A TRANSIT of the PANAMA CANAL
Sun 24 Apr 2005 - Sat 14 May 2005
FOR MY FIRST EVER CRUISE
I have chosen a fairly ambitious one, EIGHTEEN DAYS from Miami to Los Angeles - California.
A lady at work who has cruised, immediately lets me know that I probably will not like it.
Too long she says.
Start with a short one.
Three days, a week at most.
You are gonna get seasick etc etc & on & on.
Forget It. Seasick or no .. I am going on this cruise.
The itinerary looks good. Miami - Barbados - Grenada - Aruba - Transit the Panama Canal - Costa Rica - Mexico & debark in Los Angeles, California.
After exiting the canal we will be within about seven degrees of the Equator. Too bad we do not cross - later.
A nice sprinkling of sea days and shore time.
I have no recollection of why this particular cruise, or indeed this cruise line, or ship. No great expectations on my part. Without many preconceived ideas about life aboard ship.
I have never visited any of these places before & the Panama Canal must have played a part in it, but it was probably the price. Don't recall that either but it could not have been outrageous for this here skinflint.
Should be fun, hope so.
Anyway - on with the cruise
First the spectacular flight into Miami - What a wonderful sight that is
This is my first experience of travelling with a cruise line & I am impressed. There were a couple of NCL reps at the airport, directing traffic & they quickly had me on the bus.
While we were waiting for the bus to fill up, the driver was telling us - "there's no point us heading straight for the ship as we are early & there will be line-ups out the door. Why don't we go to the shopping center & wait around there for a bit. He will pick us up later & take us to the ship."
This guy must think I'm a rube, just got off the plane from Canada.
Has to be a set up for a 'Shopping Experience' - right?
Wrong - As it happens, we go to a really nice place, right by the water. There are shops & restaurants here, but no hard sell,
I spend a very pleasant hour & a half here, get back on the bus & drive over the bridge to the massive Miami Cruise Ship terminal & my first sighting of the NORWEGIAN SPIRIT.
GETTING ON BOARD
I know - I should have had my camera ready for that first sighting.
This thing looks BIG.
By current standards it is actually quite small as it only caters for 2,018 double occupancy. I am on my own so make that 2,017.
I did a tour of the ship & this is a really daft thing to say, but when I was on deck, I was struck by how 'solid' it felt underfoot.
The interior of the ship looks very nice .... if a little bright.
I have been on a lot of cruise ships now & this remains one of my favourite rooms on any of them. They all have a sweeping view of the ocean over the bow but this one seems to be a cut above somehow.
The main dining room, aft.
I get introduced to the two most important people on the ship who are going to keep my cabin spotless for the next little while.
Always with smiling hellos & goodbyes.
First up is BARBADOS
A long way from Miami, a couple of sea days to get my sea legs - I like it already.
I have a ships tour, booked before leaving home. It's a bus ride across the island and back.
To the highest point...
And Harrison's caves. This is a great place to visit if you like caves.
Next is GRENADA
Recently hit by a hurricane with damage quite visible
& the people anxious to make ends meet by getting a dollar or two from the tourist.
This shot cost five dollars, each.
I handed my camera to a young guy standing nearby and asked if he would take our photo. Another 5 bucks for him. On looking back, giving my camera to a stranger like that was pretty brainless. It would have served me right if he had walked off with it.
Another guy got very aggressive with me when I did not give him anything, even though he did not do anything for it. Said I was not very humble. Later he stood on the step of our bus & serenaded us with a nasty little song about tourists visiting his island. He's not going to get too rich behaving like that.
The girls had the right idea. Dress up for the day. Smile, be pleasant & gentle. Hope they made lots of cash.
Another stop was for a tour of a Nutmeg processing plant. This was an eye opening experience. I felt uncomfortable about taking photos although the guide said it was ok. Inside it was dark & dusty. Ladies sitting up high, sorting & doing whatever is needed. Looks like very hard work in very uncomfortable conditions for not much in the way of wages.
I bought a bag of Nutmeg for gifts when I got home. Nobody knew what to do with it.
