Inca and Panama Canal Holland America Cruise

This was a four-week trip booked with Cruise Nation which began with 2 nights in Santiago. We then boarded the Holland America Zaandam and set sail stopping at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The trip ended with 2 nights in Fort Lauderdale.

Day One

Left London Heathrow bound for Santiago with a 4 hour stopover at Houston Texas. The journey took a total of 19 hours.

Day Two – Santiago, Chile

We arrived at Santiago international airport at 9am and found our transport easily. When we arrived at our hotel, Presidente Suites, we discovered that I had not been issued with a tourist card. The hotel receptionist told me that I had to visit a police station to get a certified copy. We used the metro to take us into the centre of Santiago then walked to the police station.

Fortunately it was a simple process to get my tourist card and we could then enjoy central Santiago.

Santiago City

We stopped at a supermarket on the way back to pick up some food for the evening as we knew we would be too tired to eat in the restaurant.

Day Three – Santiago, Chile

We awoke feeling refreshed this morning. After breakfast we walked to the Municipal Park and made our way to the Oasis Cable Car Station.

Santiago Cable Car

The Cable Car goes to the top of St Cristobel hill where you can view the large statue of the Virgin Mary. There is a small prayer room beneath.

Mary Statue Santiago 
Prayer Room beneath statue Santiago

On the day we visited the air pollution made it almost impossible to see the mountains but the view was still amazing.

Santiago City

We took a ride on the Funicular Railway and had coffee and cake before walking back to our hotel. 

Day Four – Santiago, Chile

We were collected from our hotel at 12.30 and taken to San Antonio Port. The journey took an hour and a half and gave us an insight into the area. We checked in and boarded the Holland America MS Zaandam.

Holland America Zaandam

After locating our cabin we headed to the restaurant for lunch. By the time we had familiarised ourselves with the ship layout our luggage had been delivered to our room. We unpacked, showered and changed and went for dinner. After dinner we went to the onboard cinema where we watched the Freddy Mercury biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Day Five – Coquimbo, Chile

Our ship arrived in Coquimbo at 7am. We had decided not to take an excursion but to just get off the boat and have a wander along the harbour.

Coquimbo Harbour

This was our last day in Chile so we spent our remaining Chilean Pesos in the small market by the shore.

market Coquimbo

Days Six and Seven

Ship at sea.

Day Eight – San Martin, Peru

We had pre-booked a tour with Emotion Tours Peru to see the Ballestas Islands and the ancient ruins at Tambo Colorado. 

Our guide met us at the port and took us by car to the town of Paracas where speedboat trips run regularly to the islands.

Paracas Peru

We left the jetty and took a route that skirted the coastline so that we could see the famous candelabra geoglyph.

Candelabra Geoglyph, Peru

We then sped towards the Ballestas Islands where we saw thousands of birds. 

Birds at the Ballestas Islands

A colony of sea lions

Ballestas Sea Lions

and a small group of Humboldt penguins.

Humbolt Penguins

The sight, sound and smell of the islands was amazing and it is small wonder the islands are dubbed Peru’s Galapagos.

In the afternoon we were driven through Pisco and out into the desert to the archeological ruins of Tambo Colorado. The site is surrounded by the Andes and is outstandingly beautiful.

Tambo Colorado

We began our visit by looking at the small museum which explained the history of the site. Afterwards our guide took us to see the ruins themselves.

Tambo Colorado

He led us through the maze of rooms explaining the significance of each, and the history of the Incan people.

Ruins of Tambo Colorado

Day Nine – Callao, Peru

We docked in Callao which is about a 30 minute drive from Lima. We had booked a city tour of Lima with ‘Lima Discovery’ and our guide Mabel met us at the shuttle bus stop where we transferred to a minibus.

Our first stop was a statue in the centre of Lima where we stopped to take photos. 

Lima Square

We drove a bit further then got out of the minibus for a walking tour. First stop was St Peter’s church which is built in the style of Seville Cathedral and very beautifully decorated.

St Peters Lima

St Peters Lima

Then it was a short walk to the church of St Francis.

St Francis Lima

The church used to be a monastery and we walked through the church building and the library. 

Library St Francis Lima

Afterwards, we went to see the catacombs. These lie beneath the church and house the bones of the monks who died there. The monks were buried in the ground and when their bodies had decomposed they were dug up and their bones were separated and collected into types. They were then displayed in cases and boxes.

Catacombs Lima

Leaving the church of St Francis, we walked through the government district to the central square.

