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The travel log of an eccentric and her Thesaurus.

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  1. Below find part 1 of my trip log from our Cruise. Enjoy!
  2. Jane
  3.  
  4.  
  5. June 2012 Panama Canal Cruise Log
  6.  
  7. June 5
  8. Our flight to San Diego went off without a hitch.  Our plane actually had ample leg room so we weren’t completed crammed into our seats.
  9.  
  10. A bus was waiting to transport us from the airport to the cruise terminal, which was very close to the airport. Our luggage was stowed under the bus which would be brought to our room, so all we had to carry was my backpack.   Like other cruises, at the cruise terminal we waited in line to get our passports checked, then in another line to go through the security scanner, a third line to get our cruise ship passes, a fourth line to get our pictures taken, and finally the last line to actually step on board the ship.  Now I know why they call the boats ocean LINERS.
  11.  
  12. A few words about our ship: .  It holds 1,814 guests and approximately half that in crew members. It is 71,545 tons, 815 feet long, and can cruise at a speed of 21.5 knots. This is our first cruise on this cruise line, and it is supposedly a nicer class of ship.  I will let you know later if I find this to be true.
  13.  
  14. The cabins were not yet ready so we went up to the 9th floor Island Buffet for a bite to eat.  I told myself I have to be “good” and not sample everything.  And I was fairly well-behaved with the main course. However, the pot o’crème for dessert was delicious, and when Bob failed to finish his, I did. So much for being good.
  15.  
  16. We next stopped at the cruise excursions desk, and browsed the many opportunities.  We had looked at them before sailing, but had not made up our minds.  We settled on two we would do together, one in Puntarenas, Costa Rica and one in Colon, Panama, and Bob selected one that I wasn’t interested in for Cartegena, Columbia.  The announcement came that our room was ready, so we proceeded to floor 6, cabin 6358.
  17.  
  18. After about a ½ hour power nap, we were reminded by the ship’s horn to go up to our muster station for the emergency drill. And you guessed it, another line as we herded into the casino (our designated muster station) and learned what to do in case of an “abandon ship” call and how to correctly don our life preservers.
  19.  
  20. Our next stop was the Spa, the ship fitness and spa facility.  We toured the center, which seemed smaller than those on other ships we had been on, and waited patiently to see if our cabin number would be drawn to receive free spa treatments.  But no luck.  Alas, I guess if we want something in the spa we will have to pay for it ourselves. Spa services on cruise ships are much more pricey than the ones back home, so I doubt we will get any. While we were in the spa, the ship left port and headed into the Pacific Ocean to begin our voyage south.
  21.  
  22. We headed back to our room in the hopes that our luggage would have arrived. We found three of the four outside our door.  My big bag was not there.  Our room steward happened to be nearby and we mentioned it to him.  His first words were “Did you have any liquor in the bag?” I didn’t think I looked like a drinker, but maybe I did.  I replied “No,” and he said he would check into it.  Bob and I unpacked what we could and relaxed.  About 20 minutes later my bag finally arrived, and I unpacked.
  23.  
  24. We dressed in nicer clothes and proceeded to the Dining room for dinner.  We had arranged for the Select Dining option, which meant you could either reserve a time, or just show up at any time between 5:30 and 9:30 for dinner.  We like that option rather than be assigned either the early or late seating.  We got right in, and were seated next to a couple from Massachussets.  I had a delicious appetizer of stuffed mushroom caps, and Bob enjoyed the French Onion Soup.  The prime rib was delectable, and I was almost too full for dessert, but I forced myself to try the cream puffs with pecan ice cream and bitter chocolate sauce. Well, somebody had to have it….
  25.  
  26. After that, we walked around the ship a while, trying to learn where everything was at.  The shops contained the usual jewelry, clothing, liquor and souvenirs that we’ve seen on other cruise ships. Bob opted to go back to the cabin, while I went to the Theater for the Opening Night Show.  It contained a lot of information about the ship and introduced us to Captain Greg from Greece and the main people running the various ships’ departments.  Next we got a sampling of entertainment to come from the ship orchestra, singers and dancers, and a harmonic barbershop quartet from Sweden called Grandiano.  By the time it was over, about 9:30 Pacific time, I was definitely ready for some shut-eye.
  27.  
  28.  
  29. June 6
  30. Our first day at sea.  We awoke around 7 am Mountain time.  Yes, during the night we had moved eastward far enough to change zones.  We opted to enjoy a leisurely sit-down breakfast in the Dining room.  Ah.  How nice to have so many choices!   I opted for a dish of pears followed by eggs benedict, while Bob enjoyed a pastry and waffles.  And then we were off for a busy morning and afternoon.
  31.  
  32. We began with a presentation on Panama the country along with some highlights of the canal, the first of a series of five presentations that will be held during our cruise.  Some good websites for information are www.visitpanama.com, and www.pancanal.com .   This second site is where you, my friends, can supposedly watch the progress of the ship as we pass through the canal, so check it out!  We will be cruising the canal on June 15th during the day.  This was followed by a talk highlighting some of the shore excursions.  We may end up purchasing a few more excursions – some of them sound pretty good. The next talk was the SHOPPING talk for the ports of Cabo San Lucas (Thursday) and Puerto Vallarta (Friday).  We filled out cards to get VIP shopping passes at several of the stores (not that we will use them all, but handy to have in case a fabulous deal presents itself…)
  33.  
  34. At this point we split up – Bob went to a Tanzanite seminar, and I went to the internet area to see if I could win some free airtime.  My ticket number was ONE number away from the number called.  Oh well.  The manager explained the internet can be 3-4 times slower than on land, plus the prices are high, so I’ll wait until we get to Cabo and try to find a free or inexpensive wifi to use.  I then headed to the Island Café near the pool area to get a bite to eat.  I chose a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant – very tasty.
  35.  
  36. My next stop was the Art Auction.  Now those of you who know me know that I am not an art collector.  So why did I go?  For the free champagne!!  I did see one beautiful painting of a cheetah that I admired, so out of curiosity I asked what the minimum bid was.  Framed and with shipping included - $995.   Ouch.  So that painting will NOT be gracing my living room.  Some of the artwork did sell at the auction, but many did not meet the minimum bid and were passed over.
  37.  
  38. Bob and I met up again at the diamond and gemstone seminar.  Over the years on our cruises we have sat through a few of these seminars to learn more, and we have shopped at several major jewelry stores in various ports of call, and there are some extraordinary gems and pieces out there.  Some are very rare, some come in multiple colors, and some have unique cuts, like diamonds cut in Hearts of Fire or Crown of Light. I do own a few gems, purchased because I liked the type of gem, the color and the setting.  Some of these may increase in value over the years, which will be a nice inheritance for my children and grandchildren.  But I digress.  At the seminar, our shopping guide Ramone discussed how gems usually go through many hands before reaching the retailers, and how there is one company which eliminates a lot of those hands.  When he asked which one, I blurted out “Diamonds International” and I was right, and for that answer I was awarded a tanzanite necklace.  Tanzanite happens to be a birthstone for December, and one of my favorite gemstones.  What a nice early birthday present!
  39.  
  40. We next stopped in at a birthstone seminar and learned some interesting facts about the 12 birthstones (and their new alternates, like Tanzanite as the alternate for the traditional blue topaz for December), as well as seeing some fabulous jewelry containing the various gems.  All of these pieces were way too expensive for me to even think about.  Before we left, we admired a large tanzanite stone surrounded by diamonds that was set into a ring and displayed in a case.  A contest was in progress to guess the weight in karats of the tanzanite stone.  It was similar in size to a 15 karat stone the seminar leader had shown us, so Bob guessed 13 karats and I guessed 16.1 karats.  Following this we headed back to the cabin to rest, and I began this log while Bob napped.
  41.  
