2009 Spirit of the West Cruise Diary and Photos

Our 2009 cruise diary is now complete

Below is some information on where our 2009 Spirit of the West Cruise and Conference went. There's also a diary complete with photos as we travelled to Mexico, Central America, the Panama Canal, and Jamaica. There was lots of sun, lots of great food, heaps of fun, and tons of great company.

We sailed on the Island Princess - here's what she looks like on the outside.

Island Princess

Below you'll find our basic itinerary and a map of where we went. Go to the Itinerary below (or scroll down).

Diary, Spirit of the West Cruise, 2009

We're back home!! We updated this page as often as possible while on the cruise so hopefully you were able to follow along - if not you can now see the whole trip diary. You can also see the diary on Mark and Kathy's web site at www.meadowsprings.com. The photos there will be different than the ones on this page. Photos will all enlarge if you click on them.

January 2nd & 3rd
Tonight we're in two different groups - some of us are in LA and some of us are in Mexico - either way both groups are now on holiday and are having fun!!

One group having dinner at the Marriott in LA

Our plane in Acapulco (note the fancy terminal)

Boarding the Island Princess (Shorty Horn got the wheel chair access)

Jim Bell of Cruise Vacations Winnipeg giving instructions at the sail away cocktail reception

January 4th Hugh opens the first conference session with the 1st slide show

Andrew Raphael of Meyers Norris Penny (the bronze sponsor) speaks first.

January 4th
The first of two Spirit of the West Conference sessions, the first formal night dinner, and the first pool side sing-a-long with Spirit of the West Cruise Band.

Kathy McMillan was the second conference speaker

Jim & Karen Bell at the Spirit of the West info desk

Karen and Jim dressed for formal night

Larry and Linda Morrill of Morand Ind. (Platinum cruise sponsor)

Billie and Hugh after a fabulous dinner in the dining room

Ed Peake on guitar with the Spirit of the West Band

January 4th & 5th
The first pool side sing-a-long, a couple of photos from Antigua, Guatemala, and Billie's leg of lamb dinner.

Andrew on harmonica with Hugh in the middle on vocals and guitar

The group piano player, Bev Felker, plays the keyboard

The Spirit of the West Band with one of the pools in the foreground

(L to R) Gary & Marilyn Pinder, Mark & Kathy McMillan in Antigua

A beautiful Guatemalan sunset to finish up a beautiful day

Billie's leg of lamb in the dinning room of the Island Princess

January 6th, & 7th
Tuesday, January 6th we stopped in Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua. This evening was the second poolside sing-a-long. Wednesday, January 7th was our Spirit of the West Group tour in Costa Rica. If anyone thought that they could do this cruise on their own (without booking through the Spirit of the West) and have the same experience they're wrong - real wrong!! We had a super day. We did a bus tour where we saw a lot of incredible country - the first stop was the "wet mill" at the Doka Coffee plantation - a place that is not normally open to the public. From there we headed to the main plantation. By seeing the two places we really saw the whole picture as to where that morning cup of coffee comes from.

Hugh leads the Spirit of the West band on the poolside stage

A couple of the tractors at the coffee plantation

The end of the "wet mill" line - drying the coffee beans

Billie and Hugh pose in front of our Mercedes bus

Hugh tries a cup of coffee - as close to it's point of origin as possible

The whole group of us were served an awesome lunch - Costa Rican style.

January 7th
After the coffee plantation we then traveled to Nosavar where we got an up front view of a Brahma cattle operation - another example of the value of booking with the Spirit of the West. All in all a super day - a day that no one else would have had the opportunity to experience! - including the flat tire on the bus which was handled extremely well.

A rider brings some of their Brahma bulls up for us to view

An example of a "living fence" found all over the area.

