Sea Days, Aruba to Cabo

We’ve had several days at sea since we left Aruba - two days on our way to the Panama Canal; two more before we reached Guatemala; and two more before we drop anchor in Cabo San Lucas. 

What’s there to do while we travel from point to point? Reading, eating, relaxing, admiring the beautiful ship,

listening to guest lecturers, playing bingo (I won $60!), taking walks on the open deck so we can do more eating,

watching for wildlife (we’ve seen dolphins, flying fish, regular fish, sea turtles, brown boobies - including one who tried to stowaway one night - but no crocodiles 😔), admiring the gorgeous sunsets. 

And my personal favorite - sitting on our private balcony, watching the world go by. 



Our stop in Guatemala was a bit of a mixed bag. 

On one hand, I was excited to see the home of back-strap weaving

and for a chance to buy (lots and lots of) textiles.

But the cruise line had put out an advisory before we got into port about possible “dangerous conditions” and advised passengers to leave their valuables on the ship when going ashore. Not the best way to build confidence in Cunard’s maiden stop in Puerto Quezal. 

Also, hubby woke early to the smell of smoke in our cabin. Fortunately (??) it was coming from outside - there were fires ringing the port from burning sugar cane fields.

The smell was quite strong when we first docked but receded by the time we went ashore. Thank goodness for changes in wind direction!

We actually had a great time shopping in the park adjacent to the ship’s gangway - lots of vendors, colorful textiles and live music. 

We stopped about halfway through the morning at a palm shaded patio cafe for beer and diet soda. (Wanna guess who the Sabor Ligero Coca-Cola was for???)

So peaceful and relaxing. 

 Lifeboat drills.

We spent the afternoon onboard Queen Elizabeth, reading, watching the crew do lifeboat drills, and taking pictures from the upper decks. 

When we looked to the left, we saw the yacht harbor and visitor center . . . 

 Red arrow = visitor center. Yellow = coal dump.
and the giant coal stacks directly behind them.

The view to the right was the container ship docks, with another cruise ship parked alongside; behind us was the harbor entrance to the Pacific Ocean.  

 Heading back out to sea.

I’m glad we had a chance to visit Puerto Quezal but I don’t think we missed anything by not taking one of the ship’s shore excursions. Lots of complaints around the dinner table that night from people who had taken them. 

I’m betting Cunard won’t be stopping here again next year. 


Panama Canal, Part 1

Canals and locks fascinate me, so it’s probably no surprise that the Panama Canal was at the top of my bucket list (right after St Petersburg, which we checked off last year).

 Approaching Third Bridge at the eastern entrance to the Canal.

We transited from east to west, passing the still-under-construction Third Bridge at dawn

before entering the Gatun Locks, then into Gatun Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Miraflores Locks, the Bay of Panama and finally exiting into the Pacific Ocean at sunset. I’ll let the pictures tell the story . . .

Third Bridge.

On the right is what’s left of the original French attempt to cut a waterway through to the Pacific.

Our escort to the Gatun Locks.

We’re following the Columbus into one of the two original locks; the new, bigger lock is out of sight on our right.

See the tiny rowboat approaching from the pier? They are going to throw us a rope so we can tie onto the “mules” which will pull us forward from here on. Very old-school.

Looking down from Deck 6 as we approach the pier.

Columbus has entered the first lock and the gates are starting to close. We’re next!

We’ve tied onto our mule (electric train engine) and are ready to move forward.

Once Columbus is in the first lock, a bridge is swung into place and backed-up traffic is allowed to drive across. River traffic has the right-of-way and we were told the wait for vehicular traffic can be an hour or longer. 

Note how much higher the Columbus sits in the lock. She’s ready to move forward into the second lock. 

Bye-bye Columbus.

The gates on the second lock close behind our predecessor and we’re ready to move.

Water drains out of the first lock, dropping the water level, as the mule pulls us toward the closed gate.

The gates open . . .

and we are pulled further and 

further into the first lock.

View of our neighbor lock, complete with resting pelican on the closed gates.

Container ship moves into the lock beside us.

Tight fit - Queen Elizabeth has about 2 feet of clearance from the sides of the lock; the container ship has even less.

We’re in the lock, back gate is closing and we’re ready for water to fill our lock. Once we reach the same height as the second lock, the forward gates will open and we’ll move onward. But it’s hot and humid and we’re ready for breakfast. Stay tuned for part 2.



Our view when we awoke Wednesday morning -

Not too bad! Aruba is gorgeous, despite being mostly desert (only 2-3” of rain annually, similar to Arizona’s climate)

and very windy every day. Good news though is it’s outside the Caribbean hurricane belt so it’s a great place to visit year round.

Giant cacti abound 

and the few trees that grow here are stunted and twisted.

First stop on our tour was the Rock Stack. 

We climbed the rock stairs on the left, 

ducking very low to get under that center rock, to reach the viewing platform with its 360  views of the island (including Queen Elizabeth on the horizon). 

Next stop - Natural Bridge Park on Aruba’s rocky east coast.

The beach side of the roadway into the park is made of coral and the other side is volcanic rock. It makes for a very dramatic landscape.

The largest of the natural arches fell several years ago 

but there are a couple of smaller ones still standing.

A short drive to Aruba’s west coast - the island is only 19 miles long and 6 miles across - and we were at the California Lighthouse.

I was bummed it was closed to visitors except for one early morning tour, which we had missed.

Meeting this guy almost made up for it though. We were warned he likes (and is very good at) stealing hats and glasses from unsuspecting visitors. 

The highlight of our tour was advertised as a semi-sub trip over a freighter that was scuttled in 1939.

We’ve done semi-subs before - and the Caribbean is famed for its usually crystal clear waters - so I was expecting more than we got.

The boat ride out to the viewing “sub” was fun, 

with great views of the hotel district and 

the lighthouse we’d just visited,

but the water was too cloudy to see much

and there were only a few varieties of fish in the area. 

Oh well. It was interesting to see the wreck and hear her story. (She was sunk by her German captain at the start of WW2; he and his crew didn’t want to return to Germany and join the fighting.)

Thursday we are at sea and Friday we transit the Panama Canal. So excited!