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Live: 1st w/Princess, FLL-Panama-SF, Pix?s, Terry/Ohio


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At the top, it says "write a review", so here goes in live, blogging style. At the bottom of each post, you can see links to many of the previous and popular cruise blogs. Two have had over 210,000 views, while our early 2014 Australia-New Zealand-Hawaii adventure is now at 172,000+ views. It seems that the visuals make a big, interesting difference, sharing the beauty and drama from these wonderful areas, our ?life? on the ship, etc. Tell me what you like, any questions, suggestions, etc. Don?t be shy!!


Our past cruising?: We have done seven previous cruises. First was June 2006 on 204-passenger Seabourn Spirit, Athens to Istanbul, enjoying these Greek-Turkish areas. Late July 2008 on the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony, Dover/UK to Stockholm, for the Baltics and Russia. July 2010 on the 296-passenger Silversea Silver Cloud from Copenhagen seeing the dramatic Norway coast, above the Arctic Circle, Top of Europe, etc. June, 2011 from Barcelona for Italy, the Croatian Coast on this same 2850-passenger Celebrity Solstice that we used for two weeks from Sydney to Auckland in early 2014. In 2015, we escaped the Midwest cold winter with 26-days doing a return to the Silver Cloud going a 1000 miles up the Amazon River and then visiting, on this back-to-back, follow-up cruise on the same ship ten different Caribbean Islands. Last year, it was our first visit to Africa, doing five days in Cape Town, a ten-day Silver Cloud sailing along the South African coast, then by air to Victoria Falls and six days of safari exploring in Botswana. All four cruise line companies are different and very good with great service, fellow passengers, staff, etc.


What?s best? The honest answer is . . . it depends!!!. Ports, schedules, timing and prices vary much. The most fun is what you are doing now and planning the next fun trip for the future.


What will be the "verdict" for our first time sailing with Princess? This is our first cruise for visiting Colombia, Central America, Mexico and, of course, the famed Panama Canal!. This cruise length is fifteen days with eight sea-days. Lots more sea-days than normal for us. This cruise option came up fairly late as my wife, Penny, learned that some high school classmate were doing this Panama Canal cruise that finishes in scenic and historic San Francisco. Initially, we were not sure such a Panama Canal cruise would be that interesting. BUT, as we talked with a number of other travelers who had done this sailing, they all raved and super praised doing this journey. We got this cruise booked in October, plus scheduling excellent, low-cost Southwest Air non-stop flights to Fort Lauderdale and coming back from the Bay area.


We arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Monday, Feb. 27, ahead of schedule at 1:15 pm, got checked into our 14th floor rooms at the GalleryOne Doubletree overlooking the Intercostal Waterway and with the beautiful blue Atlantic Ocean to the east. Very scenic, sunny and nice!! The Fort Lauderdale "Water Taxi" stopped right at our hotel and we bought an all-day pass. Super enjoyed traveling around, seeing the fancy, mega-million-dollar homes and yachts along these local waterways. We stopped at the Las Olas Blvd. district, having lunch there in this pulsing and happening location, sampling some great galleries, doing more south of the main town, etc. We changed boats and went all of the way down to Hollywood Beach, saw a great sunset as we passed the Port Everglades commercial docking location with many big ship being loaded, enjoyed walking around on the beach-front boardwalk, etc.


We were supposed to get together Monday night dinner with a Cruise Critic board ?star? and fellow-poster with her DH at their favorite local Italian dining place. BUT, he had a dental emergency Sunday with a painful broken tooth and lost gold crown. He got to a dentist, had a "fix" done and is healing now. Good news!


We boarded the Island Princess at 1:30 pm Tuesday and all went smoothly and was fairly efficient. No long lines for waiting! Our line and going through the security scanning actually was quicker than what the Princess ?Elite? passenger experienced. Even with the two bottles of wine carry-on limit, nobody even checked to see how many bottles we actually had as a carry-on. We also bought in Fort Lauderdale a "private stock" of Diet Pepsi, Diet Mountain Dew, sparkling waters, etc. That was easy to have put in a separate, added bag we had and check it directly onto the ship. Easy! Saved lots of money compared to the on-ship beverage costs.


Our first overall impressions on the ship have been very good. Food, both in the main Bordeaux dining room and at the Horizon Court buffet, have been surprisingly done very nicely, offering a wide variety, served warm, being tasty, etc. The buffet has been much above our expectations!! But, for those of us with ?Any Time? dining, however, it only means at many prime hours between and around 6 and 7 pm that you can leave a name and maybe wait 30-45 minutes. Calling this "Any Time" is not exactly true. Calling for a reservation at 8 am to get a dining time in the evening is also a super frustrating challenge/process, unless you get really lucky.


Last night, the first major production show in the Princess Theater was "Encore". We were tipped off by Ann from Dublin, who had been on this same ship doing a Panama Canal transit a couple of weeks ago, that this show was really excellent. Ann was 100% correct!! Yes! Yes!! Encore was spectacular. Great costumes, singing, dancing, sets, lighting, etc. Need proof and solid evidence? I have five wonderful pictures to share!! WOW! Seeing is believing. BUT . . . .


PRINCESS PHOTO BLOCKING??!!: This morning, it was impossible even to connect with the Photobucket picture hosting site. Nor, to upload any of the great pictures taken on-board early in this cruise. You should see some of the nice visuals of the sail-away, ship facilities, food and other fun experiences so far. I went to the tech staff, including talking with the tech department head for this Island Princess ship. He confirmed that Princess has a policy to BLOCK any and all such access!! I explained my goals and past easy uploading for other lines, including the ?good free advertising? from my taking the time to do these postings on Cruise Critic. He understood and ?got it? regarding my frustration. He promised to check with the Princess Central Office bosses to see if any solutions are possible. Sorry, for now!


Yes, I understand that some cruise ships do not want Internet uses with big, BIG bandwidth consumption. BUT, most every one of my pictures I would upload to Photobucket are only 141 KB to 313 KB each in size. In uploading just six pictures at a time, two or three times a day, of this small size, it is hardly a ?data hog?!! I bought and paid of the larger 680 minute Internet package for this cruise in order to share these visuals and our travel details.


Any other reactions or experiences with Princess on these Internet issues?? Sorry, I do not have any handy folks to whom I can e-mail these pictures so that these visuals can be posted by them from their off-ship location. Yes, I could try waiting until getting in a port and uploading from there. But, our first two ports in Aruba and Colombia are very tight with the narrow port time schedules. There would not be any free time to hang there and accomplish what Princess will not allow from the ship.


We arrive tomorrow at 7 am (actually 6 am EST) in Aruba and must do the sail-away by 1 pm. More later.


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


Enjoyed a 14-day, Jan. 20-Feb. 3, 2014, Sydney to Auckland adventure, getting a big sampling for the wonders of "down under? before and after this cruise. Go to:


for more info and many pictures of these amazing sights in this great part of the world. Now at 172,262 views for this posting.

Edited by TLCOhio
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To prepare for this Panama Canal "adventure", it was suggested by many to read David McCullough's "Path Between the Seas". WOW! This book is 617 pages, but the details for what was involved more than a hundred years ago makes a very amazing drama!!


And to think that most of the poured concrete for these huge locks and most of the steel hardware is still performing today is very amazing. Great engineering to build this canal, especially under the challenging topographic and tropical conditions that existed there in this hot, rainy jungle location that required going through large hilly, mountain land masses for completion.


I have a large number of graphics and historic pictures to share and help in communicating this project?s dramatic scope, its terrain, the impact on world shipping, etc. The health and weather conditions here were really significantly challenging. Thousands and thousands of workers died during the failed French attempts here in the late 1800?s, plus thousands more during the early days of the American efforts in the early 1900?s.


Another key factor was the massive logistics to get all of the materials there for the construction, the housing and feeding of the work crews, etc., etc. There were no handy Home Depot or Lowe's in these neighborhoods to pick up extra tools, bags of concrete, wood timbers, etc. It all had to be shipped in by boat, mostly from the port of New York City.


One key element on this project was the engineering choices for the "lake and locks" design approach used in the actual construction by the Americans in the early 1900?s. Much of the original credit for this canal goes to the earlier Frenchman Godin de L?’pinay for this eventual, smarter concept of a locks and large lake plan. The Suez Canal engineer from France, Ferdinand de Lesseps, was totally driven and only considering a sea-level canal for use at this site. Once the Panama "revolution" happened and the land was separated from Colombia, there was an early American rail engineer named John Stevens. He was very key in getting things started for this construction project of a scale never previously seen. Stevens pushed strongly on President Teddy Roosevelt to avoid trying a sea-level design in favor of a locks system on both the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean sides. Stevens' major focus was on preparing the area, doing logistics, getting the railroad in better order, working to get the health issues fixed, etc. Stevens knew that building the world's largest lake dam at that time to connect these locks, plus the very large locks themselves, were not exactly within his field of rail engineering expertise. That was part of the reason that Stevens departed the project somewhat earlier than expected.


When I finished reading McCullough's "Paths Between the Seas", there is no doubt that trying such a sea-level canal would have been a "Mission Impossible" challenge for construction and operations. Glad that Roosevelt showed leadership in avoided attempting that sea-level option.


During much of my pre-trip research, I also, learned that a large number of the many, many steam shovels and drilling equipment used on this project were made in Marion, Ohio, just 45 minutes north of of where we live in Columbus. And Marion is where my wife, Penny, grew up. And, some very special and long-lasting special steel hardware items were crafted in Wheeling, West Virginia, just two hours to the east on Interstate 70 from where we live now. Much of the steel for the canal came from Pittsburgh. The details on the electric motors by General Electric were also an added unique aspects as to how this complex project came together and worked.


Earlier in February, I sent an e-mail to the great-grandson of William Howard Taft. The older Taft had been Teddy Roosevelt's Secretary of War supervising the construction during the 1904-08 period among his many duties during this time. Then, there was Taft's role as the U.S. President during the 1909 to 1913 period as the canal construction was being finalized. I wrote to Bob Taft, a former Ohio Governor (1999-2007), and he gave me some very good background on his great-grandfather. I had mentioned about having just read David McCullough's "Path Between the Seas" book.


The younger Taft replied: "I am envious of your trip - it sounds fascinating. The Path between the Seas was one of the best books I have read - an amazing story of the spectacular French failure and the by far the hardest ultimate U.S. success - probably the worst terrain on earth to build a canal through. I don't have any unique stories of WHT and the Canal - I have read his biographies and knew he was intimately involved. There is a great photo of him dressed fit to kill on a railroad car inspecting the progress (attached). He had some interesting assignments under TR, including serving as interim governor general of Cuba in the wake of an uprising there."


Later, I will post the visual that William Howard Taft's great-grandson sent last month to me. I also have a number of other visuals of Taft and the Canal, etc., during this period.


On William Howard Taft, he had been the U.S. Solicitor General (when he first got to know Teddy Roosevelt) and then a Judge on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the late 1800's. Taft was summoned to Washington, DC, by a telegram from then President William McKinley in January 1900 to set up a civilian government in the Philippine Islands at the end of the Spanish-American War. In September, 1901, McKinley (from Ohio and a former Governor in our state) was shot in Buffalo, Teddy Roosevelt became President and the rest, as they say, became history including the Panama Canal project. After Taft lost his re-election effort in 1912 for President (when Teddy came back as a spoiler, third-party candidate), this Taft later became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, serving 1921 to 1930.


During Taft?s four years as secretary of war (1904-1908), this Taft became Roosevelt's chief agent and troubleshooter in foreign affairs. Besides supervising the Panama Canal construction, Taft made several voyages around the world for the President. Taft traveled more than any other cabinet minister, with over 255 days of his four years spent abroad on special missions. As I re-call reading, WH Taft during this period made five different trips to inspect the Panama project progress.


Lots of interesting history and background. In February 1907, when Chief Engineer John Stevens resigned, Taft recommended an army engineer, George W. Goethals, to take control. Under Goethals, the project moved ahead smoothly to completion. One of William Howard Taft's quote about the canal was: "My impression about the Panama Canal is that the great revolution it is going to introduce in the trade of the world is in the trade between the east and the west coast of the United States."


From the Chicago Tribune in late December, they had this headline: "

"Panama's new canal: A plus for the Midwest, but also a triumph of human yearning" with these some of these interesting highlights: "In June, the banner could read: 'New and improved!'. Panama unveiled a $5 billion-plus new set of locks and channels to handle larger ships alongside the original canal. The new locks are longer 1,400 feet and wider 180 feet than the original 1,000-foot-long by 110-foot-wide canal, which opened more than a century ago. The new locks are also deeper, by 18 feet. Over the years, the canal that was among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, grew less wonderful. It couldn?t accommodate the mammoth container vessels that move goods from food to clothing to cars between distant ports."


The writers cited this from the Los Angeles Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds, Sept. 18, 1994: "The Atlantic begins here, the Pacific over there, and between them lie 51 miles of deep ditch, aged machinery, steamy jungle, epic engineering, malarial history and murky politics. Every 45 minutes or so, another big boat floats past in the humidity, bearing oil or bananas or lumber or tourists through a 110-foot-wide passage of concrete and steel. This is the jewel that so many cruise-lovers are so eager to wear in their crowns."


Here are a few other info item that I view to be of value in preparing in early March for our first visit and trip through the Canal: ?After a nine-year construction project, the canal can handle ships toting up to 14,000 containers, a vast improvement from the previous capacity of 5,000. The canal transformed Panama into a banking, trading and airline mecca and became one of the most lucrative and valuable tracts of real estate on Earth. That's why shipping still drives global commerce and global competition and is intense. Suez Canal officials finished work in 2015 on a new $4 billion parallel lane to accommodate two-way traffic on much of its 120 miles through Egypt. Chinese billionaire Wang Jing planned to build a canal three times as long and twice as deep in southern Nicaragua. But so far there are no visible signs of progress on this project."


Full Chicago Tribune story at:



From added sources, here are some additional background to consider:

1. Prior to the Canal?s construction, people crossed the Isthmus of Panama by sailing boats along the Chagres River, then riding mules the rest of the way.

2. Up to 50,000 workers at a time helped carve through 51 miles of earth and hard granite to form the Panama Canal.

3. The steel gates for the locks are six feet thick.

4. Ships are raised and lowered through the locks using water pulled from Gatun Lake by gravity alone.

5. About 52 million gallons of water fill each lock of the Canal.


More to come, but this gives some key basics about why this Panama Canal has fascinated so many people over the decades.


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


For details and visuals, etc., from our July 1-16, 2010, Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise experience from Copenhagen on the Silver Cloud, check out this posting. This posting is now at 210,118 views.


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I'll be following Terry, Check my reply on your other post. If that will work let me know. Mark


Appreciate Mark's interest and kind offer. Let me see how things work out for the next few days with Princess.


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


Did a June 7-19, 2011, cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Dozens of nice visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc. We are now at 222,153 views for this live/blog re-cap, including much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:


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Thank you for the details. And take good care of that boat, as I, DH and a number of friends will be getting on in SF when you get off. I love history and now need to add that long book to must reads for the cruise! My great-grandpa served under Teddy in the Spanish American war and didn't have very nice things to say. But it's all perspective, I suppose.


As a somewhat stretch, one of my favorite classic movies is Arsenic and Old Lace. I love the crazy brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt digging for the locks in the basement, when in reality he's creating gravesites for his sweet, but murderous old aunts.


Can't wait to hear more! I'm still deciding what to pack! We're not big on soda, but I like wine so bringing a few extras (being from this area, I cringe at paying 5 times the price for mediocre CA wines) and plan to enjoy some G&T's in observance of the drink's origins (keeps malaria at bay, right?). Since I don't like standard bar tonic water, I'm thinking of bringing some good Tonic water with my carryon. I would love to hear if the bars there do offer tonics other than the stuff from the gun.


I'll be watching for updates until we board. We too paid the max for internet onboard. Being long time in the tech business, we're not expecting much in terms of speed or bandwidth, but it's good to know in advance what to expect.

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Appreciate these nice follow-ups and interest. Getting ready to arrive in Aruba, which we had a chance to visit during our Amazon River-Caribbean adventure two years ago.


Here is the complete schedule for this cruise:

Depart: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Tuesday, February 28, 4 pm Sail Away


Day 2, At Sea, Wednesday, March 1

Day 3, At Sea, Thursday, March 2


Day 4, Aruba, Friday, March 3, 7 am-1 pm


Day 5, Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday, March 4, 9 am-3 pm

Day 6, Panama Canal (Scenic Cruising) Panama, Sunday, March 5, 6 am-4:30 pm


Day 7, At Sea, Monday, March 6


Day 8, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 7, 3:15 am-7 pm. Not sure I understand the why and how for arriving at 3:15 am in this port. Maybe it is about tides? I plan to get up early, early and try to get some sunrise shots from shore of the ship and area.

Day 9, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, Wednesday, March 8, (Tender), 7 am-6 pm


Day 10, At Sea, Thursday, March 9

Day 11, At Sea, Friday, March 10

Day 12, At Sea, Saturday, March 11


Day 13, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sunday, March 12, (Tender), 8 am-5 pm


Day 14, At Sea, Monday, March 13

Day 15, At Sea, Tuesday, March 14


Day 16, San Francisco, California, Wednesday, March 15, 7 AM


3 formal nights and 12 smart casual nights.


Aruba history:

For Aruba, here is some background on this island in the what was originally the Dutch ABC's.


In a parking lot two years ago, we saw this phrase on the license plates: "One Happy Island". Seems to fit and we can understand why is is used as the official motto of Aruba. Aruba's economy is fueled by tourists' dollars, totaling now about 70% of their economy. This island is more focused on tourism than the neighboring islands Bonaire and Curacao. Most Arubans speak English and accept U.S. currency, and shops located in and around the port area are American -- Tommy Hilfiger, Diamonds International, plus even in a smaller towns, there was Taco Bell, McDonalds, etc.


Aruba has a rich, layered heritage. The first people to inhabit the island were a nation of Arawak Indians. (The name Aruba seems to have derived from the Arawak Indian word oibubai, which means guide.) In 1499, the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda laid claim to the territory for Queen Isabella. Nearly 200 years later, the Dutch captured the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire from the Spanish, and much of that heritage can be seen in its pastel Old World architecture.


On Aruba, you do not come here for the old, historic buildings. It is for the diversions and some describe Aruba as the Caribbean's theme park. Lots and lots of casinos, duty-free shops, more than two dozen dive sites, a few famous shipwrecks and even a championship golf course. Lots of cactus here and then there are Aruba's trademark divi divi trees that always point in a southwesterly direction (due to trade winds that blow from the northeast). Loved during morning tour in 2015 seeing the sandy beaches that ring the island.


Located only 20 miles north of Venezuela, temperatures are consistently pleasant (lows in the 70s, highs in the 80s). There is no rainy season as its rainfall is very limited and averages only about 20 inches total for a year. Its location is far below the Atlantic hurricane belt. Aruba's dry climate makes it home to large mondis (forests of cacti). As we drove around the island in 2015, you could feel like you are in Arizona, rather than the Caribbean!



On the seventh or Promenade level, I really liked the Wheelhouse Lounge and the nice hall/walkway that connects between the Princess Theater and the large, open atrium. This large, central open area is between the fifth and eighth levels with two Panoramic Lifts. For the Wheelhouse area, they have classic dark woods, nice historic paintings and decor, plus, most important, lots of comfortable chairs and sofa options. Many of these furniture items are leather covered. That makes it nice for both sitting and feeling back in the old trans-Atlantic sailing days. In the evenings, they have music here. Plus, surprise, this is a bar and they like to sell drinks here.


Here is more on Captain Andrea Poggi. He was born in Rigoroso, Arquata Scrivia, Italy, and graduated in 1971 from the Nautical Institute in Genoa, 1971, the largest port of the Mediterreanean Sea. After spending 2 years with the Italian Navy on a submarine, started his service on passenger ships in May 1983, when he joined the Fairstar of Sitmar Cruises. He was promoted to Staff Captain in August 1991 on board the Crown Princess and Captain on Regal Princess in 1999. In past years he has commanded the Crown, Regal, Ocean, Sea and the Island Princess. The ship bio says that Captain Poggi likes to spend his spare time motorbike racing and tracking on the north Italian Alps.


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


From our Jan. 25-Feb. 20, 2015, Amazon River-Caribbean] combo sailing over 26 days that started in Barbados, here is the link below to that live/blog. Lots of great visuals from this amazing Brazil river and these various Caribbean Islands (Dutch ABC's, St. Barts, Dominica, Grenada, etc.) that we experienced. Check it out at:


Now at 48,422 views for these postings.


On the Celebrity Solstice, here is the Solarium that was one of our most favorite areas on this ship. Sorry, not yet able to upload photos from Princess with the web censorship policy. Food and drinks were nearby and it was very relaxed and sophisticated in this Solstice area. The Island Princess does have an indoor pool area, but it is not as open and dramatic as compared to what Celebrity offers with the nice art and design, etc. Wonderful setting with Celebrity for relaxing and watching the outside water/shore views, enjoying subtle inside action, etc.:



Here is a photo highlight from our Celebrity Solstice ship production show in 2014 called "Ghostlight--The Spirit of Broadway". Lots of great tunes, including many from the Four Seasons as done on Broadway with Jersey Boys. Nice lighting, staging, sets, etc.



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Just docking now in Aruba at a little after 6 am local time. Nicely ahead of schedule!! We are right next to the Scientology ship that is based in this port. Very windy here this morning with a temperature of 79F. By late afternoon, it will be a high 86F here with some cloudy. Maybe a shower chance today.


At 3 pm today, after our Aruba sail-away, there will be an Enrichment Lecture on the history of the Panama Canal by Humberto Neto in the Princess Theater.


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


AFRICA?!!?: Lots of interesting and dramatic pictures can be seen from my live/blog from early 2016 at:


Now at 30,181 views for this reporting and visual sharing that includes Cape Town, all along the South Africa coast, Mozambique, Victoria Falls/Zambia and Botswana's famed Okavango Delta area.

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HI all!


TLCOhio ~ so glad to have found you early in your posting! I'm looking forward to seeing what you do & how you like Cartagena. Hope you get to see the little zoo there at the port, it's a nice oasis from the heat of the dock area.

Going on a similar cruise in Nov. '18 so very interested in your opinion.

Have a great cruise & hope they let you post pictures.


~ Jo ~ :)

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I am an IT professional and found that if I limit the number of pictures to upload to one at a time I had no issues uploading successfully. The biggest issue is the ship does not have the band width available to allow you to upload many pictures at one time. what is the address of your blog as I would love to read it.

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Nice start to a long trip. Too bad about not uploading your pics. First I have ever heard of that. I am on Princess for the first time in July and was planning on doing a pictorial for my family. Guess that won't happen

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Appreciate all of these nice postings and follow-up. Yes, plead guilty as being an Ohio State football, etc., fan and that I really love good Belgian beer!!


Had a great, but very short part of a day in Aruba. Only here from 7 am to 1 pm. Wish we would have more time there, but that was the Princess scheduling. We are now approaching Cartagena, Colombia. We picked up an hour’s extra sleep as the clocks for today and during the Panama Canal are set back on Eastern USA time zone.


In Aruba we did a ship-arranged Pirate’s Ship adventure. Time for snorkeling, but what we could see underwater was rather limited. Sorry!! The wind made the water less clear, etc. And compared to what we saw and did three years ago in the Great Barrier Reef, I realized that that this snorkeling experience would have been much less. It was still very enjoyable fun, flowing drinks, great sights, nice sun, good conversations with our fellow travelers, excellent breezes, etc.


And the pictures??!! Yes, got some great ones!! Really looking good with the sights in and around Aruba. BUT, two days later, still no word or answer back from the Princess central office that the ship’s top tech guy was supposedly writing after my complaints. Will keep you posted if and when Princess ever bothers to respond. Have discovered a number of other websites that are blocked as Princess does not allow its passengers to use certain normal, acceptable Internet locations that we would use at home and on most other ships.


Sun is rising now and I am in the Wheelhouse Lounge that has very good window views, interesting background music and great leather furniture for writing. And I am the only one here allow an excellent writing environment.


Food continues to be very, very good! Last night’s show was PIANO MAN with lots of fun songs from Elton John, Barry Manilow, etc. Set and costumes were different for this show, but not at the level of the initial and super excellent ENCORE program. Still an excellent and well-performed program. We attended the early 5:45 pm time. Got there early and had perfect seventh row, center seats. The later 7:30 pm show was jammed to over-flow!! No feed-back as to busy was the later 9:45 pm program. By my rough count, this theater seat about 600 people. Three more ship production shows are scheduled to come, including one featuring Motown music. Love that period of songs!! Don’t want to miss the entertainment. We have been very pleased with the quality from these programs.


Complaints??: Lots of flyers left with the Platter newsletter that is wasting paper, pushing on selling the spa, jewelry, drinks, etc. Too much emphasis on the ship for those purposes. BUT, that goes with the game with these size and types of cruise ships. You do not like this salesmanship, but it is fairly easy to ignore.


From two years ago, here is a link to my many, many earlier pictures from Aruba with my “Pix's, Fun, Experiences Feb./2015!”. Will have many more to add after we return to full Internet access and use. You can see more about Aruba at:



THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


If Venice is one of your future desires or past favorites, look at this earlier posting for many options and visual samples this city that is so great for "walking around", personally seeing its great history and architecture. This posting is now at 66,079 views.

Venice: Loving It & Why??!!


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Hey Terry,

Good to hear you're at sea once again. We have been thru the Canal before and are taking our kids and grandson next year. We'll be on Coral Princess. Our trip in FLL to LAX then I think we're staying on to Vancouver. I actually have a photo of the Island Princess going thru the Gatun Locks next to us. When we did this last, I snorkeled in Aruba (the shipwreck that's in about 60ft of water) and found the visibility less than great. If you guys really like to snorkel, you should try French Polynesia. Just came back from there on Sirena. Great trip for snorkelers! Looking forward to your comments on Cartagena and Punta Arenas. They are also on our itinerary. I've misplaced your email (hard drive failure a couple of years ago). Our cruise on Cloud remains one of our vacation highlights:D.



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Loving your review/blog TLCOhio. We will be on the Coral in 2 weeks. Although our itinerary will be a little different this gives us an insight of ours. Can't wait to see what you have to say regarding Cartagena. We have a private tour arranged for our stop there.

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DH, friends and I will be sailing out on 3/15 from SF to FLL so I am excited to follow you on your journey. I just finished Path Between the Seas myself. Very long read but it sure gave me a better appreciation of what it took to complete that engineering marvel. I can't wait to see it in person.


I have been concerned that the Island Princess was the wrong choice, due to the many negative comments about overcrowding everywhere. I noticed you have sailed on Crystal and Silversea, I'm sure it doesn't compare. I'd still love to get your feedback on the crowds so I can prepare my friends (who are avid HAL fans).

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Hi Terry,

Knew I'd find you if I looked.

If I could post photos for you, you know I would but it sounds like the issue is uploading?

If not let me know and send to my email which you have, and I will try and post.

I can't understand why ship would want to block photos.


Sounds like you are having fun...

Continue to enjoy!

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Appreciate all of the comments and those dropping by. Yes, might e-mail some picture to Spins in south Florida to give a little better ideas as to our experiences. Don't be shy with any questions.


Did we love exploring this charming old-world city of Cartagena Saturday that was born at the height of the Spanish Empire? Here is the quick answer . . . YES!!!


As we walked around the Cartagena, Colombia, old town area, it allowed us to journey back to the days of the Spanish explorers and galleons. We could envision the role played by the conquistadors and padres as Spain ruled this and so many parts of the New World. It was not always a pretty period based on the uses of power by both the church and Spain, but it is history and fact.


Our ship tour on the morning of March 4 gave us an excellent sampling of Cartagena’s history, culture and scenery during this half-day tour from about 10 am to 2 pm. Fortunately, we got there in the morning before the heat became too bad.


This adventure began when we met our guide. He proudly said he was the best guide in Cartagena. And, you know, he might just have been totally correct!! Marcos really did a great job with his historic details, demographic and geographic background, Colombian pride, sense of humor, moving style and offering some good fun for our time with him in his dynamic and interesting city. It was also great that there were only 18 people in our group that made things easier and more manageable.


Our first stop was at historic Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This spectacular old fortress reflected why Cartagena was among the most impenetrable cities in this part of the Spanish Empire. Lots pirates, the British, etc., were about in those days for which to worry and from whom to protect. This 17th-century construction was the largest Spanish fort in the New World, representing impressive Spanish military engineering. This fortress is much larger than the Spanish one in San Juan, P.R., that we super enjoyed exploring in early February 2015.


This Cartagena fortress had massive walls and parapets that connected with an extensive battery of guns and other fortifications that commanded the bay. We had a brief photo stop here that worked very well for our needs. We did not have time to climb up, UP and UP to the top, but for my aged legs with only one marginal knee, that was a super fine timing limitation. Yes, there were tons and tons of sellers of souvenirs, drinks, photo ops, etc., at this site. Quick Hint? Do not accept their first price option/offering. They will drop that price very quickly if you act uninterested. Warning! They are not shy! A bit pesky, but that is all somewhat normal about popular tourist stops.


Our guide made that point that the middle-class has grown significantly in Colombia. Their political and crime/drug-lord situations/challenges have improved. We felt very safe in this city and having a good guide along in our small group helped. As we were sailing in to dock, the massive number of fancy high-rises were very clear and impressive. Most of these are either condos or apartments with more being built. Much of this wall of white, shinning, tall structures reminds one of Miami and south Florida.


We then traveled through the heavy traffic and twisting, congested streets to the old walled city that was the top highlight of our day here in Colombia. There are about 102 narrow streets here and it has become the very popular real estate location for residences and high-end hotels. This old town area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We saw walls with various gun batteries. We very much enjoyed our main stop and tour inside the historic San Pedro Claver Church. It was built in the 17th century and has many statues and old-world furnishings honoring the life and work of missionary Saint Peter Claver. He was the patron saint of slaves and the first saint canonized by the Roman church from the Western Hemisphere.


As we entered this church, there was a large group of well-dressed locals departing. There had been a family baptism of a cute baby and seeing these upscale local participating residents was a nice sampling for the variety of people living in this city. We saw several interesting areas of this historic church, including a large rain-forest-like courtyard. At this location, a local man had a couple of large, colorful birds. I got some cute pictures of my wife with these birds on her arm . . . and, just for one dollar. Good value and great local color!


Walking around the streets and city squares of this famed Old City was a fiesta for the senses. We could marvel at the nicely-restored Spanish Colonial buildings, these old fortifications and the unique blend of church domes, clock towers, ocean views, flowering balconies, old doors, street merchants, historic structures, etc.


One of the locations for our next destination originally had been a monastery. Later it been used for a wide range of different purposes, but now it has been turned into high-end hotel named Charleston Santa Teresa. It is on a square named for St. Teresa and had a chapel area that we next visited.


Inside this wonderfully air-conditioned chapel, we enjoyed a folkloric professional show of music and dance produced by the dance director, Giovanni Barandica from the Calenda Folclorico Group. We also were able to get free wi-fit from the hotel as we sat and waited for our ship’s second group to arrive. Did I mention that we were in the front row? YES!! Great seats and the spectacular photo/video results were simply amazing. These young dancer had such great energy, skill and spirit!!


Why? This group of four musicians and twelve dancers did five distinct dances with great costumes and accessories from three important regions of Colombia. This includes from the Atlantic Coast area (Cumbia and Fandango), the Pacific Coast region (Currulao and Sanjuanero) and the Los Andes area (the Market Place). Our tour concluded with traveling along the busy beach areas in from the towering condos and apartments as we headed to a shopping stop at Pierino Gallo Shopping Center. Yes, they had lots of people selling emeralds there and other items. But, the electric was out during our visiting period and the selections were not that much of interest to us and others. By the way, do not forget that Colombia is the world's leading producer of quality emeralds. Yes, coffee beans were available and could be purchased during this stop.


As we headed back to the ship, we saw some of the Manga residential area, that has many various examples of stately "Republican" architecture with several mansions restored to their original splendor. We also drove by their City Hall, arts center and main military training location.


Yes, it was hot in Cartagena, but the breezes, plus air conditioning in the bus and the chapel helped to manage the heat in a good way. Plus, cold bottled water!!


When you see the pictures, you will better appreciate why we loved this first sampling of Colombia. Great, enjoyable visit to Cartagena!


Next? The Panama Canal!!


THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

Super loved Dubrovnik!!! See more details and lots of great visual samples/examples at this link. Have had over 35,211 views on this posting and appreciate those who have tuned-in and dropped by.



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Hi all!


Terry ~ so glad to read that you loved Cartagena & had an excellent tour. We liked that place so much we want to go back.

I want to actually tour the fort.

Our tour didn't begin 'til after 2:00 pm so was very hot. Did you by any chance get to see the little zoo at the port?

Sure hope you'll figure out how to post some pictures as they should be beautiful as always, especially with such a colourful subject.


Enjoy the rest of your cruise. Looking forward to hearing about your Canal experience & the next ports.


~ Jo ~ :)

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Terry ~ so glad to read that you loved Cartagena & had an excellent tour. We liked that place so much we want to go back. I want to actually tour the fort. Our tour didn't begin 'til after 2:00 pm so was very hot. Did you by any chance get to see the little zoo at the port? Sure hope you'll figure out how to post some pictures as they should be beautiful as always, especially with such a colourful subject.Enjoy the rest of your cruise. Looking forward to hearing about your Canal experience & the next ports. ~ Jo ~ :)


Sorry, we did not have time to do the zoo at the port, but did super enjoy our short, overall visit here. Getting ready now on this sea day on the way to Costa Rica to write up about the Panama Canal experience. Yes, the photos will show the exciting sights much better. Still getting no good answers from Princess about their game of web blocking being done in such a poor manner without any serious thought or strategy. Like dealing with a "STONE WALL" in talking with their ship tech and service folks.


Thanks. Terry from Ohio

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Hi Terry! Sounds like you are having a blast.



I just started reading, but if you are still having photo problems, you can email them to me and I will add them to the thread.



And ... don't forget ... you were going to swim out so that you could get a picture of the back corner of the ship for me. :D:evilsmile:

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Hello Terry from Ohio! I am one of the hundreds of thousand viewers of your thoughtful commentaries. So helpful! Can you tell me if you have plans to cruise in Asia (or possibly have already)? We will be doing Celebrity's Asia Immersion cruise next year that begins in Hong Kong and visits 3 ports in Vietnam, then Bangkok and ends in Singapore. Most of the ports are overnights but a significant schlep to the cities. Anything you've written would be appreciated. I'm on several roll calls but they have not been helpful.

BTW we just returned from a Princess cruise to the ABCs and it was an extraordinary experience. (And a stark contrast from our experience on the same ship just four months earlier). If you have an opportunity to hang out in the Sanctuary on any of your Sea days I highly recommend it. A shady breezy location if that's an option. Happy Cruising and thank you for your posts!



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