We rode to the port in a small shuttle that was crammed to the rafters with a wedding party from Indianapolis. Built in 2003 and registered in Hamilton Bermuda, this sixteen deck floating hotel is a beauty. After the life boat drill, we dropped our vests off at the cabin and headed for deck # 15 and one of the more pleasant rituals, a drink at departure.
We walked down to deck # 5 and the Bordeaux dining room, our assigned trough for the duration. A glass of Cabernet was followed by Spring rolls, mushroom soup, caesar salad, a seafood in pastry medley and a delicious swiss torte for dessert.
Late afternoon found us in the deck 14 gym again for a 45 minute workout on the weights and exercycle. The ship was motoring on a Southwest course through the Windward passage between Cuba and Cap Dame headland of Hispanola bound for Aruba. After breakfast, we read for a time in our cabin and then settled in for a delicious hour long nap. It was windy and humid out so we walked top the deck seven Princess Theater and settled in to watch a€?The Duchessa€? for two hours. We cleaned up for dinner and enjoyed a Martini on the balcony, watching the sea around us and relaxing before dinner. At seven P.M we walked along the deck seven interior promenade and enjoyed the ebb and flow of guests coming to and from dinner. We walked along the main drag and admired the prosperous looking facades of the business section.
From the Park, we walked back through the busy streets of Orangestad until we found a small internet cafe. We were standing topside as the Island Princess cast off her lines and eased out of Orangestad, bound for Cartegena, Columbia. After the lecture, we hit the deck 14 gym for an houra€™s workout with weights and exercycles. The school system in Columbia is graduated and tuition is charged according to certain professions. It now is a city of over one million souls, many of whom we were to discover to our dismay, were aggressive street vendors bent on draining every tourist of any money that they held on their person, willingly or not. The fortress itself is huge and solid, like El Moro in Havana or those in Puerto Rico and St.
After again running the gauntlet of the slum dog vendors, we reboarded the bus and drove off through the busy streets. At the hilltop, outside the monastery, we again waded through the slum dog vendors to get inside the ancient grounds.
Just inside the old citya€™s walls, we stopped at what had been both a jail house and a soldiers barracks. An imposing statue of Columbia's founding father, Simon Bolivar, sits astride a horse at the center of the shaded square. The ubiquitous slumdogs buzzed around us like angry mosquitoes on our line of march to the Church of Pedro Claver.
From the church we walked over to a restored limestone building called the Naval Museum, though why we could not discern . We waded through the obnoxious slumdogs one more time to get back to the bus and its air conditioned comfort. We were tiring and mildly dehydrated, so we retreated to our room to read for a time( Double Cross- James Patterson), cool off and relax.
After a bit, we cleaned up in the cabin, dressed for dinner and walked down to the deck six Provence Dining room. A glass of Cabernet, smoked salmon appetizers, tomato soup, caesar salad, sole Florentine and chocolate cake made for another wonderful meal.
The process was repeated twice more until the Princess sailed into the manmade lake Gatun and motored to its center. The Canal had been built in the early 1900a€™s, completed in 1914 at a cost of $387 Million dollars by the United States, after a failed French effort. We walked topside for an hour enjoying the view of the locks and Lake Gatun and marveling at the engineering involved in creating this man mad river across Central America.
The ship dispatched several tenders full of tour groups headed for rail and bus tours in Panama. We settled for a breakfast of kippers, omelets and fruit in the Horizons Cafe on deck 14, then returned to our cabin to read for a bit and catch a one hour nap. We changed into our gym clothes and hit the deck 14 gym for an hours workout with exercycles and weights. We sat for a time drinking an icy cold Heinekena€™s beer and watching native dancers do a rhythmic and enchanting Calypso and singers belt out the haunting a€?Day Oha€? a Caribbean favorite about banana pickers. Soon after, the Island Princess slipped her lines and edged gracefully from her berth to follow the Lyrica. We followed a crew member off the ship to the wharf area where we got on to a large Swiss Tours bus for the trip. First a€?discovereda€? and named by Christopher Columbus in 1502, Costa Rica (Rich Coast in Spanish) had declared her independence from Spain in 1821. As the bus emerged from the warm and humid drizzle of the rain forest, the air began to clear.
