Panama Canal Cruise Trip 2016

Diary of Roger and Linda's Panama Canal Cruise - November 2016

11/08/16 Linda and I left at 11:30am on American Airlines for our cruise to the Panama Canal. We had a layover in Charlotte NC and then continued on to Ft Lauderdale arriving at 10:00pm. We call our hotel “Hampton Inn” and a shuttle arrived in 15 minutes. For a change all airline and shuttle transportation went very well. Our hotel was newly remodeled and we were happy with it. We checked in and then walked to a local sports bar to have a beer and French Dip sandwich.


11/09/16 Slept well and got up to hear and see on TV that Donald Trump is our new president. I was shocked to hear that he won as I though he had no prayer of winning. The hotel had a large buffet type breakfast included in the $200 cost of the room which was not bad. Got a shuttle for $6 per person to transport us to our ship at Everglades Marina - a huge sea port. It only took us about 15 minutes to get to the Celebrity Infinity ship. We got our luggage checked to room and were in our room in about 45 minutes, probably a record time for me. The room on the 8th deck with an outside verranda was very clean and comfortable. It was close to an elevator and Linda was happy with it. We did sit down dining with two other couples from Temecula California and Houston Texas. Every one was very congenial, fun, and interesting. One gentlemen was a doctor at Kaiser HMO the same place Linda and I went. The couple was originally from Iraq and came to the US to escape the persecution of their Christian religion. They had some interesting stories to tell us. The other couple were in finance - accounting and taxes also friendly and interesting. We all made reservations for the same table tomorrow night. We attended the show - 3 Divas singing Diva music from the 60’s.


11/10/16 I stayed in bed until 9:30am as the time difference of 3 hours is hard for me to adjust to. The buffet on this ship is not as good as previous Celebrity ships I have been on. I got my Internet connection working and to my surprise it works well and is reasonably speedy. Linda and I have unlimited Internet time and have the ultimate beverage package. All house wine, coffee, tea, and soft drinks are free and the good wine by the bottle is 20% of f but I usually have to pay the mandatory 18% tip so it is still about 100% more than you could buy the same wine for in a liquor store. My last cruise to the Greek Islands was a disaster and my travel agent got me the above packages free and another $1200 ship board credit on this cruise. It pays to whine if you feel you have been abused, as the cruise company will normally give you some freebies on the next cruise. We attended two lectures today about Columbia and Panama biodiversity which was very informative and entertaining. It turned out to be a dress up night for dinner. I went relatively casual and was allowed in. Had fillet mignon steak Tornadoes with mushrooms, green beans, baby potatoes, salmon starter sashimi type appetizer (very yummy), and chocolate cake which was all very delicious. We continued to have stimulating and fun conversations with our dinner companions. We tried to do the late show at 9:00pm, but not one seat was available in the theater. It was a big production type show, so we watched it in the standing position for about 30 minutes and then left as Linda was not impressed with it.


11/11/16 Got up late around 10:00 am as I am still not acclimated to the time change. Had a nice omelet and we then we explored the ship on foot and purchased some of our upcoming excursions. I decided to spend some of my ship board credit on the Italian premium restaurant called the Tuscan. The food was outstanding. Both Linda and I agreed that this was probably the best Italian restuarant we had ever dined at. Linda loved her arugala salad and her Carbonara pasta was to die for. I really liked my bruchestta and a beet salad with 4 different kinds of beets, basil, white beans, and and pasta all with a wonderful light dressing. Next I had Brysintine a fish similar to sea bass that was fried to perfection and served on a bed of lightly sauteed spinanch. I also had seafood pasta dish with seafood that had a delicious red sauce on it. The warm breads all home made and served with a wonderful olive oil and fresh basil herb. I ordered a bottle of French St Emillean which was so good and smooth.

