We spent the night before our trip in a hotel near the airport. Today we flew out to Fort Lauderdale via Air Canada. We took the shuttle from the hotel at 6:30AM for a 9:10AM flight. We wanted to have plenty of time to check-in, go through security and get to our gate. Norman travels with a foldable scooter, it takes extra time to explain, tags all the loose parts and go through security. Then we had to pass through Customs, then on to our gate #75. It was then 7:15AM so we headed to a restaurant to have some breakfast and relax with a morning coffee. Our flight got on its way about 20 minutes late. We were touching down in Fort Lauderdale around 1PM. We collected our luggage (it was all there) and headed to the shuttle stand. Called our hotel and they sent out our shuttle. It was so warm (90F) and sunny, that I got a sun burn on my face. It was a great way to start our vacation. At the hotel, we asked for a noon check out. They do offer a shuttle to the port at $8.pp, but we will opt for an accessible taxi for our ride to the port tomorrow. I want to arrive as close to 1PM as possible as that is when we have access to our staterooms and we can leave our carry-ons.
We left the hotel at noon by accessible taxi at a cost of $15 with tip. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. Embarkation was a breeze, we were on the ship by 12:40PM. We were welcomed with champagne. We met a couple from our roll call, they are from the UK. Our staterooms were available by 1PM, so we dropped off our carry-ons then proceeded to the Oceanview Café for a light lunch.
Guest Emergency & Lifeboat Drill was at 3:45PM and our Muster Station was the Fortunes Casino. This lasts about 15 min, we are shown how to put on a life jacket (we don't have to bring our life jackets anymore for the exercise), explained the procedures in case of emergencies then we are off for the Sailaway Party. The ship was suppose to leave at 4:30PM but was delayed one hour as some supplies had not arrived. We sailed around 5:30PM
Sailaway is one on the things that I like to organize with our Cruise Critic Roll Call with many of the people that I was exchanging posts over a year, we finally met in person. I had made name tags for everyone so we could get to put names with faces. We met some wonderful people from Australia, UK and USA. We were the only Canadians.
We had early dining and I had already changed our table to be more accessible with the scooter, on the plan it looked ok but when we got there and people were sitting, Norman could not pass with his scooter without interrupting two guests. We advise our waiter, head waiter and finally the Head Restaurant Manager passed by. The all already new about our predicament and we were assured that they would find us a table that was accessible for tomorrow night. We were at a table for six but were just the two of us for tonight.
Celebrity Showtime: Opening Night which is a snippet of what we are going to see during our cruise. As always, the performers were excellent.
Beautiful sunny calm sea with temps at 89F/32C. We got an early start today and had breakfast for the Elite passengers in Michael's Club where we can get smoothies and cappuccinos. The breakfast that is served is a continental breakfast. We met two of our CC friends and chatted for bit. When we were leaving, we met the Head Restaurant Manager and he told us that our table has been changed. He was able to move 2 guests that understood the problem. This is what you would call good service.
Celebrity has a series of lectures that are called Beyond the Podium, which we will be attending during our cruise.
Beyond the Podium: CSI: The Electronic Trail of Evidence by Peter LaSorsa. This was a very informative lecture. I took photos of his slides that you will find in my photos.
Celebrity also hosts a Cruise Critic Meet and Great where we met, again, our new cyber friends and some new ones that could not make it yesterday.
Beyond the Podium with Martin Harrington (Panama) which was an overall explanation of the country, its history, geography and more. The Spanish Conquistadores, the Panama railroad during the California Gold Rush, The French effort to build a sea-level canal and the country's separation from Colombia 107 years ago. These lectures will show us that Panama is more than just a canal
It is our first formal night so we got ready and went to the Elite cocktail hour before going to diner. When we got to the dining room, the Restaurant Manager met us at the door and took us to our table to find out that this table was situated like the one from the previous night, so he apologize profusely and said he would find out what happened. I guess he did not choose the table himself. He came to see us a couple of times during diner to let us know that he was working on solving this problem. There were two other couples at our table, so we had a pleasant diner just the same. Tomorrow will be another day and we will see what it brings...
