Our Final Sea Day

Our last day at sea, and while San Pedro, where we embarked seems so long ago, it feels like the cruise has just flown by. Jeff and I are determined not to waste a single minute of our day, and I get right up when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Jeff is not in bed but is standing out on our balcony in his Princess bathrobe watching the ocean. I join him in my robe. He woke up a little after 6 and has been standing here ever since. He watched the sun rise out of the sea.

We get dressed and go up to the Horizon Court for breakfast – there are a few other early risers there. We return to our cabin and while I write notes to our travelling companions detailing what we have planned for today, Jeff makes dinner reservations for six for our last cruise dinner. We want to share this last night with our friends. I go across the hall to drop my notes in their mailboxes and then Jeff and I head down to the Promenade Deck to walk.

For the whole cruise, part of the Promenade Deck has been blocked off (I think I mentioned this in an earlier post.) and we’ve been wondering two things: 1) When will it reopen so we can walk all the way around and 2) what are they doing that is taking so long?? This morning Jeff peers through a gap between the little barrier and the wall of the ship. “Those are cabins!” He says. Princess has reconfigured the ship by blocking off part of the Promenade Deck and putting in cabins! We so disappointed that they’ve chosen to do this, but whatever.

We walk for an hour and a half, looking for dolphins or any other interesting sea life, but don’t spot any. We get in our 5 or so miles and head back upstairs to our cabin to get cleaned up. It was a hot walk! Our cabin steward, Rodolfo, has just started cleaning our room. He apologizes profusely and offers to come back later, but we inist that we don’t need to be in there. We just grab a few things – my Ipad so I can write, Jeff’s phone so he can surf the web and we go down to sit in one of the nice public areas. All this before 10:30 in the morning! I’m gonna need a nap. haha

After a while Jeff figured our cabin steward was done and he started to go up to shower, but since we were at a cozy table for two by a window overlooking the ocean I stayed put and continued nattering in my blog. I asked him to bring me a couple of things (including our “fancy” coffee card from the cabin). A few minutes later he returned with the card, and a message from Leroy, whom he had bumped into, that Eve was looking for me. Well, I knew exactly where she would be and went up a deck to the jewelry store. Yup, she bought the beautiful diamond ring! AND, she said Leroy told her to buy the diamond and (some other stone I can’t remember) one as well! Trish and I took turns holding and admiring them – that diamond ring is my favorite…I had even thought about buying it, but I don’t wear jewelry, except sometimes my wedding and engagement rings. We had fun in the jewelry store. Trish and I walked out to wait for Eve – she had had a mimosa and was going to put the glass back, when Trish told me that SHE had bought three(!) oil paintings! She had photos of them on her phone and they were beautiful. They were kind of a set, all numbered, limited edition oils by an artist named Brodinsky. (Jeff and I are travelling with some high rollers!) Finally, I asked Trish, “Where the heck is Eve??” Well, we spotted her looking at earrings in the jewelry store. “We’ve gotta get her out of there!” So we went in and performed an intervention – each of us taking one of her arms and escorting her out! I’m going to tell Leroy that Trish and I saved him a lot of money. haha!

The three of us stood around chatting for a while and I learned that all of our traveling companions have put down “future cruise” deposits. Future cruise deposits are a wonderful idea if you think you will be doing another Princess cruise and they can only be done while on board the ship. Putting down a future cruise deposit works as a deposit (duh) and when you use it, you also get cabin credit…free money! If you don’t use the deposit within two years, Princess automatically refunds all of it to you. I was so excited to discover that they all enjoyed this cruise well enough that they want to do another one!

Eve, Trish and I review our afternoon schedules and agree to all meet at 1:30 to finish our Phase 10 game. Now we just need to catch up with our other three travelers.

While Eve, Trish and Leroy go to the British-style pub lunch, I go to meet Jeff at the Princess Theater for Dr. Sam’s final lecture. While we wait for him to begin, Mary shows up and we all sit together. Today’s lecture, “The Glow That Changed the World” was about radium – its discovery and some of the ways it was used (and abused). I say “abused” but for a long time after its discovery and use in xrays, etc, people didn’t know about its dangers. For example, stuff imbued with it glowed in the dark, so women would paint their nails and teeth with it to surprise their boyfriendsor husbands, drinking radium water was considered very healthy and many companies made products so you could make radium infused water right at home. Pillows, breathing apparatuses – all sorts of radioactive products were created and sold. The lecture was both fascinating and horrifying at the same time – knowing what we know now. You can learn something about this era by reading about the “Radium Girls.” A sad and true story…
These medical lectures have been great; Princess Cruises does a good job with their “Enrichment Series.”

Now we need to hurry to the library to play our game! As we walk along, I ask Mary how she liked the days at sea and she says “They’re exhausting!”

We pick up our Phase 10 game where we left off yesterday, but only play for about 90 minutes because, except for Jeff and I who haven’t purchased anything on the ship, everyone else needs to go to the big last day raffle. Eve and Leroy have a huge pile of at least 100 tickets!

Jeff and I head back to our cabin to begin the sad, sad task of packing. We turn on our bluetooth speaker, put on some Jimmy Buffet tunes and begin emptying drawers, the closet, the safe. I take a break from organizing my mess to go online and check us in for our flight tomorrow. That used a BUNCH of my internet minutes!

Then I walk across the hall to pick up a bag of clothes from Mary. She bought some wonderful things on this trip and has run out of suitcase room! It takes some doing, fitting stuff into stuff to save space, but we do manage to get everything into our suitcases. I just hope Mary has an iron at home. haha!

The problem with packing to leave a cruise ship is that you have to have any luggage you are not going to carry off yourself outside your door before you go to dinner. For us, that means we need to pack all three suitcases because we’ll only be carrying our backpacks. So, you need to think about and NOT pack stuff you’ll need this evening and tomorrow before you get off – like clothes, your toothbrush, shoes…

We’re close to done packing when we hurry to our last special elites cocktail party at 5pm. We’ve skipped several of these during the cruise so want to get to this one. Ahhh…we relax with shrimp cocktail, olives, vegies and cheeses. We sit with four people from Canada whom we have not met. They were very fun and we wish we had met them earlier in the cruise. The drink of the day is a Cosmopolitan, which I’ve never had before, and it is the same drink that Jeff pronounced as tasting like fruit punch at the Captain’s reception. We figure for $5 we’ll give the Cosmo a try. The drink is vodka, fresh lime juice, cranberry juice, and, I think something else but can’t remember what. Whoa! This definitely does NOT taste like fruit punch!

At 5:30, we say a hasty good-bye and safe travels to our new friends, take our Cosmos and go to the Wheelhouse Bar where the Romantica Strings Quartet is giving a special concert. The setting is a little weird, and once or twice the bar blender whirs in the background, but a lot of a people have come to hear them play. Their 45 minute concert is wonderful, and afterwards we tell them that they were the highlight of our cruise.

Back to the cabin to finish up packing and as we’re changing into the clothes we’ll wear tonight and on the way home tomorrow. There is a knock at the door. It is Mary – time for our now traditional early evening champagne. We go across the hall, and as he has done throughout the cruise, Jeff opens the bubbly – our final bottle. A last toast. We sit and chat – believe it or not, Eve and Leroy did not win the raffle!

Where is the time going?? It is 7:15 and our dinner reservation is for 7:30. Jeff takes our wine glasses back to our cabin and when he returns…OMG! He is wearing a gorgeous white cotton shirt that he surreptitiously bought in Aruba. It looks like a Cuban guayabera (not sure that is spelled right) but doesn’t have four pockets. He looks great!! Mary didn’t go to Cuba when Eve, Leroy Trish, Jeff and I went so she doesn’t know that Jeff meant to buy a guayabera there and missed his chance.

Off to dinner…we made our reservation for 6 people and are bummed out when we’re seated at an oblong table for eight, it is very hard to hear one another and we feel all spread out. There is an empty round table for six right next to us and we ask to be moved and are – great! Dinner is nice, and tonight there is a special Baked Alaska dessert. On the menu it says “Parade of Baked Alaskas” which really doesn’t make any sense until the lights in the dining room go out, music starts and there is a parade of all the kitchen staff and waiters, some of whom carry flaming baked alaskas. They parade all around the dining room and there is a lot of cheering and napkin waving. The head chef gets introduced, and then the groups of waiters, second waiters, etc., are acknowledged and applauded. Good timing on our part for the festivities. We’ve never seen this before and, while it was a little hokey, it was fun. It was nice to have the chance to applaud the behind the scenes people.

