Day 7…Cruise to South America…Part 2, The Panama Canal…A repeat of an outstanding experience…Today? Hola Equador!

Some freighters can carry as many as 18,000 20 foot containers. This freighter was being guided through the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Panama City, which we spotted toward the end of the transit through the canal.

The concept of transiting the Panama Canal beginning at the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean Sea to ending up later in the day in the Pacific Ocean is an engineering feat we can hardly wrap our minds around.

Target practice for the “rope throwers” who toss the cables to the ship to guide them through the channel.  Contests are held for the workers who compete using this target with big monetary prizes.

Transiting the Panama Canal was as exciting for us the second time as it was the first. Although we didn’t transit the newly built locks, which are reserved for much larger ships, we were able to glimpse it at a distance at a few points.

It was a rainy, cloudy day and visibility was limited. In any case, we were equally in awe of this breathtaking manufactured waterway with locks and dams, a true feat of engineering built in 1914 after 10 years of construction and the loss of many lives.

Another container ship in the lake waiting to enter the channel.

For more details:

Panama Canal
Canal in Panama
The Panama Canal is an artificial 77 km waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Wikipedia
Length48 mi
Date of first useAugust 15, 1914
Original ownerLa Société internationale du Canal
Did you knowThe Panama Canal has listed 11 marine safety measures in the form of codes which are in operation since the
A Silver Seas luxury cruise ship in Miraflores Lake.

We’re still reeling from yesterday’s great day at sea, which proved to be filled with many interactions with fine people who surprisingly knew us from our site. We’re still in a state of shock over being approached by people who “happen to know us.”

A barge with a tugboat is used for moving materials that have been dredged in the channel.

After everyone wandered off for lunch, we finally finished the post in the cabin when my laptop battery died.  Afterward, we visited the Future Cruise on deck five to book four more cruises since they had a “Black Friday” cruise deposit sale.

This meant we could book several cruises for a deposit of only US $25 per person instead of the usual US $450 per person (when off the ship). We booked four cruises knowing full well, and we’d never actually take those specific cruises.

“Herman, the German,” one of the giant floating cranes in the world at 208 feet high, stays in the Panama Canal region. See here for details.

Instead, we have the right to move the deposits to any other Celebrity cruises we’d like at any time in the future. Although we won’t be going on any cruises in 2018 while we’re in Africa (after the Antarctica cruise), we’ll certainly be planning for future cruises in 2019 and after that, for which we’ll transfer these deposits.

Private water crafts pay fees from US $800 to US $3,200 (depending on size) to transit the Panama Canal.

After the cruise booking process was completed, we headed back to the cabin to shower and dress for the two-hour Captain’s Club in the Constellation Lounge, where the free drinks flow with abandon.

Another wonderful couple we’d met a few nights ago joined us, Annwyl and Ted, from Canada. The time passed quickly as we engaged in animation chatter. Finally, we headed to the Trellis Restaurant for dinner, where, once again, we had a delightful dinner sitting at a table for 10. Gosh, it couldn’t be more fun.

The crew aboard the sailboat was transiting the Panama Canal.

Finally, by 10:30 pm, we headed back to the cabin when there was little activity on the ship. This ship has no specific “Centrum,” which makes after-dinner entertainment scattered throughout several bars. Having had good cocktails and wine, we wandered off to our cabin, not falling asleep until after midnight.

Few homes are located in the area.

I’ve been nursing one glass of red wine each evening which seems to have no ill effect. It certainly tastes good.  I’ll order a bottle of Perrier along with the glass of wine and sip back and forth between the two making the wine last through the evening. 

I wish I could have a second glass, but I’m not going to push my luck when I’ve started feeling so much better.  Above all, we must always consider maintaining good health. 

The Miraflores locks as we entered.

Tom’s been amazingly cautious in what’s he’s eating and drinking to avoid a significant weight gain. After all, this is a 30-night cruise, and we’ll be eating out every day until we get settled in South Africa around February 10th. 

Our ship, as it ends its transits through the third and final set of locks.

This morning, our ship docked at an industrial port in Manta, Ecuador. As soon as we upload this post, we’ll walk off the ship to awaiting shuttle buses to take us into town to check things out and take photos. 

The opening of the gates to the locks.

We won’t have a lot of time when we all have to be back onboard by 2:00 pm for an early “set sail.” We’ll be back tomorrow with what we’ve discovered. This cruise, like most, provides us both with a high level of socialization and memorable times together. We continue to be grateful for every day.

May you have a memorable day!

Photo from one year ago, November 29, 2016:

Portable hotspot devices for various countries.  In many countries, we haven’t needed to use these. In others, they were our only means of Wi-Fi. The two black devices’ top centers may be used in many countries but often don’t work, and each country’s device.  For more details, please click here.

Day 6…Cruise to South America…Part 1…The Panama Canal…A repeat of an outstanding experience…

With his back to the first locks, Tom was surprisingly alert during the 12-hour stint in the Constellation Lounge, where we watched the events unfold.
A little worse for the wear after getting up before 4:00 am.  It was a fun but long day.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

At a public viewing area, Tourists watched our ship pass through the final set of locks of the Panama Canal.

In January 2013, we sailed through the Panama Canal on the first cruise for either of us. Here are our links to that particular transit (before us taking many photos):

We neared the entrance to the first set of locks.

The photos from the two above links will clearly illustrate how far we’ve come in our desire to take photos to include here each day. Regardless, our images over these next few days aren’t perfect either. 

For the ship to stay in the center of the narrow channel through the locks, workers tie ropes/cables to the ship to maintain its center position to avoid damaging the ship’s sides.

