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Panama Canal Cruise — 2004
— by Marian Dietrich
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            On Easter Sunday, April 11th, my daughter, Linda, and I flew to Miami to board the Norwegian Sun, for a 16-day cruise through the Panama Canal. After the mandatory lifeboat drill, we enjoyed dinner and then the show presented in the Stardust Lounge. This became our routine for the next two weeks-----dinner in one of the elegant dining rooms and wonderful entertainment in the show room. Many different acts were presented: singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, a flamenco guitarist, a ventriloquist, a classical pianist, and a juggler, in addition to the ship's band and also pianists in the various bars and theaters. Some of the performers left the ship in different ports and others boarded, thus providing a great variety of entertainment during the cruse.

            Monday and Tuesday were days at sea, but there was never a dull moment. The casino is only open while the ship is at sea; and while others enjoyed that, it was not our "cup of tea". We enjoyed the craft and trivia programs and, of course, the wonderful meals served at the buffet and dining rooms. Linda won both the Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune games and it didn't take long before she was recognized by some of the other guests and the crew.

            Our first Port of Call was Oranjestad, Aruba, where we took the Natural Wonders of Aruba tour for three hours Wednesday morning. This included stops at a Butterfly Farm, the Ayo Rock Formation, and the Natural Bridge , which has been carved of solid coral by the relentless pounding of the surf.

            Thursday was another day at sea before passing through the Panama Canal on Friday. The canal is only four feet wider than the ship and small locomotives on tracks on each side guide the ships through three sets of locks. After traversing the canal, Panama City was in view. That evening, in addition to the live show, we also saw the movie Something's Gotta Give.

            We had another day at sea prior to our arrival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We did not book a tour for this stop, but chose to experience it on our own, taking pictures and shopping. I usually purchase small decorative boxes and refrigerator magnets representing the places to which I have traveled, and also Christmas tree ornaments to remind me of the places I have seen. We saw this pelican on the pier and this little girl in the surf while in Costa Rica.

            After two more days at sea, we arrived at Acapulco, Mexico , where a taxi driver took my daughter and me to see the sights and to shop. He waited for us and returned us to the ship. We were of the opinion that he received a commission, as he made sure the vendors knew we were with him.

            The next port was Manzanillo , where we booked a sightseeing tour which took us for a drive around the Peninsula of Santiago, where we could view the twin bays: Santiago Bay and Manzanillo Bay. The scenery here is very beautiful.

            When we docked in Puerto Vallarto the next day, there was music on the pier. Linda chose the Dolphin Encounter and since I didn't care to swim with the dolphins, I went on another scenic tour. I enjoyed this trip with others from the ship, including a woman from London with whom I had made an acquaintance. Less than half of those on the ship were from the U. S. Quite a few were from Canada, Britain, Germany, and all parts of the world. The almost 1000 employees represented 60 different countries, and it was so interesting to meet people from so many places.

            Cabo San Lucas was our next port and we were tendered in, as there is no pier for cruise ships. The ship's tenders were making trips from ship to shore all day long. We didn't book a tour here either, but took a pedicab into town. This was fun and a little different from the other modes of transportation to which we were accustomed. I took a picture of Land's End while at anchor here. It is at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.

            Sunday was a day at sea before our last Port of Call-----San Diego. Here we took the trolley, which made six stops where we could get off, spend some time, and then catch the next trolley that came along. One of the stops was the Hotel Coronodo , where we enjoyed a drink on the veranda before catching the next trolley for a trip through Balboa Park and past the San Diego Zoo.

            Tuesday, April 27th we docked in Los Angeles. We took the supershuttle from the pier to my sister's home in Encino. We spent the rest of the week visiting with her family before flying home on May 1st.

            Before leaving on this trip, I thought three weeks was a long time to be away from home; but you know what they say: Time flies when you're having fun!

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