A Travellerspoint blog

April 2018

Colon and Cartagena


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April 28

Colon: we booked a shore excursion to Panama City based on the recommendation of the ship. We asked for a tour where we could see something of the city and have some free time to explore the city on our own. Based on that they suggested, we booked a city tour with 3 hours at a mall, where they suggested we walk around the city instead of hanging out at the mall.

Unfortunately, it turned out there was no tour of Panama City; instead they talked about the Canal locks and showed us some crafts.then, at the mall, we tried to walk around to seethe city, but the locations. The mall was such that you couldn’t really walk around because the area was surrounded by highways and uncrossable busy roads. As such, as soon as we returned we request a refund, which has now been processed to our account (and we were not the only ones who complained, apparently).

We were, therefore, disappointed with the port. Most people seemed to have taken a tour of the locks, which we felt we’d seen with the talks and the Canal crossing. Otherwise, there was a “port” area that was safe, but you could not venture safely within the city.

April 29

We spent today in Cartagena, having booked a “hop-on-hop-off” bus tour, which was the only way to see the San Felipe de Barajas fortress that had been recommended to us. The bus included a 90 minute tour of the “old town” area, which we enjoyed and then we spent a couple of hours at the fortress (the next stop). There was an audio tour that was very comprehensive. It was very hot (ok the guide from the bus company said it was only “hot”, not “VERY hot” - they only have those two temperatures and today did not reach “very hot” :). With the humidity it was plenty hot enough for us, so we had a good flavour of the fortress, without listening to every audio presentation. And we caught the bus in time to complete the round circuit and hear the bus audio and see the rest of the bus stops in the city before returning to the ship by 3pm.

We really liked Cartagena. It’s a beautiful city, very clean and,apparently, safe. We would definitely recommend it as a destination. We only had about 6 hours and wished we had a couple of days, at least.

I took a ton of picks, but here are a few.

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April 30

Another relaxing day at sea. We set the clocks forward again last night and then slept until after 8am. Incredibly lazy :). The ice cream was really good today - sugar-free cherry-vanilla and there was a chocolate fountain - so a new meaning to liquid lunch.

This afternoon we played a San Juan (a card game) with one of the couples from our dinner table and had a good time.

And on the final “evening chic” (there are no longer formal-wear dinners), there was lobster on the dinner menu, so Steve was really happy.

Tomorrow is the last day of the cruise - another lazy day at sea, so no blog until we’re home - and we fly home on Wednesday - back to work on Thursday.

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Posted by Deb Godley 18:15 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Panama Canal - daytime transit


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April 26

Another lazy day at sea. After a tour of the backstage theatre area, we learned from Bill Fall, the American-Panamanian doing the Canal info talks, how the locks work; that it takes 52 million gallons of water to move a ship from one end to the other; that the old locks can take ships with a maximum width capacity of 13 shipping crates wide, while the new expansion allows for 17 shipping crates width; and that they are entirely run on gravity, with no hydraulics to move water around.

The next talk was from Milos Radakovich, who previously spoke about stardust and the night sky, and this was about life on Mars and all the exploration that’s been done.

As usual, both speakers were excellent and we spent an enjoyable morning being both entertained and educated.

Steve has a bit of a cold, which he is blaming on shaking hands with the captain :) at the gala a few nights ago. So we purchased $35 worth of NyQuil and cold tablets.

April 27

Canal day!

Up at 6 to have a quick breakfast before the traversing of the Panama Canal. Bill Fall began his day-long commentary at 6am. Today’s itinerary (times turned out to be approximate, and we actually didn’t finish the last lock until well after 4pm):

7:15 - Las America’s Bridge (we watched from the top deck area)
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8-9:10 - Miraflores locks (we watched from the top deck area)

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9:40-10:30 - Pedro Miguel locks (we watched from the deck 6 helipad until it was closed due to rain)

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1:55-3:00 - Gatun locks (we watched on tv and from the upper deck, depending on the weather. And this last lock has taken FOREVER - more than twice the estimated time). Actually, as I am writing this - we still are not through. We started at about 2:30 - a half-hour late due to a “gasser”, which is a big gas tanker that cannot be passed in the narrower sections of the lake between the Pedro Miguel and Gatun locks - and we have now gone through 2 of the 3 locks of the Gatun section. So I am assuming we will leave this lock at some point this afternoon :), but we haven’t moved for about 45 minutes or so.
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Ok. We’ve just started to move at 4:10 into the final lock which will drop us down the last few of the 27 feet to the Atlantic Ocean. Finally left the locks just before 5pm. Some small craft were going through in the other direction after us.

