Another Christmas getaway cruise, this time on Holland America's M/S Amsterdam from San Diego, California, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is a smallish ship of less than 1400 passengers, which makes for efficient service and no large crowds. This particular itinerary appealed to me for two reasons: it would allow me a couple of days in San Diego; and all the ports on the west coast of Mexico and Central America were new to me.

  I had not been to San Diego, so had a pleasant two days riding the hop-on, hop-off bus around town, then returning to several places that interested me, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

  The cruise was a good one; decent weather all the way—gradually getting warmer and more humid as we headed south. Holland America provided the usual comfortable cabin and good food, nice open spaces, and great services. Ship excursions took me to two B-list Pre-Columbian sites in Mexico: Copalito and Izapa, and one in Guatemala: Iximche. Having seen many of the great Maya and Aztec sites, these were interesting looks at smaller and more manageable sites. Nicaragua was a new destination for me, and I spent the day on a bus between the ship and a pottery museum, passed a live volcano, and rubbed elbows with the festive crowd in the Leon Cathedral plaza. Looking for something different to do, I took a trip up some terrible roads into the mountains of northern Costa Rica to experience a butterfly 'farm' and a hummingbird feeding station. Both of those were wonderful to see, but had I known the roads there and back were so horribly pot-holed, I probably wouldn't have done it.

  I had been to the eastern end of the Panama Canal on my very first cruise, more years ago than I want to remember, so it was fun to do the whole transit. The last two ports, on the islands of Aruba and Curacao, were quiet, strolling opportunities for me as it was New Year's Eve and New Year's Day when we arrived and little more than the duty-free shops was open. We watched the New Year's Eve fireworks from offshore and they were spectacular: the whole island of Aruba from end to end  seemed to be exploding.

15 Dec 2015....Pittsburgh  PIT — Chicago  ORD — San Diego  SAN

15-18 Dec........San Diego CA

18 Dec.............Embark M/S Amsterdam

19 Dec.............At sea

20 Dec............At sea

21 Dec.............Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

22 Dec............At sea

23 Dec............Huatulco, Mexico

24 Dec............Puerto Chiapas, Mexico

25 Dec............Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

26 Dec............Corinto (Leon), Nicaragua

27 Dec............Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica

28 Dec............At sea

29 Dec............Transiting the Panama Canal: Balboa to Cristobal

30 Dec............At sea

31 Dec............Oranjestad, Aruba

1 Jan 2016.....Willemstad, Curacao

2 Jan..............At sea

3 Jan..............At sea

4 Jan..............At sea

5 Jan..............Ft. Lauderdale FL: Disembark M/S Amsterdam

5 Jan..............Ft. Lauderdale  FLL — Atlanta  ATL — Pittsburgh  PIT

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WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Leon Cathedral, Nicaragua

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