Known as a Panama Canal Cruise, we did in fact go through the Panama Canal. I’m no expert on such canals but to me it seemed rather narrow and old-fashioned. What I mean by old-fashioned is that men in row boats had to row out to our ship to tie a rope between us and this mini train-type car that would pull us along through the locks. Furthermore, the canal is restricted to ships under a certain size, therefore large cargo ships and mega cruise ships have to go all the way around Cape Horn to get to the other side of the Americas, a very long and dangerous way. That being said, they are in the process of dredging and enlarging the canal, though I’m not sure if that’s to increase capacity by number of ships or to allow larger ships to go through. After navigating the Panama Canal we had a stop at…Cristobal Pier…As unexciting as that may sound, encountering locals in native costumes which rendered them bare-chested and rather more exposed than most passengers coming off an elegant cruise ship expected, was plenty of distraction. Besides these locals jumping and dancing to rhythmic beats, others were selling all sorts of crafts and wares in the terminal. Not surprising, I liked our other Panamanian port, Bocas del Toro, better; in fact, it was my favorite port on the whole cruise. It is said Panama is the next Costa Rica, gorgeous beaches, lush tropical rain forests, and even cheaper than Costa Rica. That sure seems to be true, with clear blue water, pure white sand, and 3-star waterfront hotel rooms for $10-15 per night. It appears that Bocas has a good backpacker community and the nightlife to go with it. We took a boat to a small private island where we crossed the island through the rain forest to find a beach with rolling waves on the other side. We had good fun playing in the strong waves. My grandma even went in! I just wish we’d had more time in Panama.
San Andres Island
Colombia, would you believe this cruise included a stop in Colombia? Well to be honest, we didn’t go to mainland Colombia, we stopped at San Andres Island, off the coast of Honduras. San Andres island now belongs to Colombia after the two countries competed over the island to control the fishing rights in the area. We took a short island tour including seeing a blow hole which sprays water when a big wave washes up and seeing the town, which wasn’t very exciting. We also went to a beach but our time there was rained away by a quick moving storm with high winds–it must have come and gone in 15minutes but with all the furry of a hurricane. San Andres Island also had a reputation as a pirate hideout where pirates used to store their treasure. However, today, no treasure.
The last port before disembarkation in Miami was Key West. Key West was cute but touristy and had a number of very eccentric characteristics, even the tour guide said residents of Key West were a little off. Key West touts itself as the Southernmost Point of the (Continental) US and is only 90miles from Cuba. Famous people such as Earnest Hemingway have called Key West home; President Truman also spent a fair amount of time here at the ‘Little White House’ during his presidency.
And after Key West is…Miami!