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Tropical adventures


Guests Brian and Angela Marshall recall an unforgettable day exploring tropical rivers and rainforest when Oriana stopped off at Santo Tomás de Castilla in Guatemala

Guests Angela and Brian Marshall on a boat

Angela and Brian Marshall sailed on Oriana’s Caribbean & South American Adventure cruise this year

The lesser-frequented port of Santo Tomás de Castilla on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast proved a huge hit with guests and crew when Oriana stopped off for the day on her 50-night Caribbean & American Adventure this year. ‘This was our fourth long winter cruise with P&O Cruises,’ says guest Brian Marshall, ‘and it was great to get back on our favourite friendly ship. It was a fun-filled and full-on itinerary with some exciting and out-of-the-ordinary cruise locations and events, such as being in port for the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras.’


Brian and his wife Angela, from Bodelwyddan in north Wales, were particularly thrilled with their choice of shore excursion in Santo Tomás de Castilla, the River Sights and Sounds trip. Taking a speedboat across Amatique Bay to the coastal town of Livingston, they then took a boat trip through an area of protected rainforest and outstanding natural beauty, the Cerro San Gil Protected Spring Reserve. The reserve is the largest remaining section of Guatemala’s rainforest, and is home to an astonishing diversity of plant, bird and animal species, many of which are only found in the area. The forest offers an important migratory corridor for birds and, with more than 450 species in permanent residence, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers and nature-lovers alike.


The rainforest is also home to some of Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan Indians. The recent influx of tourists is a welcome boost to their local economy, and excursions such as this provide the opportunity to meet the locals and gain insight into their ancient culture and traditions, as Brian and Angela discovered.


‘Santo Tomás de Castilla was a wonderful place that’s off the beaten track of the tourist trail,’ says Brian. ‘The trip started by taking a boat along the coast and then up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River). This wide jungle river is inhabited by the Maya-Q’eqchi, who still make their living fishing in hollowed-out canoes passed down over the generations.


‘The local fishermen were more than happy to pull up alongside our boat and show us the freshly caught fish on hand lines that were still flipping about in the bottom of their canoes,’ says Brian.

Rio Dulce in Guatemala

Visiting the rainforest in Guatemala was a highlight for Angela and Brian

Feast for all the senses

‘The sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest were amazing. In one part, the river was steaming from the heat of the tectonic plate activity and pumping out sulphuric gases – a heady mix of colours and odours,’ explains Brian. ‘As we floated down through a deep gorge, we saw fossilised incrustations from thousands of years ago in the tall white cliff walls on the riverbanks.


‘We then headed back towards the town of Livingston on the coast. This part of the tour included a short walk around the friendly little town with its colourful shops and stalls selling beautiful local garments and souvenirs. And let’s not forget the food vendors with their barbecue griddles full of fish and local delicacies, wafting delicious smells through the air.


‘We then set off for the picturesque hotel Villa Caribe, which has open sides and a high thatched roof. Set on the top of the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean, it was the perfect spot for a simple but tasty lunch accompanied by music from a local band and colourful dancers. All too soon we were getting back on our speedboat for the final part of this exhilarating trip back to Oriana. Well done P&O Cruises. This was one of the best trips we have ever done.’


Oriana is known for her exciting and exotic itineraries, which take guests to places they would have never dreamed of. Head off on your own tropical adventure on board Oriana’s 2017 Caribbean and Amazon Adventure and 2018 Caribbean and America Discovery cruises. You’ll get the chance to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Parintins in Brazil, a small town in the centre of thousands of acres of rainforest, colourful Cartagena in Columbia and the beautiful bay island of Roatan in Honduras, among many others.


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