As we traversed the mountains at the 8,000 foot level, we entered Trillaurillo National Park. The central court of the museum is flowered with cacti plants and bougainvillea and has a vista of the mountains and valley beyond. From the restaurant, we traversed the busy city streets, They were clogged with automobile traffic. The driver pulled along the roadside so we could all look up and watch a three toed sloth hanging from a roadside tree. As the bus descended back into the rain forest of the coastal areas, we could see large puddles where the rain had fallen.
Escargot, corn chowder, salad, pasta with mussels and an apple torte, accompanied with a glass of Cabernet, made for another pleasant dining experience. After our swim, we changed into our workout gear and hit the gym for an hour of weights and the exercycle, still trying to win the caloric battle. After sitting topside sunning and swimming, we changed and sat down in the Bordeaux dining room for lunch. We had a glass of cabernet on our balcony and read for a time, enjoying the lazy day at sea in the late afternoon sun.
We walked topside for a time after dinner, enjoying the night air and the moonlight sparkling on the sea. From Spanish class, we hit the gym again for another hour workout on the weights and excercylce. It was our last night aboard and our small cabin looked like a clothes bomb as we packed for out departure. It was late and we needed to finish packing our bags, so we returned to the cabin and completed out task.
We found some coffee topside and walked the deck observing the hustle and bustle of a great ship entering port. As the vessel cleared the narrow causeway and turned on a Southerly heading, we retreated to our cabin.
We parted company with the Browna€™s and returned to our cabin to read for a time and surrender to the sand man. LIfe at sea can be very agreeable if you allow yourself to enjoy the slower pace of ship board life. They are of bright pastel in color and feature that charming crenelated facade of Dutch Colonial Architecture. We walked through it admiring the green expanse and the colorful flags ruffling in the wind.
The many Jewelers, like Bulgari and Colombian Emeralds, were doing a brisk business with the tourists.
A muscial group and the Cruise Director were whipping the passengers into a dancing frenzy pool side. You could imagine the enemy fleets coming under her banks of guns when attempting a hostile sea landing. It was to become a treasure port where ship loads of gold and emeralds were shipped back to Spain over the next few hundred years. Along side the road we could see the shacks back in the hillsides, some mere collections of sticks.
The Augustinian order of monks who founded the Monastery in the 1500 are still here in residence on the third floor of the complex. The clay tiled roofs and stone walls warded off the heat that gets well over 100 degrees here in Summer. We fended off the slum dogs as we walked back to the bus and then enjoyed the slalom ride down the winding roads to the city below. Now it is a series of commercial shops where every conceivable souvenir and product of Columbia is for sale. They followed people onto buses and into taxi cabs trying to coerce them into buying things.
He had been a Jesuit and the patron saint of the one million slaves who had been imported through the port of Cartegena. The monks still live on the top floors of the church., Various nuns stood mutely seeking donations to the churches charities.


A few plaques of some naval vintage, some old sailing trophies and an anchor or two were her only signs of naval provenance. We waded through one last wave of slum dogs to get to the bus for a very welcome ride back to the Island Princess.
Hordes of other tour groups had descended upon the Horizons court for a late lunch, so we settled for a slice of pizza topside. We then walked topside to stretch our legs and enjoy the early evening air as the ship motored westward towards Panama. Off the bow of the ship, we could see a whole fleet of tanker ships who were waiting their turn to transit the canal eastwards towards the Caribbean. Thousands of lives had been lost to yellow fever and tropical diseases during its construction. The Panamanian Government had set up a huge warehouse of craft vendors, performing cultural groups and even a few taverns for visiting tourists. Wisps of clouds drifted amidst the steep mountain valleys giving the countryside a a€?Jurassic Parka€? appearance. The coffee plantations needed 45 pounds of beans to yield 5 pounds of the countrya€™s highly prized coffee. All had the stone river beds similar to those you see in Alaska, from heavy mountain runoffs.
Colorful graffiti on some of the areas rocks and bridges was an expression of student opinions on the issues of the day. The cabin beckoned with a conversation with Ozzie Nelson.(nap) It was a nice routine we had going.
We watched from our lofty perch as the ship slipped her lines and edged away from the James Bond Pier.
Then we cleaned up for dinner and made our way to the wheel house lounge for a drink before dinner.
