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San Diego to Panama & back!

Where we spent 21 days cruising down the western coast of Mexico and Central America, then into the canal itself to turn around and cruise back up towards San Diego.  But before leaving the Panama Canal we took a train trip back across the continent to the Pacific Ocean and returned to the ship, thusly crossing the continent twice, to say nothing about the first cruise to the Atlantic Ocean, then the next morning back to the Pacific - giving us 4 trips from ocean to ocean!  All within 24 hours. Now that's a fast moving experience all in itself!

Even since I had gone to Germany for the first time, on our first, really true, cruise (trans-atlantic! mind you!), I'd wanted to experience a cruise where I'd be at sea for several days - at least.  Generally it is somewhat difficult to be "at sea" for more than a day or two at a time, unless you are going trans-some-ocean or other.  People, apparently, don't wanna be lost at sea for such a long time, and opt out for flying to some distant city where they can pick up a cruise ship that'll be stopping almost every day at some new port of call. To these kinds of travelers a cruise ship is nothing more than a hotel to park their clothing and sleep at.  To me it should be far more, perhaps because of those first trans-atlantic cruises from New York to Germany in 63-64, the lost at sea has an amazing quality to it.  That cruise took place just weeks after Kennedy's assassination, over the Christmas holidays during which time I was in my wife's homeland for the first time - and my first Christmas with snow.  I looked forward to experiencing the same kind of voyage at sea when we took our first Mexican cruise down the west coast in the mid-70's.  But, alas, it was 7 nights but two days in ports, so not much "at sea" time.  Then when we went to Alaska, we flew to Canada for Los Angeles, and it was port stop after stop almost every day.  Plus we were within sight of land almost all the time. Horrors!  That's not being any where near "at sea"!

So, I'd wanted to see some Mayan Ruins, especially those in 
CHICHÉN ITZA, so the Caribbean Cruise was set into motion and I finally got a dream come true - insofar as ruins are concerned - and seeing the Caribbean is a super plus.  But no long days at sea!  But we were beyond sight of land at those times when not stopped in some port. 

The frustration of just one or two days in the ocean was a "learning experience" or sorts.  The lost at sea was out of the question. By now, though, I'd gotten used to this kind of treatment  I'd almost given up; but had decided there were some 21 or more day cruises. And when the Panama cruise came into being as a round trip from San Diego, with only ten stops, I leaped at the chance.  This time I was willing to accept the ports of call and enjoy them for what they were and to enjoy the days at sea as they came alone. This cruise offered as many days truly at sea as they offered on land! 

There is a kind of beautiful sense of being in some other dimension or world when surrounded horizon to horizon by water.  And I managed to re-experience this kind of thrill.  In our trip to Germany that first cruise we'd been at sea from 6 days going and 11 days coming back. 

The Panama Cruise turned out to offer up as much as I could have hoped for - at last!   Even unexpected dancing!

I have to confess that the Panama Canal was never a major attraction to me one way or the other.  I understood the importance of it, naturally, but as a cruise destination in and of itself it seemed (and is) somewhat of a "ho-hum" kind of thing. Worth experiencing as a go through - obviously many people disagree with me limited point of view.  Why, then, pick this as a cruise?  Well, 21 days certainly appealed to me, and a round trip without the necessity of flying, and the idea of seeing some of these Latin American cities and town and countries was quite inviting.  Even then, I discovered the Panama Canal to be quite interesting and worth experiencing for what it is - simply not as a sole and only destination.

The trip in total was rather a strangely different kind of experience. This might have been the destinations or it might have been the general mood I was in that caused this kind of reaction.  The ship itself was smaller than some we'd been on before.  It is the same ship Holland America uses to go around South America - a trip I originally figured would be an ideal one since it goes into bays where one can experience glaciers - something Brigitte had missed in our Alaska cruise (much to her great disappointment).  But that cruise required some serious flying time to and from!  So we had opted out for the Panama destination which delighted Brigitte more than myself. [I suppose I'm just a narrow minded egg-head  - scrambled with canned cream!]  But I sure enjoyed the dancing and the social events of the ship itself.  In fact what I was seeking most of all was a combination of both ports of call and the enjoyment of a cruise liner itself.   We've experienced bigger ships and, perhaps, more flashy ones.  The Galaxy was much flashier.  The Wind which took us through the Caribbean was larger. 

Brigitte would be delighted in taking a cruise on a smaller ship; I'd like to get one of the biggest and go on it!  Why not?  But chances are we'll never do either. Perhaps another major cruise in our future.

It is rather exciting to take go on a cruise for 7 days, but even more so when the time frame is extended a bit.  Seven days is hardly long enough to get used to the ship, to learn how to get from one point to the other, let alone find your cabin!  After the first week you are far more comfortable and can relax and enjoy things without fear of getting lost.  By the middle of the third week, though, you feel pretty satisfied and ready to consider the possibility of returning home. Shorter trips leave you hungry and frustrated for more more more!

There was a lot of dancing going on, too.  And like most dance people, they kinda of clung togetnest14.JPGher, becoming quite a friendly group.  Most were single, but it wasn't a serious matter; all that counted was that somebody was there to dance with. 
     The lady to the right said she wanted to live at least 10 more years cause then she'd be 100.  I couldn't believe it!  She was a fantastic dancer, and had been on more than 70 cruises - and was taking them once a month!  All she required was that there were dance hosts; and her travel agent saw to it that any ship she was booked would have the r
equired number of dance partners. 

As is mentioned throughout this CD we too a cruise in 1973 on the Sitmar's FAIRSEA. Well as a BONUS I've included the pictures I took during that trip, most of which are not of great quality, but they do reveal what we saw back then and how that differs from some of the things we saw on this trip. 
So try out: