Autumn 2012 Panama Canal Cruise
Two Weeks on the Celebrity Infinity cruising down the coast of Mexico on the Pacific Ocean and crossing through the Panama Canal and on to the Atlantic Ocean and home again.
Cruising is a good time from visiting other countries to relaxing aboard the liner and meeting people and making new friendships.
Our cabin was great, big and with a balcony. We were surprised with complimentary champagne and fruit, along with afternoon caviar and vibrate fresh-cut flowers.
We boarded the Celebrity Infinity in San Diego about noon after getting up at 3 a.m., getting a car to the Tampa International Airport for our flight on United Airlines, and not to forgetting changing from one flight to another in Houston. Before sailing from San Diego harbor we stood on deck and watched Naval helicopters on practice before enjoying a nice lunch at the buffet and grill.
We had several choices for dinning. In the evenings we mostly took advantage of dinner in the “Blue Café”, which has a fabulous array of fine foods including of filet minion, escargot, cold avocado soup with shrimp. After dinner we usually went to the variety show, sometimes being served complimentary champagne. The theater offered a balance of musicals and comedy. Afterwards sat on the balcony late into the evening and watched the Pacific Ocean white-capped waters rising as the ship cruised on.
The first morning aboard, I went up to the gym, on the 10th floor, for Yoga practice. When I paid for the 40-minute session and did a little figuring, I decided not to participate in the exercise for the next two weeks.
Also on the first day, after breakfast in buffet dining room, we cheerfully joined with a tour being escorted through the ship’s kitchen. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The large emasculate area and employees were great. Totally clean!
Coming into the waters of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Thursday morning, I could not help but notice the aqua waters and the awesome stone hill. Here, cruisers had to tender in, as there are no docks for ocean liners. We walked streets of the lovely city, stopped at a couple bar & grills and did some souvenir shopping. At the Happy Ending, we took advantage of $2.00 Corona with a double shot of tequila. The place was great, with free Internet and free International phone calling. Just remember, when you go there be sure to get on a tender back to the ship while you can still walk.
I did sleep well that night.
Well certainly, with many extra calories added to my normal daily night, I spent much time the following morning walking up and down staircases. Then to breakfast in the Blue Café and then a walk on the top 91-degree-windy joggers trail on the 11th deck before retiring to the cabin to sit on the balcony to watch the peaks of the mountains of Bahia California reaching through the haze on the Coast of Mexico and gaze at the aqua blue Pacific where fish were jumping and seabirds circling and every-once-in-a-while sea turtles floated by at the water surface.
Next stop: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico… with a dock… which was nice although being tendered in as we were in Cabo San Lucas was fun, too. Here, we took a cab to mid-town and then proceeded to walk the Malecon, which, stretched some 15-plus city blocks along the seawall and that has sculptures; plus the most awesome landmark—the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe—about a half-block from the Malecon. (I was on my way inside when I learned, “They are having Mass.” Whoops…. No photographing inside today.
On a street just north of the boardwalk we crossed over a water-way and in a few blocks, turned back toward the ocean and parked ourselves at the Cheeky Monkey Bar & Grill where we chatted with fun servers and local people. We ordered Blood Mary’s ($4.00 each, & $1.00 beers) and watched people walking the Malecon. Soon locals set up stands and shucked oysters and prepared the most mouth-waters servings of oysters-on-the half-shell anybody could ever imagine.
After shopping for souvenirs we spotted a cab with its driver napping under a tree. We awoke him and went back to the ship.
Back on our cabin balcony we sipped wine and watched the going-on at the port—buses coming in from tours and people walking the dock to the ship’s boarding area.
Days at sea were relaxing. Enjoyed sitting on our balcony and watching the tall mountains raising behind layers of glistening mist that reminded me of the sun shining through the rain between the shore and this ship.
Our next stop was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. We took a tour bus to Antigua and then walked the cobblestone street of this surprisingly lovely old city. (I plan to write an article on Antigua and post more pictures soon.)
Puntarenas, Costa Rica, sad to report the town was quite untidy. After getting off the ship I walked to the first street and turned right (north). Found few tourist and the further I walked the dirty the streets and the more rundown the buildings. (I learned later that the area was not recommended for walkers from the cruise ships and, although I wasn’t bothered, turning left at that first corner had certainly been a mistake). Store fronts, including restaurants were closed with iron gates closings and even boarded. Getting a little concerned about my walking alone in this undesirable part of the city I turned east and for a block then back south. The further south I walked, the more desirable the city became. Finding myself among people, mostly locals, I did some souvenir shopping and parked myself in an Internet café for a while before returning to the ship and having sushi on the 10th deck by the pool.
Not only was the balcony a wonderful place to just hangout, it was awesome for dining—especially breakfast and snacks.
Breakfast and lunch on the sunny tail deck overlooking the surf stirred up by the ship was hard to beat.
Needless to say, the ocean-to-ocean voyage through the Panama Canal was amazing. Very educational and a book of its own! (I plan to post another article and more photos about the canal soon.)
We dismbarked in Colon, Panama on Nov. 3, which is Panama Independence Day, to the sounds of distant drums and other music. The city, of some one-million people, much like most we explored in Central America is quite poor and very trashy. Our cab driver pointed out to us a house that had burn down but still had a few charcoal studs standing, “People still live there,” he said. It is amazing how tour guides seem unmoved by this; as if they think it is an okay environment.
Entering waters of Cartagena, Columbia, we were amazed to see tall, white structures of modern décor in the metropolitan area—not really for tourist. We had planned to take a taxi to the old, historic part of the city (known as Centro or Old Walled City or Centro Historical or Old City) but were soon talked into the some four-hour taxi tour, which ended up being quite interesting and very educational. We visited the Covento La Popa de la Galera, located on tallest mountain peak in the city. Here, we could view all parts of the city below—the modern-day high-rises, Old Town, and the poor side, which according to our guide is extremely poor and the location of the “real” (poor) people.
We made it back to the ship early enough before sailing to sit on the balcony and watch passengers of both the Infinity and beside us a Holland American re-boarding. Captains of the Holland American made several announcements, and waiting nearly an hour longer than their scheduled sailing time, for a couple missing passengers. But finally officials announced that they could wait no longer. And the ship sailed…
And then Welcome Home: Two days after leaving this South American country, and two-weeks of cruising, we sailed into the harbor at Ft. Lauderdale and headed back to West Central Florida.
Bridged By Love, historical fiction by Patricia Lieb
Bridged By Love, historical fiction by Patricia Lieb