11/12/16 Finally a day for an off board excursion in the city of Cartagena. We were late arriving and we had to wait an hour in the Celebrity room to get off the ship to our excursion which was a Sea and Land trip of the city. We first did the sea portion which was very pleasant on nicely equipped speed boat for about 30 people. The city skyline with several sky scrapers was very scenic. The bay was huge in a half dome shape, one large well protected harbor. From the water we viewed the old walled city and the new city with the sky scrapers. We also viewed the Fortress of Cartagena which the Spanish built in the late 1600’s. We then went into the water front area which was quite active as it was a holiday to celebrated their independence from Spain I assume. At 11:00 in the morning most yacht people were already in the party mode. This part was very pleasing and scenic. We then disembarked and moved to a bus for a tour of the new and old city. I was not impressed as this is definitely a 3rd world country. It appeared that 1/2 of the people live in poverty. Believe me when I say that we are lucky to live in the USA. My favorite part of the land tour was visiting the Cartagena Fortress. It was quite a walk up to the top. A magnificent view of the city and the structure very photogenic with so many angles to experiment with. The Spaniards built and rebuilt it many times to keep the pirates out off the city. I got lots of exercise on this tour and enjoyed it a lot. At this rate of exercise I may gain no weight on this cruise. Had dinner with same group. We did drill the doctor with questions about our medical condition and about our medications. Food and service in the main dining room continues to be good.

11/13/16 We arrived in Colon Panama this morning around 8:00am. Weather is sunny and clear in 80’s and very humid, I would guess in the 90’s. We left on our excursion about 9:00am to take boat ride on Lake Gatun. The bus took us through the town of Colon and out to a very high end hotel on the lake. This is the man made lake, that was built by damming a river, to have water for the locks and it also serves as the water way for the ships for about 5o miles to the Pacific locks. We left on boat from this hotel location. The speed boat holding 41 people today was very comfortable and had a open area in the front where photographers could shoot their pictures. We saw lots of water birds similar to San Diego area. One area of the jungle did have a few howling monkeys. They were back lighted very high in the trees and the background was heavy with branches and leaves, so it was hard to get any good photos. I had a 200mm lens on a cropped Fuji XT-1 which did not have enough reach. A 400mm lens would have been about right, but holding it steady would have been a problem for me. Hopefully I have a shot or two of the monkeys that may be reasonable. After the boat ride, our bus took us to the Panama canal Atlantic locks for a tour. It was a real engineering marvel, very active with ships continually going through, and well worth visiting. Our guide today was very entertaining and much better than yesterdays. Had another pleasing dining experience with our regulars.

11/14/16 I got up at 6:30 am today so I could see our entry into the canal locks on the Atlantic side. It was cloudy and foggy humid morning with no sun. The recommended viewing point was the helicopter pad in the bow of the 5th deck. When I arrived around 7:15am it was already crowded and I had to raise the camera high and use the tilt viewing screen to get any shots. After 15 -20 minutes I decided to go back to my room on the 8th deck and take time lapse photos every 15 seconds of the jungle from our balcony. We got through the Atlantic 3 locks in about 2 hours and reached the fresh water Lake Gatun. The lush green tropical jungle along the locks was very beautiful. Hopefully my time lapse photography will show this to you all. Got Linda up at 9:45am and we went to the dining room for breakfast. We met a couple from Atlanta at our table and had a very pleasant relaxed breakfast. I was concerned about my camera taking photos on the patio, so I got back to the room. Camera was still shooting and all was well. My batteries do seem to be getting weak, especially the two after-market ones. The ship continued on about 50 miles through the canal in Lake Gatun. It was actually hilly country side so land masses and islands adorned the lake. In the middle the ground elevation got higher and this the area of the canal that they call the CUT as lots of earth had to be moved out here to cut a channel for the big ships. Constant dredging is going on to keep the channel at least 50’ deep. In some areas the lake channel is actually 150’ deep. They have mud slides on the steeper banks all the time which have to be repaired. The ongoing maintenance required to keep the canal open is a monumental job costing lots of money. New locks at both ends of the canal have been recently completed to allow the big super ships to pass through. Of course the channel through the lake also had to widened and made deeper to accommodate these ships at huge cost. Of course Panama keeps raising the price of passage to cover inflation and to cover the expenses. I believe the fee for our cruise ship was around $360,000 (about $175/passenger). We made it through the canal to the Pacific Ocean with no problems. The lake passage taking about 8 hours was very beautiful and relaxing. We are in the Pacific Ocean now and heading for Costa Rica. Had another friendly social experience with our dining companions. Doctor Shaba is into nutrition more than most doctors and has been informing us of the advantages and disadvantages of certain foods and beverages. Linda and I attended the show tonight which was a relatively good review of Nat King Cole songs.


