Life On A Cruise

Traveling The Panama Canal Part 3

The ship’s atrium is the hub of the ship where Guest Services and other services can be found along with glass observation elevators. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

My husband and I have been making our way to South America. We drove to Pompano Beach, Florida with a few stops along the way. After leaving our van at my cousin’s house, we took an Uber to the cruise port in Miami, where we boarded a 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal.

Our ship was considered a small ship as far as cruise ships go. Her construction began in Germany in 1999 and was completed in 2001 at an estimated cost of $400,000,000. She weighs 78,106 tons and is 853 feet long, 105.8 feet wide and 194 feet high. Her maximum speed is 22 knots or 25.32 miles per hour.

According to Freestyle Daily there are 835 exterior windows, 1834 interior doors, 12 passenger elevators and nine more for crewmembers. There are 810 miles of electric cable and 65 miles of pipe. She is lit with over 25,000 light bulbs and was painted with 1,000 gallons of exterior paint and 3,000 gallons of interior paint. Six thousand eight hundred nozzles and 376 fire hydrants provide fire protection.

About 958 crewmembers are employed, representing 64 nationalities.

The amount of food used in one week is:

¯ 4,100 lbs cereal

¯ 2,900 lbs pasta

¯ 15,500 lbs flour

¯ 96,000 dozen eggs

¯ 3,800 lbs veal

¯ 32,000 lbs beef

¯ 6,200 lbs seafood

¯ 2,100 lbs coffee

¯ 4,900 gallons milk

¯ 85,000 lbs fresh fruit

¯ 4,200 lbs butter

¯ 5,200 lbs cheese

¯ 7,000 lbs sugar

¯ 14,200 lbs fish

¯ 28,000 lbs poultry

¯ 3,000 gallons ice cream

¯ 10,800 cups yogurt

¯ 87,000 lbs vegetables

¯ 23,000 lbs potatoes

Our first two days on this trip were sea days, which means the ship keeps moving and the occupants don’t get off. Even if there wasn’t an abundance of activities, shows, a library filled with books, games and a few puzzles, food to be eaten and people to meet, Fred and I would have no problem occupying ourselves.

After lunch on the second day, while my husband was scoping out things and trying to set up a Christian church service, as there was only a self-led Hanukah service in the chapel, I walked a couple miles on Deck 6 where there was a measured mile course. I was surprised to find a sign that told about one end of the walking track being shut down from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night to discourage jogging while passengers are sleeping. It was tough for walkers to calculate the distance they have walked since 3.5 laps equaled a mile.

People were encouraged to dress-up this night to have a picture taken with the ship’s captain. This has been the tradition on every ship we have been on. Years ago people dressed to the nines before going to dinner. It changed to two formal nights per week, but only when eating in the dining room. Photographers are set up in at least one location on this night, with others roaming through the dining room, shooting diners at tableside. Norwegian no longer has formal nights, so their photographers are set up outside the dining rooms every night.

After dinner on the second night, we found seats in the outer fringes of a small piano bar, where we listened to a 30ish man from Cleveland strum a guitar while singing The Eagles’ and other 70s hits. He was very good, but put his own spin on the music. “Lying Eyes” was easily recognized, but it took me awhile before I realized what he was singing when he got to “Already Gone.” He sang other songs made popular by The Eagles, like “Desperado,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Hotel California.”

We had the perfect vantage point for people-watching. I was amused to see older people singing along to “Take It Easy.” That is until I realized that that was music from their heyday and I looked the same way they did singing along to Don McClean’s lengthy “American Pie,” a song both of my kids associate with me and the times I belted it out while listening to the car radio. I’m sure they would be impressed with my rendition of Bob Dylan’s six minute-long “Like A Rolling Stone.”

After we left the piano bar, we sat briefly in a lounge where a group of people were jammed together on a dance floor excitedly dancing to Latin music. A lady near the back of the room was waving her hands in the air while spinning in circles in a swivel chair.

A jazz ensemble was playing in the Atrium, the ship’s hub, which is open to all of the floors above, where four glassy observation elevators and a stair case, whose railing was decorated with a showy Christmas garland, bring people to the guest services and excursion desks. At the foot of the staircase, on each side, there were two large Christmas trees decorated with silver bows and red and gold glass balls, which matched the garland on the bannister.

When my spouse noticed a couple attempting to take a selfie in front of one of the trees, he made an offer to take the picture for them. After taking a few shots, he said his famous travel line “Where are you folks from?” They were Floridians who had grown up in San Antonio, Chile, the port in which we were disembarking at the end of the trip. There was some discussion about the best way to get to the airport in Santiago.

The next day, another sea day, we witnessed four women playing Mahjong near the Atrium, with one not playing very nicely. This reminded my husband of a late night a few years ago, when we, the only two people in a ship’s library, were putting together a puzzle. He decided we needed to track down a puzzle, so off to the library we trudged but had no luck. A decision was then made to go to a lounge that was basically an observation area by day and to our surprise, there was a pile of games stacked on a table. From multiples of Monopoly, Clue, Yahtzee, Chinese Checkers and more, we selected a Scrabble game and I won.

Diners can sit wherever they wish in the buffet areas, but must check-in at the desk when eating dinner in the dining room. There are two kinds of diners, anytime diners and diners who have assigned times and tables. People who choose assigned seating usually do so because they like to eat at the same time every night and like to form a relationship with their servers, who call them by name. They are eating with the same people every night, as well and may be assigned a table for four, six or eight, unless they have specified a table for two. After the first meal or two, those who are assigned no longer need to check-in at the desk, as they know where to find their seat. Every passenger on Norwegian Cruise Line eats whenever they wish, therefore they must check in to be seated.

When we learned of the option of anytime dining during our second cruise, we started choosing that and have never looked back.

Those who eat whenever they wish, can choose a table for two or a sharing table of four, six or eight. On our first cruise, we were assigned to a table with five other people, so we were quite surprised to be seated at a table for four on the second cruise. It was on that cruise when my husband declared we would never be assigned a table for four again, due to a language barrier between the other couple and us.

On our third night, we had dinner with a retired dentist and his wife from Florida. The wife was telling about traveling all over the world with nothing more than a small carry-on bag for each of them. I was quite amazed not only because this was a 15-day cruise, but because I had gone through the dilemma of which essential oils I was taking and which I was leaving in Florida and how I could get a small diffuser in my bag. I decided to sacrifice restful sleep for immune boosting and my husband’s comfort.

Her husband explained how he washed his shirts in the shower while wearing them.

“I just lather up and rinse off. After I dry myself, I roll the shirt up in the towel, put it on the floor and step on it. Then I take it out of the towel and hang it. It is dry in four hours.”

To be continued.