  42. Soon it was time to eat (again!!) and so we cleaned up.  Tonight was Formal Night, so I got put on my blue diamond necklace and earrings we purchased on our last cruise, and I dressed in the best outfit I had brought.  We headed up to the Dining Room.  This time, we had called ahead for reservations, and were given the time of 5:45 pm for our dinner seating.  Apparently a sport coat was required, and Bob had not brought one.  Fortunately, there was a small rack with assorted size jackets on it, and Bob got to borrow one for dinner.  I believe he was the only one in the restaurant without a tie, but that’s my Bob!  The couple we were seated next to was from Pennsylvania.  I enjoyed a spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette and the shrimp scampi, while Bob had a beef ragout as an appetizer and beef tenderloin.  My dessert was cherries jubilee – yum, yum.
  43.  
  44. Next we wandered around the ship again.  I am starting to feel more comfortable with where everything is located, however I still religiously carry the ship map with me.  The drawing for the guess the karat weight was to be held at 7:45 so we showed up at the Boutique to see who won. Surprisingly, only 10 people were there for the drawing, even though there had to have been about 30 entries in the glass jar.  The boutique manager revealed the actual weight – 17.1 karats. My guess at 16.1 was close….. I waited, and was delighted to discover I had guessed the closest!  My prize was a lovely pendant.  Of course it was not made of real gemstones, only cubic zirconium, but still a lovely deep blue.  Another early birthday present!  Apparently this was my lucky day, and darn it, I am nowhere near a store that sells Powerball tickets…..
  45.  
  46. Our next stop was the Theater for the captain’s toast and first official show.  All attendees received their choice of champagne or wine (I opted for the wine) and we were welcomed on board by the captain and the highest ranking officers, the heads of the various departments. We then were treated to a delightful presentation by Cheri Gorchani, pianist, accompanied by the ship’s orchestra.  What a performance!  I think he may be performing again in the cruise, and I will be delighted to hear him again.  For my church friends - he reminds me very much of Fred Hasdi – that kind of energy and enthusiasm along with the talent. I purchased his two cds, so if anyone would like to borrow them, just ask!
  47.  
  48. We turned in an enjoyed a restful evening of sleep.
  49.  
  50. June 7
  51. We awoke to a myriad of oranges and yellows rising from the horizon in the east as the sun was about to rise on another lovely clear day.  The temperature was supposed to be high 70s F on the TV, so I put on my sleeveless shirt and shorts. After morning prayers, we headed to our favorite dining room for breakfast.  My choices this morning were a fresh banana and cheese omelet.  I also tried a brioche roll that was quite savory.  Bob tried the vanilla French toast with a bran muffin.
  52.  
  53. I left Bob to his own devices and headed up to the top deck (14).  The lounge chairs lined the decks in inviting little rows. There were a few folks circling the deck and some passengers one deck below getting ready to take a dip in the pool.  I found a spot in the sun and settled in to write.  I put several thoughts down in my notebook, then pulled out my book.  AH, what a relaxing morning!  I paused partway through a chapter to put my book down and close my eyes. The warm of the sun and the gentle rocking of the ship lulled me into a nap.  I awake, refreshed, and switched to chair across the aisle so the other side of my face could get some vitamin D. I completed my chapter in blissful solitude.
  54.  
  55. I could tell we were nearing our first port, Cabo San Lucas.  I got up to move to the port (left) side of the ship, which was closest to land.  Some boats were sailing around, and you could see the buildings along the western side of the peninsula.  It was close to 10 am, and we expect to be able to disembark about 11:30.  I headed back to the room to freshen up, and update this log.  At about 10:30, we could see the archway at the tip of the peninsula and the bay.  A few other cruise ships were already in port. Time to sign off the PC and enjoy the scenery!
  56.  
  57. We were able to disembark about 12:15 pm, after the groups who had scheduled tours.  There was nothing special on the tours that we were interested in, since we have been to Cabo twice before, once as a stop on a cruise ship, and once for a week at a resort.  We entered our tender boat, a lifeboat used to ferry passengers from the ship to the pier.  As we rode in the tender we saw a seal in the harbor, along with many pelicans.  The pelicans were not afraid to hop up onto boats in the harbor – apparently they are very used to humans.
  58.  
  59. Many vendors offered their services to us as we walked along the pier.  “Water taxi to the beach, miss?” “How about a trip to see the arch?” Then as we neared the shops and restaurants the vendors hawked their sombreros, margaritas, Coronas, souvenirs and more.  The Pharmacias offered sundries along with a variety of medications.
  60. The best deal seemed to be a bucket of five beers for $10 USD, and for an additional $4.99 you could add on a pizza.  Too bad Bob doesn’t drink… I don’t think I could handle five beers myself unless I sat there all afternoon and did nothing else!!  The most unique offering was a chance to get your picture taken with a lion cub for $25. Proceeds were supposed to help a nature preserve.
  61.  
  62. We opted for a small little café just off the marina which specialized in fish tacos and 2-for-1 margaritas.  I enjoyed the two strawberry margaritas and a marlin quesadilla, while Bob had a steak taco.  We shared tortilla chips and salsa. I do enjoy the Mexican flour tortillas very much, and the marlin was actually very tasty.  I can now check “eat marlin” off my bucket list.
  63.  
  64. Next we walked in the “downtown” area.  We passed by Cabo Wabo, the famous cantina (which we visited on our last trip to Cabo) and went into the big Diamond International jewelry store.  I enjoyed looking at the Crown of Light diamonds which are cut with 90 facets instead of the usual 58 or so, and are very expensive. The other was Kabana – a special brand of oyster and other stones inlay jewelry – very smooth to the touch as there are no rough edges.   I did see a lovely pink heart pendant that I liked, but I controlled myself and said “no” to any purchases. The Royal Jewelers store contained the Hearts on Fire diamond – a special cut that shows a starburst when you look from the top down, and a ring of eight hearts when you look from the bottom up.  To see both you need a magnifying glass – it was beautiful to see, and the diamonds sparkle much more than regular cut diamonds, but they are also very expensive. The other piece I saw there was the Omega necklace – it is flat - with yellow gold on one side and silver on the other, so you can use it with multiple pendants.  Very nice.
  65.  
  66. We made our way back along the pier, stopping at a souvenir mart for some cool sodas and a rest on a bench, then we boarded the tender back to the ship. But darn, I then realized I had forgotten to find a WIFI while I was there.  Oh well, tomorrow in Puerto Vallarta I should be able to find one.  We still had a few hours before we were to leave port, so we rested and reviewed possible excursions for Guatemala, since we had not booked anything for there yet, and in the excursion talk they said that there really was not much to do at the pier, and the city of Antigua was quite a ways away from the pier.
  67.  
  68. We arrived for dinner at 5:30 pm, when the Dining Room opened.  We sat nice to a nice older gentleman from England (Sandy – you would have loved his accent!) who has been on many trips.  I enjoyed the French onion soup, a waldorf salad and baked chicken.  For dessert, I tried Crepes Suzette with ice cream.  The brandy sauce was tasty but a little too sweet. Since we had a little time before the evening show, we went to the pearl seminar in the boutique.  We learned more about the different types of pearls and where they come from in the world.  It can take 10 years to create a large pearl, and most of the ones you see are cultured (culturing has only been done for the last 56 years). The Tahitian black pearls are the rarest.
  69.  