Part of the Brahma x Charolais cattle herd brought in for viewing

Hugh records as Rodrigo VargasRuiz (Manager) answers a question of Kathy's

Hugh and Rodrigo chat about the Nosavar Ranch for a future show

Our day ended a little on the bumpy side, but we got to the ship in time

January 8th & 9th
A full day at sea with part two of the slide show and the second Spirit of the West Conference day ... some pool time, and an afternoon sing-a-long in the Wheelhouse bar - plus tons of good food, good service, and excellent company! January 9th we entered the Panama Canal

Andrew presents Hugh with a MNP vest (for being named Cowboy of the Year)

Hugh ran a DVD for Morand Industries on their cattle handling equipment

Jim Bell did a presentation called "Where in the World Can You Cruise - next"

A 6 year reunion - they were all on a S of the W cruise 6 years ago

Hugh interviews Lance Dyck for a future radio show

We had to wait until 5:30 am to get a photo entering the Panama Canal

January 9th
The pilot boarded the Island Princess at 4:15 am. At about 7:00 am we passed under the Bridge of Americas and entered Minaflores Locks. We were through the Gatun Locks (the last set) by 4:00 pm.

Entering the Minaflores Locks

One of the locomotives that guides (secures) us through the locks.

The difference in water height between the lock gates

Leaving Minaflores Locks and passing into Culebra Cut

In the Gatun Locks where we were lowered 85 feet to the Caribbean Sea

Freighters waiting in Limon Bay for their turn at Gatun Locks

January 9th (continued)
The big day for the group photo when everyone wore their new 2009 Spirit of the West T-shirts. Folks were also able to get their photo taken with Billie and Hugh.

Everyone getting ready for the group photo

Try to get 120 people all to smile at the same time

Jim & Karen Bell with Billie and Hugh

B & H with Jackie and Jim Anderson of Frost Free Nose Pumps Ltd

Long time S of the W cruisers Lorne & Bev Reay with Billie and Hugh

One of the many couples that had their photo taken in the Panama Canal

January 10th & 11th
Another jam session - in the afternoon in the Wheelhouse Lounge - just about everyone was there! The second formal night followed and boy did the Spirit of the West crew look sharp. January 11th we stopped in Jamaica for the day and enjoyed a beautiful beach and some more great weather.

A fellow passenger joins in on the Jam session (helping with the words)

A great crowd takes in, and really enjoys, the final jam session

Our second, and last formal night - this is our table group

Bill and Erna (Bill built Billie and Hugh's new house) with Billie and Hugh

The Island Princess as seen from the beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

One of the beautiful beaches at Ocho Rios - there were a few to choose from

January 11th
Different folks went in different directions and enjoyed some great excursions ... Kathy and Mark took a horse back tour where they rode in the ocean - fun!! and then some. Hugh mentioned on one show that you might get to see a photo of Mark in a swim suit - here it is.

Swimming horses in the Carbbean Sea was one of the available excursions

The Spirit of the West Support crew - Mark & Kathy swimming their horses

A sign posted at the horse ride store - to treat your horse

Many of our group enjoy another spectacular meal

Larry (Platinum Sponsor Morand Industries) with plates of crab legs

Billie and Hugh wrap up the evening dancing in one of the lounges

January 12th
Today the sponsors and organizers had a "review, critique, and plan" meeting. Plans were made to help improve on next year's cruise (hard to do in my eyes). This took place at lunch in the dining room ... another super and fun meal. Then it was pool time, sun time, and the last time :-( till next year anyway.

The farewell party in the Explorer Lounge was great with almost everyone there. The prizes were handed out from the sponsors and some folks went home really happy!

L to R - Jim, Karen, Andrew, Louisa, Billie, Hugh, Larry, and Linda

Jim, Hugh, and Billie make some plans for next year

Pools, lounge, chairs, sun - it doesn't get much better than this

Morand Industries gave out five $1000 gift certificates

Meyers Norris Penny gave away a coat and a vest

Jim and Karen gave out three $250 vouchers for the next cruise

January 12th & 13th
Two last meals on board the Island Princess - dinner on the 12th and breakfast on the 13th. We disembarked right after breakfast and headed for the airport - with everyone talking about how wonderful next year's cruise sounded. Check out the Cruise page for details.

