Panama Canal Cruise - Days 1-3

My husband and I are veteran cruise vacationers, and we just returned from a 14-day cruise through the Panama Canal. We love cruising to awesome scuba diving destinations, and have done it many times. But this cruise was a first for us in several ways. It was the first 14-day cruise we've ever taken (all our previous cruises were 7 days or less), and it was the first non-scuba diving cruise we've ever done. Plus, it was our first time crusing on Holland America Line, and our first time to visit South America, though we only got to touch the northern edge. I hope, dear blog readers, that you'll bear with me over the next several days while I share some sights and memories from my cruise. If you don't particularly enjoy reading about other people's vacations, I don't blame you a bit for skipping my blog over the next few days!

We set sail from San Diego on a Friday afternoon. Right there on the San Diego dock we saw the boat on which the movie Master and Commander was filmed. Cool! We boarded Holland America's MS Statendam, a beautiful ship that is one of the smallest we've ever been on. I think there were only 1200 passengers. It was the perfect size, and her crew is terrific. We fell in love with her the first day out. There were two pools, which were never crowded. One of our favorite places was a little hidden alcove on the top deck called The Oasis, with chairs and hamocks. Most of the time there were only one or two other people there, so it was a place to relax in privacy with a good book (or a Kindle, in my case, loaded with 110 books) while enjoying the ocean breeze and some stunning views. I make no apologies whatsoever for my looks in these photos. I was on vacation, and didn't worry about makeup or hairspray most of the time.

We were at sea for two days before stopping at our first port. We thought we might be bored, but there simply wasn't time! We attended cooking demonstrations by master chefs, and technical workshops learning how to edit photos and make movies of our cruise pictures. We took dancing lessons and learned to waltz. Uh... well, they tried to teach us to waltz. Neither Ted nor I have ever been very graceful on the dance floor, and we proved that we still aren't - but we had fun and at least no one took pictures of that part. There was a gym with new equipment and fitness classes, and we visited there often. The ship also had a lovely library which, unfortunately, didn't have any of my books - until I donated two. :-) Plus, of course, there was food. Lots of food. All kinds of food. I'll tell you about that another time.

Evenings were spent attending some of the best entertainment we've ever seen at sea. The singers and dancers on the Statendam were incredibly talented, and put on shows and concerts that had us on our feet in a standing ovation several times. After the evening show we went to a lounge on Deck 12 called the Crow's Nest, which was surrounded by windows. We saw a pod of porpoises the first day out (my camera was in our cabin at the time!) and we were able to end each evening with a little dancing, or getting to know our fellow passengers. Then to bed, with the ocean waves to rock us to sleep. Aaaahhh!

At one point we were sitting in the Crow's Nest watching the sunset over the ocean, and my husband said to me, "Do you realized how blessed we are?" Yes. I really do.

In my next post I'll tell you about our first port, Puerta Vallarta.