Though baked alaska is the special dessert of the meal, both Mary and I order deep dish apple pie a la mode. I love pie!!

After dinner Mary heads for bed, Jeff and Leroy go back to our cabin to hang out and finish a bottle of red wine, and Trish, Eve and I begin to wander down to the photo gallery. We get sidetracked by the casino…there is this weird quarter machine they have been playing off and on during the cruise. It is difficult to clearly explain how it works – there are two levels and each level has these kind of metal sweeper things. You put a quarter in one of three slots and it shoots in. The sweepers sweep the coins forward and sometimes the quarters at the front of the machine get swept off their level either onto the lower level or into a bin for your payoff. There is absolutely no skill involved but it is very mesmerizing to watch. $30 later, we walk away. BTW, Eve, you owe Tish $15!

Back to our cabins, we say goodnight and “see you at the airport.” Everyone else is going on an excursion from Princess and they will be taken directly to the airport afterwards. Eve has given Jeff and I two passes to United’s Club area for tomorrow. I’m so excited and really, really appreciate her generosity and thoughtfulness.

In our cabin, no surprise, Jeff is standing on the balcony – I go join him for our last night on the sea.


Return to 2017 Adventure Page

Snorkeling – finally…


Well, we survived the rocking and pitching of the ship last night. I love when the ocean is rough; I do enjoy experiencing the power of the water.

Today we are in Aruba, one of the places in the Caribbean that Jeff and I enjoy snorkelling. Finally we’ll get a chance to get our fins wet. We go up to breakfast, and I notice throw-up bags (empty ones) placed around the ship – I guess some people don’t enjoy the rough seas as much as I do.

We know exactly what we’re going to do today, though Jeff does express one concern. That concern is that when he went to Humberto’s talk about Aruba, the directions given for the bus station didn’t match where we’ve always gone. Well, we’ll play it by ear.

Slathered up with sunscreen, we take our snorkelling backpack, disembark and head for the bus. Yup, it is right where it has always been. Of course, we’ve just missed the number 10; the bus that will take us to Malmec Beach. We wait ten minutes, I notice that it is pretty windy which is not good because wind causes wave action, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half hour. Busses come and go and finally ours arrives. Whew, we were getting a little concerned. It is already close to 2pm (The ship arrived around 1p.) Getting on the bus was a little bit of a hassle because we were told the fare was $2.50 each, but the driver charges us (and everyone else) $2.60. Naturally we have no change, but he gives us a coin in exchange for an extra dollar. We figure that’s our change for the ride back.

As the bus toodles along, I notice that it has been raining here. There are big puddles along the side of the road. I’m hoping that the snorkling conditions will be okay. We get off at Malmec and waves are CRASHING into the rocks! The entry we normally use, a little cove set between two rock walls is usually nice and calm, but today it looks like a blowhole! There is no way we are even going over there to look. This does not bode well.

Further down the way, I see a sandy beach and people in the water. We walk there lugging our stuff. There are very few people in the water and the waves are breaking close to the beach with the water running up high on the sand. We don’t see any snorkelers, and we stand staring at the water for a while. I told Jeff “I’ll get in and check it out” which I did. Crap! There is no way we’re going to be snorkeling today. First of all the wave action was bi-directional with the waves slamming into each other making them bigger and then they would slam into me. In addition to that there was a pretty strong undertow. Way less than ideal. I got out and told Jeff that I thought it was too dangerous. We were very disappointed, but certainly not willing to risk our lives. Then Jeff said, “Well, with the waves and rain, everything will be churned up anyway.” So true!! Even if we did snorkel, the likelihood of seeing anything other than swirling sand was unlikely.

We spend an hour or so laying in the sand, Jeff in the shade and me in the sun. We did see three snorkelers go in, and one of them had a very difficult time. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it out of the water without help, and he just barely did by kind of crawling.

Time to go back to the ship. We’re disappointed, but we do have a few things to do in town so we walk back to the bus stop. There is already a young local woman there, and since there is no posted schedule or anything I’m relieved to see someone else waiting. No bus, no bus, no bus…I think we stood there about 45 minutes when finally a little white minivan with “Bus” on the windshield stopped. There was already a couple aboard, our waiting companion got in and then we got in and Jeff tried to give the guy our money, but he wouldn’t take it. Huh? I say “crucero” (cruise ship), he nods and off we go. Except this isn’t like any other bus route we’ve been on. Our first stop was at an apartment complex and the original couple hands the driver money and they get out. Jeff whispers to me “I think this is a taxi.” I whisper back, “But it says ‘bus’ on the windshield.” Always an adventure. Now we are driving through a residential area, then a very industrial part of town. I can see our ship off to the right – at least, I reassure myself we aren’t too far astray.

Eventually the driver stops and asks, “Is this all right?” and we were at the port. Hooray! Jeff handed him our bus fare; we had no idea if that was the right amount for a taxi or not. He thanked us, we thanked him and went to our cabin, changed clothes, and got our wallets. Now we have plenty of time to walk around town, which we’ve never done before.

I buy a tee-shirt and we saunter along the outside vendor stalls. I strike up a rudimentary conversation in Spanish with an elderly vendor. I tell her I am learning to speak Spanish…SHE speaks four languages fluently! Talk about a melting pot.

Jeff decides to go back to the store where I bought my shirt to pick up a couple of little gifts. I stand outside people watching – Jeff takes forever in the store, but he finally reappears. There is a liquor store right across the street. We figure prices will be astronomical, but they aren’t at all. We’re very surprised and since we have only three nights left on the ship, we get just one bottle of wine.

No one blinks an eye at our wine bottle which we’ve made no attempt to hide. Guess the rules are pretty lax since this is our last port. (They would, however, confiscate anything other than wine or champagne and return it to you the last night of the cruise.)

We meet our friends, catch up on what everyone did today. They all spent the day wandering around town. Trish was excited that in downtown they had stumbled upon a shop making soap. She picked some up for gifts. Leroy grinned as he told us that after all the walking around, they sat down and had ice cream. I think that was the highlight of his afternoon!


Ahoy, Matey!

Today we got right up when the alarm went off – we have arrived in Cartagena, Colombia. Well, we’ve not yet arrived as last night’s strong headwinds and rough seas have put the Island Princess behind schedule, and several of our dresser and desk drawers have slid open from the ship’s rocking. Nevertheless, we get up, gather our necessary things for today’s excursion: hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, money and go to breakfast. I’m back to oatmeal and fruit, juice and coffee.

We’re to meet our excursion group in one of the ship’s restaurants at 8:30, so we eat quickly and head that way. When we enter the room we see Mary sitting at a table with others in her group. She points Eve and Leroy out to us, they are across the room and Eve is waving to us. We sit, relax and FINALLY the announcement is made that the ship has arrived and we have been cleared by the port authority to disembark. The staff in the dining room begin calling tour numbers. We are brown 11. Brown 1 and the Brown 2 are called; I decide to go to the ladies room – it will be a while before they get to us. As I exit the ladies, I see a mob of brown 11s coming at me! Oh, that figures! I meet Jeff, Eve and Leroy coming along carrying my stuff with them. There is a huge backup of people trying to exit and we see that the ship’s photographer is trying to take photos of everyone! Usually they do that once you are off the boat, and you can blow by them if you like, but here they are stopping everyone and there’s no way around. A ship’s senior staff member walks past us in the direction of the photographer. “He’s going to put a stop to that.” Jeff said and he was right. All of a sudden the line picked up speed.

Once off the ship, we find our group and begin to walk to our departure point. We chose today’s excursion – a harbor cruise around Cartagena on a Spanish galleon, because Eve and Leroy had booked it and we wanted to do at least one excursion with them!
The Spanish galleon was really cool looking…like what I would imagine the real thing would look like. Trish took a nice photo of the boat when it was out to sea. We are all hoping the excursion won’t be too hokey – and it isn’t at all.

Our guide, Alvaro, is very knowledgeable and he keeps up a running commentary – talking not only about the city sights, but also giving us information about Colombia’s educational system and health care.

For example, schooling up to, and including, university is free. Boys that graduate from high school are required to do one year of military service; those who do not finish high school serve for two years. Military service for women is not mandatory but is voluntary.
I think I understood him correctly when he said that after high school there is also a 6-month mandatory social service (volunteer work) requirement.
The emphasis and success of their educational ethic has helped greatly reduce the drug culture that was once so rampant in Columbia. The drug wars and other negative things that we’ve heard about in the past are really that – in the past. I remember reading in the New York Times before the cruise that Colombia is a great, safe vacation destination, so Alvarez wasn’t just saying that.

