Panama Canal

The day after Cartagena, on Christmas Eve, we went through three gates of the new locks of the Panama Canal. It was a beautiful, but hot/humid partly sunny morning. The bridge is called the Bridge of Atlantic. I took a bunch of pictures of it, looking for just the right angle. I liked this one best!

We were already headed towards the locks when we woke so we stayed in our cabin for a bit, watching/listening to the commentary on the TV while watching from the balcony as well. This first image (below) shows the entrance to both sets of locks, the left, our path to the new locks and the right, the path to the old locks. One of the things that was kind of sad, was the commentator pointed out that there is already damage, from ships running into things. Two of the pictures show this – along a dock area, and concrete damage along the stairs. I’ve added labels to those two pics.

As with many cruises of this type, Princess has experts come aboard and they broadcast a lot of information about the old locks and the new throughout the ship. We learned that each door of the new locks were made in Italy and shipped over, and weigh 4200 tons each. Mind you, a lot more information was given, but I didn’t jot it down. The gates stuck in my head though! The gates on the new locks slide in/out unlike the old which I believe are two gate doors that swing open/closed.

Once we passed through the third gate, we entered Gatun Lake. It was at this point, that they began calling for excursion groups to meet for debarking. They were taken off by the lifeboats (used for tendering), to shore for their excursion. We would not see these folks again until early evening.

While most folks went ashore on excursions, we opted to stay onboard. I knew it was going to be particularly hot/humid and we agreed after the warm day in Cartagena that a day out of the sun would be a good break before Costa Rica the next day. Interestingly enough, it seemed as though every other person who stayed onboard were at the pools lol. We took the day and enjoyed time chatting with crew, enjoying a beverage or two, lovely lunch in the dining room, a nice nap/movie and just relaxed.

Around 4:30 PM we headed out of Gatun Lake and back through the three gates and made our way towards Cristobal, Panama. This is where we docked and waited for the folks on excursions to rejoin the ship. I will add that Cristobal is a working dock and there are very limited facilities. When we docked, two tour buses were waiting for us, and more arrived over the next couple of hours. We noticed that, because it is a working dock, passengers had to stay onboard the bus to wait for our arrival.

Although part of me wished we had done an excursion anyway, ultimately I was glad we stayed onboard as the temp tipped to about 91f with humidity in the 80 something %. We both realized we had a slight sunburn from Cartagena so it was good to not overexpose. And you can’t fault a nice relaxing day onboard a cruise ship!

Our next stop, Christmas Day, was Costa Rica…..

Cartagena, Colombia

After two days at sea, we docked in Cartagena, Colombia. We were required to bring a government issued photo ID and our vaccination cards, or photos of them, ashore with us, as well as being asked to wear masks at all times.

We had an excursion planned that was a horse and carriage tour of the old city and fortress. The sun was out and it was toasty and humid! Fortunately the excursions were mostly in the morning so we could get back to the ship before it hit the hottest of the day.

Our excursion was a short one at just 3 hours. We exited the ship and met our bus. Once everyone was there we were on our way with a drive through town to the old Fortress. We only had 10 minutes here, which was not enough time to explore. It was really only enough time to walk down past the ticket booth and back to the bus. It might not have taken so long, but the people selling their goods were everywhere. Selling hats, small leather purses, fans, jewelry, maracas, waters etc. Just know there are many and they can be quite pushy. There were also ladies dressed in colorful outfits trying to get you to take photos – for a price of course.

After the short view of the fortress, we were headed near the old city to meet our horse/carriage. They were lined along one of the narrow streets. The old city streets are too narrow for the buses which is why this tour uses the carriages. They load you four to a carriage so it’s full and off you go on the bumpy streets to the old city. They wound back and forth from street to street, a line of horse drawn carriages we went. All along the route we encountered more locals trying to sell you goods. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this really took away from the ability to enjoy the tour as they were even reaching over the carriages to try to get you to buy. However I think the part that bothered me the most were the ladies. I get it, they’re just trying to make money, but there were a couple of ladies that would approach you with a stool in hand, and begin trying to rub your arm or leg (not with lotion, just rub you).

