Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Panama Canal and Pinnacle Grill dinner

Monday, January 10, 2011 – Panama Canal transit – Up at 6 and it was still dark out! What did they expect us to see?! But we could see lights ahead as we approached the first lock. The canal is considered to be the 8th Wonder of the Modern World and has shortened the trip around South America by 7,872 miles. The concept of a canal was actually perceived by King Charles V of Spain, who, in 1523, prompted Balboa and Cortez to make a survey of the Canal area. But the project was too large for the Spanish and abandoned. The canal was finished in 1914, after the loss of over 6,000 lives from yellow fever and cholera.

We had a destination guide with us all day – yes, it does take all day to transit the entire canal! There are three sets of locks – Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores – and then we enter the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the ship, there were various stations for coffee, juice, panama rolls (soft rolls with orange jam inside!) and sandwiches. That was a great touch and people did not mind being outside as they still had access to the food and drink (it was hot and humid and drizzled all day). In your spare time…to view any ship transit the canal, please go to We entered at 6:30 AM and left about 3:30 PM.

Average transit is 9 hours. Fastest was 2 hours, 41 minutes. Highest toll was $141,344.97. Lowest toll was $0.36 (Richard Halliburton was swam in 1928). There are approx. 9000 workers at the canal and it is 48 miles long. An enlargement scheme to allow for a greater number of transits with larger ships has been approved by the government of Panama, is in progress and completion is expected in 2015.

Went to my first tai chi class and really enjoyed it. The theatre was full of people!! And I could already feel the stretch and pull in my leg and arms muscles – taught by two Australians.
David Howarth, pianist, was the entertainer. He actually played “chopsticks” with real chopsticks!

There are daily movies onboard PLUS a DVD library of hundreds to choose from. Today’s movie was “Extraordinary Measures”. They also sold items made in Panama out on deck. There is a nice covered pool, two Jacuzzis and outdoor grill with a removable roof. Today was the first time we were up there and it will be very nice in good weather.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 – Went for Tai chi class and I like it – need to learn more of the steps and combinations but that will come. There are still about 60+ people in the room! Worked on a client situation that consumed much time; lunch in the dining room; Zumba class in the fitness center; computer work.

Pinnacle Grill dinner with the group; an exclusive event for the Ensemble Travel group guests which we have been working on for several days with a special menu! We had 35 guests for a 4 course meal in the specialty on-board restaurant. Dungeness crab cakes, spicy coconut soup or caesar salad, surf and turf or salmon and chocolate volcano cake with very nice wines. We filled eight tables and everyone seemed to have a nice time getting to know each other. Ran in to the Wajang Theatre to see the end of the Mitzi Gaynor movie, “Les Girls” from 1957.

Amsterdam Singers performed on the main stage; there were four men and two women. I liked the male voices dominating the singing. Then read about our next port of call, Manta Ecuador; crossed the equator at some time during the night so we will wait to have the “Neptune Ceremony” at another time but we were offered a glass of champagne during dinner.