Wastin’ away Montego Bay

The shopping area around Montego Bay, Jamaica is much like other Caribbean port cities.  Lots of t-shirt and souvenir shops, bars and restaurants with people standing out on the sidewalks beckoning all the tourists to come look.

The one really unusual spot here was the local Margaritaville which is actually at the end of the block here.  The front side is not all that special, just a big parrot-head sign but from the side, you see the real difference.  There’s a water park out back with people out enjoying the amazing blue waters of Montego Bay to go with their margarita.  Pretty cool, Mon!

Oasis of the Seas-029-Edit

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
Montego Bay, Jamaica

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/11 – 1/500 sec – ISO 200

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Ancient Observatory

It is amazing to realize how advanced the science of the Maya culture was centuries before our modern calendar even started.  One of the chief areas of scientific study was astronomy, which linked into their most famous creation – the Mayan calendar.

In order to study the stars, there was a need for a place that would be elevated above the canopy of the forest that covers the Yucatan plain where Chichen Itza is located. The observatory is built on a multi-level plateau with a cylindrical tower atop it.  The building is known as “El Caracol” (the Snail – in Spanish) which is a reference to the circular stairs that lead from the lower tower to the upper observation tower.  The upper tower has slit windows that are specially aligned to observe the planet Venus and the summer and winter solstice of the Sun.

Looking at the partially ruined tower with its domed roof, makes you think of a modern observatory with a high-powered telescope poking out.  Though the Maya did not have telescopes, they had a fantastic knowledge of the movements within the heavens and were able to calculate astronomical events with great accuracy.  Seeing these sites and thinking back on what this civilization was capable of is truly awe inspiring!

El Caracol (The Observatory)
Chichen Itza
Yucatan, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/10 – 1/2000 sec – ISO 400

Lucky number 13

In Mayan culture, the number 13 was considered to be of special significance and many of the structures at Chichen Itza feature repetitions of images in this number.  This building, the largest of the Classical Period (600 – 950 AD) architecture is known as “The Nunnery”.  The early Spanish explorers gave it this name (Las Monjas) because the building has many doorways that reminded them of monastery cells.

This structure is actually not believed to be a temple but a royal palace.  The face of the building is covered with intricate carvings with a focus on the Rain God “Chac”.  The side entrance shown in this image  includes 13 images of Chac, 8 on the bottom level, 4 on the top and the whole side is a huge face with the door representing the mouth.

Las Monjas (The Nunnery)
Chichen Itza
Yucatan, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
11mm @ f/16 – 1/500 sec – ISO 200

Cats on a Ship

I have to say, the entertainment on our ship was first class.  The big-name show on Oasis of the Seas is Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s CATS and it was a great production.  The staging, music and choreography were spectacular.  I didn’t really expect the show to be this great but it really was excellent.

As unusual as the whole cruise was with dodging hurricanes and extended schedule, Royal Caribbean managed the situation very well.  It is amazing that they were able to handle 3 extra days at sea with 6,000 passengers aboard and make it seem like there was noting out of the ordinary.  They did everything possible to keep us safe and well cared for.  What a marvelous trip.  I would definitely recommend this line to anyone.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
135mm @ f/6.0 – 1/125 sec – ISO 2500

Ya, Mon – I like cruisin’

Well, we’re still living the Caribbean life on day 9 of our 7 day cruise.  Today was supposed to be a leisurely trip heading back towards our home port but had to shift into high-gear as there are some passengers needing medical care.  The plan is to pass near Miami tomorrow morning and drop them and then slow down again and drift in to Port Canaveral on Wednesday.

Our traveling gnome was happiest at Montego Bay in Jamaica where it was a beautiful day at the beach.  The weather has been great for us throughout the trip but now that we’re moving at twice the rate we had been going, the smooth seas have been traded in for a constant roll.

I’m very grateful that we have not had rough seas at all as it makes a big difference when the floor starts to rock under you.  You would think that rocking would be comforting but it is actually disorienting.  Things calmed down after dinner so, it looks like we’re back to a nice easy ride again.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
86mm @ f/11 – 1/320 sec – ISO 200

Dance of the Flyers

Hurricane Irma has given us some bonus cruise time while we wait for the storm to clear.   Last night, we made a move about 100 miles south from Cozumel to the port of Costa Maya, Mexico.

This port was built for the exclusive purpose of attracting cruise ships to stop along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.  There is no major city here but it’s actually not a bad place to stop.  The port area is quite touristy but not over-run with people hawking cheap stuff at every corner like some other places.  Everything is pretty new and clean with a beach area, swimming pools and lots of little shops.

At the center of the shopping area, there is a tall pole where a demonstration is done on days when ships are in port.  This is described as a Mayan rain ritual which ties in with  the local history but the ceremony, known as  the Danza de los Voladores, is a centuries old tradition practiced by numerous indigenous peoples of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The ceremony involves a dance of 5 participants with music and chanting followed by a climb up a 30 meter pole.  Once the “voladores” have climbed to the top, four of them tie themselves to long ropes and launch into the air, spinning around the pole 13 times (a magical number to the Mayans) until they reach the ground.  In this demonstration, there are only 4 flyers but the original includes a fifth person who stays standing atop the pole while the others spin their way down.

This was a neat display which was only diminished by the fact that it took a fair amount of time to complete which made it hard to watch looking up all that time with the hot, Mexican sun beating down on you.  I am glad we got to see this as it added to our Mayan history lesson.

Danza de los Voladores
Costa Maya, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/10 – 1/800 sec – ISO 200

Predicting the Weather

This column is believed to represent the four seasons of the year – one on each side. The images on the closest side show a representation of the rain god – Chac shown with the nose of an elephant.  Chac is one of the most frequent images that we saw throughout Chichen Itza.

Obviously, rain was extremely important to the Maya culture.  I assume this was primarily because the Yucatan peninsula is very hot and they would have been highly dependent on rain for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.  On our visit, we have been more concerned with the over-abundance of rain related to hurricane Irma.  Either way, it is obvious that predicting the weather has been a chief concern of people for a very long time and we still don’t quite have it figured out.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/10 – 1/800 sec – ISO 400