Tonight is the Captain's Welcome Gala where to Captain introduces us to his heads of departments and we toast to a pleasant cruise.
Celebrity Showtime: iBroadway which is tunes from Broadway past and present. No matter how many times we see these types of Broadway shows, none have been the same. Tonight is was again an excellent show by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers.
Tonight we gain an extra hour of sleep. By time we get to San Diego we will have gained 3 hrs of extra sleep.
It is overcast this morning and very warm, but that is to be expected in this area of the world.
We went to Michael's Club again this morning for the Elite continental breakfast. It is so calm there and love the smoothies and cappuccinos.
We saw the Asst. Maitre D' as they are still trying to accommodate us, so tonight we will try Select Dining which means we can dine any time between 5:30PM and 9:30PM. The tables have more room in between them and we can either choose to dine just the two of us or we can join a larger table.
Beyond the Podium with Martin Harrington - today's lecture is about the French efforts to build a sea-level Canal, as well as the USA's successful completion of the present-day Canal with locks.
Before diner, we went for our Elite cocktail and met up with two other couples from our Cruise Critic Roll Call. It was nice chatting and getting to know some very nice people.
We did try our first attempt at Select Dining and we took a table for four with very easy access. So we decided, for the cruise, to try it out. It will give us more flexibility to dine when we want.
Celebrity Showtime: Sean O'Shea, impressionist, he has often been described as "Danny Gans/André-Philippe Gagnon meets Jim Carrey". His impressions are very accurate, hilarious and he has an astounding energy. He did Louie Armstrong, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Elvis and many more. It was a great show.
We arrived at 6:30AM in Cartagena, it was raining but has since cleared up and the temps were 79F/26C which was fine with us but the locals found in cold. Watched the ship being docked. Amazing how the Captain can manoeuvre this big ship at such a slow pace.
We had our first ships tour this morning called Cartagena Panoramic Sightseeing. Our guide was called Eddie, we were giving stickers to put on our clothes so we would know our bus # and guide's name. There were lots of busses touring around town. We saw the old town, the fort, a folkdance demonstration. Then we were taken to a marketplace where they sold all kinds of goods and souvenirs. We drove through Old Town, saw how narrow the streets are, saw the wall around it. Then for a contrast we drove through the new part. Also we saw the beach, our guide said not too many tourists at this time of year as it is the rainy season. We were very lucky, we did not have any rain while in Cartagena, but it did rain this morning and lots of streets were flooded, but the cars drive through the water just the same. Cartagena is at 2' to 3' above sea level.
We attended the Select & Elite event - Senior's Officers Cocktail Party, we met another of our Cruise Critic friends. Celebrity offers cocktails, canapés and live music. It is always a nice gathering.
Celebrity Showtime: Comedian - Kevin Flynn, he was very funny, joking about things that are or happen around the ship or what guests do. He has been on HBO, Comedy Central, MTV and NBC. Also has appeared in some movies.
Today started with a downpour but once we were on our way it cleared up. The temps are 88F/31C.
When I am on tours we get room service for breakfast, it saves lots of time in the morning. Norman has decided not to do anymore tours as it is too hard on him. So I will be venturing out on my own with Celebrity tours.
All the tours met in the Celebrity Theatre first then we were escorted to our buses waiting outside the gangway. It was pouring so everyone was using their umbrellas to get to the buses. I was able to take a photo of Norman on our balcony people watching. I was on the Miraflores Locks and Observation Centre which was a 90 minute drive to the Miraflores Lock. In Colon, the houses are in very poor repair. As we were leaving Colon, the rain stopped and the remainder of the day was just perfect weather, not too hot, just right. We did make a stop at the Administration Building. We passed by Panama City and could see the sky scrappers. The one with the semi-rounded top was built by Donald Trump. As we are approaching the Gatun Lake, we could see another cruise ship but too far to identify it. We finally arrived at the Miraflores Lock, we left from the Atlantic Ocean and now we are at the Pacific Ocean. From the Observatory, we could watch small craft ships going into the locks. They were all going from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The West side of the Canal was closed for maintenance. You will see in the photos a large crane in that lock. Later you will see the large crane at the other end ready to leave the lock. While at Miraflores Locks, we saw a small documentary on the Panama Canal. We spent a total of almost 2 hours there before returning to the ship for another 90 minute ride. I am sure glad to have done this tour, you get another perspective being on shore. Tomorrow we will be crossing these locks while on the ship.
