Panama Canal Cruise: Day 7: Limon, Costa Rica

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cristobal to Limon, Costa Rica = 187 nautical miles
Docked in Limon at 07:15am
Temperature 81F degrees
Departed 17:48pm

Our original plan called for going whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. The night before we landed we got notified that the excursion had been canceled due to lack of folks signing up. We thought about choosing another excursion but after three days in the sun, two of them VERY hot days, we opted to stay on board. We would have walked into town but reading the daily newsletter let us know that the shops were all closed on Sundays.

We did snap a few shots from the boat that I can share with you.

Wanted to use this short blog to mention a couple of interesting things. While spending time in the indoor pool we discovered a little bird had taken up residence. He would dive through the area a couple of times a day in search of food. I am sure he found lots of crumbs to live on. LOL!

Another interesting phenomena was the pool when the seas were a bit rough...the pool water would splash from end to end, sometimes coming up 2-3 feet, even soaking a poolside table or two. LOL!

Last thing of note was the baked decorations in the buffet restaurant. We saw a BIG motorcycle and two smaller items, a ship, a piano and a violin. They were all made out of bread.

We do plan to go back to Costa Rica one day...need to experience the rain forest and see some of the wild life.

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

What is your New Year's Eve tradition?

Stu and I were talking about our past life traditions and it got me to wondering about how others might celebrate non-traditionally. Forget parties and ball drops, looking for fun and unique ways to see in the New Year.

Happy 2010 to everyone!!!!

Donna & Stu

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Panama Canal Cruise: Day 6: Panamal Canal & Cristobal

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cartagena Columbia to Panama Canal = 383 nautical miles
Entered inbound canal lock at 06:08am, tethered in Gatun Lake at 7:48am
Re-entered outbound canal lock at 11:34am, secured in Cristobal at 13:56pm
Temperature 82F degrees

The big day arrived....the one that Stu had been waiting for. We were going into the Panama Canal, through the first two locks to Gatun Lake where the ship would reposition and transfer back out through the locks to port in Cristobal. Unfortunately we didn't realize that the transition would happen while we were off on our excursion. Next time we want to cruise all the way from the east to the west. Princess has a Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco that does exactly that!

The alarm woke us early enough to watch our approach to the first lock and the transitions through it. In addition the web cam from the front of the ship was showing that view on our television. The front of the ship on the upper decks was packed so we did most of our watching from our balcony. You can see all the photos in our SmugMug album.

The process was fascinating and time consuming. We eventually headed to the buffet for breakfast. Then it was time to head off for our excursion, the Panama Canal Railway Journey in an Executive Railway Car. We boarded tender boats for the ride to the shore where we then got into tour buses for the ride to the railroad.

According to the write-up, the railroad was originally built in 1855 and was restored in 2001. We would travel on the train for about an hour till we reached the westernmost lock, Miraflores. As we had already learned, everything is written in sand (perfectly understandable for RVers) and our tour guide informed us that the train was delayed. So we would do some local touring in the interim, seeing the sights and hopefully some wildlife.

Finally the train arrived and we set off on our tour. The guide continued to keep us informed with what we were seeing. When we arrived at the Miraflores lock, we got out to tour the visitors center. The heat got to me quickly and I waited for Stu in the air-conditioning. He took some photos from the top of the visitors center and then we went to a short movie about the canal. We hopped back into our bus for the ride back to the train for our return trip. Lots more scenery as we ran along side Gatun Lake. We even passed the original Titan crane used in the construction of the canal. (I am lousy at remembering facts so if you want to learn more about the construction and operation of the canal either ask Stu or check out this page.)

When we finally arrived at the port of Cristobal, after most of us dozed on the bus ride back, we had a huge warehouse type building full of vendors as well as some great native musicians. Quite a treat!

The Panama City is thriving area, much more urbanized than we anticipated. The canal brings in a huge amount of income that the government is rolling back out into the economy. LONG day but wonderful...we look forward to eventually doing the whole canal!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Our time in Florida is done, finally heading west....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We arrived in Florida a month ago, left immediately for our 10 day cruise, came back in time for Stu's birthday and our visit to Epcot, followed by several days of visiting family and capped off with Christmas last week. We have missed seeing several Escapee friends due to our being too busy but hope to see them somewhere on the road soon. It's time now to head west for the winter.

