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Panama Canal 2008

Panama Canal 2008 – Day 12 – At Sea

by on Dec.09, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the final day at sea Royal Princess will follow north westerly courses along the east coast of Cuba and across the Old Bahama Channel towards Port Everglades.

Well, this is the last day.  Sometime in the middle of the night we will arrive in Ft. Lauderdale, and then at 8:15AM we will depart the ship, make our way through customs, and head to the airport.  We will have about 5 hours to wait in the airport, but this one has free wifi unlike the Miami airport (at least it did in March).  Today Heather and I woke up and went up for a swim.  We saw Mom and Dad up there and Dad started to take pictures of us as we attempted to enter the pool.  It was frigid so we opted for the hot tub.  I guess they don’t turn the heat on in the pool until later in the day.  We might try again later.  After a quick soak in the hot tub / photo shoot, we showered and had breakfast.  Today I had my usual 5-6 slices of pineapple but mixed it up a bit with two croissants with butter and jam.  We then decided to start packing.  In about 45 minutes we had packed most of our stuff.  Our room stewardess came and wanted to clean the room, so we walked around a bit and Heather looked at the things they were selling in the shops.  We also decided to go to the purser’s desk and check out our bill for the cruise, which was much lower than the norm, as we decided not to buy any artwork; a usual large expense.  Now we’re waiting for the lunch room to open and then we’ll watch the movie “Wanted” at 1:30.  The rest of the day is just going to be spent chilling out and getting ready to head home.  Later on in the evening, we met with Nicola, the pizza guru, and he gave us his recipe for pizza dough.  This guy makes a MEAN pie man.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 11 – At Sea

by on Dec.07, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the day at sea Royal Princess will follow north westerly courses across Caribbean Sea towards our final port of call:  Port Everglades.

Only two days to go.  This is actually the last day with nothing to do.  Tomorrow we officially have nothing to do as well, but we will have to pack our bags for the return trip.  I really miss Lit’l Chunks.  This morning I got about 40 nice pictures of the Caribbean sunrise, which I think is my favorite sunrise (you really can’t beat the one from 1-1-2001 however, but that was a one-off).  It always seems to give me a special feeling and that might be because it is beautiful and it also might be because it reminds me of the sunrises that we saw during our honeymoon.  I’ve got some real nice photos of this morning’s.  At 10AM we went to the culinary demonstration followed by the galley tour.  The galley on this ship is much smaller than on the others, but it consists of two floors, and they have an escalator in it.  Excellent.  We then did some shopping and had lunch in the lunchroom.  Heather and I had some awesome pasta and meatballs, and then a bacon burger.  MMM.  Then we visited the photo gallery and picked out what will probably become our Christmas picture then made our way back to the room.  Heather is currently enjoying a nap while I sit out on the balcony typing this on the laptop and enjoying a quality cigar and Fosters.  All I can see is the Caribbean Sea and blue skies with “Simpsons clouds” as I like to call them.  You know what I mean.  We are taking a tour of the navigational bridge in an hour which is always special.  Expect a few photos of it!  Tonight we’ll go to some fruity show I’m sure and then we get to set our clocks back an hour to Eastern time for our arrival back to Ft. Lauderdale.  I’m going to upload this now but may make additions to it later, or just update it again tomorrow, hopefully from the same location!!!  You can’t really beat this imo.

[update 8:01PM]  We are standing (well, I’m sitting) in line for the show.  Heather’s been dragging me to the shows, but they aren’t too bad, and one of the dancers is named Caitlin, so that’s cool.  I just picture our cat up there dancing and it makes me laugh.  They say that they will let us into the theater at 8:15 as the Captain’s Circle party is currently going on in there for the second seating dinner.  We went to it earlier and it was nice.  I had 3 rum punches so I’m ready for the show.  For dinner tonight I had pheasant and more beef filets, along with some Fettuccini Alfredo, chicken broth, and ice cream.  Oh, and cookies too!  I think this is going to sum up our evening, though we still might get some latenight pizzas.  We were given our luggage tags, so the end is near.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it or not but I’m really missing the cats, especially the Lit’l one, but both of them really.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 10 – Oranjestad, Aruba

by on Dec.07, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the morning Royal Princess will follow easterly course towards Aruba.  Shortly after noon time we will embark our local Pilot and proceed towards port of Oranjestad.  After the final maneuvering, we expect to be safely moored alongside our berth by 1:00.