  70. The evening show was Cory Nerthand, a comedy juggler.  Man, he kept the audience laughing as he gave an almost non-stop banter while doing his juggling.  I wished I’d had a notebook with me to record a few of the jokes, but he spoke so fast I wouldn’t have been able to write many down anyway.  Charlie R – he stole your homeless woman line!  After that, we went into the Crystal Room lounge for a 50’s theme party.  Grandiano, the barbershop quarter did a few 50’s do-wop tunes, and then we had a trivia contest.  Harry our Cruise director would play a snippet of the song and you had to guess the title. The rule was, if you knew the song you were supposed to write it down, not shout it out or sing.  However no one followed the rules (and I think that’s actually what they had planned.)  It was a lot of fun as everyone would continue singing the song after Harry stopped the music.  When it came to YMCA, everyone got up to do the motions, and for New York New York we did some line kicking.  Lots of fun!  The trivia was followed by the band playing various songs.  I got Bob to dance with me on Pretty Woman. Our latest evening so far of the cruise!
  71.  
  72.  
  73.  
  74. Hi - we are in Guatemala. All is well.  Beautiful weather!  Here's my second update!
  75.  
  76. Jane
  77.  
  78.  
  79. June 2012 Panama Canal Cruise Log 2
  80.  
  81. June 8
  82. A somewhat hazy day today.  We awoke at seven, showered, prayed and headed to breakfast.  I enjoyed the Scottish kippers and scrambled egg whites. We sat with a woman from California who has cruised so much she counts days cruised instead of number of cruises – 397 days of cruising so far.  He husband recently passed away so she was alone on this one.  While we were dining, some dolphins swam by the ship which was nice to see.
  83.  
  84. Our next stop was the gallery shops for the Sale – many items from previous cruises were on sale as well as some specials on assorted jewelry. We found a few bargains, including suede gloves for $5 per pair.  I bought two pairs – in preparation for when I return to the harsh reality of winter.   Unfortunately we did not win at either the 9 am, 10:15 am or noon raffles.  In between the drawings we just relaxed and read.
  85.  
  86. We headed up to the poolside grill for hamburgers, then went to the gangway to disembark at Puerto Vallarta.   The sun shone brightly and it was warm, but we did have a small breeze.  A van took us from the pier to the downtown area, where we walked along the Malecon.  For those of you not familiar with this term, it is a sidewalk/street along the shoreline that is for pedestrian traffic only.  Puerto Vallarta’s malecon has many permanent statues, and typically also has many large (5-10 feet high) sand sculptures.  Last time we were here we saw about a dozen such sculptures, so I was surprised that there were only two this time.  There were however a few persons dressed up and sitting like statues – a mermaid, a guardian angel, and two men playing chess.
  87.  
  88. About eight blocks down the malecon we went up two blocks to Our Lady of Guadalupe church.  Since the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on June13th, the front of the church was decorated.  Apparently it is a 12-day celebration for this feast, so we were advised to make sure we got our cab back to the ship by 5 pm, as streets are blocked off for celebration.  It was nice to stop for reflection, since we will not have opportunity for mass this weekend on the ship.  The ship only has clergy aboard for major holidays, so there is a rabbi on board for Hanukkah, but no priest.
  89.  
  90. We strolled back along the streets and I picked up a few souvenirs. Then we took a cab back to the ship.  I stopped in the internet center on the pier where I had an opportunity to check email, send out the first few days of my log, and post on Facebook.  Unfortunately, uploading photos did not work, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because I’m working on my small old netbook computer…. Anyway, maybe a future port will have a better connection.
  91.  
  92. Back on board the ship, we dressed for dinner.  My choices for the evening were butternut squash soup and roasted lamb shank. Delicious! For dessert I opted for a pina colada frozen yogurt, which was also very good. Seated next to us was an older gentleman from England named Dan travelling solo – his wife passed away a few years ago.  Sandy – you would have loved his accent!
  93.  
  94. We stopped in the Rendevouz lounge to listen to the Carousel band, and watch a few of our fellow guests do some dancing, before heading the Celebrity Theater for the evening show.  It was Deloris Vendern, a vocalist, and she did a wonderful job entertaining us.
  95.  
  96. Since we were a bit tired from the day, we retired early.  We were greeted in our room with a bunny rabbit, a towel animal created by our steward.  This was the first one of our cruise.  On all our other cruises, towel animals appeared almost daily, but not on this cruise, even though we had seen such animals in other staterooms. So this morning Bob said something to the steward, and obviously it paid off.  We’ll see if we get any more on subsequent days.
  97.  
  98. June 9
  99. Our first of two back-to-back sea days. At about 7 am, Bob woke me up with a kiss and a card.  What a pleasant wakeup call for my birthday!  Our breakfast was lovely as usual.  I enjoyed a grapefruit half, smoked salmon, and vanilla French toast, while Bob had corn flakes and poached eggs.  The next stop was out on the side of deck six, where we just enjoyed watching the calm seas.  No whitecaps at all, except for what was generated by the movement of the boat.  So very peaceful.
  100.  
  101. At 9:00 am we went in to the Theater to listen to “Cousin Frank” give his second talk on modern day Panama. We learned more facts, and saw some beautiful pictures of Panama City and the locks.  When we arrive, we will have one day (June 15) cruising through the locks, 50 miles (80 km) which cuts off 9,000+ miles for ships which previously needed to travel around the horn to get from one ocean to the other.  You can go towww.pancanal.com on the 15th and supposedly you can watch the ship go through the locks.  We are the Celebrity Century. I will be sure to wave…..
  102.  
  103. Next we listened to another excursion talk, to get a few more ideas.  Yesterday we did book a tour for Guatemala, and I still am undecided about a tour in Cartagena.   Then Bob wanted to attend a seminar on emeralds. Why the big interest in jewels this trip, I don’t know.  Finally we headed up to the Island Buffet for lunch.  Bob had hot hogs and fries, while I enjoyed an Asian stir fry.
  104.  
  105. There wasn’t much on the afternoon schedule that caught our eyes, so we took the opportunity to just relax. I put on my swimming suit and went up to the pool.  After finding an empty lounge chair, I decided to sit in the whirlpool for a while.  Hmmm…  it’s hot outside and I’m in a hot whirlpool…. I must be one hot lady!  I didn’t stay in the spa too long, but returned to my chair to pick up where I had left off in my book (after applying sunscreen, of course.)  I did not want to get too well done, so I turned over after a while to ensure I browned evenly.  After a while I decided I had had enough direct sunlight, so I packed up and headed to the pool bar to order the drink of the day, Yellow Bird, which was a delightful mixture of white rum, banana liqueur, galliano, pineapple juice and orange juice.  Refreshing!  
  106.  
  107. Soon I knew I needed to cool off a bit, so I went back to the cabin to shower and relax.  I ended up falling asleep for a while, a very nice rest.  Bob rejoined me in the cabin and we noticed there was a phone message for us.  It turns out our Guatemala excursion has been cancelled.  Bummer – we had been planning a trip through a drive-through zoo.  The good news is our cost for the excursion will be refunded. But when we reviewed the shore excursion guide for potential replacements, we did not see any other tour that interested us.  Since we have been to Guatemala on our church mission trip, we have seen a lot of the sights already.  So it looks like we will be spending our Guatemala port day really close to the ship.  I hope there will be an internet location to use.
  108.  
  109. My selections from the dinner menu were a curried chicken salad, and cheese and spinach ravioli.  I also treated myself to a glass of wine.  Bob had the cream of broccoli soup and pork tenderloin.  For dessert, I chose the New York cheesecake, which ended up being HUGE – the slice was a normal sized slice width-wise, but the cheesecake was TWICE as tall as a usual cheesecake.  I was only partway through my dessert when our waiter, Kamil, brought a chocolate cake iced with the words “Happy Birthday” and he brought with him several other waiters to sing happy birthday to me.  I chided Bob that he had told them it was my birthday, but he said that when he went to tell them they already had it in their computer.  Well yes, I do remember entering in our birth dates when we provided the cruise line with all our key info before the cruise.  Anyway, it was very nice.  The cake was large enough that we shared it with the two ladies seated next to us – Lana and Sally from the Northeast area.  
  110.  
