Top 6 Most Memorable Moments about Our Panama Canal Cruise

There are so many unforgettable moments throughout our 14 day cruise, but I narrowed them down to six.

20121223-184205.jpg

6. Palo As many of you saw in my blog posts, we went to Palo three times during this cruise. Disney service is already excellent, but Palo service is the epitome of excellence. I rarely splurge on 6-course meals back home so this was definitely a treat.

20121223-184913.jpg

5. The Broadway-style Entertainment We went to almost every show that they offered on the cruise including Toy Story The Musical, Dreams, and the Golden Mickey’s. The concert featuring Susan Egan with a guest appearance from Jeanne Lehman (the original Belle and Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast on Broadway) to sing Beauty and the Beast together was a “lump-in-throat” moment. Hearing their stories re-confirmed my passion for theatre. The comedians, magicians and even the crew staff had some amazing talents that kept us highly entertained.

The Cruise Staff Showcasing their Talents at Pub Night

20121223-133849.jpg

4. The Old City in Cartagena, Colombia and Puerto Vallarta We love architecture, old buildings and history. The old city in Cartegena had all of that and more. Puerto Vallarta was simply beautiful. We could definitely go back to these places again to spend more time.

20121223-190032.jpg

3. A Number of Firsts: This was the first time I learned how to make towel origami, went horseback riding in Cabo San Lucas, kayaked in Costa Maya, crossed the Panama Canal, visited Mexico and South America, and participated in Disney Cruise’s line’s first ever flash mob. All in 14 days. What a journey!

Towel Origami (Can you tell which one is mine and which one is the host’s?)

20121223-183459.jpg

2. Crossing the Panama Canal This was the climax of the trip. Disney prepped us nicely by providing the retired pilot captain to tell us what to expect as well as a narrator during the canal crossing. It was exciting to see how man took this mountain range, turned it into a lake and created these enormous locks for huge ships to cross from one ocean to another. Amazing.

Retired Pilot Captain Puckett and his wife

20121223-183522.jpg

1. Being on a beach and doing absolutely nothing in Costa Maya at Maya Chan This was the highlight of our vacation. I can look at the ocean for hours. Yes, I had an oceanview from my private verandah, but at Maya Chan, the hosts served us like royalty. We had all-inclusive drinks, buffet lunch, and a spectacular view of the ocean. I could definitely go back there again.

20121223-185213.jpg

Final Thoughts
Melvin and I agree that we could definitely do this cruise again. We met quite a few friends that we plan on staying in touch with for a long time. I will miss having my room cleaned twice a day, not having to cook or think, hard, about what to eat, and relaxing. I did miss my boys a lot so it’s good to be home.

Me and our great Cruise Director, Christiaan

20121223-183943.jpg

Two of Our Great Tablemates

20121223-184608.jpg

Our next cruising journeys include the Mediterranean and the West Caribbean in 2013. Stay tuned for those in addition to a few land getaways here and there.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures. Thanks for cruising with us.

20121223-190227.jpg

Advertisements

Our last night

Last night was our last night at Palo. We went to Palo three times during this cruise. Photos cost a fortune so this is the only pic we bought on the ship.

20121222-135150.jpg

Tonight is the last night on the cruise. We are packing now. I went to a towel origami class and learned to make a dog, chicken, bear, swan and elephant. Tonight there is Susan Egan in concert. She created the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.

More thoughts about my entire cruise coming later.

Costa Maya: If you’re reading this on 12/21/12, then somebody was wrong

Today we are in Costa Maya, Mexico. Ironic that we are in a Mayan area on the very day the world is supposed to end according to the Mayan calendar. A lot of people went to the Mayan ruins as part of the Disney excursions to commemorate this experience, but Melvin and I chose a private beach resort called Maya Chan that was highly recommended on trip advisor. It’s literally off the beaten (and I mean literally beaten) path but well worth the loose fillings for that bumpy ride. It costs $45 a person and we paid through paypal. The hosts were very nice and accommodating.