Once the tour was over, the carriages stopped in the square and we were pointed in the direction of a jewelry store which was air conditioned and had a restroom. After that we had a few minutes to shop if we wanted before we followed our guide on a walk to the bus meeting area and it was back to the ship we went.

I can’t help but think it might have been nice to also see some of the newer side of Cartagena, pictured in the first couple of images as well to see how things have changed.

Back at the cruise port, they drop you on a different side than they picked us up. It caused us to walk through a zoo of sorts. There were lots of parrots, a few monkeys and other animals. We only walked straight through back to the ship and saw a few, rather than walking the whole place. There also appeared to be a restaurant and gift shop for those who wanted to stop.

Sea Day and a Specialty Restaurant

Our first sea day was also the first formal night on our cruise. When cruising with my husband, we tend to only do one formal night so we chose a different dining option for this first formal night. The Emerald Princess has a specialty restaurant on deck 7 forward, in between the Piazza and the Theatre, called The Salty Dog Gastropub. It shares space with the Wheelhouse Bar. This specialty restaurant has a cover charge of $18 per person. Here is a look at the current menu.

On the 3rd image, you can see the cover charge and under that, as it states, anyone dining chooses TWO gourmet plates. It continues stating the appetizer of Ernesto’s Dip Sticks are complimentary – again this is for each person. And under the desserts section, it shows Select one. This is a great way to taste multiple items.

The appetizer arrived and each plate had a small glass. Each glass contained two tall bread sticks. The bread was not too crispy, it had some tenderness to it. And each plate had a second small jar, containing the beer-cheddar fondue for dipping. I’m not a huge fan of beer, but the fondue had a good flavor. The texture was not my favorite, but melted real cheese is seldom smooth from my experience. And the flaked smoked salt on the bread sticks was nice.

Now for the main dish. We decided we would each choose our two items, and we would share them. That gave us the chance to try four separate mains! I chose the lobster mac & cheese for my first, and the beef short rib poutine for my second main dish. My husband went for The “Ernesto” burger, and the spicy stout beef short ribs.

I’ll start with mine first. The lobster mac & cheese was delightful. Lovely cheesiness, with chunks of lobster throughout. As one who is not usually a fan of mac ‘n cheese, I could eat this everyday! The beef short rib poutine was ok for flavor, but the pieces of meat were very small and there wasn’t much to share. The potato frites, however, were SO good – crisp and flavorful!

My husband’s serving of spicy stout beef short ribs were tasty, and bigger chunks of beef, as if it had been nicely sliced off the bone. Now, the Ernesto …. funny story … I had never read thoroughly the entire description, and my husband skimmed through it before ordering. Now this ended up being the last thing I tried. He ate his half up with no issues, but on about my third bite — my mouth was lit on fire! As I sat there, mouth on fire, eyes just dripping with tears, our waitress arrived and was very concerned for me. I explained about the heat, of which my husband said he had none (although he does like spicy foods and spicy isn’t often spicy to him), which is when the waitress explained there is KIMCHI and JALAPENO on the burger. The only thing we can figure is that I got a giant chunk of both ….and I am a spicy food whimp! Now naturally this was our own error in not paying closer attention to all of the ingredients, but I did suffer in silence for about 10 minutes before the tears subsided lol. So now that I’ve admitted my embarrassing moment, let’s move on 😉 .

One of my favorite subjects when on holiday is …. Dessert! We rarely eat dessert at home, so when we travel, yes indeed, we enjoy our desserts! Of the four choices, husband chose the Strawberries & Cream, and I chose the Coffee & Doughnuts. Unlike our main dishes, we ended up not sharing so I cannot attest to what his tasted like, but it was pretty. The doughnuts were little balls of dough coated in cinnamon/sugar. The coffee was the mousse log, then there were dabs of what tasted like lemon, whipped cream, caramel which added to the goodness.

Overall it was a nice adventure in food and we were glad we paid the surcharge to try it!