Central Square Lima

The tour then stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch we boarded the minibus again and drove for about 40 minutes to a local artisan market where we bought some souvenirs. A visit to the Love Park on the coast rounded off a very good tour.

View from Love Park

Day Ten – Callao, Lima

This was our second day in Lima and we had booked another tour with ‘Lima Discovery’ to see the ruins at Pachacamac.

Our guide Wilhelm met us at the shuttle bus stop. There were just four of us on the tour and we travelled in a car. First we were driven to the top of the hill overlooking Lima where we saw the giant cross and the statue of Christ.

Giant Cross Lima

Christ Statue Lima

After taking some photographs we were back in the car and driven out into the desert to see the archaeological ruins of the Incan city of Pachacamac. We had to wait a while for an official guide so we had a coffee and cake in the site cafe.

Our guide took us firstly into the museum which explained the history and culture of the people. Then it was a short drive to reach the ruins themselves.


The site is vast and our guide selected the most important areas for us to visit.

Pachacamac Ruins

We particularly enjoyed the challenge of walking to the ruins of the temple which are situated high on a hill overlooking the complex.

Pachacamac Temple

Day Eleven – Salaverry, Peru

Today we had booked a tour with Trujillo Tours Peru and we were met at the dock by our guide.

We boarded a minibus and were taken firstly to see the Moche town of Trujillo which lies in the shadow of a small mountain.


Our guide led us round this vast complex of ruins explaining the significance of each building.

Inside Trujillo

Then it was back to the minibus and a short drive into the town of Trujillo where we took a look at a historical house and the cathedral.

Trujillo Cathedral

Back on the minibus we drove to the fishing town of Huanchaca where we could see the traditional reed boats lined up on the beach.

Fishing Boats Huanchaca

Our final stop was Chan Chan, the ancient city of the Chimu people.

Reception Area Chan Chan

The city was constructed entirely of mud bricks and is said to be the largest ancient mud brick city in the world.

Central Area Chan Chan

It comprises three sections – a reception area, an area for people to pay their taxes and a central area where chosen people could meet the king.

Day Twelve

Ship at Sea

Day Thirteen – Guayaquil, Ecuador

We decided to explore Guayaquil independently. We took the cruise line shuttle bus to Simon Bolivar Park which is also known as Iguana Park due to the large numbers of tame iguanas that roam around the park.

Iguana Park Guayaquil

Afterwards, we went to the cathedral which is located close to the park. The cathedral is built in Gothic style and has some beautiful stained glass windows.

Guayaquil Cathedral

Leaving the cathedral we walked to the waterfront to see the Moorish clock tower.

Clock Tower Guayaquil

The area is very clean and there are numerous quirky sculptures to look at in the area.

Statue Guayaquil

Day Fourteen – Manta, Ecuador

We docked in the very pretty bay of Manta early in the morning. After breakfast we decided to go ashore and walk along the seafront.

Manta Ecuador

As it was a Sunday most places were closed but we found a small artisan market where we bought some souvenirs.

Artisan Market Manta Ecuador

Day Fifteen

Ship at Sea

Day Sixteen – Fuerte Amador, Panama

We had to take a tender from the ship to the port of Fuerte Amador.

Fuerte Amador

After looking around the small port area we decided to take a trip on the Panama City Hop-on-Hop-off bus. We got off the bus in the Old city and went to see the cathedral.

Fuerte Amador Cathedral

We then took a circuitous route back to the bus stop. The bus took us through the new city and gave us a good look at the different buildings.

Fuerte Amador Buildings

The bus then went past the administrative building for the Panama Canal before continuing on to the Canal itself.

Panama Canal Admin Building

The complete tour around the city took around 3 hours and was an enjoyable journey.

Day Seventeen – Panama Canal

Today we transited through the Panama Canal. We set our alarms for 5am so that we could get the best position to see the progress of our ship through the canal.

America Bridge Panama Canal

The entire transit took around 12 hours: we passed under the America Bridge before progressing to the Miraflores locks.

Miraflores Locks

Then it was on to the Pedro Miguel locks and the massive Gatun lake before finally going through the Gatun locks.

Gatun Lake Panama

Then it was out into the Atlantic and we were heading towards the Caribbean Sea.

Gatun Locks

Day Eighteen

Ship at Sea

Day Nineteen – Aruba

We docked in Oranjestad and got off the ship and had a wander around the town.