20121221-084910.jpg

It is a quaint little all-inclusive resort. Don’t think plush hotel rooms, carpet and the like. There’s a bar in the middle with small palapas (mini grass huts) with hammocks, lounge chairs and bali beds. They offer 1/2 hour massages on the beach for $25 and 1 hr for $45. They also have free wifi!

20121221-090130.jpg

Drinks are included so we’ve already had a pineapple express (pineapple, mango and rum) welcome drink and a mango colada. A buffet lunch is also included: grilled skirt steak, chicken, fish, cochinita pibil (pork wrapped in banana leaves cooked w/ annato and sour oranges), charro beans, queso manchego, pico de gallo, salsa verde and other goodies. If you don’t like this stuff, they can make you a hot dog or taco (at least that’s what they’re offering the kids).

20121221-090142.jpg

Kayaking and snorkeling are included as well so we are no longer kayak virgins! The boat had a glass bottom so it was cool to see the underneath us. The water is warm and calm today so I just drifted a lot. It was so nice to float on the Atlantic Ocean. So peaceful but I got a heck of an upper body workout with all that paddling.

Kayaking for the first time (i’m in the green kayak)

20121221-085452.jpg

20121221-085500.jpg

There are also floaty chairs with umbrellas in the water (family that came with us)

20121221-085555.jpg

Melvin in our palapa

20121221-090210.jpg

We’ll be here for a few more hours so there’s a webcam if you wanna see us!

Adios amigos!

20121221-094605.jpg

ODB: Overdose on Breakfast and Brunch

Today is a sea day, so we are taking it easy. There is a Pixar trivia and Movie Quote trivia session as well as a Disney Vacation Club mixer later on. A woman showed me how to play shuffleboard this morning during my 2 mile walk. There is a magic workshop today as well as the crew talent show tonight. I may check out Monsters Inc in 3D at the movies, but enough about my relaxing day…

Melvin and I went to Palo for brunch earlier this morning. Their brunch is absolutely positively out of this world. First, let me share the regular awesome breakfast buffet that you get in either Beach Blanket Buffet or Parrot Cay. My pictures don’t do it justice but you get the idea.

Cheeses, Smoked Salmon

20121219-103443.jpg

Fruit

20121219-103458.jpg

Toppings for Hot Cereals or Yogurt

20121219-103428.jpg

Sausage, Bacon, Potatoes, Eggs, Pancakes

20121219-103508.jpg
There is also an omelet station with Mickey waffles as well as oatmeal and cream of wheat area.

A Palo Brunch
A Palo brunch is an additional $20 per person. It is adults-only and no jeans, shorts or flip flops ar allowed. The manager assigned our server, Toni, from dinner the other night. The chef personally welcomed us back as well as the other servers who remembered us from the other night.

When we had our first Palo brunch a few years ago, we were totally overwhelmed. There is an abundance of choices that the your server walks you through a tour of each station. Brunch comes with a complimentary glass of champagne or mimosa.

Station #1: hot sticky buns, breakfast type sweets and breads

20121219-103600.jpg

Station #2: cheeses, crackers, nuts, grapes, breads (blue cheese and walnut bread was excellent!)

20121219-103610.jpg

Station #3: antipasti, tomato/mozzarella, mini bloody marys

20121219-103615.jpg

Station #4: shrimp cocktail, crab legs, salmon mousse, caviar

20121219-103621.jpg
Pizzas: you can order a personal sized pizza after you eat all of the above. The choices include a grape/blue cheese, margherita, spicy sausage and another one. Toni will bring it to you plated. You can order half and half if you feel you can’t eat a whole one.
Breakfast Hot Dishes: If you want a hot breakfast, in additional to all of the above, you can order eggs florentine, frittata, pancakes. This is also plated for you.
Lunch Hot Dishes: If you want lunch, in addition to all of the above, you can order chicken parmesan, veal, tilapia and something else. Again, plated.