  111. Our Theater entertainment for the evening was Bartolini Tulleri, a renowned violinist from Italy.  What a show.  With the ship orchestra as backup, he played some amazing selections from Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro, Fiddler on the Roof, Hava Nagila and much more.  I must say, the entertainment on this cruise has been phenomenal so far.
  112.  
  113. June 10
  114. I can tell it will be another gorgeous day at sea.  Blue skies dotted by wispy clouds, and calm waters.  How blessed we are.  It’s hard for me to miss church, though, so I prayed a extra today as I thought about my church friends back home singing praise to God.
  115.  
  116. I vowed today I was going to eat healthier, so I skipped the hot chocolate and juice that I previously have been indulging in and ordered a fruit plate, English muffin and one egg, scrambled with cheese.  When the “egg” arrived, it was a veritable mountain, enough to feed my entire Toastmasters club.  Perhaps the chef misread the order and gave me an ostrich egg….!
  117.  
  118. I also decided to add to my prayer by attending the Tai Chi/Qi Gong class at 9 am in the Lounge, on deck 12 at the front of the ship.  As I slowly moved and felt the even breathing through my body, I attained a smooth sense of peace and prayer.  Immediately following that, I was inspired and wrote.
  119.  
  120. At 10 am I decided to attend a watercolor class.  I haven’t painted since grade school, and it was actually kind of fun and relaxing.  The ship provided a folio with paper, watercolor paint, a small palette and even three nice brushes of assorted size.  We traced an underwater scene onto our paper, then I began to learn how to prepare the watercolors.  My first attempt on the brown came out a bit dark, but I used that on the seahorse, then thinned it for a better wash for the sand and shells.  Once I got the hang of it, it became easier with the other colors.  My big challenge: to stay in the lines!!! I used my smallest brush almost exclusively since we were using 5x7 paper, When I was done, I was actually pleased with my effort, although it was definitely not as good as the work of some of the folks I know who paint, like Karmin g..  If my photo upload works, you will see the finished product.
  121.  
  122. In the Lounge, a Food and Beverage showcase was in progress, so I threaded my way through the throngs to see the culinary creations.  The chefs could cut and debone meat so fast I could scarcely follow them   They demonstrated how to make marzipan flowers for cakes, how to create sushi rolls, and one chef was creating beautiful sculptures out of fruits and vegetables.  He made a penguin, a rabbit, three little mice and topped it off with Shrek.  Jessica, you would have been amazed.
  123.  
  124. Meanwhile, Bob attended a tour of the galley.  Some stats for you: The chefs prepare 9,000 meals per day on board for the guests and crew.  For an average 15-day cruise, the ship brings on board 3,700 pound of tenderloin, 3,000 pounds of whole chickens, 1,900 pounds rack of lamb, 1,400 pounds of salmon, 2,400 dozen fresh eggs, 3,700 pounds of butter, 3,600 pounds of onions and 4,000 pounds of romaine lettuce, to name only a few.  Wow.  Imagine the immense freezers and refrigerators needed for this stock.  And they are amazingly swift to prepare your order, with superb presentation.
  125.  
  126. Bob and I met up in the cabin and headed to lunch.  We chose the Island buffet for lunch, and we both ate healthy enjoying salads and milk.
  127.  
  128. At one pm I went to poolside with a glass of water and a glass of lemonade, and after stowing my things on a lounge chair, I went up on stage with several other brave souls for a workout of the Modern Line Dancing.   We began with what I believe is called the Cuban Shuffle (“To the right, to the right…”) and went on to assorted things using Zumba moves, following the Activity Director’s lead.  Thankfully the stage was in the shade, as I was glad when the 20 minutes were up and I could return to my chair to gulp down some cool liquids. I next enjoyed some relaxation involving a dip in the pool, reading, and just savoring the warmth of the sun. By three pm I was done medium-rare to medium and ready to return to the cabin to cool off, update my log and maybe take a quick siesta.  
  129.  
  130. This evening was another formal night.  After dressing in our best, we went to the Dining room, and after a few minutes of being seating, John and Georgia from Massachusetts sat at the next table.  They were a couple who we had met a few times earlier in the cruise. So we joked about them following us around. Bob chose the chateaubriand and an Alsatian apple tart with ice cream, and I enjoyed the Cornish game hen with saffron rice, and a mousse bombe for dessert. It turned out to be Georgia’s birthday, so we joined in the singing of Happy Birthday to her.  The evening entertainment was the Celebrity singers and dancers in a show called “Dancing Around the World”.  Another terrific show to end the day.
  131.  
  132.  
  133.  
  134.  
  135. We spent a portion of the day in Costa Rica, one of my favorite countries.  A big Hola to my amiga tica Joleen!   I wish we had spent more time here so that I could have arranged a visit with you.
  136.  
  137. Enjoy log # 3!
  138. Jane
  139.  
  140.  
  141. June 2012 Panama Canal Cruise Log 3
  142.  
  143. June 11
  144. Clear skies greeted us as we pulled into the port of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.  Several trawlers were in the bay, and we were escorted by a tug boat as we pulled up to the small cruise ship port.  In my morning prayers I said a special prayer for, a priest we knew who had dedicated his life to the people of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.  He passed away this past spring, and is buried in San Lucas.
  145. There were not a lot of people in the dining room, as folks were already queuing up to leave the ship for shore excursions.  So we had a lot of one on one attention from the wait staff.  I have to say, this crew of waiters has been outstanding.  Our regular waiter, Kamil, seems to always be there, and he calls us by name and jokes around with us. I went simple again – juice, a croissant, and one egg.  Bob had oatmeal and ham and a muffin.  And who should show up when we were halfway through – You guessed it, John and Georgia.
  146. We disembarked onto land and were greeted by a marimba band playing.  As predicted, there was not a lot to do at the pier.  There were several little stands set up selling typical Guatemala souvenirs – clothing, jewelry, etc, just like what we found on our visits to San Lucas Toliman. Bob was interested in a little shopping but I was not, so I left him by the stands and located the internet wifi area.  I connected my netbook to send out my log and check my emails and Facebook. The connection was costlier but much faster and better than at Puerto Vallarta, so I was able to send selected photos to Facebook. I hope you enjoy them.  Thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes!
  147. There was a little area where you could get drinks – I would barely call it a bar because there was only a table for mixing with three large refrigerators behind it!!!  But the prices were better than on the ship, so I treated myself to a margarita. (It’s 5 pm somewhere….!) We then went back to the ship. Since so many people had gotten off for shore excursions, we had no wait at the Island Buffet.  We both chose pasta – Bob had spaghetti with bolognase sauce, and I had veggies with chicken, penne and alfredo sauce. I small scoop of frozen mango-lime yogurt tasted terrific for dessert.
  148. I next spent about 20 minutes at 80 degrees baking by the pool, then went into the lounge for a little coolness and quiet.  I got a few pages read in my book and promptly nodded off.  When I awoke with a bit of a stiff neck, I decided I’d better go back to the cabin for a more comfortable napping place.   In the late afternoon Bob and I went up to the pool area, because they were having a “wellness fair” where you could get a free sampling of massage.  We each got about 5 minutes of relaxation under the skillful hands of the spa personnel, and a flyer for a special which included a brush exfoliation, back massage, scalp massage, foot and ankle massage and facial, all for a discounted price if you booked it that day.  I decided I deserved it, and booked a slot for Tuesday.
  149.  
  150. Dinner was again lovely.  I chose the Chop Chop salad and rib-eye steak. Bob also had the rib-eye and it was tender and tasty.  For dessert Bob had a chocolate cake, and I had a delightful poached pear in s delectable cream sauce that reminded me of a crème brulee.  Our entertainment for the evening was Randy Evingrud, an enjoyable comedian who uses lots of sound effects in his routines. I brought my notebook along to jot down some ideas for a future stand-up routine.
  151.  
