Hello fellow travelers…or wannabe vagabonds. This is the final blog featuring my recent Panama Canal Cruise from Los Angeles, California to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If you are just getting here you will have to scroll back a bit to catch up…or you can just dive right in here, though I warn you will miss the part about my saving President Obama’s life and then being hit on by Princess Kate in the middle of the night as I mimicked the little Dutch boy with my finger stuck in the leak in the ship’s hull and how everyone gave me a gazillion dollars for saving their lives…not to mention all the women who threw themselves at me in gratitude. But, really, you didn’t miss much.
Now, if you in the back of the room, yeah YOU–if you would be so kind to turn down the lights we can get started…and remember don’t change the slide until you hear my clicker. Okay, here we go. ClickClick
After we left Costa Rica, the next day Rosemarie took a picture of me taking a picture of her. It was a day at sea, eating and lounging at the pool until we reached the Pacific entrance into the Panama Canal. We would spend most of the day going through the canal. It was quite a wonder to see after reading and hearing so much about it. The incredible marvel about the Panama Canal is that it was built 100 years ago. The technology seems far beyond that time period. The sheer initiative it took to dig through the hostile terrain (30,000 men died doing it) is mind-boggling. Then, when you see how the locks work, it is doubly hard to comprehend that it was all built and opened by 1914.
As we approached the canal, there were many ships, mostly freighters, anchored everywhere waiting for their turn to go through. We had a reservation, I guess, because we didn’t have to wait. ClickClick
The canal can accommodate two ships at a time. We went through with a noticeably fresh painted cargo ship next to us. We gawked and took pictures of it as the crew onboard it took pictures of us. ClickClick
If you need a quick briefer on how the canal works, here goes: there are a series of gates, called “locks” at each end of the canal, and a large lake/waterway in the middle. ClickClick
The waterway in the middle is at a higher level than the oceans on both sides so the ships need to be raised up to meet this level, then lowered back down when they reach the other side. ClickClick
To do this is similar to cows being herded into pens. A ship is moved into the first lock and the gates in front and back are closed. The the chamber inside is either lowered or raised with water to bring the ship to the appropriate level. There are a series of three locks that slowly raise or lower the ship. When the correct level is reached, the front gate opens and the ship moves into the next chamber, the gate is closed behind it and once again the water is fed in or out to bring the ship to the correct level. There are little railway cars that run along the sides of the ship and these pull it through the locks. There is an endless line of ships performing this ongoing parade of cargo, oil and people between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, each paying thousands of dollars for the privilege. ClickClick
After we left the last lock and entered the Atlantic side of the continent, we had a day’s sail to reach Cartagena, Columbia. This was the first large city we visited. ClickClick
Unfortunately, we really didn’t get to see any of the new parts of the city. Rosemarie was on a mission to find some tanzanite earrings so we went shopping. We did see some of the old city of Cartagena as we taxied around. ClickClick
Our ship had a refueling delay that kept us dockside an hour beyond our scheduled departure time. I spent the time sitting on our balcony watching containers being unloaded from a freighter next to us. Never having an Erector set as a kid, it was great fun watching how adept the huge crane operator was at lifting and then setting down the containers precisely atop a waiting truck. Click on the picture to enlarge it and note the humongous tires peeking out of the tops of the open containers at the aft end of the ship. Those are for some pretty large Tonka trucks. ClickClick
Our final stop the next day was Aruba. It was very windy and we were told that was not unusual. This was the nicest port we had visited. The city was clean and contemporary with lots of shops—many high-end retailers—as well as a market of local crafts and souvenirs. We had a so-so lunch but the atmosphere was good and islandy. BTW, Rosemarie found her earrings in Aruba and I even won a necklace in a drawing she entered my name in. Jewelry isn’t “my thing” so Rosemarie happily relieved me of my prize. ClickClick
The next two days were purely at sea, heading north back to Fort Lauderdale where we live. As I said at the beginning of my first blog on our cruise, I wish I had taken more pictures with the blog in mind, but the purpose of the trip was to vedge out and totally relax…and that is exactly what we did. It is good to be back home, but I would not mind taking a cruise every year or two. It offers a complete package if all you want to do is relax and eat, relax some more, then eat some more. Now, if I can just find out where they moved the buffet in my house, I’ll be a lot happier.