A view of the main town
ARUBA is next
and it's time for a glass bottomed boat trip. But first a ride across the island to the famous natural arch. Aruba is mostly flat so it made sense to stop on the way at this small mound on the plain, & climb to the top for a 360 degree view.
Except I could not stand up when I got to the top. Never experienced anything like it before or since. Extreme vertigo I expect. I could not look at the horizon. Got to the bottom & was perfectly fine again.
The famous Arch . . I might be dreaming to say I heard it has fallen down
Now it's time for the boat trip & while I was not to fussed with the idea of being below the water line, I was so captivated looking at all the fish I forgot to worry.
Passed this guy on the way back to the ship
This was my first time in Aruba & I have been back since but still do not have any photos of those pretty pastel coloured houses
Going to transit the PANAMA CANAL in a bit. It's an interesting thing to do & the canal is such a huge accomplishment but I prefer the locks here in Ottawa. Much more compact.
I had a minor mis-hap here.
After taking a couple of pictures I wanted to get a shot from a higher vantage point. There was a pretty girl up on a stanchion taking pics so I handed her my camera. When it came back to me the cover would not work properly so I am now without a camera - INSIDE THE PANAMA CANAL - oh woe is me!
I want a new camera & forget why but all the shops on board are closed - disappointment!
Heading outdoors, there are stalls set up on deck selling - cameras! Whoopee!
After lots more shots I head to the theater to enjoy the show & next day realise I have left my new camera there. Major disappointment!
But - amazingly, some kind soul has dropped it off an reception.
This of the Canal....
That's the one the girl took for me before my camera broke. The bridge holding North & South America together is in the background.
That's all for you. I am here again in a few years time & got some much better shots. Digital, all these are prior to digital, whatever that was.
Puntarenas Costa Rica is next on the agenda ..Going for a boat ride on the Tarcoles River
May see something exotic here with a bit of luck but with my little throw away camera I will not be able to zoom in on them. We'll see,,
Huatalco is a place in Mexico south of Acapulco
that the map on this site has difficulty finding. It's a very nice place for a visit. Just getting going as a tourist destination when I was here.
Off on another little boat trip. Can you see a pattern developing here? Off one boat & onto another.
Going dow the coast. No idea what there is to see.
That's odd. Only one photo downloaded. I will go back & see where they are later.
Meanwhile, I have now moved on to Acapulco
Most people will have heard of the guys cliff diving here nut I did not see any. A couple of girls on board were kind enough to send me a picture of them but I cannot find them.
I did get to go to the castle
which is right opposite the ship.
Walk up to the cliff diving - where no one was diving.
Haggle with a Taxi driver for a ride round the bay to Senor Frogs bar for a beer & back to the ship. He then dropped my off at the ship & I learned the negotiation was for the price to the bar, not back to the ship. Well - he was out of luck cos I had no more cash. There was a bit of an argument but he gave up when I tripped over getting out the Taxi & people came over to help me. He got enough money from me anyway, I think.
The cab was one of hundreds that are all very old VW beetles.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California & a welcome to the HOTEL CALIFORNIA, if there's any room
We have to take a tender ashore. Not my favourite part of cruising. They squeeze a lot of folks in there but it's a lifeboat so we should be ok. Right?
We stopped at this place which you might take to be a garden but which is actually a restaurant. Nice.
At the end of the cruise in Los Angeles. The famous California Highway patrol
Goodbye to some of the staff.
The first girl is Nenette from the Philipines. I have since been with her crossing the Atlantic & to Bermuda & more recently from Quebec to Tampa. What are the odds of that? Different ships & different itineraries. There are 2 other girls who I have come across on different ships. I half expect it on the same ship, but surprising on different ones.
I liked this ship & the length of cruise. Enough sea days to relax between jaunts ashore. Good people. The food is very well done & I like how Norwegian have this no set seating for meals. I often got to sit with different people which suited me fine.
All in all, I really enjoyed it.
And that's it for my first cruise.
A great experience but would I want to do anymore?