And Back To Reality

I know from my posts it seems like we just got off the ship yesterday but we have been home for two weeks. I wasn’t able to post my cruise blog entries until we arrived home and had WiFi. So here we are two weeks later and we have finally accepted that we don’t need to eat every two hours, we have to cook, make our own bed, and do our own laundry … yes it was a bit of a let down 😦

Mrs. M sent me this picture of one of their towel animals, he is pretty funny!

I guess he was tired of hanging around and had to lie down the next day.

I have a question for those of you that use Blogger and hope you will comment with your answer. When you leave a comment on my blog and I answer you, do you get an email advising you of that?

When I comment on a post on Blogger I have no way of knowing if the author responded other than continually going in and checking on their blog. If I comment on a WordPress blog I get an email if the author responds, which I am guessing is because I have a WordPress account but maybe Blogger works differently. Anyway let me know if you can shed any light on my question.

And here is one last towel animal picture that Mr. L sent me. This is one he saw on the internet, but it sure would have got a laugh from all of us if we had to come to our room to see this guy in our bathroom 🙂

So that’s it for the daily blogs, I will go back to posting once a week or whenever something blog worthy happens.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Fourteen

I woke up at my usual 4:00 a.m., peeked out the window and sure enough we were coming into Miami. I quietly grabbed my camera and slipped out onto the deck to watch our approach.

An hour later hubby joined me and we watched the sun come up as we docked.

We had to be out of our cabin by 8:30 so we did most of our packing the night before. Mrs. M called to see if we wanted to join them for breakfast but somehow we had a miscommunication and they went to the buffet and we went to the dining room. Oh well, we enjoyed breakfast at a window with a view out the back of the ship were we watched two cruise ships behind us drop lifeboats and play with mooring lines.

After breakfast we were able to connect with the rest of our group up in the buffet and chit chatted for awhile before our number was called to disembark. It was a fairly quick process to disembark although we did have to stand on a balcony for a half hour while they closed customs to catch up.

We took the shuttle to Miami International and enjoyed a few hours’ people watching before catching our flight to Phoenix. In Phoenix we had two hours which was perfect because if gave us enough time to eat dinner and watch the sun set across the airport … sorry no pictures.

It was a quick 40-minute flight from Phoenix to Yuma and our wonderful neighbours were at the Yuma airport to pick us up.

The women’s washroom at the Yuma Airport is pretty cool … it’s hard to see but there is a red flower above each sink.

Cute little mirrors outside each stall.

And nice quotes on the inside of each stall.

We had a great two week cruise but we were happy to be home and crawl into our own bed 🙂

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Thirteen

Our last full day at sea arrived with calmer water and warm sunny skies.

I love the colour of the Caribbean sea

We thought about spending the day around the pool but it was hard to get a chair and we weren’t really feeling a pool day.

There was a brief thought that we had to enjoy the sun and tanning time as it was our last chance but then it dawned on me that, unlike the others, we were heading back to warm sunny weather.

With the pressure off we sat on our deck and did some more reading. Hubby and some of the others watched the flying fish. I tried hard to get pictures of them but they were to fast for me.

I never did get picture of the flying fish but I did spend a fair amount of quiet reflection time watching the wake from the ship.

When we came back to our cabin after a morning walkabout we were greeted by today’s towel animal.

Mr. & Mrs. M joined us for happy hour on our deck so Mrs. M and I spent some time lining up all the towel animals, which I had saved along the back of our couch, and took some pictures.

We had a good time posing them 🙂

The highlight of our last dinner at sea was the Mango Soup … it was very tasty.

The entertainment for the last night of the cruise was a lip sync battle between a male passenger and a female passenger, and guess what? The female passenger was our friend Mrs. Cruise. She had competed against other female passengers earlier in the cruise and won so tonight was her night to compete in the final battle.

She did an awesome job but in the end the audience, who were the judges, couldn’t decide between the two and it ended in a tie.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Eleven

We came out of the canal yesterday evening and the ship was rocking a fair amount. That rocking and rolling continued all night and this morning until we docked in Cartagena, Columbia at 9:00 a.m. This was the first really rough ride we have had since boarding the ship but fortunately none of our group felt any ill effects and I had one of my best sleeps ever 🙂

From what we saw as we docked it appears Cartagena is a very busy cargo port.

This is our last port on the cruise and the eight of us booked a three hour excursion on the Cartagena Party Bus. We boarded a Chiva, a hand painted old wooden artisan bus that was formally used in rural areas for public transportation.

We listen to live music and drank watered down rum and cokes as we toured the sights of old Cartagena.

Most of our tour was of the Old Walled City but we did see glimpses of the new city know as Bocagrande.

You can see the wall of the old city on the other side of the water.

