Sunday, 6 March 2011

Jan 12 - The Panama Canal

I actually did it. I clawed out of bed at the crack of dawn and got myself to the front of the ship on deck 10. The aim was to vie for a spot to view the ship go through the Gatun locks of the Panama Canal. Alas, many others got up earlier that I did and the front of the ship was already full! I mosied towards what appeared to be a small opening. I was faced with two fat Americans standing with their feet wide apart and bags sprawled on the deck. They were minding spots for their family while everyone else were squished together. It was not a pretty sight.
A completely opposite pair of Americans saved the day! The generous couple shared their prime spot and took turns with the other passengers letting them take photos. They kindly allowed me to be their precious cargo, sitting at their feet. It is at times like these that I am eternally grateful for being small. I now had an unobstructed view with the rails to rest my camera on! We watched and snapped away as the Statendam (1 of the ships at Aruba with us) and a cargo ship passed through the two-lane locks.

The Panama Canal is truly one of the greatest engineering feats in the world. Through three sets of locks, ships moved through with the water levels being raised or lowered so as to be able to move to the next section. There is a large fresh water lake in the middle which supplies the water. This is designed such that the sections are filled or drained simply through the use of gravity. The experience of observing how the locks function was truly amazing! It took us eight hours in total to pass through the canal.

Once the bow of the ship passed throught the gates of the first lock, I rushed back to the aft of the ship to join the rest of the familiy for breakfast. We watched the locks close behind the ship and the waters start to fill. We decided to return to our rooms and take up our posts at the balcony. We hung up the Australian flag as well as the boxing kangaroo ready to represent our country. We also got our small flags out ready to wave. Mei commenced the "Aussie Aussie Aussie" cry but got it wrong! Luckily no one around us could understand the rubbish that was spouting out from our mouths...

We soon reached Gatun lake. It felt almost surreal that we were in Panama. There was pleny to do as the ship pushed through towards the Pedro Miguel locks. The deck party had already started where they had a special BBQ to commemorate the passage through the canal. It was difificult to get seats! We all squeezed in and used the one small table between us. It felt like we were eating back at a South East Asian country village!

By the time we finished lunch, I was ready for a nap. I woke up just in time up to watch the ship sail through the last set of locks, the Miraflores Locks. We readied ourselves for our celebrity status and practised our royal waves as the crowds cheered for us. We were finally through the last lock. Mal, of course, set off immediately for chip it golf. Sharon and I went up to the open decks for a drink and to take photos of the Bridge of the Americas. That was the last thing to to go through before we reached the Pacific Ocean.

I went back down to meet up with Mal as we had important business to attend to. We had to visit the future sales desk to book our next cruise. We are hoping desperately for Disney to visit the eastern Mediterranean. The itinerary for the second half of 2012 was not due for release until April/May 2011 so we booked a dummy cruise instead.

We had litle Samuel with us while Sharon watched the 5pm Tron session. This was the session for the late diners. We had to take turns so there would be someone to look after the children when we watched the 8pm Tron. The rest of the afternoon was somewhat of a blur. Sam was delighted to spot Donald on the way to picking up Lara and Elliot. I couldn't stop myself from entering the Treasure Ketch and Mickey's Mates (aka the shops) where I bought the Tangled soundtrack as well as more DIsney toy for the children. We also managed to take photos with Chip and Dale, and then Goofy before scoffing down our dinner at Parrot Cay.

It was finally our turn to watch the movie. Tron was a little disappointing all round. Firstly, they showed it in the Walt Disney Theatre as a "feature" and so we missed out on a live show. Secondly, it really wasn't a good movie. There wasn't even any decent eye candy! The plot was boring and somehow managed to be oversimplified yet confusing at the same time. It was almost as if they tried too hard to somehow make a plot out of the special effects which granted, were quite amazing.

The clock will be would back an hour tomorrow so we get to sleep for an extra hour tomorrow morning. Uh, apologies. A correction please. We get an extra hour of love with our children tomorrow morning!

The sun rising whilst waiting for our turn to go enter the first lock of the Panama Canal

Watching the ships before us go through the Gatun Locks. The ship of the left is the Statendam. It was docked in Aruba with us.

The cargo ship on the right moving on whilst the locks close behind the Statendam.
Water filling up and raising the Statendam. The cargo ship has moved on to the next level.
The tug boats getting the Wonder into position
The locomotives that will keep the ship steady as she goes through the locks.
The bow of the Wonder passing through the lock
It is an extremely tight fit! Not much space to play with hence the locomotives to help with guidance.
The characters were out in force celebrating the journey with the guests

Watching the stern of the ship

The ships behind us waiting
The waters draining on the left so the ship can enter
Gates opening for the ship on the left to enter

Ready to do our country proud!
Our flags came in all sizes!

A BBQ feast was put on so people could enjoy their food whilst enjoying the passage.
Sailing through Panama...
The crowds waving at us at the Miraflores Lock
The babies enjoying the view too!
Mal back to chip it golf at every opportunity
This place is becoming a regular haunt
Er...yep! Boardgames!
On deck waiting to pass under the Bridge of the Americas
Speak of the devil...

The locomotives in action
Not much space!
Panama city in the background
The ships on the Pacific waiting to get to the Atlantic

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