Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Panama Canal Cruise Do's and Don't's...

It's been a long silence since I last posted. Reason is we've been through the Panama Canal again. It was worth doing the second time. We decided to sail again and part of the reason was that the first time many of my photos look as though they were taken when the Canal was built in 1914...Joe had been "playing" with my camera and set it on sepia and forgot to put it back to normal! Another was that there is always a new vantage point and new things to see. It was pouring rain the day we traversed the canal this time, but a well-kept secret on the Norwegian Star is a little restaurant on the 8th deck called "The Blue Lagoon" that very few passengers seemed to know about and that had several window seats which gave a wonderful view of the locks. We settled into a table at 6:15 am and stayed until after 9! Wonderful! We watched the Celebrity Infinity next to us going through just ahead of us and got some wonderful photos (in natural color this time).

On to the Do's list:
1) DO check out the casino on NCL ships...they are heads above any other line we've sailed;
2) DO take advantage of the "all you can fit in the laundry bag for $19.95 special" to save packing laundry at the end of the cruise;
3) DO ask to share a table at dinner in the main dining'll meet an assortment of interesting people (you'll find this under the "DON'T" list too);
4) DO buy a Christmas ornament at every port (this eliminates the tendency to buy "souvenirs" that will gather dust the other 11 months of the year and when you put up the tree you'll remember all the faces and places you've experienced);
5) DO offer to take pictures for couples who are shooting pics of their spouse in front of landmarks (they'll usually offer to return the favor);
6) DO take the City Tour in Key West, FL and if you're lucky you'll get Michael as your tour guide...the one hour "hop on/hop off" was so good, we did it once from the left side and again from the right!

And as for the Don't's:
1) DON'T think that the casino will give you a big jackpot and not figure a way to get it back before the end of the cruise;
2) DON'T play bingo if you don't want to be ripped off (on NCL). They have gone back to the old wooden cards with "shutters" to close the number when called. They are cumbersome so you can't play more than 2 sets of 3 easily and they charged up to $89 to play 4 games, $59 to play only 2 games and then paid out $100 or $150 per game;
3) DON'T sit at a table for six where two of the men talk about motor homes, engines, broken plumbing, and gear shifts ad nauseum for two hours....find an excuse, any excuse, to leave and go back later if you can (not only did we have to endure this boring evening once, but out of 2200 passengers, we got one of them again three days later - I dubbed him "Mr. Personality");
4) DON'T always buy into the onboard offers for excursions...the same offerings can be 1/3 the cost if you wait 'til you get to the dock;
5) DON'T take just any taxicab in port; be sure they are approved or you could end up somewhere you didn't intend to be and the ship won't wait if you're not back in time;
6) DON'T expect all passengers to have an IQ above every port there were a minimum of 6 people who didn't return on time (they probably didn't know about DON'T #5).

All told, we had a wonderful time. As with all of our trips, one of the nicest moments is turning the key and walking back into our home and saying a "thank you God" for keeping it (and us) safe from harm. (I don't count the cold I got on the fourth day. I came armed with a virtual pharmacy this time so got over it before we docked. Why am I so prey to the petri dish aspect of cruising? Michelle says it's from hitting the "PLAY" button on the slots! I "borrowed" a glove from the cleaning cart this time, but it was too late.)

So now that we're back I have to figure out how to do the following in the next ten days: update and print labels for our Christmas cards; write and print our Christmas letter; stuff, stamp, and mail them (probably won't be any "personal notes" this year); get the tree out and decorate the house (minimally I think); wrap the gifts I bought before we left; buy the gifts I didn't; and lest I ignore "me" some real bingo!

My next blog will include some appropriate reflections on this busy, hectic, SPIRITUAL season. Hope you're all finding time to remember "the reason for the season".