The other interesting thing I learned was that there has been healthcare reform in the country and the poorest people are eligible (they get a card) for free healthcare at any hospital whether that hospital is public or private.

The harbor tour was very interesting. The historic center of Cartgena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was given that award for its “eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.” The city is surrounded by Las Murallas – considered to be the most impressive city walls in the world.

Old town Cartagena - notice the city wall
Old town Cartagena – notice the city wall

They were build by the Spaniards after an attack by Sir Francis Drake at the end of the 16th century. Apparently Cartegena was THE place to attack!

Also on board the galleon with us was a troupe of musicians and dancers. The first dance they did was Colombia’s national dance, the cumbia.

Dancing the Cumbria
Dancing the Cumbria

I learned about this dance in my Spanish class last semester and am thrilled to see it done live IN Colombia! The troupe did two more traditional dances and I really enjoyed them.


Traditional musician
Traditional musician

While everyone else is sitting in their little plastic chairs trying to stay in the shade, Jeff and I roam around. We are the only people in the front of the boat – very relaxing! It is time for our snack – Jeff and I each choose the local beer and a small bag of potato chips. Pokey and Gumby like the beer too – I’m starting to think they may have a drinking problem, I mean, it is only 11 a.m.

Pokey and Gumby enjoying the day
Pokey and Gumby enjoying the day

Unfortunately, at one point Alvaro choose me to dance with him. I’m a good sport so I do – I’ll never see these people again. Then I realize that Eve is videotaping our dance. Crap! I think some bribery may be in my future…

Our galleon returns to the harbor without firing a shot or attacking any other vessels.

We are now closer to the shopping area than to the boat, so Eve, Leroy and the two of us go to look at the souvenirs. And there is a little wildlife area there as well with flamencos, black swans, toucans and parrots. I spot a green iguana on one of the side sidewalks.







We spent a bit of time in the shop – it is air conditioned! Jeff gets his shot glass, I get my key chain and also some coffee. Jeff also picks up some small gifts for his staff. In case you are checking your mailbox every day looking for a postcard from us, you can stop! We have sent exactly 2 postcards on this trip (to our mothers). Now, in this store, they have postcards AND stamps AND a postal box along with a writing counter with pens! Of course all my address labels are back on the boat. So, I buy two postcards and send them to our mothers.

Packages in hand (Eve and Leroy didn’t buy anything) we stop to take photos of the birds and start the long, hot walk back to the Island Princess. When we get there, we see a HUGE line for boarding. Happily the crew are walking up and down the line handing out cups of ice water and wet face cloths. I pour my ice water on my cloth. Ahhh… Eve is wearing her wet cloth on her head – I should have taken a photo of that.

When we finally get to our cabin we find a note from Trish saying she is either playing “hoopla” (whatever that is) or napping.

Jeff and I go up to the buffet for lunch. I make myself a HUGE salad. We share a table with a couple, who I swear to you, did not say more than four words to us. I asked what they did today in port, “Walked around.” “Oh, how was that?” I asked them. “Hot.” And that was the end of that! When they were done eating, the man said “Have a good afternoon.” and they got up and walked away. The woman did not look at me once. Very weird and quite unusual.

After they left Jeff noticed a woman looking for a place to sit and offered one of our table spots. Thankfully she was very nice. Then we saw Mary sitting by herself about one table away and called to her to join us. She came over and said “Hello, Susan.” Turns out the woman Jeff intercepted is one of Mary’s “set dining” dinner companions! Also, turns out that Susan has a husband that arrived so we dragged another chair to our table. Then Eve and Leroy showed up and sat at a table across from us! There is REALLY good rice pudding on the buffet this afternoon. It takes a lot of willpower to limit myself to one dish.

Leroy and Trish both won a bottle of champagne at Hoopla so now we have four bottles of champagne. We all drank Jeff and mine yesterday –

Back in our cabin, Jeff is going to the Aruba destinaion talk, but I decide to skip it to work on my blog. When Jeff comes back he has a latte for me – what a sweetie! He lays down for a nap…between the heat and the early beer and lunch I’m tempted to join him, but instead I wash out some clothes in the sink and hang them up to dry.

After a bit, Trish calls to invite us across the hall for champagne – we aren’t going to turn that down! Jeff gets up, we don’t even bother to put on our shoes, but just pad across to their room.

We all toast one another – this is becoming a nice tradition. Then we learn what Hoopla is…it is a carnival game- the one where you get three rings and try to throw them over the tops of bottles. In this case the bottles were bottles of champaign and they were also the prizes. Trish said there were very few participants – she didn’t win, so the crew gave her another chance and just as one of her rings slid over a bottle top, Eve and Leroy came down the stairs. So, Trish called to them and they joined the game as well and…Leroy also won a bottle of champaign!! Now, our little group has four bottles of champaigne to drink in four days!

While we enjoy each other’ company we share our days adventures. Turns out that Mary’s tour, which was supposed to leave at 8, didn’t go until after 10! She went to an aviary and had a great time. Trish did a walking tour and she said it was very good as well.

Time for our friends to go to dinner, so Jeff and I change into jeans (the Atlantic side is cooler) and we went down to the atrium where we have been enjoying a sring quartet the, Romantica Strings, made up of four young women. They are very talented and we’ve spent a couple of early evenings listening to them. While I sat and wrote, Jeff checked out other cruises to book.

We decide to go to tonight’s show, it is a pianist named Tom Franek. Wow! He is very talented, quite impressive and did some fun stuff like stand on his head and play, and play while facing away from the piano. He, like the violinist, has an interesting back story. When he was in choir in high school, the choir had flown somewhere and on the way back he had an issue with his ears. His left eardrum burst (ouch!) and he has been deaf in that ear every since. He said that his deafness has been a big driver in his musical career – kind of proof the overcoming difficulties can inspire others. You can check him out at…

The boat, like last night is really rocking, with high waves and wind. Even rougher than last night. Jeff is out on the deck and when the moon starting rising it was so low on the horizon he thought it was a cruise ship – it was rising. He came in the cabin to get me. Oh! The moon was amazing. Through the cloud refection it looked elongated width-wise through the clouds. Incredible looking.

Now it is time for bed…

The Land Divided, A World United

Today’s the day! Today we go through the Panama Canal. I’m pretty excited and not at all surprise that when I wake up at 7 Jeff is already out on the balcony.

Sunrise, Panama Canal
Sunrise, Panama Canal

We know it is going to be at least an hour before the big event, but we want to find a good viewing spot. We head up to the Horizon Court Buffet to get some breakfast. The buffet is at the front of the ship so it is not surprising that the tables at the front windows are occupied. It looks like people have staked out their spots. We definitely don’t want to be here because all of the photos would be shot through the windows…dirty windows.
We grab a quick bite and head up and out to an upper deck in the front of the boat. Well, this isn’t going to work very well either. First of all, instead of standing, people are sitting in lounge chairs – taking up the space that 3 or 4 standing people could use; and if we could get closer, this area is also glassed in. We spot Leroy, he’s also looking for a spot.

We see people down below us, and there is no glass in front of them. Jeff and I immediately realize where they are and how they got there. There is a “Do Not Enter” door on that deck and yesterday it was taped off. Clearly today the tape has been removed! The three of us scurry down, ignoring the “Emergency Exit Only” signs, and find ourselves in the front of the ship, right against the rail with no glass in front of us. There aren’t a lot of people here and we are thrilled with our “front row” standing spots.

As we begin the approach, we hear Humberto’s commentary. Humberto, you may recall, is our “Destination Expert” and he will be doing a live commentary until 3:30pm or so, when we have completed our transit.

The title of today’s post “A Land Divided, A World United” signifies the importance of the Panama Canal to the world. The canal enables ships carrying cargo or people to save about 7,800 miles by cutting across Panama instead of having to sail around the Cape Horn, an extremely treachous route.
I won’t give you a lot of Panama Canal facts here as those are easily discoverable other places (and I’m not sure I have all of them correct), but I do think it was interesting that before the canal was completed, the world’s first transcontinental railroad traversed Panama.

The canal became operational in 1914 – think about that – 104 years ago and still in use! (Actually, it was roughly 400 years from conception to completion.) Thousands and thousands of people worked to make the canal a reality. At one point there were 6,000 men working to carve through a nearly 9 mile stretch of hard granite, the Culebra Cut, through a mountain range.

