We had been at sea for two days before we reached our first port of call: Limon (Limón), Costa Rica. Neither Traci nor I had ever been to Costa Rica. We were interested in doing a sightseeing tour and zip-lining adventure. Zip-lining was more of Traci's idea than mine. After all, just about any travel documentary you see about Costa Rica shows the host or hostess zip-lining high above the rain forest floor. I was not sure how this would play out for Traci and me because I have a fear of heights and Traci has a fear of speed.
It turns out that we did not need to conquer our fears on this trip because we got a letter from the Carnival Shore Excursion desk the day before our Costa Rica arrival indicating the zip-lining tour/excursion we had booked had been cancelled due to low participation. Carnival refunded our money and offered a different zip-lining shore excursion but it did not include a sightseeing tour. Therefore, we decided to abandon the zip-lining idea and signed up for the All About Port Limon excursion instead.
Our guide gave us some facts about Costa Rica as we were driven 45 minutes through forested and rural areas. Most of the houses we saw had bars on the windows to deter thieves. We learned that a person can drive between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in about 5.5 hours in Costa Rica.
Upon reaching our destination, a wildlife sanctuary, we were given time to use the restrooms. This place tries to be eco-friendly and natural. The bathroom sink was an interesting sight. It was a small waterfall over a rock structure. There were no faucets because the water constantly trickles over the rocks. You are not allowed to put toilet paper in the toilets. Instead, you must put it in a can next to the toilet. I originally thought this was unique to this eco-friendly sanctuary but I saw similar cans in Panama the next day.
We all regrouped and were led to a boat where we would do a boat safari through the mangroves of the Tortuguero Canals. It was a very hot and humid day - just as I imagined Costa Rica would be. The insects were out but not nearly as many as I thought we would experience. To be safe, Traci and I were wearing insect repellent.
We mainly saw waterfowl during our hour-long boat ride. We saw some iguanas and a few people were able to see baby crocodiles. I never saw the crocodiles. They had already submerged by the time I was told which direction to look. I was hoping to see and hear howler monkeys. Every documentary I have seen about them talked about how loud and strange their call is. No monkeys were seen during our boat ride.
We exited the boat and were led on a boardwalk through the rain forest. We were warned to be careful when using the railings because there are sometimes fire ants on them. Fire ants are capable of giving a painful bite. Fortunately, I did not encounter any of these insects. The walkway eventually led to a butterfly farm inside a mesh fence enclosure. I am not that interested in butterflies so I did not spend much time there. Traci spent more time there trying to photograph the blue wings of one of the species. The blue side of the wings is only visible when the butterfly is flying.
We left the butterfly farm and entered another fence enclosure where the owner of the sanctuary keeps the wildlife she and her volunteers care for. There were toucans, macaws, owls, monkeys, and sloths. I missed the explanation of the purpose of this wildlife sanctuary. I am hoping its goal is to return these animals to the wild. I do not like to see animals in captivity. Based on the way the staff was cuddling them, I am afraid the animals may have already become too accustomed to humans to make it on their own in the wild. I hope I am wrong.
volunteer with a baby monkey on her head
As I exited the enclosure, I got the treat I was hoping to experience - the howl of howler monkeys! There were two of these small monkeys in the tree above me and they were not in captivity. Their call is really something to hear. Their sound could probably be used in a horror flick. It was very loud! It sounded like a man with a deep voice (and large lungs) inhaling to blow out candles. This howl was followed by a series of much softer and much shorter "whoop" sounds. I can only imagine how eerie and loud the howler monkey call is when a whole troop begins calling at the same time.
On our way back to Limon, our guide told us about the banana industry in Costa Rica. We then made a quick stop at the Del Monte Banana Plantation where bananas are harvested and packed to be shipped all over the world. We could watch the workers washing the bananas in large troughs and then manually packing them into boxes. The speed at which they were packing was incredible.
Our tour ended at the cruise ship pier in Limon. We still had a few hours before we needed to be back on the ship so Traci and I decided to have a look around. Limon is Costa Rica's major shipping port. It is not really a tourist destination. There was a covered craft market where souvenirs can be bought. It is situated such that all cruise ship passengers must walk through it to get to the rest of the town. We browsed the booths. Normally, we only buy refrigerator magnets. We had already bought one at the wildlife sanctuary so there was no need to buy one here unless there was something truly unique. U.S. dollars are accepted at the market. Traci ended up buying two shirts before we passed through the gate to get to the streets of Limon.
Most of the population is black due to the large number of Jamaicans that immigrated to the town in the late 1800's to build the railroad. Although Spanish is the official language, patios is also spoken.
Limon looks like it has seen better days and perhaps it will again. There was construction happening which at times caused dust to fall on us. Small shops and eateries housed in buildings that appear to have been around for several decades line the main street. Traci and I peeked into a few of them before heading across the street to Vargas Park. The park is shaded by tall palm trees thus providing some relief from the intense sunlight. We checked out the park's pavilion and some of its statues.
We walked a little further until we reached the waterfront. There was not much to see there other than some rocks and concrete blocks. We were getting hungry so back to the ship we went. So ended our first visit to Costa Rica.
Back on the ship, the Lido buffet was packed. Traci and I went to different food stations and agreed to look for each other in the general area where we normally sit in the Lido. This time it seemed that all the tables in that area were occupied. After several times around the crowded dining area and not seeing Traci, I decided to find a seat and eat my food before it got too cold.
I went down to the lobby to check out the Q&A session of the R&B singer Kem and then went to catch some of the daily Name That Tune contest. The theme was the music of Chaka Khan. I finally found Traci there. She was not competing but was waiting around for the answers to be revealed. It is the fun part of the game when everyone sings and dances along.
dressed for Black & White Night
We got cleaned up and dressed for the evening. The theme was Black & White Night so we needed to wear those colors. Our concert itinerary that evening was the 8 PM show of saxophonist Euge Groove in the International Lounge. We followed this by attending the 9:15 PM "Evening of Sensual Soul" main stage show in the Victoriana where we were entertained by American Idol winner/R&B crooner Ruben Studdard. He was joined on stage later in his set by Lalah Hathaway. They did a great job on the duet “If This World Were Mine”. Ruben's performance was followed by the smooth R&B singer Kem.
Ruben Studdard and Lalah Hathaway singing "If This World Were Mine"
There was no midnight jam session or Get Down Club show that night. Instead, comedian/actor Michael Colyar did a midnight “Down & Dirty” comedy show in the International Lounge for those who prefer raw, edgy humor. We did not attend but we heard the next day that there was an overwhelming turnout – so much so that many people had to be turned away. Like other shows that took place in the International Lounge, it was simulcast on a TV channel in the cabins so not getting in was not a total loss. I guess next time a show like that will need to take place at the main stage where there is seating for 1,400. Continue...