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And here we are passing the unfinished bridge.

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We received coupons for our evening lounge drinks because the usual lounge was opened to everyone for Canal viewing. As such we can have 3 drinks almost anywhere before heading to dinner. However, since we like the Constellation Louge, we’ll try there first.

Here’s the lounge.
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Posted by Deb Godley 13:07 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Sea and Anzac


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April 24

Today was at sea. A couple of notes.

On Sunday, while we were at the afternoon tea (eating scones with Devon cream), one of our dinner table mates was on his balcony watching 5’ turtles and a super pod of 50 or so dolphins swimming and leaping next to the ship! Damn! I would have run to the deck to see the turtles. One of my bucket list items is to snorkel where there are lots of turtles.

Mark & Trudy (a couple we met) asked the hotel manager about their stateroom attendant, who had disappeared after the first few days. Apparently, he had a hernia operation, came back and immediately determined that it still wasn’t right, so they sent him to his home hospital, accompanied by a ship ‘care’ rep who ensures he receives the medical care he needs. He remains on full salary and all his medical and transportation costs are paid until he is back on the ship. The hotel manager said that they take care of their staff as well as they do their guests. He estimated it would cost more than $100k for the expenses.

One of the fellow morning walkers - the guy in black - walks a few laps and then (this is me surmising because I haven’t actually seen him do it) jumps in the shower and then walks again until his clothing dries - rinse and repeat. My surmising is the result of seeing him disappear periodically and come back soaking wet. But, he has more energy after returning and passes me. I think it was about 80 at 7 this morning while I did my 8k. With the small ship, that translates to 48 laps. A bit boring and not a turtle or dolphin in sight. Just endless ovals in the hot sun. My reward is bacon with breakfast :)

This afternoon, I won an autographed ship for answering a skill-testing question (actually, I think more for sitting front and centre and being loud). The next person who answered a question was deemed incorrect, but we disagreed with the verdict. So, we had a picture taken of us with the “life-changing” prize (as they call it) and then gave it to the gentleman who had been ‘wronged’ :). He and his wife were really happy. Apparently her great-grandfather helped build the Panama Canal and she was now going to see it for the first time.

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There’s a Norovirus (upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea) outbreak on on the ship, so lots of extra precautions. We heard 60 passengers and 20 crew were quarantined, but we don’t know the accuracy of that rumour. There are no longer any communal items. The salt and pepper shakers and flavoured butter on the tables have vanished and you can no longer serve yourself in the caf. The crew are serving individual butter and pepper packs with 2-fork makeshift tongs. And everything, including us, is being virtually bathed in disinfectant at every turn. Pics: Zaandam passing us and a beautiful sunset.

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Anzac Day (Australia)

This morning we are in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. It is a small peninsula where the ships dock. We walked around, took a few pics, and then stopped for cervezas and wifi at the most welcoming bar. It’s about 90 and very humid. The beer and the ice cream are going down well :)

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The carvings are wood, not stone.

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Posted by Deb Godley 11:24 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Guatemala


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Pics of Cabo, PV and ==Your heading here...==Guatemala

April 21& 22

Saturday and Sunday: days at sea. Attended three lectures: on Saturday, the first was about the history of the Panama Canal, which we’ll be traversing in a few days from an American who was born in and continues to live in Panama. The second was a science lesson on the tectonic plates. Both speakers were interesting and amusing. On Sunday, the lecture was about the 2 upcoming ports.

Listened to an easy-listening singer Sat evening, who Steve says was pretty good and I didn’t mind. I even recognized a couple of the songs :).