Culebra Cut
Culebra Cut

The Chagras River was dammed and the Gatun Dam became the largest earthen dam in the world (at that time) and the resulting Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world (at that time).
The impact and resulting near eradication of yellow fever and malaria, and the deadly impact of these diseases on the workforce is well known.

Anyway! There is now a new second set of locks in addition to the originals. The new locks are wider, built to accommodate larger freighters, container ships and, of course, mega cruise ships.

But even little boats go through the locks
But even little boats go through the locks; they fit into the lock with other boats

We can see the new ones as we come up to the Panama Canal. The new locks became operational in June 2016. But, I’m excited that we are going to traverse via the old locks because of their historical significance. Our ship, the Island Princess, was designed for the canals, even so, there will be a mere 5 feet (!) of clearance on either side of our ship.

We are sailing from the Pacific Ocean, passing under the Bridge of the Americas.

Bridge of the Americas
Bridge of the Americas

From here it is about 8 miles to the first set of locks. The whole canal transit is 48 miles and takes 8-10 hours.

As we drawer closer to the Miraflores Locks, a woman sidles in beside me to take some quick photos; it is becoming a little more crowded on our deck as people have discovered the secret “Do Not Enter” passageway. Everyone is very nice and polite about letting others into the front for photos. It is a fun atmosphere. The woman says to me, “I need to get some pictures for my husband.” “Oh?” I asked, “Where is he?”, thinking he was in another area of the ship.
“He’s quarantined in our room – he has influenza.” WHAT???? I want to tell her to move the HELL away from me!! She continues, “I’m a nurse. I knew he was really sick, so I took him to the ship’s doctor.” Then she says, ” Don’t worry, I’m fine; I’m taking antibiotics too so I don’t get sick.”
You should be so proud of me… I did not say, “I don’t care! Get the HELL away from me!” hahaha

The deck below us is reserved for ship personnel and one of the dancers has come out to sunbathe. I guess she’s been through the locks many times before. She is wearing a thong swimsuit – Jeff and Leroy convince the woman that her husband would appreciate a photo of THAT rather than some stupid machinery. And she did take the photo. LOL

Here we are coming up to our first set of locks.
Before entering, Humberto points out a small building on our left that has a big arrow on top of it. Before radio communication, that arrow pointed boats into either the left or the right locks. It is pointing to the right and that’s where we go.

See the directional arrow?
See the directional arrow?






We are going into the right-hand lock
We are going into the right-hand lock


Miraflores Locks
Miraflores Locks

The Miraflores Locks are in two stages and are about a mile long. Our ship squeegees into the lock. Part of the squeegee process involves the mules; originally, these really were mules,

A "mule"
A “mule”

but today they are kind of beefy little engines (not quite tractors) on a single track. Their job is to keep ships centered…remember we only have 5 feet of clearance on either side of our ship. Going through these two locks takes over an hour.

Apparently we are an attraction as well as there is a three story building off to the side with large viewing areas on all the floors. A mass of people are watching our boat rise in the lock. Everyone is shouting and waving. What fun!

WE are an attraction!
WE are an attraction!

After exiting the two Miraflores locks our ship is 54 feet higher than the Pacific Ocean. We are in the Miraflores Lake which is only a mile long and we are heading for the Pedro Miguel lock.

The whole process is repeated in the Pedro Miguel Lock, but without the audience. This lock is a bit more than 1/2 mile and raises the ship another 31 feet.
Now we are 85 feet above the Pacific. We sail out of the lock into the Chagras River, into the famous Culebra Cut, which takes us under the Centennial Bridge, over the Continental Divide, heading for Gatun Lake. It is the Gatun Lake that actually takes us across the isthmus of Panama. We look for crocodiles and enjoy the scenery.

We sail the river for quite a long time and go inside for a break and to have lunch. Jeff’s head has gotten pretty sunburned.

Jeff and Jane at the Panama Canal
Jeff and Jane at the Panama Canal

Late in the afternoon, we reach the Gatun Locks. These locks are in three stages and it is very weird because our ship is so high we can’t really see when the lock doors open.

Notice that the bridge swings aside!

The Gatun Locks will lower our ship to the level of the Atlantic Ocean, so we are going to descend 87 feet within the mile long set of three locks. Jeff and I stand on our balcony for this part of the transit. The lock wall is right there! Someone a few doors down from us reaches out over his balcony railing and rubs the side of the lock. Down, down we go and too soon (though it did take a long time to traverse these locks!) we sail out of the Gatun Locks into a short, 2 mile channel that leads us into the Atlantic.
In all, the locks are flooded with 26 million gallons of water and that water drains out drains in 8 minutes! And I never did hear a sucking sound. haha

A full day – from the time we passed the Bridge of Americas until we entered the Atlantic was just over 11 hours. And what should one do after completing your first transit of the Panama Canal? Well, naturally you gather with your friends and drink a bottle of bubbly!

Another great sea day!

Last night we moved our clocks ahead and Jeff and I remembered to do that before turning in for the night, and we set an alarm for 8a.m. We planned to get up and either go to the weight room or walk the Promenade deck. The alarm went off, and we promptly fell back asleep. About 9:45 we finally went to breakfast. We joined another couple’s table; they were from New Jersey and were still overwhelmed by how lush Costa Rica was. Suddenly Jeff said to me, “Look behind you.” I did and there sat Mary and Trish! They were sharing a table as well. How funny.
After breakfast Trish told us that she and Mary were going to have breakfast in their room in the morning – complete with champagne and invited us to join them.

Tomorrow is our Panama Canal transit day!

Mary came with Jeff and me to the medical lecture by Dr. Sam. Today’s talk was titled “Monarchs, Maladies and the History of the World.” WOW! While I could have done without the photos showing the effects of hemophilia, the talk was so interesting. It taught me how disease, and he concentrated on the German monarchy, affected the politics of the day. This guy really needs to post his lectures on YouTube.

Mary went off to do her own thing and there was just enough time for Jeff to run downstairs to get a chai for us to share and get back in time for Humberto, the destination expert’s, talk about the Panama Canal. I’m not sure I mentioned this previously, but before this cruise Jeff and I saw a PBS documentary by Ken Burns on the making of the Panama Canal and it was great. We recommend it.

Since we’ve spent most of the morning sitting in the Princess Theater being educated, we know we need to get some exercise. We walk for about an hour (3+ miles) and suddenly it is 3:30pm. Where has the day gone??

We decide to scout out different locations on the boat to find a good viewing spot for the canal passage and realize that we are STARVING so we pop into the buffet for a quick, late lunch, and there was Mary! Leaving the buffet, we bump into Eve and Leroy. We all decide to meet after they are done with dinner (because they eat so early) to maybe do something together and make plans for tomorrow.

It is formal night, so Jeff and I return to our cabin to shower and change. Jeff looks phenomenal! I tie one of my long skirts into a sari. Tonight is the special Captain’s Circle reception for Captain’s Circle members and we want to be early so we can get good seats. We are successful and share a small table with a rather odd couple. Since 9/11 this couple has refused to FLY anywhere. Luckily for them they live in California and are close to a couple of cruise ports. In fact, they have done this cruise TEN TIMES!!!
And when we end in Fort Lauderdale, they are taking this same ship BACK to San Pedro!

At the Captain’s reception, we meet the captain, there is free alcohol and canapes. I have a glass of champagne and Jeff has a Cosmopolitan. Before I am halfway through my first glass the waitress asks if I would like another. Well, sure! I’m not turning down free champagne. Jeff switches to red wine, pronouncing the Cosmopolitan as tasting like fruit punch. While my attention is turned toward the festivities and the Captain’s speech, the waitress leaves another glass of champagne at my elbow. What a nice surprise.

We meet MELT (Mary, Eve, Leroy, Trish) in the atrium and chatted for a bit. Eve insists on taking some photos of Jeff and I. I’m not nuts about my sari so you won’t see photos of it here! Well, we talked and tried to get organized – to no avail. Can’t decide what time or where to meet in the morning so we agree to just play it by ear.

Since this is the second of our three formal night, and the evening of the Captain’s reception, it is the night for lobster tails in the dining room. Being allergic to shellfish, this option doesn’t thrill me. When we are seated at our shared table of eight, we tell everyone to eat fast because we want to go to the 9:45 show in the Princess Theater. hahaha! There is another couple with the same plan.

