Monday January 9

It took all day to transit the Panama Canal.  In the mornings ships travel west from the Atlantic and east from the Pacific; directions reversed in the afternoons.  Quite a number of ships in the area today.  Mostly sunny skies but short rain showers a couple of times in late afternoon.   It is now 7:30 EST and outside temp is 81.   Met an interesting lady at lunch.  She is traveling alone and is not with any group; has made friends with her dinner table companions but is having trouble meeting others.  Perhaps I will see Lila from Marion, Indiana again.  I thought I was well traveled but I don’t compare with most of our Road Scholar group!  Tomorrow is a sea day before Costa Rica on Wednesday.

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Sunday Jan 8

Sea day spent leisurely.  No sea sickness today!  Interesting lecture on the Panama Canal by Charles McClelland, our resident lecturer this first part of the trip.  US finished construction and first ship through in 1914.  Noted on page 14 of The NY Times because WWI had started 2 weeks prior and that was the highlighted news of the day.  Third set of locks opened in 2016 to accommodate the huge ships (mostly cargo) available now.  Biggest cruise ships still can’t go through because of a bridge that isn’t high enough for them to go under.  Transit fees must be paid in cash 24 hours prior to beginning and cost determined by number of beds on the ship (cruise ships) including crew.  Our cost is probably around $300,000 – a basic fee plus fee for a guaranteed time,etc.   During construction the dirt removed (called spoils) amounted to the distance from San Francisco to New York City 10′ x 55′.   Webcam on so if you want to try to see us go through check out pancanal.com.  Tomorrow will be filled with canal time all day.

Forgot to tell you yesterday’s temp was 75 and humidity 70%.  Enough of that.   In each of the ship elevators there is a rug that states the day of the week.  Good idea!  Food beautifully prepared and served.  Had salmon tonight after chilled asparagus and a nice salad.   Large buffet on deck 7 but so far I have chosen to eat in the dining room.

Saturday January 7 2017

Santa Marta Colombia was our first stop  this trip.  One of the first things I saw as we approached the harbor were 2 Caterpillar machines working in a huge pile of coal.    Learned later that mining is the principal industry in Colombia now, followed by fruit and then tourism.  Brief mention of drugs “in the past”!   Nice tour of this city of 500,000 stopping at a cathedral and a couple of museums.  Simon Bolivar died here and he is revered for his help in kicking out the Spaniards.   I was feeling queasy most of yesterday because of rough seas and I skipped the first gala dinner.  Found out surf and turf was the main choice!  Tonight I chose calf’s liver over duck, swordfish, lasagna, short ribs.  I continue to meet people but have not found a “friend” to hang around with yet.  Many widows of course.  Most are extremely well traveled.  Tomorrow is a sea day as we proceed toward Panama.

Thursday January 5 2017

Welcome to the MS Amsterdam, my home for the next 4 months. I had fully intended to share pictures but I find the ship’s wifi to be expensive and slow so pictures, for now, will await some free wifi along the way. Our first landfall will be Saturday in Santa Marta Colombia. These first 2 days are spent exploring the ship, getting acquainted with my fellow Road Scholar travelers (60 of us) and eating! I have found many of the people I have met are more traveled than I am, and I think I have done a lot. I will figure out my blog site and the internet one of these days!