Through the Panama Canal and on to San Diego
In my last blog, I mentioned that our transit through the Panama Canal was a momentous event. In fact, it was an historic event, and something the wonderful crew on board the Disney Wonder were very proud of.
At the time of booking, and even right up until we boarded I was unaware of the fact that the Panama Canal now has new locks. At both the Pacific and Atlantic sides. The old locks are still in full operation, but the new locks are bigger and thus allow bigger vessels to transit through. The Disney Wonder, after a recent dry dock is now bigger, and too big for the old locks. We were therefore scheduled to transit the new locks, and become the first cruise ship to transit these locks.
The occasion was historic, and with it came a whole lot of fanfare. But for me, the crossing itself was amazing, even without all the fanfare. Just marvelling at the amazing engineering feat and watching our enormous ship navigate the locks and the canal. At this point I feel I must commend Disney, as they had invited Captain Ken Puckett to join us for the duration of the cruise, a Panama Canal pilot of over 18 years. He was on board to give a series of lectures prior to our transit, which I chose to attend. I was therefore well versed in the history and operation of the canal prior to our transit. Having learnt all about the canal prior to the transit, added so much more value to the experience on the day of the transit. Just one of the many value adds that Disney provided that made the whole experience just that little more special.
The canal transit takes a whole day, and the time spent in the locks is about two to three hours at each end. The rest of the day the ship cruises at a snail’s pace through the canal, allowing us to take in the sights and sounds of the Panamanian jungle, the banks of which are scarily close during the transit. I am still amazed by the skill it must take to navigate such a large vessel through such a narrow channel.
After the crossing, we spent four days at sea, on our way back up to the Mexican coast line, this time on the West of the country, before finally ending our cruise in the port of San Diego. In my last blog, I spoke about the fear we had around the possibility of getting cabin fever. If it was going to happen, this was the stretch. Of course, we had nothing to worry about and Disney and the crew more than entertained us and made sure we were never bored. In fact, by the end of the four days, I was starting to feel a sense of sadness, as we were now heading into the last stage of the cruise and would soon be disembarking and heading back to our normal lives. If of course you can call our current life normal.
Our first stop, after the transit, and our second stop in Mexico was in Puerto Vallarta. Again, as we had done on our previous stops, we had a pre-booked port adventure. We had chosen a Paradise Beach Break at a beach resort, that came with an all-inclusive package, so open bar and buffet restaurant. All three of us went along for this adventure, and all of us had an amazing time. The beach and the resort was something amazing, and it felt like it came straight out of a travel magazine. Once again, well done to the Disney Cruise Port Adventures staff for organizing an amazing day out. What made the day a little more fun, was that some of our newly made cruise friends were also with us, which meant we could socialize while at the resort. In fact, we all had such a great time I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave. Even though we had the amazing facilities of the ship to head back to.
Cabo San Lucas
For our final stop in Cabo, Lauren and I decided to enjoy a day out without Aiden again. After all, it would be our last opportunity for a while to enjoy some alone time together. As much as we love him, and love spending time with him, it is very refreshing and much needed to get some quality time away from the kids from time to time. I think all parents can agree on that.
So, for our final port adventure, we chose a luxury sail and snorkel cruise. We love snorkelling and couldn’t leave our cruise without at least going once. We were taking out on a sail boat, provided with a light snack and a refreshment on our way out to a beautiful snorkelling location. On arrival, we had a nice long time for snorkelling and stand up paddle boarding. Lauren loves to SUP, so took advantage, while I chose to spend all of my time swimming and snorkelling.
After our water activities, we were provided with a brilliant lunch. For us one of the highlights of the day were the awesome crew and staff of Cabo Adventures who looked after us for the day. If you do find yourself in Cabo, I highly recommend them for any of your adventure needs. The other huge highlight was the school of dolphins that swam with us for a brief period on our return to port. Which, by the way was done under full wind power. It was very cool to be on a sailboat with the sails up and travelling at high speed.
And so, the end of our Cabo adventure, also signalled the end of our time on-board the Disney Wonder, with just one sea day left before disembarkation. It is funny how on that final day the mood on board changes, everyone knows the fun is coming to an end and the mood hanging over the ship is a somber one.
As our Cruise adventure ends and we start preparing for our next adventure in Los Angeles, there Is time for some reflection on what we have done and achieved thus far this year.
Looking back, we have visited so many places, seen so many amazing things, met and made friends with amazing people. But most importantly we have had some amazing family time and have without doubt become a stronger and closer family unit. Which of course was the most important objective of our trip.
We are so grateful for this opportunity, and even if our trip were to end today, we would be entirely satisfied with what we have achieved. I guess, what I am trying to say is, a year is a long time to spend travelling and probably more than most would want to do. But even if you can find two or three months to go travel and spend time together as a family, I say go do it. You will never regret it. And without a doubt you will see more and do more than you would be able to do in a lifetime of two-week family vacations. We know we sure have.
Catch you in Los Angeles.