The year I retired, a fellow retiree and I took a Caribbean Cruise which included a trip through the Panama Canal, the 48-mile ship canal that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and provides quicker access for ships to conduct international trade.
Our fabulous fortnight started with a flight to Acupulco where we then picked up another flight to Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean. We took a bus tour through Costa Rica and had our lunch there at an outdoor café. The tour guide pointed out the trees which contained leather-like pouches that are the covering for cashew nuts. The covering, however, is poisonous, so it is necessary to know when the time is ripe to gather the edible cashew. The growing of cashews in Costa Rica is a huge industry.
Leaving Costa Rica we sailed out into the Pacific Ocean for a spell, since it would be our only view of the beautiful blue Pacific. We were fortunate that we encountered no bad weather for the entire trip. A cruise can be very uncomfortable in stormy weather.
The highlight of our cruise was of course the 15-hour voyage through the Panama Canal. This was plenty of time to watch the workers on either side as they operate the locks which lift the ship up 85 feet without the passengers being aware of this maneuver. I took many pictures of this part of our trip.
Most people are aware of the wonderful meals that are served on a cruise ship. At least eight times a day, including a midnight dinner, we feasted on sumptuous meals. We only sampled the midnight dinner once. The warning is out that a person can gain at least ten pounds while on a cruise ship.
After navigating through the Panama Canal we were in the Caribbean Sea for the remainder of our cruise. We were treated to offshore excursions which took us first to Aruba, an island in the Lesser Antilles. I recall that the limited area where we disembarked abounded with flowers. I have returned to Aruba since that time and have enjoyed the ambience of the entire island.
Our second offshore excursion was to the island of Curacao which is not far from Aruba. Both islands are just north of Venezuela. I was able to bring back a small bottle of Curacao liqueur for which the island is famous. The liqueur is made partially with orange peel and consequently has a distinctive orange flavor. The islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are known as the ABC islands. We did not visit Bonaire.
From there, we sailed to the islands of St. John and St. Thomas which are part of the U. S. Virgin Islands. St. John is famous for its jewelry, both gold and silver, and I purchased a gold necklace in St. John which I recently passed on to one of my daughters.
I must mention that in addition to the offshore excursions, there is a great deal of entertainment on board at other times. Singers, bands and comedians kept us amused as well as slot machines for those who were inclined to gamble. We were given $50 to spend on board. Some people gambled with the gift; I purchased two beautiful dressy tops which I have to this day.
We disembarked in San Juan, Puerto Rico where we picked up our plane to take us back home from the smallest airport I have ever seen. I was told that you must take a cruise at least once in your lifetime; well, I have taken my cruise and enjoyed every minute of it. I probably will not take another. There are so many other places I want to see.