11/15/16 Got up about 8:00am and had another Eggs Benedict breakfast in the dining room. The Celebrity staff tends to put us together with other passengers on this ship. The luck of the draw seems to have given us excellent and interesting dining companions. The day is cloudy and rainy in the low 80’s and the sea is a bit choppy today causing mild motion of the ship. After telling our dinner companions how good the Tuscan Italian restaurant was we have all decided to dine there again tonight. We attended a lecture about the upcoming port countries we will be visiting. The lecturer Bill Fall and X engineer who worked at the Panama canal gives information not easily attained elsewhere and is very entertaining knowledgeable guy. Purchased a Cappuccino coffee with a double shot added from the Cafe’ al Bacio ship coffee shop which is excellent. I some how ended up with prime drink package which Linda loves as both the tea and coffee drinks are good at this Cafe’. Our entire dinner group went to the Tuscan Restaurant tonight at 6:30 pm. The food and service was again excellent. I ate way too much food. The dinner lasted almost 3 hours, in our private dining room, also the wine storage room containing perhaps $350,000 of wine.


11/16/16 We arrived in Puntarenas, Costa Rica at 7:00am this morning. Weather is in 80’s and partially sunny. Not very hungry this morning. Only had one small bowl of cereal for breakfast. Our tour this morning is called a walk in the clouds in the high country. Hopefully it will not be too hot and the mosquitoes will not munch me alive. We are about 10 degrees north of the equator here, so the temperature is about the same all the time. The only seasons down here are the rainy season and the dry season. High humidity is virtually always. The excursion bus ride to the high country took us 2 plus hours which did not make me happy. The hilly country side mostly covered with rain forest was quite pretty. The leading industry here is tourism followed by bananas, pineapple, software, and coffee. Taxes are very high but all schooling and medical is paid for by the government. It was lightly raining when we reached our destination for our walk in the clouds. This was private land and the hike included a nice butterfly area which was great for photography. We had cute little local guide who was quite knowledgeable with the fauna and flora. The walk was perhaps only 1.5 hilly miles which included about 5 suspension foot bridges over canyons and fast flowing streams. In the middle of the very wet hike (rained lightly on & off the entire hike) we came to the humming bird feeder area which again was great for photography. I photographed lots of ferns, flowers, palms, and moss. My Fuji camera survived all the moisture OK. They served us locale fruit platter, warm goat cheese, corn tortillas, and pineapple coconut cake with coffee for lunch. Went back a different way which was shorter and got back the ship around 4:00pm. Had another pleasant dinner with our same dining group. Went do a large production musical show in the Celebrity Theater after dinner. I liked it, but Linda was unhappy with it.


11/17/16 Slept late today as it is another sea day to Linda’s chagrin. I caught up with my diary and did searches on the Internet to research black Friday shopping I want to do before arriving home. I definitely want to buy from Hobby King, a 4c 10000mah LIPO battery which is 1/2 price on Black Friday prices.


