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.