Monday, October 05, 2009


This morning we got up at 5 am....yes that's 5 am, something I swore I'd never do on vacation, but our day long excursion to the Panama Canal starts at 6:45 and I really wanted to see it. The first leg of the journey takes us by bus (nice buses again!) across the country to Panama City and the Pacific side of the canal. Panama City is pretty awesome with many very tall skyscrapers. On the way over we had yet another tour guide who was interesting. Although we traveled on a wonderful highway, he proceeded to tell us how marginal, average or bad things were. Now really, if you are in a location and don't like it that's fine, but if you're a tour guide do you really want to share that? I have a client in Panama and know that much of what the guide was saying was his own opinion rather than reality. His English was also marginal.

There were a total of 450 people on the tour from our ship, 11 buses worth. We boarded two large ferries for the trip half way down the canal and once on board, the difference between the tour guides was night and day. The one on the boat was very educational about the canal and all the great things that Panama was doing to expand the canal and enhance it. They are currently widening the canal from 125 feet to 700 feet to both accommodate bigger ships and facilitate two way traffic as right now one section of the canal is only one way which means it takes a ship 8-10 hours to navigate the canal depending on the traffic volume. They are also adding a another set of locks - a 10 billion dollar project. The weather was great for this type of trip as it was overcast and misty so it was very cool and comfortable for the tropics.

As we approached the first set of locks it was really astounding to see them work and know that they are 100 years old. They raised our ferries in 8-10 minutes through each of the 3 locks which is amazing to see and experience. There was a tour we could have taken that just went to the visitor center and watched the ships go through the lock but that would have been such a rip off there is nothing like experiencing it yourself and I would definitely recommend putting on your "things to see before I die" list. Of course during our last dinner in the dining room before we bailed for the supper club, the subject of the panama canal excursions came up and the consensus was that they were just going to have a peek but didn't see the value in actually going down the locks as it was another $79. Seriously??? Of course these are the same people who don't want a cabin with a balcony or window because there's nothing to see but water........

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