I recently returned from a cruise on one of the boats we offer, and wanted to share the amazing trip!
But first, as many of you know our Marketing Manager Ashley recently gave birth to a baby boy! His name is Isaac, and Ashley is now enjoying life as a full-time mom and being home with her children.
So I would like to introduce Vanessa, who will be taking over our marketing department! Vanessa is a Southern California native who moved to the Pacific Northwest by way of Denver! She ventured to the Colorado Rockies to complete a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences with an emphasis in Public Relations + a minor in Musical Theatre from Colorado State University. A new job for her husband, Scott, brought them to Portland, and brought Vanessa to the USA River Cruises team! Vanessa will handle everything from managing the website, blogging, engaging in all social media pages, and composing the weekly newsletter. Having grown up on the coasts of California, she loves any and everything having to do with water. We are happy to welcome her to USA River Cruises!
As for my trip, I recently decided to take a cruise with my grown son, Casey. I wanted to go somewhere I had never been, but a place that would also be interesting to us both. I eventually decided upon Belize and Guatemala on the Grande Mariner; an 88 passenger boat that we offer. Being a veteran of the cruise business since 1985, not many things surprise me on ships or boats, but this one truly did.
Before I leave for a trip, I like to read up on the destination to become familiar with it. But due to a busy work load and the holidays, I never got the chance to really research it. In some ways, I am glad about that, because I went into the trip with no expectations, and just a goal of enjoying myself.
The trip into Belize City was easy, and we were greeted by a friendly lady who had our bags loaded into a new, air-conditioned Motorcoach, (the temperature had reached 80+ degrees at this point!)
The drive through Belize City to the marina to get to the boat was pleasant. We made a stop so that we could purchase snacks, drinks, and/or alcohol – they have a B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Bottle) policy – a convenient amenity on their cruises.
Casey and I stayed one night at the Radisson Hotel across the street from the marina.
We boarded the boat the next day, and were given a tour of the boat by a very friendly crew member. Our bags had already been taken care of and would be waiting for us in our cabin.
Our home for the next 2 weeks was cabin 56A. It housed twin beds, plenty of storage, a large window, a shower separate from the sink and toilet (which was great), a nautical-themed decor, and was very clean and comfortable. While the cabins are not large like some of our other boats, they are quite adequate, and we made it work!
The Grande Mariner
The next 12 days were some of the most interesting, exciting, educational, fun, and magical days of my traveling career! The crew was amazing! There were 24 of them, and all of them were friendly, helpful, and pleasant to be around.
The cruise director, Lisa, was exceptional at her job, and truly made us feel like extended family.
The captain was knowledgeable, friendly, and made us feel safe under his guidance.
Luz, the naturalist/historian onboard, was like no other I’ve ever experienced in all my years. She is self taught, and was also so kind and passionate about her culture, the sea life, flowers, plants, birds, you name it! We didn’t want to miss anything she had to say, which made us ALL fall in love with this destination, and her.
The Cocoa Plantation we toured with the owner was so educational and fun. His family made us all lunch with local cuisine at their home.
Three of the younger assistants were so energetic, helpful, and were always smiling. They made the trip perfect for so many of us. They kept everyone safe while snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming at the beach, as well as while shopping and browsing around the villages.
I witnessed them helping a very fragile lady in her quest to learn how to snorkel and swim, and even assisting her up to some of the trails so that she wouldn’t have to miss out. The best part was they did it with smiles on their faces and receiving the gratitude of just knowing they made her trip wonderful.
Visiting the Orphanage in Guatemala was a wonderful experience. The volunteers and children were amazing.
While I can’t say enough about the crew, our boat was also filled with wonderful fellow passengers. People from all different places, ages, and educational backgrounds. There were siblings in their 30’s traveling together, groups of ladies, sisters, and friends, several mother/daughter duos, and some mother/son duos like Casey and me. There was a retired priest, road scholars, couples (including one celebrating 58 years together), and many singles as well. Many of us on this trip have been on several cruises, and the general consensus was that a great time was had by all!
Touring the Mayan Ruins: Castillo de San Felipe, a 400 year old Spanish fort.
Visiting the wonderful little villages along the coast of Belize and Guatemala, and Placencia, where we did a bow landing and walked straight off the boat onto the beach.
An amazing Jungle Tour experience taught us all about the wildlife and plants of Guatemala
The foliage included beautiful flowing plants and unusual trees