My Second Overseas Trip And First Cruise

First Cruise MS Statendam in San Diego

After returning from my first overseas trip, it was not long before I had the start of another trip booked. In the beginning, I had some rather grand plans for this trip and making it a rather long adventure. With a little planning, it the end it was downsized to 2 months in America with a Central America cruise.

When I look back on this trip now, I think the shorter version end up being, the better option. I do not believe the longer trip I had initially consider would have been a good idea for me at the time. Plus My first cruise was exciting and a highlight of the trip.

The Stats

On this trip, I may not have physically travelled around the world, but I did cover more distance than my last trip.

There were stops on two different continents, North & South America.

I visited seven different countries, United States of America, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia & Aruba.

The flights totalled 32,500km (20,300 miles) across nine flights, two international and seven domestic within America.

Additionally, I cruised 16,800km (10,450 nm) spending 28 nights at sea.

For a total distance travelled of 49,300 km (30,750 miles)

With a total of 29 nights in Hotels Seattle (1), San Francisco (6), San Diego (8), Dallas (6), San Francisco (3), and Los Angeles (5). I also spent six nights staying with a friend in Seattle.

I finished this section in my last post wondering if there was a better way to spend five weeks. I can say with certainty that this two months has done that.

Seattle, WA, USA

7 Days – Hampton Inn Downtown (1) Stayed with Friend (6)

I had such an amazing time on my last trip to Seattle that I had to revisit the city. The greatest benefit though was having met a new friend on the last trip who would help me explore the city.

To make things easy for my friend, the first night I stayed in Seattle and filled the first day. I opted to take a tour of the Boeing Factory, which is fascinating to see just what goes into making an aeroplane.

Having done a little research, I found that the best value to see the sights in Seattle is a Seattle City Pass. The pass covers six different attractions around Seattle for one smaller fee. The attractions included The Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Seattle Aquarium, EMP Museum, a Harbour Cruise and the Museum of flight.

In addition to seeing these attractions, we also spent a day to visit the Olympic Peninsula. While this is a gorgeous area of the Pacific Northwest, the day was rainy and miserable, but we still made the best of it.

Seattle - Space Needle City View

San Francisco, CA, USA

6 Days – Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf

From Seattle, I headed south for my first new city to explore on this trip. Working out just where to stay for my six days in San Francisco came with some problems. It turned out to be rather difficult working out the best area to stay in, but in the end the Fisherman’s Wharf hotel I booked turned out perfect.

When I arrived in San Francisco, I did not know anyone in the city. As such, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try out meeting people through Couch Surfing. In the end, I attended two different events, met a lot of people, and still keep in touch with at least two people I met at these events.

San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge

I am thankful that I did some research before arriving in San Francisco and booked my tour for Alcatraz. It seems this is a very popular attraction and depending upon the timing of your visit well worth pre-booking.

San Francisco has a city pass available much like the one in Seattle, and I took full advantage of the inclusions. Included in the pass is California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay, Bay Cruise, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Exploratorium. However, an important part for me is the 7-day pass for Public Transport that is included with the pass.

San Francisco - Skyline

San Diego, CA, USA 

8 Days – Hampton Inn (4 Days before and 4 Days after Cruise)

The embarkation port for my Panama Canal Cruise is San Diego. As such I decided it would be good to take some time to explore the city before and after the cruise. Like in San Francisco I made use of Couch Surfing to find a local event and to meet with some locals to explore the city. It honestly makes exploring a city much more enjoyable because you get a real local perspective.

Although meeting people is great, there were also some attractions that I visited. The Maritime Museum, The San Diego Zoo, and The USS Midway are a few of the main sights I visited. I also spent some time exploring San Diego Old Town, the Downtown area, plus a visit to Coronado Island. San Diego is also a perfect place for Photography. It was only at the end of my visit when doing a small photo walk with a local that I realised this.

San Diego - Del Coronado Hotel

Panama Canal Cruise 

28 Days – Holland America Line MS Statendam

First Cruise MS Statendam in San Diego

Many people take a cruise just because it is an excellent way to relax. However, I found for me the cruise to be a great way to see some amazing destinations that you may not travel to alone otherwise. I do not think I would have chosen to visit any of the countries on the cruise as a solo traveller. Of course, this is not to say that other don’t do so, but it is just a personal choice.

Miraflores Locks Panama Canal

The cruise had a total of 12 port calls. Mexico was the predominant country for port calls with six stops in total. The ports included Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Chiapas, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and two visits to Huatulco. The remaining ports were all one off ports for each city. They included Puerto Quetzal – Guatemala, Fuerte Amador – Panama, Cartagena – Columbia, Fort Lauderdale – USA, Oranjestad – Aruba, Puerto Caldera – Costa Rica.

Of course, the highlight of the cruise is transitting the Panama Canal Twice. The cruise was two 14 day cruises back to back. The first was eastbound transit travelling from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. While the second was a westbound transit travelling from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego.

Huatulco - Beach

Dallas, TX, USA

6 Days – Hyatt Summerfield Suites

The second part of the trip after the cruise turned out to be very last minute. In fact, it was not until I had arrived back into San Diego that I even decided to visit Dallas. The choose end up being because I had a friend I could visit in Fort Worth, which is close to Dallas.

Having booked the stay quite last minute without much planning, my choice of hotels was far from ideally located. Everything did work out in the end, but one thing I failed to account for was how spread out Dallas is. So getting around did not turn out to be the easiest thing.

Even with this in mind, I did get to see some interesting and historic spots around Dallas. Places like the Sixth Floor Museum, which is dedicated to John F Kennedy. I spent a day exploring the Dallas Heritage Village, which includes many examples of businesses and houses from the last century. Finally, a lot of time walking around the various downtown areas, seeing what was around.

Dallas - Texas School Book Depository

San Francisco

3 Days – Hampton Inn Airport (1), Doubletree by Hilton (2)

My original plan did not include a return visit to San Francisco. However, when trying to fit together the last week of my time in the USA only a few days prior, it turned out the easiest option.

I am glad that there were still a few other things I wanted to see and do in San Francisco and these few days gave me a chance to do some. I also took myself on a day trip by train down to San Jose, which was something a little different.

Los Angeles

5 Days – Hilton LAX

Los Angles to me had always been just a place to transit flights while travelling somewhere else. I had heard stories about the various area’s not being safe, and I did not get the hype of Hollywood. However, after meeting a couple of new friends on the cruise, they convinced me to come and see Los Angeles. It also helped they offered to show me around the city while I was here.

Without the aid of my friends, plus a couple of new friends I made through Couch Surfing I doubt I would have seen as much as I did. I got to Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Downtown, The Hollywood sign, and Mulholland Drive.

In the end, I did not have any problems with feeling safe; it seemed ok to me in the areas I visited. The bigger problem is how long it takes to get anywhere with public transport and traffic. However, with Los Angeles being the second largest metro area in America, it is understandable. On the note of safety, I did not venture out too much at night, and I suppose it could be quite different.

Los Angeles - Hollywood Sign from Mulholland Drive

Another Great Trip

I am extremely glad that back in October 2010 I took that first overseas trip. If I had not made that choice, I likely would still be working away in Australia having never got to see the world. The trips and places that I am getting to see are amazing, and the new experiences are great. If there is one thing, I can highly recommend it is travelling if you have the means take the time to go and see the world.

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