Panama Canal Cruise 2019 — The Panama Crossing

I was going to continue with the progression of cruise days but decided to jump ahead to the main reason for doing this particular cruise. 

It’s not visiting all these places or exploring different cultures or even claiming any particular land as conquered. 

It was to see the Panama Canal. 

Before this cruise started, we had agreed on the “no excursions” plan. The reason is that while sometimes a decent way to see stuff, excursions can be a bit hit-and-miss. Central to the “miss” portion is the fact you’re on excursions with many other people. Rude people. Uninteresting people. Self-centered “maleducati” devoid of consideration for others. However, we fell for the siren song of this excursion (click for larger version). 

I mean, you’d think that’s the experience of a lifetime. 

Well, our gut instinct was (mostly) right. After an hour and a half on a crowded bus with a guide who tried very hard to be funny, we got to the ferry. 

So, here’s the thing . . . technically, the description is accurate. But, a bit misleading. The boat is not optimized for seeing stuff and is only in so-so shape. The crew was nice and we did go through the locks, but what’s not explained is that you are right up against one wall and another boat is tied right next to you (a larger boat, as it turned out) and a big-ass boat comes right up behind you. The end result is that out of the sixty or so people aboard, maybe twenty get to see out of the front (the gates operate). Those are the people who either park themselves at the best spots or elbow their way there. 

Ours was the last group to load up and the last group to board the ferry. So, no good spots were left to be had. 

Look, we did get a close look at the walls of the lock . . . 

And, because I was at the lower level in the back along with some of the crew, it was easy to touch the wall of the lock.  

But, as far as seeing the operation of the locks and associated equipment, we got a much better view the next day during the passage of the Coral Princess through all the locks. 

I mean, I did see the gates open, but only after the other boat left and only for the last foot or so that they swung open. I had envisioned watching the gates majestically open and close in front of me. I mean, they did, but I couldn’t see them. 

The redeeming part to the whole experience was . . . this. 

I mean, it looks like a rock, and it is. It’s about an inch long and maybe a half inch at its widest . . . but it came right off the wall of the first lock we went through.

A crew member I’d been chatting with plucked it right off the wall and handed it to me. “Here’s a souvenir,” he said. 

OK, it looks like a rock I could have picked up from the ground, especially after I washed the grime off it . . . but I know where it came from, and it made the excursion worthwhile. It joins a bit of glacier water from Alaska and some Black Sand and lava chunk from Hawaiʻi that — while not looking like much — are, for me, truly unique. 

Much better than the souvenir we got from the excursion . . . where they got the date wrong. We didn’t mind as it added to the charm of the experience.

But, no more excursions unless we make our own arrangements.

The next day, we got a good look at the locks and their operation. Many photos were snapped and I’ll eventually share them. Meanwhile, here’s a taste. 

Preparing to “rise” . . .
. . . and, lifted . . .

Leaving the first set of locks . . . 

. . . and, approaching the Centennial Bridge . . . 

. . . going by El Ranacer prison where Noriega was incarcerated. The inmates at the fence waved and shouted greetings as we passed . . . at least I think they were greetings; I couldn’t make them out too well, but they were waving.

Passing by Titan: the Nazi monster in Panama.

And approaching the still unfinished Atlantic Bridge connecting roads that have not yet been built . . . 

Obviously, I’ll have lots more photos when I do a proper post about the Panama Canal passage. 

Suffice it to say, both Melisa and I would do this cruise again. We hardly got off the boat in Mexico (walked around a bit) and did not get off the boat in Nicaragua or Columbia and should not have gotten off the boat in Panama. 

But, the Panama Canal crossing? Totally worth it. 

I should point out that we are a bit different from most people. For us, it’s not so much visiting these places. Rather, it’s experiencing the ship and seeing the sights (from the ship). Alaska was a little better because you can get off the ship and walk around without having tens of people offering to act as tour guides and trying to sell you stuff. 

Sure, there are cruisers interested in the cultures and history and stuff, but I can read about all that and in greater detail than what I can learn on these excursions. The cruise experience for us is being on the boat and see what we can see from the boat. Except for the float plane (an excursion we planned on our own), every other excursion has ranged from a mild disappointment to an outright “shouldn’t have done that“. 

Can’t say you shouldn’t do it. But, I can say that if you are like us, I recommend you stay on the boat. 

Here’s a closing photo from the Churchill lounge (where people go to smoke) . . . 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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