Everything was very overpriced so we decided to walk to Eagle Beach which is rated one of the best beaches in the World. It is about 6 km from the town to the Beach.

Eagle Beach Aruba

We spent a few hours on the beach then caught a local bus back to town.

Day Twenty – Curacao

We negotiated a taxi to take us around the island for the day at a cost of $80. We went firstly to the Hato Caves and paid the $7 entry fee. After climbing 49 steep steps we entered the cave system and were shown around by a local guide.

Hato Caves

Leaving the caves we were taken to Williamstad town centre where we did some shopping.

Williamstadt town

Afterwards we drove to the Ostrich Farm. The farm cannot be reached by public transport so you either need a taxi or hire car. It cost $17 to enter the farm and join a tour. We ate our packed lunch at the picnic tables provided then boarded a truck fitted with seats. There were various stopping points where our guide told us about the life of the ostriches and their habits and peculiarities.

Ostrich at the Ostrich Farm Williamstadt

It was also possible to feed the ostriches and stand on an ostrich egg. We also got to see some very young (4 day old) ostriches and some young emus.

Ostrich Farm Curacao

When the Ostrich Farm tour was over we met our taxi driver who took us to see an aloe vera plantation. We had a look at some videos and walked around the plantation. There is a shop where you can buy aloe vera products at a reasonable price.

Aloe Vera Plantation Curacao

Finally we returned to the town where we asked our taxi driver to drop us off so that we could walk back over the famous swing bridge and see the lovely coloured houses along the waterfront.


Day Twenty-One – Bonaire


We got off the boat and had a look at the tour operators who were lined along the shore. We chose to take a tour of the South part of the island with Voyager Bonaire Tours but as it didn’t leave for an hour and a half we walked into the town centre where we had a look at the market and had a cup of coffee in a bar. At 12.00 we returned to the tour starting point and awaited our transport.

First we drove out of the town then headed to the salt flats.

Salt Flats Bonaire

Our guide told us some of the history of the island and also explained the science behind the beautiful pinks, turquoises and blues of the landscape.

Next stop was the former slave huts that were used by slaves who worked on the island.

Former Slave Huts in Bonaire

A flock of flamingos can sometimes be seen along the route but today they were further away.

Driving a little further we saw the old lighthouse before visiting Sorobon Beach, one of the most popular on the island.

Sorobon Beach

After spending 15 minutes on the beach we were driven back to the town where we had a swim in the sea before boarding the ship.

Days Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three

Ship at Sea

Day Twenty-Four – Fort Lauderdale

We disembarked the ship then transferred to our hotel – The Hilton Marina hotel. After checking in we decided to walk to the New River and take a ride on the Water Trolley which is free of charge. It was quite a long walk but we enjoyed looking at the rich properties and boats along the way.

Cars in Fort Lauderdale

We found the water trolley and stayed on the boat so that we could have a look at the surrounding areas.

Fort Lauderdale

After getting off the boat we stopped for an ice cream then walked to a supermarket to get some bread, cheese and snacks for supper. It was dark when we left the supermarket so we called a taxi to take us back to our hotel.

Day Twenty-Five Fort Lauderdale

We had booked an Everglades airboat tour with Florida City and Everglades tours. We were picked up from the hotel at 8.30am by our driver Al. After picking up guests from other hotels and cracking some rather stereotypical jokes relating to people’s nationalities we were on our way to the Everglades.

Upon arrival we boarded our airboat. The boats sit around 40 people so at busy times it can be quite crowded and difficult to get pictures if you are not near the side of the boat/

Everglades Boat

Our captain Jeremy was excellent and gave us a lot of information about the Everglades as an ecosystem and the wildlife that live in the area. He was clearly passionate about the Everglades and this made for a very enjoyable ride.

Alligator in the everglades

All too soon the boat journey ended. We were then taken to see an alligator show. All of the alligators used in the show are those that have been rescued after straying into people’s gardens or due to injury. Kevin explained the physiology of the alligators and told us a little about their habits.

Alligator Show Everglades

After the show we had our picture taken with a baby alligator. We collected our pictures and then tried to find our driver but he was nowhere to be seen. We walked around for a bit wondering what to do then heard a voice angrily shouting at us. It was our driver. We explained that we had got lost but he continued shouting saying that we should have known where to go. We did not let his rude behaviour spoil what had been a great trip up until then.

Day Twenty-Six

We were collected from our hotel after breakfast and taken to Fort Lauderdale International Airport for our return journey back to London.