Our Select dining is working out fine, we have been given the same table for the past 3 nights, so we are happy with that arrangement.
Celebrity Showtime: Nick Lewin - he is the funniest magician we have ever seen. He combines his razor sharp comedy and lightning fast magic that is very unique. Excellent show again.
We were up bright and early this morning, around 6:15AM when the naturalist first started to explain to us what was going on. We had perfect weather for this crossing. Today it is 75F/24C and overcast. We decided to view the whole crossing from the comfort of our balcony, we did not regret it.
The Panama Canal was opened on August 15, 1914 and the new larger locks will be open on August 15, 2014 on the 100th anniversary. We started our approach to the Gatun Locks at 6:45AM. The Gatun Locks were built in 1913. We will have a set of three levels to go through at these locks. The ship will be raised about 27' to 28's each level for a grand total of 85' above sea level. We are travelling in the West Locks so we can fully see the East Locks where there is a container ship in the level before us and the Norwegian Zuiderdam cruise ship which will be travelling one level behind us but in the other locks, so we are getting great photos for you to see the ships rising.
We depart the Gatun Locks at 8:40AM heading towards the Pedro Miguel Locks. In between the locks we are in the Gatun lake which is the largest artificial lake in the world. The islands that we see are actually mountain tops that were created when they flooded the area to make this lake. The water that is used to fill up the locks come from the mountains and when finished moving a ship the fresh water is recycled at 60% and the rest is dumped into the ocean. The water to fill up and empty is all done by gravity with under water tunnels, there are no pumps involved in this procedure.
At this time we decided to go for breakfast at the buffet. There was not one seat available, everyone had the same idea. It was 9AM so we went to Michael's Club for our Elite breakfast and sat with one of our Cruise Critic couples from the UK, we had a nice visit. Then we headed back to our cabin to continue watching the transit. We were still in the Gatun Lake.
The next locks were the Pedro Miguel Locks which was built first in 1911. Our ship was raised 37' and there is only on level here.
The next and final locks are the Miraflores Locks. These are the same locks that I visited yesterday. I took photos of the observation area where I was standing. It is interesting to have done both off and on the ship. It is a very slow process going into the locks. The ship only has 2.5 feet to spare on each side. Here we were lowered for a total of 57' in the two levels. The only motor that operates the gates are a 25hp motor, these gates weight over 8 tons. The silver little trains' are called mules as in most countries before 1914, they would use real mules for their locks so in Panama they called the little trains mules but they never used real mules. This is the 3rd set of mules since 1914. There is an average of 39 transits a day where they use fresh water in the locks and they can still provide Panama with enough fresh water. Our transit finished around 3:05PM. These locks operate 365 days a year and 24hrs a day.
Celebrity Showtime: Back by Popular Demand, this show brings back some of the entertainers like Sean O'Shea, funny man Kevin Flynn, the Celebrity Singers and Dancers and the acrobatics Suzana & Sebastian. Some of the show was good and some of it was so so. It happens, can't always win.
Today is a beautiful sunny warm day with very calm seas. We hardly feel the ship moving at 10.5 knots. It should reach 79F/26C. We had breakfast at the buffet with two lovely ladies; one was 95 and the other 85. They are still very active, don't use any apparatus for walking and they are very bright, it was nice talking with them. We have met some very lovely people on this cruise as we do on all our cruises.
Being a sea day, we did lots of relaxing on our balcony. It is quiet there, a good place to read and work on my photos and website.