The reason for this was that we opted to sit comfortably in the front row, center, closest to the windows in the Constellation Lounge located at the bow of the ship on the 11th deck. The bluish tint of the glass had an impact on each of our photos.

Notice how close this cargo ship is to the walls of the passageway.

After little sleep the previous night, neither of us felt motivated to stand outdoors in the rain. And, after the day began to clear, we didn’t want to forgo our great seats by getting up and heading outdoors to the deck.

The Constellation Lounge was packed with passengers trying to see the transit through the canal.

Tom had set his phone’s alarm for 5:00 am but, worried about getting up, he awoke at 3:30 am yesterday, concerned about us getting good seats. After a quick shower and dressing, he dashed out the door carrying our laptop bag with a plan for me to find him after I got up and ready for the day.

Frigates sitting atop a light fixture at the canal.

No more than a minute after he left the cabin, I was out of bed on a mission to get out the door in less than 25 minutes. Mission accomplished. By 4:30 am, I found him “front row center” in the Constellation Lounge with two comfy chairs and a small cocktail table for our use, the perfect setup for the long day ahead.

The canal operates with gravity, with water flowing from the lake to the locks, moving in and out again, raising and lowering the ship to the appropriate heights to traverse through the many locks. There are three sets of locks on each end dividing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The first set of locks raises the ship to the lake level since the Atlantic side is lower. On the Pacific side of the lock, the ship is lowered to sea level.

Luckily and somewhat surprisingly, few others were waiting so early for the upcoming day’s events. It was raining hard, and we’d expected many other passengers to plan as we’d done.

Cables are attached to these vehicles, called locomotives, aka “mules,” to pass through the channel. There are three of these vehicles on each side; one on the bow, one at the center of the ship, and the last at the aft section for a total of six. Each of these vehicles costs over $2,000,000. These are the third generation of mules since the locks opened in 1914.

By 8:00 am, when we entered the first set of locks, the vast room was packed, some in chairs, others standing, and many sitting on the floor bound and determined to have an opportunity to see what was transpiring on the rainy day transit.

It was interesting to watch a massive freighter pass through the locks.

Conversations rolled out with passengers sitting near us as I busied myself getting yesterday’s post completed and uploaded, let alone answered dozens of comments and questions we’d received via email in the last 24 hours.

On the left is a huge chemical/petroleum freighter.

We love hearing from our readers, making every effort to reply in 12 hours and certainly in never more than 24 hours. Having our readers “travel along with us” is an indescribable perk to our world travels.

Now, on this ship, the Celebrity Infinity, we’ve had countless opportunities to chat in person with many readers who’ve followed along with us over these past years. This always surprised us, and we never take these visits for granted.

As we entered the first set of locks at Gatun Lock at the Caribbean/Atlantic side.

How’d we get so lucky?  Many have explained our openness, vulnerability, and generally, the positive mentality has kept them interested in reading our posts year after year.  A few have mentioned that our occasional worry, a concern along with a bit of “whinging” (whining), also adds to the value of reading our site, making it more realistic.

Nothing is “perfect” in this life. As the day wore on, sitting in those chairs, from time to time, I found myself nodding off, unable to take one more photo or even get up from my chair except when necessary.

The control house from which the mules/locomotives pass around and through.

By 4:00 pm, after almost 12 hours seated in the chairs, we both ran out of steam, although at that point, we begin the transit through the third and final lock. We decided we could watch the balance from our veranda.

We needed to shower and dress for Captain’s Club Happy Hour, which generally is held in the Constellation Lounge and was still packed with the viewing audience. Instead, the daily event was moved to the roomy Rendevouz Lounge, where we headed at 5:00 pm for free drinks for two hours.

Sign on the outside of the control house.

While there, we met a lovely couple, and the two hours passed in a flash, and finally, it was time to head to the Trellis Dining Room for dinner. Again, we were seated at a “sharing table” for yet another good meal with other passengers we’d yet to meet. How fun it is…meeting new people each evening and sharing our mutual travel stories.

Everyone has a unique story to share and our lives, although often provoking lots of questions, is not so special to the world travels of many other cruise passengers, some of whom may embark on eight or ten cruises a year.

Mule/locomotive exiting the control house at Gatun.

We’ve yet to meet a homeless couple like us, but we’ve many who have no fixed home in their home country but travel by RV from area to area. We love the ability to travel from continent to continent, country to country. But, this type of travel, although thoroughly enjoyed by many, is not for us.

This morning, we’re late in posting. We met John, a retired airline pilot, who stopped by a four-person table at Cafe al Bacio for a lengthy visit, every moment of which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Later, one of the fabulous guest speakers joined the group of us.

Many passengers stood on the helipad to watch the events roll out.  We were content to be seated indoors out of the rain and wind.

And later, Sue and Bob, long-time readers of our site, planning on traveling the world shortly, stopped by with the warmest of hugs and attention for yet another lively and meaningful few hours of conversation. Wow!

Afterward, after everyone headed to lunch, we were alone to get back to the pleasing reality of our lives. We had a post to write and get uploaded to the Internet before our worldwide readers began to worry if we haven’t forgotten about them. We haven’t. We love having YOU with us on this journey and all others.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2016:

As we began to wind down our 33-night cruise, we spotted this stunning sunrise over an industrial port in New Zealand. For more photos, please click here.

Day 5…Cruise to South America, Part 2..Fabulous Day in Grand Cayman with new friends…Transiting the Panama Canal with live cam…

On Saturday, we had lunch at Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant in Cayman Island with new friends Susan and Blair.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Not entirely from our veranda, but this photo of our ship, Celebrity Infinity, was taken from the shore when we disembarked the tender in Cayman Island.

We’re quickly breezing through today’s post since we’re heading through the Panama Canal within the next few hours. Tomorrow, we’ll share our photos and videos of the transit through the canal.

