Celebrating 100 years

Celebrating 100 years
By Sunny Lockwood

While many dream of traveling around the globe to see such wonders as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, there is an equally spectacular site in the western hemisphere. And it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

What is it? The Panama Canal

This 50-mile waterway, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, changed our world. When it officially opened in 1914, it cut nearly 8,000 miles off the shipping routes from New York to San Francisco,

Considered the eighth wonder of the world, today the Panama Canal accommodates more than 14,000 ships a year carrying cargo ranging from automobiles to grain, on their passage between the oceans.

More than 10 percent of all U.S. shipping goes through the canal.

Cruising the Panama Canal

But for travelers who want to not only view interesting places but actually experience them, cruising through the Panama Canal is unforgettable. Cruise lines offer an array of such trips from a variety of starting ports.

Depending on a traveler’s pocketbook and calendar, transits can be partial (where the ship enters the canal, goes to Gatun Lake, then turns around and goes back out the same locks used to enter the canal) or full (entering the canal from one ocean and exiting at the far end into the other ocean).

When my husband and I cruised on Holland America’s ms Zuiderdam in 2012, it took more than eight hours to make the entire transit.

Our 82,000-ton ship barely fit in the locks, and being smoothly lifted and lowered 85-feet as the locks filled or emptied, was like riding a magic carpet.

There are three sets of locks at each end of the canal. Two lanes allow two ships to move through the locks at the same time. Each ship climbs up three locks at the start of the canal, and then down three at the end.

Lock chambers are 1,000-feet long and 110-feet wide.

One of the magical aspects of our transit through the locks, then through the nine-mile cut through the Continental Divide (think Rocky Mountains), then through the huge man-made Gatun Lake, and out the locks at the Canal’s far end, was that we and our ship did the transit exactly like that first ship had when the canal opened on August 15, 1914.

No computers at all. Everything is run by gravity and electricity. Gravity fills and empties the locks, lifting ships 85 feet above sea level at the beginning of the Canal, and then lowering them again at the end. And the electricity that opens and closes lock doors, and runs everything else at the canal is created by the canal’s dams. It’s all very self-sufficient.

Our trip was a spectacular and historic experience.

This centennial year would be the perfect time to visit this engineering wonder of the world. And cruising along its watery pathway is both inspiring and sobering (when you consider that more than 26,000 lives were lost in the building of this most famous short cut).

My only suggestion to make the trip more meaningful, would be to do some historical research into the building of the Canal. As you learn about the dream and how hard it was to make it all come true, you’ll appreciate the amazing journey across the Isthmus of Panama.

About the Author

Sunny Lockwood and her husband, Al, have traveled by foot, car, rail, air and cruise ship. Wherever they go, they capture unforgettable moments – Al with his camera and Sunny with her reporter’s notebook. Their work for newspapers and magazines has won national, regional and local awards. Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories is their first travel memoir. It’s available at amazon.com.

Connect with them on Facebook: Cruising Panama’s Canal

coming out of the Culebra Cut and into Gatun Lake
View from the Crow’s Nest, which is above the bow of ms Zuiderdam. We are coming out of the Culebra Cut and into Gatun Lake. Gatun Lake covers about 180 square miles and makes up the center of the Canal.

Boomer Travel – Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Boomer Travel – Expedia CruiseShipCenters


Well I just booked my third cruise this year and this will be my twenty first cruise altogether.  I got a good deal with a different travel agent other that I had been using.

cruise ship centersExpedia CruiseShipCenters I had heard about since they are an AARP travel provider.  When an office recently opened here in Johns Creek GA (Expedia CruiseShipCenter in Johns Creek) just down the street I went to their open house.

My wife Mary Ann and I met with Vince and even walked out with a $100 grand opening gift certificate. They were personable and not pushy at all.  Most of all they were knowledgeable.

So now a few weeks later Mary Ann found a transition cruise on the Princess Royal she wanted to take. I printed the quote from our on line research and headed down to talk with Vince about booking it.  It already had a very low Captains Circle special price so I was not expecting any lower price or any extras, except maybe the $100 gift certificate but mostly wanted to give them a try.  It would be nice to have a local cruise agent who I could talk with in person.

I gave Vince the on line cruise quote and our Captain Circle numbers.  The deal Vince came up with was much better. Very much better than I was expecting.

Besides the future cruise credits, we got another $200 on board credit for the Captains Circle (in addition to the lower Captains Circle price), plus an on board cruise of $100 for Military service plus $100 gift from Expedia CrusieShipCenters.  Wow, that’s $500 on board credit for a very low priced transition cruise aboard the Royal Princess.

I have never gotten a better deal than the website quoted price.  So I was happy.  But wait it gets better, it seems Expedia CruiseShipCenters has a sale going on April 1 through April 18th and we are getting FREE Gratuities! Wow that is worth some money.

So we got a great low price on our cruise, plus $500 on board credit, plus free gratuities. Needless to say, I am very happy to have established this new relationship with our local CruiseShipCenters office and the next time we come in to talk about future cruise bookings, Vince and Dave will have everything on file for us.

If you are in North Fulton County GA, stop by our Johns Creek CruiseShipCenters office located in the Kroger Shopping Center near State Bridge and Jones Bridge and ask for Vince. Their office phone is 678-712-5059.

ExpediaCruiseShipCenters
Retirement Travel

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Ship Photo Blog

Photo blog of the Celebrity Equinox. Just back from a 10 night Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship, my second cruise on this beautiful ship.