“Are there any bathrooms in this place?” I ask as we enter the port building.  “Not that I know of” says the Princess Cruises girl.  I then see my target and let out an “ARARARARARH” and run off into the distance towards the “Restrooms” sign.  From behind me I hear my mom lol as I run right into an open women’s room.  Within 2 seconds I realize that there are no urinals so I walk across to a urinal-filled room.  Ahhhhhhhh.  So much better.

     The preceding was nearing the end of the day.  Let’s backtrack to the beginning.  Heather and I awoke and went swimming as we usually do.  We saw that my mom was walking for cancer research so we cheered her on.  They do this on every cruise now and Heather wants to do it next time.  You basically donate some money and walk 5k which on this ship is 35 times around the track.  We met up with Mom at around lap 24.  When this was done, I attended another magic class and learned a few more tricks.  I’m probably going to forget most of them, but hopefully I’ll be able to demonstrate a few of them when I get home.  I noticed that we were getting close to Aruba so I left the class early and Heather and I sprayed suntan lotion all over each other in preparation for our tour.  With about an hour of time before the tour, we ran off the ship and did some shopping for about 45 minutes.  Around 1:45, we set off on our tour; a catamaran ride to a snorkeling site.  The boat ride was really nice, and the snorkeling was not the best, but not bad either.  The boat ride was still better however.  We went to two dive sites and then had about an hour ride back to the ship.  They fed us rum punch during this trip and Heather and I were pretty drunk afterwards.  With about 30 minutes to go until the ship left, we docked and I took Mom into town to go to Del Sol to get a few things that she really wanted.  This is when I started to have to pee…we had lots of rum punch.  We successfully shopped at Del Sol and ran back to the ship. “Are there any bathrooms in this place?” I ask as we enter the port building.  “Not that I know of” says the Princess Cruises girl.  I then see my target and let out an “ARARARARARH” and run off into the distance towards the “Restrooms” sign.  From behind me I hear my mom lol as I run right into an open women’s room.  Within 2 seconds I realize that there are no urinals so I walk across to a urinal-filled room.  Ahhhhhhhh.  So much better.  This about sums up the day as after a dinner of 6 racks of lamb, both Heather and I passed out at about 7:30.  I awoke at 11:30 to extreme heat as Heather had completely cranked it all the way up, and we had no water, so we got up, went upstairs, filled a bunch of cups with water, ordered two pizzas, had more water, and went back to bed.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 9 – Cartagena, Columbia

by on Dec.05, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the night Royal Princess followed easterly course towards Columbia coast.  Shortly before 6 o’clock we will embark our local Pilot at “Bocachica Pilot Station” and proceed across the “Bahia de Cartagena” towards the harbor entrance.  Finally, we expect to be safely moored alongside our berth in Cartagena by 7 o’clock.

     Well, we got our share of the sun today.  As I write this, Heather is asleep in the cabin and I am watching a dance class waiting to watch the movie “Baby Mama” in the lounge.  We woke up this morning at about 5:45AM to get ready for our 7:15AM tour.  I went upstairs and took about 60 photos of the sunrise as the ship sailed into Cartagena.  It was incredible.  After breakfast we met on the dock and boarded a bus.  Our tourguide Benny, a heavyset Columbian was really funny and talked to us about the history of Cartagena.  I’ll have to research it a bit more when I have decent speed internet, but there’s somebody named Vernon who discovered or did something important here.  He travelled with George Washington’s brother Larry and that is where the area called Mt. Vernon in Washington, DC came from.  Fallout 3 players know of the area, though it’s probably a bit different than the real place!!  We drove through some really poor areas and Heather remarked that “This place looks like your video game”; another Fallout 3 reference.  It really did.  We drove down the beach, literally and stopped and got out near this little pond-like area.  We boarded dugout canoes and took a 45 minute slow boat ride through mangrove “tunnels”.  Basically, the mangroves are so thick in this area that they form tunnels that the canoes can pass through.  The drivers pushed us along just like the gondolas in Venice, though they didn’t sing.  At 8:30AM we were in the middle of this little ride and I could feel the sun heating up my face!  We went back to the busses and drove to the “Old City”.  Cartagena is built inside walls to protect the city from pirates (Were the original settlers possibly ninjas?).  Anyways, we were taken to the dungeons, which are now shops, but used to be dungeons back in “the day”.  We walked around these identical shops for a while and then moved to the Old City and started our walking tour.  Heather was calm at this point.  I say that because things do change a bit.  These people appear to have more money than the people we visited yesterday in San Blas, but their actions didn’t show it.  Peddlers were out in force, some in Red Sox hats, and others in Yankees hats.  I don’t know why, but I thought I’d point it out.  I wasn’t going to buy anything from anybody, but every time I saw a Yankees hat, it was easier to say no to them.  Ooo, the movie’s starting now.  Fast forward a few hours and now we’re waiting for the magician’s show again.  He’s a really good magician.  For dinner tonight I had two lamb shanks and for dessert, the warm chocolate chip cookie ice cream thing.  It was awesome.  The ship is rocking a little bit tonight but not nearly as much as last night.  Tomorrow we have our last port of call; Aruba.  The last time we were in Aruba, we just walked around and visited the shops there near the port.  It was nice, but this time we are going to go on a snorkeling tour, so that should be fun.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 8 – San Blas, Panama