Beyond the Podium: CSI: Changing your Identity with Peter LaSorsa. The discussion is about how to change your public identity in a way to fool people at first glance which is helpful for people who don't wish to look like a tourist in a foreign country. One of the tricks was to buy a local newspaper and put your maps inside the newspaper so when you glance at your map it is concealed.
Our Cruise Critic friends joined us at the Elite Cocktail. It is a nice way to get to know each other.
We went for dinner at our same table at the Select Dining and we were joined by 3 others this time they are from Long Island, NY. It is nice to have different diner companions every night.
Celebrity Showtime: Boogie Wonderland with the Celebrity singers, dancers and the Celebrity Orchestra. It is the original seventies musical from London's West End.
Today we are in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. It is overcast with a possibility of scattered showers. The temps should be around 84F/28C.
We had breakfast at the buffet as I will be going on tour at 1PM.
My tour today is called Eco Tropical Mangrove Adventure which lasted 5 hours. We boarded a bus for an hour and half drive to get to the river where we will board a pontoon boat to cruise on this fascinating river, considered as one of the richest sites of the area by bird watchers. We learnt why it is important to preserve the tropical rain forest. We saw quite a few birds, a couple of crocodiles and an Amarillo called Jesus Christ as he can walk on water and we saw it happen. This fresh water river empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Mangrove trees feed off the fresh and salt water. We finished bird watching just in time as we then had a downpour. We were given ponchos for our ride back to the dock. Once there we were greeted by a couple of men playing the xylophone and we were treated to some fresh pineapple and watermelon along with a choice of water, ice tea or beer. We then boarded our bus for the hour and half ride back to the ship.
Tonight we decide to try the buffet for dinner; we were surprise at the variety of choices offered. We had the Chef's daily special, which was lamb. It is a great alternative if you don't want to go to the dining room one evening.
Celebrity Showtime: Kimika Live in Concert, great music, very high energy. We saw them once before. The put on a very good show. It is a husband and wife team.
Another sea day, it is warm and somewhat overcast. We had breakfast in the buffet again this morning.
Beyond the Podium: CSI: Hidden Clues by Peter LaSorsa. What are the clues found at a crime scene that you may overlook. He talked about a real case that he worked on, showed us photos of the crime scene and how the case was solved as most cases is one person turns on the other one.
Beyond the Podium: with Martin Harrington with the modern day Panama, the native indigenous tribes trivia, the economy, the railroad (built during the Calif. Gold-Rush 156 years ago, a true melting-pot, the local currency is the USA Dollar because there constitution does not permit the Panama government to print their own currency.
Tonight is our second formal diner.
Celebrity Showtime: The Powerful Musical Energy of Antonio Salci - what a great pianist and what always amazes me is the short time the Celebrity Orchestra has to rehears with him, you would think they have been together for years.
Woke up early this morning as I had to be at the bus to start my tour by 7:15AM, mind you we only dock at 7AM and the ship still needs to be cleared.
It is beautiful outside, sunny with some clouds and the temps are 73F/22C.
I left the ship about 7:40AM and got to the buses where everyone was waiting, saw Judy (one of my Cruise Critic friends) and she was going on the same tour as I was. There were 5 buses for this tour and we got on the last one. The tour today was Colonia Antigua - Past & Present. We boarded our bus and left about 8:10AM to start our drive to Antigua which would take 90 min. Along the country side we saw sugar cane fields, coffee trees, 2 volcanoes (there are 33 volcanoes in Guatemala and 4 that are active). We saw one with smoke coming out of the top. We arrived in Antigua were we descended the bus and the bus driver was going to meet us for our return only. The rest of the time was a walking tour.
We stopped at one of the catholic churches to view the outside and inside. There were lots of statutes outside and the construction of the church dated way back into the 1600s and was baroque style. There was a mass going on and it was in celebration of the high school graduation class. There schools are off now until January when they go back. This is their summer vacation. Here in Guatemala, the summer runs from January to April, then May to October is the raining season and November and December is the very nice season, not too hot not too cold. We were lucky as it had rained non stop for the past 10 days and today it was sunny, we could not have asked for better weather.