Jeff enjoys his TWO lobster tails; he and another couple had two also, and one couple snarfed down THREE lobster tails! While they were still eating, the four show goers ordered dessert…I don’t want to miss my entertainment because these people are pigs. LOL

Tonight’s show is “Motor City” and features the Island Princess’ singers and dancers. It was “okay” and was a nice, relaxing way to end our day.

It is 11:00 p.m. and we are planning to get up early – so, good night!

Just like home

Puntarenas, Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Today we are in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, or as Jeff calls it, “home!” During some of our previous trips to Costa Rica we’ve been to Puntarenas and we know for a fact that there is pretty much nothing here. So, any shore excursions will require long bus rides.

And, because we know this area so well, the only reason we sign up for an excursion is because we have so much on-board ship credit to use up. And, though we’ve been here 4-5 times, we’ve never really played tourist. This will be fun! We will be going to the cloud forest; someplace we’ve never been.

Before leaving the ship (and we had talked to our traveling companions yesterday about it) Jeff and I decided that when we get back from our excursion, we’ll catch a cab and take everyone to Playa Dona Ana – a beach about 10 minutes away that we know well and that has MANY monkeys. Eve and Leroy have an all day excursion, but Mary and Trish are interested. This morning there is a sticky note on our door that says “Monkeys? Yes! See Mary!” Good! We’re excited to share this with her.

Here are some facts about Costa Rica that we learned while on our bus ride:
1. Costa Rica is the 2nd smallest country in Central America and is about the size of West Virginia.

2. The peninsula at Puntarenas stretches from here to Panama.

3. Today there are 5 cruise ships docked in Costa Rica (so the vendors are very happy)

4. May to November is the rainy season. On the Caribbean side of the coutry instead of a rainy and dry season, they have a rainy season and the rainier season.

5. 60% of the population live on the Pacific side. Population of CR  is 4.8 million.

6. In 1502 Christopher Columbus sailed into Limon – he was lost. The 1st Spanish settlement was on the Pacific side.

7. Costa Rica became an independent nation (I assume from Spain) on September 15th 1820.

8. Costa Rica had one particular crop – coffee! Arabica coffee trees grow from sea level up to 3,000 feet and the volcanic soil is the perfect growing medium. Coffee was taken from the mountain fields by oxcart to the port in Puntarenas. Children of the families who made money in coffee went to Europe and became highly educated. They became the visionaries – and they developed a railway that went from coast to coast.

9. There are 119 volcanos in Costa Rica, nine of which are still active.

10. In April, 1991 a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Costa Rica. The quake destroyed roads and damaged the railroad which was subsequently abandoned. The fact that the then President of Costa Rica had interests in the trucking industry I’m sure had nothing to do with that abandonment.

11. Costa Rica’s coffee industry did not do very well because, being such a small country, their product was overshadowed by Colombia’s exports.

12. The United Fruit Company came into Costa Rica and the banana industry was developed. Have you ever had a Chiquita banana? It probably came from Costa Rica.

Now, Costa Rica has diversified….the #1 export is pineapple, bananas are #2. Coffee exportation is #6. Every year in Europe at an international coffee market, coffee usually sells at 100 pounds for $100. But last year a Costa Rican farmer sold 100 pounds for over $4000 to a Japanese businessman who has a boutique coffee shop!

In services, the manufacture and the exportation of medical equipment, such as catheters, #1. Number 2 is the tourism sector.

Our guide today is Eric, and he tells us that out of the over 900 species of birds including toucans, parrots, and quetzels, the national bird of Costa Rica is the Robin! And it isn’t even the red-breasted Robin but a plain brown Robin.
And, despite having mammals like coatis, sloths, jaguars, and monkeys of many species, the national mammal is the white-tailed deer.

From this I can only assume that these people have no imagination.

Our tour bus goes right past Magallanes! And now we are driving through downtown San Ramon!! Home!! This is so cool!!

Eric tells us about Jose Figueres Ferrer who was originally from Catalina, Spain. For some reason he was exiled to Mexico in the 1940s for four years.  When he returned to Costa Rica he organized the farmers and laborers, and worked to bring down the dictators in Latin America. He led a coup and became the president of Costa Rica.
During his presidency he rewrote the Costa Rican constitution and extended voting rights to the indigenous people, women, blacks, etc.

On December 1st, 1948, during a speech, he said, “Weapons will lead you to victory, but words will lead you to freedom” and abolished the army. The military money was put into healthcare, education and conservation. It took him only eighteen months to accomplish all this and then he stepped down and then declared open elections. After the first president was elected and that term ended, Jose was elected to the presidency twice more and is the only person to hold that office for three terms.

Costa Rica is suffering some of the same migration woes as the rest of the world. About 90,000 people are needed to harvest the coffee and Costa Rican’s won’t do it because it doesn’t pay well. Nicaraguans come in for the harvest because they get paid a lot more in Costa Rica than in Nicaragua. The coffee grown in Costa Rica is grown on micro-farms that are usually part of a coffee cooperative.

We learned all this on our ride to the cloud forest of Parque Adventuras in San Luis.

Cloud forest
Cloud forest






We arrive at the park and begin our very fun day. We first come upon a whole slew of hummingbird feeders and about a million hummingbirds – all different varieties, slurping up the nectar and squabbling over feeders. These little suckers are difficult to photograph!

Hungry hummingbird
Hungry hummingbird





We hike and cross multiple suspension bridges..which sway in the middle as you walk across above rivers and jungle.




At the start of the suspension bridge
At the start of the suspension bridge










The number of people permitted on the bridges at a time is limited – I don’t know if this is because of weight restrictions or the swaying, and I don’t ask!


As our tour ended, we entered a lovely butterfly pavilion. The butterflies were not as difficult to photograph as the hummingbirds, but still tricky. I saw Jeff taking a picture of some woman’s head. Turns out that a butterfly landed on her hat and her phone was in her bag. She called out to Jeff. He retrieved her phone and got a good photo of herself with it.









This butterfly masquerades as a dead leaf
This butterfly masquerades as a dead leaf








I was concentrating on getting a good picture of the blue morpho. It wasn’t until we were leaving the area that I spotted one resting in the shrubs way down low next to me.

Blue morpho
Blue morpho

I got a good picture and a short video (which I’ll try to post when I have faster Internet.)

Our hummingbird, swinging suspension bridges and cloud forest tour took about an hour and a half after which we went to an outdoor restaurant area and had snack of homemade tortillas and cheese, fresh papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and a very tasty little cake-like thing made of corn, coconut, cream and sugar, along with glasses of blackberry juice. YUM!

Time to get back on the bus. On our way back to the ship, the bus stopped at a souvenir shopping area – a place right past “our neighborhood” (Magallanes). This is a store we’ve driven past many times and now we know what’s inside! I have needed a new la gorra (baseball cap) so I bought myself a Costa Rica cap. We picked up a bag of coffee, I got two more baseball caps, one with a sloth and one with a monkey for some little friends back home and Jeff got a cool box to either give as a gift or that we’ll keep as a sugar bowl. We stuff the treasures into my backpack.

Back to the ship a little later than planned we find a note on our door from Mary saying she is sorry she missed us and she’s gone into Puntarenas to find the post office. Bummer! Jeff and I decide it wouldn’t be much fun to go to Playa Dona Ana by ourselves, and not worth the cab fare for just the two of us so we walk back into Puntarenas as well.

Before we walk the length of the pier we see Mary coming toward us. She looks worn out. We invite her to come with us and the three of us walk through the vendor stands and eventually sit down at an outdoor restaurant and each have a beer – an Imperial (Costa Rica’s beer). We visit for a while and talk about our day.

To our surprise a four piece marching band comes by playing for tips. One of the musicians, the trumpet player, is blind and walks with one hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of him. Mary would like a photo of the band, so I run to catch up with them, take a couple if photos and tip them. Beers finished, Mary returns to the boat while Jeff and I walk through the vendors looking at all their wares, but don’t buy anything.

Back to the boat, we get cleaned up and go sit downstairs in one of the lounges where I order a latte (thanks, Derrick and Jenn!) and Jeff has a beer – we are relaxing,  listening to a guitarist who is very good. Neither Jeff nor I are interested in the show tonight, so we sit and listen to the Romantica String Quartet, who play after the guitarist. We go to dinner and then up to our cabin where we just hang out on the deck.

What a great day…

San Juan del Sur Reads!

