Monday, May 22, 2023

The Panama Canal

What a day! I’m not even sure where to start. I could give you a long history lesson on the Panama Canal and quite a lecture on the logistics of the locks, but there are plenty of books out there that do both, so today I’m cutting to the chase and getting straight to the photos.

Early this morning workers in row boats sent lines to our ship.

row bow workers getting ready to tie up cruise ship in The Panama Canal

The other end of the lines were attached to mules. These mules help guide ships through the locks.

mule to help to guide cruise ship through locks in The Panama Canal
We entered the first locks on the Pacific side. As we needed to gain elevation to match the higher man made Gatun Lake we had to step up, up, up. Using water, of course. 
The Panama Canal filling up with water

The gates close and then fill the lock with water. You can feel the ship go up and up.
The Panama Canal filling up with water
Taken from the back of this ship. 
We came from the lower lock to this higher one.
A secondary gates closes as well. It’s like a just-in-case gate. These ships are big and can move fast.
Workers can then walk from one side to other. And drive as well!
white van driving across a lock of the The Panama Canal
Once through the locks on the Pacific side we arrived in Gatun Lake. We saw more than one dredge during our journey. It takes a lot of work to keep the ships moving.
dredging in The Panama Canal
Panama Canal viewing platform
Did you know there are viewing platforms so folks
onshore can watch ships transiting?
Once through Gatun Lake we worked our way to the Atlantic Ocean. What comes up must go down so we stepped down, down, down. You can see with the ship behind us the difference in water levels. 
We’re one lock ahead - and one step lower -
than the ship behind us.
All my pictures today were taken from the back of the ship thanks to those lines the row boat guys delivered. Being my cabin is on the Promenade Deck at the back of the ship, and a lot of the mule work is done at the lower levels at the back of the ship, my deck’s balconies were off limits to us today. But Princess has this figured out. They provided passengers in those cabins a day in the Sanctuary on Panama Canal day. (The other alternative was a $60 onboard credit.) Hard to believe in 90 Princess cruises I’ve never been in the Sanctuary but that changed today. Front row seats!
Best seat in the house
We had mimosas, parfaits, and pastries for breakfast.
Sanctuary breakfast for Panama Canal day on Island Princess
A bento box for lunch…
bento box lunch at the Sanctuary for Panama Canal day on Island Princess
And afternoon tea.
afternoon tea at the Sanctuary for Panama Canal day on Island Princess
We also had Sanctuary stewards mist us and keep us cool with ice cold wet washcloths. We had a little bit of rain but nothing enough to put too much of a “damper” on the day.
Hello, Atlantic Ocean!
The strong wind and rain kicked up just in time for Movies Under the Stars. Let’s see how long I can brave it.
Cartagena, Columbia is up tomorrow.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Fuerte Amador/Panama City, Panama

Welcome to Panama! More specifically, Fuerte Amador. 

Panama City, Panama
A view of Panama City from the dock
In the past when we’ve arrived here we needed to use the ship's tenders to get ashore but not today. They are building a new terminal but it’s not complete, so all we can do is dock and take busses out. No passengers could walk anywhere in the area as it's all a construction zone. 
cruise ship construction at Panama city cruise terminal
Coming soon
Can’t use the nice new gangways yet
All the way at the other end of the ship at the farthest spot away from the new terminal (at the back of the last bus) is where disembarkation occurred for tours and those wanting to do their own thing.
buses lied up at cruise ship pier in Panama City, Panama
Like an obstacle course
As we’ve taken tours here before, I was just going to go and eat some local food. I searched out a place with a nice menu, but then started questioning whether I really wanted to go or not. Several factors pushed me to stay onboard.

1. It was laundry day. The free-to-Elites laundry perk is taking up to 72 hours this voyage. Even though there is no laundry room on this deck I did some exploring to find an available one. $3 to wash and $3 to dry and I’ve got enough clean clothes to last me until Fort Lauderdale.
deck 5 laundry room on Island Princess
Deck 5 laundry
2. I watched the busses loading and unloading passengers and saw the struggle some folks with walkers and canes had taking the big first step onto the bus. I know from climbing in and out of the pool every day my quads are getting stronger, but it’s going down big steps that give me trouble. Not sure I wanted to risk it with how unstable my feet are right now.