At the end of the 16th century, the city of Cartagena decided to build a seven-mile wall around the city to protect it from pirates and invaders. At that time Cartagena was the largest and most important port in the Americas.

The Old City, which lies within the wall, contains colorful buildings with Spanish-style architecture.

There are also small boutique hotels, plazas with unique shops and live music, and lots of street venders selling fruits and vegetables.

In 1536 the Spanish, who were afraid of being attacked, built San Felipe Castle to protect their city and country. The San Felipe Castle is located on top of a small hill in the middle of the city and we made our first stop here.

Unfortunately we were not given enough time to walk around the castle 😦 I think this stop was for the sole purpose of providing a group of captive tourist to the vendors and they were relentless! Many in our group took a bathroom break, which provided more money to the locals, as I was told you weren’t leaving the bathroom without giving them money.

Cartagena has two very different contrasting neighbourhoods and from our tour of the Old Walled city we could see glimpses of the Bocagrande, which is filled with hotel chains, apartment blocks, shopping malls, and restaurant chains. The wall, or Las Murallas, was also used to separate the city’s rich and poor population and it appears that hasn’t changed much.

The heart of Old Walled city is filled with colourful buildings and a lot, and I mean New York style, traffic! There is no way I could handle driving every day in this traffic.

We drove through a business area with electrical, plumbing, hardware, and all other kinds of construction material stores. There were also a lot of stores with colourful fabrics that would have been interesting to browse through but I think it was a good thing we didn’t get off the chiva here or I would have lost hubby in the electrical stores!

With a last look at pretty views and heavy traffic it was time to head back to the cruise ship port.

The Cartagena cruise ship port is really nice. Once the chiva dropped us off we walked through a beautiful sanctuary filled with birds, monkeys, and even an anteater! I really could overload you on pictures here but I did my best to pare them down 🙂

Just to break up these pictures I will give you a weather fact … over the course of the year, the temperature in Cartagena varies from 25C (76F) to 31C (88F) and is rarely below 23C (73F) or above 33C (91F) … yup that’s my idea of perfect weather.

After a long day we arrived back on the ship and thank goodness because we hadn’t eaten in forever 😀

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Ten

Well today is the day … I was going to say the whole point of the cruise, but I realized that wasn’t really right as the whole point was to have fun with all our friends and each other … and we have sure done that! But since the name of the cruise is Panama Canal Cruise, and today is the day we traverse the canal, I’m going to go ahead and go with “today is the day” 🙂

Mrs. M and I were out for our walk at 5:00 a.m. and ran into hubby on deck ten around 5:30. He, and a few other people, were up watching for our arrival at the Panama Canal. It was a beautiful morning with a full moon so we were able to see even though the sun hadn’t come up yet.

 We spent the next six hours on deck nine and ten watching the sunrise and the shoreline of Panama City as we approached.

Just as I thought the sun was done rising it put on another show.

We then passed under the 5,007 foot long arched Bridge of the Americas, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The bridge was completed in 1962 at a cost of $20 million USD and connects North and South America.

There wasn’t a lot of room!

Once we crossed under the bridge we could see the ship in front of us bearing left for the entrance to the new locks. The new locks, known as The Third Set of Locks was built to allow for a larger number of ships and increased width and depth. The new ships, called New Panamax, are about one and a half time the size of the ship we are on and can carry over twice as much cargo. The new locks were opened on 26 June 2016.

Our ship is a Panamax ship, which is built to just fit into the old locks, and it did look like a pretty tight fit as we watch the ship in front of go through the first lock.

And then it was our turn, I swear I could hear our ship squeaking along the edges as it entered the lock.

Because of the delicate nature of the original lock mechanisms, only small craft are allowed to pass through the locks unassisted. Larger craft are guided by electric towing locomotives, which operate on cog tracks on the lock walls and serve to keep the ships centered in the lock.

The locomotives go up the hill as the lock fills with water. The large building on the right is a viewing station for people to watch ships go through the locks.

Six hours later we finally arrived back at our deck and continued to enjoy the sights.

The Canal Authority has tried many methods to pass the mooring lines from the ship to the locomotives but finally came to the realization that a rowboat was the best method.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night so I figured once we passed the first three locks it would be a good time for a nap. Hubby took these pictures while I was sleeping.

The Atlantic Bridge

I woke in time to see the prison on the side of the canal. It was laundry day and there were lots of inmates outside watching our ship go by.

And then we entered Gatun Lake. Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake and carries ships for 33 km of their transit between the two sets of locks.
Ships require a pilot to guide them through the canals and because it’s such a long passage the pilots switch off half way through the trip.

I think it was around 2:30 p.m. when we arrived at the second set of locks, which lowered us down to the Caribbean Sea.

While we were in the second lock we watched this freighter, heading to the Pacific Ocean, enter their second lock. 