This is an intelligent item…these little wine glass protectors that absorb moisture in humid climates.

Right now, it’s raining in buckets, and visibility at the locks is limited. Hopefully, by the time we soon enter the locks, we’ll have better visibility and, hopefully, be able to take some videos and photos of our transit through the canal.

A bird on the railing at the restaurant.

In the interim, here’s a live webcam which we’ll post again tomorrow for those who may be interested in seeing our transit through the locks and dam:

My lunch, mussels, and clams in a butter wine sauce.  Delicious.

In January 2013, we transited through the Panama Canal on our first cruise, one of Tom’s lifelong dreams. I had no idea how much this experience would mean to me, and I loved every moment. 

Susan’s stir-fry.

We accept today’s overcast sky and fog as one more reality of traveling the world. We have no control over the weather, and we aren’t going to let us disappoint. We’re both still excited to be here.

Tom’s club sandwich was a real treat for him.

This morning at 3:30 am, Tom got up to shower and head to the windows at the bow of the ship, to the Constellation Lounge, to secure our seats for the crossing, the same thing we’d done on the Celebrity Century in January 2013, the last time we were here.

Here are a few of our links from that crossing in 2013:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

We had intended to focus on Part 2 of our visit to the Cayman Islands, but somehow, we were sidetracked (in the flurry of fun activities) that we’d be going through the canal today. 

Blair’s quesadillas.

Thus, we’re sharing our final photos from Cayman Island and thank Susan and Blair for picking us up at the port after a bit of commotion when the ship decided to dock in a different location where the sea wasn’t quite as rough first intended location.

Long driveway to a massive mansion on Cayman Island.

We figured it all out and could connect at the correct landing to enjoy several hours together taking photos, having lunch, and sharing stories of mutual world travels. Without a doubt, we’ll stay in touch with Susan and Blair, hoping our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

As for the moment, we’re still in the Caribbean Sea, and we just sailed under the newly being built Atlantic Bridge at the Atlantic Canal entrance to cross into the channel to the locks and then on to Gatun Lake.

We’ll be back with more information, perhaps yet today and in the worse case, tomorrow.

Have a fabulous day! We sure will!

Photo from one year ago today, November 27, 2016:

Boats in the harbor in Tauranga, New Zealand. We have such fond memories of the three months we spent in this beautiful country. For more photos, please click here.

Answering the question from readers, “Where should I travel?” Our top 13! Link to our world travel map…

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan after a very long, hot walk. Click here for one of two posts.  This sight made us gasp with our hearts pounding wildly, less from the walk, more from sheer joy!

Frequently, we receive email inquiries from our readers asking for suggestions for the best places to visit in the world based on what we’ve seen to date. 

That’s a tough question to answer.  Its almost as complex as asking a person what they like to read, to eat and what they prefer for recreation.  Its all a matter of personal preference.

Zef, our houseman, held this monstrous insect Tom had fished out of the pool with the net.  Not only did living in Marloth Park include daily visits from big wildlife but also the smaller world of many insect such as this enormous rhino beetle.  For more details, please click here for one of our three months of posts.

Keeping in mind that our primary interests (although we’ve enjoyed many other aspects in the world which we’ll also include here) revolve around observing wildlife, vegetation and naturally created scenery which limits more than half of the popular “places to see” in the world.

With our goal to visit every continent, choosing countries/regions within that continent we strive on making decisions befitting our personal interests.  To date, we visited 49 countries as shown in our map on Travelers Point.  Please click here to see our map.

A container freighter ahead of us in line to enter the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks as we entered the Panama Canal.  See here for one of the posts.

When reviewing our map its clear to see how we’ve yet to visit most of Asia (we’ll be visiting a few Asian countries soon), South America (upcoming in 2017) and Antarctica, upcoming in 2017 or 2018 (cruises yet to be posted).

Sure, we’ve found many big cities interesting, romantic and exciting: Paris, London, Sydney, Vancouver, Barcelona, Dubai, Venice, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Reykjavik, Cork (Ireland) and on and on…too many to list here.

This female lion as all animals in the wild in the Masai Mara, Kenya, is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs.  It was a memorable, life changing experience we’ll always treasure.  See here for more details.

Our readers continue to ask for our favorites and for many of our regular readers you may already be familiar with our preferences. For our less frequent visitors, here are a few suggestions that not only include remote areas of particular interest but also cities/areas we found especially exciting:

1. Marloth Park, South Africa:  Abundant wildlife, friendly people, plenty to see and do, reasonably priced
2. Panama Canal cruise:  Making a transit through the canal is quite an experience.  The cruises include many stops to other interesting countries.
3.  Masai Mara, Kenya:  Photo safari one of the top experiences in our lives; pricey.
4.  Petra, Jordan: Visit the Treasury, one of the most amazing man made structures in the world, breathtaking.  Getting there can be pricey.
5.  The Middle East cruise:  (May not be safe at this time).  Traveling through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal (loved this) and the Gulf of Aden proved to be our most adventurous cruise to date.

After we traveled through the Suez Canal, we entered the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden, requiring “pirate drills” and special forces onboard with the “packages” including armory to protect the ship and passengers.  Very exciting.  See the post here.

6.  Venice, Italy:  Amazing, must-see for those who don’t mind “tourist” attractions with huge crowds, long queues, and bumping elbows. 
7.  Mykonos, Greece:  (Sardinia is reputed to be even more exquisite). Mykonos has gorgeous scenery, interesting shopping, great restaurants with many delightful hilly walks.  Expensive.
8. Placencia, Belize (a peninsula):  Our first stay outside the US with a bad start for during the first week in a less desirable house – moved to fabulous property – remote, had an exquisite stay; great people, reasonably priced.  Quiet life with a week or two of sites to see. There are many islands in Belize such as Ambergris Caye that tourists often choose over Placencia.  We prefer more remote locations.  Not recommended for those with precarious health issues when its a rough four hour drive or an infrequent flight on a small plane at a local airport to a hospital in Belize City (city is rough and best to avoid for extended periods). 

