spotted a Howler Monkey soon after we got in the boat.

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Look carefully – a large Caiman lurks

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We heard these Howler Monkeys long before we saw them! They are loud!!

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The elegant Great Snowy Egret

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The hanging nests of the Montezuma Oropendola

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Actually smaller than it looks here, we spied a baby crocodile.

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Can you see the Iguana?

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This Iguana is easier to spot!

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Basking in the sunshine

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Happy travelers

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Exposed coral – the result of a 1991 earthquake which raised the level of the land

Posted by Swenigale 15:25 Archived in Costa Rica

Jan 21 - COLÓN, PANAMA (Day 1)

sunny 84 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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What to wear in Panama? Why, Panama hats, of course! This morning we were excited to travel to see the newly completed 3rd lock at the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. Here, we are crossing the Canal on their new ferry.

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Panamanians anxiously await completion of a bridge across the Canal here – it’s gotta be high!

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Residents on the Atlantic side have always crossed the Canal like this – waiting for ships to slowly pass, the lock gates to close, a bridge swings out and then we drove across.

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The plan for an 100th anniversary completion in 2014 didn'’t happen. We transited the Canal with Crystal in 2015 and saw the new lock gates sitting nearby as the huge excavation proceeded. The grand opening was on June 26, 2016

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We have crossed the old locks and are now crossing the containment basins of the new locks.

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We crossed the rolling gate of the new Agua Clara Locks.

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A new, bigger system had to be built because ships have gotten so large!

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A view of the new construction, as we look from the visitor’s center

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In Gatun Lake a variety of ships wait their scheduled entrance time.

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Back in Colon we enjoyed seeing the many fancy repurposed and redecorated (:)) US school buses!

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Colon is undergoing major renovations. Our driver assured us it will be a new city in two years.

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Meanwhile -how about a street-side trim?

Posted by Swenigale 13:25 Archived in Panama

Jan 22 - COLÓN, PANAMA (Day 2)

sunny 86 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Today is “turn-around day” – when some guests, lecturers, entertainers and crew depart and others join or rejoin the ship.

It is the start of the World Cruise 2nd Segment, “Incan Influences”. It is also a Crystal Wine and Food Festival theme cruise – but then, aren’t they all? :)

Tomorrow, (Monday) at 4am our crew will drop the lines and the Serenity will move into our place in the queue for our early morning entrance into the Panama Canal. The transit will take the full day.

Posted by Swenigale 10:05 Archived in Panama

Jan 23 - PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT

sunny 87 °F

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The start of a beautiful day transiting the Panama Canal

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Here is the new bridge construction that we saw from the ferry from Colon and now we pass by in the Serenity.

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The new locks for the Neo-Panamax vessels is on the left - we go right.

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Hard to believe we are privileged to make this journey again!

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Bringing the lines to our ship - so we can be connected to the little guiding locomotives

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Original engineering, way back to 1914, is still the way it all works.

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Remember we crossed the lock in a taxi? It was here.

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We may not be Panamax, still, we are a tight fit.

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The bow is a crew-only area, a good place to view our passage through the Canal.

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As we wait for the incoming waters in the lock to raise us up, a container ship enters on its way to the Atlantic.

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We approach the narrowest part of the Canal - the Culebra Cut- and the Bridge over the Continental Divide

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Aack!!! Looking over the side!

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Almost through - the new Pacific side lock is here on our right

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The Bridge of the Americas in the distance

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We're in the final lock - on our way to the deep Pacific Ocean.

Posted by Swenigale 11:55 Archived in Panama

Jan 25 - MANTA, ECUADOR

sunny 84 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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During the night we crossed the equator, and now we're in Manta with our bird's-eye view of this busy fishing port, the largest seaport Ecuador.

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Uploading a catch from the boat's freezer to the waiting trucks is a smooth operation involving plenty of hands-on shifting of the load of frozen fish.

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We drove along the coast to Playa San Lorenzo, a protected area where sea turtles lay their eggs.

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Pelicans fishing in the surf

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Sigh. So beautiful!

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Woman and Frigate birds fishing

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Boy fishing with net

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We drove into the hills away from the shore to hike in the Pacoche Reserve. This whole area is part of the Pacoche Marine Coastal Reserve.

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There are three micro climates in close proximity to each other around Manta. This would be the rain forest.

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A Mantled Howler Monkey watched us from far above

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Manta, Tuna capital of the world.

Posted by Swenigale 12:05 Archived in Ecuador

Jan 26 - GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR

semi-overcast 84 °F
View Serenity 8 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Papa Smurf takes us into the city, Ecuador’s largest, home to 2 million people.

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If you’ve “visited” here with us on previous cruises you may recognize the Cathedral……

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……and Parque Bolivar with its friendly Iguanas.

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Ready for my close-up!

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A rare treat – Ed caught this guy with his mouth open!

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A stroll along the Malecón was all we wanted to do today. The weather is hot and sticky, as it should be, so close to the Equator!

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This beautiful walkway along the Guayas River is very quiet this weekday morning, although in the streets the city is wide awake.

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Thanks, Guayaquil, for a lovely oasis

Posted by Swenigale 13:15 Archived in Ecuador

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