Island Princess (Panama Canal) - Dec 4-15, 2007

Island Princess Cruise
Repositioning thru the Panama Canal
Dec 4th - 15th, 2007

Bob & Debe
Ports of call: San Juan PR, Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena Columbia, crusing thru the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Huatulco, Acapulco

Sunday we were up and off, heading to San Juan, PR where we would stay a few days before boarding an experience of a life time. This wouldn't be our first cruise through the panama canal but it would be a "first" at many other experiences. Like getting in a mud volcano, seeing the poverty of countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and many other things. So come join us as we share this experience - the good, bad, and the ugly.

Our first stop - San Juan, PR. This has become a popular spot for us to pick up cruises since we can start out enjoying the weather and sun. We checked into our hotel in the Condado area which isn't normally the area we stay in. As always we do our walks around the fort walls and up by San Felipe Del Morro Fort or El Morro as it is known. And a visit to our favorite fountain - Raices Fountain in Old San Juan. The narrow streets of Old San Juan are famous for their shopping. We love to take a stroll down the cobblestone streets that have every store you can imagine. And as always, we headed to our favorite eatting place - El Hamburger - favored by locals.

On Dec 6th we arrived in Curacao - a quaint Dutch influenced town that is well know for its colorful building lining the entrance of the port. Getting off the ship we headed to information (right at the gang way) to find our rental car place. Needless to say - that bombed. Instead we took the walk over to town. It is always fun to walk across the floating bridge that opens sideways to let cargo ships in. I have also posted a photo of the area where the ship is docked. As you can see it continues to grow in leaps and bounds.

Next we headed to Aruba for a short visit. As we walked through town - you can see the beautiful buildings lining the main road. But if you get a chance, get away from town. We love renting a jeep or atvs and taking the island on for the day. Here you can see the remains of an old gold mine. (very close to this is the natural bridge) Also a picture of the famous California Lighthouse. (also a shot of the main area from the ship's skydeck)

Next it was on to Cartagena, Columbia. We booked our tour through the ship which ended up being great. First stop on the tour, San Felipe Castillo (Fort). We were here back in the late 80's or early 90's and this was the first time since then. Last time I remember was my first experience taking a picture of something and them making you pay so I was careful this time. lol Part of our tour was to go to and get in a Mud Volcano. Ok, I am nervous but game. On the drive there, we saw a lot of poverty. People really lived poorly in the outlying areas. And mostly that is around some form of water. But the highlight was just ahead of us. My imagination of this was quickly changed when I noticed the volcano was more like a human ant hill. And the stairs to climb it - well, lets just say they needed a great carpenter. But the experience was worth the entire tour and climb. I wasn't for mud on the hair or face but the rest was ok. Oh, and there are guys in the mud with hats - they are there to help you and massage you. lol The experience didn't stop there, afterwards you were lead down to a lake where you entered the water with a local who washed you. So get deep in the water because the swimsuit is going OFF. Yes, I call that skinny dipping. lol And imagine how hard it is to put that swimsuit back on in the water. Overall, I would suggest it to everyone. So well worth it. Oh, don't forget the guys in the mud and the person who cleans your swimsuit are neither there for fun. They are expecting tips at the end. Call this a "first" and an experience of a lifetime.

Next - thru the Panama Canal. That won't beat the mud volcano but it is a beautiful thing to experience. We have done it before so no sitting on the deck for 12 hours this time. lol (I did get a great tan though) Here are some random pictures of going through the canal. (going into the locks, one of the Millineum bridge, one of the train that runs next to the canal and the last is ships lining up to go through the last set of locks and if you look close you can see the "America's bridge" that connects Central and South America.

Experiencing the Panama Canal is great but here you can see dinner is more important. lol Nothing like getting cleaned up and sitting down to a multiple coarse dinner.

Here are a couple pictures of one of the shows onboard. We enjoy all the "las vegas" type shows and never miss them. We have never seen a bad one and this one lived up to what we expected.

Our next stop took us to Central America. The first three stops are a first for us and we are looking forward to experiencing the area - not looking for a beach. So first port - Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We only know what we have seen in magazines and travel books which is beautiful, sunny, ocean front resorts. Lets just say, we must have missed those places. We again booked a tour through the ship to get the full experience. The port area was poor but seemed clean but as our bus left town - it took a surprising difference. We boarded a train that would take us through the poorest areas of Costa Rica. Kids ran out of their dilapated homes to wave at us as we chugged by but the living conditions were so sad. We disembarked the train and grabbed a bus that took us to the Eco Jungle River Boat tour Here we saw baby alligators, macaws, and other birds all in the wild along the mangroves. This 5 1/2 hour tour cost us $69 a piece and was an experience I will never forget. Those kids waving will be burned into my mind forever. Back at the dock we did some last minute shopping before walking to the pier and on the ship. (in photo you can see a train shuttle is available to take you to and from the shopping to the ship.

