Friday 10 January
Day 10 Traversing the Panama Canal
After a really rough night (our first) where it was dangerous even getting up in the night to cross 2 meters to get to the loo, we got to the Northern end of the Panama Canal at Christobal at six. It had calmed down by that time. John had taken a sea sickness pill before he went to bed and slept like a babe. We got up at seven to have our room service breakfast and we could already see the beginning of the Gatum locks at the beginning of the canal. Panama Canal was started by the French in 1880 but they had financial difficulties so the project was ceased. After gaining dependence in 1903, Panama made an agreement with the US for a further attempt at construction. It started in 1904 and finished on August 15, 1914. The US managed it until 1999 when Panama took over full operation, administration and maintenance. It's an amazing short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific. The millionth ship, the bulk carrier Fortune Plum, went through on September 4, 2010. The inter oceanic waterway uses a system of locks with two lanes that operate as water elevators and raises the ships from sea level to Gatun Lake, 26 m above sea level to allow the crossing through the Continental Divide , and then lowers the ships to sea level on the other side of the isthmus. We entered the first Gatum lock at 8am and it took until five to go very slowly through the vast Gatum Lake, through the narrow Culebra Cut, then through two more lock systems, the Pedro Miguel Locks and Miraflora Locks. At the approach to the Pacific Ocean we passed under the Pan Pacific Highway which runs all the way down the West Coast of North America and then to the west coast of South America. As you go into the locks, there are great trains on tracks that sometime run up hills to help keep the ships in the centre of the locks and proceed through at a steady slow pace. At the same time we went though there were three other cruise ships - two in front and one behind. It was all pretty impressive. We got to the Pacific Ocean by early evening. John took a lot of photos but we are yet to download them onto the iPad to have a good look at them.
I know we've been promising some photos with MyTripJournal but the satellite Internet is awful. It repeatedly cuts out and is so slow, it takes twenty minutes to send one photo. When we get to Manta in Equador in a few days I hope we'll be able to get decent land WiFi there.
The shows at night continue to be extremely good. Last night was a violinist who played exquisitely and tonight it was brilliant singer who sang everything from classics, to musicals and jazz.
We have another sea day tomorrow so I have more singing, swimming and Trivia and John will play golf and join me in Trivia so we're looking forward to that. When you win in Trivia you win Grand Cruise dollars. $3 for a first! $2 for second and $1 for third. These can be used in the shop on board at the end of the cruise to purchase clothing or other HAL sponsored gifts. We've already got $40 and that's after six days so we're not doing badly.