Barbara on April 26th, 2009

The Panama Canal, approximately 80 km long, unites the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.  It officially opened on August 15, 1914 and has seen about 1,000,000 vessels travel through it.  The canal knocks off about 100,000 miles to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Talk about screwing up a great vacation.  Without the canal we could have added another 20 days to our trip. What a rip off!!

There is ample information available on the stats regarding the Panama Canal, when it opened, how long, how big, etc, etc. so you can look any of that up on the Internet or in travel books.  CAA Niagara Travel gave our passengers the book “Panama Canal By Cruise Ship” by Anne Vipond.  If you are planning to cruise the Panama, it’s actually pretty good as it also covers the ports of call and maps.  Of course, most people didn’t get through it before coming on the cruise, myself included, but it works well as a reference book.

I thought Holland America handled the passage very well.  They had a commentator starting at about 7:00 in the morning and he kept us informed throughout the day.  They opened up the bow and all the other front decks so people could get a good view of the happenings, and provided beverages and sweet buns so we wouldn’t starve until breakfast. 

The first set of locks were the best in that most of us were up earlier than normal and dedicated that time to listening to the speaker and photographing the 8th man-made wonder of the world.  It was already over 80 early in the morning so we were slathered with sunscreen and made sure we had hats.  The last three locks seemed to just pass us by as in the afternoon there were other activities to keep us occupied such as eating, movies, etc.  It was way too hot to bask in the sun. We were a mere 400 miles from the equator.

We did make it back to the bow for the grand exit from the canal at Panama City.  It would have added a lot to the experience to stop to tour this beautiful modern city and its surroundings. There is an information centre and museum at the last lock that some of our guests would have liked to see.  Apparently people come from all over the world (especially engineers) to see this engineering marvel.  Our resident engineer was quite put off in that the whole lock-type system used is exceedingly simple.

This evening we decided to opt for the Open Dining rather than our regular seating.  We were placed with some very interesting people, a documentary filmmaker and this cruise’s guest travel speaker.  Dinner conversation was lively, especially with some antidotes from Rene, our documentarian.  He told a story about a trip to Brazil to a place that experiments and produces snake venom.  He asked if they could go into the snake pit with the handler to film.  After awhile the handler got bored and decided to have a little siesta.  Soon, there were cries from outside the pit for Rene to watch out.  When he looked down, there was a snake peering out from between his legs at which point he had to show me what that looked like.  Really, Rene, you shouldn’t brag……

We spend the rest of the evening at the Piano Bar entertaining the entertainer.  She was nice enough not to throw us out for singing along and on occasion correcting her words.   We’re bad!!!

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For Rick, the Spin Doctor’s, more professional view of today go to CAA Niagara Travel

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