Then we returned to our cabin to read ( Midnight Ramblera€?- James Swain )and surrender to the arms of Morpheus.
I found Evelyn our maid and tipped her liberally, thanking her for taking cares of us these last 10 days. They had a desert special today, tables laden with every imaginable sugar and chocolate coated confection. WE continued our task and got ready for our last dinner aboard in the Bordeaux Dining room. We then set the bags outside our cabin with the proper tags for pickup during the evening hours. Porters were off loading the huge volumes of luggage, ships [personnel were pre[paring to unload one passenger complement and take on another. She is 964 feet long and 105 feet wide, She can carry 2368 passengers and a crew of 810 souls.
She had just disgorged her previous passengers a few hours earlier and was making ready to house her new compliment.
We watched in the bright sunshine as a virtual parade of these floating hotels glided out slowly into the Atlantic.
It was formal dress night for dinner and crowds of tuxedo clad passengers were already making their way to the Captaina€™s Cocktail party. We didna€™t know that the ships captain would be speaking in the three story atria outside the bar.
We had to change our watches an hour forward to meet the shift into a more eastern time zone. We found the Art Auction on deck seven and watched for a time as the auctioneer explained the various paintings. We could see the twinkling of running lights from the many oil tankers waiting in line offshore.
The solitary statue to the long dead Queen sits atop a solitary pedestal at the center of the Park. On deck fourteen, we sat down to lunch with two Canadians from Niagara on the Lake,Ontario, a village just twenty miles from us in Amherst.
We watched the frenetic activity around the main pool for a time and then retreated to our cabin for a conversation with Ozzie Nelson. We walked topside to stretch our legs, enjoying our first look at the South American Coastline off Venezuela. We could see the the recent forest of high rise condos that were springing up over Boca Grande a rounded point extending out from the harbor. The Don Lucho, one of those colorful and powerful harbor tugs was guiding us into a massive container port area of the harbor. Each year, on the February Feast of the a€?Candelaria Virgin,a€? a procession of towns people carried an enormous statue of the Virgin, in a candle light procession on a gilded pallet, up these steep roads to the monastery above.
The hall was filled with tourists watching authentic native dancers in colorful costumes entertain them with a lively Samba. We rode in comfort to the newer section of the city, Boca Grande and an upscale collection of shops. The city is interesting, alive with history and stories of struggle and intrigue from many nations fighting for wealth, nationhood and religious freedom. We said an enthusiastic good bye to the hordes of slum dog vendors and hoped never to return.
We got off the ship and strolled through the booths that offered an eclectic array of trinkets and souvenirs for sale. Then, while topside we enjoyed a glass of cabernet as we watched the MSC Lyrica, berthed next to us, prepare to slip her lines and leave port. A Crab and shrimp appetizer was followed by a wonderful mushroom soup, a garden salad, a delicious fresh water trout (sans le tete) and a sinful sacher torte, accompanied by a glass of cabernet. It was the beginning of a day long narration of the countrya€™s history, geographical and social progress.
Orchids, pineapples and a variety of other agricultural products make Costa Rica comparatively prosperous among her neighbors. The pineapples took 24 months to mature and had three distinct grades of quality depending on the amount of sugar in them at the time they were harvested.
The area hosts over 800 species of bird life, free roaming jaguars, three toed sloths and a whole host of jungle fauna. Just North of the city, there is a substantial settlement of ex-patriate Americans attracted to the country's mild weather, political stability and relative affluence. Enormous in size and perfect round, they have a series of stories attached to them, some believable some not. Costa Ricans have a long history of freedom of speech and use it often to express their displeasure on any issue they dona€™t agree with. We had a pleasant and wide ranging discussion of travel and touring with all of our dinner companions.
Later in the morning, we sat topside enjoying the hot sun and swimming in the cool waters of the main pool.
The constant chatter and restfulness of the aging viewers sitting around us gave us an early taste of watching television in a nursing home. She motored away from the beautiful beach and turquoise waters of Jamaica into the deeper blue of the Caribbean. We listened to a musical group and enjoyed the comings and goings of passengers headed to and from dinner.
Shrimp cocktail, lentil soup, King Crab legs and a black forest gateau (cake) made for an excellent repast. We found our luggage in the color coded section of the warehouse and then proceeded to the line for customs.