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Departamento de Rivas

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is a port I have been looking forward to a lot. It is here that the Poudre River Public Library District has its sister library, and here that we will meet Jane Mirandette. Jane has been the big force behind San Juan del Sur’s public library; Jeff knows her, but I’ve met her only once.

The seas are rough and this is the only port during our cruise that does not have the facilities for cruise ships to dock so we will have to be tendered in. Being tendered in means that the ship will use some of its lifeboats to ferry passengers back and forth to the pier.

To our horror the captain announces that because of the rough seas, we may not be able to use the tenders. OH NO!!! We have a big stack of Spanish children’s books, office supplies and three huge bags of chocolates we need to deliver! And, anticipating that empty space in our suitcase, we have promised Mary that we’ll put some of her souvenirs in our bag when going home. After a bit the captain comes back on the loudspeaker and we guess from the tone of his voice that we’re going to be handing out chocolates and pens to all of the passengers. But, he surprises us by announcing that the sailors who took the tenders for test runs pronounce the voyage to shore to be safe. Yippee! Jeff and I scurry around packing up the big backpack. We want to get off the ship in the first wave if we can in case conditions worsen later in the morning and they stop taking people ashore. We get our tender tickets and wait for our numbers to be called.

Our tender tickets
Our tender tickets

Success! We get into San Juan del Sur. Jane is going to meet us here at the cruise port. She emailed Jeff early this morning because she saw that there were no tenders and knew what that meant. When she saw the lifeboats starting to arrive she came to the port to greet us.

Well, you know about the ‘best laid plans’ right? We walked back and forth from the cruise port gate down the sidewalk and back again eight or nine times. (And dang if the same vendor didn’t try to sell us the same little whistle every single time. haha!)
Then we split up as there are two different ways to exit the port. Looking back, this was kind of a dumb idea because I really have no idea what she looks like!
After an hour we decided that something had gone wrong and somehow we have missed each other.

Screwing up my courage, I asked one of the port guards, “Donde es la biblioteca publica?” (Where is the public library?) and I couldn’t believe it when I understood the directions he gave me. They were good directions, but we went two blocks too far which we discovered when someone offered us a free tote bag. “Would you like a free tote bag?” I caught myself before saying “no.” What I said was “Oh! English!” and she told us to go back two blocks.

We found the public library and asked the person inside where we could find Jane. He said, “She is at the cruise port meeting some friends.” We told him that WE are the people she is looking for. He takes us to the hotel – turns out Jane owns a B&B in San Juan del Sur – and he calls to let her know we are there. Pretty soon she arrives in a truck with a library employee and a young woman. The young woman, Kate, is doing an internship for her MLS (Masters of Library Science) which she is getting from the University of Colorado, Denver! She arrived only yesterday and is getting her bearings.

Jane gives us a tour of the B&B – very nice! And offers to let us use her free wi-fi, but we want to see the library first. We walk over to the library, still carrying the backpack, that now feels like it weighs 80 pounds. We give Jane the books, office supplies and and big bags of chocolates for the kids, and she gives us a tour of the public library.


Naturally it is small, but they do have five computer stations with free internet, a classroom, and bins of books for their “mobile” libraries.

Book bins for "traveling library'
Book bins for “traveling library’

Poudre River Public Library District employees were down within the last year to help them set up an online circulation system, so this little library is up-to-date! Pokey and Gumby really enjoyed having a few minutes to read. (Jane was excited about Pokey and Gumby and kept setting up photo shoots for them.)

Pokey and Gumby love to read!
Pokey and Gumby love to read!







Kind of attached, but not really part of the library, is an area where handicapped children make bags to sell. They are made by repurposing bags that big bags of rice are sold in. Once the decorating and sewing of the bag is finished, the child writes his or her name inside. One of Jeff’s work friends asked him to pick up 5 bags for her. When I see them, I must have one, too! Isn’t it cute?

The three of us walk into town to have lunch. Jane takes us to El Bocadito (roughly translated as “small mouth), a tapas restaurant. In the restaurant we meet two of her good friends and we all order a selection of tapas. But the amazing thing about this restaurant is the waiter. He is drop dead f-ing GORGEOUS. Jeff leans over to ask me to take a picture of the menu AND the waiter! So it wasn’t just me! One of Jane’s friends asks if I noticed the waiter. “Are you kidding me??” I said to her, “How could you NOT??”.Trust me this photo of him does not remotely capture how good looking this guy is.

I'll have that, please
I’ll have that, please

Whew, is it hot in here? hahaha! (BTW, there is NO way, I would trade my wonderful, gorgeous husband for him!)

After lunch, we get a personal tour of the city. This woman knows absolutely everyone and everyone knows her. I swear we could go no more than 30 feet without meeting a friend. Of course she’s lived here about 17 years. And last year Jane received Nicaragua’s “Ex-patriot of the Year” award!

Jane is trying to sell us on moving to Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica.

We begin by visiting a school of which she is also the benefactor. There is a charter school in San Juan del Sur that teaches English, but only the wealthy children can afford to attend – Jane has started the same kind of school, but for the street kids. Isn’t that great?
We pop in on a class of a dozen first or second graders who are learning their numbers and addition in English. They are eager to show off. The teacher asks them, “How many students are in our class?” The answers, shouted out in little voices, ranged from 9 to 12. Watching the kids was great fun.

This school also has a preschool. The room was painted in bright, cheery colors. There were toys in the room, too: a dollhouse, some Legos, many stuffed animals – Jane told us that these are the only toys many of these children have to play with.

There are more children who want to attend, but the school doesn’t have enough teachers or supplies. Jane said sometimes when the children are in class, a parent will sidle up to the door to try and learn English as well. The importance of and need for education here is incredible. Children (and parents – who may be illiterate in Spanish) wanting to learn and for them not to have that opportunity is mind boggling.

Time to see more of the city. We pass a local market and learn that apples are very expensive here as they must be imported.

We walk to El Gato Negro (Black Cat) bookstore and coffeeshop. I buy a bag of Nicaraguan coffee and stick it in my now very empty backpack. Jane warns us as we wander through the small bookstore that if we take a book off the shelf and sit down to look at it – we’ve bought it! Good to know. There are some very cool cat paintings on the walls…I don’t know if they’re for sale or not, but they are neat.

Next we go to a restaurant/bar called “Dave’s Wave” (free wi-fi here, too). Jane points out the bookcase; this is a book shelf she has set up and stocks so people in the community have easy access to reading material. She really is amazing.

Walking on, down a sidewalk, we see a street artist’s paintings propped up against a fence. This is the guy who painted the cats for El Gato Negro! I stop to look; of course, Jane knows the guy. He tells me, putting his hand on his heart (a gesture of respect) that he will sell me anything at a very reduced rate because we are with Jane. I explain that a painting won’t fit in my luggage (and I don’t think Jeff is crazy about the cat paintings) and pass on his very kind offer.

Soon we are walking along the main drag when she stops in front of a large building. This is also her property. She rents two bottom units (one on the left and one of the right) on the ground floor to commercial tenants. The center of the ground floor is the lobby of her condo rentals! She takes us up to see one of the condos on the top (4th) floor. This building is across the street from the ocean – what a great view! And the condo itself is really nice. Remember the street artist? Jane commissioned him to do all the paintings that hang in the building.
We’ll need to keep her B&B or condos in mind for future travels. (If you are interested in her contact info, let me know.)

We make our way back to the library where a friend picks the three of us up and drops us off at Jane’s house. She has a very cute house with a wonderful view. All for $500 a month (and you can flush the toilet paper!)

It is getting late and we need to get back to the ship – and we never did get to use any free wi-fi! Jane calls one of her staff who takes the three of us to the cruise port. I’m sorry for the day to end. She is so inspiring!

Our brave tender driver
Our brave tender driver

Back aboard the Island Princess, we relax and in the early evening go downstairs to listen to the string quartet. They have become our favorite entertainment.

The show in the Princess Theater tonight is Jeff Peterson who is a comedian/magician. I am NOT a magic fan, at all, but his helper is a cute little dog and I enjoy seeing her performance. After the show, we swing by the Wheelhouse Bar for happy hour. During happy hour you buy one drink and get the second for a dollar. Jeff gets two Seawitch beers – that is Princesses’ own brand. Back in our cabin he puts the beer in our refrigerator and we hang out on the deck watching the ocean roll by until it is time for bed.

Another sea day

Well, we slept in AGAIN! Somehow the rocking of the ship justs lulls you into a deep sleep. But we do get up and start scurrying around because we want to attend the next Enrichment Lecture. We go downstairs for cups of fancy coffee and Jeff gets two mini-muffins.

