On January 5, 2016 the Cruise Specialists team bid farewell to our many guests aboard the msAmsterdam for the 2016 Grand World Voyage. Our guests are lucky enough to have hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer onboard to answer questions, share their experiences and make the journey even more exciting.
Here is our newest update from our hosts:
There is a huge dancing community on board. In addition to the dance instructors and 6 dance hosts provided by the ship, there are at least two other dance instructor couples we know, and dozens of couples and singles we have danced with before. We’ve heard two of the three bands and they are very good. Entertainment has been impressive the first few days. A highlight was a show by the Finkel Family. Many of you will know Fyvush Finkel, veteran of stage, TV and Yiddish theater. At 93, still sings and tells humorous stories accompanied by his two sons, Elliot (a concert pianist) and Ian (a renown xylophonist).
Our small group of 18 were shuttled about an hour from the port to the beautiful Reventazon River. After getting on our helmets and life jackets and listening to some basic safety instructions, we immediately jumped in up to our knees and escorted the two rafts from a shallow inlet out to the main river. We spent the next 1.5 hours alternating between calm waters and class II rapids. Those are not very big or very dangerous but we managed to get soaked. It was great fun, and no one fell in or got hurt. The water felt good and provided a relief from the brutal sun.
Our guide spotted a sloth in a tree next to the river. We stopped and he climbed the tree to get up close and personal with the sloth – he even took pictures with one of our fellow passengers cameras.
The Panama Canal is one of those places you can visit many times and still not fully appreciate what a marvel it is.
A ship traveling from New York to San Francisco saves 8,100 miles by using the canal instead of going around Cape Horn.This is our fifth transit through the 48 miles that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
We still get up early to watch the elaborate ballet of perfectly timed maneuvers that make it all work. We are allowed out on the bow of the ship to get a very up close view, while enjoying those delicious Panama rolls (soft and sugary pastry rolls filled with apricot jam) served on deck. This is the largest ship we have been on during the passage and it was amazing to see how close to the sides of the locks we were – no more than two feet on each side.We started our approach at 5:00 AM, making our way to the first set of locks by about 7:30AM. We were in the left set of locks and another Holland America ship, the Zuiderdam, was right in front of us in the right lane. So we followed her through into Gatun Lake. There was a short symphony of horn tooting, as the two ships officially greeted each other. Not quite sure who got the last toot!
Throughout the day, we transited two more sets of locks, and viewed some of the construction for the expanded canal, set to open in 2016. Costing over 6 billion dollars to complete, it will double the Canal’s capacity. .The next day, we left the ship early in the morning, before the sun got too hot. We would have loved to walk the scenic 3-mile causeway that goes toward Panama City, but we didn’t have a very long day and it would have been very hot. The causeway is actually a breakwater that links four small islands to the mainland. It’s a beautiful walking and biking path with great views of the Panama city skyline and Freedom Bridge.The port authorities were providing a shuttle to an upscale shopping center in the middle of the city. If you closed your eyes and were suddenly transported into the mall, you would think you were in any suburban area in the U.S. There was nothing Panamanian about this experience – just an air conditioned place to walk around for a while to escape the midday sun. We found it a disappointing choice for all those who did not opt to take an organized tour.This is our last port day for a while. We have 8 days at sea to reach Nuka Hiva in French Polynesia. Many of our fellow guests love these long stretches of sea time to just relax and not feel any pressure to do anything.
Don’t miss any of this journey.
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