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Day 1 - October 13, 2010 - Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 09º 54’ 46”, W 084º 43’ 06”
Weather: Sunny and hot in the morning, with overcast and cooler conditions in the afternoon.
Air Temperature: 33ºC


Here we go again! After a quick turn around, a new adventure begins. It is always very exciting to sail away; to me it translates into a sense of freedom and tingly anticipation about the adventures to come.

We are now going to sail from Costa Rica to Chile. I am looking forward to the prospect of sailing down such a long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. We will start off with the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica, followed by Panama’s Coiba and gorgeous Granito de Oro Islands for wildlife watching, snorkeling and kayaking. Then we will enter the Humboldt Current and feel the fresh air as we sail for Ecuador’s Isla Plata with its nesting seabirds. Perú with those fascinating Inca ruins is an exciting place for me, because after all, being South American, it is part of my heritage. Even though the Inca Empire didn’t really extend into Colombia, it is still one continent. We will then go to the Atacama Desert and enjoy the spectacular starkness of its landscape. And finally we end this cruise at UNESCO World Heritage site, Valparaiso. This has to be one of my favorite itineraries!

At noon we started embarking our guests. They were greeted at the gangway on Deck 5 by some of our Expedition Team members and hotel staff; some of our guests looked a bit hot and tired, but that is perfectly normal as they had been traveling overland for a few hours coming down from San José, and it was scorching hot out there. But that was not a problem as they were excited to be here, and lunch and a nice shower were ready for them.

But first they needed to be checked in, so they were initially directed to the Panorama Lounge for that purpose. The procedure was simple - hand in a passport, receive a suite key and have a photo taken. Once finished with the embarkation formalities, our guests were shown the way to the Restaurant for lunch, however, some went straight to their suites to freshen up or simply enjoyed drinks and canapés at the Panorama Lounge. After a relaxing afternoon tea everybody headed to their suites to unpack and settle in.

Puerto Caldera is a nice port, there are no towns within walking distance, but there are thousands of containers in all colors (same size though) being shuffled around by huge machinery. Being a guy and having interest in all things technical and mechanical, I enjoyed watching the cranes and container carriers with their skillful drivers loading and unloading the semi trucks as I stood by the gangway greeting our embarking guests.

There was a Venezuelan tuna-fishing vessel in port just behind the Prince Albert II, and it was fitted with a helicopter on deck. I was talking to the crew and found out that they fly out to spot the tuna with the helicopter, and then they come with the ship and collect it with huge nets. I didn’t know that.

By about 16h00 most of our guests were on board, except for a couple that had missed a flight and would be arriving later. I know the feeling of anxiety when your flight is delayed and you are thinking you will miss the ship, it has happened to me, but fortunately we were well aware of their delay and thanks to our kind Captain Peter Stahlberg and our fearless Expedition Leader Robin West, we delayed departure and waited for them to arrive. This also gave us a bit more time to finish loading provisions before we could sail away.

The late afternoon was one filled with various briefings and drills. At 17h00 our Expedition Leader and Safety Officer carried out the mandatory muster drill in The Theatre. Following this briefing, Robin went on to give us the Zodiac Briefing, which explained the proper procedures for getting into and out of Zodiacs. These two mandatory briefings are intended to familiarize our guests with the emergency procedures on board, as well as to explain the way we run Zodiac operations on board the Prince Albert II.

Immediately afterwards, our onboard Marine Biologist, Robin Aiello, gave a most fun and informative Snorkeling Briefing outlining basic concepts on snorkel gear utilization and the particular procedures behind Prince Albert II safe snorkeling operations.

After those briefings, our guests had a break to relax and carry on with unpacking before we were to meet again in The Theatre at 18h30. At this stage, Robin introduced some of the Heads of Department on board, as well as the Expedition Staff, and he finished these introductions with a destination briefing about our planned activities for tomorrow in Golfo Dulce.

Once we had all guests and all provisions on board, we sailed out of Puerto Caldera towards Golfo Dulce for tomorrow’s activities. It was well and truly dark by the time we sailed away, but it was exciting nonetheless.

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