Sat we set our clocks back, so an extra hour of sleep. We’d already moved them forward twice and lost a couple hours. Apparently, there will be 2 more clock changes, so in all, 4 times forward and 1 time back.

We also booked shore excursions for Guatemala, Colombia and Panama, 3 of the 4 remaining ports. We plan to just walk around in Costa Rica near the port.

Since I couldn’t upload pictures in the last post, here are Cabo and PV.

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Monday in Guatemala

We spent the day in Guatemala, having purchased transport from the cruise line. Antigua is 1.5 hours from the port, 5000 feet higher in altitude, and subsequently, 10 degrees cooler. Also less bugs than the sea-level rainforest. We were dropped off and given 5 hours of self-touring time before the return bus. Wilder, our guide, gave us some information on the way up to the highlands (quite a bit of which had been included in the previous day’s port talk).

Antigua is a UNESCO heritage site, representing a preserved colonial city that bears the scars from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The cathedral and other buildings remain in ruins, but it was a nice town in which to walk around and enjoy the day. After touring the ruins, churches, chocolate museum, jade store and mercado, we stopped at the Restaurante del Arco for lunch of quesadillas, tortilla chips and beer, along with free internet.

Here are a few pics from Antigua.

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Posted by Deb Godley 15:22 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Mexico - Cabo and PV


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April 19

Usual easy morning; played some trivia, watched the ship arrive at Cabo during lunch.

Cabo San Lucas has grown from a small town of less than 7000 when we were last here about 12 years ago by about 10 times, with a population now over 70k. The port talk (on-board guest speaker providing good info - instead of the usual “shop for diamonds where we get kick-backs” sales spiel) explained that over 50% of the employment is related to tourism, with a large deep sea fishing component. This area is, apparently, the best spot in the world for marlin and sailfish. As a result, there are condos and timeshares everywhere, as well as hotels, plus dozens of bars, restaurants and high-end shops (at least high prices). The port talk also suggested we may want to wait until tomorrow and buy our souvenirs at the Walmart in Puerto Vallarta instead of here. We aren’t planning on buying anything, but that sounded like good advice.

In the expensive (but air conditioned - it was about 84 today) mall we took pics of the interesting tequila bottles.

We tendered in after lunch (there is no dock) and walked around the marina - a few kilometres. On the way out from the ship, we were asked a few dozen times if we wanted to go fishing. On the way back, the same people asked if we wanted to go fishing tomorrow. I guess their boats were already out for the day by then :).

We stopped for a free wifi spot, which required, of course, that we buy some beer. While I’m not a fan of the very light Pacifico, it’s not bad with some lime squeezed into the bottle. Back on the ship by 4 and the usual evening - lounge for free drinks, dinner, conversation. We tried a different music group tonight, this one was called “acoustic duo”. Yesterday’s string duo was better.

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April 20

This afternoon we walked to the Malecón in Puerto Vallarta, which is the wide sidewalk that runs along-side the beach. This was somewhat ill-advised as it took almost 2 hours in the blazing sun along a not-very-interesting highway, but we finally arrived and took many pictures of the artwork/sculptures that appear every 20 feet or so. Murphy’s Irish pub supplied beer (a good variety of local craft beers) and free wifi. Then we caught a decrepit bus back to the ship. Not knowing how much the bus cost and armed with only the 12-year-old memory of a $5-for-2 bus to Tulum, Mexico, we boarded, handed the driver a $5 and were welcomed aboard with a chit receipt that showed 7.50 pesos (about 50 cents each). I guess I could have given a $1 instead of the $5. No worries; it was still $15 cheaper than a cab. Hopefully, the driver can use the unintentional tip.

After dinner (a rib-eye steak that was only passable), we are sitting in the Rendezvous Lounge listening to an orchestra playing ballroom dancing music. Very pleasant. At 9 we’ll head over to the theatre to see the magician, which is the featured evening entertainment. We usually skip the “broadway” shows, but enjoy the comedians, magicians and other specialty entertainment.

The internet is too slow for more pics. I’ll try to add more later.

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Posted by Deb Godley 20:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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