  152. June 12
  153. Another sea day on the very calm Pacific, and we had lots of things planned – I think I will be going non-stop for the next 7 hours.  Following morning prayer we went to the dining room for breakfast.  The breakfast menu is so varied you can easily have something different every day.  Today I chose stewed prunes, a bagel, smoked salmon and tea.  Bob had his usual hot chocolate, sausage and eggs.
  154. Then it was off to the Theater at 9 am to hear the 3rd of Cousin’s  talks on Panama.  This was on how the canal was built.  I know that I want to create a talk or two on this subject for Toastmasters but not sure how I will condense it into a 10-minute presentation!  There is an amazing amount of history behind the construction.
  155. Bob and I parted ways and I went to the spa for a little seminar on hairstyles to fit your face.  After giving some basic info, they offered free 15-minute consultations one-on-one, so I booked a time for later in the afternoon. Next was the next watercolor session at 11:00 am.  I got today’s drawing, of a quetzal bird, the national bird of Guatemala, and traced it onto my paper, but because I had my spa appointment coming soon (the one I booked yesterday), I did not begin to paint.  I copied as best I could the color instructions, and I will try to do it on my own at a later time.
  156. I arrived at the spa for my 11:45 am appointment, filled out the basic paperwork, and Anna from the UK was my therapist.  I relaxed totally under her gentle hands as I got my hour-long exfoliation, massages and facial.  It was excellent.  I love facials but rarely get them, so this was a treat.  Afterwards I had a quick bite at the Island buffet - some sesame chicken, green beans and fresh pineapple. This already-prepared food was not nearly as good as the “they-make-it-on-the-spot” stir-fry or pasta I had previously, but I have been eating so well I’m not going to complain.
  157. Bob and I met up in the Theater at 1:30 pm for a matinee presentation by the pianist, Friandi Sildansi. This time he played more contemporary songs. He said he doesn’t often get a chance to play this kind of music for shows because mostly he does classical pieces. He explained how he loves the songs that have a simple melody mixed with meaningful words, and then he creates his own orchestration which exquisitely complements the melody.  Some of his selections today included Chariots of Fire, I Have a Dream (from Mamma Mia), Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and even You Are My Sunshine.  All with the backing of the ship orchestra.  What talent, in all the musicians!
  158. No rest for me – I had to leave the concert a little early to get to the wine tasting at 2:15 pm.  This was more than just a tasting – it was a wine and food pairing – to see how various wines combine with various types of foods, good and not so good.  It was delicious along with being extremely informative, especially for a wine novice like me. We had five wines, all from a California vintner called Wente Vineyards.  We had three whites - Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay; and two reds, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  On a plate in front of us were small bites of the following: plain chicken with lemon, chicken with a pesto marinade, smoked fish, klamato olives, plain tomatoes, marinated tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and a raspberry chocolate tart.   It was interesting how the various flavors paired with the sweetness, boldness and acidity of the various wines.  Of course everyone has their own tastes, but my thirty or so fellow tasters usually agreed on which combinations paired well and which did not.
  159. No naps for me today - I next headed back to the spa for my hair consultation.  I will not share what Vurian told me, but I was not too surprised at what she recommended.  For those of you who are not aware, I have been growing my hair out so I can donate it to Locks of Love, and I should be ready early in 2013. So I was interested in getting a professional opinion on style and color.  When I do have it done, I will share before and after photos.
  160. Finally, after what was has been a long day, I returned to the cabin to update this log, then rest a bit before dinner. We sat at the same table we have sat at for five of our seven dinners in this restaurant.  I ordered the poached pear with gorgonzola cheese in phyllo pastry, and the chef’s recommendation for the entrée, which was Australian Sea Bass in a light tomato sauce.  It was excellent. Bob had the Surf N Turf – a streak with shrimp. Dessert was a delectable Bananas Foster for me and a cocoa pot de crème for Bob. The evening entertainment was a slpit presentation by the comedian, and the vocalist.  Upon arrival at our stateroom we found another towel animal awaiting us.
  161. Tomorrow (Wed) we will be in Puntarenas Costa Rica, and will have a busy day on excursion, so I began to pack up my backpack with some essentials as we will have an early morning.
  162.  
  163.  
  164.  
  165. June 13
  166. Mostly clear skies greeted us as we sailed into the bay in the early morning near Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Some fishing boats were already out and about, and we could see the hills/mountains on both sides. I recalled our trip to Costa Rica several years ago, and our sponsored boy who lives at Manos Abiertas, a special place for poor, neglected, disabled persons. Also a hello to my friend living at San Jose- I wish we had more time here so I could have arranged to meet you.
  167.  
  168. We were up early on this feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, having a quick bite to eat at the Island Buffet, before gathering with fellow cruisemates in the Theater for excursions. Our group was called about 8 am, and we disembarked and boarded a small tour bus. The day was warm and little humid, so it was good the bus had air conditioning. The seats were a bit tight, it’s a good thing I love Bob as I was nestled closely to him for several hours.
  169.  
  170. Our tour guide Thomas, a native Costa Rican who spoke excellent English, gave us history of Costa Rica and many facts about the country throughout the years. We drove out of Puntarenas going somewhat north and east up into the mountains. We started out on good roads, but the last 40 km or so was on gravel/dirt. We wound up through the lush green hills, passing many little fincas (plantations or farms), and small villages. Thomas told us that in Costa Rica, you must have four things to have a town: a school, a soccer field, a bar, and a Catholic Church.
  171.  
  172. Our destination was Monteverde, about 1 mile above sea level. This is a beautiful area, and so many years ago people started building some resorts here. But the Government wanted to keep it from becoming too commercial, and that is why they did not pave the roads. The air was a little cooler up here, with a nice breeze.
  173.  
  174. We stopped at a place to see native frogs and butterflies. The group was divided in two and broke off with guides from the preserve. Our group with our guide Josh saw the frogs first. Many of the frogs were very small, perhaps a bit bigger than your thumbnail, and others were palm-sized. Each type of frog had its own enclosure of glass to maintain the correct native temperature, plants and moisture. The red-eyed green tree frog was easy to find, but others were very hard to spot. Fortunately our guide Josh had a flashlight and laser pointer to assist.
  175.  
  176. There were four butterfly houses, each containing a few species. Many are very colorful, including the blue morpho, which I believe is the national butterfly (mariposa in Spanish) for Costa Rica. There was one, which may have actually been a moth, that had an owl-like shape and “eyes” which is its protective coloring. One landed on the back of Bob’s shirt.
  177.  
  178. Our next stop was at a little café that had many hummingbird feeders and thus we saw several varieties of those marvelous little creatures. We had sandwiches and then stepped out by the feeders for a closer look. When one flew by your head, you heard only a whirr of their wings, but some of them were actually doing some kind of chirping near the feeders. I look a couple of movie shots and I hope they turn out.
  179.  
  180. The final stop was at a cheese factory store. We got to sample a brand new type of cheese that was being made and Bob got himself a pistachio ice cream cone. It actually was raining a bit at this point, but it felt good. We then had our bus ride back with one photo stop along one of the roads. The bus ride in total took about 2 hours each way, but we did have a 10 minute rest stop abut half way at a little souvenir stand.
  181.  
  182. We arrived back at the pier at about 3:30 pm. It was sunny and warm. We didn’t have to be back on board for a few hours, so we walked along the shoreline browsing several little stands with the usual types of trinkets, clothing, etc. It was interesting and some of the items were beautiful indeed, but since we are at the stage of our like that we are de-cluttering, we passed up some good bargains. Bob returned to the ship while I went a few blocks away to a little internet café that Thomas had pointed out. Two dollars for one hour of internet – in air conditioning! What a deal! So I passed on log 3 to my friends.
  183.  
  184. I returned to the ship at about 5L15 and took a much-needed shower, dressed and we went to dinner. I opted for a vegetarian entrée for a change – cumin-spiced eggplant with green beans in a spicy tomato sauce, served with basmati rice. Oh, it was good!
  185.  
  186. The show for the evening was a ship production number featuring the Carousel ship band and the ship dancers and singers. The show was a little light on men, as it was the first night, but I now understood why. Once of our fellow passengers told us at dinner on Tuesday that one had sprained his ankle, and the other two she wasn’t sure about. Anyway, apparently one of the male leads was incapacitated somehow, but he must have been backstage as it appeared the replacement was lip-syncing at least some of the songs. The show was called “Liverpool Knights” and was supposed to represent England in the 1960s. I did not recognize a lot of the songs. But the majority of the singing and dancing was superb.
  187.  
  188. The ship would be passing into the Eastern time zone over night, and besides, we were both tired anyway from our long day, so we decided to get to bed early.
  189.  
  190. June 14
  191. We awoke once again to sunny skies and the warm southern weather as we are on our way to Panama. While we were waiting outside the Restaurant for it to open, we were speaking with a few folks and they invited us to join them at a large table for breakfast. Two were from China, one from Hawaii, and one from Korea, but all have lived in Southern California for years and spoke English very clearly. I dined on a brioche roll, a sliced banana, eggs and bacon.
  192.  
  193. At 9 am the daily schedule said there would be complimentary eye treatments. Well, I am not one to turn down free stuff, so I went and had a quick eye mask to help reduce puffiness. Then I hurried back down to the Theater to hear cousin give his fourth talk on the canal. Today’s topic was going through the locks today, how it works, and also a bit of info on the new, larger locks being built next to the present ones. The locks raise the ships ups 27 feet at a time, and there are three locks on each end of the canal. It takes 26 million gallons of water in one lockage each time it is used, so they do put more than one ship in the lock for each passage when they can. They can fit up to nine in one lockage, depending on the size of the ship.
  194.  
  195. The ship is the largest of its kind that can go through the present lock. We will have 2 feet on each side of the ship max free space when we pass through. The camera that will record our passage on www.pancanal.com will be located at the Miraflores lock, and it should be sometime in the morning that we will be going by.
  196.  
  197. Bob and I parted ways and I went to today’s watercolor session. We did red-eyed tree frogs, and learned a little more about mixing colors and how to enhance the white area of your creation using a light blue wash. I think mine turned out ok – I will plan to upload a photo later.
  198.  
  199. At the Café I met up with Bob for lunch. I enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich on a pretzel roll. Very tasty! If you have ever tried the pretzel stick appetizers at TGIF the rolls were similar. Then at 2 pm we stopped in the Spa for another raffle, but alas we were not one of the lucky ones. I next went to the Bar on deck 12 near the pool for a “Drink This, Not That” session, where the bartender showed up how to reduce calories in two cocktails. He made for us a pomegranate ginger fizz and a skinny cosmo. I wrote down the recipes to try at home.
  200.  
  201. The weather was warm and sunny, and the pool was calling, so I took a dip then rested in the sun for a while. Since we are so near to the equator, I have been careful not to spend too much time in the sun. Fortunately after a while the sky clouded up, and it was so enjoyable to enjoy the light breeze. About 3:30 it began to sprinkle, then came the rain with more force. So I decided to return to our cabin to freshen up and update my log.
  202.  
  203. Dinner tonight was excellent, as usual. I enjoyed a panzanella salad, duck breast and confit leg with a sweet potato croquette. Bob had the Osso Bocco, a veal dish. Ventriloquist was our entertainer for the evening. He gave a very funny show using three different puppets. Ask me later to explain to you what it means the way you link your hands together. After that we hit the sack, because we would need to be up early to see the ship cruise into the Panama Canal.
  204.  
  205. June 15
  206. The big day has arrived! I awoke at 5:30 am so I could be up on deck a little before six. Our ship was waiting with several others to enter the canal, but we could see parts of Panama City in the early morning light. Skies were cloudy, but as the morning progressed and it got a little lighter we could see better. Several other ships were also in the area, but not sure how many were actually waiting their turn to go through the canal.
  207.  
  208. I spent most of the morning moving from point to point on the ship to get different angles of the canal. The first hour I spent mostly on Deck 14 at the front on the starboard (right) side, because that is where we got the best view of Panama City, the three islands and the 3.5 mile long causeway connecting the mainland to the islands. I took lots of movies and stills. Our favorite cousin, came on the ship loudspeaker at regular intervals narrating to us what we were seeing, which was very helpful.
  209.  
  210. We went under the bridge of the Americas and came to the first 2 locks, called Miraflores Locks, about 8 am. It was extremely interesting to watch the locks in action. Each lock raised us up about 27 feet, so we were then at 54 feet above sea level. At one point I went to deck 8 through the Theater to the bow of the ship for a better view. Spectacular! While on deck 7, I could see the very top of the canal wall. We were not allowed to each out and touch it, although if I had stretched I might have been able to because it was that close. The rear of the ship also provided some really good views, with less people.
  211.  
  212. We then went about three miles on Miraflores lake to Pedro Miguel lock, which raised us up the remaining 27 feet. By this time it was raining, so most folks founds themselves a place in one of the lounges to watch the activities, while a few brave souls got out jackets or umbrellas. It was at this point that my camera battery ran out! I rushed to the room to plug it in to recharge, and grabbed my phone with its camera. While I was in the room I got a picture through our cabin window of the wall of the canal.
  213.  
  214. We then proceeded through a 9-mile jagged passage that was dug to connect to the man-made lake Gatun Lake. During this time Bob and I went to the Restaurant for a nice sit-down lunch, our first lunch in the dining room. I had a barbecued chicken breast with an Israeli couscous and spinach salad, with a Banana Crème Brulee for dessert. After crossing Gatun lake, we went into the three Gatun locks and proceeded down, 27 feet at a time, until we reached sea level. It was raining almost the whole time. I did brave the rain for a while wearing my jacket to see to Gatun locks a little better from the front on deck 12, but quickly got soaked. So I changed and watched the rest of our passage from deck 7 which was protected from the rain.
  215.  
  216. Just after we exited the last lock, a crocodile was spotted close to the starboard bow of the ship, and we slowed down a bit. I was not at a point where I could see it, but Bob did see its head. Apparently this croc was not afraid of a giant cruise ship! A tug boat came to our rescue and got the croc to move away. The whole crossing of the canal took about 10 hours, including the time to enter and exit the canal at each end. I know this isn’t much detail about the crossing, but there is just too much to explain.
  217.  
  218. After all the excitement, I showered and took a nap! Then I discovered my excursion for Cartagena has been cancelled due to lack of participation. Bummer! I’ll have to peruse the other choices to see if something else might be interesting. A superb dinner awaited us in the Restaurant. Since I had enjoyed a large lunch, I only had an entrée – roasted strip loin with au jus, Yorkshire pudding and green beans with carrots. All was savory. Bob had a baked cod with a warm apple compote with ice cream for dessert.
  219.  
  220. The evening entertainment was magician, a gentleman from England – funny, and excellent magic. I must say, the entertainment has been superb on the ship.
  221.  
  222.  
  223.  
  224.  
  225. Well here it is - the final log. Enjoy!
  226. June 2012 Panama Canal Cruise Log 5
  227.  
  228. June 16
  229. We arrived at Colon actually last night, but were scheduled to dock today so we circled the Atlantic (only a portion of it!) so pulled in about 5:30 this morning. Cloudy grey skies and rain greeted us with a temp of 85 degrees F. We dined at the Restaurant with our friend from England. I had a brioche roll, plus smoked salmon and scrambled egg whites with cheese. This time I got perhaps three egg whites, but that was better than the mountain I got previously.
  230.  
