Thursday, January 10, 2019

On to the Canal

Last time I talked about leaving Miami and visiting Cuba.  It was really quite a surprise leaving the modern, metropolitan city and ending up in the very rural and quite poor area in Cuba.  That's ok, it is a legitimate choice but I wish I knew the thought behind it.  Perhaps they just thought Havana to be atypical.  At any rate we followed our days in Cuba with two 'at sea' days prior to visiting Cartagena, Colombia.

Cartagena's skyline brought us back to the modern city.
The tour we took started off by giving us a view of the modern part of the city which was all highrises and beachs.  The modern city could easily have been Miami with the signs all translated into Spanish.  They did show us some of the old town but it really did seem to be as clean and well ordered as Miami.  Of course they have the huge fortress in the middle but that was the 'local color'.  What was facinating my wife and myself was that we were docked in a real working port!  Across from us was a container ship being loaded and watching that was fantastic.
Imagine, we may well have seen a few thousand pounds of cocaine being loaded for shipment to New York; mixed in with a larger quantity of legitimate goods, of course.
Of course by the time we got back from our tour of the city there was another ship spoiling our view.  This photo was taken from the tour on the modern side of the city looking across the bay.  Our ship is on the right facing out.  The newcomer was the AIDAdiva - I'd never heard of the line
We left Cartagena and the next morning about 06:30 we started entering the Panama Canal.  We were both really looking forward to seeing the Canal and were thrilled that the cruise line was smart enough to do this during the day.  The fact that this cruise transited the entire canal was the reason we chose it!  BTW, this is the 9th day of the cruise.  We started the day following the Norwegian Jade into the first lock.
We'll see the Jade later but first how about another view of how much some of these ships fill the locks.

There is a train engine tug or two on each side of every ship helping it through.  These are the famous Gatun Locks.
Leading, of course to the lake by the same name.  The lake is formed by a river that is dammed on this (eastern) side.  We weren't quite out of the last lock when this photo was taken.
Oh, and there is our friend the Norwegian Jade.  It has entered the canal and gone through one series of the locks and now is waiting in line to head back out to the Caribbean.  How disappointing that would be if you were thinking of transiting the entire canal!
So I could post a bunch more photos of the canal, the ships and the people on them but I imagine you have the idea.  Between my wife and myself we took about 250 photos so it might get a little dull for folks not so facinated by the canal and the sea in general.  So we were on to our next port of call:  Panama City, Panama.

Panama City is another modern city with some ancient bits.  We were anchored out again and had more runs on those lifeboats.  I know how much I'd appreciate a lifeboat if I needed one but as tenders they leave quite a bit to be desired!  However, being anchored out we did get a great view of the city.
Again our tour was of the city.  We drove through the modern bits then paused in the old quarter to drop off some money with the local tee shirt vendors (or whatever your addiction might be).  It was December 1st so the square had a reasonable number of local artists trying to sell things and the Christmas decorations were starting to appear.
There was a church of course!  We did not go through it but I found the old center with the new towers unusual.  Someone had an idea there but we know not what.
Of course there was a little side street where the shops were located.
So that was our first port on the Pacific side of the canal.  Very nice.  I must say there was a larger police presence in Panama City than anywhere we've been so far.  Next time we'll be cruising the Pacific up the coast.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

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