Western Caribbean in 2015

March 12, 2015 through March 22, 2015

This was planned to be an easy trip, a week on Holland America's ms Ryndam, starting and leaving from Tampa.  We took the Florida port as an opportunity to visit Dick and Judy in Naples.  That made Naples our first port of call, in a way.  After our Tampa departure, we went to Key West, then Banana Coast (Trujillo), Honduras, Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala, and finally Costa Maya, Mexico.

Naples, Florida

Naples is located on the gulf coast of Florida, giving it great beaches.  This was an easy walk from my brother's home.

Beach at Naples

We got everybody but the camera man to pose. Janet with Dick and Judy.

Janet, Dick and Judy

Judy has decorated the banyan trees along the street with bromeliads.  Naples has small banyans, only five or six feet across.


We really enjoyed the Naples' Baker Art Museum. Inside there was a big show of Rene Magritte, and these ladies were flying around the atrium.

Naples Museum

Dale Chihuly was represented, too.  His ceiling inside was not as generously lit as this Persian.

Chihuly Seaform

Tampa and Departure
Tampa Panorama

The image above is a panoramic shot of the Tampa waterfront, as seen from the top of our ship, the ms Ryndam, operated by Holland America.  To the right, we are standing on the upper promenade deck of the Ryndam.

Aboard the Ryndam

We shared a couple of ports with the Carnival Pride.  With a capacity for 2124 passengers, it is notably larger than the Holland America Ryndam, which carries 1258 passengers.  (The Ryndam was handed off to P & O just months after our cruise.  It is now sailing around Australia as the Pacific Aria.)

Carnival Pride

The mouth of Tampa Bay is spanned by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  This was pretty spectacular to drive across about seven hours before we sailed under the bridge.  The bridge is 4.14 miles long, and it connects St. Petersburg to the south of Florida.  Its vertical clearance of 180 feet is becoming a problem because ships are getting too tall to pass under.  (Golden Gate Bridge has 220 feet of clearance, and it always looks scary passing under the Golden Gate.)

Sunshine Bridge

Key West, Florida

This was our view of Key West from the ms Ryndam.  The colorful brick building turned out to house a collection of uninteresting tourist shops.  The building with a Mansard tower is the City Hall.

Overview of Key West

This edifice opened in 1891 to serve as a center for federal operations, particularly collecting customs.  It also included a post office and district courts.  Today, it is the Custom House Museum, still showing the Richardson Romanesque architecture common in the Victorian era.

Custom House Museum

Everywhere you look in Key West, you find references to Ernest Hemingway.  Hemingway ate here; Hemingway drank here.  Well this is Hemingway's home, and you can see the line of tourists.  We missed going in here.

Hemingway House

Another famous home is the "Little White House."  This has been used by presidents from William Howard Taft to William Jefferson Clinton.  Truman conducted a lot of business during his total of 175 days here, and Eisenhower used this home to recover from his heart attack.  Originally built in 1890, this place totals more than 8700 square feet.

Little White House

Here we have Janet trying to hide a banyan tree, and not doing a very good job of it.

Janet hiding a Banyan Tree

Banana Coast (Trujillo), Honduras

Banana Coast  is supposed to be the newest cruise destination in the Caribbean.  The first cruise ship arrived here in October 2014, less than six months before we arrived.  The docks were still under construction, so we anchored in the Bay of Trujillo, and took tenders in and out.  Christopher Columbus noted in 1502 that this bay was well suited for ships.  When Trujillo was capital of Honduras, the bay was also well suited to pirates, so they moved the capital inland.

Ryndam at anchor

Now that they are a full fledged cruise port, they have a stage for a welcoming performance.  On this day, our ship was joined by the ms Riviera from Oceania Cruises.

Welcoming Dancers

In the old center of town, we have this building, a market place, I believe.  The town square is still a little bit rough.  Come to think of it, many of the streets are pretty rough, too.  The town has been languishing for a while.  Tourists may bring in enough money to spruce things up.

Town square

This is the interior of the San Juan Baptiste church, which faces the town square.  I found the interior to be more interesting than the exterior.

San Juan Baptiste

The references say that Trujillo, because of its deep-water port, was a shipping center for gold and silver.  Our tour guide said it was more recently a shipping center for bananas.  It is also said that O. Henry coined the term "banana republic" while staying here.


Janet found a necklace she liked.  In fact she found two, and we brought one home as a gift.  We found this at a market set up specifically for the ships' passengers.  Usually those places are disappointing, but this was an exception.

Janet's Necklace

Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala

Our stop at Santo Tomas de Castilla was dominated by a tour to Castillo de San Felipe de Lara.  This fort was built by the Spanish to protect the port of San Antonio de las Bodegas on the south shore of Lake Izabal from frequent pirate attacks.  Parts of this fort go back to 1644, but is has been rebuilt over the centuries.

Approach to Castillo

This old cemetery was along side our long trek from the parking lot to the shores of Lake Izabel and the Castillo.


This is on the second level of Castillo de San Felipe, with Lake Izabel in the background.

Ramparts of the Fort

These cannons were intended to intimidate or destroy English pirates, trying to get to the port of San Antonio.  The people are strangers.


This is not a pirate.  This is my favorite tourist.

Janet at the Castillo

This is the local green grocer, as seen from our motor coach.

Green grocer

This is a closer view of the ms Ryndam, moored at the port of Santo Tomas de Castilla.  In the back of your intrepid photographer, there was a huge long shed filled with vendor booths, hoping to sell us wonderful things.  None that I saw were that wonderful.

ms Ryndam

The dock at Santo Tomas de Castilla was a huge concrete plane, clearly dedicated to commercial shipping.  These dancers, seen from the balcony of our stateroom, were part of the local entertainment, thanks for the dollars brought into town.

Dancers on the Dock

Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is adjacent to a fishing village Xcalak, which was a major Mayan trading port for dugout canoes.  However, it was isolated until about 1980, and in 1995 it was designated as an ecological tourism era.  That led to the construction of docks, but they were destroyed in a 2007 hurricane.  New docks, shown here, were opened 2008.  The big attraction is several Mayan ruins in the vicinity, some in Mexico and more in Guatamala.

Costa Maya Port Facilities

Just in case you thought the Mayan theme might be lost on the folks coming off the ship, there was a costumed dancer to meet us.

Dancer in costume

We elected to take a tour to Chacchoben, where this temple pyramid is one of several structures from ~ 700 AD to have been excavated.  The road we took was in better shape than most San Jose, CA streets.

Temple in Chacchoben

This pyramid has a small shelter, and I believe that this is the back side of the temple above.

Chacchoben Pyramid

Chacchoben was our only stop where we actually got rain.  It was threatening at Banana Coast, but here there was a brief, intense shower.  Janet was able to borrow an umbrella, but I was exposed on an elevated plateau.


We got back from Chacchoben too late to try out all the tourist shops.  (Sob Sob)  Here we are rushing down the dock to the ms Ryndam. 

ms Ryndam

Scenes on the Ship

The ms Ryndam has a three-deck atrium, and this vaguely marine sculpture is in the center.

Atrium Sculpture

Holland America is a pretty traditional cruise line, and they have retained two formal nights for a one week cruise.  This was our first formal night.  My tux was rented on the ship, meaning I didn't have to lug it around.

Formal night

You cannot go to the Caribbean without listening to steel drums.  The artist calls himself Ravon, and it's the Banana Boat Song.

This is a shot of the show room on the Ryndam.

Show room

Every slide show has to end with a sunset.  This was the view from our veranda on the way back from Costa Maya.


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