We went to the main square Plaza de Armas which was constructed in 1543. We saw their City Hall. We went into the cathedral where there was a wedding taking place, took pictures of the insides and of course the bride and groom. We viewed the remaining façade of the cathedral that was completed in 1680 and then destroyed by earthquakes in the 1700s. This part was never rebuilt.
We headed for a hotel where a lunch buffet was waiting for us. It was nice to sit for awhile while we ate. We had a typical lunch which consisted of salad, white rice with peas, plantain, black beans, stew, tortilla (that was being made fresh) and a puffy ball for desert. They also served us coffee.
We then visited a Casa Santo Domingo formerly a convent built in 1642. Today, the ruins have been turned into a beautiful hotel and restaurant surrounded by gardens. In part of the ruins, there is still a little chapel that is still used for weddings, and in fact, they were setting up for a wedding as we were there.
We went to the Jade Museum and Factory where we learnt about the relations between this beautiful green jewel and its relation with the Maya civilization. This is where we met up with our bus for our 90 minutes return to the ship.
Celebrity Showtime: Sideshow Bert is a one man variety show, with lots of laughs, dangerous stunts and amazing juggling. He was very funny even though we are not that fond of jugglers.
Today we slept in a little. When we woke up the seas were a little rough but it wore off my lunch time where the seas were once calm again. It was a nice warm sunny day.
We mostly relaxed, went to the Club Captain's event where all club members are invited. They serve a nice small buffet and drinks. There is music and dancing. The couple with the most cruises is awarded a prize. We met some of our friends; it was a very nice event.
Beyond the Podium: CSI: Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft - Peter LaSorsa - He showed us simple steps to avoid being the victim of identity theft and what do if you are. You can check out his presentation in my photos under the above title.
A sea day, for us, is a very quiet and relaxing day and that is what today was.
Celebrity Showtime: Antonio Salci & Friends - The show opened with our a Cappella Quartet Hi C's and then the powerful musical energy of Antonio with the Celebrity Orchestra. It was a great standing ovation show.
Today it is mainly sunny with temps at 82F/28C. We have smooth seas today. We have a few dolphins following us. We skipped breakfast and had lunch instead. Today is one of Norman's favourite fish and chip.
Went to the movies and saw "Larry Crowne" with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, it was a very funny movie and we both enjoyed it.
The Captain's Club organized for the Elite - Elegant Tea where you get a choice of teas and nice little sandwiches and lots of pastries. I left there on a sugar high. We shared our table with some of our new friends.
We love to go to the Elite Cocktail hour where we can meet our friends over a few complementary drinks.
For dinner we both had the veal chop, it was very good and tender.
Celebrity Showtime: Kimika more high energy from both Tina and Nick along with the Celebrity Orchestra. They are both very entertaining.
Another beautiful day, sunny with a high of 93F/33C. We had breakfast at Michael's Club again for the Elite member. I mention Elite often that is some of the extra perks we get for being Elite. To become Elite you need to have 10 cruise credits.
We have no tours today, so I got off to go shopping at the flea market. There is an aviary just below our balcony filled with 6 macaws. Also got a photo of a macaw sitting on my shoulder. He also left me a little gift.
Of course we went to the Elite cocktail, it is a way to meet our friends and go over what everyone did during the day.
Dinner was great, we both had filet mignon, it was so tender and done to order. For desert we had a chocolate soufflé.
Celebrity Showtime: Celebrate the World with the Celebrity singers and dancers and Celebrity Orchestra along with the aerialist. They do put on a great show, we enjoyed it very much.
There is not a cloud in the sky; our temps today should be 91F/32C. Met some of our friends at the Cova Café and we will just walk around town.
This is a tender port, since we don't have a tour, you must get a tender ticket and wait for your number to be called. Another advantage to being Elite we got two VIP tender tickets, so we can go anytime. Norman will remain on the ship as it is too unsteady for him to board the tender.