This freighter wasn’t that long so two tugboats also joined it in the lock.

But wait there is still some room … enter this sailboat!

Hurry up little boat!

Phew it made it. It really wasn’t that small of a sailboat but it sure looks small with the other boats in the lock.

Around 5:00 p.m. we cleared our last lock and it was time for the pilot, and all the staff selling Panama souvenirs, to disembark the ship. We counted twenty-four people leaving our ship and getting onto a small boat.

As we approached the Centennial Bridge the Third Set of Locks joined back up, but this time on the right! I guess the passage switched from the left of the old locks to the right of the old locks in Gatun Lake.

And then we were entering the Caribbean Sea and it was time to head off to dinner.

Today’s towel animal is a swan just in case you can’t tell from the picture.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Nine

Another day at sea, another morning walk, another formal night … and nothing but fun … that about sums up day nine 😀

We had a pretty Super Snow Moon last night so Mrs. M and I decided to walk at 5:00 a.m. so that we could see the moon and then the sunrise, but the sunrise was much later today and we missed it.

An okay sunset last night but I zoomed in to get this ferry in the picture so the orange at the horizon really showed it’s colour off!

Hubby and I decided to take a day off from the sun so rather than sit by the pool today we enjoyed a nice breakfast in the dining room with Mr. & Mrs. M and then headed off to the horse races.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around for awhile, having lunch because of course none of the four of us had eaten for a least two hours and we were all absolutely starving :smile:, and then it was down to our room so hubby could have a little snooze and I could sit outside and read my book.

Today’s towel animal was there to greet us 🙂

The eight of us enjoyed happy hour on our deck, showed off our spiffy formal ware at dinner and then had a lot of fun putting the ship photographers to the test as we did our best to get a fun group shot.

We had a great laugh when hubby was presented with his appetizer. They are usually small, because of course we are having many courses, but this looked a little extreme!

Ahh here comes the rest of his strawberry soup and it was very yummy!

We finished the evening in the theatre watching the show, and then it was off to bed. Just another great day on the open seas.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Eight

Mrs. M and I were out for our walk at 5:40 today because when I went out at 6:00 yesterday I had already missed the sunrise 😦 Before our walk I spent some time watching from our deck as the sun started to rise.

We caught the rest of the sunrise as we walked and also watched as we came into the port of Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

Would have been another nice beach day if we didn’t have other plans.

Hubby and I along with Mr. & Mrs. Cruise, Mr. & Mrs. L, have big plans for our time in Puntarenas … we are meeting friends from home at a local restaurant, which we thought was an easy walk from the ship. It turned out to be a longer, and hotter, walk than we thought but we did see a lot along the way.

This pelican was posing for pictures on the pier.

There were lots of small vender stalls just off the pier and a few things managed to come home with me 🙂

We did notice that once we left the vendors near the cruise ship the price of things dropped considerably.

Since it was Saturday there were lots of local families enjoying time on the beach.

As we were walking along I noticed free Wi-Fi signs that identified Wi-Fi hot spots. The last time we had access to Wi-Fi was at a restaurant in Huatulco, Mexico so we stopped to catch up on emails, but more importantly to make Face Time calls to our children, grandchildren, siblings, and hubby’s mom. It was awesome to show off the beach and warm weather to those at home but even more awesome just see all our family again!

We can get Wi-Fi on the ship but it is very expensive and very slow so we didn’t bother with it.

Our friends, who have winter homes in Costa Rica, drove two hours to meet us in Puntarenas. It was a fun filled afternoon with a lot of laughs. It was so great that they made the trip to visit with us and as an added bonus one of them even ferried us back, in two loads, so that we wouldn’t have to make the long walk in the heat.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Seven

Today was another day at sea and we spent part of it around the pool and then we moved down to our deck to read, relax, and get ready for our second formal night. Since I didn’t take any pictures today I’m going to share the rest of our time in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala with you. I left off yesterday with the jade factory, after that tour we took a short walk through the streets to our lunch destination.

We had lunch at Casa Santo Domingo, a hotel, museum, and spa.

While we ate a delicious lunch of local foods we were entertained by a group of parrots.

After lunch we spent some time exploring the Convent of Santo Domingo, which was almost totally destroyed in the 1773 earthquake of Santa Marta.

In 1989 a project known as Casa Santo Domingo was developed to rescue the Convent and Temple, which were buried under tons of rubble.

These bells where originally houses in one of two towers in the church.

I could have spent a lot more time touring what was left of the church.

But it was time to move on to new sights. As we walked to our next destination I saw the Domino’s Pizza Delivery guy.

Much easier to ride a bike around these narrow streets rather than using a vehicle.

Our next stop was Parque Central, were we saw the Mermaid Fountain and the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral.