Francisco serves us Baked Alaska for our final evening meal

Billie's dream ship sitting at Fort Lauderdale - the Queen Mary 2

The Island Princes taking on a load of fuel - ready to go again

Hugh works on next week's show in the Fort Lauderdale Airport

Unfortunately - our ride home awaits us at the Fort Lauderdale Airport


Our Itinerary!         Top of Page

Day 1

  • January 2nd - fly to Acapulco, Mexico. Overnight.

Day 2

  • January 3rd - Acapulco, Mexico - Board the Island Princess starting early afternoon and have a buffet lunch. "Sail Away" Cocktail Reception 4:30 to 5:30 with the Hosts, Billie and Hugh, in the Wheel House Lounge. Sail at 8:00 pm.

Day 3

  • January 4th - At Sea. 9:00 am official welcome by Billie and Hugh and part one of a slide show of fellow passengers. The first conference sessions; Andrew Raphael speaking on "Cruising For Insights: What the Heck is Going On!?", coffee break, and Kathy McMillan speaking on "Cattle Industry Standards - New Initiatives - What's in it For Me?". 9:00 to 10:00 pm concert and sing-a-long poolside. under the stars (weather permitting).

Day 4

  • January 5th - Arrive at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala 9:00 am. Depart at 6:00pm.

Day 5

  • January 6th - Arrive at Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua 6:30 am. Depart at 4:00pm. 9:00 to 10:00 pm concert and sing-a-long poolside. under the stars (weather permitting).

Day 6

  • January 7th - Arrive at Puntarenas, Costa Rica 8:00 am. This is the day of our private tour. We meet at 8:15 am and get a private bus to Doka where we will get a tour of an operating coffee plantation and lunch. We leave about 1:30 and head to Nosavar where we will visit a large cattle farm that raises Brahmin cattle (a cow calf operation with 20 bulls). Depart at 8:00pm.

Day 7

  • January 8th - At sea. 9:00 am Part 2 of the slide show of fellow passengers and then the 2nd conference session. Presentations by Andrew - "Cruising For Insights: The Future Ain't What It Used To Be". Larry Morrill on "Morand Industries Cattle Handling Equipment", and Jim Bell on "Where in the World Can I Go Next?". 2:20 to 3:30 sing-a-long / jam session / meet the hosts in the Wheel House Lounge.

Day 8

    January 9th - Arrive at Panama Canal, Panama 7:00 am. Today is the day we pass through the Panama Canal! We depart the Canal at about 4:30 pm. This is the day that we will all get together, late afternoon, for a group photo - all of us wearing our Spirit of the West T-shirts. Arrive at Colon, Panama about 5:00 pm and depart at 8:00 pm.

Day 9

  • January 10th - At sea. A pool day on the ship with a sing-a-long / jam session / meet the hosts in the Wheel House Lounge between 2:30 and 3:30.

Day 10

  • January 11th - Arrive at Ocho Rios, Jamaica 8:00 am. Depart 4:00 pm.

Day 11

  • January 12th - At sea. Another pool day on the ship. 4:00 to 5:00 pm there will be a Farewell Reception in the Explorers Lounge. This is when the 2010 Spirit of the West Cruise destination & ship will be announced.

Day 12

  • January 13th - Arrive Ft Lauderdale, Florida 7:00 am.
    Fly back to Vancouver via Montreal 3:00pm. Overnight in Vancouver.

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Here's a route map showing all seven countries with our stops marked.
The number on the map refers to the day in the itinerary. Click to enlarge.

Route Map
click to enlarge


Panama Canal Map
click to enlarge

A special thanks to Morand Industries for up grading to a Platinum level sponsorship for the
2009 Cruise & Conference. Call Morand Industries toll free at: 1-800-582-4037
for all of your livestock handling needs including the Morand squeeze with the shoulder holder.

Need some time away from home in January?
The 2010 Spirit of the West Cruise information has been posted
on the "Cruise" page of our web site or
call 1-866-530-0131 for more information or to book your spot.

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