I’m getting a bit behind on my trip report/blog posts entry! I’ve been having a blast on the Island Princess. This morning is November 28 and I’m currently in the Explorer’s Lounge waiting for my shore excursion in Nicaragua, that leaves at 7:15AM. Yes, it’s another early morning. A few days ago, (Sunday, Nov. 25) we dropped anchor off the shores of Panama and we tendered ashore on the Island Princess’s life boats. I would much rather dock, but the pier is under construction and it won’t be ready for another two years!
Today I took a tour crafted by the Discovery Channel on the Panama Railway from the Pacific side of the canal to the Atlantic side. (Curiously, I never heard anyone ever say “Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea”–it was always the Atlantic). We boarded a bus to transport us to the railway station. Our tour was about 75 minutes late because the port authority of Panama told Princess to slow down their tenders as they were unloading passengers very quickly. Not sure why they asked Princess to slow down, but I saw how frustrated the crew was trying to off-load the guests and I felt bad for them. So, when we arrived at the train station, the train was there and waiting for our buses, so we loaded quickly and took off in just a few minutes.
The seats were very comfortable and reminded me of days past. It felt like these furnishings had been there since the turn of the century…I was impressed! Our tour guide Jesus (pronounced “Hey Zeus”) gave us a lot of information along the way. The train passed parallel to the Gatun Lake. We passed a prison that once held a past Panamanian President, and saw all of the locks that we had just went through on our cruise ship the day before.
It took about an hour to go by train what took most of the day to go by ship. After a snack of cookies, chips and a coke we arrived on the Atlantic side of Panama. Before we got off the train, our guide reminded us of his name (Hey Zeus) and told us that in English his name was pronounced “Jee Sus” and that today, everyone would be following Jesus. He then told us that our bus had broken down on the way to the train station, and they had secured another bus. On this bus to the new expansion locks of the canal, they passed out sandwiches and bottles of water. I waited until we got to the visitor’s center and had a small picnic before touring the center. I got to see the new locks, (which to be honest looked almost exactly like the ones we went through the day before); watched a short 10 minute video of the Panama Canal Expansion, and the highlight of my visit was the nature trail through the rain forest. I saw a sloth in the trees (but couldn’t get a decent picture) I heard monkeys and all kinds of birds…it was a very cool experience. Before I knew it, it was time to get on the bus for our ride back to the Pacific Ocean and our waiting ship. Weirdly, we had a third bus to take us back…the second bus didn’t have a PA system, so the tour company got another bus. On the highway, we passed our original bus…it was on the side of the road! Luckily it broke down without any of us on it! It took about an hour and twenty minutes to get back to the port. I walked around the booths of typical port side souvenirs.
I was basically grabbed by a salesman and he put a hat on me, insisting that I buy it. If he had been a bit less high-pressured, I probably would have purchased the hat. I can’t stand anyone that won’t take “no” for an answer. He totally turned me off, and I doubt that I would have bought water from him in the desert. I did however, have the good sense to take a selfie while wearing the hat, so at least I have a decent picture…I may have to go hat shopping once I get back home!
I tendered back to they ship, and it was rough seas ahead! It was very choppy…I’m very glad that the ship doesn’t move as much as that’s tender moved. No way would I want to cruise if I felt the ship move like that! I love to feel the ship gently rock/sway, but what we were doing in that small boat was almost violent. Thankfully we arrived to the ship safe and sound! (As if there was truly any worry–I doubt Princess would have put us in harm’s way!). I was glad to be back on the “solid” ground of the ship! lol
After changing, I got a bit of rest and went to dinner.
I’ll be updating with other stuff from the ship and our days in port very soon. I have to say once again, I’m truly loving sailing with Princess. The crew have been wonderful, the food is the best I’ve had on any cruise that I’ve been on (again, I’ve had amazing food on my other cruises, but it seems like practically everything we choose is truly amazing). I don’t particularly like their soft serve ice cream, and their potato soup is just awful…how that can be a “Guest Favorite” is beyond me. But, their hand dipped ice cream is truly amazing, and they may just have the best cheesecake ever. I also love the fact that the merchandise on the ship is affordable. They have nice souvenir port t-shirts in the gift shop (2 for $20), magnets, sundries, etc., all at decent pricing. I overheard one guest say that on her next cruise she was just packing the essentials and. Dining an empty suitcase and buying her clothes from the ship’s store. I’ll be blogging about the items in the store (along with pricing) in a future blog entry.