As our ship made its way to the port of Venice, our mouths were agape in surprise a the feast before our eyes.  Click here for one of two posts.

9.  Sydney, Australia:  One of the most beautiful cities in the world; expensive, good local transportation, fabulous shopping, hotels and restaurants, lots to see, far to travel from many parts of the world.
10.  New Zealand:  This country has so much to offer one could easily stay busy and in awe for many months touring both the North and South Islands, especially if you enjoy road trips.  For us, staying close to New Plymouth and the alpaca farm has totally fulfilled us, although we plan to do some touring in the near future.  Reasonably priced.

The Harbour Bridge.  Wow!  It was extraordinary.  We look forward to returning to Sydney in 2017 for 40 days to fill a gap in our schedule.  For the link to this post, please click here.

11.  Dubrovnik, Croatia:  The must-see walled city may not require a long stay but a few days to a week could be highly gratifying.  Pricey.
12.  The countryside in France and the UK:  We’ve visited many small villages but will someday return for a more comprehensive tour. Expensive.
13.  Kauai, Hawaii:  Extraordinary island offering the “naturalist” a wide array of sightseeing opportunities, scenery and unique wildlife.  Expensive.

The walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.  For more photos of this breathtaking historic city, please click here.

We could go on and on.  We’ve provided a few links in the caption of today’s photos for our visits to these special places. If you’d like to see more photos, please search on the right side of our daily homepage and you’ll find a ‘SEARCH” box directly below the listed archive dates (for more past posts). 

If you’ll type in the name of any of the above cities/countries/locations, you’ll find a list of every post in which we’ve visited these areas.  If you have difficulty with this, please send an email and we’ll be happy to assist in finding the appropriate posts containing many photos.

Not wanted to awaken her/him, I kept my distance although I’d have loved to see more of the rarely seen Hawaiian Monk Sea at the beach at the Napali Coast, Kauai.  Click here for more details.

Actually, it would take writing a comprehensive travel book to describe the details of these experiences and more.  Instead of writing a tedious time consuming book, we’ve chosen to share  our story each day. 

For now, our goal is to assist our inquiring readers on areas they may find suitable for their needs and desires. We hope today’s story helps for those who are considering traveling if possessing some criteria similar to ours.

Have an interesting day whatever you choose to do!


Photo from one year ago today, February 12, 2015:

A final view of Hanalei Bay before we exited an open house in Kauai.  For photos of the house we toured, please click here.

Cloudy days, rainy nights and roosters crowing in the morning…Our Panama Canal expedition, 26 months ago…

We always feel fortunate to have the opportunity to embrace these special scenes.

The roosters start crowing around 4:00 am and continue throughout the day. Whoever said roosters just crow in the mornings didn’t know what they were talking about. 

It isn’t that they crow more in the mornings. It’s just that they, like us, sleep a few hours during the night and happen to be early risers, and then the fun begins. They no longer awaken either of us. During the day, we hear them and more often, giggle to ourselves at how prevalent it is here in Kauai.

The clouds often gather close to the mountains.

It’s a wonderful place, rain or shine. We’ve met travelers renting the unit next door (the same owner as our unit) coming and going these past few weeks and it rained the entire time they were here. Many have managed to have a great time, hiking, and exploring even in the wet weather.

And yet, here we are with plenty of time to wait it out to again see the sun in this magical place with exquisite greenery, outstanding views, and friendly people, of course with chickens clucking and roosters crowing in the background.

This Cattle Egret stopped by for a peek.  “Got any worms?”  Sorry, none today.

Then, there are the other birds, endless birds, many of whom come to call, sitting atop the railing on our lanai checking us out wondering what morsels we might toss their way. The chickens, roosters, and birds on this island are used to people leaving crumbs for them. On occasion, we leave a few bits of raw walnuts for the same visiting cardinals that visit each day.

Life is simple here in many ways. We’ve already seen so much of the island and we’ll see more when my dear sister Julie comes to visit us soon. The last time I saw her was in January 2013 when we boarded the Celebrity Century in San Diego, California for a 15-day cruise that would eventually traverse the Panama Canal.

A shoreline view from the cliffs above.

Julie and son Richard had come to see us off. What a day it was!  Here’s the link to our post on the day we left and also the link and the photos from the day we traversed the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal was Tom’s dream. When planning our travels during Tom’s last 10 months of work before retirement, we booked the cruise through the canal right out of the chute. Why not start with his dream when mine was yet to come many months later when we’d arrive in Africa?

Neither of us ever dreamed about traveling the world. Nor did we ever mention it to one another in all of our years together. Never, did either of us say, “Oh, I’d like to travel the world someday.”

The colors of the ocean never cease to amaze us.

On a few rare occasions, I may have mentioned how much I’ve wanted to visit Africa since I was a child, longing to see the wildlife. When Tom was in grade school with history and geography as his favorite topics, he longed to see the Panama Canal. 

In early 2012, during our early planning stages, we decided to take the Panama Canal cruise when Tom was excited about the building of the new larger locks being built in order to accommodate larger ships. He wanted to traverse the old locks before the new locks were completed. Someday, we’ll return for the opportunity to traverse the new locks.

These peculiar above-ground tree roots are found in many areas on the Hawaiian Islands.

It was surprising to both of us how much I also loved seeing the Panama Canal. At that point, 26 months ago, it was the most extraordinary thing I’d ever seen, soon to outdone by other extraordinary places that came along the way. 