We arrive in the Princess Theater just in time for the “Plagues of the Modern World” lecture. Okay, I think this whole medical series is a little weird for a cruise ship, but it is fascinating! Today we learned about SARS, Aids, swine flu, and other diseases that have impacted the modern world. Of course, right now the Zika virus, a mosquito borne illness, is spreading and the areas we are visiting on this cruise are in the heart of the infection area. In addition to sunscreen, people are carrying around bug wipes. Anyway, the talk was interesting.

After the lecture Jeff and I relax in one of the public areas. He is people watching and I am writing. Our medical lecture was at 9:30 and we want to attend a ‘Destination Presentation” on Puntarenas, Costa Rica at 11. Looks like another morning spent in the Princess Theater.

Humberto’s talk about Puntarenas was good and we know from having been to Puntarenas on our own that there is pretty much nothing to do there! So pretty much all of the excursions will require a bus ride.
After the destination talk Jeff and I go upstairs to our cabin. I write out two sticky notes about meeting for afternoon tea – one note for Eve and Leroy’s door and one for Mary and Trish asking everyone to RSVP.

We have not been at all diligent about our exercising during this cruise; to remedy that we got walk around the promenade deck. On one of our rounds we spot a pod of dolphins! They are near the back of the ship and moving away from us and are soon out of sight. That was neat! It is always fun to unexpectedly spot wildlife.

Jeff and I spent a very enjoyable hour or so relaxing on our balcony. Jeff brought our bluetooth speaker from home and we listen to some tunes. Our next door neighbors are out on their balcony as well and Jeff peers around to ask if the music disturbs them. “No,” the guy says, “Turn it up!” A few songs later, I peer aound the balcony divider and ask him if my singing bothers him. hahaha!

About 1:30 we decide to go to lunch. Jeff had his two mini-muffins but all I’ve had today is coffee. We got outside and up, up, up to the outside grill where I get a vegie burger and fries and Jeff gets a hamburger and fries. I had forgotten about the vegie burgers. Though the taste is nice, the texture is ‘wet bread’ very mushy. I won’t be having another of those on future cruises. We finish up with some ice cream (bad vegan!), we plop down on a couple of lounge chairs to eat our ice cream and, hey! there’s a small pod of dolphins. Are you kidding me? They, too, disappear quickly. On our way back to our cabin we walk through the buffet to grab some cookies (to have in our room to snack on sometime) and iced tea. Just as we reach our cabin door, there is Trish RSVPing for everyone for afternoon tea.

While Jeff naps, I sit out on our balcony writing (gotta get caught up!) and tomando del sol (taking the sun – sun bathing). While sitting there, I heard a weird slapping sound. “What in the world?” It sounded like someone snapping a towel; very odd, so I get out of my comfy lounge chair and look up and down the row of balconies. Nothing.
I settled back down. There’s that sound again! As I glance over the railing I catch a glimpse of wet skin – that was a dolphin! No, dolphinS! I bang on the sliding glass door and shout to Jeff “Dolphins!” He hurries out and we watch a pod of dolphins jump out of the water. Two of them flipping totally head over tail, another jumping and spinning around. And then they were gone. Three times in one day! How cool is that??

Jeff goes inside to lay back down and I stay on the deck to continue my writing until my alarm goes off reminding me that it is tea time. I’m excited to be having tea this afternoon because for me it is something unusual and special. Jeff decides not to go because the violinist from last night, Chris Watkins, is going to be playing in the atrium and he is going to hear him again. Poor planning on my part as I’m sure that I would enjoy hm as well.

Afternoon tea
Afternoon tea

Our tea was so much fun for me! There were cakes and little sandwiches, scones with whipped cream (instead of clotted cream) and jam and tea. The five of us ate with little regard for the fact that it was about 3:45 and the four others have their dinner at 5:15!

After tea we go into the atrium which is MOBBED!!!! I had no idea there were even this many people on the ship. Every chair and settee is taken, people are standing everywhere and sitting on the stairs. It is nearing the end of Chris Watkins’ show and HOLY MACKEREL!! he is good and quite the showman!

Wow! Very talented Chris Atkins
Wow! Very talented Chris Atkins

I give up trying to find Jeff in the mob and squeegee myself into a tiny sitting spot on one of the stairs. Wow, this guy is talented and now I really am sorry that I missed his show last night. His performance ended and I spot Jeff standing with Eve, Leroy, Trish and Mary, and made my way over to them. Turns out that Jeff had been standing at the very top level of the atrium, saw us as we wandered around after our tea and came down to meet us.

No one is hungry, but we all go to read tonight’s menu board anyway. Oohhh… everything sounds good (how is that even possible?)

We agree to meet in the card room in 30 minutes and play some games.


Mary begs off and returns to her cabin for a nap – she has caught Eve’s cold. Those two boxes of cold medicine and bag of Hall’s cough drops are making the rounds in our little group! I’ll see if I can pick up some more tomorrow in San Juan del Sur when we dock in Nicaragua tomorrow. We play Skip-Bo for an hour and a half or so; either Jeff or Trish win every game so Eve, Leroy and I decide they have to buy dinner. haha!

Even though we’re still not hungry, (except for Jeff who did not have afternoon tea), we all go to the Horizon Court Buffet and amazingly all of us find something we want to eat. (Why am I not surprised??) We eat, sit and chat for a couple of hours, and finally all head down to the Caribe deck, deck 10, to our cabins.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Nicaragua. I hope you’ll join us.

Wow! Wow! I am sitting here still writing; Jeff is out on the balcony watching the ocean go by when he comes in, gets my phone and goes back outside with it. I don’t ask.

A few minutes later he comes in to show me what he has discovered. He has figured out a VERY easy way to get photos from his Iphone to my Iphone and from either of our Iphones to my Ipad for the blog. Until this very minute he or I would have had to email a photo to me so I could get it on my Ipad. This was time-consuming and used a lot of my precious (and expensive) on board Internet minutes. Jeff figured out how to use a feature on our devices called “Air Drop.” It is soooo easy, takes only seconds and doesn’t require using Internet minutes. This is great! My husband is BRILLIANT (and I’m dang proud of him!)

Snorkeling or crocodiles?

Santa María Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Monday, January 9, 2017

This morning we wake up to find ourselves in Huatulco, Mexico, on the ‘Pacific Riviera.’ (It is pronounced “wha-tool-co”) We’ve never been here before, actually never even heard of the place. It’s official name is “Bahias de Huatulco” or “Bays of Huatulco” because it is famous for having nine beautiful bays. You can reach five of the bays by road but for the other four, you need to have a boat.

Beautiful Huatulco Bay

We get up early this morning for two reasons: 1) Jeff needs to call the dining reservations number for the reservation for the six of us to have dinner together tonight and 2) we are going on a snorkeling excursion! Today we will snorkel in two of the bays reachable by boat.

Jeff successfully makes the reservations and we get ready for our excursion by putting on swimsuits, making sure we have all our gear and slathering ourselves with sunscreen. We rush down to our meeting place on the ship and find a bit of chaos. The wind is very strong so our snorkelling tour has been cancelled – what a bummer! In addition, there was a ‘bay boat and swim’ tour that was also cancelled. We can schedule a different tour but we have to do it immediately. We look at the two offerings that are still available and, on the fly, we choose an eco-tour that includes a crocodile sanctuary. Jeff asks the staff person when the tour is leaving and she tells him RIGHT NOW! We RUN up the four flights of stairs, I change clothes in record time, dump snorkeling stuff, grab hats and cameras and go running back to the disembarkation point. As we hit the pier, a staff person calls to us (We have little green buttons with the number 3 on them) and points to where the group has begun walking.

We make it, and easily because there is a 10 minute walk from the meeting point to our bus. There is a very elderly couple in our group and they bring up the very, very rear long after we’ve reached the bus.

Our guide, Hector, is interesting and tells us a lot about Huatulco.

Our eco-guide, Hecto

For example, the Mexican government plans to make Huatulco another Cancun-style resort destination and there are plans for hotels, roads, infrastructure, etc. We ride the bus for quite a while before arriving at Ventillana (which means “little window).  There is a rock formation in the sea that we can see from the coast and it looks like there is a little window in the rock. (My photo didn’t turn out very well, so use your imaginations!)