by on Dec.04, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the night Royal Princess followed easterly courses along Panama Coast.  At around 7 o’clock in the morning we will enter into “Golfo de San Blas” and make the final approach to our anchorage where we expect to start tender service by 8 o’clock.

     It was supposed to rain yesterday.  Thankfully it did not.  Today on the other hand, it rained…and rained…and rained.  When I awoke at 7:30AM, I did as I always do; go out onto the balcony and get some photos, only this morning, as soon as I left my air conditioned room, everything on my camera fogged up instantly.  I wiped it down only for it to fog up again.  The humidity is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Heather and I went upstairs for our pre-breakfast swim, where I imitated a duck swimming.  It was quite fun, and we both got a laugh out of it.  After breakfast, we got on board a tender and made our way over to San Blas Island, which is a very small piece of land, about twice the size of the WPI quad.  As soon as we got there, we noticed the line of people ready to get back on the tender and make their way back to the ship.  The air is clean here with the exception of the smell of wood burning.  Also, it started to rain a bit.  I was glad that I had only brought the S80 in its waterproof casing today and not the G10.  The people who live on San Blas and its surrounding islands are the Kuna Indians, and they don’t have much to live on.  They were constantly asking us for dollars for anything from taking their picture to stepping inside their huts to get out of the rain.  As I write this now, there are two canoes outside the ship and guys are yelling “money money!”  Wow, I just heard people jumping in the water down there, so I got up and the gentleman two doors down was throwing coins into the water, and the Indians were jumping out to grab them.  It’s a crazy place here, and my words really don’t do it much justice.  The photos hopefully will.  We saw a monkey and a small dog.  After about 45 minutes, it really started to rain and then the lightning and thunder came.  I was ready to head back to the ship, and upon doing so, showered my legs and had a hamburger.  That’s the day up until now.  I am planning on heading to a magic class in 30 minutes and I think that’s about it.  After the magic class, I met Heather and we had some cookies.  The ship is really swaying forwards and back now and I just love it.  The captain came on the loudspeaker to warn everyone (read:  the elderly) to hold onto hand rails.  While I’m typing this, everything in the room is swaying back and forth.  The ship is creaking from the stress.  It isn’t dangerous, but interesting.

[Heather] We have had crazy weather all day.  This morning we had to get out of the pool because of thunder and lightning. It is thundering now and the balcony door is swaying open and closed by itself.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 7 – Panama Canal and Cristobal (Colon)

by on Dec.03, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

At 5 o’clock in the morning we will embark our pilot at “Balboa Pilot Station” and proceed towards Panama Canal entrance.  Throughout the day we will be transiting the Panama Canal and we expect to finish the transit by 4:00pm.  After we clear the Canal, we will proceed towards our berth in Cristobal, where we expect to be ready alongside by 5:00pm.