But, each event has been unique in its own way and who’s to say that Petra was more amazing than the Panama Canal. Here are the links to see our journey to Petra, Jordan, Part 1, and Part 2, a day emblazoned in our hearts and minds forever.

Cloudy days continue.

Ah, the memories we’ve built along the way and above all, having the ability to look back at our posts to see what we’ve done, where we’ve been and the unexpected adventures along the way. Wow!

If in fact we didn’t have several hundred thousand worldwide readers, only having this site for our own reference and as a legacy for our grandchildren and their children in generations to come, it all would have been worthwhile. 

There’s a forest-like area behind the Foodland grocery store in Princeville. a habitat for hundreds of chickens and roosters. Notice, how the female’s colors blend into the background. I suppose its nature’s way of protecting her young. Of course, whenever we see a female, there’s a rooster lurking nearby.

Adding the absolutely exquisite knowledge that readers from all over the world are traveling along with us, means so much. With our reader’s daily perusal and comments on our posts, we’ll never feel alone. 

Thank you, dear readers, for your loyalty, for your acceptance of our mundane days, for our boring recipes, and discussions of food (for the non-foodie types). You stay with us day after day, as we always stay with you…

                                               Photo from one year ago today, March 4, 2014:

The riad, (a house with a central courtyard open to the sky), located in the Medina in Marrakech, steps out the door to the souks was a beautiful well-built property with a full staff of four (included in the rent) a cook, Madame Zahra and her assistant, Ouimama, Adil and Samir, both housemen attending to our needs.  For details and more photos of the riad, please click here.

Watch us live via webcam as we go through the Panama Canal…

Above is the link to watch live as we go through the Panama Canal beginning at 6:30 am Eastern time, Sunday morning.  Follow us live through the various locks using this link progressively as indicated.
Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am Eastern time our ship will arrive at the entrance of the Miraflores Locks at the beginning of the Panama Canal.  We’ll transit the canal in an 8 to 10 hour period, going through a variety of locks and dams and also the man-made Gatun Lake that facilitates the millions of gallons of water supporting the canal. 
The Panama Canal’s rich history is highlighted on numerous websites, including the above live webcam site at:, also on
Over the past week, Tom and I have attended five fascinating seminars outlining the history of the canal presented by “Uncle Marty” a diplomatic representative for the country of Panama.
Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am, we’ll be firmly planted in an ideal spot for viewing the transition through the canal along with the other 1816 Celebrity Century passengers.
Today, Saturday, January 12th, we’ll roam about the ship searching for the most advantageous viewing spot we can find. Hopefully, we’ll park ourselves in that spot early enough to ensure we can watch from the starboard (right) side of the ship, which appears to be most advantageous.
Since we’ll be close to land, we’ll be able to use our XcomGlobal Mi-Fi device to upload some photos along the way.  Especially interesting to us is the fact that our ship at times, will have less than 24″ of space between the ship and the canal’s sidewalls. Certainly, we’ll upload photos of this surprising scenario.

The canal is being renovated to be completed in December 2014 to allow larger ships to transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans (and vise versa) to avoid the over 7500-mile journey around the horn of South America transitioning from the one ocean to the other, an engineering
feat, that opened on August 15, 1914.

The estimated cost for our ship, the Celebrity Century, to go through the canal is approximately  US $350,000, the exact amount to be determined by the canal authorities after our transition.

Please stay tuned for facts and photos as we experience this passage, for which we are both so grateful to include in our year’s long adventures.

Extra expenses while cruising…

After seven days aboard ship, we’ve begun to get a handle on what we’re spending while cruising, over and above the cost of the cruise itself.

So far, based on cash remaining in our wallets for this cruise (which we’ve kept locked in our cabin safe) and the bill on the TV, we’ve spent $759 from the moment we arrived at the pier in San Diego. 

This total includes cash tips at the pier, tips throughout the cruise. Tips were included in the price of the cruise but we’ve experienced extraordinary service warranting some additional tipping. In addition, we’ve charged the $399 WiFi bill and bar tabs. Tom’s cocktails (Courvoisier and 7 UP) are $7 each and my diet tonic with lime i$2.  We each have two to three of these each day at most.

Coffee(too strong), milk (which we don’t drink), hot tea, iced tea (too strong), and “tap” water (purified, they say) are free. All bottled beverages vary in price, ranging from $2 to $5.

 To save on
the cost of beverages beside our cocktails, we brought along about 30 quart-sized powdered packets of our favorite beverage, Crystal Lite Iced Tea.
Ice and water is provided in our cabin and available in the restaurants. 

With our trusty Contigo chill-holding, handled mugs in tow, we’re able to make our own iced tea to enjoy throughout the day, hauling them with us everywhere we go. We’ve calculated that we’ve saved no less than $300 for the entire cruise by having our own beverages on hand.

Yesterday, simply by buying and sending the six grandchildren one postcard each, as we’ll often do when entering new countries, we spent $16. 

Each night, we’ve given our waiter in the Grand Restaurant an “extra” $10 in cash although a 15% tip was added to the original cost of the cruise which totaled $ 5,545.48 (for both of us in a balcony cabin of 186 square feet).  

Dubrokov been amazing accommodating my strict gluten-free, grain-free, starch-free, and sugar-free diet, bringing me extra piles of steamed vegetables and larger portions of salad. Luckily, the menu references gluten and sugar-free options.

Everything we’ve heard about venturing out on any of our cruise ship’s offered excursions has made the idea
of spending $100 to $300 for the two of us has been unappealing. 

Yesterday, an excursion was offered for a “self-guided” tour of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala for $48 per person.  The passengers were to gather in a designated area only ten minutes from the pier to be handed a map in order to travel about on their own. Duh? $96 (for two) for a map and a finger pointed in a direction?  No, thanks.