11/18/16 Arrived in Puerta Quetzal, Guatemala this morning around 8:00am. Our excursion today about 6 hours was bus ride to San Juan del Obispo Palace and Antigua. The country is quite beautiful with lots of mountains, lush rain forest, and volcanoes. Tourism is their number one business. Fruits, flowers, coffee, and chocolate are exported. Antigua was an old world city quite conjested with narrow cobblestone streets. Beggars and pesty vendors pursue you big time. They do have beautiful costumes and are quite photogenic (but of course they all want money if you do some serious work). If I had time, Icould have gotten some great photos, but this is no place to loose your guide. We stopped at a famous jade store and museum that was very nice. I tried to buy Linda some purple jade ear rings, but she said no. I bought a piece of black jade with my Mayan birth symbol on it, the FISH. Next we went to St. John’s church a monastery run by 4 nuns. The church allowed photography in most buildings and the open courtyards were very beautiful. At the end of the monastery tour we were shown green and roasted cocoa beans and given a lecture about its harvest. We peeled and tasted the roasted bean which was quite good. They made us some hot cocoa which was very refreshing. YUM YUM. Next came the home made chocolate candy, flavored individually with cinnamon, anis, almond, and coffee. I bought 3 bags of candy and 1 bag of cocoa mix all for $20 which I assumed went into the church coffers. Next we went to lunch at a private beautiful condominium garden, where we dinned outside. We had fresh vegetables, rice, and chicken with a sauce similar to mole. I also had a bottle of the local beer called Galleo. The lunch was very good for an excursion. We then headed back to port through the beautiful country side. It was a clear day with broken clouds. The high volcanoes were partially secluded behind the rain clouds which made for great photography. We stopped a couple of times to photograph the lava rivers and also at huge fruit market areas. This country could be a photographers dream. Our guide was easy to understand, charming, and knew a lot about her country both current and in past history. Got back to ship with no problems. The quality of vendor products near the ship was the best to date. We attended the show tonight featuring a young concert pianist from London which even I liked. I usually had enough wine by this time of day so I order a big bottle of Avian water with ice to drink during the show.


11/19/16 A sea day. Woke up to a horrible rocking ship this morning, I immediately took a Medi-Meclizine sea motion sickness tablet which did keep my from getting sick, but I stayed groggy feeling all day. The waves were perhaps 10’ high and quite violent making it very hard to have breakfast at the buffet. We attended another lecture by Bill Fall about the construction of the new Panama Canal. He is an X engineer and he predicted that the new canal may have real problems in the future because of shoddy workmanship and cost cutting that was done to build it. The prime contractor was and Italian firm which will probably be gone when the failures begin and poor Panama will suffer huge financial loss. This guy Bill Fall is the best travel lecture speaker I have ever heard on any ship. He said, that high seas were due to a mountain pass through the peninsula here and it almost always causes high rough seas in this Pacific ocean side of the peninsula. The worst thing about SEA SICKNESS is THAT YOU THINK YOU MIGHT LIVE! The wind and seas subsided at 2:00pm and all was well again. I gave my new doctor friend David and his wife Edna a one hour presentation on how to use a free app called SNAPSEED to edit photos on iphone or ipad. This a free awesome program for editing photos to be displayed on the web or an iphone device. It was a dress up night which both Linda and I ignored as we had no formal clothing. The rest of group dressed up and looked great. Lobster was served YUM YUM. They were very small so I had two. Skipped the show tonight as I was still a bit ill from earlier motion.


11/20/16 Two sea days in a row, and Linda is very unhappy about that. Slept late, got up and had breakfast in the dining room with a couple of retired teacher sisters from Florida. Attended another lecture by Bill Fall about Bio Diversity in central American countries. His photos, videos, and backup research data which he includes on his slide presentation are just so excellent and interesting. I talked to him a bit after his lecture and found out that he does all the photography and data collecting himself. He uses the Apple software called KEYNOTE for his slide presentations. Looked it up and there is no PC equivalent. We decided to attend an afternoon show in the Big Celebrity theater featuring a singer comedian guy from Canada who we both liked a lot. The entertainment on the ship has been average plus. All the big productions were fun to watch.


