This morning I had to get up super early to meet for my excursion to the National Aviary of Columbia. I got up with enough time to grab breakfast at the buffet before meeting my tour group in the Wheelhouse Bar at 7:15. Breakfast was a bit disappointing, in only that it was just the typical buffet breakfast…I didn’t have enough time for made-to-order eggs or a freshly prepared omelet, so I just had to go with what was ready on the buffet. Typical scrambled eggs, bacon, cereals, fruit, etc. was offered. They did have those amazing scalloped potatoes, so I had some of those to go along with my eggs & bacon.
I went to the Wheelhouse Bar, got my excursion number sticker, put it on my lapel and continued on to the Princess Theater where they instructed me to wait with my group. Very, very organized, easy to understand and every one of the Princess staff was helpful (I didn’t need any help, but there were a few people there that did).
While waiting on my group to be called, they played some of the video highlights of the cruise so far on the big screen of the theater. I saw a picture of myself with the champagne waterfall, and they had an interview with the maitre d’…he explained how they created the glass pyramid and that they had to spray champagne on the glasses during the construction of the pyramid to make the glasses stick to each other and not collapse. He said it usually takes about 45 minutes to construct, but their record was 27 minutes. Princess Cruises offers a dvd of this voyage, and I have a feeling I’ll be purchasing it…
After about 20 minutes, our group was called and we were escorted off the ship to our waiting tour bus. It was all so very organized and for the first time I’ve been on excursion, they really did go slow enough for everyone (without being too slow). This being a longer cruise (15 nights), there are older people on our voyage. (Princess tends to skew a bit older anyway, and usually–but not always–longer cruises attract older people, mainly because younger people tend to take week-long vacations because of work). So, to make a long story short–they adjusted the speed I’m usually use to, which is a RUSH to the bus–to more of a slower pace; being mindful of who their guests were on this trip.
We boarded the bus (I got a window seat!) and we were off. Our tour guide of the day was Raphael, a native Colombian. We compromised two tour buses, and according to Raphael we were the only two buses going south–the rest were headed into the city of Cartagena. Our destination was in the countryside. We passed gas plants, hotel construction sites, very small towns and the like. It reminded me of most of the Caribbean…rural, poor, but beautiful. I saw a young girl in one of the towns carrying a Frozen umbrella! The reach of Anna & Elsa still amazes me.
After about 45 minutes of driving in the countryside, we arrived at the National Aviary of Colombia. Raphael said that it was the second largest in America. (I assumed he meant South America–I haven’t checked his facts…he did say the biggest one “in America” was in Brazil). We had a restroom break, and waited for our group to re-assemble at a GIANT roost of macaws. (One of my favorite animals). They were free to fly around — they could leave at any time, but like to stay since they are well-fed and protected. Watching these magnificent birds was fascinating. I could have just stayed at that spot and had a great tour. When everyone had used the facilities, Raphael led us on a guided tour of the aviaries. They had several set up, using the climates of Colombia as a theme to each one…there was one themed to a rain forest, a desert, etc. They had native species in each of the enclosed areas. I got some great pictures and a few videos as well! My favorite exhibit had to have been the flamingoes…another place I would have liked to have spent more time. I’m not sure how many flamingoes they had, but there was more flamingoes in this one spot than I’ve ever seen before! (Pictures can be found on my Facebook page and my Business Facebook page–do a search for Kenneth Reece or Kenneth Reece – Agent of Modern Travel Professionals; I’ll be posting LOTS of pictures there as soon as I have access to better internet than the ship offers…what’s available here is typically slow and is somewhat expensive; I’m using it sparingly!)
After our guided tour, which took about 90 minutes, we were offered a bottle of water and 20 minutes of free time. I took some pictures of these huge iguanas (which I’m glad we don’t have in Vero Beach–but I bet they would survive there, so we may have them one day–I think they are in Miami) I also watched the macaws fly, and “talk” to one another. I think they are truly beautiful birds. I’ll be going to a Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary in a few days and now I really am looking forward to that!
After our drive back to the ship, I walked about 200-300 yards to the duty-free shop where they had a small post office and the typical tourist-y duty-free items. This particular area, though, had a wonderful display of live macaws and a few flamingoes…I stayed as long as I was comfortable. (I like to be back on the ship at least an hour before “last call”; we were leaving at 2:30 and it was getting close to 1:15 so I walked back to the ship!). Made it back on in plenty of time!
Since it was rather late, and dinner is at 5:15, I opted to skip the lunch buffet and just have a slice of pizza. Princess advertises that they have “The Best Pizza at Sea”. So far, I have to agree. I won’t eat the pizza on Disney Cruise Line, I don’t really like it at Disney World or at Universal. I don’t think I bothered on my recent Carnival Cruise, and didn’t really have a strong opinion one way or the other on Norwegian Cruise Line. Again, I have to say that this ship has wonderful food. This was the best pizza I’ve had at sea. Not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it was REALLY good pizza. I’ve had a couple of slices since. So far each day, they offer cheese & basil, pepperoni and a pizza of the day. I like the pepperoni the best.
After a quick nap and some reading time, it was dinner time. We had another wonderful meal. (Pictures are more than likely on Facebook, lol). After dinner, I opted to see the latest Mission Impossible movie that was playing poolside. I really like “Movies Under the Stars”. The Island Princess puts cushions on their pool lounge chairs each evening for the movies, and serves popcorn. There are blankets as well, if the night air is a bit chilly…they also make great pillows. And, if you get hungry, that pizza is literally steps away.
Next day: The Panama Canal!