Oh yes, there were other excursions such as the $188 (for two) bus ride to the Western Highlands of Guatemala, to the home of the living Maya and the ancient city of Iximche, now in ruins.  This four-hour outing included lunch in a local restaurant.

Tuesday night we heard of a couple on the ship suffering from food poisoning after such an outing. This is not to say the local restaurants are selling “tainted” food but our tender tummies may not do well eating and drinking local fare, especially with no time to become adapted. 

Another offering for yesterday was a trip to visit a block of historical buildings on cobblestone streets. The cost was $199.50 per couple.

If this were our annual “vacation” we may have budgeted for some of the excursions and be enthusiastic to take advantage of every such opportunity. Knowing that in no time at all, we’ll be living in one interesting and historical locale after another, we’ve decided to wait to venture out on our own or with locals we meet along the way.

As I have mentioned in the past, our interests lie in “living” in the various countries from one month to four months (planned so far) allowing us to feel more like a resident than a tourist. 

We aren’t as much interested in familiar tourist attractions with long waiting lines and barking salespeople, although we will visit the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, Giza, the French Riviera, the Mayan ruins in
Belize and many more.

Although the ship has many stores offering high-end merchandise including clothing, jewelry, art, duty-free liquor, and various sundries, we are so well equipped, we don’t have a need or desire to purchase anything. 

Tom downloads the daily Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper and has many books, as do I, on the Kindle apps on our phones and computers. When not busy, we may spend an hour or two reading each afternoon.

As for the Internet, while at sea we use the ship’s pricey plan at $.24 a minute on the $399 plan, allowing each of us to stay in touch with family and friends for
about one hour per day. 

While in port, we can use the XCOM Global Wi-Fi device, which finally started working yesterday after the company’s tech support discovered they’d set up the device incorrectly for us. We are being credited for the days we were unable to connect at $14.95 a day.

In only four days, this Sunday, we’ll be seated at the bow of the ship at 4:00 or 5:00 am to get a first-hand view of the ship’s entrance into the Panama Canal, its locks and dams where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. This was our motive for selecting this particular 15-day cruise.

We’ve attended three of five aboard ship seminars thus far on its rich history, its politics, it’s culture, and its people along with the interesting story of the building of the canal. 

We were told by the presenter that this ship barely fits (by 24″ on each side) into the locks and dam system.  This will be an interesting sight to see through the 8 to 10-hour trip through the canal. Tom is excited that in
May, we’ll also cruise through the Suez Canal, another interesting bit of history we’ll also enjoy.

It all boils down to the tone of our new lives together: we’ll only experience that which appeals to us, not what a cruise ship director or travel agent may encourage us to do and not, “what everyone else may do.”  Yes, sometimes we will follow the mainstream, the crowd, doing the expected. 

More often, we’ll wander about in our own time, visiting with locals on our own schedule, living life, loving life, and enjoying this interesting end enriching time of our lives. 

All in all, cruising is expensive.  We’d budgeted $1400 for extra expenses on this cruise and no doubt we will end up in this range. That averages about $7000 for the 15 days for a daily average of $466, almost twice as much as we’ll spend on the other seven cruises we’ve booked so far.

This cruise was special as our first out of the chute as the first leg of our worldwide journey and especially meaningful to Tom, as a history buff with extensive knowledge of the Panama Canal all of which I now find fascinating. I had no idea how much he actually had already learned about the canal on his own over the years.

See…we learn new things about one another spending 24 hours a day together.  Not too bad, eh?

Footnote:  Norovirus is still raging aboard ship.  Now the waiters fill our plates in the breakfast/lunch buffet line as opposed to our scooping up our own choices. Also, a staff person stands at the entrance to every area, at each elevator, and in doorways holding huge pump bottles of hand sanitizers requiring every passer-by to partake.

In addition, we’ve been washing our hands before leaving and upon entering our cabin several times per day. We brought along 500 sanitizing wipes (having stuff pays off!) which we use to clean our phones, our mugs, and any other items we may touch. So good so far.

Walmart in Mexico?…What?…

Last night’s view from the deck of our ship, the Celebrity Century, overlooking another ship in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Over the years, we’ve chuckled that we aren’t the best photographers. Our subjects are usually off-center, blurry, and often unrecognizable. Laughing about our lack of photo-taking skills over the years, we’ve depended upon family members taking photos of memorable occasions, storing them helter-skelter on our computers, marveling at the fact that they are actually exist.

