Panama Canal


First things first. The other night the Head Waiter for our section came by and “reminded” us that if we wanted something that was not on the menu, just order it. Cooked items have to be ordered a day in advance, just ask. Oh, and caviar was always available.img_2864.JPG That is all it took, we’ve had caviar for three nights now. I love it, but it gets to be a bit much. I’m starting to lean towards Shrimp Cocktail.


Many years ago, when I was about nine or ten, there was a radio show called “Let’s Pretend”: a fantasy show for kids produced by Nila Mack. Memory fades, but I believe following that show was a kids’ quiz show. Somehow, from Westfield N.J., I landed on the radio stage in New York City as a contestant. I did well, but missed the “big” question that would have earned me a $25 War Bond.


“Who was the man who completed the Panama Canal?”


I had no clue. It was when I got back to Westfield that I gave more attention to a bridge I passed each summer morning on my way to Sunrise Dairy to my job helping a milkman. It was Goethal’s Bridge. He was the Colonel who brought the canal in under budget, and six months before the estimated completion date. If I had only known. I missed a War Bond, and he became a General.


The best book on the Panama Canal is “Between the Seas” by David McCullough and is available at Amazon.


I have been through the Canal many times. This time was a bit different.


It’s as if someone had sprinkled building fertilizer on Panama City. There is no doubt that owning the canal has had a huge effect on the Panamanian economy. It cost Crystal Symphony $155,000 to make the transit. The most expensive transit was $201,000, the least was 36 cents paid by a man who swam the Canal in 1928. The fee is based either on a ship’s tonnage or its cargo carrying capacity below decks. So did they figure the swimmers fee on his weight or the size of his stomach?


Never mind. I overheard a Symphony passenger say he was going to swim through the Canal. And he would do it  without being charged.


We were on a Celebrity ship a few years back that would be, after passage, the largest passenger ship to ever go through the Canal. I swear we heard squeaks as we brushed the side on entry. Celebrity had a helicopter up and was setting up a big press release. Oops, the Princess ship directly in front of us, was at that moment, the largest to go through the Canal. I called Art Sbarsky of Celebrity in Miami and told him of the problem. He called the Captain of our ship and had him close every sliding roof on the ship. Since we were being judged by enclosed space, we at that moment were larger than the Princess ship. But rules are rules. Panama Canal officials boarded the Princess ship and awarded her a plaque as the largest cruise ship to pass through the locks. Then the officials got off Princess and boarded Celebrity and gave us a plaque for being the largest cruise ship to pass through the locks. Now large cruise ships, if they can squeeze through, are called Panamax.


Symphony invited all to Palm Court to view the passage. It was air conditioned, had wraparound windows, and coffee and pastries were served at 7 AM.dsc00406.JPG We would get to our first lock about 8. People started to gather around 6 AM.


From the Pacific side, the first point of reference is the Bridge of the Americas.p1010786.JPG It’s part of the Pan American Highway that goes all the way to Southern Chile. I have been at the last part of the road. By the time you arrive at that end you’ll be bumping along on a dirt road.


19 ships were anchored waiting their turn, or in motion to make the transit through the first lock, Miraflores.


 It is fascinating to be so close to big ships and see them descending, water leaving their lock, as we pull in next to them.


The boats are kept in the exact middle of each lock by what are still called mules. dsc00455.JPGEven though the mules have evolved, two men in a rowboat still secure the lines from the ships to attach the “mules”.


After a full day of passage we ate (yes, caviar) and then went to see Nick Lewin, billed as a comedy magician. Without question, he was both. Very funny, and did a “mind reading” act that blew us all away. When the show ended a woman in front of us had lost one earring.


I said, “Oh, there it is on your right ear.”


I guess she was laughed out.


Finally, here’s a photo. Your job is to guess the title. Answer will be here tomorrow.




5 Responses to “Panama Canal”

  1. Chess Says:

    Gotta Love Bagels and Locks!!!!

    And yes, Quite proud of you for standing strong in the face of your sever glASS kicking.


  2. Ricki Says:

    Bagel and Locks!

  3. nadge Says:

    How about ” bagel and locks” for the title of the photo?

    I’m doing the Pnama Canal on Symphony (8203) in a couple of weeks. Any tips, ideas, suggestions etc?
    Great blog.


  4. owen Says:


    Locks & bagel.

    Do I get a $25 war bond? Lord knows the Pentagon needs the money.

  5. Chess Says:

    Hey I made my comment on the 13th naming Locks and Bagels. It’s still awaiting Moderation. Hmmmmm, seems I get that a lot.

    Owen, I get the War Bond!!!!

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