I am meeting Rosie and Mic from Australia, Janet and Mike from the UK, so we will be a real international group today. We took the tender over and walked around the downtown area and did some shopping. All there is downtown is shops and restaurants. We stopped at one of the local bars to have a beer and some tortilla chips. They were selling a bucket of beer for $10. + tax so it cost $11 for all of us, it was a great deal.
Took the tender back, had lunch with another of my CC friends.
Celebrity Showtime: Donny Ray Evans who has the same mellow voice as Nat King Cole. He also resembles Mr. Cole. He sang "Too Young" directly to a couple who had been married for 65 years. He was a great entertainer.
Our last sea day, it is beautiful outside, not a cloud in the sky.
We had our last breakfast at Michael's Club. Met our other CC friends, Mike, Janet, Carrie and Ed. Always nice chatting with.
Infinity's Got Talent & Crew Farewell - a few of the crew showed off their talent, we had 2 magicians, a comedian, and duo singing pair, this type of show which is always very entertaining.
Star Chef Cooking Competition - this is like the Iron Chef but not quite at that level. There are 2 chefs competing and they each get a member of the audience as their helper. The helpers choose the food that they will use to prepare their dishes. Then 3 members of the audience become the judges and taste what the 2 chefs have prepared. The director of food and beverages was doing the commenting, he was quite funny.
Today was a packing day, it is always sad when a cruise ends.
Celebrity Showtime: A Voyage to Remember - the Celebrity Orchestra played a couple of nice arrangements, then the Aerialist Suzanna and Sebastian did their show and it finished with Donny Ray Evans singing some of soul music, another great show.
This was debarkation day and the Custom and Immigration want to do this process on the ship before anyone gets off. We were to pass between 6 & 7AM so we set our alarm for 5:30AM. Once we were ready, we proceeded to the Martini Bar were this process was being done. The lines where quite long, there was a US and Non-US line. The Non-US line was shorter. We passed by 7AM then went to the buffet to have breakfast. It was difficult to find a table but finally did.
After breakfast, we went back to our cabin and sat for awhile on our balcony watching the porters unloading all the luggage. We left our cabin around 9AM.
All the Elite member were to meet in the Specialty Restaurant. There they had croissants, danishes, tea, coffee and water. Our friends joined us at our table. Around 10:30AM there was an announcement that a few people had not gone to the immigration tables. There is always someone that does not do what they are supposed to do and that holds up the whole process.
Around 10:45AM Anita, our Captain's Club Hostess told us we could all leave by the gangway on deck 1. There were two gangways, one on mid-ship deck 3 and one on forward deck 1. So we all proceeded towards the forward, but by this time the announcer would tell everyone to remember there is a gangway on deck 1, so everyone went there. Since we needed to take an elevator and there were many wheelchairs gathering, it took awhile to get on the elevator. Once we got to deck 1 we could not get off the elevators as the area was full of people, so we waited in the elevator, someone held the door open until there was a little space for us to get off.
We finally got to our luggage, got a porter and proceeded to the pick-up area, found a bench and called my son to pick us up. We knew it would take 30 minutes for him to arrive, so we sat and watched people. It was a bit confusing for my son when he arrived as they were not letting anyone in for drop-off only pick-up. He finally made it and we were off for our 3 week stay with him.
It is always very confusing when debarkation is late and the new guests start arriving and the old guests have not all gone.
We had a wonderful time, meet some very nice new friends from all over the world, the food was very good and the entertainment was excellent. The experience going through the Panama Canal is really something to do, we hope to go back when the new locks are open on August 15, 2014. We have done it two times now, but this time we stayed on our balcony. We, for once, were on the right side to see everything. The other port of calls were also very interesting. The ship is now going back to Ft. Lauderdale, through the Panama Canal and then to dry dock to be solticize. We are looking forward to seeing her sister ship, the Summit, next September after it has been solticize.
Until next time...
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