As an otherwise digitally adept person, I’ve always accepted that my lack of photo-taking skills was purely a result of a lack of interest as to how a camera works.  Tom, not particularly handy with digital equipment in general, followed suit.
As our blog has grown, we’ve both agreed that we must make an attempt at photo taking and editing photos as needed. Mistakenly, we have assumed that our new digital phones could suffice as a photo-taking medium for our travels, having taken a number of reasonable photos here and there.
Live and learn. With poor Internet connections on the cruise, XCOM Global wasn’t always working close to land as hoped, the former ease we’d experienced uploading photos from our phones to our laptops, we realized that we needed to buy a camera now as opposed to waiting until we get to Europe, our original plan.
As our ship, the Celebrity Century, an under 2000 passenger ship small enough to fit in the Panama Canal, makes its way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean via the Panama Canal six days from today, the scenery will be worth sharing. 
Yesterday, as we neared the pier in  Puerto Vallarta, we saw a Wal-Mart!  Ha! Here we are on the first leg of our worldwide adventure on our first outing off of the ship and they’re within walking distance was a Walmart. Good grief!
Not Wal-Mart shoppers in general, we were suddenly excited about the prospect of walking to the store, about 1/2 mile from the pier to purchase a new camera.  Surely, they’d have familiar brands and, it would be a good experience for us to make a
purchase in a non-English speaking country.
No English indeed. Not a word. The busy store, jammed with locals and few tourists had price signs in pesos.  Oh, oh, I didn’t bring my phone with my money conversion app.  We found a bank inside the store asking the conversion rate to discover that about 12 pesos were equivalent to a US $1. 
The camera selection was limited.  My brain was scanning through my memory of the hundreds of cameras I had researched online and their prices. 
We decided to buy a familiar brand at a low price. If we didn’t like it, we’d replace it when we
arrive in Europe in April.  Our purchase, a 16.2 mp Samsung ST66, digital, 5x zoom, 4.5-22.5mm, 1:2.5-6.3, 25 mm. I have no clue what some of these numbers mean. We’ll learn. We have all of the time in the world. 
Walking around Puerto Vallarta wasn’t ideal.  The cab drivers continually barked at us to take a taxi downtown to the shopping area. With no interest in shopping in general, let alone after the hour spent in Walmart waiting for the camera to be rousted up from their “warehouse,” we were ready to walk back to the ship with unruly traffic whizzing past us as we walked the narrow sidewalk.
Thirsty and unable to find a cold drink without ice (we were skeptical of the local water), we made our way back to our ship, sweaty from the heat, and anxious to cool off with a cold icy drink in the air-conditioned comfort of our cabin. We charged the new camera, took a few photos, showered, and dressed for dinner.
In any case, we were glad that we’d ventured out, proud of our purchase at US $102, pleased to find the familiar USB and electric plugs in the box along with instructions in English.
Again last night, Tom ventured into foods unknown and tried the shrimp and scallops risotto.
Having heard Chef Ramsey extol the virtues of a well-made risotto, he was ready to give it a try.  I had made it a few times over the years with him thumbing his nose at the prospect of a single taste. Last night, he marveled at the exquisite taste. I bear no resentment. He’s stepping outside the box.  I’m thrilled.
Tom’s risotto.  He loved it!

After the delightful dinner in the Grand Dining Room, at 10:00 PM we attended a hilarious comedy show in the Celebrity Theatre as the ship rolled from side to side. 

After dining on a big meal of Caprice salad, braised lamb shank, wedge salad, and Tom’s uneaten Brussels sprouts, I felt queasy for the first time since boarding the ship, resting my head on Tom’s shoulder from time to time during the show.    
My Caprese salad.
We both had a fitful night’s sleep.  By 6:30 am Tom was showered and dressed ready to head to breakfast in the Island’s Cafe while I languished in bed trying to muster the energy to get up.  How could I be so tired? 

I haven’t exerted much energy these past four days, other than two high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions in the ship’s health club and the approximate 10,000 steps we walk daily according to my FitBit pedometer.

It must be the winding down after many months of preparing to leave, both the physical and emotional toll, or perhaps, just a poor night’s sleep after all.

Forcing myself to get up after Tom left for the restaurant for coffee and to read his online daily newspaper, I managed to meet up with him a short while later, still sluggish but ready to enjoy the next two days at sea.
By 1:00 PM, we’d managed to attend two classes, the second in a series of five informative and well-presented sessions on the history and culture of the country of Panama and the building of the Panama Canal.  Our second course was by geology/paleontology professor, Dr. Connie Soja on the Coral Reefs of the Mexican Riviera. 
How enriching, during this time of new discoveries in our lives to be learning more about our world? Our mutual interest in these and other such topics all become relevant to our travels.  We couldn’t be more content.
With yet another 12 days on this cruise followed by another 8-day cruise to Belize, we are comfortably settling in, not into a cocoon so prevalent in our past but into a wider scope of wonder, experimentation, and new experiences.
It’s good. It’s very good. Photos will follow.

Cruising right along…4th day aboard ship…

I’ve started drinking coffee again after a six-month hiatus. Honesty, I don’t know why I ever stopped drinking coffee. I just did.

Now, as I sit overlooking the sea, the gentle sensation of the ship rolling my chair to and fro, my big mug filled to the brim with a slightly too strong brew, I am content. 
Tom reminds me, “We are not on vacation. This is now our lives.”
A smile planted on my face, I try to grasp this reality. This is our lives. Right now, until the end of January except for a short few days respite in Boca Raton Florida with friend Carol, we’ll live at sea, 23 days aboard ship in January 2013. We’ll always remember this.
Or perhaps, we won’t remember if over time this new life of ours has days blending into one another as we did in the past. We remember tidbits. We remember special occasions.  We remember sorrowful events. We remember laughing so hard we snorted and cried. Do we
remember all of the days in between? Not so much.
So, how do we ensure that these days, simple in their nature, stay alive and meaningful in years to come?  Live in the moment.  Document them here.
Yesterday, we anchored in Cabo San Lucas.  We didn’t go ashore on the tiny tendered
boats in choppy waters to be dropped off at a mile-long stretch of one shop after another, luring tourists, beaconing passengers to spend, spend, spend. That’s not us. No trinkets, we agreed. No jewelry to attract attention.  No home for which to bring baskets, artwork, handmade rugs, and pottery. 

We stayed onboard when perhaps 70% of the passengers went ashore. The average cost of an excursion off the ship was $200 per couple at each port of call.  There were six such events on this cruise.  We did the math. Our eight cruises with an average of six excursions would total $9600, not in our budget. We’ll wander, if we so chose to the various ports-of-call on our

We are cruising as a means of transportation, to do exactly what appeals to us. Today, we’ll go to church at 10 am, have an assessment by a personal trainer/physical therapist at 11 am, have lunch at the fabulous buffet, attend another class on the Panama Canal (coming up in our itinerary in a few days), spend one hour in the sun as we did yesterday building a base tan without burning.   