We walked topside to stretch our legs,A  enjoying our first look at the South American Coastline off Venezuela. We checked into the busy hotel and signed up for a shuttle to the Port Everglades Terminal several miles away.($16 rt) A crowd of cruisers, bound for many ships, was already milling about the lobby. I bet that that was going to be one week-long party.We were dropped off at the Princess Terminal where we checked in for our ten day cruise aboard the Island Princess.
Holland, Celebrity, Costa and another Princess ship slid out before us amidst cheers and waves from boating traffic and other passengers. Usually the entire shipa€™s crew is introduced at these affairs and awful champagne is served. We settled in with three Indian Couples and chatted with them enjoying the mix of cultural diversity. We noticed a few empty store fronts along the main drag and wondered if the recession was hitting so affluent an island like Aruba. We then retreated to our room and enjoyed a glass of Cabernet and some cheese on our balcony.
Then, we sat back and enjoyed an eight ounce Lobster tail, scallops and a to die for chocolate cake. Maersk, from Germany, is the container company presiding over the rows of stacked metal containers.
We were in Columbiaa€™s Summer Season(Nov.- April) The other wet season ran six months and drowned everything in hot steamy rain.
Germon pointed out the Monument of the a€?Two Shoes.a€? It is a bronze memorial to Colombian Poet Carlos Lopez, whose most famous work is of that name. The procession stops at each of the twelve stations of the cross erected along the winding road. She has a Pocahontas type of history in Columbia and the casting looked suspiciously like one of Pocahontas in the Virginia area.


We wandered through a few shops eyeing the statues of Catalina, native carvings, tee shirts and other things on sale. We sat and enjoyed a Colombian beer called Aguilla and appreciated them for their artistry as well. It is of interest, but until the local authorities reign in these slum dog vendors, give it a wide berth.
The ship was swaying like a hog in a wallow on the run through the narrow harbor entrance and then we were free in deep water.
We had an interesting and enjoyable dinner with them talking about their professions and ours. The Princess picked up her Panama Canal Pilot and gingerly made her way into the entrance to the Canal near Cristobal, Panama.
Each of the twin sets of parallel locks is essential a concrete box 100a€™ long by 106 feet wide and 40 feet deep. On the other side of Lake Gatun are a series of three more locks that gradually lower ships the 85 feet back down to the level of the Pacific at Panamaa€™s capital, Panama City.
You could look down the three locks from the lofty height of the ships top deck and get a sense of the distance in elevation that the ship needed to descend.
Several of the booths were manned by indigenous peasants wearing grass skirts and nothing else. Native Indians had mixed with the Spanish, a sizable number of Chinese, who had been imported in the late 1800a€™s to build a rail road and a large population of Jamaicans, who themselves are a varied mix of peoples. The central portion of the country is mountainous with peaks rising to three 8,000 foot range. The highway we were on runs from coast to coast, from Limon to Punta Reinas, and is sometimes called the a€?dry canal,a€? comparing it to the Panama Canal. Though attractive to look at, one would not want to have to walk through these lush green jungles without being armed with a knowledge of them and sufficient armaments to fend off whatever came at you in the wild.
Salaries are good here and workers pay a 9% social security tax so that they can retire at age 68 with good old age pensions.
We thanked our guide an driver and tipped them liberally for their wonderful days experience.
We returned to the cabin to read ( Brass Verdict- Michael Connelly ) and surrender to the sandman. We made our way to the Princess Cocktail lounge and sat with almost 900 other Captaina€™s Circle members for a free drink and a short speech by the cruise director. The ship set a course for the Northwest headed for the narrow straits between Haiti and Cuba. We sat with a younger couple from North Carolina and shared stories with them of their coastal area, where we had spent many vacations. A glass of cabernet, shrimp and scallops appetizer, crab soup, Mahi Mahi entree and a chocolate cake al a orange made for another exquisite repast.
How you could eat a fourth meal, after consuming about 4,000 calories earlier in the day was a mystery to us. Our Guide, a€? Germona€? introduced himself to us and gave us labels with his name on them for wearing on the tour. If you made eye contact or responded to them in any way they were on you like flies on doo doo, Ignore them and walk eyes straight ahead no matter how much they pester you. Narrow tunnels traversed the fortress walls where powder and shot monkeys carried the cannon fodder.