  231. We checked in at the table in the Theater for our tour to Portobelo and the Gatun locks. Our tour guide (I did not understand his name) explained a bit about the area of Colon and the surrounding rain forest. About 225 inches of rain fall here every year – 9 months is the rainy season, which we were experiencing first-hand. There has been rain for five days straight, and there have been several mudslides. We drove my one where several homes were lost. Chiquita bananas are grown here, and cost only 5 cents per pound.
  232.  
  233. We arrived in the town of Portobelo, which was settled by the Spaniards in 1598. It was a big shipping center as well as a convenient cove for pirates. Several battles were fought here. There is a building in town that we toured that now is a museum, but previously it was where gold was brought, made into bricks and shipped to Spain. We also stopped into the church built in 1890 where the Black Christ is hanging.
  234.  
  235. Our next stop was the Gatun Locks, which we went through yesterday. There was a big cargo ship carrying automobiles in the middle lock when we arrived, on its way to the Atlantic. Entering the locks from Gatun lake was another cruise ship (carrying more passengers than our ship) and also a container ship. We got to see the locks in action from a different angle. As we were boarding our bus to leave, about twenty coati mundis of varying sizes came under the fence toward us. Someone tossed them bread, and I got photos and a video of these cute little creatures, who were maybe 15 feet away from me.
  236.  
  237. We returned to the port and there was a small shopping center there. Our guide had told us we could get some inexpensive local beer there at the supermarket, so I thought I’d check it out. He was right – Balboa beer was selling for 49 cents per can! Well of course I had to buy one. It wasn’t terrific but now I can say I had a Panama beer. (BTW – Miller Light was selling there for 69 cents a can!)
  238.  
  239. There was supposedly free Wifi at the port also. I tried to connect on my phone with no luck. My little netbook did connect, but although the signal showed 3 of 4 bars, it was VERY slow. I got Facebook to work but it took forever, so I was lucky to get my log loaded. I didn’t even try photos. Hotmail did not work at all – it kept kicking me out. Since I do not have a shore excursion tomorrow in Cartagena, hopefully I will find a better internet connection and get my email checked.
  240.  
  241. We left Colon at about 4:30 pm. The woman seated next to us at dinner we had met before, she is travelling alone, from Puerto Rico. I had a mushroom and barley soup, and the red snapper with garbanzo beans. I treated myself to crème brulee for dessert. Bob had a Hungarian goulash soup, the red snapper also, and an apricot tart with pistachio ice cream. We certainly are living large on this trip, and if I don’t cut back on the food, I too will be “living large.”
  242.  
  243. At 7:30 pm we went to the cinema for a presentation on things to do in Cartagena. The presenter lived in Cartagena for several years, and told us some things to do at the pier as well as in the old city, if we wanted to do something on our own, including how to more effectively use the taxis to get a better price.
  244.  
  245. Ed Carter was our entertainer this evening. If you have not heard of him, he was amazing. He has a wide vocal singing range, and plays a terrific trumpet as well. Then to my delight, a towel monkey was hanging in our room. Very clever how they can create these creatures for us.
  246.  
  247. June 17
  248. There were a few showers overnight with some choppy seas, but the sun was brightly shining with only a few clouds on the horizon as we glided into the harbor at Cartagena, Columbia. The new city was on our left, along a peninsula - many tall skyscrapers, almost all of which were white. The cruise port is in an industrial area, so we could see containers being loaded, unloaded and moved. A Holland America ship is docked next to us.
  249.  
  250. One of our fellow passengers is a minister, and he held a worship service at 8 am, so both Bob and I attended. A woman from Pennsylvania and I led the singing of Joy to the World, Hark the Herald, and Amazing Grace. The ship officially was declared available to disembark at 9:15 am. Bob is going on a walking tour of Cartagena, but I did not see a tour I wanted to do, so I decided to go into the city on my own. I had gotten some tips on where to go and how to get a cheaper taxi, so I felt confident!
  251.  
  252. At the shops near the cruise pier there were some macaws and a toucan, so I took a few photos. Then I looked around to see if there was anyone who wanted to share a taxi into the old city. I found a couple from Canada, Jeri and Paul, and asked if they were interested. Jeri was apprehensive, but I said we could stay together and I could get a better price on the taxi. So we set off. We went through a line of taxis that wanted $20 to the second stand where I negotiated for $10 to take the three of us. Our driver was Henry, and he is studying to be a tour guide. He offered to take us for 3 hours for $40 (in total!) around the city. I checked with my new friends and they said that sounded good.
  253.  
  254. Our first stop was the old San Felipe fortress, built in 1639. We walked beside the fort for a ways but did not go in. Then he took us into the old city, inside the walls. We say many delightful buildings, restored on the outside and many of the upper levels had balconies with beautiful flowers. The old dungeon now contains many souvenir shops. Street vendors abounded, selling tablecloths, shirts, hats, jewelry etc. “No Gracias” became and oft-used phrase, although Paul did negotiate the purchase of a hat for $7.
  255.  
  256. We the stopped along the old city wall right by where some scene from “Romancing The Stone” was filmed. Now I am going to have to rent that movie to watch it again! We walked up onto the wall for a nice view of the old city, the new city and the ocean. Helene bought me a Columbian Beer, which tasted fantastic in the heat. From there we walked in the old city (cars are not allowed on most of the streets). We went to three churches – Santo Domingo, where a mass was in progress, San Pedro Claver, which I was able to go in and take a photo, and the Cathedral which was open only to people who paid for a tour, so we did not go in.
  257.  
  258. At Bolivar Square in roughly the center of the old city I came across Bob on his tour, so I introduced him to Jeri and Henry (Paul was off nearby taking photos.) There was a Museum of Gold off the square, and William took us in. Ah, blessed air conditioning! We walked back to the taxi and then Henry drove us along the beach and then into the new city. He pointed out many different buildings, including the convention center where Mr. Obama stopped by. I had the front seat so it was easy to get photo shots, but Henry was gracious enough to stop several times when Paul wanted photos.
  259.  
  260. After three hours of walking and sweating in the Columbian sun, I was ready to get back to the cruise pier. The three of us had agreed during the tour that we would give Henry $20 each (to total $60) because he had done a terrific job. Jeri gave me her business card so we can exchange photos. At the cruise pier a woman from the ship pointed out high up in the trees a large iguana and three black monkeys. My regular camera’s battery had run out, so I attempted a photo with my phone, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to see them. There were also flamingos and more of the macaws to admire.
  261.  
  262. The little café by the pier offered wi-fi, so I tried to connect. My little netbook pc connected to the network but refused to bring up the login page. So I tried with my phone, and that worked, so I purchased one hour of connection for $3 and a soda for $2. I was able to check my emails and log onto Facebook. I tried uploading a post and some photos. It showed 1 of 3 photos uploaded, but I never did get any other confirmation that it worked. My connection petered out after about 52 minutes, and I didn’t bother to purchase more time since it was getting close to the time we needed to be back on board. The first thing I did back on board was to take a shower. Boy, did that feel great! Next I updated this log, and soon we were on our way back to the USA.
  263.  
  264. Dinner in the Restaurant was again very grand. I enjoyed New England clam chowder, a small salad, and a Golden Baked French Pot Pie, which was primarily potatoes baked in a very light sauce in a pastry crust. Bob had a pork schnitzel. The chef had a special chocolate soufflé which was not on the dessert menu but our dear waiter Imade told us about it – so Bob and I both had it, and as usual was excellent.
  265.  
  266. I have to share some info about our waiter. He is a delightful man from Bali, and every night he calls himself by a different name. Sometimes it’s 006, sometimes James Bond, last night it was Johnny Walker, and tonight Crocodile Dundee. Very funny and enjoyable to chat with.
  267.  
  268. The evening entertainment was the last “production” number by the ship’s singers and dancers. It included many Broadway musical numbers from Cabaret, Hairspray and more. When we returned to the room we found a little towel animal that resembled a mouse on our bed which our nightly chocolates.