As we continue through Central America, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua was our next stop. Another ship tour which met at 7 a.m. Our tour took us to the town of Granada and includes a boat ride around the 365 islands that some people call their home (many islands are only big enough to hold one home) The bus ride was long and very bumpy. (roads are in disrepair) It was like going back in time. People riding with carts and oxen or horses with carts and homes were made from little of nothing. Most homes were one room with hammocks and outside they had a well, concrete wash area also used for washing clothes, a concrete box used for cooking, and this was all done outside the house. In Granada we saw Plazas were people years ago were sacrificed, we saw historical churches, and much more. In the plaza we were swarmed by vendors and in one area a dance was performed by a young group trying to make money. We then headed to our boat to tour the islands. Our tour did include a wonderful lunch but we had no shopping time. Tenders were used at this port also. And like Costa Rica - this was a poor country.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala was our next stop. The port was a commercial dock but you could see the two volcanoes off in the distance. We could have taken a free shuttle to the town of San Jose to shop but instead, we opted for the Auto Safari. ($69.00 pp) We traveled past one of the volcanoes and got to experience seeing the smoke and ash spew from it. Perfect timing if only a person's camera would cooperate at short notice. The nature park was very nice and being on a bus was a little different. Animal types were written in spanish but we could figure them out. The dusty roads did make photos a little bad but I was able to get a great photo of a giraffe that had just been born. We got off the bus for a drink and snack and visited the walk thru part of the park. No internet but Bob was able to call the office for $1 per minute. Tonight on the ship will be Alaskan Crab Legs so can't wait for dinner. lol

Our next port is a place we have been to before on vacation. Huatulco, Mexico. A Mexican town that can take you back in time but with it being a new cruise port - things are growing. It already has many resorts built and now, the dock itself has had many stores and restaurants built and/or being built. We grabbed a taxi and headed into the small main town for our favorite thing, an Agua. I had lemon, Bob had watermelon and they are made with fresh fruit and some type of sugar water. It definitely quenches the thirst. You can find these in the Mercado (market in English) Back at the pier we looked at some of the shops but had to get back to the ship to pack up for our last port of call and disembarkation.
We enjoyed our last dinner with our tablemates and we exchanged email addresses. We really enjoyed each other and plan to stay in touch. So here is a few pictures of our last night at dinner, baked alaska on parade and the Christmas decorations on board.

Finally, to Acapulco, Mexico. Another place we love. Or should I say one of our very favorite hotels. The Las Brisas. Known for its pink and white decor along with jeeps in pink and white used to transport you around the cliffside and down to the La Concha Beach club. The Las Brisas sits up on the cliffside overlooking the bay in Acapulco. It use to be used by the celebrities so many handprints are found on the walls. Every unit either has its on private pool or shared a pool with one other unit. In the morning, the staff drops off a continental breakfast in your "magic box" and turns your pool on, placing hibiscus flowers carefully on the top. What a beautiful thing to wake up to. After spending the day between the pool and La Concha private beach club, we headed to bed for an early morning flight. But not without one last photo - sunset in Acapulco Bay. Beautiful. Great ending to a fabulous, awesome vacation.

I know this journey has been long but what some great experiences. We loved every bit of it and sharing it with our tablemates was a highlight. And now sharing it with you through words and photos. It was very hard to round down the hundreds of photos so I did the best I could. This trip was so great and we would do it again in a minute. Of course if the price is right. lol Thanks again for sharing another trip with us through our blog. As frequent cruisers, we can only say that it only takes one time to be hooked. Call it an addiction. lol I can only hope that we will have many more to share here on our blog.


  1. Debe,
    My husband and I went through your Panama Canal blog 2007 and really enjoyed it! We have a new laptop (our first) that has an HD screen so the pictures are especially beautiful when we bring them up on the screen. I love the way you set this up. Your comment about having to choose from hundreds of photos is my very same problem I will have as I take hundreds of photos too.

    I had started a Hawaii blog after our cruise among all the islands in November 2007 but I never finished it. Now I can see how you did yours and love the way you put it together. It gives me renewed energy to go back and work on and finish mine and start a couple more.

    Thanks again. We enjoyed it immensely!
    Janet and Mike Ortega

  2. Janet, this was one of my first blogs so I was still working thru the kinks. You will find that as you do your also. Each blog now takes me a good 8 - 12 hours non stop. So I divide the time between a few days. Just now I have one blog I am behind that I hope to work on this week. But it is time consuming from going thru photos to pick, to downloading them (which I have to download backwards so they are in the correct order to describe the trip in order) then of course, the writing of each event/item/photo. So very time consuming. But, I do keep a journal of our travels so that helps in writing accurate things that we do and prices.

    My goal when starting this was to help people with their travels as we consider ourselves savvy travelers. So for those on a budget, maybe we can help. And for those that aren't, they can see some options to book as a tour with a company. So works in anyone's budget.

    Some of the trips are just family trips and/or small trips that show our love for our family also. And trips with friends that we have great times with. But overall, I hope that it helps others in experiencing life outside the US through our eyes as we have many friends that will never venture pass the borders. And of course - helping others with places to go.

    I can say that only thru people we have met have we chose many trips we have gone on. Next year we will experience Cambodia and Vietnam. Places I wouldn't think about going. But a lady from our Fall TA cruise of 2010 gave us a video dvd to watch and I was sold. So, if GOD is willing and has that in our plans, we will do that adventure for 2012.

    Thanks again for sharing our memories but most important - reliving your memories thru ours.

    Happy Traveling in the future



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