Jim and I went on a cruise through the Panama Canal with a group hosted by Gina and John Ostos of You Are Not Alone Travel Group. This cruise departed from Miami, Florida and arrived in Los Angeles, California fourteen days later. Since we were on a one-way trip, we rode the Florida Redline Shuttle from Bradenton to the Port of Miami. We arrived safely at the Port of Miami about midday and was able to board the Norwegian Star pretty quickly. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, taking pictures of the Miami skyline and enjoying the buffet. Jim also showed off his dancing skills during the Sail Away Party.
We were looking forward to seeing Gina and John, along with other members of the nineteen persons group at dinner. It was a pretty diverse group of people, which included families, neighbors, life-long friends and people meeting for the first time. Jim and I reunited with friends that we sailed with last year. We took the picture below on the second night of the cruise.
We had two sea days before reaching our first port of Call. Those days were spent getting to know the new people in the group and catching up on life with group members that we already knew. Some people needed these two days to get their sea legs. The Caribbean was very turbulent, which caused seasickness in some group members. There were lots of things to do on the ship during the days at sea. Some of the group members and I met with Gina in the ship's gym to participate in group exercises. That helped offset some of the extra calories we were consuming. Jim and I also played a few games of Bingo, participated in some music trivia and caught up on some reading. We purchased an internet so we were never off the grid.
Our first Port of Call was Cartegena, Colombia. Cartetegena is a modern city and a major port on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region.
Cathedral of Cartagena
We visited the Cathedral of Cartagena and Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress within the city. It was built by the Spanish during the colonial era and is located on the Hill of San Lazaro in a strategic location.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Sandy's tour was very informational. It highlighted the importance of the Catholic church in the colonial era. There was a of terrible acts in the name of religion. There were torture chambers, weapons and executions. There was a native performance and a tour of a museum.
Cruising through the Panama Canal
Cruising through the Panama Canal was an interesting experience. This was definitely a bucket list item. It took over eight hours to travel the 51 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Three canal locks at the end lifted the cruise ship up 85 ft above sea level to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal. We were then lowered at the other end by three locks into the Pacific Ocean. Being engineers, we were still amazed that this engineering feat was completed in 1914 and locks are operated by gravity and displaced water. We were escorted into locks by Panamanian authorities, who charge an average toll of $150,000 per crossing.