Thursday, April 10, 2008

Panama Canal

This morning begins our crossing of the Panama Canal. We don't actually begin going through the locks until this evening, but the whole day is going to be a bit of a learning experience focused on the canal and its history. I am looking forward to parts of the days events, but to be honest the day is a bit of a mixed bag for me.

It's mixed because although I am impressed by the magnitude of what was built almost 100 years ago without the benefit of modern technology, I am not as enthused as one might imagine at the prospect of watching the whole crossing. More on that later.

For now though, we are about to head out on one of the few dry landings on this cruise and catch a bus to the Mira Flores visitor's center. After a 20-30 minute bus ride through the city, we arrive at the visitors center and are free to wander as we please.

Dani and I started in the museum and worked our way up to the top floor observatory. The museum itself has some interesting exhibits such as scale model locks, ships used in digging the canal and various other displays teaching about the canal and its history. We took a few pictures here, but they are mainly interesting to myself.

So, on to the observation deck. To me, this was one of the best parts of the day. From here you are able to look down on the locks and see the entire process as ships go through each stage of the crossing. You get a pretty good look at the incredible size of these ships in relation to the locks themselves as well as the “mules” used to keep the ships centered.

You can see all of this from our ship as well, but there is something about seeing it from above and watching as people working in the canal grounds go about their business. At the same time you are able to take in the background on both sides of the canal which is impressive when you realize the giant ship in front of you is surrounded on both sides by land with only a small strip of water to the front and back.

We watched this for a while when we heard over the intercom that they were showing a short movie on the making of the canal in English. Since it was about time to return to our ship, we decided to watch it before the return bus ride. I would recommend watching the show because it gives a lot of interesting information in a brief time. Worth the 10 minutes or so for sure.

Back on the ship for lunch, we noticed an odd sight. Off to the side of us was a couple of boats and, well, see if you can figure it out.Then as we were repositioning the ship to the area we were to wait our turn for the canal crossing we saw the latitude and longtude. Nope, I spelled it right.

Then it was a lazy afternoon of reading, talking and napping.

When the evening came, we were all eagerly anticipating the crossing. It was finally our turn so we were met by the canal captain and led into the locks. I can't really describe the events so here are some pictures with a few notes.

Then it was off to dinner and some evening reading while the ship took us through the channel to the next set of locks. For this, you can get a wake up call or simply stay up straight through. We actually slept through it ourselves figuring once you've been through a set of locks you've pretty much seen it all. Besides, after the things we have done and seen on this cruise so far, watching the water raise and lower in a giant bath tub over and over kinda pales in comparison and I am glad to have the bulk of our crossing take place while I sleep.

Tomorrow we are headed to Portobelo, the Pirates Paradise and I need my beauty rest. Arrgh...

Photos taken with Canon Powershot A570is

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