Our Panama Canal Cruise

Thursday, April 24, 1997

This is our day to take off for New Orleans. Our plane, Southwest Airlines, leaves at 10:30 a.m. from LAX. Because of the heavy traffic we decide to leave home about 7:30. Martin is going with us to New Orleans and will stay with Ken and Debi over the weekend and go back home Tuesday.

Martin got to our place by 7 a.m. and put his car in our carport. I had taken Nancy's car out as we were taking it to Donna's. We put ours and Martin's luggage in the Cavalier and started out about 7:20. We had some slow traffic and got to Donna's about 8:20. Donna got into the car and we were off to LAX, Got to the airport before 9:30 a.m. so we had lots of time. Donna took off and will keep the car while we are gone and she will pick us up Tuesday May 13. Our ship should get to LA about 8 a.m. We checked in at the airport and our plane left about on time. We had to change planes in El Paso. Southwest is a no-frills airline and does not serve any meals. They gave us a snack, peanuts and coffee or soft drinks; this is ok. We had never been to El Paso and did not know it was all desert around there. We changed planes in El Paso and were off to New Orleans with a stop at Houston. Houston is a large city and the country around there looked great. After a short stop off to New Orleans; I think it was about 5:30 when we got there. Ken and Debi and the twins were there to pick us up, got our luggage and off to Ken and Deb's new home. What a home, about like a fancy hotel. Debi served a real nice dinner. About ten p.m. off to bed. a large bedroom with a king-size bed and a large bathroom.

April 25

Got up and had some breakfast. I went for a nice walk. After lunch Debi took us through town and we visited the aquarium--it's quite a place. Then Nancy and I got on a small bus that goes around to the sightseeing places, you can get off at any one and look around and get on the next one. One stop was in front of the Dome; there the bus broke down so the driver called in and we waited about twenty minutes for them to bring out another bus. We got off at the museum where I called Debi and she agreed to pick us up in one hour in front of the museum. This she did and back to Ken and Debi's place, had a very nice day and got to see quite a bit of New Orleans. During the night we had a real thunderstorm with quite a bit of wind, thunder and lightning, and it rained real hard.

Saturday April 26.

Today is the start of our cruise, our ship leaves at 5 p.m., boarding about 3 p.m. We decided to avoid the crowd and plan on 3:30. About 11 a.m. Ken and Debi took us for a tour of the city. It was raining most of the time, quite hard at times. Debi did all the driving and there was a lot of traffic. About 1 p.m. we were downtown parked in a parking garage and walked a short distance of Bourbon Street and went into a restaurant and had lunch including crayfish, something we never had before. Ken and Debi sure did take care of us and they sure have a large and great home. About 3:30 they took us to the dock and there was no lineup. It was raining, not real hard. It took only a few minutes and we were on the ship and into our room, a nice room, two single beds, lots of closets and drawers so we had plenty of room to put all our things away and our empty suitcases under the beds. Soon it was time for dinner Met the table partners, a couple from New Orleans who live about a mile from Ken and Debi. They were Jack and Ann Clark. She works part time in a hospital; she knew of Ken as one of the doctors that use that hospital.

April 27, 28.

Sunday and Monday we were at sea. We could unwind, stroll around the ship, eat and then eat again. Sunday evening was dress-up night and the captain greeted everyone at the door to the dining room. After dinner there is always a live show. That night they had a ventriloquist; he sure was good. Some nights they have a lot of dancing and singing and some jokes.

Tuesday April 29.

We got to Grand Cayman. The ship docked and we had to take a tender to get to land. We did not spend much time, just wandered around town, lots of little shops like most places and quite a few banks, must be quite a financial center, and interesting but nothing unusual. Walked to a grocery store, lots of American products and the prices were quite high.

Wednesday April 30.

Montego Bay, Jamaica. We rented a taxi for one hour. Took us around lots of nice homes some great views, nice airport terminal, we did very little shopping there.

May 1

at sea.

May 2

Cartagena, Columbia. We took a tour of the area. The old part of the city is walled. Also there is a large walled hill to protect the city from land invasion. The wall around the old city was to protect from invasion by sea. This is a long wall and is still in very good repair. Also there is a monastery on the highest peak. What a huge place and a view all the way around 180 degrees. This is also where I bought a white straw hat. When the bus stopped near the fort lots of vendors were selling all kinds of items. One guy was selling these white straw hats. I said how much and he said twenty dollars. I waved him off and he said 15. I said no no, He kept coming down and I said 2 dollars. He acted like I was trying to steal it. At least I said three, and he came down some. Before we got on the bus I said four dollars, he came down to five. We got on the bus and he came up to the window and held up five fingers. I shook my head no and held up four fingers, The bus was about to leave; he said ok. So we opened the window and made a deal. Of course every tour includes a stop for shopping and every evening six o'clock dinner and show later.

Sat May 3.

Panama canal. Don't know what the problem was but we were delayed at every point. Were near the canal at 8:30, at least fifty ships waiting, but none or very few going through. At last about 11 a.m. we started through, and were delayed at every lock. They gave us some feeble excuse. They would not admit it but I think it was a labor dispute, a slow down. It was dark late at night by the time we got to the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday May 4th.

At sea all day. We went to a nice church service. There was a large group in church. We relaxed and took it easy. Always a movie. and a live show at night. Great food and more food. Because of the delay in the canal we did not cruise the Golfo Dulce.

Monday May 5.

Today we are in Costa Rica. We had been there twice before so we just stayed close to the ship and enjoyed the life on the ship.

Tuesday May 6

we were at sea. Tonight at our dinner was Dutch night. They gave the men a black Dutch cap and the women a white one. Then took many pictures.

May 7th, Wednesday.

At Santa Cruz, Huatalco, Mexico.

Thursday May 8th,

Acapulco. We had been here twice and had two different tours including the divers so today we took a cab downtown and this is where we bought a fancy clock. Perhaps paid too much, $32. Their first asking price was about 50 dollars, I think. When we got tired of shopping we took a cab back to the ship. We tried several drug stores but could not get the medicine Mom wanted (fluorouracil). A man offered us a free taxi ride to a nice new hotel, and lunch, for seeing it and recommending it to our friends, but we thought it over and declined because it would take several hours, and we had seen the adjacent Princess hotel anyway--very grand, and this would be too. Mel and Jan Van Zanten got on our ship at Acapulco for a short cruise to LA. We did not know they would be here and as luck would have it I met Jan in the Lido; she came up to me and said I think you are someone I know. I looked at her and said, "Well hi, Jan."

Friday May 9.

Today we are at Zihuatanejo, and the city nearby Ixtapa. We took a nice tour today. Our first stop was a great view of the harbor. Took pictures of the ship then on to Ixtapa. A quite new and well planned tourist area. Lots of new hotels, golf courses, several marinas. One hotel we stopped at had a nice marina next to it loaded with lots of private yachts, some quite large, really a nice area. The weather was perfect. Our guide says this area never gets hot or cold, Seems like a perfect resort. Besides hotels many condos. This evening after the show we played pinochle with Mel and Jan.

Saturday, May 10.

Puerto Vallarta. This is our last port of the trip till we get to LA. Like so many of these ports it has quite a nice harbor. Today we took a four hour tour of the area. We had been here once before but for only a few hours. First we went through downtown and made some stops. One stop near the oldest church, built in 1905. Took several pictures of the outside and inside. The harbor is like a big horseshoe. Our ship was anchored at one side and our tour took us all the way around to the other side going through the main part of town. When we got to the other side we stopped at a nice hotel and there were served refreshments. There are a lot of nice motels, homes and condos. The area is quite mountain like, goes up sharply most places near the ocean. There is perhaps only a half mile where there are homes and businesses along the ocean. Again we tried drugstores and this time they had what Mom wanted. Got back to the ship about 12:30. Mom went to the movie. I had more fun, I went to the Lido cafe and had lunch. I went off the ship and looked around all the little shops. Also located a good place to make a phone call, so after Mom returned from the movie we went out and visited the small shops (flea markets) then made a phone call to Donna. Cost about $4.00, 3 minutes at 1.20 per minute. After dinner we went to the show.

Sunday May 11.

At sea today, a day to relax and take it easy. We went to church service at 9:15. After lunch we went to a no-good show movie (Michael.) It was nice and cool today; tonight we dress up again. Had a nice dinner, Baked Alaska. a parade and dessert. Went to the pretty good evening show. After the show we went to the card room and played cards with Mel and Jan for a while.

May 12, Monday.

We'll be at sea all day and this is our last day. Tomorrow we should get to LA harbor about 8 a.m. Donna is expected to be there about 10 a.m with Mom's nice little car and pick us up. It is 9 a.m. now and at 10:30 we go to the meeting for instructions about disembarking in the morning. We expect to do some packing soon. Tonight we have to have our luggage out before we go to bed. More later I hope.

The last morning, Tuesday, May 13.

We got ready to go, played cards with Mel and Jan while waiting for our number to be called. Donna met us and we came home.