It was hot and humid out and we enjoyed the shade and cool of the stone buildings for a brief respite. Colorfully dressed women in local garb, with bunches of bananas on their heads,demanded payment to have pictures taken with them. No one should have to put up with this kind of intimidating and obnoxious harassment just for visiting. On either side of the canal, a 15 mile wide Canal Zone had been left natural and undeveloped.
They did horse trade, with bargaining offers for their goods, but never once were insistent or unpleasant. It made for a melange of cultures and a gentler nature where all races and creeds are more readily accepted. Her Capital, San Jose lies in a mountain Valley in the center of the country at the 5,000 ft. The low slung stone building now houses a collection of gold, jewelry and many artifacts from the the areas past. We sat with Richard and Ann Brown, from Brighton England, whom we had formerly met on the cruise.
Hundreds of her passengers and ours waved back and forth to the European chant of a€?Ole, Ole Ole,a€? It was a nice tradition of tour ships at departure. A Glass of cabernet was joined with oysters in a cheese sauce, crab bisque, seafood gumbo and a chocolate fudge cake. The great ship pointed her nose at the anchorage, at at perpendicular angle, and then let her port side thrusters gently ease her sideways into her anchorage. We returned to our cabin to read fort a time and surrender to a late morning conversation with Ozzie Nelson.
I guess the old goat Fidel still was paranoid that a bunch of tourists might invade his space. We stood for 30 minutes while an agent talked with them The unlucky passengers in the line behind us grumbled loudly.
We walked the stairs to the Baja Deck and found our stateroom ( B-415).A  It was clean and ready for us with a nice balcony facing out to sea. It was too windy to keep our balance so we walked down to the deck seven covered walkway and completed our laps for an hour. It was the ships signal to a€?man the life boats.a€? The Crew explained emergency procedures to us and where we would board our lifeboats should the need arise.
As we chatted for a bit with a couple from Chicago and enjoyed the chance encounter, the great ship let go her lines and began to mortor away from the dock.
Scores of tuxedo clad passengers, their wives in evening gowns drifted by the broad walkway outside the bar. We listened to the music for a time, enjoying the evening at sea off the South American Coast.
We would also see several thousand smaller replicas of her for sale in the small shops we were to visit.
Then, we walked along the shoreline to a stone plaza facing the ocean., The cool ocean breeze felt wonderful and there were no slumdogs here. Then, three small gauge rail engines, on either side of the vessels, affix metal hausers to guide the ship through each lock. The entire ship broke into cheers as one last young passenger sprinted to the gangway and made her way aboard, seconds before they shipped the gangway and sealed the doors. Hanging from their limbs, the banana bunches are encased in blue plastic bags to promote moisture retention and growth.
I think the U.S, Customs could do a better job than this when 2300 passengers were all disembarking in a short period.
They would ferry her guests out to a private beach along the shore.A  This place is tres elegant. We relaxed and enjoyed a memorable evening, drinking to the health of Terry and Suzie Landry who had sent us this thoughtful gift.
We dressed for the day and walked topside, watching the dark mass of Columbia off to our port side. We viewed religious relics, a statues of the Virgin and even and ancient depiction of devil worship. Some of the pre Colombian stone furniture and carvings were over 2,000 years old, bespeaking a sophisticated culture that had flourished here long before the Europeans arrived. We had been on theA  Dawn and Coral Princess ships before,A  so the layout was familiar to us.
Another massive assault, by the English General Vernon in 1711, with 100 ships and 20,000 soldiers failed miserably due to inclement weather and tropical diseases. When the ship is completely within the lock, two large gate way doors swing shut from recessed niches in the canal walls. A taxi cab ferried us the short few miles to the Spring Hill Suites where we had left our car. Water is then pumped into the cement lock raising the ship 26 feet at a time to the level of the next lock.
To the haunting strains of an Andrea Boccelli aria, the ship slid from her ways and began to exit the harbor. The woman is well educated and a veritable font of cultural, geographic and social information on Costa Rica and her peoples. In each pod, were rows of tiny lady finger bananas that would mature in different stages for a year round harvest. We sat there with our bright orange cork vests complete with light and whistle and thought about what we would do should the need ever arise. Container ships and all manner of commercial cargo vessels were stacked up along the horizon awaiting their turn to transit the canal.



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