Yesterday and today we did our "de-oozing" - putting away all the stuff that oozes out when you are parked for a while. We also took care of a lot of little things that had built up on our "to do" lists - paperwork, phone calls, repairs & maintenance to the truck and RV.

So now the bikes are loaded and we will hit the road tomorrow, heading north on I-75 and then west on I-10 till we hit Quartzsite, AZ. LOL! No firm plans, just a target date of being in "Q" around the 15th of January. If the weather holds we plan to stop in New Orleans for a couple of nights so we can finish seeing the D-Day museum (we only got half of it done last time around).

We have several friends along the way that would like us to stop but we can't make any promises...we'll keep in touch and hope it works out. We'd love to visit Big Bend and see my friend Ara & his pup Spirit, but again we can't make any promises. Would be nice to actually see the land I own there...LOL!

We know we are going to hit cold weather, seems like everyone is dealing with that. I just hope that it warms a little once we get to AZ....although two years ago when I first visited Q, it was a cold winter then. Oh is what it is!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Panama Canal Cruise: Day 5: Cartagena, Columbia

Aruba to Cartagena, Columbia = 383 nautical miles
Docked in Cartagena at 07:57am
Temperature 86F degrees
Departed 14:34pm

Ahhh, the city featured in "Romancing the Stone"...I could never spell it but I could pronounce it. Stu jokes that as soon as I heard one of the stops on the cruise was Cartagena, I was ready to go (okay, so maybe there is a kernel of truth there....LOL!)

The excursion of the day was "Scenes of Cartagena", a guided tour of the historic walled city including the Forteleza de San Felipe, the Inquisition Palance, San Pero Claver Church, the Navy Museum and, of course, the requisite shopping stops. It was scheduled from 9:15 to 12:45.

The day was warm, humid and very sunny. We seemed to wait forever for our buses but were happy to be put on an air-conditioned one. Our first stop was a photo opp at the Forteleza de San Felipe, the larger of the two fortresses protecting the city. The street vendors were aggressive, including the ones that wanted you to pay to take their photo! But we got some good shots anyway.

From there we stopped at the old dungeons, now a nice shopping area for handcrafts. I fell in love with the large spreads depicting scenes of daily life. I eventually got a t-shirt made in that same fashion.

We then moved on to the main part of the tour...the historic walled city. The walking started...we all carried water and tried to stick to the shade. Don't know how hot it ended up being but we all felt the heat. The city was beautiful and ugly, fascinating and disturbing, a city of extremes, of contrasts. I couldn't stop snapping photos (you can see them all in the SmugMug album).

We stopped to watch a sidewalk vendor paint beautiful scenes on a matter of minutes. His two young daughters watched intently. We bought one to keep for "when" we have a stix 'n brix again.

The Palacio de la Inquisición (The Inquisition Palace) was our first major stop....historically all the weapons of the inquisition were burned there, the whole building was burned. It has been recreated and replicas of some of the instruments of torture have been reproduced. Mans inhumanity to man....UGLY!!!

We went through the beautifully treed square and saw the statue honoring Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo, a Cuban planter who freed his slaves, and made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started the Ten Years' War. As we left the square we stopped to watch some street dancers.

The next stop was the San Pero Claver Church...beautiful!!! So much history...we sat for a bit and reflected before moving on to the Navy Museum where we got a cold drink and watched some native dancers perform.

Finally it was back on the bus (and air-conditioning) for a quick ride to a newer part of town for, you guessed it, some shopping. We were initially directed into a specific jewelry store where there was a display on emerald mining. Stu won a little keepsake piece of emerald in a sealed Lucite cube. Since emeralds are "not my thing", we left and wandered the shopping area while we waited for the time to leave. We picked up a few little odds & ends in a wonderfully air-conditioned store. LOL!

Back on the bus traveling from one end of the city back to the port, we saw where the high tide flooded the road....a normal occurrence. Some nice scenery along the way and then we were at the ship. The day ended up a little longer and a LOT hotter than we expected. While we want to go back to Aruba, we don't feel the same way about Cartagena. It was interesting to visit once....

Cruising is a great way to get a "taste" of an area before booking an extended vacation. Tomorrow we head to the Panama Canal....early arrival, guess we will actually be setting an alarm! LOL!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

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