11/21/16 Arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this morning having clear pleasant calm weather. Our excursion today is a tour tour to the town of San Sebastian in the high country through the Sierra Madre mountains to the north. The 1.5 hour one way bus ride was pleasant and the wooded hilly country side was beautiful. Lots of trees, and occasional farming land of hay and Indian corn used to make the tortillas I assume. The town was really remote and the last 5 miles was a gravel dirt curvy mountain road. We walked about a mile into the very scenic town and toured the local Spanish church built in 1800’s was beautiful. Next we visited a very old hacienda which had many photos and antiques of old. The guide and owner of the house explained many of the photos and told us what it was like living back in the 17th century. The walking was relatively flat and easy, but one had to his/her step as the side walks and the streets were constructed of cobble stone. Next we had a traditional very healthy Spanish lunch which was excellent. The corn tortillas were only a few minutes old when served, as they had a small Tortillareia building near the outdoor dining area. No beer or wine but they served a traditional fruit juice punch which was excellent and refreshing. Next had a quick tour of a coffee farm. Started returning in the bus. About half way we stopped at Tequila distillery for a lecture, tasting, and an opportunity to purchase a bottle or two. The place was beautiful so I spend my time there shooting photos. A long day, but a different and a fun day.


11/22/16 Arrived at Cabo San Lucas about 7:00am. This is a modern very clean port, the best I have seen anywhere in Mexico. The ship could not get all the way into port so we had a short shuttle ride to get into port for our 4 hour excursion called “Coastal Highlights tour”. It was definitely tilted toward shopping. The city was clean with lots of high end shops and restaurants. In a huge bus our first stop was a large glass factory that was actually quite interesting and it had bathrooms. Next we continued on through the city and then north along the coast line. I never so many high end beautiful huge final destination type resorts in my life. They included many which I was familiar with, to name two; the Hilton and Barcello both amazing hotel resorts placed right on the beautiful white large beaches with clear turquoise water. We then continued on to a small Mexican village where got out for shopping and site seeing. Linda and I had fish tacos lunch which Linda liked, but I did not. However the Corona beer was cold and good. We then returned along the coast back to Cabo San Lucas and stopped at a high end restaurant for refreshments and a bathroom stop. The place was huge with outdoor patios and had a breath taking view of the city and the bay. Returned to town and disembarked the bus to return to the water shuttle. Linda stopped at a Pharmacy to get me some antibiotics to cure my tooth ache.


I discussed pain control with my doctor dining companion, MD David Shaba this evening. He said that all the pain drugs that work, all have long term destructive side effects to various organs especially the kidneys. He recommended the following for me:
He said that Magnesium Citrate 200-400mg 1 pill every 2 days could help with pain. Side effect loose stool. The best brand is Magnesium Thronate (check web).
He recommended that I have a blood panel done to check for vitamin D3 level. Ask for Vit D3 level - blood cell. If low - less than 20 - take 10,000 IU every week for 4-6 weeks. Then take 2,000 IU every day.
He also recommended taking COQ10 (quino1) red bottle 100 - 300mg available at Costco. I did research on this and there is no agreement at all if it should be taken by MS patients. Most seem to say NO.


11/23/16 Last day of the cruise. A cool clear day with a bit of chop on the sea. Went down to the dining room for breakfast having my typical breakfast - coffee, fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice, and eggs Benedict. I like being served as opposed to running around the busy buffet to find what I want. I recently discovered that the fresh squeezed orange juice is included in my prime drink package. YUM YUM Attended Bill Fall’s last presentation about the Panama Canal history and on going problems. He is the most entertaining and interesting speaker I have experienced on all my cruises. My tooth is feeling a bit better today. It is definitely time to get home as my drugs are all gone. I did not count the days correctly!!!


11/24/16 Arrived in San Diego about 6:00am. Had our final breakfast in the dining room. Our disembarkation is not until 10:45am so we are staying in the room until 10:30am. Matt, Linda’s brother, picked us up with no problem and transported us home. We unpacked and picked up the dogs from sitter, paying her $400 for the service. At 1:00pm we drove up to meet David and Pauline Oakley at the Carl Strauss Brewing Company in Carlsbad California to have Thanksgiving dinner. We enjoyed discussing trip with them and enjoyed the great food and beer. They are major stock holders of the brewery and they got us 50% off on food and 25% on the beer. We started with a cheese mushroom fondue that was to die for and then had bistro type food for our main course which was very good. I enjoyed 2 glasses of 9%+ stout beer with my appetizer and dinner. YUM YUM

Last updated on December 21, 2016