20121219-103637.jpg

The head chef at Palo (very nice and warm guy)

20121219-103642.jpg

Station #5: Desserts

20121219-103626.jpg

Palo is on deck 10 at the back of the ship (aft) with a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean. It’s a luxury that’s worth every bite. We are going there to dinner again tomorrow night.

Ice Sculpture

20121219-111058.jpg

Captain Black Sparrow and his wench

Last night was pirate night on the ship. People go all out and dress up like pirates. Even Melvin. We skipped our regular 8:15 dinner and saw Wreck-It Ralph in 3D. Then we partied at the Pirates of the Caribbean Deck Party on the top deck. They shot fireworks off of the ship at the end of the party. Disney is the only cruise ship allowed to shoot fireworks. They had an elaborate buffet after the party until 11:15pm. Fruit, tacos, giant turkey legs, honey glazed ham, and two dessert stations including a crepes bar! They say folks average about 5 lbs on a cruise. Now do you see why?

Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party
20121218-211733.jpg

20121218-213249.jpg

Captain Black Sparrow

20121218-211836.jpg

Pirate Night Buffet

20121218-211720.jpg

20121218-211745.jpg

20121218-211752.jpg

20121218-211757.jpg

20121218-211806.jpg

20121218-211812.jpg

20121218-211817.jpg

20121218-211822.jpg

20121218-211826.jpg

The Captain and his wench

20121218-211842.jpg

Today is a sea day so we’re going to Palo for brunch. I will share pictures of the brunch buffet as well as the regular restaurant’s breakfast buffet later.

Banged in Cartagena then found the dark side of the Holy Ghost

Today we were in Cartagena, Colombia, South America.

Cartagena Skyline

20121218-145907.jpg

This was the first time we did a private tour instead of a Disney excursion. We went on a city tour guided by Marelvy Pena-Hall who has been touring since the 1990s. She’s Colombiana and her husband is an artist from Pittsburgh. There were 18 of us and it was $55 a person. The tour was worth it even though it was a sunny and humid 82 degrees today. (My hair actually held up!)

Marelvy with Cartagena in the distance

20121218-145340.jpg

When we got off the ship, we were welcomed by the locals. The women in the beautiful dresses are from the only culture in Colombia that speaks a mixture of African and Spanish. In the old city, if you take their picture, they charge a dollar. They have an abundance of emeralds and flowers. Also 15% of the biodiversity (different types of species -I had to ask Melvin what that meant) of the earth is in Colombia. They export oil and import gas because they don’t have refineries. Gas was $6.00 a gallon!

Our Welcome to Cartegena

20121218-145501.jpg

The african/spanish ladies

20121218-140936.jpg

Banged in Cartagena
We started in Manga which is an island within the city of Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena for short). Went to the top of a hill to La Popa which used to be a monastery for a perfect lookout over the city. On the way up the windy road, our van got banged by another van. Nobody was hurt but our driver was pretty upset. There were a lot of motorbikes along the way known as mototaxis. They pick up a person and they pay a fare just like taxis. They are working on a road that will have bus stops. Folks are used to catch buses like we catch a taxi in the U.S. They get on where they are and get off when they need to get off. Marelvy said that folks will not be happy with bus stops.

Mototaxis (cannot work on every other Friday)

20121218-145747.jpg

Pictures Inside La Popa (pays homage to the Virgin de Candle Mass…she looks over the entire city)

20121218-141312.jpg

20121218-141259.jpg

<a

20121218-141322.jpg
<a

20121218-141234.jpg

The Old City
This place was the best part of the tour for me. I loved the spanish colonial architecture. The folks paint their houses every year before Christmas because the rainy season lasts from April to November.