Just back from a 10 night Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship, my second cruise on this beautiful ship.  I have now taken 19 cruises and I think the Equinox is the best so far. Here are some of my photos of the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship.

Photo Blog of Celebrity Equinox Cruise Ship

The Lawn Club on the Deck 12
The Lawn Club on the Deck 12

The lawn club is amazing. Up on the top of the ship are two large areas of real grass!  We played bocce ball and was in a golf putting contest (which I won, see photo below).  The lawn club area makes this ship and the other solstice class ships really unique.

ship lawn putting contest
Putting contest at Lawn Club

 Well that is not all, right next to the Lawn Club is the Corning Glass Show. Given a couple of times a day while at sea, you have got to see this. True artisans at work.

Corning Glass Show on Equinox
Corning Glass Show
Rear deck of Celebrity Equinox
Rear deck of Celebrity Equinox

On the same level at the rear of the ship, there is a bar and sitting area. Up above you will the outside tables from the appropriately named Oceanview Cafe. This must have been St Thomas.

Dance Class
Dance Class

There is always some activity going on in the many foyers of the Equinox.  I believe this is some sort of dance exercise group. You don’t sign up, just show up. In the evenings there  games here.

Speaking of foyers, this one below is the Grand Foyer on Deck 3. Part of this foyer is the elevator atrium that shows four glass elevators as they go all the way to the top of the ship. Quite a sight. In the Grand Foyer there is always something going on, like dance classes, demonstrations, formal dancing, and mini “interactive” shows by the ship’s entertainment cast.

Grand Foyer on Eqinox
Grand Foyer

One evening the cast came down the stairs of the Grand Foyer and gave a mini show which turned into a dance party. It was wild!

Interactive Show on Equinox
Interactive Show on Equinox

The main entertainment area is the Princess Theater where two shows a night are staged. I liked this theater because there were no chairs and tables to bang around and camp your sitting.  Comfortable and every seat is a good seat, even in the balcony.

Princess Theater on Equinox
Princess Theater

On a returning sea day there is a great brunch from 10am to 2pm.  Do not miss this, it is excellent.

Brunch on Equinox
Brunch

 

One reason not to miss the brunch is the beautiful original food and ice carvings. Bring your camera like I did.

Food Carving on ship
Food Carvings

By the way, we took a cooking class at the Murano Specialty restaurant and really enjoyed it.  You get a great meal with the package. You have to ask the restaurant about this as I don’t think it is advertised.

Cooking Class Murano
Cooking Class

Of course there is a 24 hour computer room (staffed during the day)

computer room aboard the Equinox
Computer Room

Other rooms include a library

Library on Equinox
Library

 

And a card game room

card game roon on the Equinox
Card Game Room

Of course on a Caribbean cruise the pool area is very popular. Entertainment stage, hamburger and hotdog grill and bar right there too.

pool on the Equinox
Outdoor pool

But we liked the Adult Pool in the Solarium.

adult pool Equinox
Adult Pool

This little cafe is also in the solarium. They serve healthy food and have fresh fruit drinks and smoothies which we like.

Cafe in the solarium
Cafe in the solarium

Well there are many more attractive places on the Celebrity Equinox but this should give you an impression of this beautiful ship.

Boomer Cruise Vacations
Boomer Travel

Oh, I better let you see the outside of the Equinox.

Celebrity Equinox
Celebrity Equinox

The New York City Bucket-list for Boomers

Colorful, teeming with life, art, passion and vivacious energy, New York City isn’t only for the young and trendy. In the Big Apple there are in fact many amazing sites for retirees, or travelers with plenty of time or cash to splash. If you’re one of them, here’s a bucket-list of must-see monuments and things to do in NYC.

The Empire State Building

A monument to the true grit and determination of New Yorkers, this 1930’s architectural beauty has been a part of NYC folklore and countless Hollywood films for a reason. The Empire State Building is arguably the building that makes New York feel like New York. Just head to the area between 33rd and 34th streets in mid-town Manhattan: the observatory is open late, so there’s time to stop at one of many little jazz bars nearby beforehand. Finally – go up to the observatory of the Empire State, to see the skyline in all of its beauty. The last elevators depart at 1.15 am.

The Statue of Liberty

She’s been a familiar salutation for millions of immigrants entering the country for the first time, ever since she was erected in 1886. Take a NYC water taxi to Liberty Island and visit the Lady Liberty up close. The statue houses a museum, and one of the guided tours allows you to go to the top and enjoy unparalleled views.

The Guggenheim and MoMa Museums

New York has countless museums. The grand-daddy of them all is the Guggenheim on 5th Avenue. The mecca of modern art with Kandinsky, Miro and Picasso within its walls, it has a lot to offer for all art connoisseurs. Elsewhere, the MoMa on W 53rd street is more than just a museum: films and live performances are part of the splendid mix of this modern haven for the arts.

Epic Open Spaces

Every public space is a declaration of enormity in New York City. With this in mind, visit Central Park, also fondly known as NYC’s lungs. This green space is where locals and visitors can go to unwind and revive themselves away from the smoggy traffic elsewhere. Here you’ll find sporting facilities, nature reserves and plenty more, although the most common pursuit is people watching. Just a short walk away from the part of the park on 59th street, you should also visit Times Square: in terms of atmosphere, this is the polar opposite of Central Park. Busy, colourful, it boasts the kind of chaos that can be tolerated in small doses.

Whatever you make of your time in New York, you will be anything but bored in this vibrant, chaotic and beautiful city: enjoy your leisurely holiday with a New York-sized slice of Big Apple pie.