While we were looking around hubby asked our tour guide when we were going to visit the Ron Zacapa rum factory, which was going to be the highlight of his time in Guatemala. You can imagine how disappointed he was when he was told is wasn’t on the tour 😦 Not about to miss out on this opportunity he managed to convince our guide that he should be allowed to make the visit on his own while the rest of the tour were spending time in the plaza … and he can be very convincing! So with directions on how to get to the rum store, and how to get from there to the next church to meet up with the rest of the tour, our tour guide gave six of us permission to headed out on our own. We found the store and purchase a bottle of hubby’s favourite rum, a twenty three year old Zacapa rum. We also walked away with a much cheaper bottle of 18 year old Botran rum which is also made at the factory.

Hubby then led us through the streets to the church were we were to meet up with our group …

… and he got us there with no trouble but our group wasn’t there 😕  I guess another couple decided to follow us to the factory but didn’t tell the tour guide so he, and the rest of the group, were driving around the streets looking for them. When they all arrived back at the church our tour guide was very relieved to find his two missing people!

We had a quick visit at the Santuario San Francisco el Grande and then loaded back into the small bus.

We arrived in the middle of mass so we didn’t stay but I was very annoyed at the number of people who had no problem talking to each other and walking right up to the front of the church to take pictures … so very inconsiderate!

Our small bus took us back to a wide street where we rejoined the large bus and headed back to our ship.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Six

Mrs. M and I did loops around the upper decks this morning, rather than doing the cabin halls, because the sun is coming up earlier and we didn’t want to miss it … still just as long of a walk and at the end of the day I had done 19,721 steps or 13 km!

Today was our day in Guatemala. We arrived in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala around 9:00 a.m. and watched our arrival from our balcony and then up on the Lido deck. We then grabbed a quick breakfast in the buffet and the eight of us headed down to the theatre to meet up with our group for the “Top 10 Best of Antigua with Lunch” tour.

It was a quick walk through the cruise ship port shops to our tour bus and then we headed off on a very busy day.

Cruise ship port.

We were headed to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua to explore the top ten best attractions in the area. We started off on a main four lane divided highway with beautiful views and lots of semi’s heading toward to the port.

We heard so much history on this tour and I forgot a lot of it, like the story behind this face on the mountain.

Our first stop was at Azotea Estate Coffee Plantation were we learned about the history of coffee in Guatemala and were able to do some tastings in the gift shop.

I had no idea coffee beans where so colourful, this basket looked like it was full of jelly beans 🙂

Lots of coffee beans spread out everywhere to dry in the sun.

After the coffee factory we switch to smaller vans because the big bus we arrived in was too big to drive around the narrow streets of Antigua. I was amazed that the bus driver was able to negotiate the streets on the way to the coffee factory with a full size bus!   As we drove around Antigua our tour guide regaled us with the history of the area filled with plazas and chapels that were miraculously spared during an 18th century earthquake.

More than once I tuned out on the history and just enjoyed taking in the sites of the city.

Hospital

The Church of La Merced

Before we stopped for lunch we toured a jade factory founded in 1974 by archaeologist Mary Lou Ridinger and her husband. Mary Lou gave us a short talk about her history and how she discovered Jade in Guatemala and then we were turned loose to wander around and watch the crafters cutting jade.

Our tour ended in the gift shop where I could have spent A LOT of money, but I contained myself 🙂 I found a necklace that I really loved made from lavender jade which is the newest and rarest color of jade and thus a lot of money. I was amazed at how many different colours there are of jade, much more than the traditional green that comes to mind when I think of jade. The gift shop is also home to a very large jade rock that Mary Lou refers to as her retirement fund, it is currently valued at two million … I did try to lift it and couldn’t, but I also quickly found out that there is a lot of security in the gift shop 😀

I’m going to end today’s blog here as it’s already long and I still have so much more to share about our day. Hopefully you will all come by tomorrow to hear about the rest of our time in Antigua, Guatemala.

I will leave you with today’s towel animal.

Until next time …

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Four

Today is our last full day at sea before we come to our first port of Huatulco, Mexico and once again it started with Mrs. M and I taking our morning walk around each deck as we made our way up to the twelfth deck a total of 6.5 km or 4 mi.

Today’s door decorations.

So I always have mixed feelings about a blog when I have very few pictures, did I not do much and it was a boring day, or was I so busy I didn’t have time to take pictures? Today wasn’t so much busy as it was fun and relaxing, thus very few pictures to show you.

Our morning sunrise … it was very warm at 6:15 when we hit the top deck 🙂

The rest of our day was spent with the whole group of us around the pool followed by dinner in the dining room and ended with a good laugh at the comedy show.

And I will leave you with today’s towel animal 🙂

Until next time …