     Well, today was an early day!  I woke up around 5AM and looked outside.  It was still dark out but I could see some small boats alongside the ship.  They contained the pilot and lady who talks about the canal all day.  I tried to go back to sleep but by then, Heather was up so that means I was too.  I took a lot of photos of the early morning landscape outside, which consisted of a plethora of ships anchored waiting to go through the canal.  Since we are a cruise ship, we get priority to go through during daylight hours, which is nice, and it would kind of suck if we couldn’t go through during the day.  We went up on the top deck and I got some more pictures of birds.  I noticed a horizontally set bridge on our first lock.  It could swing out and connect to a ship from land if needed.  It reminds me of the entrance to Rivet City in Fallout 3.  Around 9:15, we had our breakfast delivered.  Heather had signed us up to have champagne in the room.  Not only did they bring champagne, but grapes, cheese, crackers, pastries, donuts, croissants, strawberries, weird corn shells filled with scrambled egg stuff that you wouldn’t catch me touching ever but Heather loved them, bagels, cantaloupes, fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, grilled tomato with cheese on top, jam, and grapes.  I had a cigar and Foster’s afterwards.  It was a nice Wednesday morning.  We went through two sets of locks and we are now in the Gatun Lake and will go through one more set, though this one will take us back down to sea level.  Tonight we stop in Cristobal, but I’m being told that there isn’t much to do there.  We’re both really tired as its 1PM and we’ve been out in the sun most of the day today!  Okay, so we’re at the pier in Cristobal now.  We saw the only other cruise ship so far on this journey; a Royal Caribbean ship named the Jewel of the Seas.  It completely dwarfs this small ship that we’re on.  When we docked, we got off ship and did some shopping on the pier.  The Panamanians here were tattooed and topless, selling their handmade goods.  We then came back on board and had French Onion Soup.  Heather may regret letting me have the soup later on, and anybody who knows me and my reaction to the soup knows why.  We are now waiting to watch the movie Mamma Mia, and then I’m going to have another soup afterwards before bed.  I’m really tired.  Tomorrow we’ll be in San Blas, Panama.  Supposedly it is just an island with nothing really to do.  That’s exactly what I’m looking forward to!!!

[update 10:19 PM – Heather’s regretting my eating of the soup and our balcony door is open for some reason]

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 6 – At Sea

by on Dec.02, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the day at sea Royal Princess will follow south easterly courses along the coast of Costarica and Panama towards Panama Canal.

Today was another day at sea. We woke up around 7AM and went up to the pool and got a swim in. We were the only ones in the pool and it was nice. We then ate breakfast and then just walked around the ship. We sat and watched a professor give a talk about the history of the Panama Canal which was nice. I’m really looking forward to going through it tomorrow and you can view the camera on board here . I tried to get to a computer in the “lab”, which is just a corner of one of the lounges, in order to try to upload some pictures, but some people wouldn’t get off the damn computers, so we gave up on that idea. I’ll try again, but if I can’t get pictures uploaded here, I promise that I will when we return (They’re all ready to go). This afternoon, we had fresh baked cookies and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream then watched an ice carving demonstration. For dinner I had leg of lamb that was quite gamey, and awesome potatoes. Right now we are sitting in the main lounge waiting to see a comedian, and then it’s off to bed in order to get up before 7AM when we hit the first lock in the canal.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 5 – Puntarenas, Costa Rica

by on Dec.02, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

At around 3 o’clock we will enter into “Golfo de Nicoya” and commence the final approach to Punatrenas.  We expect to embark our local pilot at 04:15 and proceed towards our berth where we expect to be ready alongside at 5 o’clock.    
Costa Rica is incredible. We learned that over 95% of its population is literate and they have no army. They use the money that would have gone towards an army and put it in education. Our tour guide said that it’s hard to find a job cleaning the streets if you are not educated. Today we went to “The Original Canopy Tour”. This is the second time that we’ve visited these people and I have to say that this trip was better than in Jamaica. The concept is that you put really tight harnesses around your crotch, take a 20 minute walk, then get strapped onto pulleys on a long cable. You then just let go of everything and fly through the top of the jungle. At the other end, someone disengages you from the pulleys and you walk around a tree trunk to the other side, where somebody else straps you onto another one. Rinse, repeat about 8 times. It was really cool and I got a lot of pictures. We got bitten by some bugs that I’ve never seen before and that’s about it. When we got back to the ship, we walked around some little huts with people selling the same crap at each hut. For dinner, Heather and I went to the Sterling Steakhouse. It is awesome. We each had a 10 oz filet mignon and split a NY strip. When the waiter came for our dessert order, Heather ordered the “Wild Berry and Apple Cobbler” and we were told that this would take 15 minutes to make. 15 minutes?  That’s a long time!! I ordered the “Seven Layer S’mores Stack” and we waited 15 minutes. Well, her dessert was definitely worth the wait. It was a small bowl with a pastry in it. Under the pastry were all the berries. What stood out about this dish was that the pastry was perfectly crunchy, and I couldn’t stop eating the crust of it!!! After this wonderful dinner, we tried to take a few laps around the track but it was raining out, so we went to bed.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 4 – At Sea