3. Watching the busses drive by packed full with people shoulder-to-shoulder was not something I wanted to participate in. Over the past few days there has been a big increase in the number of terrible sounding coughs around the ship. One lady in the pool yesterday said she thought she was getting a cold but it was probably just the humid weather. And then she proceeded to cough and cough and cough. Yeah, definitely not a “humidity” cough. On a related note, I went to the open space on back of Deck 8 to take pictures and…ran into the Covid wing. The tell tale sign? Small tables piled with dirty dishes outside cabin doors.

4. Since Scooter can’t do rain, the deciding factor wound up being the weather. It was sunny when we arrived but clouds quickly moved in and the forecast went to 100% chance of rain. The percentage held true just as I was folding my laundry.
Too late now
Looks like ship food instead of Panamanian food
3”-5” of rain expected today
Boy, did it rain hard. It ranged from rain to downpours to torrential downpours. It may have briefly stopped but I wouldn’t have known it because I wound up taking a nice afternoon nap in my nice comfortable bed with the door open, listening to nature’s own sound machine. 

We’ll drop anchor close by tonight and hang out until our scheduled transit time tomorrow morning. Yep, it’ll be a bucket list moment for many on the ship - traveling through the Panama Canal.

Time zone changes: We set clocks ahead again a couple days back so we’re now at 3 so far.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Hello from Costa Rica! 

Thanks to me leaving my curtains open at night and an early sunrise today I was up long before my typical 6 AM. 
4:46 AM
While I wish I could have gone back to sleep, I chose to sit on the balcony and watch our approach. Good thing I sleep in a nightgown and not my birthday suit or the tugboat captain who pulled right alongside me would have gotten an eyeful.
cruise ship tugboat in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Puntarenas is on the west coast of Costa Rica and unfortunately is not in the area where you’ll find their white sand beaches. Here they are brown and can be dirty and have trash on them.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica beaches
I did see quite a bit of garbage in the water as we got closer to port and even by the ship when we were docked.
trash in water in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Some people do, but I’d pass
on swimming near the port area.
The cruise port here has a very long pier. Thankfully for guests on Princess tours the coaches drive down towards the ship. But not just drive - they back up the entire way! It’s quite an interesting process to watch. When the bus is ready it then pulls on out of line.
tour buses backing up on cruise ship pier in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Such skillful drivers
If you don’t have a tour you’ll need to take the long hot walk along the left side of the pier to get to town.
You know it’s hot when the Captain puts up
the window shades to keep his car ship dashboard cool!
Otherwise you can wait until the pier is clear of the tours and then a little train is available to give you a ride.
train transportation for Puntarenas, Costa Rica pierr
No room for Scooter on the train
so we rolled ourselves down the pier
I had one big task today. Last time we were here coffee-lover Ed took a coffee plantation tour and rated it as one of his all-time top tours, up there with Normandy. While I don’t drink coffee, I can shop coffee so that’s what I did. He had a list of brands and types of roasts but no matter where I went I struck out again and again. I called an audible (how’s that for a sports term?!) and bought a whole variety of brands and roasts from a variety of vendors. I had brought a shipping box from home and it’s now filled to the gills and ready to send off at the post office when we get to Fort Lauderdale.

After my must-do for the day, I wheeled down the waterfront to get a photo of the Puntarenas sign and of the ship.
Island Princess docked in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Not a bus in sight now
By then I was steamy hot and needed a refreshment. The granizados looked like something I wanted to try. A shave ice/snow cone with ice cream? Yes, please. But the Spanish I used so confidently and competently in Huatulco didn’t help me today. The popular “Churchill” I ordered had sweetened condensed milk on the side, ice cream on top, and shave ice. But all the white inside the glass was leche pinito. And there was my misstep.
Church hill granizados in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Leche pinito? Powdered milk.
I really tried to like it, but the texture and the flavor of the powdered milk just wasn’t doing it for me. I could only get so far before I had to call it quits.
I’m not as adventurous as I’d hoped.

But I did navigate the vendors and haggle over prices and cross the streets while dodging the crazy Puntarenas drivers in hot, steamy weather. By myself. On a scooter. So maybe I was a little adventurous after all. 