  269.  
  270. June 18
  271. The skies were grey when we awoke, but it cleared up and was windy and sunny. I took a walk along the upper deck and the temp felt wonderful, with the wind sending a bit of salt spray everywhere. The Restaurant was not open for breakfast (they are doing a brunch today instead) so we went to the Café. The nice thing about this is you can control your portion sizes much more easily. I chose an assortment of four pieces of pineapple, three slices of watermelon, two dainty prunes and an apricot in a pear tree. (ok, so not really a pear tree – I got carried away.) A brioche roll, bacon and milk rounded out my breakfast.
  272.  
  273. I had a somewhat busy day planned again, but since there was a little time before my first session, I sat by the pool area and enjoyed the sun while reading. Clouds appeared again and rain threatened, so I returned to the room to update my log and upload my photos to my pc.
  274.  
  275. My first official event of the morning was to go to the Theater to hear Smithsonian expert Larry Tenderlin speak on the Star of Bethlehem. He has spoken throughout the cruise but I haven’t made it to any of his previous talks. Very interesting observations. He also spent a little time discussing “the end of the world” on 12/21/12. Not True!
  276.  
  277. I scurried over to the room where Mary Franders was giving the next watercolor painting lesson. Today’s art was a cactus with a flower. It was interesting to see how others around me did their work. The lady seated at my table used very light washes, so hers came out in a pastel. I opted for darker washes so my painting turned out brighter. I am feeling more comfortable doing this – it is fun!
  278.  
  279. The top deck was beckoning since the sun was bright and the sky was clear, so I got a chicken salad sandwich and lemonade and sat by the pool. The heat felt wonderful!. I better enjoy it now, because in two days I’ll have to kiss the warmth goodbye.
  280.  
  281. At one o’clock I went back into the Theater. Our cruise director, is a former actor and stuntman, and he held a “Meet the Stuntman” session. He is tall and strong. For a part as an alien twenty years ago he had his head shaved, and he has kept it that way. A while back he was the stunt double for a celebrity’s son (I can’t remember his first name) where he crashed through a glass window. He showed us this scene (done in one take!!) and some clips of TV shows and other stunts he has done. He ended with a Q&A session.
  282.  
  283. At 2 pm I went to the cinema to hear Mary give a presentation on Travel Sketching. She gave us many ideas on how to be a better sketcher – and how it is NOT necessary to be one hundred percent precise but showed us how to get good perspectives. Mary also shared some tips for professional quality supplies. Hmmm… perhaps an idea for a second career???
  284.  
  285. I returned to the pool area for a last shot at the afternoon sun, and I also spent some time in one of the whirlpools. Meanwhile, Bob spent the day reading his book, watching a movie in the cinema and went to a Q&A session with Uncle Marty on the canal. (I had to miss cousin because that was at the same time as the watercolor class.)
  286.  
  287. This was our last formal night, so we dressed and headed upstairs. The evening meal in the restaurant was another gourmet delight. My appetizer was a baked bleu cheese soufflé, and then I enjoyed the broiled Caribbean lobster tail with steamed broccoli. Since Bob is not a lobster fan, he chose a tomato bisque soup and the Beef Wellington. We were seated next to folks we had met before, so enjoyed nice dinner conversation. The big dessert of the evening was Baked Alaska, which Bob tried. I am not a big fan of Baked Alaska, so I opted for the mandarin frozen yogurt, which was delicious.
  288.  
  289. We received our disembarkation instructions and reviewed them, and filled out the guest comment questionnaire. High praises went to our waiter Imade and his crew, our room steward and his assistant .
  290.  
  291. Carol Herdinti was our vocalist for the evening, in a show entitled “Diva Moments.” She has been a in a number of Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and also does voice impersonations. Wow – some of her work was spot-on to the likes of Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrew, Liza Minelli, Barbra Streisand, and more. She will also be in the final show tomorrow night, so that will be terrific.
  292.  
  293. Instead of going to bed, I headed up to deck 14 in the back for a star-gazing event with Jordan Fringer. We were blessed with clear skies, and the crew turned off the lights in that area. The sky was amazing. Jupiter was the brightest point in the sky, almost directly overhead. The Milky Way spread across the sky, and Jordan pointed out Sirius, Betelgeuse and many other stars. Constellations we saw were Orion, Canis Major, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades and more. It’s been a long time since I have had access to such a darkness to be able to see the stars so clearly.
  294.  
  295. June 19
  296. We slept in a bit on our last sea day. The blue skies and sun greeted us, and we noticed wispy clouds lazily floating along the horizon. We headed to the dining room for our last sit-down breakfast. I dined on a croissant, pears, and eggs benedict. Bob also had the benedict. Since there wasn’t anything we wanted to attend until 10:15, I returned to the room to update this log and gather my supplies for the morning, then I went to the photo gallery to inquire about the cruise DVD. I watches a portion of it, but I wasn’t excited about it, so we are not going to buy it. Besides, I have plenty of my own pictures and videos that specifically pertain to us.
  297.  
  298. At 10L15 I met Bob in the Theater for the “Ship’s Got Talent” event. First up – was a flash mob comprised of about 50 guests! They were dressed as zombies and did a very nice dance. I had seen the :Flash Mob Dance Class” activities listed in our daily paper. Next up were crew members performing – we had a juggler, guitarists and singers. Very nice. Finally many of the crew came in for a group photo.
  299.  
  300. I ran out quickly to get to the final watercolor class. Today’s piece was the Arch at Cabo San Lucas with the setting sun. Since I was a little late to the class I felt very rushed to get the project done. However we got to try doing reflections in the water, and we did a “no-no” for watercolorists – we used white paint to put in waves on the beach. I will post a photo later.
  301.  
  302. An Asian stir fry, lemonade and a fruit tartlet were my lunch at the Café, and I enjoyed it while sitting on the back deck in the sun. Next I decided to attend the final Art Auction, for two reasons. One – the free champagne! And two – they were going to reveal who had bid the closest to the actual price of a Picasso work. I had bid $77,500, and the actual price was &\$72,400. I was close, but not close enough to win the prize. Many expensive works were displayed, and only one was sold. I didn’t even care for most of the art work. There was one pretty watercolor of Paris that I liked, but it was being sold in a group of three and I couldn’t afford three anyway. However, I did walk away with four art prints as a gift for attending.
  303.  
  304. Since this was my last day in the sun, I went up to the pool deck to read and soak up some rays. After basking about 20 minutes, I moved to the lounge for the modern line dance class. We did the Cupid Shuffle (now I know the correct name!) and three others. So I can say I got in my exercise for the day. After that, it was time for a shower, another log update, and I began to pack up my things.
  305.  
  306. Our final dinner in the Restaurant was again delightful. Our Puerto Rican friends were beside us. I enjoyed the French Onion soup, an argula salad and the prime rib. This filled me up so I passed on the dessert. Bob had a Caesar salad and the home-style pork chop, plus the crème brulee for dessert. We went to the lounge to listen to some music, then went to the final variety show.
  307.  
  308. My last event was to see “The Liar’s Club” –. An unusual (but real) word was presented and each gave a definition, two of which were wrong and one was correct. The audience then voted on who they thought gave the correct definition. A total of four words were defined. I guessed half of them, but it was interesting to hear the definitions and the humor presented. TM – this could be an idea for our Stand-Up night!
  309.  
  310. Finally I returned to the room to finish packing my big suitcase, so I could place it outside the room to have delivered to the dock. It wasn’t long before I was asleep.
  311.  
  312. Epilog:
  313. On June 20 we awoke in Fort Lauderdale, finished packing and grabbed a bite to eat. Our trip home was uneventful, and we spent June 21 doing laundry and going through the mounds of mail, and finally I got back to finishing this log. I hope you have enjoyed our many adventures!