I am sitting in Mickey Dees in the middle of a residential area in Cartagena called Boca Grande. It's kind of like Ft. Lauderdale with street vendors. They torture you as you stroll down the street trying to sell you fake Rolex watches and tee shirts. Jerry is in heaven. This morning we went to the old colonial city which is quite nice except for the people trying to sell you anything and everything. The buildings are beautiful, all painted different vivid colors. The music is good, the weather is hot, sticky with periods of rain. Just like home. Lots of drug money. Nice condos overlooking the ocean, upscale shops, very homogenized. That is the trouble with the world today. Everything is the same. However, I do feel safe here. No hint of trouble and loads of police all over the place, making their presence very visible.
After today we have two sea days and then home to plan for the next adventure.
Friday, October 4, 2013
There is a woman on this ship who is either a Russian opera singer or actress or the queen of the Russian Mafia. I have named her Svetlana Uspenskaya. She weighs about 300 pounds, dresses amazingly flamboyantly and travels with an entourage. I am fascinated by the whole thing and cannot wait to see what she is wearing day. She is a site to behold! Last night she wore a gown with a huge thing on one shoulder which I thought was a monkey at first. But it was a huge mass of material. It also had a train which she held out on the side as she flounced around. She loves having her picture taken and poses constantly. She is my own private floor show. I can't wait till tomorrow.
It rained all day in Colon but we were in Panama City for the major part of the day. Panama City is the capital and about one hour's ride from the port of Colon where the ship docked. We hired a private guide and took off for Panama City at about 8:30 am in the rain. We drove past the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks on the Pacific side of the canal and also passed Lake Chagres and into the rainforest.
Panama City has two distinct parts. The new city is very modern with beautiful glass skyscrapers and condos. There are many banks since this is a world financial center and the largest free trade zone in the world. In addition, the large freighters and cargo ships as well as the cruise ships which transit the canal must pay cash and it is far from cheap. It cost Celebrity approximately $350,000 for the transit of the Millenium. So there is loads of money here. Many Americans retire here and live like kings.
The other part of the capital is the old city which dates from colonial days. It is constantly being worked on. The architecture is very interesting. Our guide took us into the presidential palace, the offices of the vice president and many other interesting sites. We had some fun with a group of high school students as well. Then it a
was on to a huge, modern free zone shopping center. I didn't buy anything. The ride back to the ship was harrowing, to say the least. There was a torrential downpour and a horrible traffic jam. In fact, it was the worst traffic I have ever seen. I thought we were going to be swimming to Cartagena. However, we made it with a few minutes to spare. I liked Panama and enjoyed the friendliness of the people.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
After a lovely day in Costa Rica we are now smack in the middle of the Panama Canal. We took private taxi to the rain forest and took the arial tram into the jungle canopy. It was fabulous and so was our guide who just oozed such love for his country and his vocation. After the tram we went on a hike through the jungle where he lectured us on all the flora and fauna of the rainforest. When we returned to Puntarenas, the port, my husband actually bought me a necklace and earrings. Granted, it wwas at the flea market, but it is pretty. We actually need another suitcase for all the crap he is buying.
Now we are in Gatun Lake after having gone through the first set of locks, on the Pacific side, the Miraflores Locks, and the Pedro Miguel Locks and now fifty miles of Gatun Lake to the Caribbean side and the Gatun Locks and out. The entire trip has been narrated by an expert so we know exactly what is happening at all times. There are also three pilots onboard at all times. It is quite an operation which takes approximately ten hours. Even though this is my third canal crossing I still find it fascinating and learn something new each time I transit. This time we were live on the canal webcam.
Now I have to get ready for the Senior Officer's Cocktail Party. We had a gourmet barbeque on deck for lunch. I think I am getting sick of gourmet food!
Saturday, September 28, 2013
We just returned from an interesting day in Guatemala. We awoke at the crack of dawn and took a van with six other passengers to the old colonial city of Antigua which is up in the mountains of Guatemala and near two volcanoes. The ride took almost two hours from the port but it was lovely and we stopped along the way to visit a coffee plantation. Coffee only grows at a minimum of 4,000 feet so it was cool and lush. The soil is black volcanic soil so it is very rich in nutrients.
The city itself is a lovely example of Spanish colonial architecture and the people are quite nice. There is a strong Mayan influence here so almost everyone looks Mayan, with the same facial features and diminutive height. I thought I was in Munchkin land. We visited a jade factory where artisans were making beautiful jade jewelry and artifacts. It was quite interesting to watch the procedure and to tour the small museum. We saw every color imaginable of jade objects. After that we hit the local street markets which were very interesting and colorful. I bought a necklace and three pair of earrings after bargaining for a few minutes. Then it started to rain. A torrential downpour. So we went for a delicious lunch in a local fine restaurant. We enjoyed that very much as well and I sincerely hope we don't get the trots!
We also visited a five-star gorgeous hotel where we toured some ruins from the time of the conquistadores and saw them setting up for a very fancy, high-end wedding. I believe this hotel was a former monestary but now is the height of luxury and self-indulgence. I would stay there in a heartbeat.
Since it is still pouring we decided to stay on the ship and relax. Now that I have had my afternoon snack it is all good. Now it is on to Puntarenas after another sea day. I'm exausted!
We are sailing south along the Mexican coast enroute to Quetzal, Guatemala which is our next port stop. It is raining but warm as we head toward the Equator. Most ship activities are indoor and involve food in some way. It is ten thirty am and I have already had sushi. I hope the sun comes out before lunch. Then at least I can do some laps around the top deck while on the lookout for migrating whales. Oh yes, they are lying around the pools.