But not adventurous enough to get anywhere near these end-of-the-day masked performers. 
masked performers on cruise ship pier in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
They kind of creeped me out

Early sunset, too. 5:48 PM

Up tomorrow is a sea day and then Panama City on Sunday. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

A Couple More Sea Days on the Island Princess

I think I'm finally getting into a sea day routine. 

  • Up at 6 AM to sit on the balcony in my nightgown and watch for dolphins. I've seen dolphins, a sea turtle, and lots of birds.
  • At breakfast by 7 AM
  • In the indoor pool by 8 AM. It’s the same pool I swam in on this ship during an Alaska cruise in 2014.
Lotus pool on Island Princess
  • Out of the indoor pool by 9:30 AM
  • In a lounger outside and ready for the 10 AM Movies Under the Stars. Today was Ocean’s 8.
  • Back in the room by noon to shower. And nap.
  • Back out to the balcony and watch for more dolphins. Yesterday I spotted a whole pod of them jumping and spinning and splashing.

  • Maybe a late lunch or early dinner before I go back out for the night time Movies Under the Stars.
Even though today is a sea day and I was in my groove with my own little schedule, I had to make a bit of an adjustment for the Most Traveled Passenger Luncheon. It's held for the top 40 individuals (or 20 couples) with the most number of days sailing on Princess Cruises. I made the cut this week and as usual the food was outstanding. I somehow got in over my head in the appetizer department but was trying to be a bit adventurous. (Yes, Ed - I ate lobster, a little octopus, and even a bit of the salad!) It was a nice table of passengers with all of us being "normal" and not the snooty passengers you sometimes get stuck with.
Most Traveled Luncheon on Island Princess
Octopus and Lobster Carpaccio on Princess Cruises
Octopus and Lobster Carpaccio. Umm…yuck
Pancetta Wrapped Tenderloin on Princess cruises
Pancetta Wrapped Tenderloin
One of the most tender pieces of beef I’ve eaten 
Limoncello creme mousse on Princess cruises

A most filling meal in the middle of the day. Now I think a nap is calling my name and dinner is not. Sunset is calling me, though!

Up tomorrow, Puntarenas, Costa Rica!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Huatulco, Mexico

Hello from Huatulco, Mexico! 

I woke up at my normal time again today, 6 AM. Go me! As usual, I rolled out of bed and sat on my balcony in my nightgown. Lucky me not only saw the sunrise but also watched dolphins frolicking in the ship’s wake this morning.

Pretty day ahead

I was most excited about this port. Originally we had Nicaragua on the itinerary which was my most excited port to visit but once it was removed (political reasons?, Covid reasons? I don’t know.) Huatulco moved to the top of the list.
Huatulco, Mexico
So beautiful

Ages ago I had written down the name of a recommended Huatulco restaurant in the hopes we would eventually get here someday. The Ve El Mar is oh-so-close to the ship.
view of cruise ship from Ve El Mar at Huatulco, Mexico
Amazing views
It was a good thing it was close. The area is covered with pavers. Bumpy, uneven, and sometimes busted up pavers. Here’s to Scooter getting me there and back despite the bump-bump-bump on my bum bum.
It was a very warm day…

so a couple drinks were required. One as a flashback to our visit to CuraƧao.
blue curacao at Ve El Mar in Huatulco, Mexico
Another as a cheers to Ed who likes his tequila and mescal tastings. A strawberry mescalita - like a margarita but made with mescal instead of tequila.
strawberry nescalita at Ve El Mar in Huatulco, Mexico
Chicken nachos for lunch, with flavorful chicken and tasty black beans. It may not look like much but it was good. Couldn’t finish but about a quarter of it.
chicken nachos at Ve El Mar in Huatulco, Mexico
There was a little kitty visitor. Not too interested in people, though.
A pic for you, Jenn

Here’s most of the menu, just in case we come back again. I skipped the pages I knew we wouldn’t order from.
We were the last cruise ship of the season today. Their rainy season begins and will be turning those brown hills green by fall. 
boats in water at Huatulco, Mexico
Hopefully I’ll get to see them again someday when they are green.

We’ve got a couple sea days until we arrive in Puntarenas, Costa Rica on Friday but I’ll be back on Thursday to recap the sea days and share pictures of the Most Traveled Passenger luncheon. Until then…