Caribbean Cruise – Panama!

January 29, 2015 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Panama-Canal signSeveral years ago my cousin Bruce and I traveled through Panama.  While we were there we visited the Miraflores Visitor Center, just outside of Panama City.  We watched the ships going through the locks.  It was just fascinating!  From the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Atlantic Ocean exit, the canal is approximately 51 miles and is about a 9 hour journey to complete.  It handles around 13,000 ships a year.

This shows why the locks are necessary going from one sea level to another sea level.

This shows why the locks are necessary going from one sea level to another sea level. A question I always had.

This time coming to Panama I got to actually go through the locks on our cruises ship!  I woke up early (before light) and sat on our verandah in anticipation.  There were lots of ships hanging around just outside the locks.  I assumed that they were waiting for their turn to enter the canal.  We entered on the Atlantic side just north of Colon and went through the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake.

Approaching the Gatun Locks.  You can see the entrance to the third lock to the left

Approaching the Gatun Locks. You can see the entrance to the third set of locks to the left

The Panama Canal expansion project (also called the Third Set of Locks Project) is intended to double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2016 by creating a new lane of traffic and allowing more and larger ships to transit.

This photo shows the Third set of locks under construction

This photo shows the third set of locks under construction

Going through the Gatun Locks

Going through the Gatun Locks

While going through the locks all the pilot boats and trains started blowing their horns.  It lasted several minutes.  We later heard that it was in honor of a man who was retiring after working at the canal for 30 years.

A ship passing through on its way to the Atlantic

A ship passing through on its way to the Atlantic

Entering Gatun Lake

Entering Gatun Lake

After hanging out in Gatun Lake for a couple of hours, we passed back through the locks towards Colon.  There really isn’t much at all to see in Colon.  Pretty much a strip mall with restaurants and shops.  But it was still exciting to be on land in Panama again.

Colon, Panama

Colon, Panama

Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica.  Unfortunately when we got close to the port, the captain announced that due to the swell conditions he had to make the decision to cancel the port call.  It was just too dangerous.  We were SO disappointed!  We had planned a 5 hour excursion to see a banana plantation & packing house, an animal rescue eco tour where we were to see sloths, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and macaws.  A jungle boat tour, and a drive through the city ending at a viewpoint of Puerto Limon.  It would have been so wonderful to see Puerto Limon.  Well, I guess I’ll just have to go back some day!

After we were 5 hours away from Puerto Limon, the captain announced that a passenger had a medical emergency and we had to turn around and go BACK to Puerto Limon since it was the closest port.  So back we went.  By the time we got back to the port the water had calmed and it was thankfully safe to transfer the patient to the ambulance.  We later found out that it was a young woman who was having a miscarriage.

The only glimpse I got of Puerto Limon

The only glimpse I got of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Patient being taken away in the ambulance

Patient being taken away in the ambulance

My next post will be of all the fun and activities we had on the Zuiderdam!

 

 

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