By then, it will be almost 4 PM.  We’ll relax in our cabin, catching up on email and Facebook, shower, and go to dinner whenever we’re hungry. We’ll dine in the fancy included-in-our-fare
dining room, once again trying new foods.

Last night, we watched the disappointing Minnesota Vikings game in our cabin with dinner on our laps. On Friday night, Tom enjoyed two appetizers; Carpaccio and gluten-free fried frogs legs. He liked them. He’s trying new things. Outside the box. I’d already made these items at different times in our old lives, Tom always turning up his nose. But, I didn’t complain when he tried them on the ship enjoying each item.

Soon, we’re getting off the ship to wander about Puerto Vallarta on our own. We’ll report back what we’ve discovered.
This is our lives. No expectations. Our only stress is moving from one means of travel to another, the bags, not so bad now, definitely to be reduced in the future. We’re OK for now.
This is our lives.

New Year’s Day…We made it to San Diego…One more day…Happy New Year!

Having offered to put us up for the two days before we sail away on the Celebrity Century to begin the first leg of our worldwide journey, my darling niece and her hospitable husband welcomed us with open arms into their close-to-the-beach home in San Diego with sweeping ocean views.

Not only was our bedroom and private bath perfectly prepared for our visit, but they also cooked an amazing meal befitting our way of eating: prime rib, roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus, and a mixed green salad with homemade cucumber relish. We were in heaven, relaxed, and at home after the long drive from Scottsdale in New Year’s Day traffic.

Packing the car in Scottsdale with not only our excessive amount of luggage, including miscellaneous items we’re giving to the family before we depart on Thursday, was a daunting task. Tom, with  his usual determination, managed to load it all in the back of the SUV, including the flat-screen TV we had brought along “just in case.” (Which proved to be a worthwhile decision when the bedroom TV in Scottsdale was too small to see to lull us to sleep. We’ll unload it tomorrow on son Richard).

On the drive, we stopped at three locations for breakfast unwilling to wait in the hour-long lines for New Year’s Day. Desperate to get something in our stomachs, we stopped at a McDonald’s figuring we’d find something edible within our diet constraints.  I can’t recall the last time I ate anything at a McDonald’s.  It may have been 10 years ago or more.

Ending up with an awful southwest chicken salad (having requested gluten-free), I had to send back when it wasn’t.  It was covered with some crispy fried things with a side of dressing loaded with sugar (which I didn’t use). Much to my shock, the uncut chicken breast was basted with high fructose corn syrup!  I wiped it  off several times with a napkin in a futile effort to “clean it.”  That’s what we’re feeding our kids? 

Tom, without any choices he’d consider, ordered chicken nuggets and fries.  You’d think after a year and a half of our stringent way of eating, he’d enjoy junk food from his past. Not so much. Back on the road, we darted in and out of holiday traffic, hoping to arrive in time for dinner.

Today with one day until departure, we’ll be running around to complete our final tasks: a trip to the bank to get some arbitrary amount of cash yet to be determined, a venture into a local drugstore for a few last-minute toiletries, a trip to Goodwill to drop off my warm clothing that we won’t need where we’re going so far and a preliminary trip to the cruise ship port to scope out our upcoming arrival tomorrow morning when boarding begins around 10:30 am.

We’ll find a nearby restaurant for lunch with my sister and eldest son who has come to see us off at the pier. He is taking our SUV off of our hands either to sell or keep as an extra vehicle.  It all worked out after all.  We’ll drive ourselves to the pier, unload our bags, meet them for lunch and off we go, hoping they will be able to take a photo of us at the railing of the ship (we’ll post this photo if we get it).

Are we excited yet?  Almost.  Almost excited, holding our emotions at bay in an effort to stay focused on the endless steps necessary to get situated on board the ship.  After all, we are taking virtually everything we own with us, not an easy task.  There will be no home to go back to in order to repack.  There will be no new inventory of clothing and supplies to prepare for the next leg of the journey. This is it.

Tentative?  Yes, a little.  There’s no going back now.  Nervous?  A little.  We are embarking on the first cruise of our lives and yet, we’ve booked eight of them!  Crazy?  Yes, a little.  After spending a lifetime trying to do the “right thing”  we feel that it’s time to take a few chances. 

In the realm of things, what is the worst that will happen, provided no unforeseen disaster occurs?  We won’t like it or, we’ll become seasick that doesn’t resolve after a few days.  Yes, either of these could occur.  What would we do?  We’ll cancel all of the remaining cruises, lose a portion of the deposits we’ve paid (we’d get most of them back in full as long as they are outside the 90 day cancellation period), and venture on as planned, flying as opposed to cruising. 

Over the past year since deciding to embark on this adventure, we’ve discussed every possible scenario we could imagine and how we plan to respond.  As for the unforeseen, which will undoubtedly occur, we shall hopefully utilize rational thinking with the utmost consideration as to what is the best plan for us. 

We’ve taken many precautions that will prove to have been for naught and we’ll experience many situations for which we’re unprepared. We accept that reality which, it itself, is half the battle. 

We’ll tire of hauling our bags. We’ll tire of looking at the same stuff day after day. We’ll tire of not having a car.  We’ll tire of figuring exchange rates and paying exorbitant fees to convert, cash.  And, we’ll tire of language barriers.  

But, we won’t tire of one another as we find ourselves pleasingly and, not surprisingly enjoying being together day after day. That, my friends, is the greatest part of our journey.

Next time we “see” you here on our blog, we’ll be writing from the Celebrity Century. We’ll be unpacked, ready to experience the 23 days of cruising in the month of January and for now, we’ll be “home.”