by on Nov.30, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the day at sea Royal Princess will follow north westerly courses towards Costarica and our next port of call:  Puntarenas.
     Today we slept in.  There was nothing scheduled as we are “at sea”, which are always my favorite days on a cruise, and thankfully, this itinerary is full of them.  At 11AM I attended a magic (not The Gathering) class given by last night’s magician, whose show was incredible.  He had one trick where he put a knife through some old guy’s neck.  I have no idea how he did that trick.  Today I learned a few basic tricks with cards, paper clips, and rubber bands.  I’m sure that I will subject some people to them when I return!!  After the magic class, I met Heather and we had lunch, then watched some Luke Wilson movie that wasn’t funny, and went swimming.  The pool on the ship is salt water, which is really cool, but it made my eyes sting.  For dinner I had 4 filet mignons, though they are really little.  I am still a bit full from them however.  Now we’re sitting and waiting for some stupid musical that my dad decided he was gonna skip.  I see how it is.  Anyways, that’s been day 4.  Tomorrow we are going to be in Puntarenas (punter what?  really?) and Heather and I will be taking a tour of the canopy, or top of the trees.  We’ve done this previously in Jamaica and are really looking forward to it this time.  All it consists of is a series of cables that you zip down on the top portions of the trees in the jungle.  It’s a lot of fun.

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Panama Canal 2008 – Day 3 – Esmeraldas, Ecuador

by on Nov.30, 2008, under General, Panama Canal 2008, Vacation

Throughout the night Royal Princess followed north easterly courses along the coast of Ecuador.  Shortly after 6 o’clock we will embark our local pilot and we expect to be safely moored alongside our berth in Esmeraldas by 7 o’clock.
Pelican!

Pelican!

     So I’m finally caught up with my journal updating today.  I awoke this morning to about 4 small boats heading towards the ship at full speed.  With the recent pirate activity in the world, it startled me.  Also, there’s some sort of law that all boats need to stay a fair distance away from these ships.  Somebody didn’t tell the fishermen in Esmeraldas!!  About 2 minutes later, I hear Heather say that “It stinks here!” … There were only two tours available here and we took the one that didn’t cost $600.  The tour consisted of a guided bus tour, then to an archaeological museum, then finally to a marimba show.  We left the ship at 7:30AM and got on a bus.  The first thing I noticed was that we were somewhere in the “Shipment” level of

....so awesome

....so awesome

Call of Duty 4, and I loved it.  I kept looking around for the ship in “Wet Work” but couldn’t find it.  There will be a picture later on to explain more if I remember to insert it.  There were cops everywhere on dirt bikes holding SMGs of some sort.  After about 15 minutes, my camera battery started dying.  I really should have charged it, but whatever.  The locals here seemed to be as interested in us as we were with them.  This is a poverty-stricken land, and one thing that stuck out was the sight of a 6 year old girl holding her newborn sister while we drove by.  We saw stray dogs and everywhere you went, people were smiling and waving at us.  We were taken to the top of a hill and let out to look at the view from up top.  Upon getting back on the bus, we were warned by another passenger that the bus driver was just taking a piss and then helping people back on the bus.  Heather was helped, and upon hearing about his previous actions, started freaking out a bit.  We arrived at the museum to find that it had a single bathroom, but Heather was determined to wash her hands and arms well.  The museum was cool…it was pretty small, and afterwards we went to see a marimba demonstration.  We thought it would be a 15 minute demo, but it lasted more like an hour.  Both Heather and I were taken up to dance with the children and professional dancers.  Now it is noontime, and we’re right at the equator with little suntan lotion on.  I was getting tired but we were taken back to the ship now.  I need to say that Jorge, our tour guide (not the bus driver), was very knowledgeable and proud of his heritage.  We watched “The Kite Runner” on board this afternoon and then got off the ship for a few pictures, and now I’m typing this up as the sun is going down.  There’s a comedian/magician tonight that we’re going to see, and we’re looking forward to a day at sea tomorrow, when I’ll probably upload this document.

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