Church of San Pedro Claver (patron of the slaves)

20121218-141220.jpg

San Pedro Claver, a slave and Melvin

20121218-141156.jpg

Pictures around the Old City

20121218-150048.jpg

20121218-141205.jpg

20121218-141150.jpg

20121218-141134.jpg

20121218-141121.jpg

20121218-141102.jpg

20121218-145432.jpg

20121218-145657.jpg

House of the richest man in Cartegena (he works in radio/tv)

20121218-141045.jpg

Hotel where the celebrities stay; used to be a monestary

20121218-141033.jpg

Espiritu Santo (Holy Ghost)
Marelvy took us to where the locals go for lunch called Espiritu Santo which translates to the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost. Melvin and I shared a ribeye steak platter with plantains, coconut rice and salad for $10. They didn’t speak english so we ordered through Marelvy. It was a nice clean restaurant with air conditioning…until the electricity went out so we had to move to the front where we could see what we were eating. Good thing they cooked with gas.

20121218-141006.jpg

<a

I enjoyed Cartagena but didn't like the pushiness of the vendors. They would hold stuff up in your face until you walked away or said "no gracias". They would even knock on the windows of the van to try to sell you their stuff. It was very annoying at times.

Melvin said he could come back because he liked the history, pretty buildings and architecture. He said there was a lot of life here. I could come back but not as a tourist and just "be" in the culture with the locals. If you're in Cartagena, check out Marelvy.

Marelvy and us

20121218-140958.jpg

We’re pushing off now and heading to Costa Maya. After two sea days, we will be there on the day the world ends 12.21.12 (according to the Mayan calendar). I asked the cruise director if there would be t-shirts. He said that since some people take it very seriously, so Disney wouldn’t be celebrating it. Shucks.

By the way, the ship scraped the side of one of the Panama Canal locks yesterday. It scraped rocks into one of the porthole windows. By the time, we got outside, they had repainted the side of the ship.

Tonight is Pirate night so we’ll be going to the Pirates of the Caribbean party and the late night buffet. Will share pix of that later.

Have a great night mateys!

Fancy dinner at Palo on the Disney Wonder

As I told you in an earlier blog, Melvin and I went to Palo restaurant the other night. It is an adult-exclusive restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine. We had about six courses. I had a huge “food baby” afterwords. Our server, Toni, was featured in World Traveler magazine for excellent service. He’s a 6’5″ nice guy from Croatia. He was very knowledgeable about the dishes and how each dish was prepared. Working in Palo is a promotion from the rotational restaurants so you have to be top notch to work here. All of his recommendations were spot on.

20121217-091618.jpg

We started with antipasti from the antipasti table. The 400-day aged parmesan cheese along with the 8 year old aged balsamic vinegar was a great start. For appetizer, I had the northern bean soup with prosciutto. Smooth and smoky. Melvin had a shrimp dish. For entree, I couldn’t decide on the lasagna or the lobster & mascarpone ravioli. Toni recommended that we get a small pasta dish such as the lasagna and get a meat entree for our main course. So we both got a small lasagna and lobster ravioli. Lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate. Next was the beef tenderloin w/ gorgonzola cheese. Melvin had the sea bass in parchment paper. Palo is known for their chocolate souffle which they pre-order for you. Toni recommended a light panna cotta with delicious berries at the bottom. And they give you a small lemoncello mixed with lemon sorbet to finish the night. Bon appetit!

White Bean Soup with Prosciutto, Red Cabbage & Radishes

20121217-091324.jpg

Lobster & Mascarpone Ravioli

20121217-092714.jpg

Mini Portion of Lasagna

20121217-091351.jpg

Beef Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Cheese

20121217-091417.jpg

Lemon Sorbet to cleanse the palate

20121217-091400.jpg

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Berries at Bottom and Biscotti Bites

20121217-091428.jpg

Tiramisu (check out the cookie spoon)

20121217-091546.jpg

THE Chocolate Soufflé with Chocolate and Vanilla Sauces and Vanilla Ice Cream

20121217-091554.jpg

We are going back for brunch and another dinner later this week. The brunch is absolutely out of this world!

We are now in Cartagena Colombia. Will share pix of our city tour tomorrow. Then its’s two more sea days before Costa Maya. Have a great day!