In this eco park the first thing we do is walk a little way to get to some large canoes. As we walk through the sand I remember why I don’t usually wear sandals. The sand is getting into my sandals and it is hot!  

We reach the canoes and are split into groups. We are going to be paddled through the mangrove swamp, keeping our eyes peeled for crocodiles, different varieties of birds, crocodiles, iguanas, and did I mention crocodiles!?

It was a nice canoe ride, no one dangles their fingers in the water We see several crocs, one very large one. Our boat guide was great about pointing out animals we might otherwise have missed… like birds.

Cool looking bird
Red-headed woodpecker









We see an enormous termite nest (naturally occurring, they don’t rescue termites, I don’t think!) In the bottom of the nest there is a hole, which you can see in the photo below.

Termite nest

I forget what kind of bird is, but a bird species here pecks a hole in the termite nest and lays its eggs inside. When the baby birds hatch, they have a quick and easy food supply – termites! Interesting, isn’t it?

As we walk around, one of our guides says “No need to worry. Everything is all right. We are just taking her to the shady area where we will have our snack.” I look around and see the very elderly lady who had walked sooo slowly. Two of the guides have made a seat with their hands and are trying to convince her to sit in the (literally) handmade chair. She kept insisting she can walk. Finally, I don’t know how, they convinced her to sit, she put her arms around their necks and off they went – good service! One of the men in our group looks at me and says (kidding) “I think I feel faint.” I told him to put his head between his knees. hahaha!

We walk over to an enclosed concrete lagoon type of area with PILES of baby crocodiles.

Baby crocodile piles
Baby crocodile piles

Kind of creepy actually – it looks like piles and mounds of little Jurassic Park creatures. We learn that these crocodiles do not have tongues so they can’t really chew anything large. They may kill people but they don’t eat them. (I don’t know if the tongue thing is a croc thing or if it is this species.)

Friendly croc?

They also regrow any teeth that they might lose. They do eat small mammals, birds, and the eggs of coatis (a raccoon type of animal) We have seen a LOT of coati in Costa Rica during our trips there; and there is one here in the sanctuary. Guess what is one of the things that coati eat? Crocodile eggs!

We see the white tailed deer which are kept in a nice, natural enclosure.
There is a small educational area, open air building, where we can see crocodile heads and preserved dead crocodiles. Did you know that those bumps on the backs of crocodiles are kind of like solar panels?

Solar panel bumps
Solar panel bumps

Those help our friendly little reptiles maintain body temperature.

This sanctuary is very nice and is ecologically minded as you can see from the photo of the bathroom sign.

The conclusion of our tour includes a snack of two homemade corn tortillas with a local cheese – quesadillas. They are served with fresh fruit. Yum!

Then we get back in the canoes, leave the little island and return to our bus. Jeff describes this excursion as 1/3 ride there; 1/3 visit in the park, and 1/3 ride back.
This isn’t a tour we would normally have picked but in a pinch it turned out to be quite nice.

When we get back to the ship, we got cleaned up, changed into some nicer clothes and went up to our cocktail party. Tonight there was chips and salsa, and the salsa was very good with a nice taste and it wasn’t too spicy. The special drink is a mojito. Great!! I really like mojitos! We spent a nice relaxing hour visiting with other (as Jeff calls us) “frequent fliers.” We usually have fun and interesting talks during this time and sometime pick up tips about ports or traveling in general.

Our dinner reservation is for 7:30 and we head for the restaurant to meet everyone. Oh, it was so nice to have dinner with our friends!! We all shared stories from our day and it was so relaxing… I did remember to mention that Jeff had discovered that there IS afternoon tea and we decide to do that tomorrow afternoon. We are at sea tomorrow and that will give some structure to our day.

After dinner we all go our separate ways – including Jeff and I! He is going to the show tonight and I am going to the cabin to write. The show in the Princess Theater is an instrumentalist, a violinist named Chris Watkins, and when Jeff comes back to the cabin, he tells me that the guy was amazing!
Chris Watkins comes from a family of gymnasts, (you thought I was going to musicians, didn’t you?) and sometime in his childhood he had had a trampoline accident and injured his back. So much for the family business. As a kid his parents were insisting that he take French, but he lied and told them how much he loved, loved, loved classical music and signed up for violin lessons instead – anything was better than French!
Now I’m sorry that I missed the show, but you have something to read now!

Come back tomorrow and enjoy our day at sea with us…

A great sea day

Another sea day…and every sea day I worry what to write about. I mean, after all, what is there to do all day on a floating hotel? But somehow we manage to amuse ourselves.
This morning Jeff gets up early, or early for us, and goes to the workout room, and wakes me up when he returns. I am such a slug.

We go downstairs to get fancy coffee. On board the ship you can buy a punchcard for fancy coffees…lattes, cappacinos, espressos, etc. but we’ve never done that. Well, for Christmas, Jeff’s son, Derrick and his wife Jenn, gave us “cruise credit” and we’ve spent that money on a special fancy coffee card.

Thanks, Derrick and Jenn!

Jeff and I share a chai and it is WONDERFUL! We take our chai and hurry to the Princess Theater to attend the second Enrichment Lecture which is on “Plagues of the Ancient World.”
This lecture is just as good as the first one and we’re enjoying the series very much. When it ends we stay in the theater because right after that Humberto is giving his destination talk about San Juan del Sur, Nicaraqua. Though we have plans already for San Juan del Sur, we’re really interested in what he talks about, though it looks as though any ship excursions people would take would be long bus rides.

Well, apparently this is our morning to sit in the theater! After the destination talk, we watch a Princess video about the Panama Canal. The video is good, but if you really want the history of building the canal, the war that was won without firing a shot, and the challenges of working in a tropical climate I HIGHLY recommend the Pamana Canal documentary by Ken Burns.

We finally leave the theater about 12:40 having only had our shared chai as sustenance and think about finding some food. Exiting the theater we see Trish and Mary. Because tomorrow is a port day we think it would be fun for all six of us to have dinner together tomorrow night to talk about our different shore excursions.

We walk over to the “anytime dining” restaurant to ask if that’s possible since they, Eve and Leroy have set dining. The waiter says it is okay and tells us how to make reservations (because sometimes there can be a long wait for a table at our restaurant). Perfect.

We go back to our cabin and Jeff looks up the phone number for dining reservations and discovers – tah! dah! There is an afternoon tea!!! It is listed beside the restaurant hours, but not in the calendar of daily events. I’m super excited! Jeff calls and finds out that you have to call for dinner reservations the same day so we make a note for him to call at 8am tomorrow morning before we go on our excursion.

We, (Jeff, Mary, Trish and I), want to continue our Phase 10 game today, but I want to go to an arts and crafts thing. I never do stuff like this, but today the project is a travel journal and I’m interested in learning what it is all about.
What was I thinking? This is a scrapbooking thing and I am awful at stuff like this but I really have fun. The staff hands out these packets of material and I’m pleased to see that it is a nice quality journal and we just decorate it however we want. I sit at a table with 3 other women who are happy to help me, because I keep saying things like “WHAT is THIS??” I am creative in many ways but when it comes to artsie stuff, I want instructions or pictures to work from. There is lots of glue involved and pretty soon several of my fingers are sticky and apparently I’ve glued a pair of scissors to our work table. Geez, this is hard!

I am making this journal for Mary and I think it turns out okay. I hope she likes it.

My arts and crafts time is crowding my game time so I pitch everything into a bag and hurry off to the card room. Mary and Trish are there but no Jeff and hence, no game. The three of us sit and chat and I give Mary her little present along with the stickers , letters that I didn’t use and the weird little doo-dad things I was clueless about. She is very gracious and does not mention that it looks like it was decorated by a crazed preschooler with a glue gun.
Jeff arrives – he had fallen asleep. The four of us play until their dinner time.

Tonight there is a special show and, since it is special, it is being performed three times. The show is called “Encore” and ALL of the musicians and dancers on the ship and a guest soprano are in it. It is described as a pop opera. Jeff and I go to the 5:45 show – we figure it will be less crowded and we can have dinner afterwards.
The set and the costumes are spectacular! The music and dancing were good and this was obviously a huge a huge production. An enjoyable hour.

At dinner we encouraged our tablemates to see the show, too.
After dinner we head upstairs where Jeff takes up his post on the deck, wine glass in hand, to watch the ocean go by. First though, he takes a photo of my blog writing workspace

…now you know where the magic happens. HAHAHAHA!

We have to get up early for our excursion tomorrow and go to bed early.
I hope you come back and read about Huatulco.